Thursday, April 30, 2009

In case you missed it...

Here is Dan Wildfong on XM/Sirius Radio

Texas Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong appeared as a guest on Hockey This Morning XM and Sirius Radio 208 with host Scott Laughlin. Here is a transcript of his appearance.

Q: The Ray Miron President's Cup is up for grabs now in the championship series of the Central Hockey League. Texas beat Colorado by a score of 5-3 last night and the Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong joins us here this morning. How are you doing Dan?

A: I'm doing great, how are you doing?

Q: Great. I appreciate your time. Now tell us about last night's victory - two goals in a 12 second span, 3 for 7 on the power play - I guess that'll work for you, eh?

A: Yeah, you know, we got down 3-2 going into the third and the boys, we could've quit, but they just continued to keep pressing and we got a couple of quick goals which really sparked us and we got one late, so we'll take them any way we can get them at this point of the year.

Q: Well I know Dan, that you knew the opposition, Colorado, pretty well from your time in the Northern Conference last season but you met Colorado only once in the regular season this time around. I guess the logical question is, was it difficult to prepare for a team like the Eagles?

A: Obviously when you play a team a lot in the regular season, you get a little more read on their power play/penalty kill but my assistant coach, Ron Vogel and myself, we did a lot of research on the past couple of games, watching tape and calling other coaches, trying to get tendencies, but at the end of the day, it just comes down to the players reading and reacting as well. So, I thought our players did a good job. The first game, it's nice to get that first win but we've got to do a good job in the next game as well.

Q: Now you lost to Colorado last year in game seven of the conference finals. Are you using that as a motivating factor? I mean, do you remember that feeling from last year; it's not a good feeling to have, but do you find that the players are remembering last year as a motivation this time around?

A: Yeah, definitely. We had 11 players last year that got put out by Colorado. We felt like our first couple of games, we kind of just sat we had a few meetings before our series here started . We really wanted to stress how important every game is and every shift is and how important it is for us to get off to a good start and not sit back. They've got a great team over there; we know that, but we have a great team as well and we can't sit back against a good team. You've got to blast through them and that's what we tried to do.

Q: Dan, what about the contribution of your fourth line or the fans, let's say. I know that there was at least one sports bar down there in Texas last night where they gathered last night to watch Game One of the series. Can you talk to us about the support that you've received from the fans down there in Texas?

A: It's just been outstanding. I think they had at least two or three hundred people at Zuroma's; it's a little sports bar at our rink there and it was just outstanding to have so much support from our fans. They're part of the reason why we have such a good record at home, because of all their support. We are very happy that we have great fans that support us and are willing to go to a sports bar to watch us perform while we're on the road.

Q: We've got about a minute left here Dan. I just want to ask you, the American Hockey League is adding a franchise in Austin, Texas for next season. Is there any downside to this because the Dallas Stars really helped put hockey on the map down there in the Texas area - you guys are playing your part as well. Is there any downside to Austin getting a team or is this all positive?

A: No, I think it's only going to help. It's great that Austin has an American League franchise. We're the closest AA team to Austin, so, I know they're going to be affiliated with Iowa as well as a AA program but if they need emergency guys, we could send guys up to them. I just think that the more hockey we have down here, it's only going to make it better for hockey in the South and in Texas. You know, the Star, I think they were really looking for an affiliate last year that would help them and having an affiliate next year, I think will really help them in developing a lot of their players.

Q: Dan, thank you very much for your time. It's always a pleasure to catch up with you. Best of luck to you in game number two tomorrow night.

A: Thanks, I really appreciate it.

Q: That's Dan Wildfong, the head coach of the Texas Brahmas. They are up 1-0 in their series against Colorado. Game Two going tomorrow evening and the Texas Brahmas looking for their first ever Central Hockey League Championship.

Image Credit: Texas Brahmas/XM and Sirius Radio
Dan Wildfong on Hockey This Morning with Scott Laughlin

Listen on XM and Sirius Radio 208

Dan Wildfong will make national radio airwaves tomorrow morning on Hockey This Morning on XM and Sirius Radio 208 with host Scott Laughlin at 9:45 AM.

This will be coach Wildfong's second guest appearance on Laughlin's show, the first coming in November. Topics of discussion will focus on the Brahmas road to the CHL Finals and their series against Coloroado for the Ray Miron President's Cup.

Please set your alarms and tune in to hear the candid interview between Coach Wildfong and hockey expert Scott Laughlin tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM (CST).

If you do not have satellite radio, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial on the internet and listen in on your computer. It's quick and easy and can be done here

Photo Credit: Hockey This Morning

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship Series

Brahmas win Game One at the Budweiser Events Center 5-3

It was a frustrating night for 5,289 Colorado Eagles fans this evening at the Budweiser Events Center as the Texas Brahmas took Game One of the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship Series. It was huge win for the Brahmas who were certainly the underdogs coming into tonight's game, on the road and playing in one of the toughest barns in the league. The victory also marked Dan Wildfong's 100th win as head coach of the Brahmas.

"I don't know if it was our best game," Wildfong said. "I thought we shut it off really well and then we kind of got away from some of the stuff that's been working for us. But you know, when we got down, I thought the guys all stuck together and didn't quit. A lot of teams would have shut her down. We drew a penalty and Tyler gets a nice goal on a feed from Kevin McLeod and ties it up and then Shep gets his big goal and Cam gets the big goal. It was a good job. It wasn't the best game in the world, but it was a good character game."

The Brahmas controlled the tempo of the first period, controlling the action in the neutral zone and keeping the Eagles in their defensive zone for much of the first ten minutes. The Brahmas got the first power play of the game, courtesy of a interference call on defenseman Jason Beatty at the 3:09 mark but were unable to capitalize. Colorado continued to struggle and it was six and a half minutes into the period before the they were able to get their first shot on goal.

A second call on Beatty, this time for tripping, led to the first score of the game. Just 30 seconds into the power play, Mike Vellinga sent a low shot in that ended up bouncing outside the crease, long enough for Grant Jacobsen to set up Tyler Skworchinski, who sent the puck past Andrew Penner at the 11:09 mark for the 1-0 lead.

The Brahmas' first penalty of the night was called on Scott Sheppard for slashing and set up Colorado's first power play of the night. Left winger Kevin Ulanski would score the equalizer, after Riley Nelson threaded a pass from the left circle to Ed McGrane at the point. McGrane's low shot was stopped by Brett Jaeger, but Kevin Ulanski was right there to get the rebound and send it in just 48 seconds into the man-advantage at the 15:22 mark.

The Brahmas went on their third power play of the evening after Steve Haddon was called for hooking with just under three minutes left in the period. Following a face off in the left circle, Greg McConnell sent a shot from the left point that was deflected by Matt Quinn, who had positioned himself in front of Andrew Penner. Quinn's shot went in and the Brahmas re-took the lead with just two seconds left on the advantage.

After 20 minutes, the Brahmas led the shot count 13-11, went 2 for 3 on the power play and went into the locker room with a 2-1 lead. The Brahmas are now 8-0 when scoring first and 9-0 when leading after the opening period in the postseason.

