Updated: Jan 5
By Phillip Goodman
Dec. 19, 2022
After a frustrating 8-3 loss to the Las Vegas Millionaires on Friday, the Reno Ice Raiders righted the ship for a 6-2 Saturday win in front of amped-up, sold-out crowds each night. Thirteen different Ice Raiders tallied at least one point while netminder Justin Sand shut down Vegas for the final 27 minutes in Saturday’s bounceback win.
Special teams for the Ice Raiders were deciding factors in both matches. In Friday’s loss, Reno relinquished three power goals in six kill attempts while only converting on one of their three Brewer’s Cabinet Power Play tries. The Saturday adjustment of getting more bodies in front of Vegas goalie Everett Bailey proved effective as Reno went 2-for-5 on the advantage. At the other end of the ice, Sand stopped all eight Vegas power-play shots over six penalties to secure the win.
Things looked promising early Friday night for Reno after Mickey Lang threaded an 80-foot pass through the Vegas defense to Nick Anderson at full speed. Anderson made a slick toe-drag move to get Bailey on his belly for the slam dunk and 1-0 lead 37 seconds in.
Vegas answered later in the first period and Reno regained the lead on Nick Anderson’s second goal, a power play tally 1:10 into period two. Lang got the rebound off his own shot then passed to Anderson whose first shot was blocked but got his own rebound in the slot with Bailey out of position for the goal and 2-1 lead.
From there though Vegas took over, scoring six unanswered goals including three on the power play. Morgan Ellis would get Reno as close as 7-3 with less than 14 minutes remaining. Sand was lifted for Justis Gyori after Ellis’ goal and Vegas would score once more for the 8-3 loss ending Reno’s three-game win streak.
“We’re not a team to make excuses,” said Ice Raiders’ player/owner Simon “Choo Choo” Le Bleu. “We came out flat on Friday, simple as that.”
If Friday was flat then Saturday was sharp.
Saturday’s tilt was scoreless through 26 minutes even though Vegas was gifted three power play tries. On the ensuing faceoff from a Vegas icing, Morgan Ellis won the draw to Dana Navratil who got the puck back to Jiron at the right point. Navratil quickly got back to the front of the net to screen Bailey and Jiron’s bomb found the twine.
Vegas responded with an even-strength goal three minutes later for the 1-1 tie. With Ice Raider defector Bobby Watson in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct at 8:25 (a call made while he was banging his stick on the Vegas bench), Ice Raider d-man James Stiles zipped a pass across to Nick Anderson who found Mickey Lang cutting to the slot for a one-timer and the 2-1 lead. Vegas answered on the next shift though for a 2-2 tie.
With 3:38 remaining in period two, Navratil got the puck deep in the right corner and he found Ellis in the right circle. Ellis’ shot was stopped by Bailey but Pustovoy pounded home the rebound which would stand as the game-winning goal.
Reno kept pressure on Bailey and the Millionaires. Early in the third, Zeph Fagergren moved the puck behind the net to Roger Hutchison who spotted Le Bleu charging down the slot calling for a pass. Le Bleu onetimed a laser past Bailey for the 4-2 cushion.
“I looked around the goal huddle and realized that everyone on the ice for that goal was an original Ice Raider from day one,” said Le Bleu, referring to Hutchison, Fagergren, Weston Nash, and Jiron who all earned a +1 on the play. “For me that was a pretty special moment.”
On the very next shift, Matt Robinson needed only 15 seconds to beat Baily again when the puck bounced to Robinson in the right circle with Bailey down and out in his crease with a severe leg cramp. Ramzy Anderson and Jason Forney got the helpers on the play.
Jeff Jiron rounded out the scoring with under seven to play. On the Brewer’s Cabinet Power play, Nick Anderson had two Vegas players collapse on him at the half wall so Anderson
backhand-sauced a perfect pass between them to Jiron who easily buried a wrister on Bailey for the 6-2 lead and final score.
Jiron, Nick Anderson, Lang, and Navratil were the Ice Raiders with more than one point while nine others chipped in at least one.
“Together we identified necessary areas of improvement and rallied together to bring home the win,” said Le Bleu. “It was a series of simple fixes that led us to have over 90 scoring attempts, 45 hits and twice as many shots on net as they did.”
The Ice Raiders outshot Vegas 57-24 on Saturday, to be precise.
“[Friday and Saturday were] actually a very similar game with the key difference being our shot selection,” said Ice Raiders’ Head Coach Mike Harder. “Friday we floated a lot of pucks toward the net in the hope that they would go in. It was like a 60 minute warm-up for their goalie. Saturday we made life tougher for him by driving to the net, creating traffic with every shot, and working for rebounds.”
Up next for Reno is an extended and well-deserved holiday break. The Ice Raiders return to action for a pair of games at Reno Ice against the NorCal Stampede on Jan. 13 and 14. Last March, Reno obliterated the revamped Stampede by scores of 15-3 and 16-2 to close out their inaugural Nevada campaign.
On behalf of the entire Ice Raiders organization, thank you for your continued support and we wish you the happiest and safest holiday season. See you all at Reno Ice in 2023!
Saturday’s Landsinger Realty Group Three Stars: No. 3: James Stiles - one assist, solid defensive play
No. 2: Jeff Jiron - two goals
No. 1: Justin Sand - 22 saves for the win
Saturday’s Lone Wolf’s Chop Shop Save of the Night: Sand had a pair of glove saves, few prettier than his denial with four minutes to go in the third period.
Saturday’s Sierra Sid’s Casino Assist of the Game: The Stiles-Anderson-Lang connection on the power play in the second period
Marked Studios Hit of the Night: Choo Choo Le Bleu threw a shoulder into Brennan Anderson at the 10:26 mark of period one (17:06 timestamp on the YouTube replay)
Friday, 12.16.22 - Game 7: Las Vegas Millionaires @ Reno Ice Raiders Highlights:
Saturday, 12.17.22 - Game9: Las Vegas Millionaires @ Reno Ice Raiders Highlights: