(Photo: Cody Wooten)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – Nick Farmer scored on a penalty shot in the third period to help the Wichita Falls Wildcats stretch their winning streak to six games, as they turned over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, 4-3, at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday night.
Colin Staub and Austin Beaulieu each registered three points on a goal and two assists, while Austin Albrecht also found the net for Wichita Falls. Tommy Apap and Erich Jaeger each tallied assists in the win as well, while David Zevnik made 26 saves on 29 shots on goal for his fourth-straight win, and fifth of the year.
Rio Grande Valley opened the scoring just over 12 minutes into the game thanks to a power play tally. The Killer Bees won a faceoff cleanly in the offensive zone, with the puck landing on the stick of Kyle Stephan at the point, who wristed it past Zevnik to make it 1-0.
The Wildcats responded with a man-advantage marker of their own though. After Cam Knight and Beaulieu played catch at the left-wing wall, Beaulieu worked the puck down low to Staub at the goal line. The veteran forward backed in towards the net, before playing a blind backhand pass to an unguarded Albrecht, who slammed it into the empty net for his fourth tally of the season.
The Killer Bees regained the advantage a couple of minutes later however, as Stephan notched his second of the night on a backhand effort right off an offensive zone draw to make it 2-1 heading into the intermission.
Wichita Falls controlled the second stanza, creating numerous scoring chances and outshooting Rio Grande Valley 18-9 in the frame, with the pressure finally paying off at the 12:37 mark of the period.
After Staub cancelled out a Bees defenseman on a race to a loose puck in the offensive zone, Beaulieu came along to pick up the loose disc and served it back to the right-wing side for Jaeger fresh from the bench. Jaeger then put a quick slapshot on net that Nick Schmit could not handle, allowing Staub to skate onto a bouncing puck and hack it over Schmit’s shoulder to make it 2-2.
It did not take long for the ‘Cats to take the lead in the third period, and again it was Apap, Beaulieu and Staub combining to set up the play. The three won puck battle after puck battle in the right-wing corner, before Staub finally sprung it loose for Beaulieu in front, who squeezed it home to make it 3-2 on his 10th tally of the season.
The Bees managed to tie the contest with under five minutes remaining after Stathis Soumelidis put the puck in the net off a broken play, but the Wildcats would not be denied, despite being shorthanded in the closing stages of the third.
After Shane Kuzmeski had a shorthanded breakaway turned aside by Schmit, Farmer intercepted an outlet pass at the blue line, skated in on goal and was slashed from behind, drawing a call for a penalty shot.
With the game on his stick, Farmer made no mistake, skating straight down the middle before rolling the puck through the wickets of Schmit. The goal was Farmer’s sixth of the season, and fourth in the last three games, and came at the 18:29 mark of the third
Wichita Falls survived a late push by the Bees thanks to a remarkable glove save by Zevnik with 30 seconds remaining, as he robbed Dean Balsamo down low to seal the 4-3 triumph.
The Wildcats and Killer Bees conclude their two-game set on Saturday evening at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m. Fans that cannot make it to the game can follow all the action live on FASTHockey.com, as well as by tuning into 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).
Rio Grande Valley – Kyle Stephan (power play) (Stathis Soumelidis) 12:48
Wichita Falls – Austin Albrecht (power play) (Colin Staub, Austin Beaulieu) 15:39
Rio Grande Valley – Kyle Stephan (Dean Balsamo) 17:01
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (Erich Jaeger, Austin Beaulieu) 12:37
Wichita Falls – Austin Beaulieu (Colin Staub, Tommy Apap) 3:22
Rio Grande Valley – Stathis Soumelidis (Dean Balsamo) 15:26
Wichita Falls – Nick Farmer (penalty shot) 18:29