The Eagles had time left on a power play to start the second period, but the Brahmas PK was able to mitigate. at the 8:05 mark, Mike Vellinga was called for hooking after Greg Pankewicz put on a weak performance with a spin to the ice after getting an incidental tap on the ankle from the Brahma defenseman's stick. But Panks got a surprise when he was also sent to the box for diving. There was no score on the four-on-four play.
Later, after center Adam Hogg was called for holding, the Colorado penalty killers were able to tie the game up again with a short-handed goal by Steve Haddon. Kevin Ulanski sent a pass from below the goal line to Haddon, who was making his way down the slot. Haddon's initial shot was stopped by Jaeger, but he was able to get the rebound before two Brahmas defenders could react and put it past the Brahmas' goalie at the 12:52 mark.

Colorado played a lot better in the middle frame but their frustration built as the period progressed because they were unable to build any momentum off of Haddon's goal. Although they controlled the remainder of the period, out-shooting Texas 10-1, they were unable to beat Jaeger on several scoring opportunities.

The Eagles would lead the shot count 13-12 in the period, but after 40 minutes the Brahmas still had a 25-24 shot advantage and the game remained tied 2-2.

Colorado took their first and only lead of the game at the 2:01 mark of the third after Kevin Ulanski took the puck down the left wing and circled behind the net avoiding defenseman Nathan Saunders. Ulanski made his way into the right circle and sent his shot past Jaeger to make it a 3-2 game. Scott Polaski was credited with the assist.

Down, but not out, the Brahmas re-gained the lead with a pair of goals, just 12 seconds apart.

The first came on the power play after Brett Hammond was called for high-sticking Kevin McLeod. 15 seconds later, McLeod sent a beautiful pass from the right point to Tyler Skworchinski, who crashed the left side of the crease and tapped the puck past an out of position Andrew Penner to tie the score 3-3 at the 5:44 mark. Jordan Cameron was also credited with the assist.

Then, after Jason Deitsch won the ensuing face off, Scott Sheppard took a feed from Brandon Benedict and worked the puck down the right wing all alone, placing a slap shot into the top right corner of the Colorado net for the game-winner at the 5:56 mark.

The Brahmas would add another goal at the 16:10 mark when Jordan Cameron's shot went into the Eagles' net after hitting Jason Beatty's skate.

Colorado led the shot count again in the third period at 10-8 and managed to take a 34-33 lead in the game but Brett Jaeger remained strong in net and the Brahmas held onto the two-goal lead to win the game 5-3.

Jaeger stopped 31 of 34 shots and remains at the top of his game with nine post-season wins, a 1.95 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Andrew Penner ended the night with his third playoff loss with 28 saves on 33 shots.

"I think Jaegs played well," Dan Wildfong said. "He made some big saves. I can't really fault him on any goals. That's all you ask from your goaltender, you know, to make big saves when you need him to. I'm sure if you would ask him, he would say he would want to work on a few things, but he's done a good job."

The Brahmas were assessed 10 minutes on five infractions. Colorado was assessed 16 minutes on eight infractions. The Brahmas went 3 for 7 on the power play. Colorado was held to 1 for 4.

The 3rd star went to Scott Sheppard, who had the game-winning goal tonight. The 2nd star was awarded to Colorado's Kevin Ulanski who two goals and an assist to lead the Colorado effort. The 1st star was awarded to Tyler Skworchinski, who had two power play goals on the night.

You can view the box score here

In the history of the CHL, the team that has won Game One of the Finals has gone on to win the Cup 15 of 16 seasons. Let's hope that holds true as the Brahmas head into Game Two on Friday night.

Game Two is coming up on Friday night with an 8:05pm CST start. The legue has said that the game will not be broadcast on Nifty-TV due to the broadcast by the television on the Altitude Network. If that holds true, fans can listen to the game here

Photo Credit: Reporter-Herald/Christopher Stark

The Central Hockey League's Bob Hoffman responds

Complaints about the Playoff schedule are addressed

After receiving several complaints from Texas Brahmas fans about the schedule for the President's Cup series, the CHL's Director of Communications, Bob Hoffman sent the following in an e-mail.


Recently, you expressed your displeasure with the CHL Playoff schedule between the Texas Brahmas and the Colorado Eagles. I wanted to take the time to address your concerns and explain the process that led ultimately to the schedule selected. Many factors were taken into account and many doors were opened to try and find a better solution for the Brahmas but in the end securing a weekend date for them for the finals was not possible.

Contributing Factors:

-As it has been in all past seasons, the higher seeded team (Colorado) gets to present their preference of home dates which are weighed more heavily than the preference of the lower seeded team (Texas). Colorado, selected Wednesday, April 29th and Friday, May 1st which was far from unreasonable due to the conclusion of the Conference Finals series. This eliminated any chance to play on Saturday, May 2nd in Texas due to potential travel issues.

-The Brahmas and their fans have enjoyed four Saturday home playoff games, one Friday home playoff date and one Sunday. In review of the past 10 years of the President's Cup Playoffs, no team has had such a favorable weekend schedule through the first four weeks of the playoffs.

-The Eagles and their fans had played just one weekend home date (Fri/Sat) through the first four weeks of the playoffs.

-The finals series (no matter who the Colorado opponent was) had to end by May 10th because the ice is being removed from the Budweiser Event Center (BEC). Add into the equation that the BEC is not available on Saturday, May 9th, the only two days available for games 6 and 7 were Friday, May 8th and Sunday, May 10th.

-This left the Brahmas with the dates of Sunday, May 3rd through Wednesday, May 6th to play three games.

We do not play favorites in any aspect of our business practices as many of you have indicated. That simply would not be good business as our concerns are with the fans and teams in each of our markets. When dates cannot be worked out between the preferences of the two teams, the league has to go by what is written in the by-laws in conjunction with the building availability. If the exact same situation as detailed above had occurred in reverse, the Brahmas would have been given the other dates and it would be the Eagles fans we would be sending this response to.

We do appreciate the Brahmas 10+ years in the league and the loyal fans that have supported them and the league throughout that time but seniority does not play a role in what team is seeded where and what a building has available. Being the best team through a 64-game schedule has to mean something and has to afford some privilege.

After this process, we are confident that everything was done to provide the best possible dates for the series, and understand that it will not be popular with everyone when we don't have complete building availability in each market.

Good luck to both the Brahmas and Eagles as them embark on what should be a very memorable President's Cup Finals series!

Bob Hoffman
Director of Communications
Central Hockey League

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009 President's Cup finals predictions

...from Rajan's blog

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times' Greg Rajan, uber-blogger extraordinaire (and the man who taught me that it is polite to give an attribute to a "borrowed quote") has posted a thread on this blog, In the Crease with predictions on the outcome of the upcoming President's Cup Championship.

Looks like the majority of his celebrity respondents think the Colorado Eagles will win it all but here's who thinks the Brahmas will win it and why:

They have three solid lines that can match up with Colorado's three lines, they have solid D from one through six, and a goaltender who can steal games for them. They have to find a way to get to Penner early in games and get him off his game. It is going to be a great series no matter what, though.

- Jason Baird, ex-Corpus Christi forward: Texas in 6

This series should be one of the better series of this year's playoffs, as both squads are very capable of winning it all. Last season these two teams gave us a very exciting conference finals, with the Eagles eventually winning in seven games. Ultimately, I think it's the Brahmas' year.

