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NA Now: Oklahoma Warriors

September 1, 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.

Oklahoma Warriors

Head Coach: Garrett Roth (4th Season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 44-14-2, 90 pts. (1st in the South Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Joey Delgreco (69 points)

2023 Playoffs: Won the South Division, Won the Robertson Cup Championship

2023-24 Division: South

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

Home opener: Friday, September 22nd vs. Colorado Grit

It was a magical season for the Oklahoma Warriors, which ended on May 24th with their first ever Robertson Cup National Championship as they defeated the Austin Bruins, 4-3. The Warriors were the best season in the league from start to finish, as they not only had the best regular season record with 44 wins and 90 points in the always tough South Division, but they also became the first team since the 2003-04 Texas Tornado to go through the playoffs undefeated.

Head Coach Garrett Roth and the Warriors dispatched the Amarillo Wranglers in the South Semi-Finals and then swept the Shreveport Mudbugs in the South Division Finals. In the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals, the Warriors swept the Minnesota Wilderness with a pair of two-goal wins. In the Robertson Cup Championship Game, the Warriors got a late 3rd period goal from defenseman Garrett Horsager to defeat the Austin Bruins, 4-3 and claim their first ever Robertson Cup title. Forwards Brendan Williams (MVP) and William Lawson-Body, along with defenseman Owen Baumgartner and goalie Daniel Duris were named to the All-Tournament team.

The accolades didn’t stop there. The Warriors picked up several league awards for their remarkable regular season. Forward Joey Delgreco was named the NAHL’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, Roth was named the NAHL’s Coach of the Year, and the Warriors were named the Organization of the Year. Baumgartner, along with Delgreco, was named to All-NAHL 1st Team. The Warriors also ended the season with a whopping 15 players committed to NCAA schools, 13 of them with NCAA Division I commitments.

“Looking back on it now that we’ve had a summer to regroup and reflect, it was an unbelievable year and an unbelievable group of guys. They were willing to put in the work and committed themselves to getting better every day,” said Roth. “The consistency at which they dedicated themselves and held one another accountable in the lockerroom was the most impressive thing to me. They took ownership of it and did it as a team. My role in it was simply not to mess it up and make sure they were doing the right things.”

Watch: NA Now video interview with Garrett Roth

There hasn’t been a repeat Robertson Cup Champion since the St. Louis Bandits won it three times in the row in 2007, 2008, and 2009, but with their 2023-24 line-up, the Warriors could just be the team that gets it done. The Warriors return their starting goalie, two defenseman, and five forwards, but Roth deflects talk of a repeat because of the different type of chemistry this year’s team will have. “I think heading into this season, the best thing we can do is probably avoid talking about it. We have a new group of guys here this season and the team will need to find a new identity,” said Roth. “We will obviously lean on the veterans for their leadership and experience, but the biggest thing will be getting them on the same page. We want them to enjoy coming to the rink and putting in the work it takes to be successful. It’s a new group and there will be a new identity.”

The Warriors do get a huge boost with the return of starting goalie Daniel Duris. Not only did Duris go 7-0 in the Robertson Cup Playoffs, but he also had a 25-10-1 record during the regular season. Therien Thiesing (26 points) and Will Brenner (16 points) are the two returning defensemen, while up front the Warriors return William Ahlrik (48 points), Max Dronen (31 points), Kaden Nelson (19 points), and Owen Carlile (18 points). “Our biggest focus was trying to build up the back end. We moved on a lot of elite defensemen. We brought on a mix of guys with junior experience and younger guys with a lot of skill. It’s going to be trial by fire. Guys are going to make mistakes and must learn from them. We must make sure we are always teaching,” said Roth.

“Last year was an awesome experience and our fans made it even more enjoyable. We not only have all the parents and families, but we have a great local following in Oklahoma City, and we still have some dedicated fans from Wichita Falls. Our support has been fabulous, and we are very fortunate to be in this situation,” said Roth. “We are excited for the Showcase.It’s a great opportunity for our players to make an impression. We just want to be sure that they are prepared. Guys have as comfortable as possible and just focus on hockey.”

Next Up: Philadelphia Rebels

 
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