Amarillo Wranglers see successful season come to an end in playoffs

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The Amarillo Wranglers ended the 2023-2024 season with a 32-22-6-2 record. [Lauren Corea/ Press Pass Sports]
The Amarillo Wranglers were eliminated from the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup playoffs last week at the hands of the New Mexico Ice Wolves at the Outpost Arena in Albuquerque, N.M.

Friday night saw an edge of your seat, smash mouth hockey game with Amarillo falling 2-1. Saturday nights game ended the Wranglers season with a 6-3 loss.

The Amarillo Wranglers finished the season 32-22-6-2 with a total of 72 points. Amarillo will finish in fifth place in the Southern division of the NAHL.

The Changing Season

During the off-season, there were a plethora of changes in the front office. Beloved and respected head coach Harry Mahood was moved to the front office as President of Hockey Operations.

A young and gregarious head coach was hired away from the Lone Star Brahmas, Ryan Anderson. With 10 games left in the season Ryan Anderson was unceremoniously dismissed from the organization.

Austin Sutter, part of the ownership group and President of the organization took over the head coaching duties. Throughout these challenges, the players remained focused and provided our community with a tremendous amount of quality hockey and entertainment.

Over 83,000 enthusiastic and loyal hockey fans attended Amarillo Wranglers hockey games at the Budweiser Bullpen this season. With over 2,900 fans per game this season, these attendance numbers easily eclipsed the NAHL modern era record for an Amarillo franchise.

Who’s the next head coach? 

The Amarillo Wranglers are searching for a new head coach. Owner and President of the Amarillo Wranglers Austin Sutter took over the head coaching duties immediately after the dismissal of Ryan Anderson. As head coach, Sutter’s record in the interim role was 6-6. Look for a new head coach to be hired and announced soon.

Season highlights 

Amarillo goalie Connor McDonough was magnificent between the pipes.

McDonough will always be remembered in Amarillo hockey folklore as the goalie who won 10 straight games with a disproportionate share of scoreless minutes, to help the Wranglers make the playoff by a single point in their sophomore season. McDonough will be playing Division I college hockey at Lindenwood College.

Wrangler frontliners Jack and Ben Ivey, the fraternal twins from San Diego, Ca. Jack Ivey led the team in goals with 32 and a total of 51 points leading the team. Ben finished the season with 14 goals and 42 points. Both Jack and Ben Ivey will be playing Division I college hockey at the United States Military Academy at West Point on the West Bank of the Hudson River.

Defenseman and Canadian native Nolen Gagnon lead the team with 34 assist and will be playing Division I college hockey at the University of Alaska-Anchorage this fall.

Forward and Finland native Topi Puikkonen lead the team in game winning goals with five. Puikkonen also had 25 goals with a total of 49 points. Puikkonen was part of the infamous international line that also included what most feel is the most improved player of the Wranglers, German-Ukrainian native Roman Zap who had 17 goals with a total of 48 points.

Defenseman and Michigan native Kyle DeMarco played 178 games for Amarillo during his three-year tenure with the Wranglers. DeMarco also participated in the Top Prospects Tournament this season.

Fan favorite and Friona, N.Y. native Luke Morris always one to ignite the crowd, sign every autograph and took more pictures than Kodak.

Jack McDonald played a total of 117 games for the Wranglers. In his time, he scored 27 goals with 82 points. McDonald perfected the art of shifting the momentum into your favor by his incredible ability of situational awareness. Nick Troutwine “The Blue Line Bulldozer” was agile, mobile, and hostile. He definitely played Amarillo style hockey.

Returning Players

Amarillo has a fine group of returning players that should hit the ice in approximately 120 days.

Led by forward and Greenville, S.C. native Connor McNaughton, who is coming off a 49-point season is sure to take his game to the next level. Look for him in a leadership role next season as well.

Mason Arizona’s Trace Day had a modest 11 points this season and scored his first NAHL goal. Look for Day to improve those numbers and he should see more playing time.

The returning blue liners look strong with a wealth of experience. Michigan native Henry Mc Roberts as well as Cole Semeniuk will provide a lot of senior leadership and experience.

TJ Ritchie is a defensive force to be reckoned with. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, his size and  blue-collar approach will only add to the persona of physicality at the Budweiser Bullpen.

With the ever-changing landscape of amateur hockey, some projected returners may choose a different path.

How are they now?

Kristaps Skrastins burst on to the NAHL landscape via the Amarillo Wranglers inaugural season of 2021-2022.

Skrastins scored 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in his first six games NAHL. He was also the Wranglers first ever Most Valuable Player and First Team All-South Division.

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats were the lucky recipient of Skrastins skills at the next level. In his freshman season as a Wildcat, he scored three goals with a total of six points playing in 26 games.

The Wildcats finished the season ranked 20th in the nation at the Division I college hockey level. During the collegiate off-season, this Grobina, Latvia native plays for the Latvian International team.

Playing on the world’s largest amateur stage. Skrastins is a passionate basketball fan with impressive round ball skills.

Thank You

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lo Co photography’s Lauren Corea for providing the amazing photographs.

Lance Lahnert, the radio host of The Drive at 5, for giving me a weekly voice to talk about Junior League Hockey.

Also, Press Pass Sports founder Kale Steed for giving me an opportunity to provide this information to the loyal hockey fans of our community.

Most importantly, I want to thank the readers of this column. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Until next season, Go Wranglers!

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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