The Brahmas have three players who spent time in the AHL this season, with Scott Sheppard, Jason Deitsch, and Justin Kinnunen. Deitsch could have easily scored 30 goals in the CHL this season had he played more games here.

The Bucks saw Brett Jaeger seven out of eight games in the season series with the Brahmas this season. He was outstanding. I believe that he will carry Texas past Colorado, along with the defensive core that the Brahmas have.

For the second straight season the Eagles will see an opposing team raise the Cup in their building.

- Bryan Benway, Laredo Bucks broadcaster: Texas in 6

Both teams are solid from top to bottom with very good goaltending, but I think if Texas can steal one of the first two games in Colorado they will be in the driver's seat for this series. I didn't see Colorado play this year, but if they don't win both at home to begin with they will have a difficult task ahead of them going into the NYTEX.

- Jay Hardwick, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees defenseman: Texas in 6

Colorado obviously has the best goaltender in the CHL, but Texas seems to be pretty well-rounded and does not take a lot of penalties. I think they will sit back and let Colorado take the roughings and slashings and try to cash in on the power play. On the flip side, I do not think this Colorado team has the killer instinct or is nearly as physical as previous teams.

- Joel T. Lomurno, Wichita Thunder general manager: Texas in 6

I haven't seen Colorado play this year and I just think Texas will win every game in their barn -- The Shoebox -- and I think they're more than capable of stealing one, if not two, in that rink in Colorado. It's hard to believe there's a team deeper than Texas. If there is, then I'll be wrong and Colorado will win. Texas is the deepest team I've played in a long time in terms of having three good lines, six solid D and two good goalies. And there's the advantage behind the bench with ex-Corpus Christi goalie/enforcer Ronnie Vogel.

- Adam Powell, Corpus Christi IceRays forward: Texas in 7

All season, Texas passed the "eye test" with me. Whenever the Brahmas came to Oklahoma City, I came away more impressed with them than when they entered. Goaltender Brett Jaeger has been outstanding in the playoffs. I would venture to say he hasn't had a letdown yet. He gave up five goals in a 7-5 win, but that was after it was 6-2. When it's mattered most, he's been on.

And there's something to be said about Tyler Skworchinski. Sometimes, a player just has a magical run. From Jason Deitsch to Scott Sheppard (my MVP) to Justin Kinnunen, too many weapons for Colorado to contain.

The Eagles have had a great season, and I expect at least a couple of these games to see overtime and maybe even a second or third extra session sprinkled in there.

- Robert "The Boneman" Przybylo, The Oklahoman: Texas in 6

I was surprised to see them go seven with Odessa, but that's playoff hockey. Both teams are so good at home and should make for an interesting battle on both surfaces. I just think Texas is too good at home and they seem to be so much more determined to prove something this year. Both teams are deep and have strong goaltending, but I think Texas has that X-factor going for them with someone on that team always stepping up offensively and I think the finals will come down to special teams. I have to root for my ex-teammate Vogs too!

- Justin Quenneville, Corpus Christi IceRays captain: Texas in 6

They're big, have good speed and clog the neutral zone well. I know I have not played them this year, but I am familiar with Colorado. I think their skilled players will have a tougher time against Texas. If Texas lets it get to Game 7, then I think Colorado takes it.

- Chris Richards, Corpus Christi IceRays forward: Texas in 6

I think a lot of the players in Texas have never experienced a championship and that will motivate them to play the best that they can to win. I really feel they are evenly matched in talent and size, My feeling is whoever wins in the opponent's rink will have a good chance of winning the championship. It is very hard to play in both teams' buildings and especially difficult to play and win in a small building like the one in Fort Worth.

- Terry Ruskowski, Laredo Bucks head coach: Texas in 7

Wildfong will not allow himself to be beaten by Colorado two years in a row.

- Steve Schuster, Wichita Thunder broadcaster: Texas in 7

I think Texas will win because I think they are stronger throughout their lineup. It's tough to say since I haven't seen Colorado, but I know Texas will be ready for whatever they throw at them!

Kris Tebbs, Corpus Christi IceRays goalie: Texas in 6
2009 Ray Miron President’s Cup Championship

Texas Brahmas vs. Colorado Eagles – Series Preview

Originally posted on and

The Texas Brahmas went on a scoring rampage in their 8-1 victory over the Odessa Jackalopes to win Game Seven in the Southern Conference Finals on Saturday night. The win matches the largest margin of victory in a Game Seven in Central Hockey League history. Tyler Skworchinski scored three consecutive goals and finished the game with a CHL record-tying six points (3 G, 3 A, +3).

Now the Brahmas will take on the Colorado Eagles for the Central Hockey League’s Ray Miron President’s Cup Championship, which begins on Wednesday, April 29th. As the Fort Worth Brahmas, the team made their only trip to a finals series in 1998, their inaugural season in the Western Professional Hockey League. They were swept in four games by the El Paso Buzzards. This is their first trip to the CHL Finals.

The Brahmas won the Southern Conference and Southeast Division Championships during the regular season posting a 42-16-6 record with 90 points, third in the CHL. They earned their way to the finals by sweeping the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees in the conference semifinals and then by beating Odessa in a seven game conference finals series.

The championship series is a rematch of last years’ Northern Conference Finals in which the Brahmas, after losing the first two games at the Budweiser Events Center, came back to force a Game Seven showdown in which the Eagles emerged victorious. Colorado was then swept by the Arizona Sundogs in the finals.

The Brahmas and Eagles faced each other only one time this season with Texas winning the game 4-1 at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

Texas will host Games Three, Four and Five in the best of seven series at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills in the 2-3-2 format. The Brahmas led the league in the regular season with a 26-5-1 home record. The home team is now 16-6 all-time in Game Sevens in CHL/WPHL history. That advantage, along with the Fourth Line, some of the loudest, rowdiest fans in the league, will surely be an asset to the Brahmas.


The Brahmas have the top three active scorers in the post-season. Jason Deitsch (F) leads all skaters with 16 points (5 G, 11 A, +7). He has the most assists (11) and power play assists (6) of any active player. Tyler Skworchinski is next with 13 points (9 G, 4 A, +7). He has the most goals of any active player and his five game-winners in the post-season are tied for the CHL record with Laredo’s Jeff Bes and the Fort Worth Fire’s Stephane Larocque. Scott Sheppard has 12 points (7 G, 5 A, +2). He has the most power play goals at four and has scored a hat trick in Game Five of the Conference Finals two years in a row.


Led by veteran team captain Craig Minard, the Texas defensive corps has been a solid unit all season long. All-star Justin Kinnunen leads all active defensemen in the post-season with nine points (4G, 5A, +5), including a power play goal, four power play assists, a short-handed goal and a game-winner. Kevin McLeod, who had 50 points (20G, 30 A, +19) in the regular season, has tallied eight points (2 G, 6 A, +4) in post-season play.

“We just have a fantastic D corps, said head coach Dan Wildfong. “They're all buying in...I could go down the list and name every guy and their attributes and how well they're doing…they’re very smart with the puck. It's hard to push them off the puck, hard to get around them. We have a lot of leaders that really want it.”

