Monday, March 30, 2009

A few minutes with…Andy Moog

The former NHL goaltender and Brahmas minority owner takes some time to speak with The Insider about the Brahmas organization and the first game of the playoffs

OK, this is probably the shortest interview I've ever done for The Insider, but I saw Andy after the game and the chance to speak with him, so here it is!

Q: After so many years in Fort Worth, what's your take on the new Brahmas organization?

A: From my perspective, I think there’s so much credibility within the group starting with the new ownership group and NYTEX right to Mike Barack and his staff all the way down to Dan Wildfong and the staff that he’s put together, and recruiting and the team that he’s put on the ice. I think it’s a testament to the group that they have a standard of play and a standard of conduct and it puts a real credible tone to the organization. Dan is probably the biggest reason why; he’s able to recruit and get good young players in here and build a team. He’s credible, he’s honest and he treats players fairly.

Q: What did you think about the Brahmas performance tonight?

A: They looked like a team that was very anxious to get underway and they tried to win the entire series in the first period. Coming out of that first period 2-1 was huge for the group and once they settled into their game plan, half-way through the game, it looked like the Brahmas team that we’ve come to recognize and see over the year. They stopped over-trying and became a little more disciplined and as a result, they took the game away in the second half.

Q: With your responsibilities with the Dallas Stars organization, do you get much time to get over here for games?

A: Well, I have. This is probably my fifth or sixth game this year. I just enjoy coming to watch the games, to be honest. Obviously it’s a great atmosphere here at NYTEX and the kids put on a pretty good show. I really enjoy it.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brahmas hold off the Killer Bees, take game one in conference semi-final

Tyler Skworchinski scores two goals, earns 1st star

The Texas Brahmas won the first game of the best of seven series against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees by a score of 4-2. Skating on home ice and in front of 2,369 fans, the Brahmas took early control of the game and although the Killer Bees played well, they could not get the momentum needed to beat the number one seed in the Southern Conference.

"I thought we played hard; I just thought we made some mistakes," Killer Bees head coach Chris Brooks said. "Within our system, you've go to win the one-on-one battles. We just weren't doing that tonight."

The Brahmas struck first when Jordan Cameron capitalized off a deflection from Ross Rouleau’s shot from the point and drove it in past Bees goaltender Wylie Rogers at the 2:04 mark.

Back-to-back calls on the Brahmas led to a 5-on-3 powerplay and Killer Bees right wing Evan Rankin took advantage, beating Brett Jaeger and tying the game at the 11:27 mark with the assist from Nathan Ansell and former Brahma Topher Scott.

The Brahmas re-took the lead with a powerplay goal of their own less than 90 seconds later when Jason Deitsch found the back of the net at the 9:55 mark. Brandon Benedict and Justin Kinnunen were credited with the assist.

The Brahmas had the only score of the second period. Jason Deitsch fed the puck to Tyler Skworchinski, whose shot trickled between the legs of Rogers, finding its way to the back of the net at the 10:49 mark. The score was now 3-1.

The Killer Bees managed to get on the board again on the man-advantage after the Brahmas' Pete Rouleau was called for hooking. Grant Goeckner-Zoeller scored his third goal of the post-season off the set up by Evan Rankin and Dan McGoff to make it 3-2 at the 7:33 mark.

But Tyler Skworchinski sealed the win with an unassisted goal on a breakaway at the 10:59 mark, setting up Wylie Rogers' first loss in three starts in the playoffs.

The Brahmas out shot the Killer Bees 31-20 and went 1 for 6 on the powerplay. The Killer Bees went 2 for 13 on the man-advantage.

“I thought they played a strong game,” Dan Wildfong said. “We capitalized on our opportunities when we had them but we almost gave then another five-on-three. We have to be more disciplined if we’re going to win this series.”

Brett Jaeger saved 18 of 20 shots for the win. Wylie Rogers saved 27 of 31 shots and takes the loss.

The Brahmas were assessed 28 minutes on 14 infractions. The Killer Bees were assessed 27 minutes on eight infractions.

The 3rd star went to Rio Grande Valley's Evan Rankin, who had a goal and an assist. The 2nd star went to Jason Deitsch, who also had a goal and an assist. Tyler Skworchinski earned the 1st star for his two goal on the night.

You can view the box score

You can view my pictures from the game here

The two teams will meet again on Sunday afternoon at 3:05pm. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free Brahma’s playoff t-shirt, courtesy of Dr. Geoffrey Millican and Panera Bread.
It's playoff time in North Richland Hills!

Brahmas host the Killer Bees this weekend at NYTEX

Texas Brahmas fans, are you ready? Your Texas Brahmas are the most successful professional sports team in the Metroplex this season and are about to being the run to the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship!

The NYTEX Sports Centre is buzzing with Killer Bees this weekend as 1st year head coach Chris Brooks and the boys from Hidalgo are in town, looking to make a little history of their own.

If you don't have your tickets, you'd better call the Brahmas now because they will be turning people away tonight and make sure to get out there early because parking will be a premium.
Don't forget:

On Saturday, the first 1,000 fans to the arena will receive a free Rally Towel, courtesy of Workflow One. You can also register to win an autographed Brahmas hockey stick at the Silver Creek table in the lobby. There will also be a free post-game skate.

Sunday’s game will begin at 3:05 p.m. and the first 1,000 fans will receive a free Brahma’s playoff t-shirt, courtesy of Dr. Geoffrey Millican and Panera Bread

I'll see you out there!

Image Credit: Central Hockey League

Friday, March 27, 2009

Southern Conference Semi-finals Series Preview

#1 Texas Brahmas vs. #4 Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees

With season series split 2-2, Brahmas face upstart Killer Bees team

Originally posted on

After defeating the Corpus Christi IceRays two games to one in the first round of the 2009 Central Hockey League playoffs, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees will advance to the Southern Conference semi-finals this weekend to meet the #1 seeded Texas Brahmas.

Under the direction of first-year head coach Chris Brooks, the Killer Bees have transformed from the worst team in the league last season, to a #4 seeded playoff team to be reckoned with. In addition to beating the IceRays two games to one, the Bees finished the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning their last four games in a row and eight out of their last 10.

Brooks speaks humbly about his teams’ success but is proud of the work ethic that has gotten them where they are today.

“I tell the guys that to be an elite team in this league, we have the play the same every single night and do what we do really well…” Brooks said. “When we do that, and I tell the guys all the time, we’re not as skilled as any other team in the league, but the thing that separates us from other teams is our work ethic and our attention to detail.”

The Texas Brahmas, under the leadership of second-year head coach Dan Wildfong, battled their way to the Northern Conference Championship last season, only to fall in a forced game seven to the Colorado Eagles. Brahmas players have waited all season to get another shot at the President’s Cup. Forward Tyler Skworchinski echoed that sentiment.

“I think a lot of guys are thinking of last year, and trying to improve upon the results from last year and have that opportunity to win the cup,” Skworchinski said. “I think that’s why a lot of guys came back. They knew we were going to have a good chance, with the team we have.”

The Brahmas moved to the Southern Conference this season and won the Southeast Division and the Conference title, falling five points shy of the Governor’s Cup (regular season champion). They have earned home-ice throughout the conference playoffs and with a league-leading 26-5-1 record at the NYTEX Sports Centre this season, that may be a huge advantage.

The Killer Bees

Rio Grande Valley’s top three regular season scorers are Jesse Bennefield (LW) with 71 points (35 G, 36 A), Nicolas Dumoulin (D) with 58 points (17 G, 41 A) and Evan Rankin (RW) with 51 points (28 G, 23 A). Bennefield scored five points (3 G, 2 A) in the three-game series against Corpus Christi.

