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NA Now: New Mexico Ice Wolves

August 28, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

New Mexico Ice Wolves

Head Coach: Phil Fox (5th Season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 33-23-4, 70 pts. (5th in the South Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Sully Scholle, William Howard (54 points)

2023 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2023-24 Division: South

First regular season game: Friday, September 8th vs. Lone Star Brahmas

Home opener: Friday, September 8th vs. Lone Star Brahmas

The New Mexico Ice Wolves entered the 2022-23 season fresh off a memorable appearance at the 2022 Robertson Cup where they pushed the eventual Champion New Jersey Titans to the brink in a thrilling three-game Semi-Final series. Expectations were high last season for the defending South Division Playoff Champs.

The Ice Wolves were among the South Division leaders during most of the entire regular season and despite finishing with 33 wins, 70 points, and the 10th best record in the NAHL last season, the Ice Wolves missed in making the playoffs by a single point. The Ice Wolves 70 points would have been good for 2nd place in the Central Division and 3rd place in both the East and Midwest Divisions, but in the South, it was not enough, as the Amarillo Wranglers claimed the 4th and final spot with 71 points.

“There were some positives from last year. We were in a good spot with a month to go but didn’t get it done and that’s on me. It was disappointing, but now that we have had a chance to reflect, we finished with 33 wins and the 10th best record in the NAHL. That’s pretty good. It just wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs in the South,” said Ice Wolves head coach Phil Fox. “We also ended the year with a dozen NCAA commitments, so I was proud of that too. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.”

Watch: NA Now video interview with Phil Fox

As Fox alluded to, the Ice Wolves had an impressive list of players who ended the 2022-23 season with an NCAA commitment, which included nine players making NCAA Division I commitments. Those commitments include the majority of the team’s scoring, leadership and goaltending from a season ago.

The new-look Ice Wolves will be put to the test right from the drop of the puck on Opening Night on September 8th as they host the Lone Star Brahmas for an opening weekend home series. From there, it’s off to the NAHL Showcase for games against Danbury, Anchorage, and the USNTDP team. Fox said it’s a great opportunity for his team and his players. “I love the Showcase. Getting the players the opportunity to be seen and show that they can do is what the whole thing is all about,” said Fox. “We are excited to play the USNTDP team and represent the NAHL. We know there are going to be some big crowds and a lot of scouts, which makes it such a unique event. Every year it gets better and better, so we can’t wait.”

While the majority of the team will be new faces, the Ice Wolves do have a handful of players coming back to lead the way in 2023-24. Among them is defenseman Jack Dalton. The Illinois native will be entering his final season of junior hockey and was solid along the blue line last season with 32 points in 58 games played. “Jack is one of the only guys coming back from the team that went to the Robertson Cup. He will be a guy we lean on heavily for leadership,” said Fox.

Other returners that Fox mentioned are forwards Ryan Johnson (33 points) and Graham Harris (13 points) up front and Jake Svenddal joining Dalton on the back end. Fox said part of the team’s success is adapting to life in the South Division on a nightly basis. “The South Division is a grind. I think the addition of Colorado as the 9th team makes it even tougher. When you win 33 games and fall one point short of a playoff spot like we did last year, it just goes to show you that every single game and every single point matters. I expect it to be even more difficult in 2023-24,” said Fox. “The only way to prepare for it is to experience it. The travel is something that players must get used to. However, it’s also a time to be together and build some cohesion.”

While the 2023-24 roster is still up in the air, the support and organizational success for the Ice Wolves and Fox is very strong heading into Year 5. I’m very proud of what we’ve built in New Mexico. Now five years in I think we are always continuing to improve and that’s important. We want to be a model NAHL organization every year,” said Fox. “The fan support is unlike any other. The amount of people that come up to me and are excited about watching the games is incredible. They recognize the logo, and we enjoy the fact that the community has become so involved.”

Next Up: North Iowa Bulls

 
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