26 in 26: New Mexico Ice Wolves
September 6, 2019
The 26 in 26 series features a look at all 26 teams in the NAHL for the 2019-20 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 26 in 26 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 26 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
New Mexico Ice Wolves
Head Coach: Phil Fox (1st Year)
2018-19 record: Did not play
2018-19 leading scorer: Did not play
2019 Playoffs: Did not play
2019-20 Division: South
First regular season game: Friday, September 13th @ Shreveport Mudbugs
Home opener: Friday, September 27th vs. Odessa Jackalopes
Hockey is coming back to Albuquerque.
The New Mexico Ice Wolves will make their North American Hockey League debut in the 2019-20 season. The team will play out of the South Division becoming the seventh team in that division. Head coach Phil Fox and his staff have been on the recruiting trail since the spring, looking for the first crop of Ice Wolves to call New Mexico home.
The team is owned by Desert Ice Investment LLC, which is owned and operated by Stan E. Hubbard. The Ice Wolves will play out of the Outpost Ice Arenas which recently underwent a $2 million renovation that includes upgrades across the entire facility. The bleachers have been upgraded to provide premium seating, a bar rail in the expansive mezzanine and a unique set of connecting ice tunnels that will allow fans to watch from the ice during the public skate on the auxiliary rink.
“People are excited for hockey to get back to Albuquerque. For it return and to actually be in Albuquerque, people are really excited. We’re really excited to give them what they want,” said head coach and general manager Phil Fox. “The rink is coming along tremendously, it looks awesome. The logo pops, everybody likes it. We’ve been selling a lot of merchandise out of the pro shop at the rink.”
In order for his team to be successful in the South Division, Fox will look to build from the net out.
“I think that needs to be the foundation of our team, especially in the South Division. There are big goalies that are all very capable of moving up to the next level. The ones we’ve acquired I think the same,” Fox explained. “The South is a bigger, tougher division. I think after the draft, we we’re able to get some experience, speed, toughness. We made a deal in the third round to get two veteran defenseman. We’ve got a nice mix of 99s and 2000s and we’re excited for the season.”
Slated to be on the roster to start the season is goaltender Josh Graziano. From just outside of Buffalo, New York, The 6-foot-3 netminder played 16 games with the Coulee Region Chill in 2017-18 where he posted a .910 save percentage to go with a 3.21 goals against average.
On the blue line, the Ice Wolves will have veteran defenseman Keenan Johnson who has spent the last two full seasons in the NAHL with Topeka and Corpus Christi. Over that time, Johnson has played in 92 games, scoring twice and adding seven assists.
Up front, Jackson Wille has some NAHL experience as he played 23 games with the Jamestown Rebels last season. He notched a goal and four helpers.
The Ice Wolves will be bringing hockey back to a region that’s been hungry for a team to call their own. The dedicated ownership and passionate community support will help create a successful future in the desert. New Mexico will begin their North American Hockey League journey on September 13th as they’ll travel to Shreveport to battle the Mudbugs.
Next up: Northeast Generals