Thursday, October 21, 2010

NAHL South Division Report; Amarillo taking early success in stride

Here's a look at this weeks South Division Report about the Amarillo Gorillas off to a great start as they take in a new home after being in the Southern Minnesota town of Albert Lea where they were having problem after problem with the team before they moved to the Texas Panhandle.

So far, the Bulls are tied for first in the South Division with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games and will be hosting the Wichita Falls Wildcats on Friday Night for the only game of the weekend. They hoping that they can get the win and get some help from the Corpus Christi Icerays as they will host the Texas Tornado for a pair of games this weekend on Saturday Night and Sunday Afternoon.

The top players for the Bulls so far has to be one of the top goalies in the NAHL with a solid .929 SV% and a 2.17 GAA in 12 games played this season.

As for offensive production, keep a look out for Zach Smoot who's leading the team in scoring with 14 points (6G 8A) as well as Cody Freeman who leads the team in goals right now with 7. In addition just announced yesterday that defensemen Kyle Sucher has been named on the NHL Central Scouting Watch list for 2011. Sucher is a commit to Bowling Green State University and has 2 goals in 8 games so far this season.

Here's the NAHL South Division Report by Zach Duncan

Derek Williams is a firm believer in keeping everything in an even keel. So though his Amarillo Bulls are fresh of an impressive two game sweep of the Topeka Roadrunners and are tied for the NAHL South Lead, don't expect them to be overconfident.

"It's a long season, and we'll have some highs and lows," said Williams, who came to the Amarillo Bulls after coaching at Bowling Green State Univeristy. "Whetever gets thrown at us, we just have to keep going."

Saturday Night was a perfect example of maintain composure through adversity.

After the Bulls 4-2 victory on Friday in which Dan Sherer scored twice - including the game winner with 7:15 to go - Topeka surged ahead 4-1 the next night.

But the Bulls didn't panic. When Michael Erickson scored with one second remaining in the second period, Amarillo was re-energized despite trailing by two goals.

"It gave us some life," Williams said. "In the locker room, we talked about how we've scored two goals in a lot of periods this year. We aren't going to change our game plan."

Terrance Johnson and Chris Cass responded by finding the back of the net in the final 20 minutes, and Johnson notched the difference maker in the seventh round of the shootout.

The Bulls are third in the NAHL in scoring, averaging 4.15 Goals per game. But there isn't anyone from Amarillo that's in the top 15 of the league's leading scoring leaders.

Impressive depth is the reason for that. Ten players have recorded at least 8 points, led by Zach Smoot (6G 8A) and Cody Freeman (7G 5A).

In fact, theirs not a single player on the Amarillo's current roster with plus-minus rating in the red.

"All four lines are contributing," said Williams. "I can't tell you who our #1 line is right now. We're strived for 5-on-5."

The Defense lead by captain Derek Hills, Luke Jenkins and Karl Backman, has also hunkered down, allowing just 26.42 shots per game.

Williams said that Amarillo has a good mix of veterans and junior hockey newcomers. Eight Bulls played last season with the Albert Lea Thunder, the team that relocated to Texas during the off-season.

One of those was Smoot, who Williams said he is a fast skater and good puck-handler who's elevated his game up a notch since the preseason.

Another is goaltender Nikifor Szczerba, who played in 13 games for the Thunder in 2009-2010.

"I thought at camp, he looked a little out of shape and his conditioning was suspect," Williams said. "Now's he's getting in workouts after games, going hard on a bike."

"And more and more guys are doing that. We had 12 guys doing a squat workout after Saturday's game, and that was a tough battle. "That's really nice to see."

The hard work has paid off for Szczerba, who is sporting a 9-1-1 record with a 2.17 GAA and a .929 SV% so far this season.

And it's paid off for the Bulls, who look to keep the momentum rolling Friday against the Wichita Falls Wildcats.

Here's the current NAHL South Division Standings.

1. Amarillo           13 GP   9-3-1    19 PTS     54-38

2. Texas               13 GP   8-2-3    19 PTS     52-40

3. Wichita Falls    12 GP   8-2-2    18 PTS     43-34

4. Topeka             12 GP   7-3-2    16 PTS     39-31

5. Corpus Christi   12 GP   6-4-2   14 PTS     43-45

6. New Mexico     13 GP    4-7-2    10 PTS    32-58

South Division Notebook

Corpus Christi Icerays: The Icerays couldn't extend Friday's 2-1 overtime loss to Wichita Falls into a shootout, but if they had, Corpus Christi would have had the owned the edge. The Icerays success rate of 55.6 % (10 of 18) trails only Austin as the league's top shootout team.

New Mexico Mustangs: Eli Riddle scored his fifth goal of the season on Saturday in Saturday's loss to Texas. Only two NAHL Defensemen have scored more goals, and no blueliners have a better shooting percentage then his 31.3%.

Texas Tornado: After sweeping New Mexico, the Tornado is riding an NAHL Best 6 game winning streak and is tied for the Division lead. Sean Heidrick scored four goals in Friday's 8-2 win victory, and goalie Jimmy Kruger made 26 saves in Saturday's 3-1 outcome, boosting his record between the pipes to 5-0.

Topeka Roadrunners: Daniel Dupell scored a pair of goals in Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss to Amarillo, including his league leading second shorthanded tally of the year. Topeka killed off all 17 of the Bulls power plays over the weekend, bumping it's success rate to 91.1%, which ranks third in the league.

Wichita Falls Wildcats: Tyler Green (2.46 GAA, .921 SV%) has emerged as the team's #1 netminder, starting in five of the Wildcats six last outings. His record has improved to 5-1-2 after he stopped 17 of 18 shots in Wichita Falls' 2-1 OT Victory against the Icerays.

Here's the Links to the rest of the Division Reports.

North Division, North Stars help fight Breast Cancer

Central Division, Austin Bruins continue to fight on after a slow start.

West Division

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