Regular Season Standings: 3rd
Regular Season Points: 78
Regular Season Record: 35-17-2-3
The conclusion of the regular season sees the Wichita Falls Warriors finish third in the South Division, matching where they finished in their inaugural season but finishing 11 points better than the year before.
The third-place spot means the Warriors will have to play the first two games of the Robertson Cup Playoffs on the road against the 2nd placed New Mexico Ice Wolves. The other South Division match-up will see the Lone Star Brahmas hosting the Shreveport Mudbugs.
Friday Night’s Game:
The Warriors had everything to play for entering the weekend, a weekend sweep and an Ice Wolves loss would have meant home-ice advantage and the first games being played in the Kay Yeager Coliseum.
Amarillo was looking to close out their final home series by producing a win and entering the off-season on a high note.
The Wranglers would come out of the gates strong, earning the early lead. Kristaps Skrastins, their leading goal scorer, would beat Brandon Milberg on the two-on-one opportunity for his 36th goal of the season. This would be the first time the Warriors would not score the game’s first goal since visiting Corpus Christi on March 4th.
Wichita Falls would find their game late in the opening period and begin to press the Amarillo defense. In his first game back, Riley Brueck would tie the game at 1-1 by stuffing the puck past Carter Clafton for his 18th of the season.
Cade Lemmer would put home a rebound off the end boards and give the Warriors the 2-1 lead at the period’s end. Lemmer’s goal at 17:22 of the period would be his 21st of the season.
At the end of 40 minutes of play, the score would remain the same with an outstanding performance by Milberg, stopping 20 shots that period.
Philip Tornqvist would extend the lead in the third period, putting the puck in the back of the net on his deadly one-timer. The goal at 9:44 of the period would give Tornqvist 20 goals of the season and extend the lead by two goals.
The Warriors would have to defend a late-game surge from the Wranglers but would take game one of the weekend with a score of 3-1 and were on their way to that weekend sweep. Milberg stopped 34 of 35 for his 24th win of the season. Clafton for Amarillo would stop 33 of 36 and take the loss.
Saturday Nights Game:
Amarillo started the game the same way they did the night before, with an early first-period goal at the 3:16 mark. This time, it was the stick of Danylo Korzhyletskyi. The Ukrainian tallied his 7th goal of the season, and for the second time in as many games, the Warriors faced a deficit early.
Five minutes later, Lemmer was putting home a cross-ice feed from Owen Baumgartner alone on the near post. His 22nd goal tied the score at one goal apiece, which is how the period would end.
It was a significant second period for the Wranglers, scoring two goals 39 seconds apart. TJ Kofis and Tommy Chunchukov scored their first goals of the weekend to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Warriors tried to change the game’s momentum by using some physicality that would lead to penalties on both sides, slowing the game down and changing the game’s atmosphere in their favor.
Wichita Falls’s second goal of the game came courtesy of the ER-NOW Power-play, and it was a carbon copy of the first goal. Baumgartner taking the puck down the boards and found Lemmer cross-ice for the tap at 16:27 in the period. Despite being down a goal, Wichita Falls had momentum heading into the third, starting it off on the power-play.
Including the carried-over penalty, the Warriors had three man-advantage opportunities in the front half of the third period, with Amarillo holding off the league’s best power-play to one for ten the entire weekend.
It was a power-play for the Wranglers that would seal the game with a shot from the point, sailing past the net-front traffic and into the Wichita Falls net as Kyle Demarco scored his 2nd goal of the season. The Wranglers would hold on to the two-goal lead to end their seven-game losing streak.
Max Gutjahr would collect the win between the Amarillo pipes, stopping 32 of 34 shots for his 18th win of the season. Milberg would split the weekend, collecting his fifth loss in regulation as a Wichita Falls Warriors.
Robertson Cup Playoffs begin for the Wichita Falls Warriors this Friday and Saturday in New Mexico as they take on the Ice Wolves. The Warriors will be guaranteed to play at least one game in the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday, April 29th, and, if needed, April 30th for games three and four of the series. Game five will be played in New Mexico.
All games will be streamed on hockeytv.com.