Oklahoma Warriors’ success follows trio of players to NAHL Top Prospects Tournament
All three Warriors found the back of the net in Pittsburgh as Team South shined at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh are separated by roughly 1,100 miles. In the NAHL’s South Division, the Oklahoma Warriors and the next closest team are separated by 13 points. Quite the distance in both cases.
The Warriors currently own the league’s best record at 31-6-0-1, the biggest goal differential, plus-91, and the NAHL’s longest current win streak at 11 games.
“We’ve had a good start but I don’t think anybody has gotten too high or too low this season,” Oklahoma forward Brendan Williams told The Rink Live Tuesday afternoon. “We take everything one game at a time and we don’t look too far into the future or into the past.
“We know we can’t get complacent and we’ve just been able to play the right way every night.”
At the same time, everyone inside Oklahoma’s locker room knows it’s early February and there’s a lot of hockey left to be played.
“I think since the start of the year at training camp our group has been working hard every day at practice, and I think you see it in the games,” said Oklahoma captain William Lawson-Body. “We’ve stayed true to our game and we play fast and physical hockey for three periods, but we also know there’s a lot (of season) left.
“We need to continue to take care of business every single day and do what we have to do. We know if we play our game and play how we can every game we’re going to have success.”
Lawson-Body was one of three Warriors in western Pennsylvania the last two days, along with Williams and Garrett Horsager.
The three players represented Team South in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, a showcase of the NAHL’s top uncommitted prospects, along with a handful of players NHL Central Scouting has identified as potential prospects for next summer’s NHL Draft.
All three players found the back of the net over the two games and Williams and Lawson-Body also added one and two assists respectively in Monday’s game.
Team South was the only team to win both of its games at the event.
“Being a third-year guy, it’s an awesome experience and you want to make the most of it,” Horsager said. “It’s an honor to be selected and you want to put on a good showing for the people here watching. And it’s really special to share it with teammates.
“The three of us have been together for a couple years now and both of those guys and coach Roth deserve it. So I’m just super happy to see how well we presented our organization.”
“It’s a great opportunity for these kids and they’ve worked so hard to earn this opportunity. And I’m so happy our guys had some success,” added head coach Garrett Roth, who was also behind the bench as an assistant for Team South.
“They’re all important guys for our team and I thought they represented our organization and our team extremely well this week.”
All three have been key contributors for the organization in their careers and this season is no different.
Lawson-Body has played 139 games in a Warrior sweater over the past three years, including 30 this season. Horsager, who is also in his third season with the club, and Williams have played 93 and 66 respectively.
This is the first season the Warriors have spent in Oklahoma, however, after moving from Wichita Falls, Texas.
We're so proud of our players leading the South Division to victory! Brendan Williams, William Lawson-Body and Garrett Horsager always make a difference on the ice, and each lit the lamp at the 2023 @NAHLHockey Top Prospects Tournament!#FightlikeWarriors⚔️ #OklahomaHockey pic.twitter.com/kJ8LZvK9g9— Oklahoma Warriors NAHL (@OkWarriors_NAHL) February 7, 2023
Through 38 games this season, Roth said he’s “extremely pleased” with all three’s individual play and what he’s seen from his group overall.
When asked what’s been the key to their success, the third-year head coach and all three of his players at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex said the team’s chemistry and the group inside Oklahoma’s locker room.
“We have a great culture and every guy in our room is pulling for each other,” Roth said. “Everyone works so hard and our success is a testament to the work our guys are putting in on a daily basis.”
“It takes a whole team to be successful, and we’ve done that so far this season,” Williams added. “Coach Roth really stresses the details of the offensive side of the game to us by making sure we’re constantly hounding teams on the forecheck, creating turnovers, finding each other and putting pucks in the back of the net.
“And everyone has bought in defensively too — blocking shots, keeping guys away from our net and we’ve gotten great goaltending too.”
The Warriors have been arguably the NAHL’s most consistent team all year and will look to continue that trend over the final nine weeks of the regular season. Just take a look at the NAHL standings or stat leaders and it’s no surprise the Warriors sit where they do.
Perhaps Oklahoma's strong showing this week wasn't a coincidence.
But for Roth and his trio of players in Pittsburgh, they’re hoping their success isn’t the last thing they’ll need to celebrate this season.
“There are 22 games left on the schedule and there’s a lot of hockey left, so we’ve got to continue to find ways to get better and keep developing our game,” Roth said. “This was a fun event but I know all of us are looking forward to getting back and continuing the regular season and gearing up for the playoffs.
“Hopefully we’re playing the right brand of hockey at the right time. We know it’s going to take hard work and commitment, but it’s going to be a fun ride.”