(Photo: Troy Young)
AMARILLO, Texas – Behind Erich Jaeger’s first-career multi-goal game, the Wichita Falls Wildcats (32-13-1) skated past the Amarillo Bulls (19-25-4), 5-3, at the Amarillo Civic Center on Saturday night.
Jaeger finished with three points on two goals and an assist, while Cam Knight had a multi-point game as well, posting a goal and an assist. Tommy Apap and Evan Okeley also found twine for Wichita Falls, while Kevin Charyszyn and Austin Beaulieu each notched a pair of helpers in the win. Matt Koch, Shane Kuzmeski and Johnny Lazarus all picked up assists in the win, while Austin Shaw made 37 saves on 40 shots to earn his 20th victory of the campaign.
Wichita Falls opened the contest with a statement of intent, with Okeley ringing a shot off the post in the first two minutes of the game, and the red-and-black made that pressure pay with two goals in the first frame.
A power-play goal started things for the ‘Cats after a strong play by Charyszyn to hold the zone on the man advantage. After keeping the puck at the point, Charyszyn skated along the blue line and left it for Koch. With traffic in front of him, Koch chipped a pass to Jaeger in the high slot, who swiveled and sniped the top corner to make it 1-0 on his seventh goal of the year.
The Wildcats doubled their lead on an even-strength tally late in the first when Okeley found the back of the net. Jaeger won the puck back in the offensive zone at the left-wing half-wall, skated to the corner and dropped for Lazarus. The Syosset, N.Y.,-native sent an inch-perfect pass across the top of the crease for Okeley to pond home on the back-door for his 10th goal of the season at 17:07 of the period.
Kyle Hartman pulled Amarillo within one early in the second stanza when his shot from the blue line snuck through traffic, but the ‘Cats continued their strong play and extended their lead with a pair of goals on either side of the halfway mark of the frame.
First, Jaeger notched his second of the night after almost a minute in the offensive zone for Wichita Falls. Some stellar work by Beaulieu and Nikita Litviak along the boards kept play alive in the offensive zone, before Beaulieu slipped the disc into the slot for Jaeger to skate onto. The first-year skater took a stride and slipped a shot through the legs of Anton Martinsson to give the red-and-black a 3-1 lead.
A few minutes later, Knight got involved in the offensive after a nifty give-and-go with Charyszyn. Knight managed to poke the puck through a series of Bulls skaters in the neutral zone, eventually finding Charyszyn just above the blue line. Charyszyn’s one-touch return pass to Knight hit him in stride, allowing the defenseman to split the Amarillo defense and skated in uncontested, with Knight faking a backhand effort before roofing a shot on his forehand. The goal marked Knight’s ninth tally of the season and 30th point overall, and was scored at 14:04 of the second.
Wichita Falls pushed its advantage further in the third thanks to another power play tally. This time, it was Apap tapping home a loose puck from the top of the crease after Knight’s shot was blocked. The goal stands as his eighth of the season, and is point number 30 on the campaign for the Michigan-born forward.
Amarillo made things interesting late with goals from Brady Crabtree and Riley Christensen 45 seconds apart, but the Bulls came no closer, as Shaw and the ‘Cats stood strong to skate away with a 5-3 win.
The Wildcats will return to the ice on Feb. 27 and 28 when they travel to Topeka, Kans., to take on the RoadRunners, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. in both contests. Fans that cannot make it to the game may follow all the action on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast available via YouTube.
Single-game tickets for the 2014-15 Wildcats season are on sale now at the Kay Yeager Coliseum box office. Stay updated on the latest team news and notes by connecting with the Wildcats on Facebook (WFWildcats), Twitter (@WFWildcats), Instagram (WFWildcats) and on YouTube (Wichita Falls Wildcats).
Wichita Falls – Erich Jaeger (power play) (Matt Koch, Kevin Charyszyn) 12:10
Wichita Falls – Evan Okeley (Jonathan Lazarus, Erich Jaeger) 17:07
Amarillo – Kyle Hartman (Mike Damien, Luke Novak) 3:30
Wichita Falls – Erich Jaeger (Austin Beaulieu, Shane Kuzmeski) 8:32
Wichita Falls – Cam Knight (Kevin Charyszyn) 14:04
Wichita Falls – Tommy Apap (power play) (Cam Knight, Austin Beaulieu) 8:38
Amarillo – Brady Crabtree (unassisted) 14:10
Amarillo – Riley Christensen (shorthanded) (Mike Damien) 14:55