NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — After taking three points in Shreveport to kick off the season, the Brahmas headed to Blaine, Minnesota for a packed NAHL Showcase schedule.
With four games in four days, the schedule is a grueling one. All the same, with all 23 NAHL teams in attendance and a record-setting 350 scouts moving from rink to rink, the showcase is an excellent opportunity for players to be seen by NCAA and professional organizations.
While the Brahmas’ overall results may not have been quite what they hoped, there were plenty of encouraging signs for a young team looking to nail down their identity.
September 20: Brahmas vs. New Jersey Titans (0-1 SO Loss)
- Goaltender Mitchell Gibson continued to shine, posting his third straight shutout to start the season. He made 30 saves during regulation and overtime, but ultimately suffered a shootout loss.
- New Jersey Titans goaltender Brandon Perrone may be familiar to Brahmas fans — he played for the Texas Brahmas in the NA3HL in 2015-16.
- Once again, the Brahmas struggled to get on the scoreboard despite some high-quality chances.
- The Lone Star penalty kill excelled again, killing all five New Jersey Titans power plays.
September 21: Brahmas vs. Brookings Blizzard (1-3 Loss)
- The Brahmas suffered their first regulation defeat of the 2017-18 season at the hands of the Brookings Blizzard.
- Benjamin Beck made his regular season debut in net, making 23 of 25 possible saves.
- Brahmas veteran Justin Addamo snapped the Brahmas’ scoring drought with a nifty backhand off of a rebound.
- The Brahmas’ special teams were, as usual, a mixed bag: The power play was unsuccessful in two attempts, but the penalty kill remained perfect.
September 22: Brahmas vs. Minnesota Magicians (3-2 Win)
- The Brahmas picked up their first win of the NAHL Showcase, finally getting Mitchell Gibson some goal support.
- In search of some offense, Head Coach Dan Wildfong put an old line from last season back together, and it almost immediately paid off. Early in the game, Austin O’Rourke scored from Julian Biondo and Aidan Spellacy to give the Brahmas their first lead of the Showcase.
- Trevor Zenas picked up his first goal of the season on a long range shot from the blue line that fooled the Magicians goaltender.
- The penalty kill unit only needed to be deployed once this game and did not give up a goal.
- The power play once again struggled, even giving up a shorthanded equalizer to the Magicians with under two minutes to go in the game.
- Luckily, this game featured some late heroics for the Brahmas. Defenseman Kyle Hallbauer, who was excellent all weekend, came through big in the final seconds of the game. A shot from the top left circle from Hallbauer found its way to the back of the net after a few deflections courtesy of Michael Montambault and Jared Domin.
September 23: Brahmas vs. Philadelphia Rebels (3-4 Loss)
- The final game of the Brahmas’ showcase slate featured a rematch of last year’s Robertson Cup Championship Game. Of course, the high turnover rate in junior hockey means that both teams were fairly different from the ones that hit the ice this past May.
- Ajay Fernandez made his first regular season start for Lone Star.
- The Brahmas did not get off to the best start, as some blown defensive coverage on the first shift of the game led to a quick 1-0 lead for the Rebels.
- Andy Willis finally got the Brahmas power play on the board. Drew Lennon also scored with the man advantage later in the game, giving Lone Star their first two power play goals of the season.
- Down by two goals in the third, the Brahmas had a controversial no-goal call go against them, as Aidan Spellacy carried the puck into the offensive zone, took a shot, and collected his own rebound for a wraparound attempt. Jared Domin crashed the net and appeared to poke the puck across the goal line, but the officials called off the goal.
- Julian Biondo cut the lead in half late in the third, but it would be too little too late for the Brahmas, who dropped the game 4-3.
Overall, the Brahmas showed some promising signs. The penalty kill was a plus (as it usually is), while the power play needs some tweaking. The youth of this year’s team compared to last year’s seemed to come into play, but more experience in the league will only lead to a more consistent performance in the long run.
In addition, the Brahmas certainly had their bright spots during the howcase. Goaltender Mitchell Gibson boasts a 0.48 goals against average, a .978 save percentage, and three shutouts in his four starts this season. He has not lost in regulation.
20-year-old defenseman Kyle Hallbauer has also been excellent through the first six games of the season. At times, it felt like Hallbauer, who plays on both special teams units and was often double-shifted during even strength play, never left the ice.
Forward Aidan Spellacy was noticeable on the ice all week as well, buzzing around the net and playing a high-energy game as well as coming up with some big shot blocks on the penalty kill.
The Brahmas play the Amarillo Bulls on the road this weekend. Puck drop for both games is at 7:05 PM. Make sure to watch on Hockey TV and follow along on our social media.