BLAINE, MN – It was a great start to the season for the Amarillo Bulls following a 3-1 record at the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota last week.
After four games, the Bulls are tied for second in the South Division with the Corpus Christi Ice Rays with six points. Both teams trail the Wichita Falls Wildcats and the Topeka Road Runners who went unbeaten in the event that featured all 26 NAHL clubs under one roof.
In all four games, the Bulls scored the first goal. It is also interesting to note that when the game is tied going into the third period, the Bulls are 2-0. Derek Hills led all Bulls players at the Showcase with 18 shots on goal, while Joe Kozlak, Zack Smoot and Mitch Rogge each had 11 shots.
The Bulls began the Showcase with a 4-3 victory over the Michigan Warriors thanks to a late third-period goal by Kozlak. Goaltender Nikifor Szczerba stopped 33 of 36 shots he faced for the win. It was Kozlak’s second goal of the game. Other goal scorers for the Bulls were John Rey and Chris Cass. It didn’t take long for John Rey to go into the record books as the first ever Bulls goal scorer in franchise history as he fired the puck into the net with just over two minutes played in the first period.
In the second game, the Bulls surrendered two goals in the final five minutes of the game and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Fresno Monsters. The Bulls had built a 3-1 lead at one point in the game only to see Fresno respond with one in the second and two in the third. Terrance Johnson, Cody Freeman and Smoot tallied for Amarillo. Greg Lewis took the loss in net despite turning aside 22 of 26 shots he faced.
The final two games of the Showcase were the Bulls best work as they beat the Port Huron Fighting Falcons 4-1 and then the St. Louis Bandits 5-3.
The game versus Port Huron was a penalty filled affair with 25 power plays in total. There were also three fights. The difference in the game was the third period when Sheldon Taylor scored a key insurance goal to make it 3-1 at the time. Matt Johnson, Freeman and Smoot had the other Amarillo goals. Goaltender Szczerba was not tested that often, but came up with important stops when called upon.
The Bulls victory over the Bandits in the final game of the showcase was well played by both teams. Matt Johnson and Rogge scored goals 59 seconds apart to snap a 3-3 tie. Goaltender Szczerba was outstanding in net making some key saves. Cass, Dan McDougall and Tim Prinz also tallied for the Bulls.
Hockey returns to the Texas Panhandle in just three days on Friday, Sept. 24, when the Amarillo Bulls play their Inaugural Home Opener against the Texas Tornado at 7 pm. The first 1,000 fans will receive an Inaugural Game Puck and the night is sponsored by Amarillo National Bank. There are a variety of ticketing options to choose from, including Season Tickets, Flex Pack or Single Game Tickets. For further information please call the Bulls office at 806-242-1122 or visit www.amarillobulls.com.