The Amarillo Wranglers continued their playoff ush with a sweep of the El Paso Rhinos this past weekend at the Sierra Providence Event Center.
In front of a loud, boisterous crowd, the Wranglers defeated El Paso, 5-2, on Friday night and then got a 4-2 victory on Saturday night to sweep the weekend series. The Wranglers are 19-14-2-1 with 41 points and sit four points behind the Shreveport Mudbugs (20-13-2-3, 45 points) with two games in hand.
Friday night’s game saw some incredible play by the Wranglers’ defense and a team on a mission to make the playoffs. Special teams also played an important role. Top Prospects participant and Latvian native defenseman Rihards Simanovics started the Wranglers scoring at the 10:36 mark of the first period. Simanovics scored 10 seconds into the power play as he positioned himself directly in front of the net. Simanovics was able to collect some trash and “Lit the Lamp” to put the Wranglers on top. Simanovics scored again in the second period when defenseman (West Point commit) Pierce Patterson was able to pass the puck to Simanovics at the point where he slapped a beautiful textbook “one timer”. Wranglers forward and Dallas native Trey Williams took a shot from the Rhinos end line at a perplexing angle and was able to “bend it like Beckham” that somehow found the back of the net. This was Williams first NAHL goal. All scoring up to this point were from the “blue liners.” Rhino Mark La France slipped a goal past Amarillo Goalie Luca Ganz at the 6:59 mark of the second period. This made things interesting until Wranglers forward and Maryland native Divyne Apollon executed a perfect corner pass to Connor McNaughton who was able to push the puck past the Rhinos goalie, as the Wranglers took a 4-1 lead. This would be Apollon first “Apple” scored in the North American Hockey League. Apollon is the name we should all remember; this guy is going to be a rockstar. Germany native and Wranglers goalie Ganz stopped 32-of-34 shots to improve to 12-6-0-0 on the year.
Saturday night saw a win-hungry Wranglers team ride into the Sierra Providence Event Center looking to keep pace in the competitive NAHL South Division. Defenseman Pierce Patterson scored the Wranglers’ first goal in the Saturday night affair. This would be Patterson’s fifth goal of the season. The Wranglers took a 1-0 lead into the second period when Rhino forward AJ Reed scored to tie the game. Ben Ivey netted his sixth goal of the season towards the end of second period. In the third period the Rhinos tied it up, but not for long when Ben Ivy “sniped” his second goal of the night and seventhof the season. Newly acquired forward from the Aberdeen Wings Ronan Walsh put the icing on the cake by scoring his first Wranglers goal that closed out the Saturday night affair with a 4-2 victory. Ganz had another stellar night in net saving 25-of-27 shots and is now 13-6-0-0 for the season.
The Wranglers stay on the road to take on the Oklahoma City Warriors, which lead the South Division boasting a 28-6-0-1 (58 points) record. That game takes place on Wednesday night, then Amarillo makes a trip south to Dallas for a Friday and Saturday clash with the Lone Star Brahmas (25-8-1-3). Please watch for Tommy Tee’s weekly Wranglers update and also catch Tommy at 5 p.m. on Thursday evenings on the “Drive at Five” with Lance Lahnert on the Panhandle Sports Star (102.9-F.M.)