NA Now: Lone Star Brahmas
The NA Now series features a look at all teams in the NAHL for the 2021-22 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head 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.
Lone Star Brahmas
Head Coach: Dan Wildfong (9th Season)
2020-21 record: 56 GP, 38-16-2, 78 pts. (2nd in the South Division)
2020-21 leading scorer: Andrew DeCarlo (57 points)
2021 Playoffs: Lost in the South Division Semi-Finals to the Wichita Falls Warriors, 3 games to 0
2021-22 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. Minot Minotauros
Home opener: Friday, October 8th vs. New Mexico Ice Wolves
Just four years removed from their Robertson Cup title of 2017, the Lone Star Brahmas again found themselves in the thick of things during the 2020-21 season. After the 2019-20 season was canceled back in March of 2020, the Brahmas had a sense of unfinished business since they had the NAHL’s best record when everything came to a halt, so the 2020-21 season was to be an extension of that.
The Brahmas entered the 2020-21 season as the oldest team in the league, so aspirations of winning a second Robertson Cup were well within reason. The Brahmas were neck-in-neck with the Shreveport Mudbugs all season long, but a late Mudbugs surge at the end of the season meant that the Brahmas would end up in 2nd place in the South, all be it with 38 wins, which was third most in the NAHL last season.
However, another Robertson Cup would have to wait, as the Brahmas were upset by the Wichita Falls Warriors in the South Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 0. The Brahmas were outscored in the series 11-6, as they could never quite find the spark they needed to win. “Winning is tough. There is only one team happy when the season is over. Our group competed hard all year, so I was proud of them. We moved a lot of guys onto the NCAA, so we were very happy with that, because that’s one of our main goals here,” said Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong, who enters his 9th season behind the bench for the NAHL club. “We ran into a really hot team in Wichita Falls, who had an incredible first season, so credit goes to them and their staff. Their goaltending was outstanding and I think that was the difference.”
Despite the loss, Wildfong said that just being able to complete and play a full season last year was something he was proud of. “We were very fortunate as a league to play last year. I give credit to the owners and NAHL staff because they developed a plan and followed through on it and gave us a chance to play. Being one of the only leagues in North America that played a full season last year says a lot about who we are and the commitment we have towards our players.”
As for this season, the Brahmas will inevitably be younger and less experienced. They will also be a part of the now 8-team South Division, thanks to the return to the Corpus Christi IceRays and the addition of the Amarillo Wranglers and the El Paso Rhinos. “I think the addition of new teams is very exciting and good for our division. You look at what happened with Wichita Falls last year as a great example. Just because they were an expansion team, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be good. The South Division has great coaches, great owners, and a strong fanbases, so I fully expect the new teams to be very competitive. I think that whoever ends up winning the South is likely to be one of the favorites to win the Robertson Cup,” said Wildfong.
The Brahmas do return a veteran goalie in between the pipes in Graham Burke. The 6’0/165 lbs. native of Wilmington, DE, had a very successful rookie campaign last year, posting a 23-9-0 record in 37 games played. His 23 wins tied for 2nd last season in the NAHL, he ranked tied for 4th with a 2.18 goals against average, and had a save percentage of .917. “We are looking for Graham to take that next step as a goalie. I think a goalie’s second year in this league is the key one,” said Wildfong.
“Almost all of our defensive corps last year were 20-year-olds, so that was the biggest thing we had to address this off-season was replacing all of them. I also think we needed a little more depth up front, so we get some balanced scoring. You just never know until you start playing games. I think once that begins, we can properly evaluate where our strengths and weaknesses are,” said Wildfong. “We have some guys returning that were mainly role players last year, but because of that, they should know our systems really well and be able to step into more of a production and leadership role this season. We have to start winning championships again and that comes with some tenacity and grit that veteran players should be familiar with.”
Next up: Maine Nordiques