3View: New Mexico Ice Wolves
The 3View series will feature an in-depth look into all NA3HL teams in preparation for the 2023-24 season, with two teams being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 3View goes in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all the head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2023-24 season, including taking a look at their potential roster and their strengths as a team for the upcoming season. It will also take a look back on the 2022-23 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 3View will provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
New Mexico Ice Wolves
Head Coach: Darren Banks (2nd Season)
2022-23 Record: 27-18-2-0, 56 pts. (4th in South Division)
2022-23 Leading Scorer: Jaden Stiller (48 points)
2023 Playoffs: Lost to the Texas Brahmas in the South Division Finals, 2 games to 0
2023-24 Division: South
The New Mexico Ice Wolves came into their inaugural season in a difficult South Division having expectations of strong compete level and character. They competed for the final playoff spot in the 2023 Fraser Cup playoffs, even taking down the regular season champion Texas RoadRunners in the 1st round.
For Darren Banks, the inaugural head coach and general manager, it was a great learning experience. “We learned about the toughness, speed, and skill of the South Division, and how every game requires a consistent effort. Through the ups and downs, we continued to focus on the work. During the second half, we started playing our best hockey, at the right time.”
The South Division, established in the 2013-14 season, has developed into a very deep one. Banks reflected on their first season as a member and the challenges that came along with it. “Consistency was my biggest takeaway from the first year in the South. The unique challenges of the division are the travel and the 3 games in 3 days. Being prepared is more important than ever. The division is competitive and having a consistent effort is important to finding success.”
A consistent effort was established in the locker room and on the ice last year and the Ice Wolves are looking forward to their returning players carrying that forward on their own and establishing that mentality with the newcomers. Ethan Secord, Brady Nance, and Landon Kusuno are just a few names from the returning group that will play a large role in New Mexico’s success.
Secord completed the season with 17 goals and 31 points; Nance had a strong rookie season with 22 points; Kusuno played a key role on the blue line, adding three goals and 12 points in 36 games. Banks said, “Not just the guys mentioned, but all of our returning players, we want them to lead and continue the culture centered around hard work that we established last season.”
Along with their inaugural season team success, the Ice Wolves proved to be a great hotbed for advancing to the next level. Evan Axell, Erik Larsen, and Ryan Kerr all played key roles in New Mexico’s success and are advancing to play collegiate hockey. Spencer Lund and Jameson Klein were both selected in the 2023 NAHL Draft.
“When speaking about advancement, we have maintained the philosophy that we focus on the work it takes to be a hockey player first, with team success and individual advancement naturally following. That said, being in the same building as the Ice Wolves NAHL team, as well as all of the division teams that come here to play provides a unique opportunity for exposure,” said Banks.
Playing for the Ice Wolves organization also provides a unique opportunity for community support and engagement. “One fun part of last season was the engagement in Albuquerque. Being in New Mexico is a new experience for a lot of our players. Getting involved in the community and watching hockey grow was a highlight of last season. We look forward to continuing being a good partner in this community and watching hockey grow in the Southwest,” said Banks.
New Mexico begins their season on a three-game road trip against the defending South Division Champion Texas Brahmas.