Standings in the South Division: 3rd
Last Ten Games: 9-1-0-0
In the final home series of the regular season, your Warriors were able to clinch a playoff birth for the second time in the two-year history of the franchise.
The South Division is the only one in the NAHL to have all four playoff spots claimed. As points stand, Shreveport would be on the road against Lone Star as the first and fourth seed. If the playoffs started today, Wichita Falls would have to travel to New Mexico for the 2-3 seed match-up.
Associate Coach Brennan Couet shared his excitement about the weekend match-up. The Warriors had not had an opportunity to size themselves up against a playoff opponent since they’ve found their current form.
And it was a dominating night for the Warriors. Five different goal scorers found their way onto the official game sheet, starting with Joseph Harguindeguy scoring his 14th goal of the season in his 200th career NAHL game, gaining a one-goal lead before the five-minute mark had been played.
William Lawson-Body found himself with the puck in front of the Ice Wolves’ crease and beat their goaltender, Beni Halasz putting the puck into the net for a 2-0 lead 13:10 in the first period.
The scoring didn’t stop in the first period, as Lawson-Body fed a beautiful cross-ice saucer pass to Drew Vieten, who tipped the puck past Halasz and the Warriors went up 3-0, and it stayed that way until the buzzer sounded to end the first 20 minutes.
The Ice Wolves came out with some momentum to try and get back into the game, and the first half of the period went relatively quietly. A hooking minor to New Mexico’s defenseman Bradon Holt would put the league-leading powerplay back onto the ice.
Rivelli would fire a loose puck in the slot that would deflect off a stick in front and change direction into the net. Rivelli’s goal gives him ten on the season and puts the Warriors up by four goals at the end of the period.
The Warriors were content to play out the rest of the game with a 4-0 lead. Dumping the puck into New Mexico’s end and clogging the neutral zone while making the opposing team work for their chances.
Owen Baumgartner added one more goal by beating all five players on the ice for New Mexico by himself and scored his goal bar-down. His 11th of the season would be the final goal scored of the game, and it would be a 5-0 victory for the Warriors.
Brandon Milberg stopped 21 of 21 shots for his 6th shutout win of the season and his 21st win. Beni Halasz would lose his 5th start in the 6th game and could only keep out 21 of the 26 shots Wichita Falls would send to the Ice Wolves’ net.
Odessa’s loss, coupled with the Warriors dominating win, would mean that by the time the dust settled from the first games of the weekend, the Warriors claim their spot in the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Only 4 points separated the two teams for home-ice advantage, as the Ice Wolves looked to avoid the weekend sweep.
New Mexico started the game physically. Trying to knock the Warriors off their fast pace of play, they would grab their first goal of the weekend, courtesy of Nikolai Dulak mopping up the rebound in front of the Warriors goaltender at 10:05 of the first period.
Baumgartner showed off his end-to-end speed again, this time setting up a goal for Cole Teleki as he would cut to the mouth of the crease, the puck laying in the perfect position for Teleki to put it in the back of a wide-open net. 1-1 is the score at the end of the first period.
Extracurriculars ensued after the horn sounded to end the period, resulting in four different penalties given, with the Warriors starting the period on the penalty kill. Hunter Jones would not come back to the game after the first period, courtesy of a game misconduct.
The Warriors would kill the penalty successfully, and Adam Smith snaps a wrist shot that beats Ice Wolves goaltender Carsen Stokes on his glove side, and the Warriors would regain the lead at 3:32.
Wichita Falls would hold the lead until Tony Leahy pounced on an opportunity at center ice, stealing the puck off the stick of Baumgartner. He would enter the Wichita Falls zone and beat Milberg, evening the score at two goals each.
Two minutes later, Carter Korpi scored on a feed from Vincent Corcoran on a 4-on-4 opportunity. Korpi’s 13th goal would give the Warriors the lead heading into the third period.
The final frame would see the Ice Wolves push hard to even the score. The Warriors were able to fend them off for the first half of the period, but Jeff Hutchinson for the Ice Wolves would get the tie, burying his chance from the outside slot.
Both teams would get a couple of chances to end it in regulation, but 60 minutes wouldn’t be enough.
With an extra point left to play, Vincent Corcoran ended the game 32 seconds into overtime with Vieten and Harguindeguy on the ice and grabbed the assists on the goal for the weekend sweep.
Milberg collects his second win of the weekend, stopping 32 of 35 shots for his 22nd win of the 2021-2022 season. Stokes would take his first loss in overtime, stopping 23 of 27.
This weekend, the Warriors will find themselves in El Paso to battle the last place Rhinos. Catch the games live on HockeyTv with games scheduled to start at 7:00 PM Mountain Standard Time.
Written by: Scott Masom