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Texas Jr. Brahmas 2012-2013 Season Preview - Junior Hockey News

Published: Sunday, 2 Sep 2012

The Texas Jr. Brahmas are a team that will be happy to reap the benefits of the divisional realignment this year, as for the first time in team history they enter the season as a favorite to win the Midwest Division.

In just two seasons in the Western States Hockey League, the Brahmas are already notorious for their physical, hard-hitting brand of hockey, which is, to no surprise, welcomed in the football-crazed culture of the state. That hard work and tenacity stems from not only the players but also from the philosophy of head coach Jeremy Law.

Law, who grew up in Western Canada, which really put hard-hitting hockey on the map, requires his team to play clean, fast skating, rough and tumble hockey, which more often that not leaves their opponents bruised and broken.

They've been competitive since beginning play in 2010 but it seemed the only thing keeping them from becoming one of the top dogs was the competition within their division, which should get a little easier this season.

Over their first two seasons the Brahmas have had to contend with high-skilled teams like the El Paso Rhinos, Boulder Bison and Dallas Ice Jets. They've shown the ability to keep up but often times just don't have the top end talent needed over long weekend series.

This season however, they get a huge break, as the Midwest Division is in somewhat of a "rebuilding year."

El Paso and New Mexico have left the division and stepping in are two teams competing in their inaugural season, the Tulsa Jr. Oilers and Wichita Jr. Thunder. Remaining in the Midwest with the Brahmas are the odds-on favorite Dallas Ice Jets and the Dallas Snipers, who will look to improve upon a league-worst record in their inaugural year.

Law believes the division will become one of the league's best within a couple of years but sees opportunity in the 2012-2013 season and wants his team to grab the bull by the horns.

He has good reason to be hopeful too, as his Brahmas played well against the speedy Ice Jets last season, including a playoff series for the ages.

A veteran laden roster began last season hot, as Texas won their first five games of the campaign. They then went on to drop seven of their next eight games, including sweeps at the hands of the Fresno Monsters and Boulder Bison.

The Brahmas were able to wear teams down and as byproduct of the system, were able to stay close in nearly every game. They picked up the pace before entering the holiday break and won seven of their next nine, including two sweeps of their own.

After then picking up five out of a possible eight points at the Showcase in Las Vegas, the Brahmas were able to acquire a few key players prior to the trade deadline, adding both skill and grit to a lineup that was already tough to play against.

Although they were a bit of a roller-coaster ride the rest of the second half, the Brahmas were still able to nab themselves a playoff spot by taking care of business against divisional opponents below them in the standings, while also picking up a couple of wins over the nearby Ice Jets.

They wound up third overall in the Midwest during the regular season, which setup a first round series with those same Ice Jets, who play just a few miles down the road from where the Brahmas call home.

The Ice Jets had also picked up some skill up front late in the season and were playing their best hockey of the year but Law and the Brahmas had played well against them in the regular season and had plenty of confidence heading into the best of three series.

Law couldn't have dreamed of a better style of hockey in game one, as both teams played what many would have guessed; playoff-style hockey, where every player skates as hard as they can every shift, finishes all of their checks and very few scoring chances were to be had.

The game was scoreless with just about three minutes left in regulation when the Ice Jets capitalized on a Brahmas' turnover and took a 1-0 lead and eventually added an empty-netter to take game one by a score of 2-0.

The next night the Brahmas came back and played what Law described as their best game all season.

Every facet of the game was clicking for Texas, as they held the Ice Jets to only 20 shots, went 10-11 on the penalty kill and 3-5 on the power play, while walking away with a huge 4-1 victory to extend the series.

After two tight games, the Ice Jets' speed and skill was showcased in the finale and the Brahmas just couldn't keep up, as Dallas scored early and often, winning the game and series by a score of 9-2.

After the series, Ice Jets head coach Paul Taylor, who's team went on to come within a goal of winning the Thorne Cup Title a few weeks later, told Law that they were the most physical team he had played all year.

As much as the loss had to sting, that statement had to make Law happy, as he and his team pride themselves on exactly that.

In all, the Brahmas improved in a lot of areas and have now made the post-season both years they've been in the league, which proves they've competed since day one.

Another good sign was the amount of veterans that returned from higher levels of junior hockey late in the season, showing that Law has gained their respect and adoration and how much guys like playing for him.

With the recent changes in their division, the Brahmas are a favorite to take the title this season, as the Ice Jets are the only playoff team returning. The two have built a solid rivalry already, which should only heat up this year, as both know what to expect.

With the way the Brahmas play the game under Law, they have a chance every night, as they aren't going to be outworked. Their trademarked brand of physical hockey takes its toll on opposing teams, especially the skilled ones. This formula for success is an old school approach but if Law can round out his grit with some top-end talent, the Brahmas can be a real threat in not only the division but also the Thorne Cup race this season.

