(Photo: Troy Young)
AMARILLO, Texas – Matt Koch scored his first-career goal and Rudy Junda also found the back of the net, but two goals from Mike Davis carried the Amarillo Bulls to a 4-2 victory over the Wichita Falls Wildcats in Game 1 of the South Division Semifinals.
Nick Farmer, Ben Kucera and Andrew Kerr each picked up an assist in the contest, which saw Wichita Falls score its 12th shorthanded goal of the regular-season and postseason.
The Wildcats had the better of the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Bulls 7-6 in a defensive-minded first period, but it was Amarillo who opened a scoring. Davis took a pass from Joe Grabowski and skated up the right-wing wall. At the top of the faceoff circle, Davis sent a wrist shot towards the net that eluded David Zevnik to make it 1-0 at the 9:37 mark of the period.
In the second, Wichita Falls tied the game up thanks a dogged effort while shorthanded. Farmer skated the puck into the offensive zone, circled all the way around the net and played pass to a wide-open Koch at the blue line. Koch settled the puck and unleashed a shot that found the top corner. The marker was Koch’s first-career goal, and came at 8:38 of the second.
The Wildcats ramped up the pressure following the goal, but the Bulls regained the advantage with a shorthanded tally of their own, as Davis picked up his second of the night. While on the forecheck, Davis forced Zevnik into a turnover behind the net, circled out in front and lifted the puck over a diving Zevnik to make it 2-1 at 17:58 of the period.
Amarillo expanded its advantage less than a minute into the third period, with Tyler Gernhofer roofing a shot over Zevnik’s glove hand to make it 3-1. The Bulls then made it 4-1 halfway through the frame, this time with Brendan Vetter slipping a one-timer through traffic.
Wichita Falls pulled one back just over a minute later, as Junda stashed home Kucera’s centering feed from behind the net to make it 4-2, but that is as close as the Wildcats would get on the night, as Amarillo claimed Game 1 with a 4-2 victory.
The Wildcats and Bulls square off again on Saturday night in Game 2 of the South Division Semifinals. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Amarillo Civic Center. Video coverage will be available on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast accessible on UStream.com. Fans can also follow the Wildcats on Twitter (@WFWildcats) for in-game score updates.
Amarillo – Mike Davis (Joe Grabowski) 9:37
Wichita Falls – Matt Koch (shorthanded) (Nick Farmer) 8:38
Amarillo – Mike Davis (shorthanded) (unassisted) 17:58
Amarillo – Tyler Gernhofer (Eric Purcell) 0:43
Amarillo – Brendan Vetter (Brady Ferguson) 9:01
Wichita Falls – Rudy Junda (Ben Kucera, Andrew Kerr) 10:08