NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — With three preseason games under the belt, the Lone Star Brahmas are looking forward to getting the regular season started.
Lone Star starts the season on the road against Shreveport, and Friday night’s game is significant beyond being the season opener: Head Coach Dan Wildfong’s jersey number will be retired.
Wildfong spent eight seasons with the Mudbugs during the organization’s WPHL and CHL days, winning the WPHL title in 2000 and 2001 and setting quite a few franchise records over the course of his career.
“I have nothing but great things to say about my time in Shreveport,” Wildfong said. “I have a lot of dear friends still there, a lot of people I respect and that taught me the game and helped me learn the game too. So I’m very honored. There have been a lot of teammates that were a big part of my success there, a lot of coaching, Musky was great, all a big part of the success we had. Our ownership was unbelievable. When we get accoladed for one award or when your name gets put up in the rafters, there’s a lot of things that have to happen. My teammates were a big part of it.”
Wildfong leads the Mudbugs in games played (488), goals (192), assists (302), points (494), and penalty minutes (1,970). With the Mudbugs now in the NAHL, where players age out after their 20-year-old season, those records will stand.
It’s fair to say that the jersey retirement is well-deserved and even overdue.
However, while Wildfong is honored to have his number retired, the focus isn’t in the past, but on the job at hand. The Brahmas are looking to go into Shreveport and leave with four points — and that’s no small feat.
Shreveport finished up their preseason slate with an undefeated record, going 5-0. In their match-up against the Brahmas, the Mudbugs walked away with a 1-0 victory. However, the key thing to remember is that preseason serves as a chance for players and coaches to shake off the cobwebs, adjust to a new team, and learn unfamiliar systems in a game situation. The Brahmas in particular iced several drastically different lineups as Coach Wildfong and Coach Hale worked all the players at training camp into at least one preseason tilt.
Now, the games start to count, and the boys are ready to go. With the Brahmas away from home until October 20th, Wildfong is well aware of the challenges ahead. “We just have to learn to play on the road. Our first twelve games are on the road so we have to embrace it, not fight it, and I think if we do that, we’ll be fine,” Wildfong said.
Veteran forward Austin O’Rourke is also well aware of what’s in store these next few weeks. “Being on the road here is tough. It’s five-plus hours to almost every place, Shreveport being the exceptions, so it’s not easy, especially for guys who have never done that before. They’ve been at home, been with mom and dad, and mom and dad got their snacks, you know, we don’t have that,” O’Rourke said.
“You’ve got to fend for yourself a bit and it’s a learning process,” O’Rourke added, “But it’s easier to win and learn than it is to lose and learn.”
This season, the Brahmas are icing a roster that’s younger than its norm, and there are bound to be some growing pains, but as with most challenges in life, it’s best to tackle things one step at a time. Right now, that step is to get into the win column this weekend against Shreveport.
Last year marked Shreveport’s first season in the NAHL, and it was an impressive one. The Mudbugs finished second in the South Division and eventually lost to the Corpus Christi IceRays in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll be looking to improve on that this season, and they’ll certainly be looking to come out of this weekend with two wins against the reigning NAHL champions.
The Brahmas should have a distinct size advantage, with some very big bodies up front. Five Lone Star forwards are at least 6-foot-4, and none of them are afraid to use their size to create space and cause some havoc.
Shreveport doesn’t quite have that sort of physical presence, but if last year was any indication, they’ll be fast, skilled, and excel at moving the puck.
Luckily, the Brahmas should be equal to the task. Their head coach certainly thinks so. “We want to make sure we just play our game. It’s a new year. We’ve got to find our own identity,” Wildfong said. “We’ve got to find who’s going to step up and who’s not and if we don’t, we’ve got to get better. It’s a process. If we embrace the process, we’ll be fine.”
If you plan to join the team on the road and witness Wildfong’s jersey retirement firsthand, make sure you call the Mudbugs Ticket Office at 318-423-7720 and ask for Hannah to discuss the special $10 ticket rate for Friday night’s game!
The puck drops at 7:11 p.m. on both nights.