By Phillip Goodman
The Reno Ice Raiders opened their third Reno campaign by trouncing Chicago Top Shelf 8-2 on Friday night followed by a 6-5 overtime thrilling win on Saturday. Both games presented by Cure Biomedical were standing-room-only crowds at The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena.
New Ice Raiders Head Coach Tim Tookey was more than elated with his team's performance and his first experience behind the Ice Raiders' bench.
"I told the guys they made an old man feel like a young kid again," Coach Tookey said on Friday.
Tookey coached a couple different junior teams plus took time off from the game before earning the Ice Raiders' reins.
"We went out with a game plan Friday night and did exactly what we wanted to do and ended up on the right side of the scoreboard," Tookey said. "We got the puck in and got on them to force them into mistakes. As the game went on it gave us more room through the neutral zone and we took advantage of it."
Saturday was a reversal of roles, this time it was Chicago capitalizing on Reno's errors.
"[Chicago Top Shelf] played different [Saturday], more intense," said Tookey after Bobby Watson's overtime heroics. "We got on them early at the start of the game and their goalie made some great saves to keep them in the game. We just made a couple simple little mistakes and they took advantage of the turnovers and scored goals. We got a lead again and made a simple mistake and then the puck's in our net. But we played really well, we did a lot of good things. Very exciting game. To end it with Bobby scoring against his old team that's kind of fitting."
On Friday night, Reno's offensive explosion of TNT Yard Service Goals came from seven different goal scorers: Ramzy Anderson; Johnny Garrity chipped in two, one even strength and one on a power play; Bobby Watson; Jon Sobieski; Julian Herrera; Nathan Hogge; and Hunter Sine.
Justin Sand was nearly perfect in net stopping 32 of 34 Chicago shots. Sand's Lone Wolf's Chop Rodz Save of the Weekend came late in the second period after a Reno turnover and hard bounce off the end boards created this chance for Top Shelf.
At the other end, Kurt Wegner allowed six goals on 26 shots through two periods. Wegner gave way to backup goalie Joey Rueckl for the third after Wegner fell backwards onto the crossbar after a gnarly collision of players in his crease.
Reno outshot Chicago 57 to 34, went 2-for-6 on the Brewer's Cabinet Power Play, and successfully killed all six Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills. Ice Raiders also dominated the dots winning 52 of the games 66 draws.
BJ's Nevada Barbecue Kickass Fries Fight of the Night came late in the second period when Tony Tyrell and James Brooks went toe-to-toe for the third time in as many games.
Julian Herrera gets two nods for the Sierra Sid’s Casino Assists of the Night for setting up both of Garrity's goals.
On Saturday, Reno jumped out to a 2-0 lead, first by Garrity again setup by Herrera and shortly after by Bobby Watson, both goals at even strength. Chicago responded halfway through the first with an even-strength goal. Then Jeff Jiron's cannon from the blue line beat Wegner for the 3-1 Reno lead going to the locker rooms.
A seemingly quiet second period turned heated when Chicago Top Shelf coach Jacob Glas was ejected and assessed a bench minor for abuse of officials. Glas' overheated emotions fired up his squad and Chicago clawed back with two late period goals for a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes of play.
Two Chicago penalties carried over between periods and it only took Alex Gunnoe 19 seconds into the two-man advantage to put Reno up 4-3.
The Third Beeriod presented by the Brewer's Cabinet remained tense and grew even more nerve-wracking when James Brooks collected a Reno turnover and wired a shorthanded goal over Sand for the 4-4 tie with less than six minutes to go.
Facing three Chicago defenders entering the attacking zone, Nathan Hogge rifled a perfect shot over Wegner's leg pad to give Reno a 5-4 lead with just over four minutes left.
As time ticked away, Reno got crossed up defensively giving Top Shelf a 3-on-2 rush the other way. Barely-used Frank Concialdi chipped the puck over Sand's leg pad for the 5-5 tie, causing the game to be decided in overtime.
Coach Tookey sent out Watson, Sobieski, and Gunnoe to start the overtime. Despite never playing on a line together, the trio maintained possession of the puck in Chicago's end for more than a minute. Top Shelf gained possession and looked to break out with an odd-man rush of their own but Sobieski got a skate on the puck allowing Watson to carry the puck back to the slot and send the Reno faithful home happy.
"Everyone's got some speed on that line and it ended up working out," said Watson after Reno's second win, again getting production from five scorers on the six goals. "There's about four new guys on the team that are immediately an impact on the team. There's a lot of new speed. You got a lot of veterans too. Just a lot of experience and speed. I think we'll have a pretty good season."
Both of Reno's wins came without the services of two of those veterans. Captain Andrew Peterson was on leave for his honeymoon (CONGRATS PETEY!) and dynamic playmaker Mickey Lang is day-to-day with a lower body injury. Coach Tookey welcomes the challenge this season of managing what many Ice Raiders players agree to be the deepest lineup the Ice Raiders may have ever had.
"It's gonna be tough," said Coach Tookey. "That's the fun thing, to take guys in and out of the lineup. When guys are playing like they are right now they're making it hard. I want it to be a tough decision."
Reno was again a force on special teams, going 2-for-6 on the Brewer's Cabinet Power Play and successfully killing all five Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills. Ice Raiders controlled the faceoff circles 44-27 and heavily outshot Top Shelf 59-27.
The Ice Raiders return to action at Reno Ice on Fri. Nov. 3rd and Sat. Nov. 4th for a series against the Park City Pioneers. Last season against the Pioneers in Reno, the Ice Raiders fell in overtime on Friday but bounced back on Saturday for the win. Individual game tickets will go on sale just a few days before drop. Don't miss out on the alerts when ticket sales open.
Friday, 10.20.23 - Game 1: Reno Ice Raiders vs. Chicago Top Shelf Highlights:
Saturday, 10.21.23 - Game 2: Reno Ice Raiders vs. Chicago Top Shelf Highlights: