Friday, January 31, 2020


By Lee Samuels

Las Vegas – Game tied 2-2 in regulation and when Joe Wheeler of the WSHL Las Vegas Thunderbirds went to center ice to fire off an OT/Shootout attempt he knew exactly where to align his battle sights and wire it in.

“During warmups our goalie coach Patrick Spaulding noticed their goalie had a wide stance. That’s all I needed to know,” Joe Wheeler said.

So Wheeler lasered a low liner towards the center of the net. The puck blue-streaked into the goalie cage and his teammates rushed onto the ice as the WSHL Las Vegas Thunderbirds beat a very skilled Ontario Avalanche team by 3-2 before a festive, excited crowd at the SoBe Ice Arena.

And while of Wheeler’s dramatics were going down the T-Birds Rhett Bruckner – an awesome goalie for years at all levels of the game in Las Vegas – shut down all of the Ontario shootout attempts.

It was a magical night at the SoBe as the game was very intense between two really good skilled teams with great rink rock music – nice and loud – and a crowd which was really into the game.

Nikolas Sotiriou of the Thunderbirds earlier fire-blasted a goal in regulation.

He made a rush down the right side of the ice and just ahead of him linemate Anthony Rodriguez gave him a drop pass and Sotiriou unleashed a shot which took a wicked supersonic ride into the Ontario net.

The T-Birds are such a well-coached team with Dave Hyrsky and assistant Matt Johnson. The team plays hard and effectively. There are a lot of hometown stars including the great Joe Terrana and of course Bruckner in the net.

And Mikhail Gerasin, who scored the T-Birds first goal on a powerplay, is a very special and unique ultra-skilled goal scorer. 

All of this is amazing since the T-Birds are a first-year team in a league which includes powers like the El Paso Rhinos and Ogden Mustangs.

Las Vegas and Ontario go at it again on Super Bowl Eve – Saturday night. Faceoff 5:05 pm.

From the Blue Line – The referee on Friday eve was Cody Fulweiler who years ago was a top goalie who played on the Rob Pallin-coached AA Las Vegas Mustangs 18u in 2001-02. That was the first Las Vegas AA team to advance and play in the U.S. Nationals….Before the game started there was a touching 24-second Moment of Silence for superstar legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all who perished with them last week. 

When enforcement was needed in this game T-Birds #4 Gleb Shlyaiger was there to settle things down – his way….T-Birds got a great effort from a number of players including #17 Michael Baron who is really a hard worker on the ice….After the game a lot of folks were asking about legend Las Vegas hockey coach Rob Pallin. His photo is up on the wall just outside the rink doors, by Subway. He’s fine coaching at HC TWK Innsbruck we told those who asked…

The overhead electric scoreboard at the Sobe Ice Arena was initially at the Sante Fe Stations Ice Arena on North Rancho Drive – just down the street. In 2004 when the Santa Fe Stations shut down their ice arena the Scoreboard and a Zamboni and rinkboards were moved over to the SoBe Ice Arena….and if you looked around the arena carefully the framed #96 UNLV Rebels Jersey on the South Wall is retired. It was worn by the great Anthony Greener who always played on the #1 top line he skated for the Rebels. Anthony is now the head coach of the UNLV Rebels….That was famous Las Vegas hockey dad Joe Battaglia keeping the stats for the game last night….

Las Vegas scoring

LV – Mikhail Gerasin from Nikolas Sotiriou

LV – Niklolas Sotiriou from Anthony Rodriguez

LV – Joe Wheeler – OT/Shootout goal

LV goalie – Rhett Bruckner