NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – For the first time in team history, the New Mexico Ice Wolves are NAHL playoff bound.

Story continues below:

The Ice Wolves inaugural season was interrupted by COVID, and the following year forced the team to play its entire season on the road. Now in year three, general manager and head coach Phil Fox believes the adversity his players have faced helped them understand what it takes to be successful.

“You know the biggest thing with an organization is you have to establish your culture down here,” Fox said. “I think this year is the first year it really took a twist where the guys bought in. Everybody held each other accountable, made each other better each and every single day and ultimately got out of this what we put in it.”

With a 38-17 record in the regular season, the Ice Wolves clinched second in the South Division, which means hosting a playoff game.

“Its cool, we’ve worked really hard each and every single day coming to the rink,” said defensemen Aiden Emerson. “Its for sure been a grind but its been so fun and we’re all super excited to get this going.”

In addition to the excitement of the playoffs, the players still have other things to look forward to – getting noticed. Many NAHL players join the league as a way to develop before making the leap to the next level of hockey. Currently there are six players confirmed to play hockey at the next level. Five will be going on to Division I and one will be playing Division III, while many others remain in talks with schools. For the players that haven’t sighed yet, this could be an opportunity to get seen by some college programs.

“I mean you’d rather have a winner on your team than somebody that never really makes playoffs and stuff like that,” said forward Liam Guerin. “You want a guy that knows how to win and knows how to compete when it matters the most. I’m sure that schools see that and they’re definitely more excited about taking a guy that’s won something or done something with their career rather than put up a bunch of points and not really do anything.”

The first step in the playoffs will be against the Wichita Falls Warriors in a best of five series. Game one will be Friday night a 6:30 at Outpost Ice Arena. Tickets for the first two games are currently still available.