The Killer Bees have seven starting defensemen on their playoff roster with a cumulative +/- rating of +26 and 153 points (34 G, 119 A) scored. They are led by Kurtis Dulle and rookie sensation Nicolas Dumolin.

On special teams, the Bees finished 10th in the league on the power play at 16.71% and fourth in the league on the penalty kill at 84.47%. Over three games, the Bees killed all 17 power-play chances for the IceRays.

The Bees went 14-16-2 on the road but were a franchise best 21-8-3 at home and won their last four games at the Dodge Center against the Corpus Christi IceRays, the Odessa Jackalopes, the Laredo Bucks and the Texas Brahmas. Games three through five (if necessary) will be played at the Dodge Center.

The Brahmas

Texas’ offense is led by their top three regular season scorers: Scott Sheppard (F) with 66 points (32 G, 34 A), Jordan Cameron (F) with 60 points (23 G, 37 A) and Grant Jacobsen with 55 points (21 G, 34 A).

The Brahmas have shown how dangerous the depth of their lines can be with eight different forwards scoring goals in their last four games (Burto, Cameron, Deitsch, Jacobsen, Quinn, Rouleau, Sheppard, and Skworchinski) alone.

They have six starting defensemen on their playoff roster with a cumulative +/- rating of +90 and 153 points (42 G, 111 A) scored. They are led by veteran Craig Minard and second-year man Kevin McLeod. With so many weapons at forward, the Brahmas have a strong defensive posture and their blue line enjoys the support of “defensive forwards” like Tyler Skworchinski and Brandon Benedict.

On special teams, the Brahmas finished third in the league on the power play at 19.74% and 11th in the league on the penalty kill at 81.52%. They led the league in short-handed goals with 19 in the regular season.


Both teams have effective goaltending tandems, allowing them to make virtually worry-free changes in-series, if necessary.

The Killer Bees have Wylie Rogers and Christian Boucher. Rogers had an 18-10-3 record with a 3.12 GAA and a .908 save percentage and had both Bees victories during the play-in series, stopping 60 of 61 shots he faced in two games. Christian Boucher had a 17-14-2 record with a 2.89 GAA and .919 save percentage. The two have split wins against the Brahmas.

The Brahmas have Brett Jaeger (28-9-5) and David Cacciola (14-7-1). Jaeger had a 2.36 GAA and a .924 save percentage and was in net for both of the Brahmas wins against the Bees. He is expected to get the start in this series. Cacciola had a 2.76 GAA and a .912 save percentage.


The Killer Bees and the Brahmas played four times during the regular season, alternating wins with each team scoring a total of seven goals against the other. The Brahmas won 2-0 on December 9th and then lost 3-0 on December 26th. The Killer Bees lost 4-1 on January 25th but won the regular season finale 3-1.

The Brahmas have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games, making March their least successful month this season. They’ve also struggled on the penalty kill all season. Scoring early and maintaining the lead will be a priority for the Brahmas. In the regular season, they were 24-0-2 (15-0-0 at home) leading after the first period and 29-1-2 (18-1-0 at home) when leading after 40 minutes. Although they have had some strong third period comebacks this season, they struggle when trailing. They have gone 5-7-3 (1-2-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 5-11-0 (3-3-0 at home) when trailing after 40 minutes.

Brahmas defenseman Nathan Saunders is confident in his team but knows that success in the regular season doesn’t guarantee a thing.

“With the team that we have right now, it’s really exciting going into the playoffs, knowing that you have a chance to win it all,” Saunders said. “At the same time, the playoffs are a whole different season. Nothing we’ve done (before) means anything now… it’s simple, if you don’t come to work, it can be done in four games.”

These two teams are very well matched. Expect a tough series. Prediction: The Brahmas win four games to two.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Texas Brahmas playoff wallpaper available

Latest Russell Farris creation and other wallpapers at the fan club website

Russell Farris has created a really cool Brahmas wallpaper for the Playoffs with photos by yours truly and Walt Tenery. It is available for download along with other Farris creations at the Texas Brahmas Fan Club Website.

Check it out!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bring on the Killer Bees!

Rio Grande Valley advances after shutting out the IceRays 3-0

The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees shut out the Corpus Christi Ice Rays 3-0 tonight and will advance to the Southern Conference semi-finals to take on the Texas Brahmas beginning this Saturday night.

The Killer Bees took the first game of the three-game series against the IceRays on home ice Monday by a score of 5-1. The IceRays came back on Wednesday in their barn, winning 6-2. But tonight, the Bees were back at the Dodge Center and put an end to the IceRays season with the shut out.

I'll post my series preview once it is published on ProHockeyNews and Into the Boards. In the meantime, here is the "Un-official game schedule for the series:

Game 1 - Saturday, March 28th 7:05 PM at NYTEX

Game 2 - Sunday, March 29th 3:05 PM at NYTEX

Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) at Dodge Center April 1, 3, and 4

Game 6 (if necessary) - Tuesday, April 7th at NYTEX

Game 7 (if necessary) - Wednesday, April 8th at NYTEX

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Tyler Skworchinski

The Brahmas forward talks about the upcoming playoff series against Rio and the quest for the President's Cup

Tyler Skworchinski has had another great season with the Texas Brahmas. He played in all 64 regular season games and notched 38 points (16 G, 22, A) and 36 penalty minutes. He had eight powerplay goals, 10 powerplay assists, one short-handed goal, one short-handed assist, one game-winning goal and he finished the season with a +8 rating. He even filled in as a defenseman when needed.

Now, with the post-season set to begin, Tyler has learned that the Brahmas will meet the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees on Saturday night at the NYTEX Sports Centre. I spoke to Tyler about the upcoming series and the playoffs in general. Here is our conversation.

Q: The Brahmas have faced Chris Brooks’ team four times this year and have split the wins. What do you think about the Killer Bees and what they’ve accomplished this season?

A: From last year to this year, they’ve made a big improvement. They’ve played tough against us and they’ve played us pretty well all year. We just went down there and they took one from us there. I think they’re a good, young, fast team. They work really hard. I think you earn everything you get...we know we’re in for a battle and we’re going to have to play our game and to play with intensity for the whole game in order to be successful.

Q: The final game against Rio down in their barn didn’t go the way everyone would have liked. But do you think it was a valuable look at their systems and what was and wasn’t working against them?

A: Yeah, obviously it was a good preview. They played Corpus the night before, so we got a good view of either team that we’re going to face…the last game, there wasn’t too much on the line for us. We just wanted to keep things simple and kind of prepare for next weekend, this upcoming weekend, and I think we did that fairly well and all things considered, that was a pretty good preparation game for us.

Q: How excited are you to have another opportunity to make another run to the finals and the chance to win the President’s Cup?

A: That’s what we play for…I know all the guys, myself included, we’re excited to play this weekend…not to take anything away from the games we’ve played but we’ve had this spot set for a little while and we’re anxious to get things going. I think a lot of guys are thinking of last year, and trying to improve upon the results from last year and have that opportunity to win the cup. I think that’s why a lot of guys came back. They knew we were going to have a good chance with the team we have back and I’m very excited to get things going here.

Q: Looking at this upcoming series versus the same time last year; Bossier-Shreveport was in the same boat and an upstart Brahmas team came in and beat them after taking the play-in series against Mississippi. Do you have any concern about an upstart team like the Bees coming in and doing the same thing?

A: Absolutely. We’re in the same situation like you said last year. We came in, we were the underdog and we came out with the sweep. We’re not going to take anything lightly. We worked hard to get the extra week rest and to get the number one seed and we’re not just going to sit on the regular season Southern Conference title. That’s all great but ultimately, at the end of the day, it comes down to winning that championship. You won’t see us take things lightly this weekend. We know they’re a good team and they’ve beat us a couple of times this year. We know, whoever we play, we’re going to have to play our game and take it to another team and not let any opportunities slip and not have any chance of not being prepared for a game.

