Amarillo Wranglers split weekend series with Corpus Christi IceRays

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Connor Mc Donough of the Amarillo Wranglers makes a save during a game earlier this season. [Lauren Correa/ Press Pass Sports]
The Amarillo Wranglers made a long bus ride to southern tip of the state coming away with a weekend split with North American Hockey League South Division foe Corpus Christi on Friday and Saturday.

The Wranglers won the Friday night class in a 2-1 thriller but were unable to come away with the sweep after being blanked 2-0 on Saturday night.

Amarillo is now 23-11-5-2 (53 points) on the year currently sitting in third place of the South Division just a game back of the Shreveport Mudbugs (26-11-0-2, 54 points) for second place. The Wranglers return back to the Budweiser Bullpen with two key games against the reigning NAHL Robertson Cup champion Oklahoma Warriors on Friday and Saturday with the puck dropping at 7:15 p.m.

Friday night

This was another tight game the Wranglers have become accustomed to all season long. The first period of this nailbiter remained scoreless. Shortly after the first intermission, the IceRays drew first blood when forward Zakhar Polshakov pushed one past Amarillo goalie Connor McDonough for a 1-0 lead heading into the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Top Prospects Tournament participant and Wrangler forward Roman Zap took a beautiful pass from the captain Ben Ivey to tie the game up 1-1. With a never give up mantra that is tattooed to every Wranglers’ player brain and with just seven short minutes left in this highly contested South Division battle, captain and Army commit Ben Ivey was able to grab a drop from his twin brother Jack Ivey to give Amarillo an exciting 2-1 victory.

Power play goals were the theme of the night as the Wranglers scored both of their goals this night on power plays. Recently committed Amarillo goalie Connor McDonough grabbed his 19th victory of the season, which set a new Wranglers franchis record, as he celebrated his commitment to Lindenwood University to pursue his Division I college career.

Because of McDonough’s commitment to Lindenwood University, he will not be participating in the Top Prospects Tournament in Pittsburgh, Penn., as reported in last week’s column.

Saturday Night 

The Wranglers looked to extend their four game-winning streak Saturday night at the beautiful American Bank Center.

The first period saw a lot of back-and-forth action. Unfortunately, the IceRays struck first to take this game into the first intermission 1-0. At the 6:59 mark of the second period as Taylor Swift music was blaring throughout the American Bank Center, IceRays forward Michael Valdez found some blank space blasting the puck past the left shoulder of McDonough to give Corpus Christi a 2-0 lead at the end of the second period.

With two 5-on-3 chance for the Wranglers, neither opportunity bore fruit on this Saturday night. At the 3:23 mark of the third, Wranglers head coach Ryan Anderson pulled McDonough to give the Wranglers some extra fire power in the last 3:23 of this contest. The extra firepower and some perplexing officiating proved to be an effective/ineffective (depending on what side of the fence you were sitting on) as the Wranglers dropped this game 2-0.

Wranglers’ college commits 

It was recently announced that Wranglers goalie Connor McDonough was offered and accepted a scholarship to play NCAA Division I hockey for Lindenwood University.

“Connor has been a difference maker and a winner since he arrived in Amarillo,” Amarillo Wrangler head coach Ryan Anderson said. “We went on a magical nine-game run because of him at the end of last season. Connor picked up right where he left off last season and we’re lucky to have him.”

Defenseman Nolen Gagnon announced his commitment to play NCAA Division I hockey for the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“Nolen has worked his entire life for this opportunity,” Anderson said. “Nolen is very deserving of this accomplishment and will continue to provide a high-level of offensive production from the backend at the D-I level. We have been very luck to watch Nolen play at the Budweiser Bullpen and we look forward to seeing his continued success in the future.”

We at Press Pass Sports wish both of these student-athletes all the best.

How Are They Now? 

Amarillo has had its share of exceptional hockey players. To that end in an effort to follow-up the success of some of the best hockey players to come out of Amarillo, I will have conversations with the “Best of the Best” of Amarillo Hockey.

We start off our How Are They Now series with a young Latvian hockey player who came to this country for the first time in the fall of 2020 as part of the Wranglers’ inaugural season.

Coming from a humble background arriving in America, and especially Amarillo, to play hockey was a monumental undertaking for this young 19-year-old. Glebs Prohorenkov’s success in Latvia cannot be overstated. Having been a member of the Junior National team and possessing a keen hockey sense, Glebs was an attractive player in North America.

He immersed himself in the Amarillo culture. This young Latvian’s pride while wearing his cowboy hat and cowboy boots was a testament to his love of Amarillo. Glebs left behind his mother, father and his sister, to whom he is very close. Glebs success in Amarillo (18 goals with 53 points) caught the eye of coaches from Niagara University, a fantastic educational institution located in northern New York that fields a strong Division I college hockey program. A

By the end of the 2021 Wrangler season, Glebs went home to Riga, Latvia with a large supply of Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts and Cap’n Crunch as a gift to his sister, which are rarely seen in Latvia. Glebs extreme hockey IQ only made him more attractive to numerous Division I colleges throughout our country. Glebs chose Niagara and the rest is history.

“I really miss the people of Amarillo” Glebs said. “Friday and Saturday nights in the Budweiser Bullpen were the best. Amarillo has some of the best hockey fans in the world and I miss them.”

Glebs is in his sophomore year at Niagara majoring in sports management and is living the American Dream. Amarillo has become a destination point for international hockey players to begin their hockey journey in our great country.

Watch out for more of How Are They Now coming soon.

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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