By Phillip Goodman
March 27, 2023
After winning Friday's tilt by a 5-3 score, the Reno Ice Raiders (12-6-2) almost completed a miraculous comeback on Saturday but lost 8-7 in overtime to the speedy McCall Mountaineers (9-11). The new rivals split their season series 2-2 and nearly matched their four-game goal totals at 23-25 favoring the Mountaineers.
The games presented by Sierra Sid's Casino in Sparks were both standing-room-only sellouts and the fans brought their max intensity, an intensity that would be matched rewarded by the Ice Raiders' donning their retro Renegades sweaters.
Both teams came out flying on Friday night and were rolling all four lines with each side getting quality looks early. Ryan Drizen found a streaking Morgan Ellis in the slot and Ellis' wrister gave Reno a 1-0 lead eight minutes in. Matt Robinson earned the second assist for his long outlet pass to Drizen.
With a Mountaineer in the box for tripping at the onset of the second period, Andrew Peterson's blue-line wrister on the power play gave Reno a 2-0 lead. Anthony Matta had the only assist for winning the draw cleanly back to Peterson.
Four minutes later, Matt Robinson blasted a slapshot from the right circle for a 3-0 Reno lead, giving Drizen his second assist of the night.
Watson rifled a cross-ice pass to Lang who had an eternity to pick a spot on Reid and Lang beat Reid with a wrister for a 4-0 lead. The goal on Reid's 18th shot faced sent Reid to the bench in place of Everett Bailey. Reno fans might remember Everett Bailey as the goalie for the Vegas Millionaires back in December when Reno bested him 5-2 in a Saturday night bounce-back win.
Penalties plagued the Ice Raiders on Friday as they handed McCall seven advantages, although some abbreviated as McCall was less than disciplined this night too.
McCall finally broke through Sand with two minutes to go in the second period with a right-circle wrister to end 38 minutes of shutout hockey.
Less than five minutes into the third, Matt Robinson intercepted a cross-ice pass and charged in for a breakaway. Despite being hooked on the hands, Robinson still put enough mustard on a wrister that barely trickled through Bailey and over the line for a 5-1 lead. The line of Ellis-Drizen-Robinson was a combined +9 for the night.
McCall made things interesting, responding a minute later with a bizarre deflection through Sand and then a wrister with 73 seconds to go in the game. From there though Reno held strong for the 5-3 win.
Justin Sand stole the win for Reno stopping 51 of 54 shots. The win marked Reno's fourth win in a row and second consecutive Friday night victory.
Saturday night was a reversal of fortunes for Reno. McCall struck first at even strength then again on a power play for a 2-0 first period lead. Roger Hutchinson got a forecheck going by demolishing a Mountaineer in the boards then hustling to the front of the net to tip a puck past Bailey. Robinson and Jeff Jiron got the helpers.
Three minutes later McCall pushed their lead back to two until Bobby Watson setup Mickey Lang for a one-timer. The goal was nearly disallowed but it was discussed by the officials that Bailey dislodged the net himself and McCall took a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.
McCall extended their lead to two goals again early in the second period. Halfway through the stanza, Lang returned the favor to Watson with a feed in front for the tip and one-goal Reno deficit. McCall added two more even strength goals in the frame and a bewildered Ice Raiders squad found themselves down 6-3 after 40 minutes of play.
Down, but never out.
Reno came out of the locker room energized for the The Brewer's Cabinet Third Beeriod and put in two goals within 32 seconds. Alex "Doc" Schleuter rifled a shot in the high slot to beat Bailey and then Lang and Watson connected again for Watson's second score of the night. McCall responded two minutes later for a 7-5 lead.
With eight minutes to go, a long outlet pass found Mickey Lang who cannot and will not be stopped on breakaways. Lang was hooked on the hands but still managed to score. Nash and Jiron assisted the goal.
The 7-6 score held until nearly the very end and to describe the last four minutes of the game as chaotic is an understatement. A Mountaineer hooked an Ice Raider to the ice but Reno was unable to convert on the power play. Sand was pulled from goal for the last two minutes. The rambunctious crowd, likely hopped up from pregaming at the new PIÑON Bottle Co. across from Reno Ice, roared with every pass and shot by Reno trying to tie the game.
The will of the crowd and Reno's diligence paid off when Anthony Mata and Bobby Watson worked the give-and-go for what might be the most legendary goal in the Reno Ice Raiders' history with 1.5 seconds showing on the clock. Watson's hat trick goal and fourth point of the night sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy and the game to a 3-on-3 overtime.
"I’ll never forget it," said Watson via messenger. "That goal, it definitely hits in the three top moments of my entire hockey career. Out of all these years it was special for sure."
(All those years include 42 games in the ECHL and 243 points in 195 games in the WSHL.)
"I think that was a defining goal for this club in its short history in Reno," said Ice Raiders' Captain Andrew Peterson, who was on the ice for Watson's goal and subsequent dog-pile celebration.
Bad luck struck Reno - and Watson's face - in the extra session. After trying to get around a Mountaineer behind the net, Watson took a McCall clearing attempt square in the face. Watson was bleeding profusely from the mouth and did not see another shift. He would eventually have to see an emergency room for six stitches.
With 90 seconds to go before a seemingly impending shootout, Reno got caught with exhausted players in the attacking zone and McCall was able to breakout 2-on-1. A perfect wrister from the left circle snuck over the pad and under the glove of Sand for the 8-7 McCall win.
"Even though we didn’t win, the fans definitely won seeing such an exciting game," Peterson added. "It’s really hard to come back, especially down three goals going into the third. I thought the team battled really well and gave an outstanding effort in both games. Very happy with the weekend."
Up next for the Ice Raiders is another month-long break before the Sin City Kings return to Reno to close out the '22-'23 campaign. Make sure to be on the Ice Raiders' email list to be notified when tickets go on sale as those games on April 28 and April 29 are sure to sell out in less than 24 hours much like this last weekends' games did.
Before Sin City visits, there is still good hockey to be had. Duncan Golf Management proudly presents Reno's Second Annual CanAm Games in conjunction with the Jennifer O'Neill Community Ice Arena. On Fri. April 7, all proceeds will benefit the JUSTin Hope Foundation. Justin Reitz, the inspiration behind the JUSTin HOPE Foundation, will drop the puck at 7p.m. PST. On Sat. April 8, The Parlor presents the Reno CanAm Classic game number two and all proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics of Nevada. This will be a 3p.m. PST matinee. Tickets for both games are only $10 each and on sale now.
In the First Annual CanAm Classics Cup last April, Team Canada edged out Team USA to win the Cup by a narrow two-goal differential. On Friday night Team Canada won 7-4 then Team USA rebounded in Saturday’s matinee for a 5-4 win.
By outscoring Team USA 11-9 for the weekend, Team Canada took home the impressive trophy. Had Team USA won by three goals on Saturday, a shootout would have determined the tiebreaker for the CanAm Cup champion.
Dan Rowan, an Alberta native who landed in Reno after college hockey in Vermont is now a Reno Ice Youth Coach and close friend of the Reitz family. Rowan said the idea of an international contest started with some text messages and as word spread it evolved into the charity event.
“It all came about organically,” said Rowan, who had two assists on the weekend for Team Canada. “We didn’t have enough room for everyone that wanted to play.”
Rosters were composed of four Reno Ice Raiders along with local Reno Ice A-Leaguers plus friends and past teammates that came into Reno from around North America. Blaine Bugg for Canada and Adam Lang for USA were tremendous in net both nights for their respective teams as each goaltender matched the other with the 1-1 record.
With more and more hockey players pouring out of the Northern Nevada woodworks since last year, this year's CanAm games are sure to bring the same level of excitement and skill and all for two very worthy and very local causes. Get your tickets now before they sell out.
Friday, 3.24.23 - Game 15: McCall Mountaineers @ Reno Ice Raiders Highlights:
Saturday, 3.25.23 - Game 16: McCall Mountaineers @ Reno Ice Raiders Highlights: