24 teams in 24 days: Lone Star Brahmas
August 31, 2013
The 24 Teams in 24 Days series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2013-14 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Friday, September 13th as eight NAHL teams take to the ice on Opening Night. 24 in 24 will go in-depth into each NAHL team and will include interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2013-14 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team. It will also take a look back on the 2012-13 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 24 in 24 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
2012-13 record: 36-22-2, 74 pts. (3rd in the South Division) (*as Texas Tornado)
2012-13 leading scorer: Brandon Hawkins (60 GP, 35G, 23A, 58 Pts, +18) (*as Texas Tornado)
2013 Playoffs: Lost to Amarillo in the South Division Finals, 3-0 (*as Texas Tornado)
2013-14 Division: South
First regular season game and home opener: Friday, September 13th vs. Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, 7:30pm
After 13 years spent playing in the North American Hockey League and five Robertson Cup Championships, the NAHL’s Texas Tornado were aquired and relocated North Richland Hills, Texas and renamed the Lone Star Brahmas over the summer. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, it was North Richland Hills and the NYTEX Centre (then the Blue Line Ice Complex) where the Tornado franchise began its first season the in the NAHL back in 1999. Since the announcement back on July 27th, the Brahmas ownership and staff has been busy preparing for their first season in the NAHL in a very short period of time.
A week later after the acquisition announcement, the team announced Dan Wildfong as the head coach. During the previous six seasons, Wildfong has been the Head Coach and General Manager for the Texas/Ft. Worth Brahmas, who played in the Central Hockey League (CHL). Last season, he was named the CHL Coach of the Year as he led the Brahmas to the teams 30+ win season and sixth consecutive postseason appearance since he took over for the 2007-08 campaign. The no-nonsense coach, who is originally from Ontario, has more than 200+ professional wins to his credit.
One of the things that may endear Wildfong to coach at the NAHL level is his own path that he took as a player. After playing junior hockey in Canada, Wildfong played four seasons of NCAA Division I hockey at Colgate University. That was then followed by a nine-year professional career, which ultimately led to coaching. “I can remember the excitement I felt playing junior hockey and the prospect of playing college hockey,” said Wildfong. “It is the first time that you really grasp the concept that you have to dedicate yourself 100% to becoming a better hockey player. Guys are learning how to train, learning how to eat the right way, learning how to be a good teammate, learning how to be away from home and learning how to play on the road during a grueling 8-9 month season. There is a lot to absorb and you learn real quick which guys grow up quick and want to dedicate themselves to being a junior hockey player.”
Wildfong said there will be a transition and difference from the pro game to the NAHL level. “There is a lot more supervision involved at this level. There will be a lot more teaching involved, a lot more structure and organization so they know what to do on a daily basis,” said Wildfong. “It is our job to layout a road map and their job to implement it and try and get there.”
The Brahmas had their main camp just a few weeks ago and have selected the 25 players they will begin the season with. Despite only a few brief meetings and on-ice sessions, Wildfong is encouraged by the group as a whole. “I think there is a lot of character and potential with the initial we have coming out of camp. I think all of them are willing to buy into what we are trying to teach and really spend the time to listen and grow and that’s what I am most encouraged about,” said Wildfong.
Wildfong isn’t starting cold turkey with all of the 25 players. Part of the acquisition of the Tornado were the rights to the veteran, tendered and drafted players. Even though the eight top scorers are gone from the Tornado roster a season ago, eight players that played with the Tornado last season will start the year with the Brahmas.
Five of those eight players are on defense, led by Anthony Mousseau, who had 17 points as an 18-year-old rookie last season and who also played in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. Joining Mousseau on defense as a returner is Donovan Gardiner, Alexey Soloviev, Nick Blase and Mitchell Mueller. Soloviev may be the most intriguing of the group as he led the Tornado in scoring in the playoffs in 2013.
Up front, the three forwards returning are Mitchell McPherson, Leo Lumm and Cameron Brown. McPherson can put the puck in the net, as he had 14 goals and 27 points last season, while Lumm chimed in with 11 points in 39 games and Brown brings a physical presense to the group, which will be needed in the South Division.
The Brahmas roster to begin the season looks like it will have three goalies on it, and they are all relatively new faces to the NAHL. Swedish goaltender Mattias Soderqvist is one of them. The 20-year-old goaltender has spent the majority of his career developing on Swedish and Norwegian teams. He spent two seasons playing in Sweden's top junior league and also has experience in the USHL. The other two goaltenders are 17-year-old Jacob Nehama, who played with the Dallas Stars Tier I 18U squad last season and Sean Keating, 19, who played for the Pittsburgh Vengeance in the NA3HL, and who has NAHL stops with both Corpus Christi and Jamestown.
“I think our goaltending and defense is going to be strong, but we are probably going to have to manufacture some goals and work hard to get those scoring chances. Our standard is to win from the start. We have high expectations from the start. We won’t accept failure and we will not make excuses,” said Wildfong. “We are going to embrace this challenge and take it head on beginning on September 13th with our first game.”
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: Michigan Warriors