Q: As an individual, is there anything you are taking from your experience last year, especially the experience of the conference championship series with Colorado, with you into the post-season this year?

A: Yeah, above everything, you can’t afford to give games away at this point of the season. The last two games at Colorado, we let one or two slip early in the series and it came back to bite us in the end. We lost our last game to them in their home rink. I think we have to win 12 games. We have to be prepared each and every game to play the best game of the season up to that point and just build upon that. Don’t take any game lightly; maintain that intensity and you’ve got to be competitive. You can’t take shifts off and you’ve got to earn everything at this point. Just go out there and earn everything you get.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
The Heart of the Brahmas
By Russell Farris

Two years ago, we had no barn to call home
Our team was gone like the fall of Rome
Sticks and gear, they gathered dust
Blades on unused skates began to rust

The fans wept and prayed, and dared to dream
Clinging to hope for a reborn team
In a small one room office, on Sand Street
The heart of the Brahmas still raged and beat

From that small office, the heartbeat grew stronger
New partners, new rink, then they hired the Fonger
Like a phoenix rising, from the ashes they came
Missing the finals the first year by one single game

This year a new season, providing thrills to us all
When the puck drops at NYTEX, our opponents they fall
They say our barn is small, other teams laugh and joke
But when they hit our ice, they all seem to choke

The general from the bench commands with great force
Laying waste to opponents, he shows no remorse
Our forwards and snipers fly like jets into action
Beating defenders and goalies by more than a fraction

Our D-Men with hard checks, maybe a stick a bit high
Dealing out cuts and bruises, maybe a black eye
Our tenders between pipes, standing tall in the crease
Fighting with the warrior spirit, our net they won't breech

It's more than something special, that we have here
Your fancy store bought teams won't inspire us to fear
Hard work, skill, and luck, they all play their part
But all of that means nothing, if you still don't have heart

Our bus might be ugly, our rink might be small
But when it comes to heart, our boys have it all
The regular season has now come to an end
Our quest for the cup is soon to begin!
The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Craig Minard

The Brahmas captain speaks about his squad and preparations for the playoffs

Craig Minard, like his teammates, is ready for the playoffs to begin. At 33, the Orangeville, Ontario native is nearing the end of his eighth full season as a professional hockey player and his second season as a Texas Brahma. The 5', 10", 180-pound defenseman has put another solid season behind him, tallying 35 points (5 G, 30 A) and 68 penalty minutes. He finished the season with a +25 rating.

Now just 2 days before the post-season begins, and with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees on their way to North Richland Hills, Minard patiently awaits the opening face-off on Saturday night. With six-post-seasons behind him, Minard is hungry. Hungry for the taste of the ultimate prize for any Central Hockey League player - The President's Cup. Minard is confident in himself and his teammates. Now, only time will tell if he will join his fellow Brahmas in celebration or sorrow.

I spoke with Craig about some of the men on his defensive squad and about the upcoming playoffs. Here is our conversation.

Q: The situation this year is similar to last season where you had a couple of defensemen out at the end of the regular season. We’ve learned that Eric Lundberg is out for the playoffs but Mike Vellinga will be back. Is Mike ready and in shape for the series coming up this weekend?

A: Oh, I think definitely. Mike’s been skating every day. That’s why he made the trip for the last few games, so he could be with the team. You know, sometimes you get a chance to heal up and it’s a good thing, so I don’t see any problems there. It’s not like he’s a first or second year guy who’s not used to what it takes to get into the playoffs. He’s a guy that’s been there, so he knows where he needs to be and that’s why he made the trip. He’s been skating and I think he’s healed up and ready to go. I think everyone’s ready to get on with the playoffs. It’s a different mentality, a different game; a lot of those injuries, even the nagging ones tend to disappear come the playoffs. I think we’re going to be ready to go.

Q: We talked before the season about how well Kevin McLeod played last season and he’s had a magnificent season this year. He was one of the leading defensive scorers in the league and tied with Sam Ftorek (Amarillo) for most goals scored by a defenseman (20). He was also the fourth leading scorer for the Brahmas. Are you surprised with his continued improvement as a player and his ability to bounce back from injuries?

A: Yes and no, I mean, I don’t think you ever look at a defenseman and expect them to score 20 goals; that would be a fairly lofty goal, but I think we talked about this at the start of the year, he’s a capable person, he’s a good guy, he works extremely hard and he does what he’s asked. I think he’s just been fortunate this year to cash in on his chances. He has an amazing shot and his offensive instincts as a defenseman are probably second to none in our league. I think he’s just sort of scratched the surface, whether you want to believe it or not. His talent level is amazing. It’s certainly a surprise to me that he scored 20 goals, but it’s not totally out of his realm. I asked him the other night what he had last year (34 points, 12 G, 22 A) and he couldn’t really remember, but I think he had anywhere from 12 or 15 goals last year as a rookie, so definitely the potential is there. He’s improved like you hope every second year player will. He’s just been a tremendous asset for our team. And like I said, he’s just a great guy; easy to work with, easy to play with and he works hard every day, which is all you can ask.

Q: Ross Rouleau has come in to fill a spot on the roster and seems to be developing well as a defenseman for the Brahmas. Were you happy to see him come in and fill that role?

A: Oh, it’s been amazing. Every
team has its run of injuries and I think how you fare through those injuries is a big part of your success in the season. Some teams lose defensemen and they can’t recover. We had the luxury of bringing him in at a very critical time of the season and we had a tough stretch and lost a couple of games. To have him step in and play the way he plays is unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine being put in that situation, to come in and not really playing at that level and then come in and be counted on as a fourth or fifth D man some nights…he’s stepped in and done more than I think we’ve asked of him, so yeah, it’s been incredible and we’ve sort of had that all year, even, with Danny Force coming in and playing a game or Adam Davis. It seems everyone has sort of chipped in and it’s really worked well for us.

Q: Another guy who’s come in late in the season, Nathan Saunders, has made a big impact on the team, on and off the ice. Nathan has what Fonger described as a “swagger” to him, sort of like Brent MacSween last year…how do you like having him on your squad?

A: You know, I think you touched on it. Certainly on the ice, it’s easy to see what he brings to the table, every game. But what you don’t see is what kind of personality and what kind of attitude he brings to our locker room. He’s an easy-going guy; he knows what makes him successful. He is young but he’s played a lot of hockey and he knows where he fits and what he needs to be doing. It’s just been unbelievable for us. On the ice he brings that toughness and he certainly has a reputation…he’s a tough guy and he looks out for his teammates. He is one of those unbelievable teammates you don’t always hear about. In the locker room, he does the right thing; he keeps it loose. On the ice, he feels that if anyone touches any of our guys, he’s the guy that wants to take it upon himself to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. He’s done it since he got here. I’m not sure we knew everything we were going to get from him and he’s exceeded our expectations.

Q: We talked in the pre-season about going to Colorado and taking a couple of hard losses after sweeping Bossier-Shreveport. Do you think a lot of the guys are going to be heading into the playoffs with lessons learned from last year’s run?

A: Yeah, I think as an athlete too, regardless of where you were, you take lessons from anything that happens. Certainly, I think having enough of the core of guys who were here last year when we lost, and knowing how close we were, just made us that more hungry to get back there. There’s no question that there’s a number of teams in this league that are capable of winning a championship and we know that, but we have confidence in each and every member of our team and we have confidence in our team’s ability to take what happened last year and turn it into a positive. Its part of playing, you know; certainly last year, we were pretty disappointed. One of the things that Fonger brings to the table is that he’s won a championship and he’s lost one and he knows what need to be said or done. Hopefully we can take what he’s implementing and work it to what we need to be doing.

