The Texas Tornado looked like huge underdogs as the series began as the team returned to the playoffs against the St. Louis Bandits as the 3 time champions were looking to pull off a historic 4 peat in the North American Hockey League.
However, despite just getting off 13 shots in the game and a great showing by Tornado goalie by Dan Sullivan as he made 40 saves to stifle the St. Louis Bandits.
The Tornado will be looking to make this an interesting series and possibly pull off a huge upset in the North American Hockey League South Division Semifinal Series and advance to play either the Springfield Jr. Blues or the Topeka Roadrunners to advance to the South Division Championship and a shot at making the NAHL Robertson Cup Tournament for the first time since 2006.
From the Texas Tornado Booster Club Website: www.texastornadobc.com
From Chesterfield, Missouri: In the opening game of the first round series, the Tornado saw the Bandits jump out to a 2 goal lead.
On the first, the Tornado turned the puck over deep in their own zone, Smith threw the puck at the net but it was blocked out front of the Tornado Defensemen. Unfortunately the puck went straight to Belonger just below the left faceoff circle dot and he buried a one timer.
The 2nd goal was almost a mirror image of the first. Sheehan fired a shot from the high slot that Dan Sullivan turned aside and the rebound found the tape of Smith again just below the left faceoff circle for another one timer.
Despite getting down early, Texas did not roll over and played well in the period. They pulled back within one goal at the 15:19 mark of the 1st period with a power play goal. The Tornado moved the puck well on the power play. Ralfs Freibergs moved the puck from the far point to Shane Sooth on the blue line. Sooth found James Howard in the nearside circle when he launched an absolute rocket past Bruggeman.
Shots on Goal for the first period were 11-6 in favor of the St. Louis Bandits. The Tornado were 1 for 2 on the power play while St. Louis was 0 for 1.
The Tornado were able to knot the score at two early in the 2nd after killing off 44 seconds of Bandits power play carried over from the first. The Bandits broke into the zone on a long outlet pass from Bruggeman to Quackenbush on the near boards at the Tornado blue line, but the Tornado defense managed to strip the puck and Joe Adams picked it up and carried it back down the far boards into the offensive zone. From the half-wall he bumped the puck to Nick Taurence cutting across the ice in the high slot. Taurence settled the puck, delayed for Bruggeman to bite then slid the puck under the blocker at 3:27 mark.
The Tornado then put themselves in a deep hole when Freibergs was called for holding at the same time as the team was changing and was hit a too many men penalty to put the Bandits on a 5 on 3 power play. Dan Sullivan made a couple of huge saves from point blank range to keep the Bandits off the board. Just as it looked like they were about to kill off the 5 on 3, Adams was whistled for a cross check meaning the penalty kill had another two minutes of work to do, and work they did as they killed off the two man advantage again.
The Tornado took the lead for the first time on the evening with three seconds left in the 2nd period on Howard's 2nd goal with the assists going to Sooth and Adams.
Neither team was able to score in the third period allowing Howard's game winning goal to stand up as the game winner. Official SOG for the third period was 10-3 in favor of the Bandits.
Rather then rolling over after falling behind by two early, the Tornado continued to play and responded with three unanswered goals to take game 1 of the series. Howard had two goals on the night and with both Sooth and Adams picking up two assists apiece. Sullivan stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced to pick up the game 1 win.
Texas Tornado Leads Series 1-0
Texas Tornado 3 St. Louis Bandits 2 (1-2, 2-0, 0-0)
0-1 STL: Ryan Belonger (Smith, Houston) 4:22 1st
0-2 STL: Brad Smith (Sheehan, Olszweski) 9:53 1st
1-2 TEX: James Howard (PP) (Sooth, Freibergs) 15:19 1st
2-2 TEX: Nick Taurence (Adams) 3:27 2nd
3-2 TEX: James Howard (Sooth, Adams) 19:57 2nd
SOG: TEX 13 STL 42
PP: TEX 1/3 STL 0/4
PIM: TEX 12 Minutes on 6 Penalties STL 10 Minutes on 5 Penalties
Goalies: TEX Dan Sullivan 40 SVS on 42 Shots STL Tyler Bruggerman 10 SVS on 13 Shots
3rd Star: Ryan Belonger (STL)
2nd Star: Brad Smith (TEX)
1st Star: James Howard (TEX)
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