22 in 22: Lone Star Brahmas
September 1, 2015
The 22 Teams in 22 Days series features a look at all 22 teams in the NAHL for the 2015-16 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 11th. 22 in 22 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 22 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2015-16 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 22 in 22 is done to provide the fans of the NAHL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Lone Star Brahmas
Head Coach: Dan Wildfong (3rd year)
2014-15 record: 40-12-8, 88 pts. (1st in the South Division)
2014-15 leading scorer: Sebastian Vidmar (80 points)
2015 Playoffs: Won the South Division, lost to the Austin Bruins in the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals, 2-1
2015-16 Division: South
First regular season game: Saturday, September 19th @ Amarillo Bulls
Home opener: Friday, October 9th vs. Amarillo Bulls
In one of the better turn around stories of the 2014-15 season, the Lone Star Brahmas were a testimonial to great coaching, unwavering fan support, NCAA advancement success, calculated and effective player personnel moves and team chemistry. After getting a late start in the Summer of 2013, the Brahmas had all season to build and gain experience with an NAHL team. Thus, the 2014-15 version of the Brahmas was one that was set up to succeed and succeed they did. After just 23 wins in 2013-14, a year later the Brahmas would win 40 games in the always-tough South Division and capture both the South Division regular season and playoff titles.
A testimonial to how good the Brahmas really were was not only their 40 wins and South titles, but they had the best home record in the league at 26-3-1. Their home at the NYTEX Sports Centre is the perfect junior hockey facility and their fan backing and support was among the best in the league. A legitimate superstar emerged in the form of Swedish-born forward Sebastian Vidmar, who not only followed up his rookie campaign with a 65-point improvement, but in the process of posting an 80-point season, also won the NAHL’s scoring title and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. On top of all that, Vidmar committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Union College for this upcoming season.
The other big step the Brahmas made was in the NCAA commitment department. A total of 14 players from last year’s team committed to play hockey at NCAA schools, with half of those being NCAA Division I commitments. Behind it all was head coach Dan Wildfong, who did such a remarkable job at turning around his team, that the rest of his peers voted him as the NAHL Coach of the Year last season.
The Brahmas were a goal away from advancing to the Robertson Cup Finals, but an overtime goal by the Austin Bruins in the third and deciding game, sent them to the Finals over the Brahmas, who would have hosted the Robertson Cup had they won. Despite the loss, Wildfong said he was happy with the progress the team made last season. “We made a lot of steps in the right direction and there is still room for improvement, but it was a big jump from where we were a year ago,” said Wildfong. “I think it helped us to have a taste of some success, so that we get a little hungrier entering this season.”
With the amount of players moving onto the next level, which also included the selection of goalie Jake Kupsky in the NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks, the Brahmas had a lot of work to do in building a roster for this season. Wildfong said that he had to start on the back end with the goaltending and defense. “That was the major area of concern because we lost both goalies and the majority of defenseman who saw a lot of playing time. I give my assistant coach Jeff Potter a lot of credit because it was a major undertaking to replace what we lost,” said Wildfong.
As of right now, the Brahmas only have four players from last year’s team returning to the line-up. They include forwards Oskar Andren (47 points), Cody Wickline (30 points), Hogan Davidson (11 points) and Peter Kessel (8 points), along with defenseman Sean Giles (6 points). The Brahmas also currently have three goalies on the roster right now, but Wildfong said that will likely be cut down to two once the exhibition games are over. “We are going to have to see who steps up, but there will be an opportunity there since both our goalies moved onto the NCAA,” said Wildfong.
Wildfong said that with the turnover with the roster from last year to this year, defending their title in the South Division becomes even more of a challenge. “The South Division is very good from top to bottom and with only six teams in the division vs. eight teams last year, we will be playing teams more and the rivalries will be enhanced. It is going to be tougher to make the playoffs. We are hoping to get off to a good start,” said Wildfong.
Wildfong said there are several goals for the team from year to year, but the bigger picture goal remains winning a Robertson Cup. “I think along the way we set up smaller goals for our team, but the bigger goal remains to develop players so that they become good enough to advance and become a unit that can win a championship. I think if your goal isn’t to win a championship, then you are in the wrong business. Part of development is teaching these players how to win and be successful,” said Wildfong.
Although Wildfong did not elaborate about any of the new players by name, he was excited about the fact that there will potentially be five players on the team who will be local players from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. “Adam Robbins helped us a lot with identifying players that may be a good fit and it just so happens they are a product of the youth hockey system in the area. I think it shows everyone that the hockey in this area is strong and provides us with an additional outlet and pool of players to evaluate and chose from,” said Wildfong.
Next up in the 22 in 22 series: Minnesota Magicians