The Amarillo Wranglers stampeded into the Budweiser Bullpen still buzzing off their thrilling overtime victory against the Odessa Jackalopes.
The Wranglers used that momentum to stay hot by completing a two-game sweep over the defending North American Hockey League champion Oklahoma Warriors on Friday and Saturday.
Both games were high intensity and entertaining to say it mildly. Amarillo picked up a 5-3 win in the opener on Friday, and then won an overtime classic, 3-2, on Saturday night that left fans highly entertained but exhausted at the same time.
The Amarillo Wranglers were hungry to avenge their playoff loss last season against the winners of the Robertson Cup winners.
The Budweiser bullpen was hopping and filled with energy when Army commit and captain Ben Ivey started the scoring off at the 5:30 mark of the first period. Amarillo held onto a 1-0 lead going into the second period. Both teams were playing with exceptional intensity as the second period started. Warriors forward Max Vig would find the back of the net at the 6:24 mark of the second period to tie the game.
Defenseman and graduate of the “Learn to Play” program Trey Williams took a shoulder high shot from the point to get it past Warriors’ goalie Daniel Doris to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. With hockey sticks flying into the rafters, intensity levels through the roof and limited penalty minutes, Ukraine native and graduate of the Red Bull Hockey Academy Roman Zap took a feed from import line mate Alex Papaspyropoulos to give the Wranglers a two-goal lead. Warriors forward Owen Carlie scored to bring the Warriors within a goal.
The Warriors made things interesting when forward Drew Sutton shot an unassisted goal to tie up this nailbiter. With 38 seconds left in the game and the infamous “Import Line” (Zap, Puikkonen, Paps) in place, Roman Zap scored his second goal of the evening, giving the Wranglers a 4-3 lead. Just eight short seconds later, Connor McNaughton put the icing on the cake as the Wranglers won this nail-biting game.
With a large crowd of buzzing hockey fans after an exciting evening in the Budweiser Bullpen Friday night, the fans were hoping to see another win on Saturday.
The Amarillo Wranglers started off this amazing game with an unassisted goal from Ivey at the 9:12 mark of the first period as he continued his scoring rampage with his fifth goal of the season.
Oklahoma was able to tie the game when Max Vig snuck one by Wranglers goalie Connor McDonough. With the game tied up 1-1 going into the second period, defenseman and assistant captain Kyle DeMarco hit a rocket from the point, as Amarillo regained the lead, 2-1.
A few short minutes later, Warriors forward Riley Brubeck scored to tie this game up yet again. Going into the third period the crowd and the atmosphere at the Budweiser Bullpen was electric. Wranglers’ goalie Connor McDonough was stellar in the final frame stopping 9-of-10 nine out of nine shots that helped Amarillo get to overtime.
The Wranglers have had their disproportionate share of overtime games. In overtime, McDonough stopped a tenacious onslaught of shots, time and time again swatting away the puck. At the 2:24 mark in overtime, McNaughton took a beautiful feed from teammate Topi Puikkonen to win this game for the Amarillo Wranglers 3-2 in another exciting nail-biting finish. The “Connor and Connor” show is alive and well. Connor McNaughton scored his fifth goal of the season, while Connor McDonough stopped 34-of-36 shots to notch his fifth victory of the season.
Homegrown Hockey Player makes History
History was made this past weekend in Odessa at Ector County Colosseum when an Amarillo native for the first time in North American Hockey League history was called up to play for the Jackalopes.
This is the very first time an Amarillo born player has played in the NAHL.
Austin Richards began his hockey journey playing in the Amarillo youth hockey league. As a young teenager, Austin and his brother Kenton went on to play AAA hockey in various markets throughout the country (Omaha, Sioux Falls, Colorado Springs, Charleston, Denver, St. Louis and New Jersey).
Austin as a skater playing for the Amarillo Youth Hockey Association was featured on “ESPN’s Top 10 Play’s the Day” when he scored a magnificent goal at the Amarillo Civic Center Cal Farley arena. As hockey grows in popularity in Amarillo, we are now starting to see our youth players moving on to the junior league level Tier 3.
Amarillo natives like Cutter Daniel and Hunter Grant play for the Texas Roadrunners. Ayden Boyd participated in Wranglers Summer Camp and plays great hockey for the Mason City Toros. Hudson Fisher, another Amarillo native plays in the NA3HL for the Helena Bighorns.
Kenton Richards (Austins brother) plays in the EHL. At the grand opening of the Ice Ranch, owner and president of the Amarillo Wranglers and Amarillo’s Ice Ranch Austin Sutter, said,
“We will have an NHL player from Amarillo,”.
With the success and the path set for these young student athletes and those to fallow, Sutter’s prediction looks to become a reality. Hockey is alive and well in our community, growing and creating opportunities.
The Amarillo Wranglers improve to 7-4-1-0 (15 points) and are currently on a three-game win streak. The Wranglers now return the favor traveling to Oklahoma City, Okla., to face the Blazers (8-4-2-0, 18 points) again on Friday and Saturday.
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.