Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brahmas host the Corpus Christi IceRays on New Years Eve

Division rivals meet for first of five games this season

The Texas Brahmas will close out the year at home tonight against the Corpus Christi IceRays. It is the first of five meetings between the two teams this season.

The IceRays are coming off a huge road win against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees last night. The 6-4 win was the IceRays' second straight and improved their record to 12-13-3 on the year, moving within one point of the Bees for third place in the Southeast Division. Their road record is now 4-5-3. The IceRays will make the nine-hour trip to NYTEX overnight. The teams will play a second game on Friday night.

Despite their place in the standings, the IceRays have had some impressive wins this season, defeating the Tulsa Oilers in their home opener buy a score of 12-3. They have beaten the Mississippi RiverKings and the Arizona Sundogs twice and have wins against Laredo, Bossier-Shreveport and Odessa.

The IceRays have three players with over 35 points this season. They are Chris Richards with 39 points (16 G, 23 A), Justin Quenneville with 37 points (10 G, 27 A) and Ryan Bennett with 36 points (17 G, 19 A).

Anyone who saw the video of last Friday's brawl against the Mudbugs (See it here) can see that the IceRays can and will play physical. They lead the league with 1,028 penalty minutes; 69 minutes more than the Arizona Sundogs. Defenseman T. J. Reynolds leads the team with 118 PIM.

According to Greg Rajan, forward Jonathan Trottier was out of the lineup last night with an undisclosed injury. Center Mike Zbriger missed most of the game with back spasms and is questionable for tonight. The IceRays are also without defensemen John Adams (called up to the Houston Aeros on Monday) and Jozef Sladok (injured reserve), forwards Patrick Steinmayr and Brett Connolly and right wing Chris Shaffer (injured reserve).

The Brahmas are without defenseman Justin Kinnunen and forward Topher Scott as of this writing. Forward Jason Deitsch is still on the Houston Aeros roster.

After 29 games, the 17-9-3 Brahmas have slightly improved on last seasons record of 15-3-1. After a horrible showing against the Killer Bees on the 26th, the Bulls had an impressive 4-3 win over the Oklahoma City Blazers on Saturday night. With a 10-3-1 record at NYTEX, the Brahmas are hoping to sweep the two-game series and continue their pursuit of the number one spot in the Southeastern Division.

The game will begin earlier than usual at 6:05pm and can be seen on Nifty-TV. The Brahmas are hosting a free New Year's Eve Party immediately following the game. The party will feature live music from the Blueprints and party favors at no charge for all fans attending the game.

Image Credit: Corpus Christi Ice Rays

Justin Kinnunen selected for 2009 CHL All Star Game

Texas Brahmas defenseman to start for second consecutive season

The 2009 Central Hockey League All-Star game is scheduled for Wednesday, January 14th at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado and today the CHL announced the starting line-up for the CHL All-Star Team that is scheduled to play the host team, Colorado Eagles.

For the second year in a row, Texas Brahmas defenseman Justin Kinnunen has been selected as a starter for the Central Hockey League's All Star Game.

Kinnunen has five goals and 10 assists on the season and is tied for the Brahmas team lead with a +10 plus/minus rating. He is currently eight assists short of 100. The Negaunee, Michigan native is in his fifth professional year and his second in the CHL. Kinnunen led all Brahmas defensemen in scoring last season with 43 points (11 G, 32 A).

"We are very proud of Kinnunen representing the Brahmas in the game," Dan Wildfong said about the announcement. "It is great to see him get the recognition from around the league."

Joining Kinnunen on defense will be Amarillo’s Sam Ftorek who led all blueliners with 21 votes. He is tied among all defensemen with 30 points on the season.

The starting forwards are Arizona’s Joel Irving, Rapid City’s Rich Hansen and Laredo’s Darryl Smith.

The top vote getter was Oklahoma City goaltender Andy Franck who received 37 of the 50 goaltender votes. As a result, he will start between the pipes for the second consecutive season.

The reserves will be announced tomorrow afternoon.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Brahmas defeat the Blazers!

Win puts Bulls within one point of Laredo Bucks

Note: Due to travelling home from Christmas vacation, the following is from the Brahmas Press Release.

The Brahmas relentlessness and passion gave Texas the 4-3 victory Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Blazers at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

It was a powerplay goal by Mike Vellinga that put Texas on the board first, beating goaltender Andy Franck from the point. Forward Scott Sheppard and Pete Rouleau were credited with the assists. Three minutes later, the Blazers returned the favor with a goal of their own from Ted Vandermeer at the 13:23 mark.

Three fights in the second, two with Brahmas enforcer Nathan Saunders involved, set the tone for the physical second period. Oklahoma City's Brian Passmore scored a goal on the doorstep of Brett Jaeger five minutes within the second.

In the third the Blazers were able to beat Jaeger on a 5-on-3 powerplay to give them the 3-1 lead. Despite the two goal differential, Coach Dan Wildfong's team led by Pete Rouleau and Jordan Cameron were not willing to give up. Following a myriad of shots on the Blazers goal, Rouleau was able to find the back of the net to make it a one goal game. Cameron followed up with his tenth goal of the season a minute later to bring the fans at NYTEX to their feet. The Brahmas found themselves with the opportunity of the two man advantage at the 6:50 mark, and it was Cameron once again leading the charge, scoring his second goal, and the game winner.

Texas went 2 for 8 on the powerplay and Jaeger earned his eleventh victory of the season.

The Brahmas next home game is Wednesday, December 31 when Texas takes on the Corpus Christi Ice Rays for a New Year's Eve match. Game time is an hour earlier than typical with faceoff at 6:05 PM at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

Photo Credit: Russell Farris

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oklahoma City Blazers up next

Brahmas host Northeast Division leaders

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Brahmas stung by Killer Bees

Bulls shut out in 3-0 loss at NYTEX

"What that heck was that tonight...the first two periods they handled the puck like they had sausages taped to their fingers! Very disappointing tonight!"

- Russell Farris

Despite outshooting the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Bees 31-26, the Texas Brahmas offense suffered a rare shutout Friday night at the NYTEX Sports Centre. The last time the Brahmas were shutout was on February 22nd, also at home against the Bossier- Shreveport Mudbugs.

Like the previous match up between the two Southeast Division rivals on December 9th, there was no scoring in the first two periods. Unlike the previous match up, in which the Brahmas shut out the Bees 2-0, the Bulls could not light any offensive fire and suffered for it.

Both teams had a single powerplay opportunity in the first period, but were unable to find the net. The Bees almost scored in the final minute of the period, but were stymied by Jordan Cameron who helped save a dancing puck in the crease. The Brahmas outshot the Bees 11-7 but were unable to get past Christian Boucher who was solid in the net.

The action picked up in the second period but there was still no score after 40 minutes. Each team had two powerplays; each team failed to score. Once again, the Brahmas outshot the Bees, this time 12-8.

The game winner came at the 2:50 mark in the third period when Zak McClelland and Aaron Lee set up Jesse Bennefield, who was able to smack the puck past Cacciola. Rookie Evan Rankin had a pair of goals to seal the win for the Bees. The first came at the 10:11 mark with the assist from Grant Goeckner-Zoeller and Daryl Moore. The second came at the 19:08 mark when Rankin took a pass from Aaron Lee and found the back of the empty net, vacated for an extra attacker for the Brahmas. Matt Burto nearly scored with 30 seconds left but the shot hit the pipes.

The Brahmas were outshot 11-8 in the final period. Neither team scored on their final powerplay. Both teams went 0 for 4 on powerplay opportunities.

Christian Boucher turned aside 31 shots for his second consecutive shutout (The first was against the Laredo Bucks on December 22nd). His record improves to 5-4-1-2. David Cacciola managed to earn the third star in the game. His record goes to 6-5-0-1.

You can view the box score here

You can view John Blanding's photos from the game here

The Brahmas are now 16-9-3 with 35 points. They will host the 19-5-3 Oklahoma City Blazers on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: John Blanding

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A few minutes with...Chris Brooks

The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees coach sounds off on his challenges as a first time head coach

Chris Brooks, 36, became the third head coach in Killer Bee history when he joined the team in July. Brooks had served as associate head coach of the Western Michigan University Broncos since August 2006. During his nine seasons at WMU, the team had an overall record of 133-178-31 with two winning seasons. Last season, the Broncos had an 8-27-3 record yet made it into the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament, only to lose in the first round.

Brooks played center for four seasons with the Broncos (1992-96) where he recorded 184 points (57 G, 127 A) and finished as the eighth-leading scorer in team history. He played four years as a professional in the Western Professional (WPHL), East Coast (ECHL), United (UHL) and American (AHL) leagues.

He began his coaching career in the WPHL, serving as a player/coach for the Amarillo Rattlers during the 1998-99 season. That same year he was named team MVP and appeared in his second WPHL All-Star Game as the league's scoring champion after he tallied 110 points (45 G, 65 A).

Brooks was tasked with improving the Killer Bees' performance after a dismal 16-41-7 record last season, the worst in the league. The team suffered from a lack of effective defense and were plagued by numerous players who seemed apathetic and unwilling to display any sense of toughness as they were pushed around by almost every team they met.

Forward Rob Voltera commented on the teams' play earlier in the year during a chat on the Central Hockey League website.

“We need to improve on everything. We're one of the worst teams in the league,” Voltera said. “We need to get players that know how to play their role and once they play that role they need to not think that they are better then they are. Put the team's need first.”

Voltera became only the 2nd player on the team to be waived this season on December 15th.

I spoke with Chris Brooks about the challenges he has faced as a first year head coach in the CHL. Here is our conversation.

Q: At this point into your first season as head coach of the Killer Bees, how would you describe your experience thus far? Has the Killer Bee organization given you every thing you've needed to build your team?

A: Yeah, no question. It's a great organization, a great ownership group, great fan base, great staff. You know, when I first got offered the job, there were certain things that I needed to have in place to have success at this level. The toughest part for me was I got hired a month-and-a-half, two months before the start of the season. A lot of the kids I had contacts with had signed in other leagues. I probably hand-delivered seven or eight kids to other teams within this league. So that's been one of the biggest challenges. About half of the team that I have here, I recruited and half the team I have here, the other coach recruited. A lot of the guys that I brought in knew exactly how I am and we're still learning as a team, our identity.

Q: You mentioned the fans. I think one of the great things about the Killer Bee organization is their fans and the number of people not only from the local area but also who come from across the border. How do you feel about the fans?

A: It's kind of neat because you see a lot of Hispanic people in the crowd. It's sort of a middle-upper class crowd at the same time. The organization has done a great job getting out in the community and the community support is fantastic. From corporate sponsors to businesses that sponsor the team to having the players involved with various things within the schools or different things within the community where we can get our organization out there, that's one of the big things with minor pro hockey and being a player at this level.

Q: One of the pluses I've recognized since the beginning of the season has been the play of some of your rookies. Dumoulin, Bicek and some of the others have done really well...

A: A lot of the young kids are energetic, they're passionate. They show up at the rink every day, happy to be here. They buy into everything I'm talking about. They've been rewarded with their play, they've been rewarded with different things that they bring to the team. I don't look at our team as a veterans vs. rookies team. We're a team and everybody has a role on the team. We're still learning. A lot of the veteran guys are learning about my expectations. Some of the younger kids are still learning the ins and outs of pro hockey. It's a process. It's going to be a long year and there's going to be ups and downs. The biggest thing is you have to learn positives and negatives through the process.

Q: With the Brahmas move into the Southern Conference and into the Southeastern Division, they are a new rival for the Killer Bees. Did you know much about Dan Wildfong and the team prior to your first meeting?

A: I know Dan pretty well. We were actually born about twenty minutes away from each other. We lived a couple of cities away from each other where we grew up. I knew Dan when I was at Western Michigan and he was at Colgate and then when I played in this league back in the mid-90's, I knew Dan. I've spent a lot of time on the phone talking to Dan over the past nine years that I was at Western Michigan. Even when he was a player/assistant in Shreveport, I spent a lot of time with him and Scott Muscutt. Dan's done a good job. The biggest thing Dan has to sell is this area. There's a lot of people that have wives and girlfriends that relocate into this area and there's not too many wives or girlfriends that want to relocate to McAllen, Texas (laughing). So, he's done a good job. It's kind of funny because they joined our division but I looked at the schedule; they only play 17 games within our conference and eight of those are with Laredo. It's sort of unique.

Q: How is everything going for yourself?

A: I just take things day-by-day. I'm learning a lot of things daily about myself, about people around me, about players. I'm learning a lot about things I didn't expect to learn. There's a lot of things that I overlooked when I first took this job that consume you. I look forward to the remaining 35+ games that we have and I look forward to the upcoming years that are ahead.

Q: The Killer Bees had a rough season last season with only 16 wins, the worst in the league. You had a great start to this season, and then a rough stretch. This team has a lot of promise. What do you think are the biggest areas that need improvement?

A: I look at our team and through the first stretch of seven games or so, we did a lot of little things really, really well and we played together as a team. Over the least stretch, I think we've had some guys get off course a little bit. We've had some good individual performances but we just haven't played well as a team. Like I told the players, I have a certain expectation myself, I have a certain expectation of my players and I'm not going to change. So, they either change or I'll bring in players that want to do what I'm going to do...I've been very patient...I've been trying to change behaviour, which is consuming. At the same time, it's very, very difficult to make improvement in this league. Guys get hurt and you spend a lot of time trying to improve your team. At times it feels like you're spinning your wheels and wasting your time. You have to try and change behaviour. If you can change behaviour in one guy, you're doing a good job. Hopefully there's enough leadership in that room, old and young, that can get 18 guys back on the same path. They play really well in spurts. Over the past six or seven games, we probably played 30 minutes as good as any team in the league. But it's the other 30 minutes that kill us. It just takes a commitment to doing those little things that we constantly talk about. It's my job to make sure that I get guys on my team that are on board to do that.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Killer Bees return to NYTEX for Friday night hockey

Brahmas looking for fourth win in a row

"We didn't finish the game. We started playing individual hockey. We got to our old ways that we were trying to get away from."

- Dan Wildfong

Even in the face of victory, Fonger wants more from his players. Forced to watch most of the third period of Tuesday's game against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, he watched the 'Bugs nearly erase a three goal lead and force an overtime period. If there's anything that Wildfong cannot impress upon his players enough, it's that you have to play together as a team for all 60 minutes and the win will go to those who are willing to do that.

Next up for the Brahmas come the 12-11-2 Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees for the second of four games this season between the new division rivals. Chris Brooks' team sits in third place in the Southeastern Division with 26 points, 9 points behind the Brahmas. The Brahmas are 9-2-1 at home; Rio Grande Valley is 4-7-0 on the road.

The Brahmas and the Killer Bees met for the first time this season on December 9th. The Brahmas won that game 2-0 with David Cacciola in goal. Brahmas fans will be rooting for the Colorado Eagle who play the Laredo Bucks tonight. A win by the Brahmas and a loss by the Bucks will tie the two teams at the top of the Southeast Division.

The Brahmas will be without defenseman Justin Kinnunen and forward Topher Scott. The Bees are without Trevor Weisgerber, Ryan Shmyr and Travis Banga and have not yet replaced Rob Voltera.

