Ice Wolves will face off with El Paso Rhinos in a rare outdoor game in NAHL

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

LOS ALAMOS − The first regular season outdoor game in the history of the North American Hockey League's New Mexico Ice Wolves will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Los Alamos Ice Rink when they square off with the El Paso Rhinos.

Rivals in the NAHL's South Division, New Mexico and El Paso will face off in the league's first ever outdoor game played in the continental United States. The league's first outdoor game took place in Alaska in February, 2009 when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs faced the Alaska Avalanche.

The Ice Wolves, with a record of 13 wins, eight losses, one overtime loss and one shootout loss this season, are 10 points ahead of the Rhinos in the standings, with a record of nine wins and 13 losses.

The game also serves as the headline of the Los Alamos Winter Classic, a three-day hockey event running through this weekend at the Los Alamos County outdoor ice rink.

Dillan Bentley, one of the leading scorers for the New Mexico Ice Wolves last season with 30 goals and 34 assists, now plays for the University of Massachusetts at  Lowell. Bentley played three seasons with the Ice Wolves, amassing 101 points off 44 goals and 57 assists and was captain of the team during the 2021-22 season.

“We have great owners in the league that love to do unique and new things for the players and their respective communities,” said Mark Frankenfeld, president and commissioner of the NAHL. “The New Mexico Ice Wolves have been leaders in this category and this is another great example of a great organization creating a unique experience in their marketplace to bring more awareness to the sport of ice hockey.”

Celebrating its 48th season this year, the NAHL is the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league boasting 29 teams in 17 states from across North America. All the teams in the league are privately owned and operate as a business similar in structure and business operations as those involving professional hockey teams.

Such operations include ticket sales, corporate sales, broadcasting, and community-based initiatives and outreach programs. NAHL athletes are provided the opportunity to develop, learn, train, grow and succeed, while playing for free.

The Ice Wolves are defending South Division champions, but currently sit in third place in the division, trailing the Lone Star Brahmas and Oklahoma Warriors.

The Ice Wolves finished last season with a franchise record 38 wins followed by two playoff series wins and a berth in the Robertson Cup National Championships. In addition, 10 Ice Wolves players made NCAA Division 1 and NCAA Division 3 commitments during the season.

Sunday's contest is sold out, but can be viewed live on HockeyTV.com. For more information about the team and the NAHL, check out the official league website at NAHL.com.