Q: You have some tough series’ ahead of you. Rio Grande Valley and then either Laredo or Odessa before you can make it to the finals. I wouldn’t want to downplay any of those teams. Where you are now, with this Brahmas team; do you feel that you have what you need to get in there and get the job done to advance to a championship series this year?

A: Definitely. We’ve played every team and we’ve been successful against every team this year and you know every team we’ve played, we beat, so we know that it’s in our realm and it’s just a matter of stepping it up. Obviously, every team is going to step up and we just need to do the same. I mean, if you go into the playoffs wondering and thinking what may happen, I just think you’re taking the wrong approach. We’re going to take the approach that our rink is a tough building to beat us in. We need to win our home games every time and we’re also going to need to go to someone else’s rink and steal a couple. We know every game is going to be hard. Hopefully, we’ve been preparing for that all year and especially down the stretch here…we’re ready. We think we’re as good as any team that’s out there and we’re excited. We want to get going.

Photo Credits: Robert Keith
Brahmas’ first playoff game to be aired on television

Saturday night’s game one will be broadcast on Metro Sports Channel

For the first time in their history, the Texas Brahmas will televise a home playoff game. Game One for the Brahmas will be played Saturday night, and be aired five times on Metro Sports Channel 185 on Time Warner Cable.

The Metro Sports Channel is a local television channel specializing in Metroplex sports, including high school and college sports. Their tagline, "Hometown Heroes. Bigtime Coverage." fits the Brahmas "Hometown Hockey" appeal. The game will be aired to all Time Warner subscribers throughout the Metroplex.

"We are excited to have our first home game televised," said Brahmas General Manager Mike Barack. "This will be great exposure and we hope to have more broadcasts in the future."

Broadcasting the game will be Pete Stein, the co-host of a nightly sports talk show from 7-10 on 105.3 The Fan. Stein was the play-by-play voice for the Dallas Sidekicks for two seasons and has worked basketball, soccer and baseball games for Time Warner Cable Metro Sports in the last year. Sitting along Stein as a color analyst will be Richie Witt of the Dallas Observer.

Gary Underwood, Vice President of Communications for Time Warner Cable, is pleased to offer Time Warner customers' local professional hockey for viewing.

"We are excited to provide our customers the Texas Brahmas in their playoff run and look forward to more Brahmas content on Metro Sports," said Underwood.

The Brahmas Playoff Game One will be aired on the following schedule: Sunday at noon and 7 PM, Monday at 3 PM and Tuesday at 8 AM and 8:30 PM. Metro Sports Channel can be found on channel 185 for Time Warner customers.

Information courtesy: Texas Brahmas Press Release
Image Credit: Time Warner Cable Dallas

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Nathan Saunders

The Brahmas enforcer talks about his career, joining the Brahmas and why it's not a good idea to mess with his teammates

Nathan Saunders signed with the Texas Brahmas on December 22nd after beginning the 2008-09 season with the Stockton Thunder and the Charlotte Checkers (ECHL). The 6', 3", 228-pound defenseman from Charlottetown, PEI is a fourth-year professional who has played in the AHL, ECHL and now the CHL.

Saunders played four seasons with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) from 2001-2005. During his time in New Brunswick, he notched 87 points (14 G, 73 A) and 794 penalty minutes. He added 11 points (5 G, 6 A) and 70 penalty minutes through three straight seasons in the playoffs.

He was Selected by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in round four (#119) overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Saunders went pro during the 2005-06 season, playing 20 games with the Portland Pirates (AHL). He split the 2006-07 season between the Pirates and the Augusta Lynx (ECHL). Last season was split between the Providence Bruins (AHL) and the Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL).

With 36 games under his belt, Saunders has tallied 15 points (4 G, 11 A) and 159 penalty minutes as a Texas Brahma. He ended the season with a +15 rating. He has scored two powerplay goals with six powerplay assists and has scored a game-winning goal.

I spoke with Nathan yesterday about his career, joining the Brahmas and the upcoming playoffs. Here is our conversation.

Q: I noticed that you were from Charlottetown, PEI; did you know Greg McConnell and Mark Carragher growing up?

A: Yeah, actually me, McConnell and Carragher all grew up playing minor hockey together. Carragher’s Dad used to coach us all.

Q: You ended up playing for the Moncton Wildcats up in New Brunswick. That team had it rough for a few years before you arrived, but in the years that you were there and just afterwards, they really became a force in the QMJHL. How did you like playing up there?

A: It was a great experience. They treat you like royalty when you play for Moncton. They have great ownership and it was a pleasure to play there. They were rebuilding during my first year and they had a pretty young team, so I got to play with the same group of guys for most of the time I was there, so that made it a lot better too.

Q: In Moncton, You played with a number of guys who are in the CHL now, Collin Circelli from Odessa, Ryan Salvis from Laredo among others. Is it interesting nowadays to see those guys on the ice after playing with them back in those days?

A: Yeah, to see a guy show up in the league you play in from when you were younger, it makes the games a little more exciting. There’s someone to go and talk to after. You get a different point of view on things too – you see how they like it in their cities and how their organizations are.

Q: You also played with Corey Crawford and Steve Bernier, just to name a couple of guys who moved up to the NHL. Do you still keep in touch with those guys?

A: A little bit through computers. Not really so much. I’m going to go see Bernier when they’re in town playing Dallas, so I’ll see him there. Whenever I used to play against him in the American League, I would always make a point of going and saying hi to him after the game or before the game. You keep in touch as much as you can.

Q: Many people probably don’t realize that you played with Eric Lundberg and Brett Jaeger when you all were with the Augusta Lynx (ECHL). Did you know them very well when you played together?

A: Yeah, I knew them both pretty well. I was in Augusta for pretty much the whole season, so I got to know them pretty well. They’re both great guys and it’s been a great experience to be able to play with them again.

Q: How was it that you came to the Brahmas at the time that you did?

A: Well, I started off the season in Stockton, California (Stockton Thunder) and there were so many young defensemen that were signed to American League contracts that there just wasn’t room, so I got traded to Charlotte in North Carolina (Charlotte Checkers) in the East Coast League. When I got there, the coach decided that all I was good for was fighting, so he put me in, maybe one shift a period to send me in to fight guys. That’s not really what I was looking to do…I don’t think it takes much skill to go out there and take punches in the face. I like to play a little bit too, so I told them it wasn’t working out. I went home and relaxed for a month or so and then I came back down and started to play for Fonger.

Q: Was it Fonger that recruited you?

A: I talked to Fonger a lot during training camp…I knew he was going to put together a competitive team. I wanted to go somewhere where there was going to be a good chance to win and somewhere where I would fit in well with the team.

Q: You actually fill out the role as the enforcer for the Brahmas outside of your other defensive skills. Not to label you, but do you like being known for that?

A: I like being known as a guy who is always going to be there to stick up for his teammates and don’t get me wrong, I have no problem fighting. I enjoy it sometimes. It’s not something I want to do day in and day out. But I’m always going to stick up for my teammates. I don’t mind being labeled as that because I can always say no or yes to guys. You get chased around a little more being called a fighter, but I’ve got no problem saying no to guys if I don’t feel like fighting. So, it works out well for me.

Q: You are a good fighter, probably one of the best in the CHL. Did you ever train as a fighter or did that develop for you as a hockey player through the years?

A: I think it’s something that you’re born with a little bit of an edge maybe. But you always want to be able to look after your teammates and look after yourself. I’ve also put a lot of time into it, learning from some pretty talented guys throughout the years. Like Trevor Gillies and Todd Fedoruk. Any time I got a chance to pick those guys brains, I always would after practice. I’ve tried to pick up as much as I could with the guys that I’ve been on teams with.

