By Phillip Goodman
The Reno Ice Raiders opened the 2022-2023 season with a pair of games presented by Acura of Reno against a traveling squad from the Fire Department of New York. The FDNY Team composed of former ACHA and NCAA Division I to Division III players bested Reno both nights by scores of 5-2 each night. Capacity crowds of nearly 700 fans packed Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice each night hungry for hockey after seven long months away from action.
Friday’s tilt began with both teams feeling each other out and getting used to playing with new linemates. The game was scoreless until late in the first when Julian Carney of Engine Co. 43 from the Bronx kicked a pass from the goal line to an open slot and Sean Gargin one-timed the puck over Al Taylor’s right shoulder for the 1-0 FDNY lead.
Reno responded early in the second when after a defensive-zone faceoff win by new Ice Raider Paul Frys (pronounced like “Chris”), Andrew Petersen made a perfect stretch pass from behind his own net and off the boards to a streaking Matt Robinson. Robinson got behind the FDNY defense and beat Nick Battaglia of Ladder Co. 169 to tie the game at 1-1 for Robinson’s first career Ice Raiders’ goal.
FDNY pulled ahead 4-1 with two more second-period goals and a third period tally with about 13 minutes left. With just under nine to play, it was the San Joaquin County Sheriff Julian Herrera that beat the fireman goaltender with a slick backhander upstairs after a nifty dangle move around the FDNY defender for a 4-2 deficit.
Battaglia owned the night, stopping 22 of 24 Ice Raiders’ shots and then making the highlight of his life. With 80 seconds to go and Al Taylor pulled from net for the extra attacker, Battaglia controlled a Reno dump-in and launched the puck 180 feet into the dead center of the empty net for the incredibly rare goalie goal.
“That was a really good team,” first-year Ice Raiders’ Head Coach Mike Harder said of the FDNY team after Friday. “You could tell they’ve played together for a long time. They were well coached and well organized. We had some great chances too. I thought we outchanced them and couldn’t finish because their goalie played great.”
In the 5-2 Friday win, FDNY also controlled the majority of the faceoffs 36-32 and outshot Reno 38-24. Paul Frys won 16 of 27 draws for nearly 60%, a good sign for Reno moving forward. All goals (except the empty netter) scored on Friday were at even strength. Reno was 0-for-1 on their only Brewer’s Cabinet Power Play and 2-for-2 on their Peterson Wealth Management penalty kills.
Saturday’s game was a bit more spirited after the teams had gotten past their season-intro jitters. The second match had 18 penalties in total, this time the FDNY converted on two of seven power plays while Reno went 0-for-2.
FDNY jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two periods of play. Halfway through the third, Ice Raider Kevin Sunde made a diving poke to clear the puck on a penalty kill. The puck found Matt Robinson at center ice and he made a slick move to lift the stick of an FDNY defender creating a shorthand breakaway. Robinson broke FDNY goalie Matt Herzog’s shutout with a perfect shot high glove side to make the score 4-1 still favoring The Bravest.
With under five minutes to play, Paul Frys won an offensive draw and slid the puck to the top of the crease and while falling Nick Anderson was able to redirect the puck past Herzog for the 4-2 score. Yet it was Brendan Tracy who sealed the win for FDNY with two minutes to go on a shorthanded empty netter. Justin Sand stopped 29 shots in his debut for the Ice Raiders.
“On Saturday it was more balanced,” said Coach Harder, who was a Hobey Baker Finalist in 1997 for Colgate Univ., an AHL Calder Cup Champion in 2000, and now is the Hockey Director at Reno Ice.
“Although when [FDNY] created their grade-A chances they converted when we didn’t convert ours,” he added. “Overall I thought we kept up with them both nights.”
The Ice Raiders will be back on Reno Ice Fri. Nov. 11 and Sat. Nov. 12 for games against the Park City Pioneers. Last season, the Ice Raiders handled the Pioneers by scores of 7-3 and 12-0 in Reno. Both games start at 8 p.m. PST and can be seen on the Ice Raiders’ YouTube Channel here.
Join the Ice Raiders on Saturday Nov. 12 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. for the first ever Ice Raiders’ Bubble Hockey Tournament at Press Start Arcade & Bar. Test your skills against the Ice Raiders players on the custom SuperChexx bubble hockey game for a chance to win some incredible prizes. While you’re there, enjoy a delicious Brewer’s Cabinet Power Play IPA.
11.4.22 - FDNY @ Reno Highlights:
11.5.22 - FDNY @ Reno Highlights: