NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – For a team that almost wasn’t this season, Dan Wildfong’s Fort Worth Brahmas have as usual, done more with less, than any other team in the Central Hockey League.
Now two games past the mid-season break, to say the the team has progressed a long way may be a colossal understatement.
Sitting at third place behind Allen and Wichita, the Brahmas show a lot of promise as they make a run for the playoffs. This team will likely finish in third or fourth place – strategically, the best place to finish the season.
As usual, Wildfong, who wears his feelings on his sleeve, has weeded out players not willing to listen and learn as well as non-performers. This isn’t a team for the weak or the individual contributor and if a player thinks the coach is picking on them, they’d better shape up or make room for someone who will.
Having lost three healthy defensemen to the ECHL when the NHL lockout lifted, Wildfong brought in three replacements – Gregg Eskedjian, Cole Ruwe and Eric Tallent – and the team proceeded to win four of their next five games, beginning with a home-and-away set of victories over the league-leading Allen Americans.
Eskedjian, who played 29 games for the Brahmas last season, has already matched his offensive production in five games and shows a lot of promise after starting the season in the Netherlands.
On the plus side: The Brahmas’ three best players (Snowden, Fox and Wild) have only played a total of 63 games this season, so when a healthy Fox returns, the sky is the limit for this trio.
On the down-side: The Brahmas defense is small with a huge need of a big, nasty veteran Jim Sprott or Mike Vellinga-type, but they are not easy to find. Daniel Barnes has a short window to prove himself, but Wildfong will likely continue the hunt for a proven D-man to fill out the blue line for the rest of the season. In addition, the Brahmas’ special teams play continues to be a thorn in Wildfong’s side.
Here is our mid-season grades on the 2012-13 Fort Worth Brahmas:
John Snowden (F): A+
Games played: 14 Production: 20 Points (11 G, 9 A, +7), 16 PIM
A leader, a natural scorer and competitor who has changed the outlook of the team with his professionalism and production. Seems to be having a ball and happy to be here. Arguably Wildfong’s best pick-up of the season.
Phil Fox (F): A
Games Played: 28 Production: 24 Points (16 G, 8 A, +11), 14 PIM
Great work ethic, scores in bunches, gets results. A fan favorite and game changer who will be a huge factor in the Brahmas’ post-season push.
Calin Wild (F): A
Games played: 21 Production: 17 Points (7 G, 10 A, +5), 6 PIM
Big body, works hard, plays in all situations, goes hard to the net. The scoring is coming; gets chances every night. A dependable player who understands and adheres to Wildfong’s system better than most.
Kristofer Westblom (G): A-
Games played: 20 Production: 12-5-2 2.30 GAA, .909 Save %
Young, big, solid tender. A hard worker with great attitude and focus. Leads the league with three shut-outs.
Sy Nutkevitch (F): A-
Games played: 36 Production: 28 Points (8 G, 20 A, +13), 28 PIM
Great two-way player who works hard and is responsible on both ends of ice and produces points. Leads the team with four power play goals.
Tomas Klempa (F): A-
Games played: 39 Production: 29 Points (11 G, 18 A, -2), 38 PIM
Solid, dependable competitor who works hard and plays every night. Good passer who can and will score more goals. Leads the team with six power play assists.
Adam Hogg (F): B+
Games played: 34 Production: 21 Points (12 G, 9 A, +9), 36 PIM
Smart, sound player. Great read of the ice. Terrific on the penalty-kill, Gets a breakaway per game and leads the team with three short-handed goals. Best shot percentage on the team (.218).
Chad Woollard (F): B
Games played: 30 Production: 24 Points (12 G, 12 A, +3), 39 PIM
Veteran who plays sporadically. A non-factor in some games and high-value in others. Needs to shoot more and must score more goals. Held temper in check this year and seems to be energized playing with Snowden. Leads the team with three game-winners.
Austin Mayer (F): B
Games played: 27 Production: 13 Points (4 G, 9 A, +7), 21 PIM
Non-stop energy; a good forechecker who is starting to improve his productivity and works well on a line with Cal Wild.
Ross Rouleau (D): B-
Games played: 33 Production: 16 Points (2 G, 14 A, +4), 45 PIM
New captaincy on his plate at a very young age. Mostly solid but many believe this is his first without showing noticeable improvement. Still time for him to step up his play, be more aggressive and take performance to the next level.
Brad Fogal (G): B-
Games played: 18 Production: 9-7-1 2.93 GAA, .900 Save %
Been good but not great; stops first shot but rebounds can be problematic. Needs to play a little more to give Westblom some rest.
Brendon Hodge (F): B-
Games played: 22 Production: 10 Points (6 G, 4 A, -1), 10 PIM
Hard worker and solid player when healthy. Production has waned greatly since leaving Rapid City.
Nick Schneider (D): B-
Games played: 32 Production: 8 Points (6 G, 2 A, +2), 24 PIM
Been a surprise, sound positionally and unafraid. Seems willing to listen and learn.
Jake Morley (F): C+
Games played: 27 Production: 9 Points (1 G, 8 A, +1), 50 PIM
Rugged, raw, big kid who has no fear as the de facto fighter/enforcer. Works hard but not always very efficient. Least efficient on the team on SOG.
Daniel Spivak (D): C
Games played: 38 Production: 9 Points (3 G, 6 A, +4), 10 PIM
Young D man who goes unnoticed, which is not necessarily a bad thing on defense.
Shawn Szydlowski (F): C
Games played: 29 Production: 12 Points (4 G, 8 A, -10), 10 PIM
Very young player who gets scoring chances he can’t finish and not nearly as responsible on defense as necessary. Needs to take it up a notch.
Riley Boychuk (F): C-
Games played: 28 Production: 10 Points (6 G, 4 A, -7), 22 PIM
Young, big body who doesn’t play hard and is very soft, especially around the net. Could be a force but has a lot to learn. -7 needs improvement on this squad.
Daniel Barnes (D): Incomplete
Games played: 3 Production: 0 Points (0 G, 0 A), 17 PIM
B ig body who shows promise. Needs to make the most of his shifts if he is to kep his spot on the roster.
Gregg Eskedjian (D): Incomplete
Games played: 5 Production: 5 Points (2 G, 3 A, +10), 17 PIM
Great skater who will be good addition. Showing aggression and offensive prowess already.
Cole Ruwe (D): Incomplete
Games played: 5 Production: 1 Points (0 G, 1 A, -1), 4 PIM
Solid history and a welcome addition in a time of need.
Eric Tallent (D): Incomplete
Games played: 5 Production: 1 Points (0 G, 1 A, +3), 0 PIM
Seems glad to be here and hungry.
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