(Photo: Troy Young)
This weekend’s top-of-the-table clash between the Wildcats and RoadRunners marks the third of four two-game series between the teams slated for this year. First-place Topeka and Wichita Falls are currently separated by seven points in the South Division standings, but the ‘Cats have played four fewer games than their Kansas-based rivals. The clubs have split the first four head-to-head tilts this season, with each team recording a home sweep at the expense of the other thus far; the red-and-black took two from Topeka at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Sept. 26 and 27, before the ‘Runners returned the favor with 3-2 and 7-2 wins in the Kansas capital on Dec. 27 and 28, respectively. Austin Beaulieu (4-1-5) leads the Wildcats in head-to-head scoring against the RoadRunners this season, with Colin Staub (2-2-4) close behind. Wichita Falls is 29-64-10 all-time against Topeka, and owns a 20-42-7 mark against the ‘Runners at the KYC.
Run-in with the ‘Runners
The RoadRunners roll into the KYC on the heels of taking two of three games at home against the Wenatchee Wild, and currently sit in first place in the South Division with 55 points and a record of 26-7-3 in 36 games played. Starting with Friday’s tilt, Topeka will play nine of its next 13 contests away from home after concluding a 14-game home-stand last weekend; the ‘Runners have posted a 7-5-2 mark on the road this season, but have lost their last four road games. The RoadRunners own the league’s third-best offense with an average of 3.53 goals per game, an attack that is currently led by Jason Fernsler’s 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists), and 35 points on eight goals and 27 assists from Mike Gornall. Forward Daniel Rzavsky is close behind, posting a team-high 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in 36 games played. Topeka netminders Matej Tomek and Drew Vogler have split minutes fairly evenly this season, but Tomek has received the majority of time recently and has earned the decision in 12 of the RoadRunners’ last 14 outings. Tomek, who recently committed to the University of North Dakota, is 16-2-1 on the year with a 1.40 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.
Tidbits from Tuesday’s Tilt
Wichita Falls enters Friday’s tilt against Topeka fresh from a 5-2 triumph over the Amarillo Bulls at the KYC on Tuesday evening. After the Bulls erased an early 1-0 lead for the Wildcats on a pair of power-play goals, the red-and-black rattled off four-unanswered markers to take control of the contest and claim their third-straight win over Amarillo. With a goal and an assist apiece, Colin Staub and Nick Farmer proved offensive catalysts for the ‘Cats, while first-year forward Johnathan Lazarus notched two assists for his third multi-point outing of the season. Alex Falconer also found twine in the win to mark his return from an upper-body injury, while Cam Knight and Erich Jaeger each potted a goal from the blue line. David Zevnik made 22 saves in net, including 12 in the third period, to earn his 11th win of the season for Wichita Falls, giving him 30 for his junior career.
Forward Colin Staub continues to pile up points in his third season in Wichita Falls, with 34 points through 32 games played. That mark not only leads the Wildcats in points, it also represents a new career-high for Staub, surpassing the 31 points he totaled during the 2013-14 campaign. Thanks to his early season successes, the Colorado Springs, Colo.,-native has spent the first half of the year penning himself into the Wildcats record books. With a career line of 35 goals, 62 assists and 97 points in 148 games played, Staub currently ranks fourth in career games played, seventh in career goals scored, fourth in career assists and fifth in career points in franchise history. Furthermore, Staub is poised to become the first Wildcats skater to reach 100 career points since Adam Cardwell, Skylur Jameson and Luke Salazar reached the century-mark for their respective careers in 2007-08.
Koch-ing Up Points
After posting 17 assists in 56 games played in his first year, defenseman Matt Koch has found his offensive stride in 2014-15. The second-year skater currently leads all North American Hockey League defensemen in scoring with 30 points, and also ranks fifth among all league skaters with 26 assists on the year. With a line of 4-26-30, the Hastings, Minn.,-native enters the weekend as the Wildcats’ third-leading scorer, while leading the team in plus-minus with a plus-21 mark. Koch, who is committed to the Air Force Academy for the 2015-16 season, has 13 points on a goal and 12 assists over his last 10 games for Wichita Falls.
Farmer’s on Fire
Wildcats forward Nick Farmer has been one of the team’s hottest skaters of late, and following two points against Amarillo on Tuesday, he enters this weekend’s series against Topeka with points in six contests in a row. The third-year player has posted five goals and six assists for 11 points during his career-best six-game point-streak, and has also recorded three-consecutive multi-point outings to help the ‘Cats claim three wins in succession. With 32 games under his belt this season, the Washington-born Farmer has already equaled his career-high in goals (12), and has set new high-water marks in assists (17) and points (29).
Protecting Home Ice
The Wildcats opened their season-long, eight-game home-stand with an 8-5 win over the Amarillo Bulls this past Saturday, and made team history in the process. The win marked the ninth-consecutive victory at the Kay Yeager Coliseum for Wichita Falls, setting a new franchise-record for consecutive home wins. The new mark of nine-straight wins at the KYC surpassed the old record of eight home wins in succession, set from Dec. 8, 2007 to Jan. 19, 2008. The red-and-black currently boast a 13-2-0 record at the KYC this season, and have now won 10 in a row at home after Tuesday’s 5-2 triumph over the Bulls.
Six-Goal Second Sets Record
In addition to setting a new record for most consecutive home wins in their 8-5 win over Amarillo, the Wildcats also penned a new line in their history books with an offensive explosion in the second period. Wichita Falls posted six goals in the middle frame of that contest, which stands as the most goals scored in a single period in team history. The previous high-water mark for most goals in a single period was five, which the red-and-black achieved on three occasions, most recently in a 6-3 win over the New Mexico Mustangs on Jan. 6, 2012.
The Wildcats are pleased to once again be partnering with Children’s Miracle Network and the United Regional Foundation for the return of Jersey Off Our Back weekend when the Wildcats host the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees on Jan. 16 and 17. Wichita Falls will don customized, Children’s Miracle Network-themed jerseys for both of those contests, with the jerseys being auctioned off following the conclusion of the game on Jan. 17. All proceeds will go to support Children’s Miracle Network at United Regional Health Care System.
Please note that the game originally scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17 against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees has been changed to a 5 p.m. start time to accommodate the "Jersey off Our Back" jersey auction immediately following the game.