Friday, 11.11.2016 / 9:47 pm CT
By: Alex von Keudell / Photo: Tracey Koby
Playing in their first home game in nearly a month, the Wildcats went to overtime for the third straight game against the Amarillo Bulls and defeated them by a score of 3-2.
The Cats were the far superior team in the first period of play. Amarillo’s Russian goaltender Nikita Babintsev was forced to bail his team out several times and managed to keep the contest scoreless far longer than it should’ve been.
Domantas Cypas fed Steven Tillie a pass in the neutral zone. Tillie skated across the Amarillo blue line with a full head of steam and wristed one from the deep slot. Babintsev fanned on the unexpected shot and the puck trickled past him and into the net, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead 12:55 into the game. Wichita Falls goaltender Jared Dempsey was solid in his Wildcats debut in the first period, stopping all seven shots he faced.
Wichita Falls continued to show resilience throughout the second period, generating a whopping 21 shots on goal in the middle 20 minutes. Babintsev went above and beyond to ensure his team stayed within striking distance. He made several crucial saves on plays which looked to be certain goals. Aleksi Poikola and Jonathan Bendorf were each robbed on the power play by the Russian goalie.
Nearly eight minutes into the period, Amarillo Captain Matt Nehls coughed up possession at the Cats’ blue line. Matt Hanewall, also playing in his Wildcats debut, turned on the jets and raced down the left wing. Babintsev poked the puck off Hanewall’s stick, but C.J. Regula followed up and buried it into the net to double the Wichita Falls lead. Jeff Solow would respond less than a minute later with a snipe from the right circle on a Bulls’ power play to cut the Cats’ lead in half heading into the second intermission.
Eric Cooley scored his first NAHL goal 4:47 into the third period off a big rebound conceded by Dempsey, tying the score 2-2. Late in the game, Nick Rosa was given a four-minute double minor for high sticking, causing the Cats to finish regulation on the penalty kill. However, they drew a penalty themselves, forced overtime, and won the game on a 3-on-1 overtime rush after Ilya Skvortsov fed Poikola a pass in the slot, where the Finn blasted the puck past Babintsev to end the game in overtime.
Dempsey secured the victory in his Wildcats debut, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Babintsev was handed his first overtime loss despite denying 44 of 47 attempts. The Wildcats will host the Bulls again on Saturday, November 12th, on Military Appreciation Night at Kay Yeager Coliseum.