NA Now: Wichita Falls Warriors
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.
Wichita Falls Warriors
Head Coach: Garrett Roth (2nd Season)
2020-21 record: 56 GP, 30-19-7, 67 pts. (3rd in the South Division)
2020-21 leading scorer: Thomas Weis (45 points)
2021 Playoffs: Lost in the South Division Finals to Shreveport, 3 games to 0
2021-22 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 15th vs. Austin Bruins
Home opener: Friday, September 24th vs. Odessa Jackalopes
One of the feel-good stories of the 2020-21 season was the expansion Wichita Falls Warriors. Led by first-year head coach and longtime NAHL assistant Garrett Roth, the Warriors were just about anything but an expansion team as they were at or towards the top of the South Division the entire season last year.
Led by a group of 14 players that committed to NCAA schools, Wichita Falls finished with 30 wins during the regular season and then posted an impressive sweep of the Lone Star Brahmas in the South Division Semi-Finals. In the South Finals against Shreveport, the Warriors fell in three games against the eventual Champions, but their inaugural season was a rousing success.
For their efforts, the Warriors were recognized and awarded as the South Division Organization of the Year and Roth was named the Coach and GM of the Year in the South Division. “We wanted to create the right culture and start formulating our identity as a team right away. I think as the season went along, we made some good moves to acquire some more veteran players that helped us create the right chemistry and balance,” said Roth. “I was really proud of the way they handled the adversity throughout the season. We had a group of guys in the lockerroom that would do anything for one another, and that really said something about the type of character our players had and the culture that was established.”
Armed with that success in Year 1 and a bounty of returning players in 2021-22, the Warriors should be one of the early favorites to contend for the South Division title. Up front, the Warriors have eight returning players coming back, which includes five of the top six forwards from a year ago including Niagara recruit Drew Vieten (43 points), Joseph Harguindeguy (36 points), Air Force commit Carter Korpi (32 points), William Lawson-Body (29 points), and Lindenwood commit Adisen Brueck (27 points). Also returning up front is Ryan Robinson, Jeff Bertrand, and Peter Lajoy, a University of Denver commit.
On defense, the Warriors return Top Prospects defenseman Vincent Corcoran, who was named the South Division Defenseman of the Year during the 2020-21 season. The 19-year-old from Plainfield, IL, had 31 points in 54 games played last season. “Vincent is going to be our captain and a guy we will rely on to be that leader on and off the ice. We are excited for a big year out of him. He come to the rink every day and puts in the work that is necessary to be successful.” Also returning on the backend of experienced defensemen is Owen Baumgartner (20 points), Marcus Frantz (11 points), and Jack Blanchett (6 points). A new defenseman who could also make an impact is Garrett Horsager, who was an NAPHL All-Star last season.
The biggest question mark for the Warriors may be in goal. Both Owen Bartoszkiewicz and Ryan Ullan are gone, so the team is on the lookout for a couple new netminders. They will have big shoes to fill as the Warriors were 6th in the NAHL last season lowest goals against average at 2.88 per game. Currently, there are three goalies on the roster competing for two spots. They include Matthew O’Donnell, Daniel Duris, and Dane Couture. “I think right now it’s wide open and anyone’s job and I like that because it was the same thing last year and really increases the competition level. We like the group that we have here,” said Roth.
“We continued our focus on getting guys with good character for this year’s team. I think it was something that really worked well last year, so we felt that is a big part of our success. We went after some guys that were a little younger but were guys who already understand what their identities are. I think they are going to compliment our veterans and leadership group extremely well,” said Roth. “We aren’t a coaching staff that sets end of the season goals. This is a new team this year, so we want to build an identity. We have pieces from last year’s team that had success, but it’s important we focus on what is happening this year. We want to set ourselves up for long-term success. The biggest thing for us is to develop and get better every day. It takes a lot of work to get to the point where we were last season, so it’s a challenge we don’t take lightly.”