Q: You seem to have become a popular person among the players. Did you find it easy to fit in with this group of guys, especially coming in when you did?

A: I found it easy to fit in with this group of guys just because they’re such a good bunch and they made it so easy when I got down here. Everyone is a super nice guy and they would do anything for you. I found it really easy to fit in and I have a great time with the rest of my teammates.

Q: You are playing with some very talented defensemen in Minard, Vellinga, Kinnunen, McLeod and the others. What do you think of this group of guys?

A: They’re extremely talented. I’m really surprised how many of our defensemen, I think a lot of them could easily make the move to the American League, if not all of them. I’m just surprised of the amount of talent that’s down here. I’m really happy to be playing with anyone they put me out there with and I have all the confidence in the world in guys like Ross Rouleau and anybody else they put out there.

Q: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about Ross. He was originally signed out of the prospect camp and then was waived before the season got started. He was available to come in and fill a spot when Lundberg went down and he seems to be developing really well. What’s your take on Ross and how he has improved since he’s been back?

A: I think he’s a really solid player…We had a pretty deep line-up on defense so that probably would have hurt his chances through the training camp but I give him all the credit in the world. He kept at it and stayed in shape. He got his opportunity and he’s definitely making the most of it. He’s played a lot of important minutes for us and he’s playing really well.

Q: One of things I enjoy the most in the pre-game is the banter between you and players from the opposing teams. Sometimes guys come up to directly challenge you; sometimes they are just trying to mark their territory with you. At the last game at NYTEX with Laredo, I remember you skating up and telling a few of the Bucks players that you had a really nasty staph infection and if they got too close, you’d wipe it on them. I remember the wide-eyed look on Erick Lizon’s face – it really cracked me up. Does that kind of thing amuse you – that type of challenge, pre-game?

A: I don’t know (laughing); I just like to keep it loose. I mean guys like Lizon for Laredo, I have all the respect in the world for him, he’s a tough kid, and he does his job for the team. Guys like that are usually just being friendly; but if it comes through during the game and we have to fight, then that’s the way it goes, right? Sometimes, there’s other ways of doing it too like guys like Clark coming in here and going after the coach – you want to let those guys know that’s not going to be tolerated and I just tell them that I’m going to do something about it if it keeps up. I mean, it just depends on the situation.

Q: You immediately made a big impact with the fans at NYTEX and you’re definitely a fan favorite. How do you feel about the reception you’ve received from the fans and the experience in general, playing at NYTEX?

A: It’s been great. Everything since I’ve been here has been great. I’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of different people and I’ve been treated really, really well. So it’s been nothing but a good experience since I’ve been here.

Q: You’ve had a lot of playoff experience and now you are with a team that not only had the talent and drive to make it to the post-season, but a team that many believe have what it takes to make it to the finals. What is your excitement level, going into this weekends games?

A: With the team that we have right now, it’s really exciting going into the playoffs, knowing that you have a chance to win it. At the same time, I think playoffs are a whole different season. Nothing we’ve done means anything now. The last game against Rio or the last game against Corpus, both teams played tough. But it’s that simple, if you don’t come to work, it can be done in four games. Hopefully everything will be clicking for our team and we’ll take a good run at it.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Texas Brahmas announce 2009 playoff roster

First playoff game set for Saturday night at NYTEX

The Texas Brahmas released their 2009 playoff roster today. Among the 19 skaters listed are goaltenders Brett Jaeger and David Cacciola, six defensemen and 11 forwards.

The Brahmas regular season leading scorer Scott Sheppard will be suited up as will forward Jason Deitsch and All-Star defenseman Justin Kinnunen.

Amateur players will be named later this week. All CHL teams are allowed up to three amateur players in the postseason (two skaters and one goaltender).

FORWARDS: Travis Banga, Brandon Benedict, Matt Burto, Jordan Cameron, Jason Deitsch, Grant Jacobsen, Greg McConnell, Matt Quinn, Pete Rouleau, Scott Sheppard and Tyler Skworchinski

DEFENSEMEN: Mike Vellinga, Justin Kinnunen, Kevin McLeod, Ross Rouleau, Craig Minard and Nathan Saunders

GOALTENDERS: David Cacciola and Brett Jaeger

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Brandon Benedict

After a season in Europe, the defensive forward talks about joining the Brahmas, his contribution to the team and the upcoming playoffs

Brandon Benedict had little time to adjust to playing CHL hockey. After his season in Europe, playing with Totempo HvIK was cut short due to the team's financial problems, Benedict spent a short time at home in Nova Scotia before agreeing to join the Texas Brahmas. He flew into DFW on a Friday night (2/6) during the Brahmas-Eagles game, then joined his new teammates for the bus ride over to Bossier City as the team prepared to do battle with the Mudbugs the following day.

With a very short time to get acquainted with his new teammates and familiarize himself with some of the basics of Dan Wildfongs' systems, Benedict took to the ice on Saturday and scored his first point in the Central Hockey League with an assist on the Brahmas' only goal of the night.

Benedict has played 16 games with the Brahmas, tallying 16 points (5 G, 11 A) and 16 penalty minutes. He scored three powerplay goals, four powerplay assists and ended the regular season with a +5 rating. He scored two goals on March 6th in a 3-0 win over the Corpus Christi IceRays.

I spoke with Brandon this evening about joining the Brahmas, his contribution to the team and his thoughts on the upcoming playoffs. Here is our conversation.

Q: How was the transition for you, coming in to DFW one night and playing in Bossier City the next night with a new team?

A: There was definitely an adjustment period there, especially coming from Europe. It's a totally different style of game here; the rinks are a lot smaller. Things seem to happen a little bit quicker here compared to Europe. I knew it would take some time, and after a week or so, I started to feel a lot more comfortable, after I got to know the guys as well. Yeah, it took some time, but I feel comfortable now.

Q: How easy was it to transition into a new group of guys two-thirds of the way into the season?

A: It was very easy. The guys were very welcoming . All the guys on the team are really down-to-earth, you know, easy to get a long with and really welcoming. It's a great bunch of guys on this team. It's one of the best years I've had as far as having fun with the guys. I mean, I've only been here for a month or so but I really like the guys a lot so it's been easy to adjust.

Q: One of the things I noticed at your first game in Bossier was how hard you worked during your shifts and how much of a presence you were on the ice. You've described yourself as a defensive forward and that is very evident. How easy was it for you to learn Fongers' systems and get adjusted to what he wanted out of you?

A: You know, it hasn't been too bad at all. Like I always say, Hockey is a pretty simple game. It comes down to just trying to work hard and there's just little things you've got to do - shooting the puck on net, getting the third man high, the defensive side of the puck...there's not a lot of X's and O's when it comes down to it. When they drop the puck, it's pretty much just trying to perform and win your one-on-one battles. You know, there's some adjustment period as far as systems and stuff. It took a little bit of time, but it wasn't a lot of time like I said. I feel hockey's a simple game. You've just got to go out there and work hard and just focus on the little things and you should be alright.

Q: One of the things that stand out about you are your defensive skills; the way you guard the net and really provide an extra defensive presence as well as being a solid forward. Is that really your style; is that how you came up playing hockey?

A: I try to take pride a little bit, in trying to play defensively. I moved to the wing now too; that's the other adjustment really, because I played center for the last five or six years. All year I've been playing center and I came here and got pushed to wing, which is fine to me. It doesn't matter to me what position I play. But that was another adjustment, to move to the wing. Center's are usually more down low in their zone and stuff, so I'm more up high on their defensemen in our own zone. You've got to take care of your slot area, which is probably the most dangerous area on the ice for their team to score, so you just always try to come down and help the center and our two D in front of our net. You know, it's just as important to keep the puck out as to put the puck in.

