The Wildcats and Jackalopes meet for the second time this Friday, with the ‘Cats looking to avenge a season-opening lost to Odessa. Wichita Falls suffered a 4-3 loss to the Jacks on Sept. 13, despite a valiant third period comeback that saw the Wildcats erase a three-goal deficit on goals from Alex Falconer, Nikita Litviak and Max Reisinger. Wichita Falls posted an 8-2-0 mark against the Odessa last year; dating back to 2011-12, the Wildcats own a 20-10-0 record against the Jackalopes. Colin Staub leads all current Wichita Falls skaters in points against Odessa, with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 21 games played against the Jacks, while Nick Farmer has a 6-9-15 line in 23 games.
Odessa enters this Friday’s contest having lost three-straight games, and currently sits in sixth in the South Division with a record of 4-7-0. The Jackalopes were swept by the Topeka Roadrunners last weekend by scores of 5-2 and 5-0, and were undone by slow starts in both contests, as they were outscored 8-0 in the opening frames of the two contests. Despite the recent setbacks, Odessa still boasts one of the league’s more potent offenses, thanks in large part to Kenny Hausinger and Derek Brown. Hausinger (7-8-15) and Brown (3-12-15) are currently tied for the league-lead in points, but both have been held scoreless in the Jackalopes’ last three outings. Robin Johansson, who posted 40 saves in Odessa’s 4-3 win over the ‘Cats in September, has played the majority of minutes in net for the Jacks; in nine games played, Johansson is 2-5-0 with a 4.05 goals against average and a .883 save percentage.
The Wildcats bounced back from their loss to the Lone Star Brahmas in a big way last Friday, as they thrashed the Amarillo Bulls, 9-1. Max Reisinger registered his first-career hat trick in the win, while defenseman Jake Townsend posted three points on a goal and two assists. Kevin Charyszyn also potted a pair, Austin Beaulieu had a goal and an assist, and Evan Okeley and Erich Jaeger each found the back of the net in the tilt. Cam Knight, Jeff Baum and Nikita Litviak all notched two assists as well, while Austin Shaw made 38 saves to earn his league-leading sixth win of the season. The nine goals marked a season-high for the Wildcats, and equaled last year’s high-water mark set in a 9-1 win over the Lone Star Brahmas on Nov. 8, 2013. The eight-goal margin of victory for the Wildcats also stands as the largest defeat ever inflicted on the Amarillo Bulls in their four-plus year tenure in the North American Hockey League.
Splended Special Teams
Friday’s contest in Amarillo was a penalty-filled affair, with Wichita Falls and Amarillo combining for 56 penalty minutes in the tilt. As a result, the Wildcats’ special teams units played a large role in their 9-1 triumph, with the power play finding the net night four times on nine chances and the penalty kill negating all nine Amarillo power plays. The four man-advantage markers were the most by the ‘Cats since they potted five on the power play in a 9-3 win over the Odessa Jackalopes on Jan. 12, 2013. The nine successful penalty kills were the most by the Wildcats since Oct. 25, 2013, when the ‘Cats were 9-for-10 on the PK against the Corpus Christi IceRays.
Thanks in large part to their nine-goal outburst last Friday, the Wildcats currently boast one of the league’s best attacks. Wichita Falls is averaging a league-high 4.10 goals per game through the first part of the season, and have scored the third-most goals in the league (41). The ‘Cats are also averaging the most shots per game (36.8) of any team in the league.
As the new season kicks into high gear, a few Wildcats alumni have enjoyed solid starts to their respective campaigns. Recent-alumnae Ben Kucera, who skated in 108 contests for the ‘Cats from 2011 to 2014, wasted no time registering his first collegiate point, as he picked up an assist on Oct. 11 in a 5-1 win for the Air Force Falcons. Elsewhere, defenseman Brad Shumway (2011-12) notched two assists against St. Lawrence University to open his junior year with the RIT Tigers. Additionally, defenseman Andrew Kerr has enjoyed a solid start to his first season in the United States Hockey League with the Dubuque Saints, with an assist and a plus-4 mark through his first four games.
The Ford House Military Appreciation Night will return on Saturday, November 8 when the Wildcats host the Amarillo Bulls. The ‘Cats will wear special-edition, military-themed jerseys on Nov. 7 and 8, with a jersey raffle to follow the game on Saturday, Nov. 8. Any person with valid military identification, including active and retired personnel and family members, will receive free admission to that evening’s contest as the Wildcats honor those who serve our country.
November will also see the Wildcats partner with the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank to collect food for area families in need. Throughout all home games in November, fans will be able to bring canned goods and other non-perishable food items to be donated, culminating in Food Drive Night on Friday, Nov. 21. On that night, any fan that brings five non-perishable food items for donation will receive free admission to that evening’s game against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.