The Brahmas are the 2nd to the Bees for the least amount of penalties in the league, averaging 18.93 minutes per game. The Bees average only 18.48. The Bees are the only CHL team not to receive a game misconduct and have had just one 10-minute misconduct this season. Their 12 major penalties are the fewest in the league and are 31 fewer than the league leader (Corpus Christi, Arizona and Oklahoma City).

The Brahmas are third in the league with a 19.91 powerplay percentage. The Bees are 11th at 17.37%. They went 0 for 4 in the last meeting. The Bees' special teams are 9th in the league with a 81.71 powerplay percentage while the Brahmas are 11th with a 80.23 percentage.

The Brahmas are the only CHL team not to allow a shorthanded goal this season but are tied for second scoring seven shorthanded goals on their own. It has been a balanced attack with six different players scoring a SHG for the Brahmas with Grant Jacobsen standing as the only player scoring two shorthanded goals.

The game begins at 7:05pm and will be shown on Nifty-TV.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas - Brahmas Style

By Russell Farris

'Twas the night before Christmas, When all through the Barn
Not a creature was stirring, not rustling of horns.
The cowbells were hung by the chimney with care,
while hoping at the next game the ref calls would be fair.
The Mudbugs were nestled not so snug in their beds
While nightmares of Brahmas skated through their heads.
And mamma in her jersey, and I in my Brahmas cap,
Checking the Brahmas board before I took a nap.
When from out on the lawn arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew in a flash
Knocking over a bottle of Kentucky "Sour Mash".
I pulled down the drapes , my face growing red
As a shelf full of hockey pucks fell right on my head.
When what to my wondering eyes did I see,
But a smiling coach Fonger on a puple Zamboni.
More rapid than Sundogs, his skaters they came
And he whistled, and shouted , and called them by name,
"Now, Cameron! Now, Sheppard! Now Jake & Topher!
On, Tyler! On, Minzy ! On Cash and on Jaeger!
From the bottom of the Ice, to the top of the glass,
I knew right away these boy could kick ass!
I drew back in shock, and was turning around
When down the chimney came Fonger with a great bound.
He wasn't dressed in all fur, but a suit and black shoes
With the determination that the next game he would not lose.
He spoke not a word, but got right to his work
Filling all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,
Handing me a signed puck, and a shiny new stick
Whispering " you never had it this good from old St. Nick".
And laying a finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to the Zamboni, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they flew like Kinnunen "The Missile".
But I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
Wish us good luck the Brahmas play tomorrow night!

The Mudbugs' Tyrel Lucas is crowded by Craig Minard and Jordan Cameron

Brahmas win sixth straight against Mudbugs

Jaeger holds off third period rally, gets 10th win

The Texas Brahmas improved to 16-8-3 after defeating the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs 4-3 at the CenturyTel Center last night. It was the Brahmas sixth win in a row against the Mudbugs who have been stymied by the Bulls all season. The win puts the Brahmas within two points of the Division-leading Laredo Bucks and remain in third place is the Southern Conference.

The Brahmas had an efficient beginning to the game, scoring on their first two shots of the game to take a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Brahmas would only take four shots in the period.

The first came at the 8:26 mark, seven seconds into the Brahmas first powerplay opportunity when Tyler Skworchinski was able to tip the puck into the net off a Kevin McLeod shot from the point. Craig Minard was also credited with the assist, the first of three for the Brahmas' captain.

The next shot came at the 16:21 mark when Matt Burto fed the puck to Minard who took a shot from the left point. Grant Jacobsen had his stick in place to redirect it, beating Mudbugs goaltender Jon Horrell to make it 2-0.

Although the Mudbugs controlled the tempo of the first period and outshot the Brahmas 16-4, they were unable to capitalize on four powerplays and couldn't find a way to beat Brett Jaeger.

The second period started poorly for the 'Bugs. On the powerplay due to hooking call against Pete Rouleau at the end of the first period, Jordan Cameron was able to force a turnover in the Mudbugs left faceoff circle and hit a lazy shot toward Jon Horrell that went off the left post. Tyler Skworchinski was there to deflect the puck and beat Horrell at the :59 mark. Horrell was pulled and Ryan Mior took his place in the net.

J.R. Bria’s slapshot from the point at the 3:30 mark beat Brett Jaeger on the stick side and brought the Mudbugs back into the game. J.J. Martin was credited for the assist.

Mudbugs captain Chris Brassard took on Brahmas defenseman Matt Hanson at the 15:47 mark resulting in his being sent to the locker room early. Hanson was able to get a couple of solid lefts in before the two were separated by linesmen. Hanson was assessed a roughing minor and Brassard was allowed back in to serve a four minute roughing double minor. Both players avoided a fighting major.

Late in the period, Craig Minard and Jordan Cameron set up Kevin McLeod’s powerplay tally which got the three-goal advantage back for the Brahmas.

The Brahmas had the shot advantage in the middle period and led 4-1 after 40 minutes. Once again, the Mudbugs were held to no points on five more powerplays.

A few minutes into the third period, Dan Wildfong went off on the officials when they failed to make a boarding call after Jordan Cameron was shoved into the boards. Wildfong was assessed a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct for some "abusive" language and was ejected with a game misconduct. He watched the last 16 minutes of the game from the stands while Ron Vogel coached for the remainder of the game.

The Mudbugs pushed hard in the last 20 minutes, scoring twice to get within one goal. Defenseman Todd Paul scored when his wrist shot from the point made it through traffic and into the back of the net to make it 4-2 at the 10:24 mark. Tyrel Lucas and Simon Mangos assisted.

A few minutes later, J.J. Martin won a faceoff getting the puck back to David Pszenyczny, who fired a shot off Jaeger’s glove and into the top corner to cut the Brahmas' lead to just one.

Scott Muscutt pulled Mior at the end of the period but the extra attacker didn't help the Mudbug cause. Tyler Skworchinski had a chance for a hat trick with seven seconds left as he rushed the empty net but Dale Lupul blocked him and the game ended with the Brahmas getting their third win in a row.

The Mudbugs outshot the Brahmas 13-3 in the final period and 35-17 in the game.

Mudbugs head coach Scott Muscutt was clearly frustrated after the game.

"We didn't do the things you have to do," Muscutt told the Shreveport Times' Kelly Morris. "We didn't go after our power play with a killer instinct. We stood on the perimeter and took shots. We can play with that desperation, but we have to understand it's a 60-minute hockey game."

The Mudbugs players were given an early Christmas present in the form of a post-game coaching session.

"I told them to be in my office in 10 minutes," Muscutt said. "We got a video lecture that will go until 1:30 to 2 in the morning."

Brett Jaeger earned the win, his third against the Mudbugs, stopping 32 of 35 shots. His record improves to 10-4-3-1. Although he surrendered just one of the four goals, Ryan Mior took the loss, stopping nine of the ten shots he faced. His record goes to 6-5-0.

The Brahmas were 2 for 8 on the powerplay. Their penalty killer held off the Mudbug special teams who went 0 for 9 on the man-advantage. They improved their road record to 7-6-2.

The Brahmas were assessed 30 minutes for 11 infractions and the 'Bugs were assessed 18 minutes on 9 infractions.

Mudbug J.J. Martin was awarded the third star for his second period goal which prevented the shutout. Brett Jaeger earned the second star for his performance in the net. Tyler Skworchinski was given the first star for his two goals on two shots.

You can view the box score here

The Brahmas get a two day break for Christmas and will return to the ice on Friday night to begin a four-game home stand. First up is the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. The game begins at 7:05pm and will be shown on Nifty-TV.

