(Photo: Troy Young)
The Wildcats wrap up the 2013-14 regular season with two games against the Topeka Roadrunners this weekend. The last time Wichita Falls tangled with Topeka, the ‘Cats swept the Roadrunners on the road, posting a 3-2, come-from-behind victory capped by Kyle Bauman’s game-winner in overtime on March 10. The next night, the red-and-black completed the sweep with a 4-1 triumph keyed by Sam Piazza’s hat trick and 29 saves by Chase Munroe. Piazza has enjoyed playing against the Roadrunners this season, posting four goals and three assists in six games, while Colin Staub has four points (one goal, three assists) in six head-to-head meetings with Topeka this year. On the other side of the ice, Jake Kamrass (three goals, two assists) and Tyler Poulsen (five assists) each have five points for the ‘Runners in six games against Wichita Falls. The Wildcats are 2-4-0 against the Roadrunners this season, and are 27-58-10 against Topeka dating back to the 2004-05 season when the franchise was located in Santa Fe, NM.
A Run-in with the ‘Runners
The Roadrunners enter the final weekend of the season trailing the Amarillo Bulls by two points for first place in the South Division. The ‘Runners split a weekend series with the Springfield Jr. Blues last time out, claiming a 3-2 win in overtime on March 21, before falling 3-2 the next night. Topeka has been one of the hottest teams in the league in the second half of the season, posting an 18-4-2 record since Jan. 3. That success is due in large part to the play in net of PJ Bridges, who leads the league in shutouts with 10, and is second in the league in goals against average and save percentage. In 35 games played, Bridges is 25-5-3 with a 1.53 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The Roadrunner attack is led by Tyler Poulsen (27-32–59), who currently ranks third in the league in points, and Jake Kamrass (24-32–56).
The Wildcats registered a season-high 55 shots on goal, and received goals from Evan Okeley, Tyler Ledford and Jake Townsend, but could not complete the comeback as they stumbled to a 4-3 defeat against the Lone Star Brahmas at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Wednesday. The Brahmas opened the scoring with a pair of goals in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission, and stretched their advantage to 4-1 in the second period. Wichita Falls clawed back to make it 4-3 in the third period, and pushed hard for an equalizer, outshooting Lone Star 24-2 in the final frame, but the Brahmas and TJ Black held on for the win.
Shots All Around!
Continuing a season-long trend, the Wildcats put plenty of pucks on net against the Lone Star Brahmas on Wednesday. Wichita Falls peppered the Lone Star net with 55 shots on goal, marking the tenth time this campaign the ‘Cats have registered at least 40 shots on goal. Prior to Wednesday’s contest, the previous season-high in shots on goal had been 45, which happened three times (Sept. 13 vs. Odessa, Jan. 29 vs. Lone Star, March 7 vs. Lone Star). The 55 shots on goal in Wednesday’s contest marked a season-high for the Wildcats, but the total still comes up short of the franchise record for most shots on goal in a single game. Wichita Falls registered 64 shots on goal in a 3-2 shootout loss against the North Iowa Outlaws on Sept. 16, 2009.
When last Saturday’s contest against Amarillo extended beyond regulation and overtime, it marked the 11th time this season the Wildcats have had a game decided in a shootout. Wichita Falls has excelled in the shootout this season, posting an 8-3 record in games requiring a shootout. Additionally, the Wildcats have tallied 22 shootout goals on 57 attempts, the most of any team in the North American Hockey League. Individually speaking, forward Rudy Junda leads all NAHL skaters with eight shootout goals, while David Zevnik has six shootout wins, tying him with Aaron Nelson of the Bismarck Bobcats and Alex Okicki of the Johnstown Tomahawks for most in the league.
Cats Alumni Set for NCAA Tournament
As the college hockey season nears its conclusion, a number of Wildcats alumni find themselves celebrating conference championships, and looking ahead to the NCAA tournament. Evan Cowley, a goaltender on the 2012-13 squad, and his Denver Pioneers claimed the inaugural National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship with a 4-3 win over the Miami Redhawks last Saturday. Denver will take on Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 29. Taylor Herndon, a forward who appeared in 24 games for Wichita Falls during the 2009-10 season, will also play in the NCAA tournament after his Minn. St.-Mankato Mavericks won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association title. The Mavericks triumphed over Ferris State, 4-1, last weekend, and will take on UMass Lowell in the first round. Additionally, former Wildcats Dakota Klecha (2010-11) and Daniel Gentzler (2009-10) will meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament when the Ferris State Bulldogs and Colgate Raiders meet on March 28; Klecha is a sophomore at Ferris State, while Gentzler is in his junior year at Colgate.
Jersey Auction Returns
The Wildcats will host their annual jersey and equipment on auction on Saturday, March 29, when Wichita Falls hosts the Topeka Roadrunners. Fans will be able to bid on game-worn jerseys, including the Wildcats’ limited-edition 10th Anniversary sweaters, as well as a helmet autographed by the entire 2013-14 squad. Bidding will take place via silent auction, with the auction closing at the start of the third period on Saturday.
Fans may follow the weekend’s action in a variety of ways. Video streaming is available on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast available by visiting our Ustream channel. Fans can also follow along on Twitter (@WFWildcats) for score updates throughout the contest.