Friday, 10.23.2015 / 10:09 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
The long-awaited Clash of the Titans in the South Division came to fruition on Friday night, as the 1st place Wildcats travelled to suburban Fort Worth to take on the 2nd place Lone Star Brahmas.
A raucous house at the Nytex Sports Centre was electrified just 3:49 into the game, as Lone Star defenseman Bud Madej fired a long range one-timer from the point which eluded Justin Kapelmaster to give the Brahmas a 1-0 lead.
The lead would stand for 54 minutes and 5 seconds, which was the longest scoring drought the Wildcats have experienced this season. The middle period was dominated by the Brahmas, but they found themselves unable to solve Kapelmaster. The Lone Star goaltender Conor O’Brien also stood tall, stopping the 12 shots he faced after 40 minutes of play.
The third period yielded few high percentage opportunities. Aside from a robbery from O’Brien on André Pison, goal-scoring chances were few and far between. Then, in the last three and a half minutes of regulation time, Pison found himself guilty of a double minor for high-sticking.
Shorthanded with just over three minutes left to play, hopes for a comeback seemed grim for the Wildcats. The Brahmas had not conceded a shorthanded goal all season long, and they had all the momentum on home ice with one of the Cats’ top penalty killers in the box. Then, with just two minutes remaining in regulation time, lightning struck.
Aleksi Poikola found himself with the puck on his stick in the neutral zone. He saw Austin Beaulieu breaking down the opposite wing with speed. Poikola hoisted the puck over the two Brahmas’ defenders and it landed in the slot for Beaulieu, who had only O’Brien to beat. He deked the Lone Star goalkeeper out of position, and backhanded a shot past him to tie the game up at 1.
With a newfound surge in momentum, the Wildcats carried their high spirits into sudden death overtime. In normal circumstances, it would have been 3-on-3. However, because Pison was still in the box, the Brahmas had a 4-on-3 power play to work with for 24 seconds. The Cats killed off the man advantage, remaining perfect on the penalty kill, and earned a fourth skater. Before there was even a whistle blown in overtime to initiate 3-on-3 play, Rourke Russell scored his first goal as a Wildcat to win the game and complete the comeback for the Cats.
Justin Kapelmaster made 25 saves in the win, while Conor O’Brien made 19 stops in the overtime defeat. These teams meet again Saturday night at the Nytex Sports Centre at 7:30 pm CT.