Amarillo Wranglers salvage weekend split with El Paso


Share post:

Topi Puikkonen of the Amarillo Wranglers get set during a face-off against the El Paso Rhinos during a game at the Budweiser Bullpen over the weekend. [Lauren Correa/ Press Pass Sports]
The Amarillo Wranglers were able to come away with a weekend split with North American Hockey League South Division rival El Paso Rhinos over the weekend.

The Wranglers dropped the opening contest 5-2 on Friday, however, bounced back for a big 3-2 victory on Saturday night.

The Wranglers are fighting for home ice advantage in the first round NAHL Robinson Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, Amarillo does not control its own destiny. The New Mexico Ice Wolves must lose one of its remaining four regular season games and Amarillo must win the remaining three home games against the Colorado Grit, to achieve home ice advantage.

The Ice Wolves have four games left in the regular season. Two against Corpus Christi and two against a very hot Oklahoma Warriors team.

Amarillo is 30-19-6-2 with 68 points, currently tied for fourth place in the South Division with the New Mexico Ice Wolves. The Amarillo Wranglers hold the tiebreaker against the New Mexico Ice Wolves.

The Amarillo Wranglers will be off for the Easter holiday. Then they will host the Colorado Grit for three important home games that will determine ice advantage for the Wranglers.

Friday Night

It was Yellow City Comicon night at the Budweiser Bullpen. El Paso started the scoring at the 11:38 mark of the first period, when Rhinos forward Medrick Bolduc sniped one past Wrangler goalie Connor McDonough, giving the Rhinos an early 1-0 lead. Wranglers forward Topi Puikkonen scored his 24th goal of the season at the 5:25 mark of the first period to tie this game up going into the first intermission.

The second period was not quite as productive as Amarillo gave up two unanswered goals and another unanswered goal in the third as the Rhinos went on for the 5-2 win.

Saturday Night 

Hot Rods and Hockey was the theme Saturday night at the Budweiser Bullpen as the energy of the superb crowd was more than evident in this NAHL South Division game.

The Rhinos struck first within the first minute, giving them an early 1-0 lead. Wrangler goalie Connor McDonough stopped 9-of-10 shots as El Paso took a 1-0 lead into the first period.

Connor McNaughton took a beautiful dump pass from linemate Topi Puikkonen to tie this game up at the 18:39 mark of the second period. Fan favorite and Wrangler forward Luke Morris took a pass from Morley Phillips to score his 10th goal of the season to give the Wranglers a 2-1 lead with less than seven minutes in the second period at the 1:54 mark.

The Rhinos Mason LaBel was able to even things 2-2 going into the last intermission. Under the head coaching tutelage of Austin Sutter, the Wranglers have been able to keep their penalty minutes to a minimum as this game saw only one penalty for the Wranglers.

With a crowd hungry for a victory lap, the 15:41 mark of the third period saw Puikkonen score his second goal of the weekend, giving him his team-leading fourth winning goal of the season.

McDonough played lights out in the net stopping 35-of-37 shots as he was able to win his 25th game of the season, tying him for the league’s lead of most wins.

How Are They Now

The Eastern College Atlantic Conference Division I college tournament championship game was held this weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The ECAC is the hockey equivalent to the SEC in college football. Cornell University and St. Lawrence University met in the final of this highly anticipated tournament. The winner of this tournament gets an automatic berth into the NCAA Frozen Four National Championship Tournament that will be played at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Amarillo hockey history was made during this game when Cornell and former Amarillo player Gabe Seger, along with St. Lawrence former Amarillo player Nick Trela, suited up for this classic D-I college matchup.

Both young men spoke on the opportunity to play in Amarillo.

“My time in Amarillo was huge for my development as a player and a person,” Seger said. “It helped me to quickly get adjusted to the high pace of North American hockey. My time in Amarillo was great and we had a great team. We won the South Division, but unfortunately came up short in Robertson Cup. All the people, from players, coaches, my billets to the fans were unbelievable too, whom I’m very grateful for.”

Trela, a very popular player in Amarillo played two seasons with the Bulls with his last year being associate captain.

Trela echoed similar emotions as Seger.

“Amarillo will always be in my heart,” Trela said. “I have such fond memories of my team and of the great people of Amarillo. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to play in such a great town. My time in Amarillo was special and I will never ever forget it. My love for the fans runs deep.”

In another interesting Amarillo connection, John Rey, former team captain of the 2013 Robinson Cup National Champion Amarillo Bulls, officiated this game.

Rey was a very popular player in Amarillo and contributed mightily to the 2013 NAHL Robertson Cup winner Amarillo Bulls.

Rey played Division I college hockey at Robert Morris University before embarking on his officiating career. This very popular defenseman is now officiating in the ECAC as one of its top officials and participated in arguably one of the most important hockey games in D-I College Hockey thus far this season.

Rey’s officiating journey has brought him back to Amarillo on numerous occasions.

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.

Do you like what we're doing?

Press Pass Sports will always strive to keep our stories FREE to read. We're able to do that because of our advertising sponsors, and people like you who believe in what we're doing.

Local Sponsor

Related articles

Boys Athlete of the Week – Hunter Corman, Wildorado

Hunter Corman of Wildorado is the First United Bank Boys Athlete of the Week.

Girls Athlete of the Week – Charlee Thacker, Amarillo High

Amarillo High's Charlee Thacker is the First United Bank Girls Athlete of the Week.

High School Softball Amarillo-area bi-district playoff pairings

Here's a look at the Texas Panhandle bi-district softball playoff pairings.

High School Baseball Amarillo-area roundup

Check out how Texas Panhandle baseball teams did during Tuesday's district action.