Photo Credit: Douglas Collier/The Shreveport Times

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game 7 of the I-20 series tonight

Texas Brahmas seek sixth win of the season over the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs

"I honestly think when the Brahmas play against us, they find another level. They come into the game wanting to prove something and to give us their best game...It's really hard for me to understand why we haven't had much success against them this season."

- Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs assistant coach Trevor Buchanan

The Texas Brahmas finish their longest road trip of the season with a stop at the CenturyTel Center to take on the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. This will be the Brahmas' third of five total visits to CenturyTel Center this season. The 15-7-2 Mudbugs are 8-2-0 at home this season. One of those losses came courtesy of the Brahmas who beat them 5-1 on November 29th.

Since Bossier-Shreveport’s dominant 5-1 home victory over the 15-8-3 Brahmas in the season opener, the Brahmas have seized control of this bitter rivalry. The Bulls have beaten the Mudbugs five straight times. The Brahmas won three of those games by a single goal, including one in overtime and another in a shootout. The Brahmas have won nine of the last 10 meetings and 13th of the last 15 overall.

Despite the Brahmas' dominance this season, don't expect the Mudbugs to roll over and play dead tonight. The 'Bugs have won four of their last five and sit in third place in the Northern Conference with 32 points (The Brahmas are currently in third place in the Southern Division, with 33 points).

The Mudbugs swept a home-and-home series against the Tulsa Oilers this past weekend, winning 4-3 in a shootout on Friday at CenturyTel Center and scoring four third-period goals to earn a 5-2 victory on Saturday.

The Mudbugs are missing forwards Kevin Cooper and Evgeny Saidachev, goaltender Kenny Carroll and defenseman Paul Todd, all out on injured reserve.

The Brahmas have gone 2-3 on their current roadtrip, losing a two-game series against the Mississippi RiverKings and the first of a three-game series against the Arizona Sundogs. The have lost five of their last ten games and are 6-6-2 on the road this season.

The Brahmas will be without defenseman Justin Kinnunen and forward Topher Scott, both out on injured reserve. Defenseman Nathan Saunders, who just signed with the team yesterday is expected to get his first start tonight.

A win tonight will bring the Brahmas within two points of their division rival Laredo Bucks who are off tonight. The Bulls were helped out by the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees who shut out the Bucks in a 1-0 contest last night.

The game will be shown on Nifty-TV and the game starts at 7:05pm.

Buy a Rob Guinn T-Shirt and help raise money

Proceeds go to education fund for daughter

Thanks to Greg Rajan for bringing this to our attention. Please consider ordering a memorial Rob Guinn T-shirt. As you remember, Rob passed away this summer as a result of a tragic car accident. The accident happened near Jefferson, Iowa when a driver ran a stop sign and hit Guinn’s car. Guinn, who is survived by his wife Brooke and five-month old daughter Olivia, was 32 years-old.

Guinn began his career with the WPHL’s Central Texas Stampede in 2000 and played 74 games in the CHL seeing action with New Mexico and Tulsa. During the 2006-07 season with the Scorpions, Guinn scored seven goals with 49 assists ranking sixth among all defensemen with 56 points. He was selected as a member of the CHL’s Southern Conference All-Star Team in 2007. Last season, Guinn played 10 games with the Tulsa Oilers. He returned to Illinois to be closer to his family and finished his career as a member of the Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the International Hockey League.

To place an order, you can call Brad Wallace at 260-483-7158 or e-mail him at The proceeds go to the memorial fund set up for his daughter's future education. Pictured above is the front of the shirt. The back reads "Guinn 24" and they cost $20.

Also, don't forget Guinn's family set up the Rob Guinn Memorial Fund to support daughter Olivia's future education. Donations should be mailed to: The Leighton Legal Law Firm, 802 N. Clinton Street, Suite 1, Bloomington, IL 61701

Image Credit: Brad Wallace

Monday, December 22, 2008

A few minutes with...Trevor Buchanan

The Mudbugs assistant coach talks about the possibility of moving into a head coaching position, the "Thunderbugs", the Texas Brahmas and the season so far

Trevor Buchanan is in his fifth season as assistant coach of the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. The former right wing played for the team for seven seasons prior to hanging up his skates in 2004.

Buchanan began his hockey career playing for the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) in the 1988-89 season. The following season was split between the Blazers and the Victoria Cougars. During his two seasons in the WHL, he tallied 92 points (40 G, 52 A) and 553 penalty minutes in 135 games played.

Buchanan played for four seasons in the ECHL with the Louisville Icehawks/Riverfrogs. He accumulated 199 points (95 G, 104 A) and 1,111 penalty minutes in 248 games played.

He also played two seasons with the San Antonio Iguanas (CHL) during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons (64 G, 54 A, 604 PIM in 111 games played) and the Houston Aeros (IHL) during the 1994-95 season (1 G, 0 A, 18 PIM in nine games played).

With the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, Buchanan tallied 362 points (144 G, 218 A) and 1,146 penalty minutes during regular season play. He’s one of only three staff members who have been with the organization since the very beginning. Playing for the 'Bugs during their first seven seasons before his retirement, Buchanan was a part of all three President's Cup Championship teams and ranks second in franchise history with 466 games played and third with his 362 career points. He also ranks sixth in league history in games played and seventh in career penalty minutes.

I spoke with Trevor recently about his thoughts on possibly moving into a head coaching role and other subjects. Here is our conversation.

Q: Do you feel at this point in your career that you're ready to make the jump to one of the head coaching positions that will be available next season?

A: Believe me, it's something I think about a lot. This is my 12th season with the Mudbugs. It's become home for me and when I'm thinking about the fact that I'm in my fifth year as an assistant coach, when is it time to step out and get out on my own? Playing and working for an organization like the Mudbugs for that many years, it's a hard thing to walk away from. They've been so good to me and the organization know, I played hockey a lot of years and have been involved with a few different organizations and it's tops in my mind, so that's something that really weighs on me. I've got a family now in Bossier, a home; so I mean a lot of different thoughts go through my head, but I would love the opportunity to see if I could get a team of my own and see what I could do with it. Working alongside Musky for all these years, I've learned an awful lot about the game and how to handle different situations. So, I do think about it a lot.

I know there might be people out there wondering the same thing, when is it time to step out on your own and take charge of your own things instead of staying in a comfortable situation? It's not that this is convenient for me so I'm going to keep doing it. That's not a thought in my mind. It just goes back to the organization. It's just something that's so special to me. It would be a hard thing to walk away from.

Q:I wanted to ask you about a couple of additions to the Mudbugs this season, Travis Clayton and Joe Blaznek, who I call "The Thunderbugs". How do you feel about their performance and what they've been able to bring to the team?

A: They're amazing guys, both of them. Having played against Clayton and Blaznek for a few years, I knew they were great players. They played hard. They cared about the organizations they played for and did what they could to help the teams they were with. Them coming to could you not want these guys on your team with the experience and their character and leadership abilities? Neither one of them are big talkers or loud guys in the dressing room. It goes back to what they do when they're out on the ice. Travis, playing the most games in the Central Hockey League, it just shows he's a guy that loves playing the game. And still, every day he comes to the rink, he's got a smile on his face and he's excited and ready to go. The same can be said for Blaz; those two guys, it's nice to see...these guys have played for a long time and they could get by on what they've done in the past but it's like a new start for them. They know what it's been like to play against the Mudbugs and now they're a part of it and they just want to join in and see if they can help get us back to where we want to be.

Q: The thorn in the Mudbugs' side this season has been the Texas Brahmas. Is there anything you can point to as a reason for it?