Special Teams

The Brahmas have struggled with consistency on the power play but went three for seven in Game Seven against Odessa. They have the number one penalty kill at 88.31%.


Brett Jaeger leads all goaltenders in the post-season with a 1.85 GAA and a .941 save percentage. He is tied with Colorado’s Andrew Penner with eight post-season wins and has the most playing time (648:19). He finished third in the league in the regular season with a 2.36 GAA and second with a .924 save percentage.

"He is the best goalie in the league in my eyes,” said Wildfong. “He's so calm and such a professional. He continually wants to win, he continually works at his game and he continually is so focused. If you want to be in the position we're at, you have to have good goaltending. If you want to have a chance to win a cup and you want to win the cup, you have to have good goaltending."


Many expected these two teams to play each other in the Finals since the early part of the season. Both teams finished with the best records and earned the first seed in the playoffs in their respected conferences. They are well-matched but the Brahmas remain the underdog, fighting for respect in the league. That doesn’t faze Dan Wildfong.

"If we play the best that we can, we are the best team in the league, Wildfong said. “You've got to have that heart and you've got to have that swagger. But, if we try and do too much, we're like the worst team in the league. It just has to be simple hockey for us with our game. That's Brahmas hockey."

Wildfong, who has won the President’s Cup as a player with the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, wants to make sure that his team isn’t satisfied with just making it to the Finals.

"The only thing that we'll be happy with is winning a cup,” he said. “This team is too good to let each other down and for me to let them down. Like not pushing them to get there, because we have what it takes. We've got the goaltending, we've got the D, we've got the forwards and you know, we've got our fourth line. It's exciting. It's a lot of fun."

Prediction: The Brahmas win it all in six games.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fighting words!

Kevin McLelland on the Texas Brahmas and the NYTEX Sports Centre

The Colorado Eagles Coach's Show on 107.9FM (The Bear) was a good listen on Monday night as Kevin McLelland spoke about the series against Mississippi and making it to the upcoming Ray Miron President's Cup Championship series in his first year as the Eagle's head coach. He also had some interesting things to say about the Texas Brahmas and the NYTEX Sports Centre.

I transcribed that part of the show for you to read.

Q: You’d mentioned earlier you’ve had a chance to start looking at the bios, the lineups, I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look at any of the film yet of the Texas Brahmas. A very good team; a team that’s been consistently good all season long.

A: Yeah, they’ve got a lot of talent. They’ve got two lines that can score at any time. You know, Brett Jaeger, he’s a heck of a goaltender. I saw enough of him last year in that mini-series (with Mississippi ) there where we lost to him two games to one. He had a .975 save percentage in that series and I’ll tell you what, we’ve got to get on him early and make sure that any rebounds we get because he’s down a lot. But eh, they’ve got a good hockey club; they’ve got that little rink there that is pretty good home ice advantage for them. It’s a tough barn to play in. It’s cold, it’s a little bit nasty but it’s tough to play in. They’re a good hockey club, obviously. We went in there; we lost 4-1 earlier in the year…

Q: It went pretty good though…

A: Yeah, we outshot them 48-25, something like that. You know we did enough and I watched part of that game this morning and we had all kinds of opportunities. You know, they got a few power plays in a row there to get on the board with the first goal. We’re going to have to be disciplined against this hockey club because they’re actually a little bunch of rats that run around out there, pretending that they’re going to stick their nose in there. I talked to Paul Gillis this morning and you know, got some information off him.

Q: You hear that up and down the league about how difficult a building it is to go in and play. It’s a smaller building as you mentioned. If you put the Budweiser Event Center and the Ford Center at one end of the spectrum and Amarillo , let’s say, at the other end, this place is neighbors with Amarillo . Why is it a tough building to go in for visitors to walk away with a victory?

A: It’s just small, it’s real small confines in there and like I said, it’s cold; the lighting’s not the greatest. The boards are all wobbly and half of them stick out half-way and pucks are bouncing off and the posts, they don’t even have pegs in them, you know, anytime that you get into a little bit of an onslaught, just tell the goaltender to nudge the thing off, because the net comes flying right off. So, it’s a lot of things – I don’t want to be critical. It is what it is. That’s the type of building they have…that has nothing to do with it, they’re a good hockey club.

Q: The puck bounce all over the place, I asked Hartsy if you were going to practice with tennis balls or racquet balls, just to kind of get used to it. Basically, anything goes in there and it’s funny how, for a team like the Eagles, you’re a good puck-moving team and when you get in there, you guys make some nice plays offensively and it’s so small in there, it clogs up very easily and the pucks all over the place so it’s hard to control it.

A: Yeah, it’s small. Again, for a team like us with speed and skill, it’s not the greatest environment. You’ve just got to make the adjustments. I mean, you’ve got to make sure you get pucks deep – instead of making that third pass, make sure after the second pass you put it to the net so those things don’t happen. So, there’s always ways around their rink and you know, we haven’t used excuses here all year and we’re not about to use them now. We’ll have to change our game plan, obviously, from playing in the Budweiser Events Center and then going into Texas .

Q: You brought up Brett Jaeger and if you look at Kevin Beech, who you faced in this last round, six-foot-three, a big netminder. Brett Jaeger is really the opposite. A very small guy but really athletic. When you look at attacking a bigger netminder versus a smaller netminder, what’s the difference there…I know you want to get the bigger netminder moving a little bit, how about some of the smaller guys?

A: Well I think that bigger guys have bigger pads and gloves so they fit them (laughing). You just work with what works best. The book on Jaeger is that he gives up rebounds…he’s a smaller guy, there’s going to be a lot of room over the top of his shoulders and stuff like that. But he’s like a brick wall, so you’ve got to make sure that when you have opportunities against this guy, you bury him. That’s where we made the mistake last year (with Mississippi ). We thought we had a couple of tap ins and all of a sudden, he’d come across like Superman and stop us. You know, when you get that opportunity, don’t non-chalant the puck in the net, put it right through the back of the net.

Q: Do you think there will have to be a physical tone set with this team early on? The Mississippi squad, obviously, they get down in that series three games to none and they start taking some liberties on guys. It seemed to change the series, at least in their barn and they were running around a lot more, except for when they came back to Colorado in Game Six and were minding their P’s and Q’s a little bit better…

A: Yeah, I think at the end of that Game Five there, we made a statement ourselves. Tresierra went out and fought Smyth and Beatty got in Stoddard’s kitchen a little bit and he was very quiet here, so I think we made our own statement at the end of that game. Getting back to this team here, they only have one physical guy, that Nathan Saunders. I don’t really know how gung-ho he is to go. They’ve got a lot of guys that run around and they’re going to pretend. Like I said, Paul Gillis gave me the book on them. They run around, look like they’re going to actually drop their gloves and then get out of there and try and suck us in, so that’s the thing that we’re going to have to be, is real disciplined. We can’t be giving them extra whacks and slashes and then have them going on the power play because they’ve got too much skill, so we’re going to have to be a disciplined hockey group. If some of the physicality happens, we’ve got the guys that will look after it so guys won’t take liberties on our hockey club.

