The beginning of his second full season as head coach of the Mississippi RiverKings started with a 6-3 loss to a bulked up Tulsa Oilers, a 5-3 win over the Wichita Thunder and then a 5-2 loss to the Amarillo Gorillas. But as the original "Killer", Jerry Lee Lewis sang, "Life has its little ups and downs."
One of those ups was leading his team to a trip to the Northern Conference Finals, a brutal six-game series against the Colorado Eagles that looked like it would end in a sweep. But the RiverKings clenched their teeth and their sticks to force Game Five after a 6-5 double-overtime duel settled in the end by forward Matt Summers. Two games later, Mississippi's season was over, but Kevin Kaminsky was soon back at work planning for the 2009-10 RiverKings.
With the loss of their Northeast Division rivals, the Oklahoma City Blazers, and in fact, the loss of divisions overall, the RiverKings find themselves in a seven team Northern Conference and are almost assured a spot in the playoffs.
Dan Wildfong's Brahmas met Kaminsky's RiverKings five times last season with three home wins for Mississippi at the DeSoto Civic Center and two home wins for Texas at the NYTEX Sports Centre. The two teams will meet four times this season, beginning this Friday at the DCC. There will only be one game at NYTEX, on Saturday night.
So, it's really too early to have an opinion about either of these teams with what we've seen so far.
The RiverKings have four Returning defensemen (Landmesser, Lackner, Marshall and Simoes). Landmesser (back for his ninth season as a RiverKing) scored five points (1 G, 4 A) against the Brahmas last season. Simoes had two fights against Nathan Saunders (1-1)...expect him to go after Deitsch on Saturday (since every other thug has). Scoring machine Steve Makway is back in the turtle sweater after a season in the ECHL.
Returning forwards include Stephen Margeson, Darrell Stoddard, Adam Smyth, Matt Pierce, Matt Summers and Bobby Chaumont. Chaumont tallied five points (3 G, 2 A) against the Brahmas last season. Pierce has started the season on the 14-day injured reserve.
At goaltender, Kevin Beech returns, although he also begins the season on injured reserve. Tyler Sims is also back, but after allowing a dreadful six goals in a row against Tulsa, the Brahmas may expect to see Ray Jean in net this weekend. Jean, at 5' 7" and 175 pounds, leaves a lot of unprotected space open for scoring opportunities. He presided over the win at Wichita and the loss at Amarillo. Jean played NCAA hockey for two years at the University of Maine and two years at Bentley College. In 2007-08, he played one game for the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) and allowed five goals. Last season, he played for one game with the Portland Pirates (AHL), allowing a goal in five minutes of play. I don't want this to sound mean, but if Kevin Beech isn't healthy by Friday, the RiverKings are F*%#@ed.
So, the Brahmas haven't won a game at the DeSoto Civic Center since January 20th, 2008. The RiverKings haven't won a game at NYTEX since the day before that. So what will happen this weekend? If I had to call it, I'd say Brahmas win both games. But don't quote me on that.
Here's an interview with Killer that was Broadcast on ESPN radio yesterday:
Friday night's game will begin at 7:05CST and will be broadcast on CHL-TV. You can also listen to it on Sports56 radio here. If you didn't pay for CHL-TV, ZuRoma Bar and Grill at the NYTEX Sports Centre will host a game watching party for all Brahmas road games this season.
It will be a night of commemoration Saturday at NYTEX when the Brahmas unveil the Division, Conference and Championship banners as the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Champions. If you're not there, there's something wrong with you.
Note: Jason Deitsch will serve his one-game league suspension and will miss the Brahmas' game at Mississippi on Friday.
Photo Credit: Robert Keith
Interview courtesy of ESPN 92.9FM