Q: With the limited time that you've been here, is there a particular team that's impressed you as an opponent more so than any other?

A: Not really. They all seem to be pretty even, to be honest. Maybe Odessa had the most offense, I thought; maybe some individual skills. I'm trying to think of the teams I've played really, yeah, no, they all seem pretty even. It didn't seem like there was many pretty easy games. They all seemed pretty tight, you know, defensively and offensively, so I wouldn't say that there was really one team that stood out.

Q: Do you find a big difference in the physical play in the CHL versus what you experienced in Europe?

A: Yeah, just because the ice is smaller, therefore guys are a lot tighter together and you can finish your hits a lot easier. On the bigger ice, you've got to skate that much more and when you skate that much more, the guy's trying to get out of the way, basically. You know, the smaller ice has a direct relationship to more hitting.

Q: On top of the 30+ points that you put together in Europe, you've played 16 games for the Brahmas and scored 16 points, including five goals and 11 assists. Are you satisfied with what you've accomplished in the limited time you've been here?

A: I guess, you know, it can always be better. That's the way I look at it. To be honest, I thought I should have better numbers. For instance, in the last game, I was just fighting the puck. Playing the wing again, it was an adjustment there for a bit. I'm not trying to use that as an excuse at all, but it was an adjustment.

We've got a lot of good players and I just want to contribute as much as I can and I feel like we've got, here, you know, you've got Shep, you've got Deitsch, you've got Cam and you've got a lot of guys that are so good offensively that I feel like those are our big gunners now. So I just try to fill in more of a role here as maybe a defensive guy to contribute more offensively. You can never have enough depth on a team. So I just try and fill in with some depth and contribute both offensively and defensively.

Q: You were kind of robbed of an opportunity to go to the playoffs after a good season in Denmark and now you've come back to a team that is successful and heading into the playoffs; a team that very much has the talent to go all the way. What is your mindset, going into this weekend, regardless of who your opponent may be?

A: Personally, I love the playoffs. This is why you play...this is what it's all about. They don't remember the games you play in the regular season. They're going to remember the games that we play in the playoffs. I consider myself to be a guy that likes to perform in the playoffs and hopefully I can just help the team out and get some wins. That's all it's about now; it's all comes down to wins and losses. Hopefully, we can get some wins this weekend.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Sunday, March 22, 2009

He's back!

Mike Vellinga is off injured reserve and ready for the playoffs

Veteran defenseman Mike Vellinga was taken off injured reserve on Sunday and is ready to resume play as the Brahmas head into the post-season with one goal in mind - the President's Cup. Vellinga, 30, has played in 46 games this season and tallied 20 points (1 G, 19 A) and 40 penalty minutes. He played in his 700th career game on February 13th.

Vellinga will be a welcome sight back on the blue line where his experience and skill will be a factor in the Brahmas' success during the post-season run for the Cup.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Justin Kinnunen

The Brahmas All-Star defenseman talks about being selected to the All-Star game, playing in the AHL and the upcoming playoffs

Justin Kinnunen is excited and ready for the playoffs. The 6'1", 168-pound defenseman from Negaunee, Michigan has had a season full of highs and like his fellow Brahmas, is wanting to get his hands on the President's Cup.

Kinnunen played in 47 regular season games with the Brahmas this season, notching 33 points (12 G, 21 A) and 59 penalty minutes. He ended the season with a +19 rating. He tallied four powerplay goals, 14 powerplay assists, two short-handed goals and three game-winning goals. On January 3rd, he scored a hat trick on the road against the Laredo Bucks.

Kinnunen was honored with his second consecutive trip to the CHL All-Star game this past January. He was also called up to the AHL twice, playing 11 games with the San Antonio Rampage.

Now a fifth-year professional, the former Northern Michigan University Wildcat played for the Dayton Bombers (ECHL), Briancon Alpes Provence (France), the Flint Generals and the Muskegon Fury (UHL) before joining the Brahmas last season.

I spoke with Justin the other day while he was in Hidalgo, preparing for the final game of the season against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Here is our conversation.

Q: You are considered one of the league's best defensemen. Were you surprised to be nominated to represent the Brahmas in your second All-Star game this season?

A: Yeah, I was. You know, I just started playing defense. I actually grew up playing mostly as a forward. I came down to Texas last season and Dan started me out as a full-time defenseman. He really showed a lot of confidence in me and I was able to gain a lot of confidence. I'm playing more as an offensive defenseman and I guess I'm getting some notice around the league and as a result, I was able to go to two All-Star games.

Q: I've heard you described more than once as "an eagle on ice" referring to your speed and grace; have you always been a fast skater?

A: I wouldn't say I've always been faster than everybody; it just seems that I've always had a good skating form; that's what everyone has always told me, that I'm a good skater. It seems like in the last couple of years, I've even gotten better, where I'm able to pull away from guys. That's changed in the past couple of years. I don't really know how to describe it, you know, I just try and play my game.

Q: Being called up to the AHL a couple of times this season is a great honor. But I wanted to know, as a player switching between leagues, does it break your flow playing in one league, then going to another and coming back? Is it an easy adjustment going from the CHL to the AHL and back?

A: Going up to the American League, it is an adjustment; the game's a little it faster, the guys are stronger. Things happen a little bit quicker out on the ice. That's the adjustment when you're going up and then coming back, it slows down a little bit. It's nothing that disrupts your flow, I would say. But it's a great experience. I've got to thank Dan for it, because he was really pushing for me and I pretty much owe it all to him.

Q: What did you learn from last season's playoff series against Colorado and the playoffs in general that you will take with you into the post-season this year?

A: Looking back at last year, you know, we were one game away from going to the finals, and once it's over, you can't get that back. It's really do or die time going into the playoffs. Every game's got to be your best game. You've got to really prepare for each game like it's going to be your last. That's how we're going to be thinking going into the playoffs and we're going to make a good run for it.

Q: Was it helpful coming back this season with a lot of the same guys on the team as far as being able to play together and knowing each other and having gone through so much together last season?

A: Yeah, it has been for me. I'm in my fifth year now and in my first four years, I played on different teams with new faces and not really knowing anybody. So this is my first time going back to a team where I know a good handful of guys. You know, I'm a shy person, so it takes me a while to get to know guys. Coming into this year, I knew over half the team and it just made it a lot easier on me and it's a lot easier on everybody when you can look around the room and not have to meet everybody all over again.

Q: What do you think has been the biggest struggle for the D corps this season?

A: Just numbers. We've battled through a lot of injuries. You know, you're supposed to have 16 men suited up for every game but for upwards of half the season we've played with just five (defensemen). We've lost Lundberg recently and Ross Rouleau came in and he's doing a great job. It's just been numbers - we've been playing short every game. I wouldn't have it any other way, though. I like the ice time and I think a lot of guys feel the same way.

Q: One of the problems the Brahmas have had throughout the season has been on the penalty kill. Do you think that's going to be an issue in post-season play or do you think you guys can step that up?

A: Obviously, I think we can step it up. We're tweaking our penalty-killing system a little bit right now...we're trying to be a little more aggressive and giving the other team a little less time with the puck. Laredo didn't have any luck with the powerplay last night (03/19); I can't remember how it went on Wednesday. It's going to be important for us because one of the keys to our success right now, in the playoffs, is effective special teams.

Q: Now looking forward to next weekend, how pumped are you as an individual to be going back into the playoffs with a team like the Brahmas that has potential to make it all the way to the championship?