 

Players Moving Up:

As much as Law likes to win and wants the Brahmas to be considered one of the league's elite, he's far more concerned with moving his guys on to higher levels of hockey.

He did a fantastic job with last season's roster, putting a total of eight players on to either college or higher tiers of junior hockey rosters.

Brett Jacobson and Shaun Foster will stay together at SUNY Canton, Jordan Gnatowsky will head to St. Mary's University where he'll be joined by dozens of WSHL alumni, Brittan Morris will head east to another WSHL sanctuary in Becker College, Kevin Filthaut will play at Law's alma mater Concordia College, Connor Tamai is off to Colorado State and Tyler Baumanis will play at the University of Arizona.

Forward Quade Hamlin won't have to go far to showcase his slick stickhandling at the Tier II level, as he's signed on with the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League.

 

Offense:

Law has lost a lot of talent from last season's forward group, including the top three point scorers in Tamai, Filthaut and Hamlin.

He is excited with his returning core however, which is led by third-year forward Will Barber, who has already been named captain. He's exactly the kind of guy Law covets, as he plays the game the right way and never takes a shift off, leading by example all the while.

Chase Woods had 15 points in 39 games last season and Law expects those numbers to go way up this year. He's not the typical physical forward that Law loves but he is a big kid that goes to the net and likes picking up the grimy goals.

Landyn Howze is a local kid who began last season playing for Law's father in Osoyoos, British Columbia before returning home to the Brahmas late in the season. He should benefit from a full year with the team, where he'll be relied upon to add both leadership and offense.

Lastly, Cole Rose was a practice player for the Brahmas last year and didn't appear in a game but is another guy that is expected to make a huge jump this season in terms of his role.

Matt Yost is one of the new guys coming in that Law is excited about as well. He's a Texas kid but played last season in Norway, where his smooth skating seemed to fit perfectly.  He's now back home where he will see big minutes as a top six forward, providing that skill to balance the grit the Brahmas always have.

Law is still working on bringing in a few more forwards to round out the group but it's a solid core that know how to play Texas Brahmas hockey, which is hard to play against anytime.

 

Defense:

Law's defensive group is a bit thinner, as only Jimmy Anderson returns and he only appeared in 10 games last season.

He's an undersized defenseman who skates and sees the ice well but will be thrown into a bigger role, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Law likes Scandinavian players and he has a good contact in that region, so it's no surprise he picked up another blue-chipper in defenseman Jack Norling.

He's described as a smooth skating, hard-hitting defenseman who can also chip in on offense; a coaches' dream.

Law is still working the phones and looking to make full use of his eight import spots and I wouldn't be shocked if he was able to bring in a couple more Swedish d-men like Norling.

 

Goaltending:

Law was very happy to announce that goaltender Zane Sampson is returning to the Brahmas for his second season, where he is expected to hold down the number one spot.

He didn't get the bulk of the minutes in the Texas crease last season but displayed better numbers than starter Joakim Moritz.

Law has also brought in Swedish goaltender Oliver Ekman, who should be able to push Sampson for playing time if he gets hot.

A third goaltender will be named in the coming weeks but with the two Law already has signed, it's doubtful he'll see a ton of playing time.

 

By the looks of it, the Brahmas will continue to play the way they have since entering the league. They're a team that everyone cringes when they see them on the schedule and makes sure the ice bags are pre-packed prior to the game.

If Law can round out his skaters with a few more skilled guys, they will be nipping at the heels of the Ice Jets from the get-go.

Their new divisional schedule is good for the Brahmas in not only terms of competition but also travel, as they'll no longer have to make the long trip to El Paso and Rio Rancho.

One thing Law, as well as the fans would really love to see this season, is the Dallas Snipers improve and become competitive with both the Ice Jets and Brahmas, creating a three-way Dallas metroplex rivalry. With new head coach Travis Clayton at the helm of the Snipers, Law feels it's a good possibility.

Out of division, the Brahmas will travel to Fresno where they'll take on the Monsters for the second consecutive season. After being swept by the top team in the league last year, the Brahmas will look to avenge it but inflicting a little pain of their own.

They'll also head back to Cheyenne where they'll take on a team they swept last season, the much-improved Stampede, in a series that will pit two hard hitting teams against one another.

Heading to Fort Worth is the Phoenix Knights and Ontario Avalanche, two teams that Law would like to take full advantage of.

It seems everything has come together for Law in Texas, as the Brahmas are primed to make a run this season. It may not be up there with high school football yet but the Brahmas rock em', sock em' style of hockey is a proven crowd pleaser.


Brent Maranto is the Director of Communications for the Western States Hockey League








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