The Lone Star Brahmas have been through a trying, up and down season which started with the drawn out sale and ownership transfer that brought the former Texas Tornado franchise to the NYTEX Sports Centre. Due to the late transfer, the Brahmas were unable to conduct a single tryout camp and went straight into their main camp in late August a mere 19 days before the start of the season.
As a result Head Coach Dan Wildfong saw the club get off to a slow start. The Brahmas won their first game of the season and then went on a skid that saw them win only five of their first 20 games. There has been slow and steady progress all season from a team that was often out gunned, but never quit. Despite the heart and grit shown, the Brahmas will miss the NAHL playoffs for the first time in the franchises 14 year history.
With the post season out of reach Wildfong and Assistant Coach Jeff Potter were able to pull the trigger on multiple trades on Feb 4th and Feb 5th prior to the NAHL Trade Deadline with an eye toward next season. The trades allowed them to move players in their last year of eligibility to teams in playoff contention in exchange for talented younger players or Tenders. With the extra Tenders in hand, the coaching staff has begun the building process for next season with the signing of several players with great upside for the 2014/15 season.
A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for the NAHL team that he signs with. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team.
Starting from the goal out, here is a look at the players tendered by the Brahmas.
Lone Star has had very good play out of their current goal tending tandem of TJ Black and Jett Salinas. The pair should expect to be pushed next season by 95 birth year goaltender Brian Baker from McMurray, PA. The 5’ 10” – 155 pound backstop is statistically the top ranked goalie in the NAPHL playing for the Esmark Stars U18 Team. In 12 games Baker rang up a 10 – 1 – 1 record with a 1.00 GAA, a 0.947 SV% and 6 shutouts leading the league in all three categories. He was honored twice this season as a 18U Defensive Peak Performer of the Week. His play earned high praise from Esmark Head Coach Dave Kosick. “Brian Baker is a true student of the game. He brings a very analytic approach to playing goaltender and mixes it with great athleticism and honed reflexes,” Davis told NAPHL.com. “His numbers truly represent how well his performance has been to date.”
Coach Wildfong could not agree more and believes Baker can be a very successful goalie for the Brahmas in the future. “Brian is someone that has been on our radar all year and his dominance in the NAPHL has shown he is ready to make the jump to the NAHL next season.”
On the blue line the Brahmas signed defenseman Andy “Bud” Madej who plays for the Chicago Mission U18 Team of the HPHL. The 18 year old, 5’ 10” – 170 pound native of New Lenox, IL has played in 20 games this season scoring 5G – 16A. Madej is a former teammate of current Brahma’s goalie TJ Black.
The Brahmas had Madej at the top of their list when looking for defensive depth. Wildfong believes he is one of the best U18 defenseman in the country. “Andy is one of the top defenseman in all of U18 hockey this year. There were a number of teams in our league trying to tender him and we are certainly happy he choose the Brahmas. We look for Andy to be a big part of our team next season.”
Zak Galambos is a smooth skating defenseman from Walnut Creek, CA who has also signed for next season. Galambos is 6’ 2” – 190, 16 year old who has played this season with the San Jose Jr. Sharks U18 team. Galambos led all Jr. Sharks defensemen in scoring with 4G – 11A in 21 games. His 15 points tied him for 8th in the league for defenseman scoring.
Galambos was selected in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 10th round, #201 overall. “He is a big, talented young defenseman that we think can be a major contributor next season,” said Assistant Coach Jeff Potter.
Moving up front, the Brahmas have signed four forwards two of which have already committed to DI Mercyhurst University for the 2015/16 season. The first is Mark Bowen from Canterbury Prep School. Bowen is an 18 year old native of Harrison, NJ stands 5’ 8” and weighs 165 pounds. Bowen has registered 10G – 11A in 22 games for Canterbury this season.
Being a point per game scorer, Bowen should be a good addition to the Brahmas. “Mark is a proven scorer at the prep school level and we look for him to continue that in a Brahma’s jersey,” said Wildfong. “We look forward to helping continue Mark’s development before he plays at the Division I level for Mercyhurst in 2016.”
The other Mercyhurst signee is Derek Barach who is a senior at Salisbury Prep in New England. The Albany, New York native is a speedy playmaker who is a 5’ 7” – 150. The 1995 birth year forward also plays split season Midget Majors with the Neponset River Rats. He assisted on the game winning goal at the 2012/13 USA Hockey Tier 1 U18 National Championship. in 29 games scoring 10 goals with 11 assists in New England’s premier prep league.
Andrew Will, Head Coach at Salisbury, gave the following assessment of Barach’s game to ESPN Boston. “He has outstanding speed, plays with tremendous energy and is relentless. Derek has a good stick, sees the ice well and finds a way to contribute offensively. I think Derek will be an outstanding addition to Mercyhurst’s program.” The Brahmas will look for Barach to contribute next season. Coach Wildfong said “Derek is a high end offensive skilled player who will be a big part of our plans for next season.”
The Brahmas have signed a pair of players out of the St Louis, MO area as well. Charlie Combs, a St. Louis native is a 17 year old high school junior, currently playing on the St. Louis Jr. Blues U18 team. Combs who is 5’ 7” – 190 was second in goals scored and third in points in the Tier one Elite Hockey League. In 30 games played he had 26G – 22A to go along with 48 PIMs. “Charlie has proven to be one of the elite goal scorers at the U18 level over the last two seasons. We are excited to add him to the Brahmas organization,” said Wildfong.
19 year old Brennan Anderson hales from St. Charles, MO and currently plays for the Peoria Mustangs in the NA3HL. Anderson is 20th in the league in scoring with 21G – 23A in 37 games played. Thirteen of Anderson’s points have come on the power play with 7G – 6A. In the 2012/13 season Anderson logged 20G – 25A in 45 games. Anderson was named the NA3HL Central Division Star of the Week. Mustangs head coach Steve Ortman said of Anderson, “He has stepped up his game and shown a lot of leadership, and that helped with his success on the ice.”
Coach Wildfong recognized the scoring potential Anderson brings to the Brahmas. “Brennan has been one of the top scorers in the NA3HL over the past two seasons. His skill set will fit in quickly with our team next year,” said Wildfong.
The talent of the new tenders will mix with the returning veterans and the players brought in before the trade deadline to take the Brahmas franchise back where they belong. The top of the NAHL South and the middle of the NAHL Playoff Race.