By Phillip Goodman
Stellar goaltending and unwavering physical play paved the way for the Reno Ice Raiders to split a pair of games against the highly competitive Fond Du Lac Bears from the Great Lakes Hockey League. The Bears took Friday’s game by a 3-2 score then the Ice Raiders bounced off the mat and brought an intensity both in physicality and determination for a 4-1 win on Saturday.
“[The Bears] didn’t beat us as much as we beat ourselves,” Ice Raider Ryan Drizen said of Friday’s loss. Drizen went on to predict Saturday’s win, saying, “Expect to see a very different game from us tonight. We’re coming out with a chip on our shoulder.”
A big chip indeed. The Ice Raiders pounded the Bears at every opportunity and goaded them into 15 penalties. On paper the Raiders were only 1 for 8 on the Brewer’s Cabinet Power Plays but many of those were abbreviated advantages as more melees ensued. The Raiders had 14 penalties of their own yet still managed to kill all six Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills.
“We’ve talked about our depth before and some of them played some good roles today,” said Ice Raiders’ Head Coach Shane Hicke. “We had a lot of guys that don’t really get physical or jump into things to help guys out and I saw a lot of that today from guys that normally don’t do it.”
Al Taylor was tremendous in net for Reno both nights. On Friday, Taylor stopped 45 of 48 Bears’ shots, keeping his team in a game where the Raiders never had a lead but did tie the score twice. On Saturday Taylor was extra sharp, denying 40 of 41 shots including two amazing Lone Wolf’s Chop Rodz Saves of the Game in the first period that would have given the Bears the lead.
“On Friday the Bears did get the W but I think we might have given it to them,” said Ice Raiders’ Head Coach Shane Hicke. Al played really well Friday and was phenomenal [Saturday].”
Defensively the Ice Raiders were solid in both games, limiting the high-power Bears’ offense to only 4 goals in 120 minutes of play. Bears’ leading scorer Nick Monfils came into the weekend with 19 points in six games and left Reno without tallying a single point.
Newer Ice Raider Bobby Watson continued his offensive outburst, netting the Ice Raiders’ first goals on Friday and Saturday and extending his scoring point streak at home to four games. Drake Deberry netted the game tying goal late in Friday’s tilt before the Bears scored with under three minutes to play for the win.
Drizen’s rebound goal in the first period on Saturday would stand as the game winner. Keegan Jones also scored on a rebound in the second period then Jess Woinicki (Vuh-nis-key) slammed the door with an empty netter for the 4-1 win.
“Out of the five years I’ve coached this team, that was probably the best win we’ve ever had - including the two championship teams that we played - so I really think that gets us to the next step,” said Hicke.
With 90 games of pro hockey under his belt, Watson had more great things to say about Reno and the trajectory of this Ice Raiders club, which is now 5-1 in 2022 and has outscored opponents 29-10 in that stretch.
“I’ve played on a lot of different teams and high-level leagues,” said Watson.” This is some good hockey. The fan base, the atmosphere, just everything about it is on point. It’s a prime atmosphere and good situation. Everything’s coming around and I think we’ve got a lot more to show. I’m happy to be a part of it and we’ll get some more wins for you guys.”
The Ice Raiders have the next weekend off and will get back to action at Reno Ice for a pair of games against the Santa Rosa Growlers on Feb. 4th at 7pm and Feb. 5th at 8pm. Reno will be out to avenge a 4-3 loss to Santa Rosa back in October.
Friday’s Midtown Diamonds Three Stars of the Game
No. 1 Star: Jon Sobieski for strong defensive play throughout
No. 2 Star: Drake Deberry - 1 goal
No. 3 Star: Al Taylor stopped 45 of 48 shots
Saturday’s Midtown Diamonds Three Stars of the Game
No. 1 Star: Al Taylor - 40 of 41 shots stopped
No. 2 Star: Ryan Drizen - 1 goal and lots of stitches
No. 3 Star: Keegan Jones - 1 goal and 1 assist
Saturday’s Lone Wolf Chop Rodz Save of the Game:
Al Taylor stonewalls a Bear at 14:16 of the first period
Morrey Distributing Distribution of the Night for Best Assist:
Friday: Nick Anderson to Bobby Watson for the shorthanded goal at 10:08 of the 2nd period
Saturday: Chris Whitten’s point shot rebounds to Watson who buries it for the first score of the night at 17:22
Fond du Lac @ Reno Game 11 Highlights:
Fond du Lac @ Reno Game 12 Highlights: