Saturday, 03.25.2017 / 10:07 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell / Photo: Tracey Koby
Closing out their final home series of the regular season, the Wildcats painfully lost in an up-and-down tilt with the Shreveport Mudbugs on Saturday night.
Showing resolve after convincing defeats has undoubtedly been one of the Wildcats’ strengths this season. The last time they were shut out, they responded by winning 2-1 in arguably their hardest-working victory of the season.
They showed substantially more fire at the start of Saturday night’s game. Just 17 seconds after going onto their first power play, Ryan Burnett beat John Roberts high glove-side on the Cats’ first shot on goal. Burnett’s tally put him at 21 goals on the season.
However, it took the Mudbugs only four minutes to respond with a power play goal of their own. After cycling the puck for a good chunk of time in the Wildcats zone, it came to Croix Evingson in the high slot on the relay. The 6’5” defenseman blasted a one-timer through a screen to tie the game 1-1.
A change in personnel on the Wildcats power play seemed to ignite things a bit, but they could not convert on their next two man-advantages in the first period. For the first time in the series, the teams entered the first intermission all tied up.
Things escalated to a new level in the middle period. A whirlwind of goals and lead changes began when Gueorgui Feduolov stole the puck from Ryan Orgel on a Wildcats power play. On a shorthanded breakaway, Feduolov managed to cleanly beat Jared Dempsey and give the Mudbugs their first lead of the game.
On the same power play, the Cats responded when Jonathan Waring ripped a shot past John Roberts to tie the game up. However, the Bugs answered just 12 seconds later and immediately silenced the house as Feduolov buried his second goal of the game.
Stunned from what had just happened, it took the Cats a bit to regain their bearings. Though once they did, they surged.
CJ Walker intercepted a Shreveport clearing attempt at the blue line, and closed in on Roberts on a partial breakaway. Drawing Evingson over to him, Walker slipped the puck through the crease and gave CJ Regula a tap-in goal to tie the game up for the Cats.
Riding high on their newfound momentum, the Cats regained the lead after Burnett potted home his team-leading 22nd goal of the season. Ryan Orgel took a point shot which ricocheted off a Mudbug’s skate right to Burnett in the left circle, where the sniper tallied his second of the night with just 20 seconds remaining in the second.
Shreveport was strangely fortunate on the timing of Burnett’s goal, as they took the second intermission to reset and refocus. They replaced Roberts with Dylan Lubbesmeyer, who seized control in the third period.
Brendon Gysbers fed a perfect diagonal pass from the right point to the left circle, where Kieran Durgan flung a shot past Dempsey to re-tie the game 4-4 midway through the closing period. It appeared as though the game was destined for overtime, until madness struck.
A clear slash by Andrew Lane on Steven Tillie went uncalled seconds before Karim Del Ponte was given a questionable penalty for head contact late in regulation. With the league’s most deadly power play going back to work, the Mudbugs cashed in on a rebound in front of Dempsey and regained the lead 5-4 with just three minutes remaining.
The Cats could not rally to tie the game and dropped their final regular season home game in heartbreaking fashion. Dempsey went 32/37 and was handed his 9th regulation loss of the season, while Roberts stopped just 13 of 17 for his 17th victory. Lubbesmeyer made all nine saves in relief, and went 39/39 on the weekend. The Wildcats will head to Odessa next Thursday to kick off a three-game road series against the Odessa Jackalopes. Puck drops at 7:05 pm CT.