The home ice advantage that the San Angelo Saints and Colorado Eagles worked 64 games to earn has been taken away, as the Amarillo Gorillas nabbed a 3-1 win in San Angelo and the Wichita Thunder posted a 3-2 road win in Colorado as the 2003-2004 Ray Miron Presidents Cup playoffs began March 19th. The Laredo Bucks and Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs both held serve on home ice with Game One victories. Laredo needed an overtime goal by defenseman Steve Weidlich to edge Rio Grande Valley 2-1, while a pair of goals by Dan Wildfong propelled the Mudbugs to a 3-2 victory over Indianapolis.
Box Score: Rio Grande Valley 1 @ Laredo 2 (OT)
Laredo leads series 1-0
Laredo barely avoided dropping game one to a very game Rio Grande Valley squad that received incredible goaltending from CHL Most valuable Player finalist Jeff Levy, who made 45 saves and took the loss when defenseman Steve Weidlich scored 5:34 into the first overtime period. An unchecked Weidlich took a feed from CHL MVP Jeff Bes in the slot, kicking the pass to himself and beating Levy high to end the contest. The Bees scored the only goal through two periods, as Ryan Taylor whacked home his own rebound, beating Laredo netminder David Guerrera between the legs. The Bucks finally got through to Levy early in the third period, as James Hiebert notched the equalizer to force the eventual overtime. Among Levys biggest saves of the evening were a breakaway stop on sniper Brent Cullaton and a tremendous pad save on Steve Simoes. Key to the Game: Laredos attack eventually wore down the Killer Bee defenders, forcing Levy to come up with buig saves time and time again without much of a counterattack.
Box Score: Amarillo 3 @ San Angelo 1
Amarillo leads series 1-0
In San Angelo, the Amarillo Gorillas played a near-perfect road game in stealing a 3-1 win over the Saints. After a scoreless first period, San Angelos Jarrett Metz opened the scoring early in the second frame, but the Gorillas Dave Rattray tied the contest a few minutes later with a shorthanded marker. Rattray capitalized on pinching defenseman and scored through the five hole on a breakaway. Amarillo had both goals in the third period, the first coming on the power play from Jason Maxwell, and Rattrays second of the game to seal the victory. Shawn Degagne was sharp in the Amarillo net, allowing just the one goal and making 26 saves, while San Angelos Scott Reid allowed three goals on 28 shots. Key to the Game: Maxwells power play goal game Amarillo a lead they would not relinquish, taking a beautiful cross ice pass from Shawn Roed and scoring into a wide open net.
Box Score: Wichita 3 @ Colorado 2
Wichita leads series 1-0
The Wichita Thunder won for the third time this season in Colorados Budweiser Events Center, using two third period power play markers by Jason Duda to post a come from behind 3-2 win, wrestling home ice advantage away from the Eagles. Twice Colorado held one goal leads, but special teams proved to be the difference as the Thunder scored all three of their goals with the man advantage, while the Eagles recorded one power play goal on seven chances. Brad Patterson had both of Colorados goals, and the Eagles outshot Wichita 38-25, but the Thunders Nathan Grobins continued his fine play this season with 36 saves. Colorados frustration boiled over late in the third period, with Curtis Sheptak (spearing double minor) and Karlis Zirnis (slashing) taking late penalties. Key to the Game: Wichitas power play converted three times, providing all the Thunder scoring.
Box Score: Indianapolis 2 @ Bossier-Shreveport 3
Bossier-Shreveport leads series 1-0
The Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs got off to their desired start with a hard fought 3-2 win over Indianapolis. Superpest Dan Wildfong was at the heart of the action, scoring twice, including the game winning goal on the power play. Wildfong took a pretty pass down low from Chad Spurt to give the Mudbugs a 3-1 lead. Phillipe Choiniere closed the score to 3-2 midway through the final period, and the Ice had numerous quality chances as the game ended, but netminder Ken Carroll and his defense held off the rally. The Mudbugs scored twice on five power play chances, while Indy went scoreless in their five attempts. Carroll made 23 saves in the win, while his Indianapolis counterpart Jeff Sanger stopped 19 of 22 shots. Key to the Game: Leading 3-1, the Bossier-Shreveport gave up a breakaway chance to former Mudbugs Dave Gilmore. Carroll made a huge save, and another off of Bernie John on the ensuing rebound to maintain the lead.
All four series continue Saturday evening in Laredo, San Angelo, Colorado and Bossier-Shreveport.