Amarillo’s Jase Sofo leaves the ice with an injury during the Wranglers game with Corpus Christi over the weekend. [Photo by Lo Co Photography]
The Amarillo Wranglers moved into first place in the North American Hockey League South Division by sweeping the Corpus Christi IceRays over the weekend at the Amarillo Civic Center’s Budweiser Bullpen.
Friday night’s game saw another exquisite performance by goalie Max Gutjahr in a 3-0 shutout victory. Saturday night saw the completion of the sweep as the Wranglers doubled up Corpus Christi, 4-2, to remain unbeaten at home in their inaugural season.
Friday night’s crowd at the Budweiser Bullpen were treated to some shutout hockey by the league’s most victorious goalie Max Gutjahr. Gutjahr registered his first blanking of the season, and the first shutout victory in Wranglers history.
Amarillo got on the board with Jakob Peterson’s goal at the 9:29 mark of the first period. Nikolas Campbell added to the advantage lighting the lamp with just seven seconds remaining in the first period giving the Wranglers a 2-0 lead.
Dominick Schimizzi scored his fourth goal of the year with a top shelf goal in the second period. That was all the scoring in this game as the Wranglers defense took charge, led by newly appointed captain Michael Spinner.
Gutjahr was perfect for the night stopping all 32 shots in front of him to register his 11th win of the season.
Saturday night’s game saw a chippy and chirpy IceRays team. Gleb Prohorenkovs started off the scoring at the 16:03 mark in the first period for the Amarillo Wranglers, as he created a turnover deep in the IceRays zone to score his seventh goal of the year.
Schimizzi then notched his fifth goal of the season at the 3:46 mark in the second period. Kristap Skrastins, fresh off his signing with Division 1 University of New Hampshire hockey program, scored his 14th goal of the season on a power play to push Amarillo’s lead, 3-0.
Corpus Christi did score two goals in the third period, but had to pull its goalie late in the third. Amarillo took advantage as Prohorenkovs scored an empty netter that gave him his eighth goal of the season.
Wranglers closed the win, 4-2, giving Amarillo (14-5-0, 28 points) the top spot in the South Division. Gutjahr was stellar once more, stopping 28-of-30 shots to register his league leading 12th win of the season.
Hockey is a beautiful sport
Hockey is a beautiful sport but can also be very ugly. Friday night fans saw a perfect example of this.
Around the 10 minute mark in the second period, Wranglers defensemen Jase Sofo took a checking from behind hit into boards that could be heard in Hereford. Sofo was hit in the head with such force that caused a deep laceration. As Sofo got up helmet-less with blood gushing from above his left eye, he skated to the bench leaving behind a trail of blood that was visible throughout the Amarillo Civic Center. The entire crowd could see the severity of the injury. Sofo is a character young man, and his character was on display during this unfortunate incident. Recognizing that this wasn’t your average injury, Sofo left the bench to receive some much needed stitches. While in the locker room receiving his stitches, he was asked to come back out to the ice to show the officiating crew the extent of the injury. Sofo, without hesitation went back out to the ice, displayed to the officiating crew this awful injury in an attempt to change a minor penalty into a major penalty to help his team. Unfortunately, the referees did not see it that way and Sofo was left with numerous stitches over his swollen shut eye. The league must do a better job in protecting these men relative to head injuries. This was an egregious major penalty that basically was allowed. Sofo is expected to make a complete recovery.
NAHL Player of the Week
Amarillo has seen its disproportionate share of NAHL Star of the Week this season. This inaugural year has seen some exceptional play by many players. Latvian phenom Kristap Skrastins has won this honor twice this season, as well as Star of the Month. On Monday, it was announced that Wrangler goalie Max Gutjahr is the NAHL’s Star of the Week. Guthjahr leads the league with 12 victories and a GAA (Goals against average) of 2.45. Gutjahr has had a resurgence in his career under the guidance of head coach/ general manager, Harry Mahood, and assistant coach, Cody Gylling. Mahood calls it the “Goalie World” protocol and has seen success at all levels of hockey including the NHL. Congratulations to Max Guthjahr on his much deserved award.
The Wranglers will be on the road in El Paso for a pair of NAHL South Division games Friday and Saturday.