A: I'm really excited. You can see all year where we've had the team that, I've thought from day one that we had the guys here who could do it this year. I'm not saying that we didn't have it last year, but this year I'm even more excited about it. We haven't really had a low this season. Of course we've had a couple of losses here and there but for the most part, we've been playing great all season and we're looking forward to the playoffs and winning a championship.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Lundberg setting up a goal at the CenturyTel Center on February 7th

Eric Lundberg placed on Season ending IR

Brahmas defenseman unable to return from injury suffered in February

The Texas Brahmas have placed fourth-year defenseman Eric Lundberg on season-ending injure reserve, it was announced today.

Lundberg went down with a shoulder injury during during a home game against the Odessa Jackalopes on February 13th. He took a hard ride into the boards trying to keep the puck away from Dominic Leveille and Mario Joly and was placed on injured reserve that night.

Lundberg played in 39 games this season, tallying 12 points (3 G, 9 A) and 47 penalty minutes. He had a +3 rating.

The former Providence College (David Cacciola's alma mater) Friar spent the previous three seasons playing in the ECHL for the Augusta Lynx and the Columbia Inferno. He also played 27 games in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and the Albany River Rats.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Dan Wildfong

Playoff bound for the second season in a row, the Brahmas head coach talks about heading into the post-season

He's done it again. But this time he's done it better. Dan Wildfong's Texas Brahmas are heading back to the playoffs; this time as winners of the Southeast Division and the Southern Conference. With improvement all around, how do you improve upon last year's playoff run, where they came within a game of making the finals? Many have said that this team has a good chance to make it this time and now it's time to prove it.

The Brahmas enter the playoffs with the number one seed in the Southern Conference and a first round bye. They've won their division and have a winning record against every division in the league. They have a winning record against every team they may face in the playoffs (except Rio Grande Valley who they are tied with 2-2-0). They have the league's best home record at 26-5-1 and also have something no other playoff team has: Dan Wildfong.

I spoke with Dan after Thursday night's 5-0 shutout of the Laredo Bucks. Here is our conversation.

Q: With a playoff berth already established, how important are the final few games of the season?

A: Well, we talked about going into this weekend...we have to learn to play playoff hockey right now. It's not like a switch you can turn on and off. We took this weekend to play it like playoffs. We felt like we played a great game last night (@ Laredo 03/18) and two goals went in off our sticks. Not to make any excuses but that's gonna happen sometimes. I'd rather it happen now, than in the playoffs. I thought overall, we got the puck deep, we finished checks, we came back hard. We were playing playoff hockey and if we want to make adjustments, we can make them now, and not later on when you're down one or down two.

Q: The last couple of weeks, you've had players dealing with injuries and dealing with the flu bug that's been going around. It also looked like there had been a lack of team cohesiveness at times. Do you think as a team, you are past that and have the last couple of games shown you that the players have it all together and are ready to go into the playoffs?

A: Yeah. I'm excited about this team going into the playoffs. I feel like we can crank it up a couple notches when we're down a goal or when we really need to bear down, I see a lot of guys really bear down. You know, I've been around a lot of teams and I haven't seen that ability, where guys can do that, and it's exciting with this team. We have a lot of talent and if we work hard with this talent, we will go a long way. If we don't work hard with this talent, then we'll be in a lot of trouble. It's pretty black and white to me.

Q: Chris Brooks has done a very good job with Rio Grande Valley, going from the worst team in the league last season to making the playoffs this year. How do you feel about playing against them?

A: I think Chris Brooks has done an excellent job. We're going to face Corpus or them, so it's a good test to see what kind of systems they have; what kind of systems work against them. It's kind of like a prep game for us. But we have to, like I said, we can't let off the gas pedal. We've got a lot of guys that were rested and now they're healthy and they need to play high intensity playoff hockey. I like the way we played tonight and I liked the way we finished. I don't think we had too many breakdowns and when we did, Cash made big saves and Jaegs has been making big saves all year, so it's nice to see two goalies pushing each other again.

Q: Having that one-two punch with two effective goalies is something a lot of teams don't have and going into the playoffs, that may be important...

A: Oh definitely. If you have a goalie go down or you have a goalie that's not playing know, last year we switched goalies in-series and that changed the whole series. It can get into guys heads too, when they just can't beat a goalie and they try and do too many moves and we get turnovers and go the other way and score. It's important that these guys work hard in practice and it carries over to games. I think Cash is starting to learn that.

Q: The league has been putting out all their awards and the Best of the Best and all this stuff and the Coach of the Year just went to Kevin Kaminsky. Its seems like the Brahmas, although you and they have done some amazing things in the past couple of years, are being bypassed for a lot of these honors. Does that kind of thing bother you or does it not matter? Do you think that the ultimate thing to do is just go out there and win the cup?

A: Yeah, you know, I always tell young players and I'm a young coach, it's the same advice that I give to a young player. Respect is earned and I think we're taking the steps and making the building blocks to getting respect. We've got to just continue to do our things and worry about us and then once you start winning championships, and start winning on a consistent basis, year after year after year, they have to recognize you.

We're not really worried about individual awards. We're more about team here and we talk about that all the time. You find other guys on other teams who are over a point a game and they might come here and they might be a little less than a point a game just because we're a defensive-style team. It's like that with awards. It's nice to get the pat on the back the odd time, when you're deserving. At the same time, you can't worry about it. You just have to keep going and keep pushing to make this franchise the best it can be.

Q: You spoke about your excitement in taking this team to the playoffs. How are the guys feeling; what's their attitude? You're looking at it from an ex-players point of view; how do you think they are looking forward to this?

A: I think the boys are excited. They're ready for playoffs to start. I can see it in their eyes. The big thing about what we talked about tonight is we've got to go into this with a little bit of a swagger. Like we deserve to win every game; but you can't be over-confident. There's a fine line there. There's a whole big difference between being cocky and swagger. Swagger is I know what we can do and we're gonna do it. Over-cockiness is chirping and not being focused about it. I think the guys are excited and ready.

Q: Most of these guys went through it last season and made it to within a game of the finals; do you think that experience is going to be a great factor in how they look at the playoffs and how they treat each game and each situation that they're dealing with?

A: Yeah, I believe that you know, we look at last year, we had a couple of bad games right off the bat against Colorado. When you get down to Colorado, It's tough to come back. And then we played some excellent games. I think what they've taken from last year to this year is that any game, every game is important. You can't take any for granted.

Indeed, you can't take any game for granted. The Brahmas went in to their last game against the Rio Grande Valley Killer bees off the high of a strong performance against the Laredo Bucks and still lost. But like Dan said, it's best to have that happen now and not in the playoffs.

You can look at it this way, the Brahmas may not have gotten the win, but they got a fresh, first-hand look at the team that they will likely face next in the playoffs. A team that will have to fight past the Corpus Christi IceRays to get there and a team that will have to come to the NYTEX Sports Centre with little rest to face the number one seed in the Southern Conference on their home ice.

The Brahmas have all week to practice; those in injured reserve will come off, well-rested and ready to play. Coaches Wildfong and Vogel as well as the players, have two to three games to watch to prepare for their next opponent and you can bet, they'll be taking lots of notes.

It's playoff time in North Texas - The Brahmas will be ready. Are you ready?

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Ray Miron President’s Cup Schedule Finalized

Brahmas get bye, first series begins Saturday

The Central Hockey League (CHL) has released the 2009 Ray Miron President’s Cup playoff schedule for the opening round and for two of the four conference semi finals series’. In all, 10 teams qualified for the post-season with five from each conference.

The Colorado Eagles and the Texas Brahmas have earned the number one seeds in their respective conferences and will have to wait until the best-of-three opening round series’ are complete to determine their first opponents. The Eagles finished the season with 94 points winning their third Governors’ Cup (regular season championship).

