BLAINE, MN – For the first time in six years the Amarillo Bulls have opened the North American Hockey League Showcase with back-to-back wins.
Nikita Babintsev stopped all 39 shots he faced and his teammates netted single goals in all three periods as the Bulls blanked the New Jersey Titans 3-0 at the Schwann Super Rink in Blaine Minnesota. The Bulls improved their record to 3-2 and pulled into a two-way tie with Wichita Falls for first place in the South Division. The last time the Bulls started the Showcase 2-0 was in the 11-12 season where they finished 3-0-1 nearly missing taking home that banner.
The 16-17 Bulls will look for their 3rd straight win tomorrow (Friday) night at 8:15 versus former Topeka RoadRunners’ Head Coach Scott Langer and his new team the Aberdeen Wings.
In Thursday’s game, it was the Bulls special teams that started the scoring as George Mika (2nd goal of the season) wired a power play goal past goaltender Brandon Bussi from Hayden Broomhead and Kosta Likourezos at 4:35 of the first period. That was Amarillo’s first lead since its opener on Sept. 9 in Wichita Falls.
Goaltender Nikita Babintsev held tough through the first 20 minutes coming up with some amazing stops, including a diving play across the far post. Amarillo outshot New Jersey 12-11 in the first stanza.
The Titans continued their strong play in the 2nd period pushing back the Bulls defense and creating turnovers. Babintsev provided the difference with more terrific work to keep the slate clean. The Bulls added a second goal as Likourezos (4th of the season) converted a 2-1 from Alec Truscott at 14:37. Amarillo outshot the Titans 12-11 in the second period and 24-22 overall.
It was an exciting third period with the Bulls defensive play coming to the aid of goaltender Nikita Babintsev. The Bulls blocked several shots from the blue line and quickly worked to get the puck out of the zone. The Titans pressed the Bulls with 16 third-period shots but couldn’t break through on the rookie Amarillo goaltender. In the final 66 seconds, the Bulls won a face-off in the offensive zone and Cole Lussier’s shot was deflected by Jonathan Dagnal into the net to make it 3-0. For Dagnal, it was his first North American Hockey League goal.
The New Jersey Titans outshot the Amarillo bulls 39-32. There were a combined four power plays in the game with the Bulls netting the lone marker.
Fans can tune into the game between the Amarillo Bulls and the Aberdeen Wings beginning at 7:50 pm on Friday night from the North American Hockey League Showcase with the Wayland Baptist University Warm Up Show. The puck drop is set for 8:15 pm.
Hockey returns to the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center on Friday, Oct. 14 when the Bulls entertain the Lone Star Brahmas at 7 pm. That is the start of a three game series between the two teams that continues on Saturday, Oct. 15 and concludes on Sunday, Oct. 16. Both games start at 7 pm. Tickets are available at the Bulls Office located at 301 South Polk or by calling 806-242-1122. Additionally, tickets can also be purchased at the Civic Center Box Office and all Panhandle Ticket locations including United Supermarkets or at www.panhandletickets.com.