NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — The dust has settled and the Robertson Cup is resting in a place of honor inside NYTEX Sports Centre, . The Cup got here by way of a franchise record-setting 44-win regular season, a 9-2 postseason run that included five overtime wins, and a long RV trip back from Duluth, Minnesota.
The Brahmas’ path to the Robertson Cup went like this: They dispatched the Wichita Falls Wildcats with little difficulty, punctuating the end of the Wildcats franchise with a no-nonsense sweep to advance to the South Division Final.
(If the Brahmas’ overtime win in Game 3 — the first of five overtime wins during the playoffs — was a harbinger of things to come, nobody knew it yet.)
The South Division Final was perhaps the Brahmas’ biggest challenge of the entire postseason, as they ran into Corpus Christi and a red-hot goaltender in Tomáš Vomáčka. Vomáčka, the 14th-ranked North American goalie on the NHL’s Central Scouting list, came as advertised.
After falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series, the Brahmas faced back-to-back elimination games.
They won both in overtime. The second of those overtime wins was a Game 5 thriller in which the score was 0-0 by the end of regulation. Forward Troy York was the one to finally break through, sending the Brahmas to Duluth when he sniped a perfect saucer pass from Carson Kelley past Vomáčka for the win.
In Duluth, the Brahmas drew the Midwest Division’s Janesville Jets as their semifinal match-up. The series pitted the Jets’ run-and-gun offensive style against the steady defensive system that had worked for the Brahmas all year, and while the Brahmas swept the best-of-three set, both teams acquitted themselves well.
Game 1 was (of course) won in overtime — Drake Glover scored his second OT goal of the playoffs to give the Brahmas a 1-0 series lead. He came through again in the very next game. With the game tied at 1 with under two minutes left, it looked like the Brahmas were headed into yet another overtime contest.
Glover made sure that wouldn’t happen, as he deflected a Jakub Meliško point shot past Janesville’s Jake Barczewski for the Brahmas’ second power play goal of the game and the win.
That gave them a day of rest while the other semifinal matchup reached its conclusion, with the Aston Rebels edging out the Aberdeen Wings in three games. That day off served the Brahmas well, as they were fresher during the one-game Robertson Cup Final.
One of Lone Star’s biggest strengths throughout the year has been their incredible shot suppression, and that played out significantly during the championship game. Goaltender Max Prawdzik was terrific, but credit where credit is due — the team allowed just 17 shots on goal in 60 minutes.
Prawdzik stopped all of 17 shots en route to his third shutout of the playoffs, outdueling the NAHL Goaltender of the Year and NAHL MVP in Mareks Mitens in the opposing crease.
As the clock ticked down on the final seconds of the Brahmas’ season, the players stood poised with one of their legs flung over the boards, ready to fling off helmets and gloves in celebration.
After the Brahmas iced the puck with 4.7 seconds left, the faceoff came back to the defensive zone. That was maybe for the best — the players on the bench would have less distance to travel to celebrate.
David Marabella won the last faceoff of the Brahmas’ season. Captain John Zimmerman was the last Brahma to touch the puck, as he flung the puck off the glass and out of the zone.
Before the buzzer even sounded, Zimmerman’s gloves and helmet were flying into air. His teammates followed his lead, and the ice was soon littered with discarded gloves, sticks, and helmets as the team celebrated Lone Star’s first NAHL championship.
If any team was going to reach heights the Lone Star Brahmas never had before, it was going to be this one.
In a season full of highs and lows (but mostly highs), the Brahmas finished on the highest possible note.
There are an abundance of players moving on after this season (12 twenty year-olds are ineligible to return, four players have a chance to move to the USHL, both goaltenders will be going to school in the fall). Maybe it was lightning in a bottle. One thing is for sure — this was a special group.
The Brahmas are already searching for the next batch of champions with their Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago. Before turning the page on the season, though, we should take a moment to celebrate everything this team has accomplished.