From the North American Hockey League Website: www.nahl.com
Thanks to the resurgence of the Texas Tornado, the NAHL's South Division-already one of the league's most competitive division-has become that much tougher.
The Tornado have racked up 9 out of a possible 10 points in their first 5 games in Feb., including 2 victories in Fairbanks last weekend.
"Those were very important wins because it's getting close to playoff time and playing well this time is critical," said Tornado Head Coach Tony Curtale, whose team has improved to 20-19-4 on the season. "Right now, we're playing well as a team and everybody is starting to get it, which is a good thing."
The Tornado opened its weekend with a 3-1 victory over the Ice dogs on Friday night. Axel Boyer, Jack Prince (Game Winner) and Justin Jones scored the Texas Goals, and J.D. Howard pitched in two assists. Between the pipes, Dan Sullivan turned aside 30 shots. Howard struck for a pair of goals the next night as the Tornado celebrated a 5-3 triumph. Joe Adams (goal, assist) and Prince (2 assists) also fashioned two points, while Sullivan made 37 saves.
"For us, it's really a team effort and now we're starting to get contributions from a number of players", Said Curtale. "We're starting to play well as a team and a lot of players have improved over the course of the season. They're starting to contribute much more consistently and everybody is starting to get on the same page.
One Player who has delivered with consistently all season is Prince. The Tornado's leading scorer with 40 points (19 Goals) through 42 games, the 19 year old from Great Britain has solidified himself as a hot commodity in the College Recruiting circles.
"Jack will be an excellent D-1 Player," Curtale said of Prince, who played in last month's Sherwood/NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. "He has great hockey sense and a great stick, and he's getting used to the North American style and strength and conditioning to play in our league."
The same can be said for Sean Sullivan, who has emerged as one of the NAHL's top goaltenders. The 21 year old from York, PA. has now won his last 4 starts and holds an 18-18-3 to compliment a 2.97 GAA and a .914 SV%.
"I love his work ethic and how serious he is in practice," said Curtale of Sullivan, another Top Prospects Situation. "He's been the best goalie in the league all year, in my opinion, so he's been a huge part of our success."
And Sullivan is in good hands with the Tornado, especially with the list of elite goaltenders the program has developed over the years, among them are Ben Bishop (University of Maine, St. Louis Blues Draft Pick) David Mckee (Hobey Baker Award Finalist at Cornell University); Brandon Crawford-West (University of Miami of Ohio, Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Pick); Al Montoya (University of Michigan, NY Rangers Draft Pick); and Roy Vogel who enjoyed a strong minor pro career.
"The Tornado has a fantastic goalie history, and Dan is on par with those guys," said Curtale.
The Tornado have gotten a shot in the arm from a couple of recent acquisitions, most notably defensemen Ralfs Freibergs, an 18 year old Latvian who has 10 assists in his first 11 games with the team, and California native Shane Sooth, a forward who joined Texas from the USNTDP U18 Team.
"Ralphs has been huge for us; he's made an immediate impact," said Curtale. "And Shane has an injury and hasn't been able to play for us yet", unfortunately, but we expect good things from him."
And the Tornado 2nd half success should lead to good news on the College Front, according to Curtale, who's confident many of his players mettle to be impact division 1 players.
"Theres been a number of Colleges that have shown interest in a lot of our guys." said the coach. "We expect several to commit in the coming weeks."
Despite it's one year hiatus from the league last season, the Tornado continues to benefit the tremendous support from the Frisco Community.
"We got off to a late start, but people are starting to hear we're back and coming out to support," said Curtale. "The Hiatus was hard, but we're such a big part of the North Dallas Community and appreciate our longtime fans' continued support.
"It's really nice for our players to live in an area like this and to have so many loyal fans who appreciate them and I know our players certainly appreciate the fans."
"Were trying to get better in all areas," said Curtale. "I'm very happy with how the players have bought into the team concept and how hard they work."
"Now were focusing on fine tuning things to get ourselves ready for the homestretch. We'll be hard to beat in the playoffs."
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