Wranglers start strong in home opener as a new era hockey begins in Amarillo

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The Amarillo Wranglers celebrate after scoring a goal during a 5-1 win against El Paso in a North American Hockey League game on Saturday night at the Amarillo Civic Center Cal Farley Coliseum. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]

The Amarillo Wranglers couldn’t have scripted a better way to open their inaugural weekend in front of the home fans at the Amarillo Civic Center Cal Farley Coliseum on Friday and Saturday night.

Hot off a 3-1 start at the North American Hockey League Showcase, the Wranglers kept the momentum going with by stampeding past South Division rival El Paso thanks to a 4-3 victory Friday, followed by a dominating 5-1 win Saturday night.

The Wranglers (5-1 overall) earned all four points, and though it’s early lead the South Division with 10 points through six games. Head Coach Harry Mahood said it perfectly after Friday night’s win.

“You have only one chance to win the inaugural home opener for a new team”

The Wranglers took Mahood’s words to heart with a weekend sweep of the Rhinos.

The Games

Friday night’s game was a definitely a barnburner.

Amarillo goalie Max Gutjahr got the victory as his play between the pipes continues to improve while saving 28-of-31 shots.

Defensemen Bryson Russell scored two goals, one beautiful shot from the point and a nice backhander. Winger Kristaps Skrastins continued with the hot stick by scoring Friday night’s winning goal in the third period. Skrastins leads the league in scoring with 14 points and 9 goals.

Saturday night’s game was much more one-sided.

Led by the scoring of Riga, Latvia native Glebs Prohorenkovs, who had two goals, the Wranglers worries were never in doubt. With those goals, Prohorenkovs finds himself in the top 10 in the NAHL with a total of nine points and three goals.

Gutjahr (3-1) stood on his head to save 36-of-37 shots for his third victory of this young season. Penalties were held to a minimum while the team dominated a good El Paso squad.

The Team

As the Wranglers are able to train and work together, their identity is starting to reveal itself early on in the season.

A sense of urgency pulsates through the veins of these players. Whether it’s the “Shake and Bake” scoring combo of Skrastins and Prohorenkovs or the physical clinic that defenseman Aaron Chiarot put on Saturday night or the pinpoint passing from Michael Spinner, this is a team very hungry and passionate to win.

The Fights

It was comedic icon Rodney Dangerfield who once said “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.”

Saturday night saw its disproportionate share of skirmishes between both Amarillo and El Paso. I counted five and they were good, very good. The Wranglers are about blue-collar, physical hockey and that’s what happened this weekend at the Budweiser Bullpen.

Good crowds both night’s were treated not only to good hockey but some interesting skirmishes. The Civic Center was alive with passion for the sport. The new ownership group created a familiar yet fresh atmosphere for the fans. Least we not forget this team has only been together for a little over a month. Always remember that 4-of-5 dentists surveyed recommended playing hockey. I’m sure the dentists were happy with the play of the Amarillo Wranglers this weekend. From a fan’s perspective, it was a good weekend and hats off to local ownership for a job well done.

Next up

The Amarillo Wranglers hit the road for a weekend series against the Wichita Falls Warriors at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at the Kay Yeager Coliseum Fans can watch these games on https://www.hockeytv.com/home

Editors note

Please watch for Tommy Tee’s weekly column during the hockey season that bring a unique perspective covering the Amarillo Wranglers.

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