Saturday, 04.01.2017 / 10:19 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell / Photo: Zesty Prints
Arguably the most hectic game of the season ended 8-6 in favor of the Jackalopes on Saturday night as the Cats fell victim to a three-game sweep.
Another lackadaisical first period by the Wildcats resulted in them falling behind early in the game. On Thursday night, they conceded the first three goals of the game. On Friday and Saturday, the first two.
At 9:37, Zach Zech capitalized off a Wildcats turnover. From the right corner in the Wichita Falls zone, he set up Connor Stuart from a one-timer right between the circles. The Odessa defenseman-turned-forward hammered the puck past Jared Dempsey just before the net came off, so the goal stood and the Jackalopes took a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, on a questionable penalty called against CJ Regula, Odessa converted on a power play chance. Cooper Zech unleashed a one-timer from the deep slot, forcing Dempsey to make a shoulder save. After fighting off the shot, the puck bounced right to Chase Thudium, who buried his fourth goal of the series.
Two minutes into the following period, Wyatt Mathews released a heavy slap shot from the left point. Parked in front of the net, Aleksi Poikola deflected the shot past Jon Flakne to break a 30-game goalless drought and bring the Wildcats to within a goal.
The Jackalopes answered after a defensive miscue in the Wildcats’ zone. Peyton Frantti fed a nice pass to Ludwig Stenlund, who fired a shot past Dempsey’s glove from the left circle to regain a two-goal Odessa lead. Three minutes later, Levi Wunder capitalized on another Wildcats turnover in front of their own net to extend Odessa’s lead to three.
At 30:33, CJ Regula found himself on a 2-on-1 with Ryan Burnett. Regula patiently waited for the passing lane to open before feeding Burnett a backdoor one-timer to bring the Cats to within two. A fight coincided with the goal being scored, causing Matt Hanewall and Peyton Frantti to be sent off the ice for the remainder of the second period.
Again, the Jackalopes re-extended their lead to three goals. Chris Donaldson motored into the Wildcats zone with a burst of speed, and rifled a howitzer under the crossbar to beat Dempsey from the high slot. Less than a minute later, Ricky Carballo circled his way to the deep slot and snapped a wrist shot through a crowd past an unsuspecting Flakne to bring the Cats back to within two. Wichita Falls entered the second intermission trailing 5-3.
Pandemonium struck in the third period. A fight between Blake Ripley and Jackalopes heavyweight Nick Wilson, a goalie fight between Evan Moyse and Jonny Hogue, and a natural hat trick scored by Zach Zech to give him his 100th career point as a Jackalope do not even tell the whole story. Nick Rosa scored two goals for the Cats in the late stages of the game, but his efforts went unrewarded as his team fell 8-6 in Odessa.
The Wildcats will close out the regular season next weekend in Corpus Christi as they take on the IceRays at the American Bank Center. The series will kick off next Friday on April 7th shortly after 7 pm.