Tornado brewing down South, Texas wraps up 2007 on winning note
By Brian McDonough NAHL Director of Marketing and Communications Wins haven't been easy to come by for the Texas Tornado this season, making its two-game sweep over the Topeka RoadRunners last weekend all the more meaningful. "We've been working ...
By Brian McDonough
NAHL Director of Marketing and Communications
Wins haven't been easy to come by for the Texas Tornado this season, making its two-game sweep over the Topeka RoadRunners last weekend all the more meaningful.
"We've been working toward this outcome for quite awhile," said Tornado coach-GM Dwight Mullins, whose team improved to 9-22-3 on the season. "We've played well, but haven't earned the win at the end of the night, so to get these two, hard-fought wins will go a long ways as far as regaining some confidence."
On Friday, the Tornado bested the RoadRunners in a shootout, 3-2. Justin Lee and Ben Van Lare tallied for Texas in regulation, with Gustav Bengtson and Andrew Blazek notching shootout goals. Between the pipes, Thomas Callaghan turned aside 30 shots.
Five different players rang up goals for Texas the next night as it skated to a 5-3 win over Topeka. Adam Mitchell recorded the game-winning goal, with Sam Goodwin and John Bullis each adding two assists. Callaghan picked up the win in net with 26 saves.
"I thought we competed hard physically, and we've been able to insert a few guys into our lineup that like to get involved and that's contagious," said Mullins.
The Tornado was energized by the return of Bullis. In his first weekend back since missing 13 weeks with an injury, the 20-year-old from Frisco, Texas, responded with spark and enthusiasm.
Blazek, a 19-year-old from Pittsburgh who saw his first weekend of action after being traded from Des Moines of the USHL, also paid immediate dividends.
"Being able to add John and Andrew to our lineup gives us instant impact in terms of speed and grit," said Mullins. "Both players have added a fresh feel and energy and really give us depth upfront."
The Tornado is also benefiting from the acquisition of Bengtson. He was picked up in a trade from Cedar Rapids of the USHL at Thanksgiving and has four goals for seven points in 13 games with Texas.
"He's really added an offensive spark that we were lacking early on in the season," said Mullins.
Callaghan, 19, also played a big role in Texas' success last weekend. The New Wilmington, Pa., native has been in net for six of the Tornado's wins this season and now holds a save percentage over .900.
"You can have a lot of good players, but your goaltender needs to be one of the best every night and we got that last weekend," said Mullins. "Tommy has continued to work hard at this game and is really maturing into a difference-maker."
Despite their record and last-place positioning in the league's South Division standings, the Tornado isn't done yet. With 24 games left on the schedule - 16 at Dr Pepper StarCenter - there's still plenty of time for Texas to right the ship.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the players in our locker room," said Mullins. "They're dealing with the adversity and pressure that comes with playing here (with the Tornado) the right way. They've continued to work hard and believe they can battle to the playoffs, and that can make us dangerous.
"There's great parody in this league and you need to take care of the little things that make a difference every night. I think we've had to fight through a difficult schedule, and we've missed a couple of key personnel that might have changed some of the outcomes early."
The Tornado's record hasn't scared colleges away. Mullins reports that a number of his players are getting significant Division I attention, namely forwards Sean Roadhouse and Tyler Bowman, defensemen Matt Tennyson and Callaghan.
"I expect more names to follow," said the coach.
With two morale-boosting wins to close out 2007, the Tornado is optimistic, but set on taking its revival one game at a time.
"If we can continue to take steps forward everyday and compete at the level we're capable of, we can put ourselves in a position to be there in the end," said Mullins.