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Pre-Series Amarillo

Pre-Series Report: Wildcats vs. Bulls (02/24/17)

Cats Show Tremendous Heart to End Losing Skid
There is little doubt that last Saturday night’s 2-1 victory against the Shreveport Mudbugs was the hardest the Wildcats worked to win a hockey game all season. They backchecked relentlessly, they blocked shots with aplomb, they battled in the corners, and they scored two greasy goals to secure a victory. Earlier that afternoon, Coach Nelson called the team into his hotel room and laid things out for them as bluntly as he could. He told them that the softness they’d been showing over the five-game losing streak would have to stop immediately for them to win on Saturday. He reminded them that the Brahmas were the hardest-working team in the division, which is why they’ve dominated all season long. He also reminded them that no player is safe from being sent home should they continue to play selfish hockey and refuse to buy into the team good. Nelson isn’t particularly fond of using fear as a tool for motivation, but Saturday was the most inspired hockey the team played all season. Oftentimes, we prefer the ugly truth go unsaid and simply motivate ourselves to improve from within. Other times, our conscience must be reminded of the stakes of the situation and the severities of our wrongdoings from an external source. The good news is, much of what was said in that hotel room will stick with many of the players for the rest of the season; and for some, the rest of their lives.

The Matchup
A great deal of unfinished business remains now with the Amarillo Bulls visiting for the last time this season. Two weeks ago, the Bulls stunned the Cats by sweeping them for the first time since January of 2014. They are making a hard push to sneak into the playoffs with time winding down on their season, and with ex-Wildcats tenders Jovan Zimmerman and Marcus Chorney on the back end, they appeared to have extra motivation. As for the Cats, don’t expect what they learned last weekend to just vanish. Both teams will be playing with purpose this weekend.

George McBey Named South Division 2nd Star of the Week
Wildcats AP goaltender George McBey was the first star of the weekend for the Wildcats. On Friday night, he relieved Evan Moyse about halfway through regulation and kept the Mudbugs off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. The following night, he made a whopping 36 of a possible 37 saves, which included one of the best saves of the season to keep the Cats up 2-1 late in the third period. The HC Dallas product’s first win as a Wildcat was a well-deserved one, and he was recognized as the South Division’s 2nd Star of the Week. While it’s unfortunate McBey’s remaining time with the Cats is dwindling this season, the Wildcats have got to be thrilled to have him waiting in the wings.

Paul Baxter Back in Town
Former Wildcats Head Coach and General Manager Paul Baxter will be in town for this weekend’s games and will fill in for Josh Nelson when he goes to Top Prospects. Nelson will take forwards Ryan Burnett and Nick Rosa, as well as defensemen Ryan Orgel and Jonathan Waring to represent the Wildcats for the South Division team in Plymouth, Michigan on Monday, February 27th and Tuesday, February 28th. Nelson has entrusted the experienced Baxter to run practice and ensure the team is prepared for Corpus Christi next weekend. The IceRays are currently on a seven-game winning streak, the longest active in the NAHL.

Injury Report
Injuries continue to plague the Wildcats in a revolving door-like fashion. This weekend there is good and bad news. The good news is that Blake Ripley–who’d been bothered by an injury to his oblique for the last month–will be returning. He’ll be playing his first game in nearly a month tonight. In addition, Jared Dempsey practiced with the team this week and is confident he’ll be ready to return to action next weekend in Corpus Christi, where he pitched the Wildcats’ only shutout this season. The bad news is that CJ Walker will be sidelined tonight and probably tomorrow night with a lower-body injury. Jonathan Waring (lower-body) and Roman Kinal (upper-body) are both probable, but with Seamus Donohue returning from suspension, Coach Nelson may decide to give one of them extra rest. Wyatt Mathews (upper-body) remains doubtful for this weekend, while Matt Hanewall will be a game-time decision with a potential illness.