The Amarillo Wranglers traveled to Oklahoma City this past weekend to play an unusual three-game series against the Warriors (41-10-0-1).
The Wranglers were able to grab one win out of the three games to keep their playoff hopes alive. Thursday night saw Amarillo take it on the chin in a 5-0 loss. Friday night’s affair was a classic resulting in a 6-4 loss. Saturday night saw the the Wranglers step up in a must win situation to get a 6-2 win over the Warriors 6-2 in front of a sellout crowd at the Blazer Ice Center. The Wranglers are 26-23-2-1 with 55 points and are currently in fifth place of the final spot of the North American Hockey League’s South Division. Amarillo trails New Mexico by eight points with eight games to play on the year.
Thursday and Friday’s Recap
The Wranglers took the short bus ride to Oklahoma City to play three games against what some consider the best team in the North American Hockey League. Amarillo witnessed a scoring clinic by Warriors forward William Ahlirik. Ahlirk got his first hat-trick of the season as the Warriors beat the Wranglers 5-0.
Friday’s game saw a Wranglers team needing a victory. Amarillo’s normally strong penalty kill minutes were a challenge as they gave up three power-play goals. With the Wranglers short players due to illnesses and injuries, it was gut check time for the Wranglers. Penalties played a big role in this game in the third period as Amarillo killed a five-minute penalty stretch. The Wranglers gave up two goals on Warriors’ power plays in the third period to fall 6-4 in this very chippy and penalty-laden game.
The Wranglers found themselves in a must-win situation Saturday night in front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd. They say Saturday night is the hardest game to win in hockey. Down numerous players and starting newly acquired goalie Connor McDonough fresh off his AAA performance for the Nashville Predators in the Tampa Florida regional tournament. McDonough flew into Amarillo as back up for a just in case moment. McDonough found himself in a pressure cooker situation as the Amarillo had to win this game to stay in the playoff hunt. The Warriors are on a mission to get 100 points for the season, so they did not want to lose this game. Right off the bat Ronan Walsh scored his 12th goal of the season, giving Amarillo a 1-0 lead. Amarillo put on its own scoring clinic with goals from Jack Ivey, Rihards Simanovics, Luke Morris (his first goal for Amarillo), Connor McNaughton, and fan favorite Zach Kent. Amarillo easily beat the Warriors, 6-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive. As a result of the Warriors loss, their goal of 100 points will not happen. Newly acquired Amarillo goalie, McDonough, stopped 20-of-22 shots on this night.
“I’m happy for my new teammates and I’m happy for the fans in Amarillo,” McDonough said. “I was able to watch a couple of games at the Budweiser Bullpen and the fans here are fantastic.”
With eight games to play and eight points behind the New Mexico Ice Wolves, the Amarillo Wranglers will need some help to make the playoffs. The last eight games of the season work in Amarillo’s favor with four games to be played against the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, two at home and two away, then two games at home against the Lone Star Brahmas. Amarillo then finishes up the season on the road in Odessa against the Jackalopes in games that could have playoff implications.
The Wranglers continue their playoff run as they welcome the Corpus Christi Ice Rays to the Budweiser Bullpen on Friday and Saturday. Please watch for Tommy Tee’s weekly Wranglers update and also catch Tommy at 5 p.m. Thursday evenings on the “Drive at Five” with Lance Lahnert on the Panhandle Sports Star (102.9-F.M.)