The Wildcats and Jackalopes meet for the fourth and fifth head-to-head matchups of the 2014-15 campaign this weekend, with the ‘Cats owning a 2-1-0 mark against Odessa this year. Wichita Falls claimed a 5-4 shootout win in a back-and-forth affair at the Ector County Coliseum when these two squads squared off on Nov. 18, and also secured an 8-5 triumph on Oct. 17 after dropping a 4-3 decision in the season-opener. The Wildcats have spread the offense around against the Jacks this year, with 17 different skaters recording at least one point against Odessa thus far. Colin Staub (2-2-4) and Evan Okeley (1-3-4) lead Wichita Falls in scoring against Odessa this year, while Staub leads all active Wildcats in scoring against Odessa, with an 8-12-20 line in 23 games played against the Jacks. Dating back to 2011, the ‘Cats have compiled a 22-11-0 record against the Jackalopes, including a 10-4-0 mark at the Ector County Coliseum.
The Jackalopes enter this weekend in last place in the South Division with a 5-14-4 record, with just one win in their last 15 games (1-10-4). Following a 6-2 loss on Friday night, Odessa managed to earn a point on the road against Corpus Christi last weekend thanks to a furious comeback in Saturday’s contest; the Jacks erased a 3-0 deficit over the final 25 minutes of action, and forced overtime thanks to Kenny Hausinger’s goal with 26 seconds remaining, before being pegged back on Wes Michaud’s penalty-shot goal in overtime. The Jacks struggled out of the gate last weekend, and fell behind 4-0 within the first 12 minutes on Friday, continuing a season-long trend that has seen Odessa get outscored 40-17 in the first period of games this season. Forwards Kenny Hausinger (11-15-26) and Derek Brown (7-15-22) are leading the way for Odessa on offense, and have both tallied two goals and three assists against the Wildcats this year. With a league-high 105 goals against, the Jackalopes recently made moves to bolster their goaltending, trading for Forbes Ploszaj, who has gone 0-5-1 with a 4.65 goals against average and a .850 save percentage since being acquired from Wenatchee in October.
The Wildcats will be hosting a holiday toy drive when they return home to the Kay Yeager Coliseum to face the Corpus Christi IceRays on Dec. 5 and 6. Fans are encouraged to bring unwrapped toys to be collected at Guest Services; all toys collected will go to the Pediatrics playroom at United Regional Health Care System.
Mark your calendars for this year’s Jersey of Our Back Weekend, benefitting Children’s Miracle Network and the United Regional. The annual event will be held Jan. 16 and 17, with the jersey auction taking place at the conclusion of the game on Jan. 17.
Taking the Show on the Road
This Friday’s game against Odessa marks the beginning of the first road-heavy stretch the Wildcats will endure this season. Beginning on Friday, Wichita Falls will play 10 of their next 12 contests on the road, including eight in a row as the visitors from Dec. 12 to Jan. 2. The ‘Cats are 2-1-0 in true road games this season, not counting games played at the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., in September.
With a 4-2 win over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees this past Saturday, the Wildcats extended their current win streak to seven games. That streak is tied for the second-longest in team history, matching a seven-game stretch of successes from Oct. 21 to Nov. 4 of the 2004-05 campaign. The longest winning-streak in Wildcats history stands at 11 games, which was set by the 2007-08 squad.
Starting the Season Strong
Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Killer Bees also marked the 15th win of the season for Wichita Falls. With just 19 games played, that marks the fewest games needed to reach 15 wins in franchise history, besting the previous mark of 22 games in 2007-08. Additionally, with a record of 15-4-0 through 19 games, the Wildcats have also established a new highwater-mark for best record through 20 games in team history, surpassing the 14-5-1 record through 20 contests established by the 2007-08 team.
Records Break, By Jake
Veteran defenseman Jake Townsend has been re-writing the Wildcats record books in his third year in Wichita Falls. With an assist against the Odessa Jackalopes on Tuesday, Townsend now has 45 career points, surpassing Brett Morrell (2006-08) for the most career points by a defenseman in Wildcats history. Additionally, Townsend skated in his 117th game in a Wildcats sweater when the ‘Cats rolled over the Topeka Roadrunners, 5-1, on Sept 27, making him the franchise’s all-time leader in games played by a defenseman. Townsend, who has played in 127 games and counting to this point, claimed the record from Chris Nutini, who played 116 games on the Wildcats blue line from 2005-07.
The Wildcats needed a shootout to decide last Tuesday’s contest, marking the first time this season the ‘Cats required a skills session to determine a winner. Last season, Wichita Falls skated in 11 contests that reached a shootout, with the red-and-black posting an 8-3 mark in those tilts. Dating back to 2004, the Wildcats are 33-37 in shootouts.