Saturday, 02.11.2017 / 10:02 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
Playing in Amarillo for the last time this season, the Wildcats fell behind in the third period and failed to recover as they were bested 6-3 by the Amarillo Bulls.
With an inspired aura of positivity from Coach Nelson, the Wildcats flew out of the gates to start the game and were all over the Bulls in the first few minutes. Ryan Burnett tapped home his team-leading 16th goal of the season after a long point shot taken by Seamus Donohue ricocheted his way. Just 2:05 into the game, the Cats had a 1-0 lead.
Their advantage, however, would not last long. Just two minutes later, the Bulls found themselves on a 2-on-1 break. Steven Ipri fed a wing-to-wing pass over to Brendan Walkom, who unleashed a one-timer from the right circle to beat George McBey and tie the game.
McBey would respond by robbing Ipri on a point-blank shot just moments later, flashing the glove and keeping the game tied. The Wildcats pummeled Nikita Babintsev with 15 first period shots, but the Russian net-minder continued to hold his ground. The teams entered the first intermission in a 1-1 stalemate.
Ipri controlled the game virtually every time he set foot on the ice. Just 1:47 into the second period, he scooped up a loose puck which had been overskated by a pair of Wildcats. He cut to the net and slipped it past McBey’s outstretched right pad to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. Shortly after, he fed Luke Edgerton a pass in the right circle where he managed to snipe McBey glove-side.
The Wildcats would respond on a power play. Zach Heiser scored his first NAHL goal 6:42 into the second. He found himself with the puck on his stick at the side of the net, and smashed it past Babintsev to bring the Cats to within a goal.
Jacob Nitsche attempted several times to fight Donohue, and the Wildcats co-captain turned the other cheek. Frustrated, Nitsche began to fight Donohue anyways, causing the grinder to be sent to the locker room for the remainder of the game. The Cats were given a five-minute power play from the incident, and failed to convert despite hitting the inside of the right post twice.
Jeff Skinner displayed strong net-front presence early in the closing period. After relentless pursuit of the puck around the net, Skinner managed to fire a shot past Babintsev to tie the game.
Amarillo defensemen Bray Crowder and Marcus Chorney would score power play goals at the end of the third period before Charlie Singerhouse iced the game with an empty net goal from the neutral zone. The Bulls would hang on to sweep the Wildcats for the first time since January 18, 2014.
Babintsev earned back-to-back victories in the series, stopping 34 of Wichita Falls’ 37 shots. McBey was given the regulation defeat, having made 25 of a possible 30 saves in his second game as a Wildcat. The Cats will travel to Shreveport, Louisiana next weekend to take on the Mudbugs on Friday and Saturday night. Puck drops at 7:11 pm CT.