Saturday, 02.18.2017 / 10:06 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
Playing their season’s final game at George’s Pond Arena, the Wildcats hunkered down defensively and secured a 2-1 victory to snap their longest losing skid since January 24th of 2014.
A much better defensive effort from the Cats in the first period stumped the Mudbugs’ attack. Thirteen shots were halted by Wichita Falls’ George McBey, including several saves made in rapid succession.
Early on, back-to-back Wildcats penalties resulted in Shreveport’s power play (ranked best in the NAHL) going to an extended 104-second 5-on-3 man advantage. Diligent shot blocking and defensive checks prevented the Mudbugs from cashing in. McBey and the Wildcats survived the onslaught, and then went on the offensive.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats could not convert the momentum they’d gained into scoring a first period goal, as the opening twenty minutes ended with both teams scoreless. A high-sticking penalty called against CJ Walker put the Cats back in the penalty box to end the opening frame.
The Cats continued a strong defensive effort as the night went on. Opposing scoring chances were much more seldom. Strongly improved attention to detail was evident. It would not go unrewarded. Finally, 38:44 into the contest, their offense came through.
Ilya Skvortsov ripped a heavy shot from the deep slot. The puck ricocheted oddly above the height of the crossbar and changed direction before deflecting past a red-hot Shreveport goaltender in John Roberts. The Mudbugs pleaded, feeling as though the puck was hit with a high stick. However, the referee stood by his decision that it changed direction because it went off a shoulder. For the first time in the series, the Cats had the lead.
At the start of the second, the Cats again found themselves in penalty trouble. A brief 5-on-3 power play the Mudbugs had was quelled, but the ensuing power play yielded a goal from the Shreveport Captain. Steven Mather potted home his second goal in as many games to level the score 1-1 four minutes into the closing period.
It did not take long for Wichita Falls to respond. Ryan Burnett fed Nick Rosa a pass from behind the net. Rosa’s one-timer dribbled wide of the net and rolled right to Burnett, who ripped it past Roberts for the go-ahead goal 6:26 into period three.
It appeared as though Shreveport would tie the game back up after a one-handed shot was padded away by McBey straight to Gabe Wahl. Wahl was unable to clean up the rebound as McBey robbed him with a glove save. On the other end, Roberts stoned Burnett on a breakaway and made several other crucial saves to keep the Mudbugs within a goal.
After Roberts was pulled for a sixth attacker, the Mudbugs swarmed the Cats’ net looking for the tying goal. McBey and the Cats survived the assault and held on to secure a 2-1 victory.
McBey earned his first victory as a Wildcat, making a staggering 38 saves on 39 shots en route to a First Star of the Game performance. Roberts fought valiantly, as well, stopping 26 of 28. The Wildcats return to Kay Yeager Coliseum next weekend to host the Amarillo Bulls on Friday and Saturday night. Puck drops at 7:05 pm CT on both nights.