(Photo: Troy Young)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Behind two goals from Austin Beaulieu and a strong showing from Austin Shaw, the Wichita Falls Wildcats fought past the Lone Star Brahmas, 4-3 in a shootout, on Wednesday night at the Kay Yeager Coliseum.
Beaulieu paced the offense for Wichita Falls with his two goals, while Johnathan Lazarus also found the net for the red-and-black. Colin Staub, Jake Townsend, Nikita Litviak and Tommy Apap all chipped in with assists, while Shaw made 17 saves and stopped four of five shootout attempts to earn his 18th victory of the campaign.
The first period saw the ‘Cats claim an early two-goal lead, but Lone Star battled back in the closing stages of the frame to even the affair.
Wichita Falls opened the scoring just over four minutes into the game thanks to a solid forecheck by Litviak and Lazarus. After the two combined to regain possession in the corner, Litviak worked a soft shot on net that Jake Kupsky spilled. Lazarus reacted quickest to the loose disc, tucking into the back of the net to make it 1-0 on his ninth goal of the year.
Just over two minutes later, the red-and-black doubled their advantage. Townsend gloved down a clearing attempt at the blue line and dished off to Staub at the right-wing circle. Staub fed to Beaulieu at the top of the left circle, who got just enough on his shot to sneak it past Kupsky for his 17th tally of the campaign.
Lone Star cut into the deficit inside the last three minutes of the frame though, with Alexey Solovyev finding a shooting lane through traffic with a wrist shot from the blue line to make it 2-1.
The Brahmas tied it on the power play moments later when, with Max Reisinger in the box, a slap shot from the point was tipped home by Storm Wahlrab in front to level the affair, 2-2.
The ‘Cats showed no hesitation in reclaiming their lead early in the second, regaining the lead on Beaulieu’s second tally of the night with less than a minute gone in the frame.
After a dump in from the neutral zone, Kupsky left the puck behind his cage for a defenseman to take. Under pressure from Staub, the Lone Star defenseman could not pick up the loose disc, allowing Apap to step onto it uncontested behind the net and feed in front for an unmarked Beaulieu to slap home to make it 3-2 at just 41 seconds into the stanza.
The Wildcats controlled much of the third period, outshooting the Brahmas 10-5 in the frame, but Lone Star still managed to tie the contest late on.
Wichita Falls was not able to clear the puck out of its zone, allowing the Brahmas time in the offensive end. A loose puck landed on the stick on AJ Vanderbeck, who wristed it over the shoulder of Shaw to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to overtime.
Both teams had half-chances and partial looks at a game-winning tally in the extra session, but no such goal materialized, sending the contest to a shootout.
After the teams traded misses in the opening round of the skills competition, Shaw made a strong toe save on Solovyev before Farmer beat Kupsky to give the Wildcats an edge. The next round proceeded in identical fashion, with Wahlrab having his effort steered aside and Townsend finding the net to give Wichita Falls a 2-0 lead through three rounds of the shootout.
After Sebastian Vidmar kept Lone Star alive with a goal in the fourth round and Beaulieu could not seal the win with his attempt, Ludvig Larsson then stepped up needing to score, but Shaw turned his effort aside with a strong pad save to give the Wildcats the 4-3 win.
The Wildcats are next in action on Feb. 13 when they open a two-game series against the Odessa Jackalopes. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. at the KYC, with kids 12 and under receiving a free Wildcats t-shirt, courtesy of Digital Deviance of Wichita Falls.
Fans that cannot make it to the game 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).
Wichita Falls – Jonathan Lazarus (Nikita Litviak) 4:08
Wichita Falls – Austin Beaulieu (Colin Staub, Jake Townsend) 6:26
Lone Star – Alexey Solovyev (Hogan Davidson) 17:05
Lone Star – Storm Wahlrab (power play) (Alexey Solovyev) 19:10
Wichita Falls – Austin Beaulieu (Tommy Apap) 0:41
Lone Star – AJ Vanderbeck (Cody Wickline, Roman Uchyn) 14:25