(Photo: Troy Young)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Tommy Apap’s two goals and a valiant comeback effort in the third period were not enough to prevent the Wichita Falls Wildcats (36-14-2) from stumbling to a 5-4 loss against the Amarillo Bulls (23-26-4) at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Apap’s multi-goal outing led the Wildcats’ offensive efforts, with Shane Kuzmeski registering a goal and an assist on the night. Colin Staub also found the net for Wichita Falls, while Matt Koch, Nick Farmer, Nikita Litviak and Kevin Charyszyn notched helpers in the contest as well. David Zevnik started in net for the ‘Cats, making 19 saves on 24 shots faced in the loss.
An entertaining first period saw both teams lead at times, but an evenly-played opening 20 minutes ended with the two teams at level-pegging.
Wichita Falls found the net first, taking advantage of a broken play in the neutral zone. As a loose puck pinballed around a mess of bodies in between the blue lines, and eventually landed on the tape of Kuzmeski. The defenseman raced forward and blew past his defenseman, before sending a smart wrister across the grain and over the leg pad of Jacob Weatherly to make it 1-0 at 5:25 of the first.
Amarillo responded by taking advantage of its first power-play opportunity, as Charlie Combs blasted a one-time shot into the top corner before Zevnik had a chance to react to make it 1-1.
The Bulls took the lead a few minutes later when Ben Jentsch’s effort was blocked in front but fell right to Luke Novak to put home, but the 2-1 score-line was short-lived.
With time winding down in the period and the puck in the offensive zone of the Wildcats, Farmer managed to move a puck along to Charyszyn behind the net. Charyszyn quickly played it in front for Apap, who tapped it through Weatherly’s legs to send the game into the first intermission tied at 2-2. The goal, Apap’s ninth of the year, came at the 19:48 mark of the first frame.
Amarillo took its second lead of the night at 7:51 of the second period with its second power-play goal of the evening, as Jesper Synnelius slipped a shot past Zevnik after he was given too much time to operate at the top of the zone.
The Wildcats tied the contest with a power-play tally of their own though, with Apap getting his second of the game out of a scramble after Koch managed to squeeze a shot on net through a maze of bodies. The effort was blocked in front but landed right in front of Apap, who tapped it over the line before Weatherly could sweep it away from danger to make it 3-3 at 13:36 of the second.
Amarillo wasted no time taking the lead in the third, as AJ Duggan capitalized on a giveaway at the Wichita Falls blue line to skate in uncontested to beat Zevnik and give the Bulls the 4-3 lead.
They doubled that edge a few minutes later when Combs scored on a breakaway after stripping a Wildcats defenseman and put a shot through the legs of Zevnik to make it 5-3, but Wichita Falls came roaring back immediately after.
Just 25 seconds later, Staub cut the deficit in half when he managed to shove a loose puck past Weatherly. Litviak and Kuzmeski picked up the assists on the goal, which was scored at 3:59 of the frame.
The red-and-black controlled the remainder of the final period, outshooting Amarillo 13-5 over the final 20 minutes, but try as they might, they could not find a tying goal.
The best chance at an equalizer came in the final minute of the frame with ‘Cats on a power play. Koch had a chance down low with Weatherly down on the ice, but the defenseman could not get a shot on net, as the Bulls held on tothe win, 5-4.
The Wildcats are next in action when they travel to Corpus Christi to take on the IceRays this Friday and Saturday. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. at the AmericanBank Center. Fans that cannot make it to the arena may follow all the action on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast available via YouTube.
Single-game tickets for the 2014-15 Wildcats season are on sale now at the Kay Yeager Coliseum box office. Stay updated on the latest team news and notes by connecting with the Wildcats on Facebook (WFWildcats), Twitter (@WFWildcats), Instagram (WFWildcats) and on YouTube (Wichita Falls Wildcats).
NOTES: Despite the loss, the Wildcats set a new franchise record for most wins at the KYC in a single-season, finishing the season with a 21-6-1 record at the KYC.
Wichita Falls – Shane Kuzmeski (unassisted) 5:25
Amarillo – Charlie Combs (power play) (Jesper Synnelius, Cody Gylling) 15:12
Amarillo – Luke Novak (Ben Jentsch) 18:36
Wichita Falls – Tommy Apap (Kevin Charyszyn) 19:48
Amarillo – Jesper Synnelius (power play) (Cody Gylling, Charlie Combs) 7:51
Wichita Falls – Tommy Apap (power play) (Matt Koch, Nick Farmer) 13:36
Amarillo – AJ Duggan (unassisted) 0:10
Amarillo – Charlie Combs (unassisted) 3:34
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (Shane Kuzmeski, Nikita Litviak) 3:59