Q: If you look at Texas , Jason Deitch, he’s the leading scorer in the playoffs right now with 16 points. He played up with Houston earlier this year…he’s much smaller in stature. When you played him last time, I thought the Eagles did a really good job against him. They seem to be physical early on and he was pretty quiet, but he’s one of those guys on the squad that can make things happen in a hurry.

A: He was running around a little bit at the beginning of the game there. He’s a guy that. I was reading that their goaltender got hit and he went and got an aggressor on a guy, so he’s a guy that, he’s going to be a physical guy but the guys doesn’t skate well but he’s got all kinds of puck sense and great skill, so we’ve got to watch him, but he’s going to go and run out on a guy like Schneekloth or something like that and if a guy like Beatty comes in, he’s going to high tail it the other way. You’ve got to be real careful in those situations.

After a few questions that were unrelated to the Brahmas, McClelland spoke generally about the series.

A: It’s obviously going to be a tough series and we don’t want to have a let down. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen. Tomorrow as a group, we’ll talk about it, prepare ourselves and get ready to come out strong because these series can be over in a real hurry, so we want to make sure we protect the home ice, especially going down there for three.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Insider Interview - Playoff Edition

Dan Wildfong

The Southern Conference Champion Texas Brahmas head coach talks about the series with Odessa and the road ahead to the President's Cup

I sat down with Dan Wildfong after the game on Saturday night. About a year ago, not long after the loss in Colorado, we did our first interview. I told him that I believed he would put together the team that would make it to the finals this season...and here we are, ready to face those same Eagles for the big prize - The President's Cup.

Here is our conversation.

Q: What did you say to the boys, to turn things around after Game Six in Odessa?

A: We talked about our game plan. We really focused on keeping it simplistic and what we didn't do. You know, we didn't focus on our negatives in the last game, but we focused on what we learned. We learned from the last game and we brought it into this game with what we didn't want to happen, first off; what happened last year. We wanted to be focused and we were tonight. I thought every line stepped it up and I called some guys know, I called a few guys out. So did Minzy. That's what good leaders do. He's been a great leader for us all year and he's been very vocal at times when we need to be vocal. Jay's been vocal too but Juice just leads by example and so does Cameron. We've got a good bunch of guys - we didn't need to force them.

Q: With the guys that you had to talk to, were they receptive to it?

A: Yeah. I had to call a couple of guys out this morning. When I don't feel we're playing near the's tough for me to sit out guys like Travis, who's playing unbelievable hockey for us when I've got guys that aren't playing. That was a tough decision...but the guys that sit out, they've got to know how big a part of it they are, with the depth that we have. It's tough.

Q: This was the Brahmas team that I saw tonight that could beat anybody. Was there anything that you saw that still needs to be improved upon, that will be a focus going into the championship series?

A: I just want guys to know that, you know, if we play the best that we can, we are the best team in the league and you've got to have that heart and you've got to have that swagger. But, if we try and do too much, we're like the worst team in the league. It just has to be simple hockey for us with our game. That's Brahmas hockey.

Q: Let's talk about special teams for a minute. Your PK is number one in the league, by far amongst the playoff teams remaining. Great tonight. The power play - still needs a little work. Where's your focus on special teams?

A: Um, I think we went 3 for 7 on the power play...

Q: Tonight was good, but you still need some consistency there...

A: Obviously we need work, but we're going to be playing a different team. We're going to have to switch up and change things's all about making adjustments. We're going to have to look at some tape on whoever we play and we're going to have to make the adjustments necessary to be successful with our PK and the power play. I thought our guys did a bang-up job killing penalties. Killing penalties is hard work. I thought we did it to a tee. We've got three units of penalty killers who do a great job for us.

Q: The defense really played well tonight, to say the least. What's your feeling on your D at this point?

A: We just have a fantastic D corps. They're all buying in...I could go down the list and name every guy and their attributes and how well they're doing but as a D corps, they're, you know, very smart with the puck. They protect the house quite a bit. The house is the area by Jaeger and we keep pucks to the outside. And we're offensive too. We just make smart decisions and we're a big D corps. It's hard to push them off the puck, hard to get around them. We have a lot of leaders that really want it. Our D corps is a big part of it.

Q: What can you say about Tyler Skworchinski?

A: I've got a great story - I go to Tyler today and I say "Tyler, I don't ask or pull guys out that much, but Ty, I need you tonight. I really need ya" and he goes "I'll be there" and look what he did. He just looked me in the eye and it was just an assuring "don't worry about me, I'll be OK. I'll be there; I'll do it for you." And that...he's a great kid and a great character. I just, I like the kid. Ever since we got him here, he kind of flies under the radar of a lot of players. If you look at his numbers, he's right there with everyone else.

Q: A speedy skater, like Kinnunen. Great puck-handling skills, aggressive, plays D as well as the forward could use a few more guys like him.

A: He probably gets the most ice time as a forward. He's such a well-rounded player. He's always on the D side, he always finishes his checks; he's what I'm talking about when I talk about keeping it simple. He doesn't try and do too much and that's an example to the other guys as well. His work ethic is outstanding. He just continues to do the small stuff, better than anyone else. When you do the small stuff better than your opponent, that's when you're going to be successful. I felt like Cam and Jake were struggling a little, and we threw him out there and he gave a boost to that line. They need to be a big part of us being successful and they were tonight. All three lines were.

Q: Jaeger, you know, outstanding in his position; leading the remaining goalies in GAA and save percentage. Depending on who you're facing in the championship series, a couple of other good goaltenders, but in net, you probably have one of the best, if not the best goalie in the league...

A: He is the best goalie in the league in my eyes. He's so calm and such a professional. I've never seen, you know...he just, he continually wants to win, he continually works at his game, he continually is so focused. If you want to be in the position we're at, you have to have good goaltending. If you want to have a chance to win a cup and you want to win the cup, you have to have good goaltending. We're getting that right now and it's a combination of great D and good goaltending and others who are willing to buy in...its a good team, we've got a good team. From the goalie all the way out. When we need the big save, like tonight - he stopped that semi-breakaway...that would've made it 1-1 and it would have been a whole different game.

Q: We first sat down, just about a year ago and I told you I really thought you were going to put together the team that would make it to the finals this year. Now you're here. How do you feel about it, personally?

A: I feel great. My family has been behind me. You know, they've sacrificed a lot...I just can't thank them enough. There's a lot of times, I'm at the rink and making phone calls, answering calls during supper...

Q: ...and you and Kelly just had a baby at the beginning of the season...

A: ...and there's been a lot of things that they've had to sacrifice for me to be here. I appreciate them. I feel ecstatic, because I know, they're in Shreveport right now but I wish that they were here.

Q: Well, next up is Colorado or Mississippi. What's next as far as preparations?

A: We have to stay focused. I've been here where I've won and I've been to the finals a couple of years as a player and we're so excited about just getting there; we're satisfied. This team cannot get satisfied. The only thing that we'll be happy with is winning a cup. This team is too good to let each other down and for me to let them down. Like not pushing them to get there, because we have what it takes. We've got the goaltending, we've got the D, we've got the forwards and you know, we've got our fourth line. It's exciting. It's a lot of fun. These guys have worked hard to get the opportunity to play here in Game Seven. Obviously, we're not going to have that opportunity with whoever we play if they beat us. That's why we've got to take every game. It's so important. We cannot...I feel like we maybe took a couple of games off in this series; we didn't play our best hockey. You can't in the finals. You have to play the best hockey all the time.