The two Northern Conference series’ that are set are the #4 seed Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs versus the #5 seed Rocky Mountain Rage (the winner of the best-of-three series will face the Eagles) and the #2 seed Mississippi RiverKings and the #3 seed Oklahoma City Blazers (best-of-seven).

In the Southern Conference, the #4 seed Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees will play the #5 seed Corpus Christi IceRays in a best-of-three opening round series to determine who plays Texas and the #2 seed Odessa Jackalopes will play the #3 seeded Laredo Bucks in a best-of-seven conference semi finals series.

The opening round series schedules are as follows:

Series ‘A’ - (4) Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs vs. (5) Rocky Mountain Rage

3/23 - Bossier-Shreveport @ Rocky Mountain, 7:05pm
3/25 - Rocky Mountain @ Bossier-Shreveport, 7:05pm
3/26 - Rocky Mountain @ Bossier-Shreveport, 7:05pm (if necessary)

Series ‘B’ - (4) Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees vs. (5) Corpus Christi IceRays

3/23 - Corpus Christi @ Rio Grande Valley, 7:35pm
3/25 - Rio Grande Valley @ Corpus Christi, 7:05pm
3/26 - Corpus Christi @ Rio Grande Valley, 7:35pm (if necessary)

Series ‘C’ - (1) Colorado vs. winner of Bossier-Shreveport/Rocky Mountain

3/29 - TBD @ Colorado, 7:05pm
3/30 - TBD @ Colorado, 7:05pm

***remainder of schedule to be determined***

Series ‘D’ - (1) Texas Brahmas vs. winner of Rio Grande Valley/Corpus Christi

3/28 - TBD @ Texas, 7:05pm
3/29 - TBD @ Texas, 3:05pm

***remainder of schedule to be determined***

Series ‘E’ - (2) Mississippi RiverKings vs. (3) Oklahoma City Blazers

3/25 - Oklahoma City @ Mississippi, 7:05pm
3/26 - Oklahoma City @ Mississippi, 7:05pm
4/1 - Mississippi @ Oklahoma City, 7:10pm
4/2 - Mississippi @ Oklahoma City, 7:10pm
4/4 - Oklahoma City @ Mississippi, 7:05pm (if necessary)
4/6 - Mississippi @ Oklahoma City, 7:10pm (if necessary)
4/8 - Oklahoma City @ Mississippi, 7:05pm (if necessary)

Series ‘F’ - (2) Odessa Jackalopes vs. (3) Laredo Bucks

3/27 - Laredo @ Odessa, 7:05pm
3/28 - Laredo @ Odessa, 7:05pm
4/01 - Odessa @ Laredo, 7:00pm
4/03 - Odessa @ Laredo, 7:30pm
4/04 - Laredo @ Odessa, 7:05pm (if necessary)
4/07 - Odessa @ Laredo, 7:00pm (if necessary)
4/09 - Laredo @ Odessa, 7:05pm (if necessary)

***All times are local***

You can view the playoff brackets here

Image Credit: Central Hockey League

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brahmas stung again by the Killer Bees

Lose final regular season game on the road, 3-1

The Texas Brahmas finished the regular season with a 42-16-6 record and 90 points after being dispatched in the third period tonight by a feisty Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees squad.

The Bees end the season at 35-24-5 and 73 points (franchise record). They also finish with a franchise best home record of 21-8-3. They will host the Corpus Christi IceRays (who defeated the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in a 3-2 shootout win tonight) in the best of three series set to begin on Monday night. The winner of that series will take on the Brahmas at the NYTEX Sports Center beginning next Saturday night.

"That was an intense hockey game," Bees coach Chris Brooks told The Monitor. "Both teams played with a lot of urgency and that's what you're going to see from here on out."

It was a tough loss for the Brahmas who have now lost four of their last seven road games. A disturbing loss for the fans, who expected more from the boys tonight. But in the end it means nothing because the playoffs start a whole new season on Saturday night and that is where the results will count.

The first two frames tonight were at the same time a yawner and a good defensive match-up, although neither team was really playing that well though the first 40 minutes.

The first period must have seemed like a vacation for David Cacciola as the Killer Bees only managed five shots on goal compared to 17 for the Brahmas. There was a lot of action taking place in the Bees' defensive zone but fortunately for them, Wylie Rogers was able to make the necessary saves and send the Brahmas to the locker room scoreless at the 1st intermission.
The Brahmas went 0 for 2 on the powerplay and matching penalties led to four-on-four hockey twice in the period but again, neither team was able to capitalize.

The Brahmas began the second period with 12 seconds remaining on the powerplay but were unable to score. They got their second man-advantage at the 1:05 mark on a Cross Checking call on Kurtis Dulle and despite a concentrated effort by the Brahmas, Rogers was able to protect the net. The Killer Bees managed to close the gap on the shot count to 14-13 after the Brahmas pulled ahead again in the middle frame but could not solve David Cacciola who defended against a four-on-three powerplay in the final minute of the period.

After 40 minutes, the shots on goal were 31-18, Brahmas advantage but again, neither team was able to find the back of the net.

The four-on three powerplay continued into the third period and the Killer Bees finally managed a score (their sixth four-on-three goal this season) at the :27 mark. Nicolas Dumoulin sent in a shot from the right point. Cacciola was able to block it but Grant Goeckner-Zoeller was there on the doorstep and was able to beat Cacciola to make it a 1-0 game. Kurtis Dulle was also credited with the assist.

Texas answered just 46 seconds later as the Bees seemed to just back off and allow the Brahmas to set up their play in the neutral zone. Kevin Mcleod sent the puck in from the left boards to Jordan Cameron who scored the Brahmas league-leading 20th short-handed goal of the season. the game was now tied at 1-1 at the 1:13 mark of the third.

Greg McConnell nearly had a goal at about the six minute mark, but his shot hit the pipe.

The Bees would score again when Matt Byrnes (the Brahmas who never was) received a pass from Kurtis Dulle and jammed it past David Cacciola to make it 2-1 at the 13:18 mark. Zak McClellan was also in on the assist.

Just 74 seconds later, right wing Evan Rankin took a pass from Brent Gauvreau and swept it in front of the crease for defenseman Dan McGoff, (playing forward tonight due to Trevor Weisgerber being out) who put it past Cacciola to make it a 3-1 game with 5:28 left in the game.

Tempers flared toward the end of the period. First, Jason Deitsch got into it with Nicolas Dumoulin in front of Wylie Rogers (who decided to get involved) at the 17:58 mark. Deitsch and Dumoulin received Roughing Double Minors and Rogers received a roughing call. Shortly thereafter, a Brahma player flicked the puck into the Bee's bench in the general direction of coach Chris Brooks (there was no indication that it was intentional), who argued for action against the player, but no penalty was assessed. Then at the 19:43 mark, Greg McConnell and Jesse Perrin mixed it up near the Brahmas' bench and both were sent to the locker rooms early. They both received Fighting Majors and McConnell was given a Cross Checking call.

The game ended with the score 3-1 Bees. The Brahmas outshot the Bees 19-12 in the final frame and 50-30 in the game. Wylie Rogers stopped 49 shots to win his 18th game of the season and earned the 1st star. Taking the loss, David Cacciola's record goes to 14-7-1-3.

The Brahmas went 0 for 6 on the powerplay; Rio Grande Valley went 1 for 5.

The Brahmas were assessed 25 minutes on 11 infractions. The Killer Bees received 27 minutes on 12 infractions.

All three stars went to the Killer Bees so that's all I'll say about that.

The Brahmas return home to await the victor of the Killer Bees/IceRays series. The Brahmas first home playoff game is set for Saturday, March 28 at 7:05 PM followed by Game 2 on Sunday, March 29 at 3:05 PM.