Amarillo Wranglers claim series victory at Colorado

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Alex Papaspyropoulos of the Amarillo Wranglers skates up the ice during a game earlier this season. [Lauren Correa/ Press Pass Sports]
The Amarillo Wranglers traveled to Greeley, Colo., to take on the expansion Colorado Grit for the first time in either franchise’s history. This was the first three games of a six-game series. Amarillo was able to come away taking two-of-three wins against the Grit.

The Wranglers earned a wild 7-6 victory to open the series on Friday, then claimed a 4-1 win on Saturday before Colorado avoided the sweep with a 6-5 win in Sunday’s finale.

Amarillo was able to collect five out of six important points for the weekend as the Wranglers remain in fourth place in the North American League South Division with a 19-10-5-2 record (45 points).

The Wranglers now return home for yet another three-game set with the Colorado Grit starting Friday through Sunday.

Friday Night

For the first time in the Colorado Grit expansion season, they hosted the Amarillo Wranglers in front of an enthusiastic crowd in the newly constructed Ice Haus Arena. At the 15:18 mark of the first period the scoring bonanza was ignited with a power-play goal by the eventual First Star of the Week in the North American Hockey League, Southern Division, Topi Puikkonen. The Finland native began his personal scoring bonanza to give the Wranglers an early 1-0 lead.

The Wranglers scored two more times in the first period with goals by Alex Papaspyropoulos, and a power-play goal by Jack McDonald. The Wranglers went into the first intermission with a 3-2 lead in this Friday night classic barn burner. Power-play goals were the theme of the night when at the 17:32 mark of the second period, Army commit Jack Ivey took a nice pass from defenseman Nolen Gagnon to extend the Wranglers’ lead to 4-2. The Colorado Grit scored two power-play goals in the second period to tie this game up 5-5 going into the last intermission of this nailbiter. The third period saw a defensive battle with a lot of back-and-forth hockey, both teams scoring to tie up this exciting and over the top game.

The Wranglers have had a crazy season and went into their 14th overtime affair of the season, a league record. In overtime and in yet another power-play situation, the Wranglers were able to close this one out when McDonald hit the back of the net to close out the very first game played between the Amarillo Wranglers and the Colorado Grit 7-6. Amarillo goalie Connor McDonald took the victory, saving 22-of-28 shots, giving him his 16th win of the season.

Saturday afternoon

Saturday’s afternoon game saw the Grit take the ice looking to avenge their loss from the previous night. Amarillo’s Jack Ivy started off the scoring at the 15:42 mark by taking a beautiful drop from Jack McDonald, giving Amarillo the early 1-0 lead. Colorado tied it up with three minutes left in the first period and this game remained tied going into the first break.

The second period didn’t see any scoring, however, things changed in the third when Amarillo scored three unanswered goals, two of them by Puikkonen. With the game never in doubt, the Wranglers closed the game out with a 4-1 win. In a very impressive debut, new goalie, Andrew Peterson stopped 18-of-19 shots to give him his first victory as a Wrangler.

Sunday afternoon

Sunday saw the Grit score early to take a 1-0 lead. This game continued the theme of power-play goals, and the ability for the Wranglers to take advantage of these key situations. With the hottest stick in all of the NAHL, Puikkonen scored first for Amarillo at the 9:29 mark, to tie this game up 1-1.

Both teams scored two more times in the first period, keeping this game knotted up going into the first break. McDonald and Puikonen both scored on power-play opportunities as the Grit also scored two goals to take this game into overtime. The Wranglers have been involved with 15 overtime or shootout games this season. Fans of both teams saw five minutes of scoreless play in overtime. This game moved into a shootout. With a total of seven shots taken, Amarillo fell in the shoot-out as the Grit went on to a 6-5 victory.

Thanks to his stellar play, Amarillo’s Topi Puikkonen earned NAHL Star Player of the Week for the South Division, scoring seven points with five goals.

Editor’s Note

Please listen for Tommy Tee‘s weekly recap of the Amarillo Wranglers hockey on the “Drive at Five” with Lance Lahnert every Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. exclusively on 102.9 FM the Panhandle Sports Star.

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