Q: You mentioned the Fourth Line. You haven't been here the whole time but you've played against the Fort Worth team. You've got this core group of, I don't know what it is, a thousand, maybe less people that have been going to Brahmas games, like myself, since the 97-98 season. We've been waiting for this. I think if you ask any fan, who's the one person who has made the difference, it's going to be you. I know you're a humble guy, but that's the way it is. You've brought us to this place we've been waiting for, for such a long time...

A: I'm going to have to disagree with you. I can't pick one guy out of that locker room who I can say won the game for us tonight. It's just like that with this whole organization. It's not just me. I'm just a piece of the puzzle. Obviously, we do a ton of work. You know, it might have been lacking in the past but it just takes a lot of work to build a good team like this. But it's not just me. You know, from when we hired Forbie; he was such a big help and big influence on how we did last year and that was a huge stepping block for us to be successful this year, to get a lot of the guys to come back. Ronny comes in and has done a fabulous job. Our ownership...if Stuart didn't keep this alive, I don't have a job. And then Frank and Sal come's just, it's more than just me.

There's a lot of pieces to this puzzle and, you know, it's fun. This is a fun time; it should be an exciting time for our players and an exciting time for our fans. The hard work is in the summertime getting the sponsorships, getting the season tickets sold. That's the grind time. That's when it's hard sometimes to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the fun time. This is when you go "you know what, I stayed up watching tape" or "I stayed up making phone calls", It's worth it, but I can't take the credit for this. It has to be a whole team effort. From day one, we talk about that. It's not one individual.

The Fourth Line, they're a big part of this as well, this whole atmosphere. When we first got here, there was probably a thousand fans and it looked empty. But those guys were cheering loud and it was louder than Oke City where they have seven or eight thousand. Now it just creates a culture. That's what we came here to do, is create a culture, a winning culture. Guys want to be here. It doesn't matter if we have the smallest building. They want to be part of this culture. That's what it's about - a winning culture. I feel it's been top to bottom. We still have, obviously improvements to make. I have improvements to make. But we're taking the right steps.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
It's Colorado!

Eagles defeat the RiverKings in Game 6, Advance to meet the Brahmas in the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship

The Colorado Eagles defeated the Mississippi RiverKings in an exciting 5-2 contest tonight at the Budweiser Events Center. With the win, the Eagles will advance to the Ray Miron President's Cup Championship series against the Southern Conference Champion Texas Brahmas.

A year ago, the Eagles and the Brahmas met for the Northern Conference Championship series with Colorado winning four games to three. The Eagles hosted the first two games at the BEC, winning both (4-1, 2-0). The series resumed for three games at NYTEX where the teams split wins (Brahmas won Game 3, 5-2 and Colorado won Game 4, 3-2). Everyone here remembers the Brahmas win in Game 5, a 3-2 overtime win in which Scott Sheppard netted a hat trick. Back in Colorado, the Brahmas won Game 6, 5-4 and then were defeated in Game 7, 3-2.

The Eagles went on to face the Arizona Sundogs and were swept four games to none.
This is the first trip to the President's Cup Championship for the Brahmas and the third for the Eagles who defeated the Laredo Bucks twice to win the cup in 2005 (their first season in the league) and 2007.

This season, the two teams met only once in the regular season, a 4-1 Brahmas win on February 6th.

The Eagles have the home ice advantage as the Governors’ Cup (Regular Season Champions) winner and will host the first two games. Game One will take place on Wednesday, April 29th and Game Two is scheduled for Friday, May 1st. Both games will start at 7:05pm MST and will of course be broadcast on Nifty-TV. The Brahmas watch party will be held at Zuroma's Sicilian Cafe at the NYTEX Sports Centre beginning at 6:00pm on both nights.

Game three at the NYTEX Sports Centre is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 3rd at 3:05pm. Games Four and Five (if necessary) will be held the following week. The Brahmas will host up to three games and then if necessary, the series will resume in Colorado for up to two more games.

I'll be putting together a series preview soon. In the meantime, get ready for some exciting championship hockey as your Texas Brahmas make the run for the cup!

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Southern Conference Finals
Game 7

After the game...a few minutes with Ron Vogel, Tyler Skworchinski and Scott Sheppard

After the win on Saturday night, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the players, coaches and owners of the Texas Brahmas. Here are a few short interviews done that evening.

Ron Vogel

Q: What made the difference tonight versus last Thursday’s game?

A: The guys came with determination. They knew what it took to win and they did it. They came through; they did all the little things better than Odessa did tonight. They worked hard and they earned everything they got. The score – pucks were going in because they worked hard and they earned it. The guys played unbelievably. They played our systems; everyone bought in. We had 18 guys out there on the ice tonight and guys in the stands. Everybody bought in to what we were talking about. They got the job done.

Q: You’ve put in a tremendous amount of work here since you’ve come on board and you’re a very well-regarded assistant coach here in the league. How do you feel personally about where you are now?

A: It’s unbelievable. I can’t thank Fonger enough for the opportunity to do this. You know, he’s worked hard and he’s a great guy to learn from. We’re excited. We’ve got four wins left to raise that cup. It’s going to be a long haul and it’s going to be a tough road ahead but we’re up for the challenge.

Tyler Skworchinski

Q: You had a tremendous performance tonight – how do you feel about it?

A: I’m pretty happy about it. I thought all of the guys played really well tonight. As a team, we came out and did what was necessary to get the job done.

Q: You set a great example with your work ethic, both on and off the ice. What are your thoughts on your own work ethic and the reality of having that to get to where you are now?

A: It’s like I’ve told you before, I developed that ethic in college. In order to play, I had to work hard the entire time and it just carries over. When I go out there, I just try to work as hard as I can. I’m not the most talented guy. We have some talented players. I just try to earn everything I get and just try to go out there and lead by example by my work ethic and never giving up on anything.

Q: Two seasons in to your pro career and you’re going to a championship series. How do you feel about it?

A: Oh, just excited. You know, we were so close last year and we’ve been thinking about it all year, in the back of our minds. We wanted to get back there. Going in, I think we played a good game tonight. Hopefully we’ll be able to carry it over to the next series. I think we’re excited to have the chance to get that cup. I think you’ll see the guys put everything out there for the next series.

Q: There are two different Brahmas teams that we’ve seen. There’s the one we’ve seen in the last two games in Odessa and the one we saw here tonight. The one we saw tonight has really been around most of the season. This is a team that can win a championship; it probably doesn’t matter who you play. How do you feel about these guys?

A: That’s a tough question. Sometimes we don’t show up and when you don’t come out to work, we lose hockey games, plain and simple. We’re a very talented team, like tonight, when guys come out and are committed to what they’re doing, we’re a tough team to beat. I think now, guys kind of realize we got lucky a couple of times here and we got a win or two that we shouldn’t have gotten. I think now that we’re going for it in the finals, hopefully we won’t see guys take games off and I think you’ll see a pretty determined team.

Scott Sheppard

Q: How do you feel about tonight’s game?

