With 19 games remaining in the 2009-10 season, the Texas Brahmas are still in a major fight for position in the upcoming playoffs.
The numbers one and two spots in the Southern Conference are pretty much already decided. The Odessa Jackalopes have first place and the league’s Governor’s Cup all but won with a 36-7-4 record and 76 points. The expansion Allen Americans appear to have a lock on second place with a 31-10-3 record and 65 points. They host the Tulsa Oilers tonight at the AEC.
The race for third place is the big story, with the Brahmas up against the Laredo Bucks. The Brahmas have had a tenuous hold on third place for the better part of the season but with Tuesday afternoon’s (controversial) 4-3 win over the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, the Bucks have not only caught up to the Brahmas in games played (45) but they’ve also taken over the third slot with a one point lead (52 points).
Here’s what Bucks head coach Terry Ruskowski had to say about tomorrow night’s game:
“It’s a very tough place to play. It’s a small building, a cramped building, an older building, and it’s a tough place to play against them. What we have to do is weather the storm right off the bat because I know they’ll be coming out strong. Weather the storm, then get back into what we have to do to be successful and take the puck to them as much as we can and try to force them to make errors. And obviously when we do get opportunities, because we don’t get many good opportunities there, when we do get opportunities, we have to make them count.”
Also, regarding the starting goaltender: “I would probably would go with (Kevin) Desfosses on Friday…”
Side note: DesFosses is 9-7-1 this season with Laredo (and Corpus Christi, where he started the season). He earned a win the last time the Brahmas and the Bucks played, stopping 37 of 38 shots in the 3-1 Laredo win on January 29th.
Thanks to Joy Lindsay of the Laredo Morning Times for those quotes.
We all know both teams had had their share of struggles this season. Injuries, roster changes, inconsistent play, you name it, they’ve dealt with it.
The two teams will meet on Friday night at the NYTEX Sports Centre and for the Brahmas, no cliché intended, it’s a must win. An overtime or shootout will result in another tie for third between the two teams, while a regulation win will put the Brahmas back ahead by a point.
Side note: The Brahmas are 15-5-1 at home this season.
Here’s the thing - whoever holds third place at the end of the season avoids the three-game opening round and instead will likely play a seven-game series against the Allen Americans. The Brahmas and Americans split wins in the pre-season and are 3-3 in the regular season. The Americans will visit NYTEX on Saturday night and the Brahmas will travel to the Allen Event Center on Monday for an afternoon game (1:00 pm start).
Side note: Neither team has won in the other’s building thus far.
A playoff round between the Brahmas and Americans would be beneficial obviously to the teams but also to the fans considering the short travel time between each rink. In addition, it would be a great way to cap off the intense rivalry that has developed between the two teams.
Back to the must win thing. The Brahmas last 19 games look like this:
11 home games remaining (seven conference games) - Three against Laredo, two against Allen, one each against Wichita, Odessa, Bossier-Shreveport, Corpus Christi, Missouri and Rapid City.
Eight road games remaining (three conference games) – Two against Rapid City and one each against Allen, Bossier-Shreveport, Corpus Christi, Wichita, Laredo and Mississippi. None of it looks easy.
You can’t even count the Wichita game as a sure win because, well, there are no sure wins, but this is a new Wichita team playing for respect in their new building.
Obviously, every point counts but taking back third place in the South and holding on to it is crucial. No one wants to see the Brahmas have to take on either Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi in the first round.
Friday night is the first game of the rest of the season. Be there. Be loud. Believe.
Photo Credit: Robert Keith