Kristaps Skrastins scored four goals to lead the Amarillo Wrangles to a 5 – 2 win over the Titans last night in the opening game of the North American Hockey League’s annual showcase.
The Titans started the scoring at 5:40 into the first period on Brandon Avezov’s second goal of the year. Colin Grable carried the puck out of his own zone and into center ice and then sent a bounce pass off the near side boards where it was picked up by Brendan Dumas. As Dumas skated towards the hash mark, he passed it to Nick Ring on his right. Ring took a shot that was saved by Wranglers netminder Max Gutjahr but the rebound came right out to Avezov who was on the door step and he tucked the loose puck into the open net for the 1 – 0 lead.
Arizona started the middle stanza on the power play after Levente Keresztes was called for slashing with 1:07 remaining in the first period. Nine seconds into the second period, Skrastins scored his first of the game. After the Wranglers’ Nikolas Campbell won the opening draw, the puck went back to Skrastins who skated through the neutral zone and passed the puck over to Glebs Prohorenkovs on his left. As Prohorenkovs reached the faceoff circle, he sent a return pass to Skrastins on his right. Skrastins took a shot that was saved by Cam Carroll, but the rebound came right back to Skrastins who slid the puck through the pads of the fallen Carroll and into the net to tie the game.
At 9:23 into the second, Hunter Newhouse was called for high sticking to put the Wranglers back on the powerplay. Thirty-eight seconds later Prohorenkovs gave Amarillo the lead. With Arizona pressuring in the offensive zone, the puck was sent back to Skrastins at the top of the far side faceoff dot. Skrastins passed it over to Bryson Russell on his left. Russell immediately passed it to Prohorenkovs who skated to the top of the faceoff circle and took a wrist shot that beat Carroll high over his glove to make it a 2 – 1 game.
Amarillo would double their lead two minutes later on Skrastins second goal of the game. Skrastins brough the puck out of his own zone and through center ice and into the Titans end. As Skrastins gained the line, he passed the puck to Tommy Chunchukov on his left. Chunchukov sent a return pass to Skrastins and the Latvian native took a shot that was deflected out front and past Carroll to make it a 3 – 1 game.
With 2:10 remaining in the second period, Dumas cut the Titans deficit in half. Dumas blocked a Wranglers shot at the top of his own zone and followed up the loose puck and passed it to Blake Farrell on his left. Farrell then entered the offensive zone on a two-on-one with Dumas. As Farrell reached the far side faceoff dot, he passed it over to Dumas who redirected the biscuit past Gutjahr to make it 3 – 2.
Skrastins scored the hat trick with four minutes into the third period to give the Wrangles a 4 – 2 lead, and his fourth goal at 8:43 into the final period closed out the scoring.
Carroll stopped 20 of 25 shots while Gutjahr turned aside 27 of 29. Click here for the box score.
The Titans will play game two of their four game tournament showcase tonight at 5:45 PM (ET) against the Chippewa Steel.