A: Well, you know, it’s what we played for all year. I think everyone stepped up tonight. Still, I think it was the first time in this series where we played a full 60 minutes and look at the outcome.

Q: It was definitely a big difference from what we saw on Thursday night in Odessa, a 180-degree change. What made the difference?

A: You know, were back on home ice. We played well here all year. The main thing was to come out and get the first goal. We knew that Toivonen has been battling a knee problem. We just wanted to get under him and we did that and we got the win.

Photo Credits: Robert Keith

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Southern Conference Champions!

Texas Brahmas rout Odessa 8-1, advance to 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship Series

Originally published at and

Tying the the Central Hockey League record for the largest margin of victory in a Game Seven, the Texas Brahmas advanced to the Ray Miron President’s Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history with an 8-1 victory over the Odessa Jackalopes on Saturday night.

Tyler Skworchinski earned the hat trick, scoring six points (3 G, 3 A) on six shots, tying the CHL Playoff record for points in a game. His teammate Scott Sheppard tied the league mark a week ago in Game Five with a four goal, two assist performance. Skworchinski's second goal of the game would prove to be the game winner, giving him five in the post-season (he had all four GWG’s in the semifinal series against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees). He is tied with the Laredo Bucks' Jeff Bes (2006) and the Fort Worth Fire’s Stephane Larocque (1997) for the most in a single playoff season.

The Brahmas controlled the tempo of the game right from the start. It was a 180-degree turn-around over their performance in Odessa last Thursday night.

"We talked about our game plan, we talked about keeping it simple," Head coach Dan Wildfong said. "We didn't focus on our negatives in the last game, we focused on what we learned from that game and we brought that into this game. I thought every line stepped it up."

Tyler Skworchinski netted his first goal of the night at the 7:43 mark of the first period. Grant Jacobsen's pass to Jordan Cameron gave the Brahmas their first chance at a score, but Odessa Goaltender Juha Toivonen was ready and blocked Cameron's shot. Skworchinski swooped in and took the rebound, beating Toivonen before he could reposition himself to make the save.

Later in the period, Odessa defenseman Ryan Palmer was assessed a double-minor for roughing and interference after a huge hit on the Brahmas' Matt Quinn. Skworchinski would score his second goal at the 17:44 mark, capitalizing on the man-advantage. Jordan Cameron and Mike Vellinga were credited with the assist.

The Brahmas outshot the Jacks 15-8 in the opening period and led 2-0 after the first 20 minutes.

The second period began with the Brahmas on a five-on-three power play due to penalties on Dominic Leveille (slashing) and Russ Moyer (cross checking) in the final two minutes of the first frame. Moyer quickly re-entered, but the remaining man-advantage proved costly as Tyler Skworchinski netted his third consecutive goal for the hat trick at the :39 mark. Jason Deitsch and Justin Kinnunen assisted.

Brahmas all-star defenseman Justin Kinnunen scored his fourth goal of the post-season, giving the Brahmas a 4-0 lead at the 9:30 mark with a little help from Skworchinski and Grant Jacobsen on the assist.

Odessa head coach Paul Gillis pulled Toivonen and sent in Jeremy Symington to try his luck at stopping the Brahmas' onslaught. Despite the change in net, it only took the home team 15 seconds to score on the fresh goalie as Matt Quinn, assisted by Pete Rouleau and Nathan Saunders, scored his first goal of the night at the 9:45 mark.

Less than three minutes later, the Brahmas found themselves back on the power play after Odessa's Mike Lesperance was called for slashing. 50 seconds later, defenseman Kevin McLeod made it a 6-0 game when his shot caught an out-of-position Symington off-guard. McLeod was assisted by Grant Jacobsen and Tyler Skworchinski.

After the Brahmas' Matt Quinn was called for tripping, Odessa went on the power play and scored what would be their only goal of the evening when Kenny Bernard's shot made it over Brett Jaeger's shoulder to make it a 5-1 game at the 16:57 mark. Russ Moyer and Philippe Plante assisted.

The Brahmas outshot the Jacks 13-11 in the middle frame and led the shot count by 28-19 after 40 minutes.

In the final period, Jason Deitsch would score goal number seven for the Brahmas at the 3:55 mark, after receiving a feed from Tyler Skworchinski. Less than three minutes later, Matt Quinn would net his second of the game, giving the Brahmas a final score of 8-1, with the assist coming from Pete Rouleau and Greg McConnell.

Odessa led the shot count in the final period at 12-9 but the Brahmas led the count in the game 37-31. They have not lost a playoff game this year in which they led the shot after 60 minutes.

After the game, Tyler Skworchinski spoke about the opportunity to play for the President's Cup.

"I'm excited...we were so close last year. We've been thinking about it all year in the back of our minds, wanting to get back here. I think we played a good game tonight and hopefully we'll carry the momentum forward. We're excited for the chance to get that cup and I think you'll see the guys put everything out there for the next series."

Brett Jaeger earned the win, stopping 30 of 31 shots faced. Jaeger leads the remaining active goalies with a 1.85 GAA and a .941 save percentage. He also leads in playing time (648:19) and wins (eight).

The Brahmas went three for seven on the power play. Odessa went one for five. Texas was assessed 27 minutes on eight penalties. The Jackalopes received 30 minutes on 11 penalties.

The 3rd star was awarded to Grant Jacobsen who had three assists on the night. The second star went to Matt Quinn who scored two goals and the 1st star was earned by Tyler Skworchinski with his six-point performance.

You can view the box score

You can view my photos from the game here (not edited yet)

The Brahmas now await the winner of the Mississippi/Colorado series. Game Six is scheduled for Sunday night and Game Seven on Monday (if necessary). Colorado currently leads the series, three games to two.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

"There is no tomorrow. Our backs are against the wall just like their backs are against the wall. It’s going to be a dogfight.” - Dan Wildfong

It all comes down to tonight

Southern Conference Championship Series
Game 7

"Just one game, one night, perhaps one singular moment, that can define an entire season or career with everything on the line." - Lee Scheide

Here it is, the culmination of everything that the Texas Brahmas have worked for this season. It all comes down to tonight's performance, where the winner gets to advance to the Ray Miron President's Cup Final against either Colorado or Mississippi, and the losing squad sits back in reflection of a season that ended far short of the ultimate goal.

42 wins in the regular season. Seven playoff wins. Just one more needed.

Texas and Odessa have split the best of seven series, three games apiece with the Brahmas winning two of three at home. Despite losing Game Six, the Brahmas have proven to rise to the occasion as they are 2-0 in games following losses in the series against Odessa.

This is the Brahma's second consecutive game seven to decide a conference final. Last year, they lost to the Colorado Eagles by a score of 3-2 in the Northern Conference Finals. The big difference this season will be that the game is at the NYTEX Sports Centre where they went 26-5-1 during the regular season and are 4-1 in the post-season. In the history of Game Sevens, the home team has gone 15-6.

However, visiting teams have captured three of the last four Game Seven wins.

Odessa’s lone Game Seven experience in the playoffs came in 2001 where they defeated the El Paso Buzzards 5-2 in Odessa while part of the WPHL. Tonight will be their first Game 7 since joining the CHL in 2001. Game six winners have a 7-14 record in Game 7.

In their 11th season, this will be the first Game Seven the Brahmas have ever hosted.