A: I don't know. I honestly think when the Brahmas play against us, they find another level. They come into the game wanting to prove something and to give us their best game. I'm not saying they don't play as well against other teams. We don't see them obviously, when they play other teams. It's really hard for me to understand why we haven't had much success against them this season. The teams are pretty even, very balanced.

This year, the games we've played against them, they've all been good hockey games. At times, we've really beaten ourselves, taking some unnecessary penalties. You can't do that against a team like Texas with the talent that they have. They're going to take advantage of it. It's kind of puzzling. Obviously we're searching for an answer every game; we really try and pinpoint it but you never know what's going to happen. I think focus may be the biggest thing with us. We get away from that. There so many different things, different parts of the game when we play these guys.

Q: Then there's Dan Wildfong who had a long history with the Mudbugs organization. From a coaching standpoint, there's a bit of an advantage for the Brahmas in the sense that he is familiar with Musky's systems and has also learned a lot from him...

A: Yeah, I think he has a little bit of an advantage. He knows what Musky's style of coaching is, and the fact that Fonger played his whole professional career for Musky, he should know the way Musky thinks and what he wants from his players. Systems are put in place as a guideline. If you're following your systems the way you should, it shouldn't matter if another team knows exactly what you're going to do or not. I heard a coach in the NHL say something like that. Most teams, generally, have the same systems. It's who executes the best. I really don't think it makes that big of a difference really, I mean, Fonger's done a great job so far with his time here and the fact that they've had the kind of success against us says a lot for him. He knows what he's doing. I know I don't want to give him too many compliments with them being a major rival of ours, but you have to give credit where credit is due. He prepares his players for the games against us and they execute well against us. We're hoping we can start winning some games. We've played them so many times. These games are important even though we're in different conferences now.

Q: Going forward, do you think you have all the pieces in place that you need for a successful season and another run for the playoffs?

A: Yeah, I think we've got a good base. We've got all areas of the types of players I think that you'd want on your hockey team. Now, we've got to put it all together. Our play so far this year has been a little bit inconsistent and that's understandable early in the season. We had a pretty big turnaround this year in comparison to others. It takes some time for guys to come in and understand and realize what it takes to play for this hockey team. We're confident we have the right guys. Generally, when players come in at the start of the year, we don't have a lot of change. During the season, you stick with mainly what you brought in and you build it from there. We love the fact that we got off to a great start...we're very confident. Every year, we feel good about what we bring in. Musky spends a lot of time really focusing on filling in on the areas that we need and we always have a good core of players that return. Guys love playing for the Mudbugs. They want to win a championship. We did it early in our years and it's time we get one back there again.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Meet the newest Texas Brahma

Defenseman Nathan Saunders has signed on for the 2008-09 campaign

Nathan Saunders has signed a contract and will join the Texas Brahmas for the remainder of the 2008-09 season.

Saunders, a 6' 3", 228 pound defenseman from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was selected by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (round 4, 119th overall) in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Brahmas Greg McConnell and Mark Carragher are also from Charlottetown.

The 23-year-old began his hockey career with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL). In four seasons (2001-02 to 2004-05), Saunders tallied 87 points (14G, 73 A) and 794 penalty minutes in 261 games played. He was named to Team QMJHL for the RE/MAX Canada/Russia Challenge in 2003. He was team captain for the 2004-05 season.

Saunders played in 20 games with the Portland Pirates (AHL) in the 2005-06 season. He missed a significant amount of time out with a shoulder injury but returned to play nine games in the postseason.

The following season was split between the Pirates and the Augusta Lynx (ECHL). Last season was split between the Providence Bruins (AHL) and the Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL). He began this season in the ECHL, playing four games with the Stockton Thunder and six games with the Charlotte Checkers.

According to the Moncton Wildcats website, Saunders is a big, physical, defensive defenseman. He plays a very good, simple, game and relies on his positioning and strength to interrupt the oppositions offense. His character and determination are top quality and he’s the type of defender that is willing to do whatever it takes to win, including dropping the gloves to stand up for his teammates or challenge anyone who took a run at his goaltender. Offensively he has played on the Moncton powerplay, but this is not his strength despite possessing a good hard shot from the point. Although he is big and strong, Saunders is not a huge bodychecker. He typically will use his strength to stand players up as they try to deke past him or he will pin them against the boards to allow his teammates to recover the puck. Saunders' skating needs some work and he sometimes fights the puck when trying to control it, or keep it in at the blueline. However, as a defensive specialist, this is not a huge concern.

Photo Credit: Moncton Wildcats

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grant Jacobsen wallpaper available

Russell Farris' latest creation available on Texas Brahmas fan club website

Texas Brahmas fan club webmaster Russell Farris has created another masterpiece. This time, the subject is Grant Jacobsen. All of Russell's creations can be found on the fan club website. You can view them here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Texas Brahmas win second in a row against Arizona

Dominating play leads to 8-3 score in wild game

The Texas Brahmas improved to 15-8-3 with 33 points after a strong performance against the defending CHL Champion Arizona Sundogs. The Brahmas won the three-game series two to one. They were the first games ever played between the two teams.

The Brahmas opened up the first period playing disciplined hockey while the Sundogs came out swinging. Brahmas Scott Sheppard and Mike Vellinga each took early cheap shots from Adam Perry and Karl Sellan but stood their ground and smiled at the frustrated Sundogs. Referee Tudor Floru was not having any of the Sundogs shenanigans last night and he showed early on that he would not tolerate the same from either side tonight.

The Brahmas had an early five on three but were unable to solve Emond. It didn't take long to change that as the Brahmas started a frenzy of scoring that led to a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.

The Brahmas took the 1-0 lead at the 5:43 mark when Jordan Cameron got to a loose puck after the face off and on his knees, swept it in just fast enough to beat Arizona netminder Marco Emond. It was an unassisted goal, Cameron's ninth of the year.

The Brahmas scored on a five on three opportunity and led by two when Scott Sheppard's wrist shot beat Emond just above the glove hand at the 12:50 mark. Kevin McLeod was credited with the assist.

The Brahmas scored for the third time when Marc Belanger created a turnover in the defensive zone and fed the puck to Scott Sheppard who fired it past Emond for the score.

With 1:21 left in the first, Mark Carragher and Matt Burto set up Matt Quinn who took his shot and scored number four for the Brahmas.

Kyle Hood, Karl Sellan and Kevin McLeod were all sent to the locker room early after a skirmish behind the net at the end of the period. All told, the Sundogs were called for 18 minutes on eight infractions in the first 20 minutes.

Fortunately for the Sundogs, the Brahmas had at least three shots hit the post in the first period. Texas outshot Arizona 10-7 in the period. The Brahmas were 1 for 8 on the powerplay and Arizona went 0 for 3.

The Sundogs were victims of the powerplay again 2:25 into the second period when defenseman Matt Hanson took a feed from Jordan Cameron and slapped the puck past Emond to make it 5-0. Mike Vellinga was also credited with the assist.

After numerous attempts, the Sundogs finally got on the board with 5:17 left in the second period. Adam Perry took command of a loose puck and popped it past the Brahmas defenseman. He looked like he was going to take a shot but instead fed it to Joel Irving who was able to flick the puck past David Cacciola to make it 5-1. Derek Legault was also credited with the assist.

The Sundogs went into the locker room at the end of the second period the same way they went in at the end of the first; down by four goals. Arizona had the shot advantage at 17-11 but manage only one goal after 24 shots in 40 minutes. They failed to score on three powerplay opportunities in the second.

The Brahmas were in control for the entire third period. 4:09 into the period, Marc Belanger added to the total off of a feed from Eric Lundberg to make it 6-1.

