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'Cats Comeback Comes up Short in Season-Opener

(Photo: Troy Young)

WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Alex Falconer and Nikita Litviak each scored the first goals of their North American Hockey League careers, but it was not enough to keep the Odessa Jackalopes from claiming a 4-3 victory at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Saturday night.

Max Reisinger also scored for Wichita Falls, while Jake Townsend and Colin Staub tallied assists. David Zevnik started in net for the ‘Cats, making 25 saves in the loss.

The Wildcats started the game on the front foot, stringing together a couple of solid shifts in the offensive zone, but it was Odessa who opened the scoring.

After a bouncing puck eluded a ‘Cats defender, the Jackalopes stepped in on a three-on-one break. Jesse Juntilla’s initial shot was saved by Zevnik, but he could not corral the rebound, as Kenny Hausinger stashed it home to make it 1-0.

Odessa increased itsadvantage in the middle frame, scoring twice in less than two minutes to make it 3-0. First, Derek Brown put home a centering feed from Kenny Hausinger after a poor change by Wichita Falls gave the Jackalopes possession. Barely 90 seconds later, Alex Alger potted his first of the year on a feed from Hampus Sjodahl, beating Zevnik through the wickets.

The Wildcats pulled one back before the end of the period though, with Falconer picking up his first-career goal. Townsend raced down the right-wing wall into the offensive zone, gaining a step on his defender in the process. The veteran defenseman wired a centering feed to Falconer on the back door, who slammed it home to make it 3-1.

Wichita Falls came out on the front foot in the third and piled up the chances, and eventually made the pressure pay to tie the contest.

First, Litviak picked up his first-career goal, pounding home the rebound from Colin Staub’s shot from an acute angle to make it 3-2. The Wildcats evened the affair a few minutes later, as Reisinger tallied his first goal of the year on a deflected shot to make it 3-3.

It looked like Wichita Falls were primed to complete the comeback, as the chances accumulated in the ‘Cats offensive zone, but a defensive miscue proved to be their undoing. Kenny Hausinger forced another turnover at the blue line and skated in uncontested on Zevnik, beating the netminder with a low, hard shot to make it 4-3.

The Wildcats are next in action on Wednesday, Sept. 17 when they tackle the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at the 2014 North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:45 p.m., with video coverage available on FASTHockey.com.

Single-game and season tickets for the 2014-15 season are on sale now. Call the Wildcats office at (940) 716-5587 for details, or visit www.wfwildcatshockey.com for seating and pricing information. 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).

Scoring Summary

1st Period

Odessa – Kenny Hausinger (Jesse Junttila) 13:10

2nd Period

Odessa – Derek Brown (Kenny Hausinger, Andreas Soje) 2:39
Odessa – Alex Alger (Hampus Sjodahl) 4:05
Wichita Falls – Alex Falconer (Jake Townsend) 12:37

3rd Period

Wichita Falls – Nikita Litvyak (Colin Staub, Matt Koch) 10:11
Wichita Falls – Max Reisinger (Alex Falconer) 15:16
Odessa – Kenny Hausinger (unassisted) 17:38