Let's look at a few (remaining team) post-season stats:

Jason Deitsch leads all forwards in scoring with 14 points (4 G, 10 A, +6). He also has the most power play assists (5). Scott Sheppard is in second place with 12 points (7 G, 5 A, +1). He also has the most power play goals (4). Tyler Skworchinski still has the most game-winning goals (4).

Brett Jaeger has the best GAA (1.94) and save percentage (.938). I'm not including Tyler Sims because he's only played in two games. Jaeger is tied with Odessa's Juha Toivonen and Colorado's Andrew Penner for the most playoff wins at seven apiece.

On special teams, the Brahmas have the best penalty-kill (88-89%). They are third in the power play (15.63%). Odessa is fourth at 8.63%.

The Brahmas are undefeated when leading after one or two periods. They are also undefeated when they outshoot their opponent.

Let's have some fun tonight. If you go home without a voice, you are a true Brahmas fan!

Metro Sports Channel 185 on Time Warner Cable will be on hand for the game to film and air Game Seven beginning on Sunday morning.

The opening face off will be at 7:05pm and the game will be broadcast on Nifty-TV. You can listen on Internet radio here

Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Southern Conference Finals
Game 6

After the game...a few minutes with Dan Wildfong

There are a lot of places I would have rather been after the game on Thursday night instead of outside the visitor's locker room at the Ector County Coliseum. Yeah, it was a somber place to say the least. Once Dan emerged, we went into his office to talk about the game. Here is our conversation.

Q: Obviously a tough loss to take; what are your thoughts on the game?

A: We're extremely disappointed in, not everyone's effort, but some guys' effort. When you have a chance to go to the finals and you don’t perform to the best of your ability, it’s very frustrating as a coach and as players who worked their tails off to try and get there. They’re not just going to give us a game. We didn’t put enough pressure on their goalie, we didn’t shoot enough and we tried to make too many cute plays. It's about doing the little things better than everyone else and we didn't do it. We tried to do too much and we waited until we got down a goal to get going. It was embarrassing.

Q: Both teams are now facing elimination. What will it take to advance?

A: You never want to go to a game seven. We experienced it last year and it was definitely heartbreaking. I hope these guys learned from last year so we can take that into this game. Its just, there has to be desire for that 2nd, 3rd and 4th effort and tonight, I didn't see it. I saw a first effort, which even still, had a pretty good game, but that's not going to do it against a good team. It's not going to do it against a good goaltender. It's not going to do it to get to the finals. The hockey gods don't let you into the finals by just letting you in, by going through the motions and first efforts. It's about who really wants it. Who wants to dig deep to get it done.

Q: Going into game seven at NYTEX...

A: It definitely gives us an advantage, you know we played pretty well there all year. But it’s game seven. There is no tomorrow. The way our backs are against the wall just like their backs are against the wall. It’s going to be a dogfight. It's going to be like I told you before, whoever wants it more, and that's what it's going to be. Whoever wants it more. It has nothing to do with bounces or luck, you make your luck. You make your bounces, you make things happen out there.

Q: How are you feeling right now, personally?

A: It's just very frustrating. I thought we were ready to go this morning. I thought we were prepared. We come in between periods, yelling at the guys to get team going. Still, I don't think I did a good enough job of kicking them in the a@! enough. It's not right for our fans and all the hard work our ownership has put in, for us not to be ready for game six. So, it's disappointing.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Friday, April 24, 2009

Philippe Plante watches as Paul Kelly's shot flys past Brett Jaeger

Jackalopes remain alive, force Game 7

Shutout Brahmas 2-0

Faced with possible elimination, the Odessa Jackalopes rallied on home ice on Thursday night to shut out the Texas Brahmas 2-0, forcing a game seven showdown for the Southern Conference Championship. The winner will advance to the Ray Miron President's Cup Final against either Colorado or Mississippi. Odessa goaltender Juha Toivonen earned his second shutout in the series, stopping all 25 shots faced.

Toivonen continued in net even though he was in obvious pain after sacrificing his body in order to make several huge saves in the middle period.

"I wasn't coming out," Toivonen told the Odessa American. "These are the games that you want to play in and I wanted to stay out there. The guys were playing well in front of me and that gave me confidence. Now we play one game for everything."

Odessa out shot the Brahmas in the first period 14-8 but were unable to solve Brahmas goaltender Brett Jaeger.

Odessa’s Paul Kelly would score the game-winner at the 11:00 mark of the second frame. The play began in the right corner of the Odessa zone where defenseman Garrett Gruenke took control of the puck and passed it to Kelly who made his way across the neutral zone to the right point. Kelly then evaded a Brahmas defenseman and skated to the left across the Texas zone, sending his shot from the left hash mark over Brett Jaeger’s right shoulder.

Thus far in the series, the team who scored first went on to win the game. This much was true as the remainder of the game became a battle for control of the puck with Odessa forcing the Brahmas to play much of the rest of the game in their defensive zone. The Brahmas out shot the Jacks 14-7 in the second and managed to hit the post twice, but could not beat a red hot Toivonen.

The third period remained scoreless until Brahmas coach Dan Wildfong pulled Jaeger in favor of the extra attacker. The strategy backfired however as the Brahmas were forced to defend the empty net after the Jacks gained control of the puck several times. Odessa finally scored when Jean Bourbeau’s shot made its way to the back of the net with just 5.79 seconds left in the game. Kenny Bernard and Russ Moyer were credited with the assist.

After the game, Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong was distressed by the lack of effort on the part of some of his players.

“When you have a chance to go to the finals and you don’t perform to the best of your ability, it’s very frustrating to the coach and to the players who worked their tails off to try and get there,” Wildfong said. “They’re not just going to give us a game. We didn’t put enough pressure on their goalie, we didn’t shoot enough and we tried to make too many cute plays.”

The Brahmas now find themselves in the same position they were in last season in the Northern Conference Championship against the Colorado Eagles. Only last year, it was the upstart Brahmas team that forced the deciding game, only to lose a heartbreaker at the Budweiser Events Center. The difference this time just may be the home ice advantage for Texas, where they have a 4-1 post-season record and a league best 26-5-1 regular season record.

“It definitely gives us an advantage; we played pretty well there all year,” Wildfong said. “But it’s game seven. There is no tomorrow. Our backs are against the wall just like their backs are against the wall. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

Odessa out shot the Brahmas 9-3 in the final period and 30-25 in the game. The Jacks have out shot their opponent in every post-season game thus far.

Juha Toivonen earned the victory, his second shutout in three games and his seventh consecutive win in the post-season. Brett Jaeger took the loss, stopping 28 of 29 shots. His playoff record is now 7-3.

Odessa went 0 for 6 on the power play. Texas went 0 for 4. The Jacks were assessed 12 minutes on six infractions. The Brahmas were given 16 minutes on eight infractions.

The 3rd star went to Brett Jaeger for his work in net for the Brahmas. The 2nd star was given to Paul Kelly for his game winning goal and the 1st star was awarded to Juha Toivonen for his outstanding performance.

You can view the box score here

You can view my photos from the game here

Game seven is scheduled for this Saturday, April 25 at the NYTEX Sports Centre with a 7:05pm CST opening face off.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith