The word perfect gets thrown around often in sports, but the Amarillo Bulls were a perfect 2-0 this weekend against the Corpus Christi IceRays thanks to the perfect play of goalie Jason Grande.
Grande, in his first season with the Bulls, did not give up a goal in the two games, leading the Bulls to 4-0 and 1-0 wins, stopping all 66 shots he faced on the weekend.
The pair of wins moves the Bulls to 7-3-2-1 on the season, good for 17 points.
“He’s awesome,” Bulls assistant coach David Nies, who was in charge of the team with head coach Rocky Russo away, said of the team’s top netminder. “Jason Grande is a big-time player, we knew that. He’s unflappable, he’s been awesome the entire year, he makes it look easy, and he’s just a big-time player.”
Grande’s stellar played helped the Bulls kill of all 12 Corpus Christi power plays this weekend, and moving the Bulls into the Top-10 in the league while down a man, killing off 84.4 percent of their short-handed chances.
“Sometimes the best penalty kill is a good goalie,” Nies said. “And we had that.”
Grande is now 6-2 on the season for the Bulls, those six wins are tied for sixth in the NAHL. Couple that with a 2.13 goals against average, ninth in the league, and a .934 save percentage, sixth in the league, and Grande has started to turns heads outside the NAHL.
Head coach Rocky Russo said earlier in the season that Grande was measured by scouts at NHL Advanced Scouting, putting him on the radar as a potential NHL Draftee in the future.
But according to Nies and the Bulls coaching staff, part of what has made him so great this season is the push from backup goalie Alexie Masanko, who battles Grande each day in practice.
“I can’t talk too much about (Grande) without talking about (Alexie) Masanko behind him too,” Nies added. “He pushes him every day in practice and we think very highly of him as well. Alexie is somebody who has come in and won games for us, the thing is, they both know that if they lose the job at any point the other will step right up. They push each other and that’s what makes them great. We like both our goalies, but Grande stole the show this weekend.”
The pair of wins was also big for the entire Bulls organization, who played with head coach Rocky Russo on their minds. Rocky was away from the team tending to his family back in Ohio following the loss of his father, Ronald, just over a week ago.
“It was huge, it was for Rocky,” Nies said of the sweep. “It was the easiest game I’ve ever had to coach and get the guys up for, because we’ve been up all week. We’re hoping he comes back soon, but we’ll play our butts off until he gets back, and that’s the mindset, we’re doing this for Rocky and his family.”
The Bulls will look to carry the momentum of this weekend’s wins into a pair of games at home this Thursday and Friday against the defending Robertson Cup Champion Lone Star Brahmas. This will be the second series of the season between the two teams, with each team earning a win in a pair of games in early October in Amarillo.
Thursday’s game will be the first Thirsty Thursday of the year, with $2.50 beers and sodas available throughout the game.
Friday’s game will be Military Appreciation Night, with the Bulls wearing special patriotic uniforms that will be auctioned off after the game for the America Celebrate Honor and Serve charity. In addition to the jersey auction, the game will feature a Great American Patriot Award Ceremony, the Volleys for Veterans color guard, Amarillo Firefighters Pipes & Drums performance, and a military enlistment ceremony.