The Texas Tornado (2-1-1, 5pts, 3rd in South Division) started off the 2011-2012 regular season at the Combat Hockey/NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota and the results definitely show a positive trend for the season. The Tornado went 2-1-1 and are now off to prepare for the home opening weekend against Defending National Champion Fairbanks on Friday, September 30th and Saturday, October 1st at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco.
The season began with a disheartening 4-1 loss at the hands of the Traverse City North Stars in a game that Texas was never really in. Rebounding after that defeat, the Tornado came back strong in the next two games, securing 7-4 and 6-1 wins over Alexandria and Springfield, respectively. The 4-games-in-4-days showcase ended with a 3-2 OT loss to the Aberdeen Wings.
All in all, the Tornado leave Blaine with a 2-1-1 record and some positive building blocks for the season.
Individual game recaps after the jump...Tornado Begin Season With Thud, Fall 4-1 to Traverse City
The Texas Tornado embarked on their Blaine road-trip with some wind in their sails after cruising to 4-1 and 6-0 victories in pre-season action. The North Stars, however, were quick to remind the Texas players that the regular season has begun. After leading all 120 minutes of pre-season action, the Tornado quickly found themselves down a goal.
As the game wore-on Texas was forced to kill an entire 5-minute major penalty and after doing so, were unable to capitalize on their own 5-on-3 man advantage to tie the game. Traverse City took advantage of Texas' failure to convert and took a 2-1 lead to the 3rd where the simply put the clamps down and took home the 4-1 win.
In the second game of the young season, the Tornado came out ready and jumped all over Alexandria, taking a 3-0 lead to the first intermission. Alexandria put up some fight in the second, but were met with stern resistance by Texas, who took a 5-2 lead to the 3rd. The teams merely swapped goals in the 3rd, with Texas emerging with a 7-4 win.
In their 3rd game in as many days, the Tornado showed some endurance in this contest. A decidedly physical and defensive game (marked by 44 PIMs in the 2nd Period) was blown open in the 3rd with Texas scoring 4-goals in the frame en route to their second win of the season, 6-1.
In their final game of the 2011 Combat Hockey/NAHL Showcase, the Tornado looked poised to return home with a 3-game win streak. Aberdeen had other plans. Texas had a one-goal lead twice in this contest and both times the Wings battled back to tie, as the teams headed to the 3rd dead-locked at 2. With neither team scoring in the final frame, the Tornado got to experience a little OT for the first time this season. It took just 1:10 for Aberdeen to pot the winner and send the Tornado home with book-ending losses.
3 Players to Watch:
Here are 3 players to watch this season for the Tornado, based on the Showcase results. I'll update this section throughout the season based on stats and that great word, intangibles.
- Jack Prince #11 (F). Here is your veteran presence. Prince co-led the Tornado in scoring in Blaine, totaling 6 points with 2 goals and 4 assists. Look for Prince to be a leading contributor to the Tornado this season as he returns for his 3rd stint with Texas.
- Marc Biggs #23 (F). Here is your goal-scorer. Biggs led the Tornado in goal scoring during the Showcase as he posted 3 goals in the 4-game set. Look for this to continue as he possesses an absolute "elephant-gun" slap shot from the wing, and he likes to use it.
- John Kirtland #4 (D). Here is your shut-down D-man. In the first 4 games, Kirtland posted 3 points, 10 PIMS, and a healthy +2 rating. He's not the biggest guy, but his use of body positioning is solid.
All in all, its hard to call the Showcase anything but a success for the young Tornado as they have gained a little confidence, but also had some teaching points that I am sure the coaching staff will harp upon leading up to opening weekend.
As mentioned, the next Tornado action will be in Frisco at the Dr Pepper Arena on Friday, September 30th and Saturday, October 1st against Defending National Champion Fairbanks. Puck drop for both games is set for 7:30pm.
As always, make sure to follow the Texas Tornado anytime at www.tornadohockey.com or www.NAHL.com.
Also, feel free to contact me directly at Nick@TornadoHockey.com