New Mexico Ice Wolves (16-7-1-0, 33pts) vs. Odessa Jackalopes (15-9-0-1, 31pts)
at Ector County Coliseum in Odessa, TX
Time: 7:15 p.m. CDT
Broadcast: (Home) HockeyTV | Listen Live Here
What You Need to Know:
Season Series: 1-1
NMO: 25pts, Bentley (12g-13a)
ODA: 19pts, Goode (9g-10a)
The race for first place continues this weekend as the third-place Jacks host first-place New Mexico. Odessa may be in third place, but they are within two points of New Mexico. Amarillo is sandwiched in-between with 32 points. The Wranglers dropped out of first after not only being swept by Shreveport last weekend but also shut out both nights. The Ice Wolves and Jacks have only played each other twice and both games were decided by one goal. Every game throughout the season is important but especially towards the end. In the final eight games for Odessa, they will play New Mexico four times and Amarillo twice.
Keep The Puck:
The Ice Wolves currently have the best goalie in the NAHL. Beni Halasz (11-4) leads all goalies in goals-against-average (1.85) and is tied for third in save percentage (.926%). Halasz is also tied for first with the most shutouts so far by a netminder (3). When Odessa traveled to New Mexico almost two months ago, Halasz did not take the ice for either game. The Ice Wolves have allowed the fewest goals in the entire NAHL this season (58). They also have the best goal differential in the South (+20). Odessa knows how to score though as they are tied with Wichita Falls and New Mexico for the most goals in the division (78). The Jacks have not been shut out all season, whereas the Ice Wolves have been held scoreless only once (Oct. 9, 4-0 vs. Lone Star). Halasz won his last two games (4GA) as the Ice Wolves swept the Brahmas last weekend. Alex Proctor is ranked 11th among goalies with a 2.45GAA. His .924SV% puts him in a tie for sixth. He is also tied for fourth in wins with 12.
New Mexico has 10 players that are in their last year of junior hockey. As for Odessa, they have six players. Six of the top-10 scorers for the Ice Wolves will age out after this season. The Jacks only have three players in their top-10 that are playing in their final year at the junior level. This is New Mexico’s third year in the NAHL, but they are certainly off to a much better start. The Ice Wolves have finished second-to-last in the South the last two seasons.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ice Wolves (F: #18 – Dillan Bentley)
The Peoria, IL native is in his third season with the Ice Wolves. During New Mexico’s inaugural season in 2019-20, Bentley played one game for them. Last year, the 6’4”/194lb. right-handed forward played 54 games and registered 23 points (10G). This year, the 20-year-old is now one of the captains for New Mexico. His 12 goals are a team-high, and he is tied for first on the team in assists (13). Bentley also has scored when his team needed a goal the most, as he has four game-winning goals (team-high). Prior to joining the NAHL, Bentley was drafted #162 overall by the Peoria Mustangs (NA3HL) in 2019. He played 46 games for them in 2019-20 and finished first on the team in points (55) and goals (30). In the only two games the Ice Wolves have played the Jacks this season, Bentley tallied two goals and two assists.
Jackalopes (F: #9 – Rylan Yates)
The 18-year-old is tied for second on the team in points (18). He leads the team in assists with 12. The Antioch, CA native is in his first year in the NAHL and already had a 12-game point streak (4G, 9A). That is the second-longest point streak in the Jacks NAHL history. Last year, the 6’1”/200lb. right-handed forward played for the Northern Cyclones (NCDC). He registered eight points (3G) in 22 games with them. Last weekend, Yates scored two goals and helped on two as well, earning him honorable mention for the South Division Stars of the Week. Yates has the third-best shooting percentage on the team at 19.4%.
Photo credit: Danne Braden