Four minutes later, after Karl Sellan got frustrated and ended up in the penalty box for a roughing double minor, Mark Carragher and Marc Belanger set up Eric Lundberg for another score, now 7-1 with 11:37 left in the period.

Pete Rouleau added another score at the 10:16 mark off a feed from Greg McConnell and by this time, you had to be way past feeling sorry for the Sundogs. At 8-1, the Brahmas not only had their best offensive performance of the season but controlled the game tonight from start to finish.

Joel Irving managed to save a little dignity for the Sundogs when he rushed the goal and put the puck past Cacciola to make it 8-2 at the 12:40 mark. Derek Legault was credited with the assist. Irving got a hat trick after adding another score at the 15:10 mark off a feed from Adam Perry. If there was a silver lining for the Sundogs fans, it was Irving's performance.

The Sundogs were motivated late and would not roll over and managed to finish out the game with some effort but had a too little, too late offensive spark that failed to put any more points on the board.

The game regressed into pandemonium with 55 seconds left when Matt Hanson took a shot at a Sundog before the faceoff and almost immediately, all five skaters paired off with their opponents. While the ten duked it out, David Cacciola skated out and was met by Marco Emond and we had our first goalie fight of the season. Both netminders connected several times before dropping to the ice and separating.

Matt Hanson, Greg McConnell and Eric Lundberg were ejected as well as Marco Emond. Joel Gistedt and Brett Jaeger finished the game.

David Cacciola gets the win and improves his record to 6-4-0-1. His performance tonight was stellar with 36 saves on 39 shots against. The Brahmas were outshot 40-31 in the game.

In the end, the Brahmas had been assessed 71 minutes on 16 infractions and Arizona 81 minutes on 21 infractions. Uncommon for the Brahmas by all means but when playing the most penalized team in the league, not unexpected, especially with the frustrations shown by Sundogs players over two nights of getting spanked on home ice.

Jordan Cameron received the third star. Joel Irving received the second star and Marc Belanger was awarded the first star.

"The fight" on Youtube

The longer version is here

You can view the box score here

The Brahmas will head for Bossier City for the final game of their longest road trip of the season with a match against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs on the 23rd.

Photo Credit: Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Friday, December 19, 2008

Craig Minard puts pressure on the Sundogs' Mark Kolanos

Texas Brahmas win game #2 in Prescott Valley

Bulls earn a hard-fought 4-2 win over the Sundogs

The Texas Brahmas conquered their three-game losing streak with a win over the Arizona Sundogs tonight at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Arizona. Both teams played fast and hard for 60 minutes but in the end, the Brahmas earned the victory and the much needed two points that go with it.

Much like the last game, it was an evenly matched contest. Notably missing for the Brahmas was Grant Jacobsen who took a puck to the ankle in Wednesday night's game. Topher Scott was also missing for the second game in a row.

Once again, Arizona scored the first goal of the night on a powerplay at the 7:28 mark. They worked the opportunity very well and it was just a matter of time before one of their many shots would find the back of the net. Karl Sellan managed to get the score, set up by Adam Perry and Mark Kolanos.

The Brahmas fought hard but found themselves out of position several times to be able to take advantage of rebound opportunities that could have led to scores. They were unable to beat Joel Gistedt in the first, but not for the lack of trying.

The Brahmas outshot the Sundogs 7-6 and went zero for three on powerplay opportunities in the first 20 minutes.

The second period found the Brahmas on a long powerplay early on due to three consecutive penalties by the Sundogs in the first two minutes. Karl Sellan went in for a holding minor at the 1:25 mark to give the Brahmas the initial man-advantage.

The action got wild in front of the Sundog's net and Tyler Skworchinski missed on an open net opportunity after Gistedt went down and was flat on the ice. The Arizona trainer came out but Gistedt was alright.

As the result of penalties on the play, (Kyle Hood (cross checking) and Matt Suderman (tripping) at the 1:49 mark), the Brahmas had a five on three for over two minutes but were unable to beat the Sundogs' penalty killers. Moments later though, Craig Minard tied the game up at one apiece with a big blast from the left point that beat Gistedt. It was Minard's fourth of the year. Eric Lundberg was credited on the assist.

A few minutes later, Arizona's #1 thug Sellan jumped Lundberg and the two went at it for a brief fast-swinging fight. Both would sit for five minutes. The physical play continued for the rest of the period.

The Brahmas took a 2-1 lead at the 12:13 mark on another powerplay opportunity. Gistedt made the initial save on the shot by Craig Minard from the right point but Greg McConnell was there to get the rebound. Mike Vellinga was credited for the assist.

Less than three minutes later, Karl Sellan got his second score of the game, again on the powerplay, and tied the game up at 2-2. Martin Gascon took the initial shot and then Sellan got the redirection and was able to put it past Cacciola. Mark Kolanos was also credited with the assist.

The second period ended with the 2-2 tie. The Brahmas outshot the Sundogs for the second period in a row with a 12-10 advantage.

The third period opened up with some four on four hockey due to a carry over on a cross checking call on Matt Suderman and a delay of game bench minor on Mark Carragher for leaving the bench early at the end of the second period. Just 28 seconds in, Kevin Mcleod took a pass from up the middle and beat Gistedt just over the gloved hand to give the Brahmas a 3-2 lead. Jordan Cameron and Craig Minard were in on the assist.

Late in the period and on their ninth powerplay due to an interference call on Matt Suderman, the Brahmas pulled ahead when Jordan Cameron took a feed from Tyler Skworchinski and slapped it past Gistedt to give the Bulls a two point lead.

Shortly thereafter, a frustrated Karl Sellan tried to mug Matt Burto in the corner, but ended up getting the worst of it before being sent to the box. Sellan received a roughing minor and Burto was assessed a roughing double minor.

Greg McConnell was then ejected after putting a cross check on Mark Kolanos in front of the Arizona bench. Kolanos was ejected and so was Andre Selander for taking a revenge hit on McConnell from the bench area.

Tyler Liebel set up several scoring opportunities for the Sundogs in the third but Cacciola was strong in the net and held off all attackers to secure the 4-2 win with 22 saves. His record improves to 5-4-0-1.

The Brahmas outshot Arizona for the third period in a row at 11-8 and 30-24 on the night. The Brahmas' record goes to 14-8-3 with 31 points. The Sundogs go to 11-16-1 with 23 points.

The Brahmas were called for 23 minutes on 10 infractions and Arizona received 31 minutes on 14 infractions. The Bulls went 2 for 9 on the powerplay and Arizona went 2 for 5.

Kevin McLeod earned the third star. The second star went to Karl Sellan and Craig Minard received the first star.

You can view the box score

The Brahmas and the Sundogs will meet up again tomorrow night for the third and final game of the series which is now tied at 1-1. The Game begins at 7:05pm MST and will be shown on Nifty-TV.
Photo Credit: Matt Santos/Arizona Sundogs

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sundogs beat the Brahmas 3-2 in Prescott Valley

Arizona takes the first of the three-game series

The Texas Brahmas and the Arizona Sundogs met for the first time tonight at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Arizona. In an even match-up, the Sundogs managed to get the win, snapping a two-game losing streak and earning their 11th win of the season.

It was just the fourth time all season Arizona has limited its opponent to two goals or less. The Sundogs have won all four.

It was a defensive first period as the two teams probed each other, looking for weaknesses and getting to know each other on the ice. Arizona did a good job guarding the net, helping netminder Joel Gistedt prevent any scoring in the first.

Despite Arizona's reputation for being the most penalized team in the league, play was pretty clean in the first 20 minutes with each team called twice for minors. Neither team was able to capitalize on the powerplay opportunities.

The Brahmas played well in the first. Striker Scott Sheppard had a couple of breakaway chances. He hit the post on the first attempt, trying to beat Gistedt on the right hand side.

"I thought it went in," Gistedt told The Daily Courier. "I just waited for the siren to go off but it didn't, I heard a cling and that was a good feeling."

Kevin McLeod was aggressive, taking three shots but unable to get past Gistedt. Grant Jacobsen took a puck to the right ankle by one of his teammates but managed to skate on it for the rest of the game although he favored it throughout. The Bulls had the slight advantage on shots at 8-7. Brett Jaeger was perfect through 20 minutes.

The Sundogs came out aggressively in the second period of play. They capitalized on their third powerplay opportunity to open up the scoring at the 3:02 mark. Derek Legault held the puck in at the blue line, sent it across to Jon Landry who passed it diagonally to Mark Kolanos on the doorstep. Kolanos paused and then took the shot, putting it just under the crossbar to beat Jaeger.

The Brahmas tied it up with a powerplay goal of their own at the 11:39 mark. Mike Vellinga took a shot from the blue line. It went wide and was picked up by Pete Rouleau. Rouleau forced the puck to Grant Jacobsen who fed it to Greg McConnell. McConnell fired it past Gistedt, making it a 1-1 game. It was McConnell's fourth goal of the year.

Just over four minutes later, the Brahmas took the 2-1 lead when Grant Jacobsen received a pass from Matt Hanson right through a defenders legs. Jacobsen then made a fantastic backhanded pass to Eric Lundberg who hammered the puck into the back of the net for his first goal of the season.

Tyler Liebel made a great play at center ice, knocking down a pass in mid-air and skating it into the Brahmas' zone on the right side. Liebel flipped a backhand pass to rookie Peter Cartwright who was able to beat Jaeger and make it a 2-2 game at the 17:15 mark.

Arizona had the shot advantage in the second at 11 to 7. After 40 minutes, the shot count was 18-15, advantage Arizona. Both teams were one for three on the powerplay.

The third period opened up with aggressive play on both sides. The defenses held for half the period. Then the Sundogs took the 3-2 lead with their second powerplay goal when A. J. MacLean received a beautiful feed from Mark Kolanos and slapped it past Jaeger on his right for his fifth goal of the season. Martin Gascon was also credited for the assist.

Both teams were on the attack throughout the rest of the period. At the last minute, Dan Wildfong pulled Brett Jaeger to put an extra attacker on the ice. Scott Sheppard had a excellent opportunity with a breakaway but Gistedt was able to make the save and protect the lead for Arizona. The Sundogs outshot the Brahmas 11-5 in the final 20 minutes.

Gistedt had 18 saves and improved his record to 5-7-0. Brett Jaeger takes the loss with 26 saves and goes to 9-5-3.

Forward Grant Jacobsen had two assists for number 100 and 101 in his professional career.

The Brahmas go to 13-8-3 and the Sundogs improve to 11-15-1. The Brahmas were called for 10 minutes on 5 infractions and Arizona for 20 minutes on 6 infractions. The Bulls were 1 for three on the powerplay and Arizona went 2 for 4. Arizona had the shot advantage at 29-20.

You can view the box score

The two teams will meet again on Friday night. The game will be shown on Nifty-TV with the start at 8:05pm CST.

Photo Credit: Arizona Sundogs/Andrew Draper

Monday, December 15, 2008

Texas Brahmas take on the defending CHL champion Arizona Sundogs

Three-game series at Tim's Toyota Center begins on Wednesday

The Texas Brahmas would like to say they've played the Arizona Sundogs before. Last season, that could have only taken place in the CHL championship series. It almost happened. This season, the Brahmas and the Sundogs will meet four times during the regular season. Three of those meetings will take place this week at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

The Brahmas (13-7-3, 29 points), currently on their longest road trip of the season, suffered losses in four of their last six games, including two losses to the Mississippi RiverKings this past weekend.

They will face a Sundogs team (10-15-1, 21 Points) that has also lost four of their last six games, but also three in a row before that. The Sundogs have yet to put together a cohesive defense this season. They are allowing more than four goals per game, and have allowed a league-most 113 goals overall.

Here are some additional facts and stats about the Sundogs:

On offense, they do have scoring leaders. At forward, Joel Irving is second in the league with 37 points (17 G, 20 A) and Martin Gascon has 31 points (7 G, 24 A). Rookie Adam Perry (assigned by the San Antonio Rampage) has 23 points (11 G, 12 A) in only 13 games played. Left wing Karl Sellan has 22 points (16 G, 6 A) and leads the league with a .333 shot percentage.

On defense, 38-year-old Chris Bartalone is third in the league with 21 points (4 G, 17 A).

Unlike the Brahmas, the Sundogs are perfect in shootouts this season, having won all three appearances this season. Arizona beat Odessa by a 4-3 margin on November 1st, knocked off Corpus Christi on November 8th by a final score of 3-2 and beat Rocky Mountain 5-4 last Wednesday.

The Sundogs' goaltenders have struggled throughout the season. Marco Emond (7-8-1) is 21st in the league with a 3.77 GAA and ranks 23rd with a .888 save percentage. He has played in 17 games (second most in the league). Joel Gistedt is 34th in the league with a 4.85 GAA and ranks 35th with a .846 save percentage. This isn't much of a difference from the Sundogs' overall performance last season. What they lacked in goaltending was made up for on offense.

The Sundogs are the most penalized team in the league with 789 penalty minutes. Left wing Karl Sellan leads the league with 203 PIM (17 majors and 39 minors). They are 14th in the league with a dismal 78.01 penalty kill percentage (81.0% at home) having given up 42 powerplay goals against. They've also given up a league-most eight short-handed goals.

Despite the many shortcomings of this Sundogs squad, they are still a dynamic group of players and like the Brahmas, second in their division. Arizona will be looking to get some wins in this series to try to make up some ground on the number one team in the league and their division rivals, the Odessa Jackalopes. Expect a great series.

Game one is on Wednesday night at 7:05pm. The game will be broadcast on Nifty-TV.

Image Credit: Arizona Sundogs

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Texas Brahmas lose second in a row against Mississippi

RiverKings win battle in shootout at the Desoto Civic Center

The Texas Brahmas repeated history tonight, losing a two-game series against the Mississippi RiverKings at the DeSoto Civic Center. The Brahmas were defeated 4-3 in a shootout after a magnificent game of hockey by both teams. Last December, the RiverKings took both games in the series (6-3, 3-1). Despite the loss, the Brahmas played well tonight by all accounts and earned a point for their efforts.

"Our effort was there," Dan Wildfong told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If you don’t give effort, you’re going to get blown out. I was proud of the way we responded, because when you lose that bad sometimes, your confidence gets low, but the guys dug deep and that shows character."

The Brahmas got on the board first tonight when Justin Kinnunen sent a pass to Jordan Cameron. Cameron was able to feed it Tyler Skworchinski who blistered it past Kevin Beech at the 10:41 mark. It was Skworchinski's fifth goal of the season. Good news for the Brahmas if you follow the stats as they are 10-1-0 when scoring first this season.

Garrett Larsen answered for Mississippi less than three minutes later. Larsen took a pass from Derek Landmesser and was able to do a 360 to get loose from Mike Vellinga to shoot the puck past Brett Jaeger at the 13:23 mark.

Mississippi took their first lead of the game at the 18:41 mark when Bobby Chaumont received a feed from Louis Dumont and circled around the net before taking a shot. Jaeger was unable to make the save and the RiverKings were up 2-1.

The RiverKings outshot the Brahmas 12-8 in the period. The Brahmas did not have any penalties and Mississippi was called for four minors.

