AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The Amarillo Bulls (24-6-1-2) may have ended 2019 with a disappointing loss to the New Mexico Ice Wolves, but they started 2020 with a huge 5-1 win over the Kenai River Brown Bears Friday night at the Budweiser Bullpen.
It was a monumental matchup for the Bulls who are still trying to surpass the Lone Star Brahmas in the Southern Division of the NAHL. The Brown Bears are a first place team in the Midwest division, and Head Coach Rocky Russo had adjustments to make with the team coming into the weekend. The reason being is the Brown Bears play a style of hockey his team isn’t used to.
Before the game, Russo told News Channel 10 Sports Director Evan Abramson that every division in the NAHL has its own unique style of play that separates them from the rest. As if playing a new team with a different style wasn’t bad enough, the Bulls were going up against the Brown Bears who have accumulated a 22-9-1-3 record.
But on Friday night, despite going up against this “open style of play," the Bulls managed to come out with a momentum reviving 5-2 win, aided by a masterful performance in net by Max Gutjahr (13-3).
Scoring got on the way for the Bulls when in the first period of play off a power-play, forward Jordan Venegoni slapped a shot into the back of the net off a pass from across the crease coming from forward Niclas Puikkonen.
From there, scoring was as easy as skating for these acrobatic athletes. Later in the first period, forward Ty Black netted his fifth goal of the season after backhanding the puck past the Kenai River goaltender. Before the game, Russo stressed that Black, who has been electric in practice, finding the net most frequently, would need to have a huge part in the game. Along with adjusting to the Brown Bears’ open style of play, Russo also made adjustments of separating his main scorers into different lines to add pressure throughout the entire game on the Kenai River defense as opposed to having one electric scoring line that would only see minimal time.
New Amarillo Bull forward Gleb Murtazin also found action in the game tonight, deflecting defender Jack Mesic’s shot into the back of the net, giving the Bulls a 4-1 lead in the second period.
Gutjahr faced 20 shots in the game allowing just one to go past him. Charlie Glockner will look for a bounce-back performance in net next as the Bulls remain at home Saturday, January 4 to take on the Brown Bears in game two of their home series. Opening face-off for the game will be at 7:05 p.m.