ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ice Wolves playoff magic continues in Robertson Cup opening win over New Jersey

A pair of early goals and a near-perfect night by their goalie moved the New Mexico Ice Wolves within two wins of the NAHL title in their first-ever Robertson Cup game on Friday.

New Jersey vs New Mexico; Game 1
New Mexico Ice Wolves right winger Jake Keller (right) celebrated his second period goal in their Robertson Cup semifinal playoff game versus the New Jersey Titans on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

BLAINE, Minn. -- Two years ago, the New Mexico Ice Wolves were notable for having one of the best logos in all of sports. And not much on the ice.

Last year the Ice Wolves were notable for playing almost their entire season on the road, due to the state of New Mexico having some of the nation’s most strict COVID-19 restrictions.

In year three of their franchise, the Ice Wolves are suddenly two wins away from a NAHL title. On Friday, in their first-ever Robertson Cup game, the Ice Wolves got a pair of early goals and a collection of sweeping glove saves from their Hungarian goaltender in a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Titans, taking a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three playoff series.

Perhaps most impressive for a team playing on this stage for the first time was their coach looking for places they could improve, even after the biggest win in team history.

“At times I thought we were really good, playing our game with what we can do and what we’re capable of and at times we went away from it a little bit,” said Ice Wolves coach Phil Fox. “That’s what gave the Titans a little bit of momentum. We’ve got to do a better job of sticking to our game for 60 minutes.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Perhaps the only downer for the Ice Wolves was New Jersey’s goal with 30 seconds remaining that ruined the shutout bid for Beni Halasz, who had 36 saves in the win, and is bound for Northern Michigan next season.

“That’s Beni Halasz. He’s unbelievable. Every night he gives us a chance to win,” Fox said. “Honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better goaltender.”

The Titans were doomed by a slow start that saw them out-shot and trailing after 20 minutes. Beyond that point they controlled the offense and out-shot New Mexico, but couldn’t get a puck over the goal line until the final minute.

“I didn’t think we were particularly hard or fast early on and we let them get on top of us a little bit,” said Titans coach Craig Doremus. “I thought once we got our feet under us and our game we started to do a little bit of what we wanted to. But good effort by them. They’re a good hockey team and we have to be better tomorrow.”

New Jersey vs New Mexico; Game 1
New Mexico Ice Wolves center JD Metz (7) carried the puck up ice versus the New Jersey Titans in game one of their Robertson Cup semifinal series on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

The Titans out-shot New Mexico over the final 40 minutes, and got 30 saves from goalie Andrew Takacs.

Both teams were playing a long way from their home rink, but with a dozen Minnesotans on their team and two more from North Dakota, the Ice Wolves had a huge, noisy contingent of fans on hand which made it feel like a home game, all those miles away from the desert southwest.

Game 2 of the series is on Saturday night in Blaine.

New Mexico 3, New Jersey 1

ADVERTISEMENT

New Mexico 1-1-1—3

New Jersey 0-0-1—1

First period — 1. NM, Blayde Pogreba 1 (William Howard), 9:19. Penalties — Owen Luik, NJ (equipment violation), 3:36; David Posma, NJ (boarding); Mitchell Becker, NM (roughing), 20:00; Joe Prouty, NM (roughing), 20:00; Rocco Testa-Basi, NJ (roughing), 20:00; Stephen Willey, NJ (roughing), 20:00.

Second period — 2. NM, Jake Keller 4 (Grant Ellings, Becker), 14:30. Penalties — Becker, NM (hooking), 18:06.

Third period — 3. NM, Alex Gomez 1 (Wilmer Svensson), 19:13, (eng). 4. NJ, Ryan Coughlin 5 (Chris Carroll), 19:30. Penalties — Dillan Bentley, NM (hooking), 11:36.

Shots on goal — NM 13-11-9—33; NJ 9-14-14—37. Goalies — Beni Halasz, NM (37 shots-36 saves); Andrew Takacs, NJ (33-30). Power plays — NM 0-of-2, NJ 0-of-2. Referees — Connor Harrington, Austin O’Rourke. Linesmen — Grant Hendrich, Reilly Hickey. Att. — 833.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
What to read next
All 29 NAHL teams will play in the Showcase from Sept. 14-17 at the Super Rink in Blaine, Minn.