Wranglers earn sweep of defending NAHL champion Shreveport
The Amarillo Wranglers won both games in Shreveport against the reigning North American Hockey League National Champion Shreveport with a 3-1 win on Friday night, followed by a nail-biting 3-2 shootout victory on Saturday at the George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum in Shreveport, La.
The Amarillo Wranglers play a well-balanced game Friday night. The Wranglers got off to a quick start as the league's leading goal scorer Kristaps Skrastins placed one top shelf at the 5:13 mark of the first period. The Wranglers went on to score two more goals to win a game that almost from the beginning was never in doubt. Amarillo kept penalties to a minimum. Goalie Max Gutjahr saved 36-of-37 shots in this impressive win.
Saturday night was textbook Amarillo Wranglers hockey. Amarillo was physical, played with sn edge, and Gutjahr stopped anything in front of him. Glebs Prohorenkovs scored at the 5:57 mark with a beautiful assist from defenseman Bryson Russell, to take the early lead 1-0 lead in the first period. The Mudbugs came back with two unanswered goals, resulting taking a 2-1 advantage going into the third period. Fresh off his visit and commitment to Division I University of New Hampshire, Kristaps Skrastins took a nice feed from Prohorenkovs to tie it up forcing the contest into overtime. This period saw it’s disproportionate share of chippy play and some solid defense play by Amarillo’s Michael Spinner. In the NAHL, overtime is 3-on-3 hockey for a five minute overtime period. If there’s no scoring, it goes into the much loved shootout. In the overtime period, neither team scored. So a shootout ensued going all five rounds when Wranglers defenseman Jakob Peterson fired a shot that found the back of the net for the win.
Gutjahr had another impressive outing between the pipes, as he stopped 28-of-30 shots.
Amarillo improved to 7-3-0 overall with 14 points., trailing Odessa (8-3-0, 16 points) by two points in the South Division.
Skrastins is a young Latvian hockey player who first stepped on Amarillo soil 46 days ago (as of the writing of this piece).
Up to that point he had never been to America. To say Skrastins journey with the Wranglers has been nothing short of amazing is an understatement. The following is a brief timeline illustrating Skrastins explosion within junior hockey and the Amarillo Wranglers organization.
Skrastins arrived in Amarillo on Sept. 1, at 8 a.m., at the Rick Husband International Airport.
His first meal in the USA was a hamburger from Braum’s.
On Sept. 2, Skrastins first practiced with the Wranglers.
On Sept. 14, Skrastins played in his first career NAHL game becoming the first player in league history to score four goals in his debut.
The following day, he scored three more times becoming the first player in NAHL history to ever have back-to-back hat tricks in consecutive outings.
On Sept. 24, Skrastins started gaining interest Division I college hockey programs.
On Sept. 30, Skrastins makes his first live interview on Lance Lahnert’s popular show “The Sports Drive”.
On Oct. 7, Skrastins starts making college visits.
On Oct. 15, receives an offer and verbally commits to the University of New Hampshire.
God Bless America
Skrastins opportunity with the Amarillo Wranglers has been a gift. Skrastins ability to take advantage of this opportunity is a direct reflection on who he is as a young athlete. I can’t wait to see what this young man does in the future.
The Wranglers travel to play the Lonestar Brahmas at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the NYTEX in North Richland Hills.
Please watch for Tommy Tee’s weekly column during the hockey season that bring a unique perspective covering the Amarillo Wranglers.