The Brahmas had 49 seconds left on a powerplay to begin the second period but were unable to convert on their fifth man-advantage of the night.

The Brahmas tied it up at the 6:21 mark when defenseman Stephen Margeson lost his stick and couldn't defend against Jordan Cameron who was able to slap the puck past Beech for an unassisted short-handed goal.

Matt Quinn took a hard hit from RiverKings captain Derek Landmesser and was visited on the ice by athletic trainer Tom Hart but he was able to skate back to the bench under his own power.

Mississippi's Dallas Steward almost made it 3-2 but his shot hit the post. It was a very competitive period of hockey. The Brahmas came out hard and fast and prevented any RiverKing scoring in the middle period for the second night in a row. The Brahmas outshot Mississippi 12-10.

The Brahmas went back to work in the third period and got a lucky break at the 5:11 mark. After a face off in the offensive zone, Derek Landmesser tried to clear the puck from the side of the net and clipped it, causing a turnover. The puck slid over in front of Pete Rouleau who was able to shoot it past Kevin Beech to tie the game up at 3-3.

Play remained fast and physical for the remainder of the period but neither team was able to score. Mississippi outshot the Brahmas 8-3 in the period. The game went into overtime and despite a tremendous effort on both sides, neither team was able to beat the goaltenders and the game went to a best of five shootout.

Marc Belanger came out first for the Brahmas but his shot went wide. Jeff Nelson was first up for the RiverKings. His shot was blocked by Brett Jaeger. Jordan Cameron was next. He faked the play in front of the net, looking to get the netminder out of position but it didn't fool Beech who blocked the shot. Bobby Chaumont shot next for the RiverKings. His shot was perfect, sailing right by Jaeger, giving the RiverKings a 1-0 advantage in the shootout. Scott Sheppard was next for the Brahmas. He skated right past the puck and then came around and took it in but had his shot hit the post. Louis Dumont then had his shot stopped at the crease by Jaeger. Topher Scott also had his shot stopped at the crease, this time by a diving Beech. Derek Landmesser was next but was held by a pad save by Jaeger. Tyler Skworchinski faced a sudden death situation with a goal necessary to prevent a loss but had his shot turned away and the game was over.

Kevin Beech stopped 22 shots on goal in regulation time and overtime, picking up his 12th victory of the season (12-6-0) for Mississippi. Brahmas’ goalie Brett Jaeger made 35 saves in taking the shootout loss. His record goes to (9-3-3).

Jordan Cameron picked up the third star tonight for his excellent play. He had an assist in the first period and an unassisted, short-handed goal in the second.

The Brahmas continued their run of clean hockey with only four minutes on 2 infractions. Mississippi was called for 14 minutes on seven infractions. They went one for seven on the powerplay. Their penalty killers stopped both of Mississippi's powerplay opportunities.

The Brahmas were helped tonight by the Odessa Jackalopes who defeated their division rivals, the Laredo Bucks 3-2. This Laredo loss and the Brahmas point cut Laredo's lead to four points in the standings.

Mississippi goes to 14-9-0 and the Brahmas go to 13-7-3.

You can view the box score

The Brahmas head for Prescott Valley next for a three-game series against the defending CHL champion Arizona Sundogs.

The Insider Interview - Topher Scott

Rookie forward is an instant fan favorite

"I know it's been said already this guy has a big heart, but WOW! He skated every shift like it was the last one he was ever gonna get to do. What an athlete."

That quote any many like it from the message board typify the way fans feel about Topher Scott. The rookie forward was an instant fan favorite after taking the ice with the Brahmas against the Odessa Jackalopes on October 25th. After 12 games, Scott has four points (2 G, 2 A) and four penalty minutes. He is second on the team behind Grant Jacobsen with a .200 shot percentage

Scott takes Dale Lupul right off the ice with a hit during a recent game at NYTEX (Photo by John Blanding)

Scott made his professional hockey debut in March with the Elmira Jackals (ECHL). He played in seven regular season games and four in the post-season, tallying five points (1 G, 4 A). Jackals head coach Steve Martinson called Scott an excellent passer with great vision and hockey sense. Scott was to return to the Jackals this season, but the opportunity to play with Dan Wildfong's Brahmas took precedent.

Scott played for Cornell University (ECAC) for four seasons while pursuing a degree in Sociology. During his career with the Big Red, he appeared in all 137 games (playing through a broken wrist in his sophomore year), notching 107 points (25 G, 82 A) and only 52 penalty minutes. He was the team's leading scorer as a Junior after tying for the second-highest point total as a sophomore.

As a senior, Scott was elected by his teammates as a co-captain after being elected to serve as the team's lone alternate captain as a junior. Scott was also a two-time winner of the team's Bill Doran Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to the player combining all of the best attributes that mean sportsmanship, both on and off the ice, as well as being an excellent, competitive player. He was also named Honorable Mention All-Ivy League for his play as a senior.He helped the team win one ECAC Tournament Championship and two trips to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the national quarterfinals each time. He played alongside former Brahma Doug Krantz and current Brahma Kevin McLeod.

I spoke to Topher recently at the NYTEX Sports Centre. Here is our conversation:

Q: How did you come on board with the Brahmas?

A: I was up in Elmira in the East Coast League and I got released from there. I had been talking to Fonger a bit in the summer about coming down. After I got released, I really liked Fonger and what he had to say about everything. I've heard great things about coming here. My roommate from school last year was down here for the playoffs last season, Doug Krantz, and he said he loved it too. I came down here and its been great.

Q: What do you think about playing at NYTEX and the facility itself?

A: It's great. It's not the biggest rink but the fans are great, it's a great atmosphere. I really love the city that we're living in and everything so it's been really fun so far.

Q: What do you think about the team and all the guys...were you able to come on board pretty easily?

A: Yeah, it was nice to know Kevin McLeod from Cornell so I knew somebody right away when I got here. The guys were really great right away. I've been having a lot of fun getting to know them.

Q: You were a co-captain with Ray Sawada at Cornell. Do you still keep in touch with him as he's going through the process with the Dallas Stars organization?

A: Yeah, you always have to look up and see how everybody is doing. He's up in Manitoba right now, they're an AHL team. The way things are going, he might get called up sometime this year. I'll be one of the happiest guys. I'll definitely be at one of their games.

Q: Have you gotten out to a Stars game yet?

A: I haven't been to a Stars game yet. I haven't even been to the city of Dallas yet. I'm looking forward to it.

Q: You may or may not know this but you have been pretty popular with the fans. I don't know if you read the fan boards or that kind of stuff but I've read and heard a lot of good comments on your play. How do you feel about the fans here?

A: Coming from a place like Cornell where the fans are crazy too, it's been a lot of fun. Just seeing them cheer on the team when we're doing well and seeing them cheer loud at every game, it's been a lot of fun.

Q: I know at Cornell, you organized the teddy bear toss. Were you happy to see that sort of thing take place here at NYTEX?

A: Yeah, it's always great to see people reaching out to help others. Being a part of something like that makes you feel good about too about yourself even though you're helping out a lot of other people too. It's great to get on board here where that kind of thing is really big here too.

Q: What has been the key to winning for this Brahmas team?

A: Just going out there and putting 60 minutes together...If we do that against any team, we've got a good chance to win because we've got really good players in that locker room.

Q: What do you think of Dan Wildfong as a coach and have you been impressed with his drive?

A: I've been fortunate enough to play for a lot of coaches like Fonger in the past. Mike Schafer at Cornell is the same way. He's really intense and just really cared about the guys and about the program which is what Fonger does too. When I got here, the practices were really hard. I wasn't really ready for it but it's great now. I'm really just looking forward to going out there and playing for him and putting together some wins with this team.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith