By Phillip Goodman
The Reno Ice Raiders extended their win streak to four games by dismantling the Breckenridge Vipers 7-1 on Friday then 8-1 on Saturday at Reno Ice in front of sold-out crowds of more than 600 rowdy fans each night.
It was a complete team effort by the Ice Raiders for 60 minutes in both contests. On Friday, 10 different Ice Raiders contributed a point. Two Ice Raiders tallied four points on the night - Sam Mancini led in goals with a hat trick and one helper while his linemate Bobby Watson had three assists and found the back of the net for one goal.
Saturday’s 8-1 win was more of the same, this time seven different Ice Raiders scored goals. Bobby Watson was a dominant force again netting two goals and one assist.
As impressive as the Ice Raiders’ offensive display was, it was their solid team defense that spurred most of the offensive opportunities. Bobby Watson and Sam Mancini created many of the Vipers’ turnovers in the neutral zone which led to breaks the other way. Hardly any Vipers managed to get around the defense of Andrew Peterson, Jon Sobieski, Tony Tyrell, or Adam Barba. Peterson had three assists on Friday and one more Saturday. Tyrell also had one assist on Friday and the Gordie Howe Hat Trick (one goal, one assist, and one fight) on Saturday.
Ice Raider netminder Michael O’Malley was in brickwall mode, stopping 30 of 31 Viper shots on Friday and 18 of 19 Viper shots on Saturday. O’Malley was quick to credit the team effort.
“Honestly it’s the defense in front of me,” O’Malley said. “Guys are snapping it around, picking up rebounds, just making my job super easy. As a goaltender I can’t complain.”
Justis Gyori entered both games late in relief of O’Malley to give O’Malley a few extra minutes of rest. According to Coach Shane Hicke, Gyori has been well deserving of playing time. Even though he barely had any time to warm up or stretch midway through those third periods, Gyori still stopped all 10 shots he faced this weekend.
The streak began in Fort Worth the previous weekend when the Ice Raiders swept the Barracudas, an impressive feat considering the Barracudas stole two games in Reno back in November. Before Friday’s Vipers game, Captain Andrew Peterson commented that the road trip to Texas was a chance for the Ice Raiders to reset the new year and reset their focus. Coach Hicke beamed at his team’s performance on the road and at home.
“I’m very proud of them,” Hicke said. “They came together, they’re understanding systems, they’re buying into our culture with the Ice Raiders. We’ve got depth at goaltending. We’ve got depth at forwards. We’ve got depth at D. We’re very fortunate right now to have the club that we do.”
Friday’s Midtown Diamonds Three Stars of the Game
No. 1 Star: Sam Mancini
No. 2 Star: Bobby Watson
No. 3 Star: Andrew Peterson
Saturday’s Midtown Diamonds Three Stars of the Game
No. 1 Star: Tony Tyrell
No. 2 Star: Michael O’Malley
No. 3 Star: Roger Hutchison
LeBleu Painting “Paint Job” of the Night for Biggest Hit:
Roger Hutchison for knocking the helmet off a Viper. Watch it here at 1:31:05
Morrey Distributing Distribution of the Night for Best Assist:
Sam Mancini’s dangle and dish to Watson for the goal. Jump to 1:31:49
Watch Tony “The Tornado” Tyrell’s No.1 Star of the Game interview after his Gordie Howe Hat Trick
Breckenridge @ Reno Game 9 Highlights:
Breckenridge @ Reno Game 10 Highlights: