By Phillip Goodman
The Reno Ice Raiders’ inaugural season ended with a pair of tough losses to the McCall Mountaineers last weekend in front of sold out crowds each night. McCall fought off the Ice Raiders’ attack 5-3 on Friday then stonewalled Reno 9-1 on Saturday.
Mountaineers’ netminder Kyler Ayers was practically impenetrable, stopping 37 of 40 shots on Friday and 35 of 36 shots on Saturday. For the Ice Raiders, Mac Reamy–who goaltended for the NorCal Ice Raiders back in 2019–was bested both nights by a quick, skilled McCall team.
McCall and Reno went back and forth with goals in the first ten minutes on Friday. Reno’s Morgan Ellis tied the score 1-1 then Julian Herrera brought Reno even again at 2-2. McCall’s C.J. Walker responded with three straight scores from the first to the third periods for a 5-2 lead. Mark Woinicki (Jesse’s older brother) netted a Brewers Cabinet Power Play goal with five minutes to play in the contest for the 5-3 final. Reno went 1-for-6 on the power play and 1-for-3 on the Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills.
Saturday’s tilt was neck and neck through most of the first period until McCall broke the scoring with under three minutes to go. McCall stymied Reno at every opportunity, led by August Kuzera’s four-goal performance. Sam Mancini had the only tally for Reno in the 9-1 loss.
The Ice Raiders finished with a record of 10-17, which is actually better than it looks when factoring the numerous injuries, personnel challenges of player availability, and the overall strength of schedule against established teams. Win or lose, the faithful Reno fans stuck with the team through thick and thin which was never taken for granted by the Ice Raiders players and coaches.
“It couldn’t have gone any better with the fans,” Ice Raiders’ Head Coach Shane Hicke said after Saturday’s 9-1 loss. “[The fans] supported us all year. Didn’t matter who we played or what the score was, and that’s all we could ask for as an organization. The rink itself has been right there with us too and we have just a great partnership. We’re only going to get better.”
The biggest challenge of the Ice Raiders’ first season in Reno was that only a handful of players live in the Northern Nevada area. All season long players were commuting in from Utah, Denver, New York, San Diego, Sacramento, Phoenix and elsewhere which limited opportunities to practice special teams and to mature as a team.
“There’s probably seven games we should have won,” Hicke continued. “We gave those games away and that’s just from being a young team. We don’t expect to lose those games next season.”
For many Reno fans, Ice Raiders action was the first full-checking, live hockey game of any level they had witnessed.
“I never got to go to any of the Renegades games when they were here,” said Collin Black, a Reno native that played goaltender back in the early 2000’s at the now bygone Total Sports Complex but has never had the chance to witness a pro hockey event. “It was exciting to watch hockey at any level in person rather than just on TV. To be able to see guys go out and play hockey and do what they love was exciting. All the fans in general were having a good time and being respectful.”
Black had such a great experience at the first game that he began volunteering as doorman/security for the Ice Raiders for the rest of the season.
“Everyone on the Ice Raiders’ staff has been totally friendly–General Manager Jess Peterson and his wife Chelsea, and owner Simon LeBleu–everyone,” Black continued. “Everybody that came in was thrilled about having a hockey team to watch. It was great meeting the regular season ticket holders and then it was nice seeing a mix of new faces at each game. I would absolutely love to come back and be a part of next season.”
The 2022-2023 schedule is already in the works. Make sure to join the Ice Raiders email list for updates about the schedule release, season tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and more. In the meantime, please continue to support the businesses that helped make this Reno Ice Raiders’ season so successful by going to www.renoiceraiders.com/sponsors.
McCall Mountaineers @ Reno Game 21 Highlights:
McCall Mountaineers @ Reno Game 22 Highlights: