(Photo: Troy Young)
The Wildcats roll into Wednesday’s contest against the Lone Star Brahmas after getting swept by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs last weekend, losing by identical scores of 3-1. Will Vosejpka scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in Friday’s contest, while Ben Kucera tallied his fifth marker of the campaign on Saturday. Vosejpka and Kucera both scored with Wichita Falls on the man advantage, giving the Wildcats power-play goals in consecutive contests for the first time since Sept. 13-20, when they opened the season by notching power-play tallies in five-straight games. After the weekend’s action, Wichita Falls sits in fourth place in the North American Hockey League’s South Division, seven points ahead of fifth-place Corpus Christi.
Looking at Lone Star
The Brahmas are also looking to bounce back from a weekend sweep as they head into Wednesday’s contest. After earning splits in its previous two weekend sets, Lone Star was on the losing end of back-to-back 3-1 score lines against the Corpus Christi IceRays last Friday and Saturday. Lone Star currently sits in last place in the South Division, with 13 points through 23 games, and has struggled in its first season under the Brahmas moniker. The team formerly known as the Texas Tornado has scored the second-fewest goals out of any NAHL team (47), while also allowing a league-worst 4.00 goals per game. The Lone Star attack is spearheaded by Matt Lison, who leads the team with eight goals, and has scored four times in his last six contests. TJ Black started both games against Corpus Christi last week, posting a 3.07 goals against average and a save percentage of .893 in those contests.
Monitoring the Matchup
Wednesday’s contest marks the third of eight contests the Wildcats and Brahmas will play this season. When the two squads last met on Nov. 8 and 9, the games could not have been more dissimilar. On Nov. 8, Wichita Falls unleashed an offensive onslaught on the Brahmas, posting a 9-1 victory that saw 14 different players record points. Ben Kucera led the way for the Wildcats, racking up four assists on the night, while Kyle Bauman and Will Vosejpka both potted a pair in the contest. The red-and-black could not replicate that output the next night however, as they fell 2-1 in North Richland Hills despite Evan Okeley scoring his first career goal in the game. Dating back to 2004-05, Wichita Falls is 31-49-6 against the franchise formerly known as the Texas Tornado.
When the Wildcats drop the puck with the Brahmas on Wednesday, it will mark the start of a crucial stretch of three games against division rivals in four days that could have a large impact on the division standings. The Wildcats currently sit in fourth in the NAHL’s South Division, but are only two points behind the Topeka Roadrunners and Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, who are tied for second place with 31 points. At the other end of the spectrum, Wichita Falls is seven points ahead of fifth-place Corpus Christi as the battle for the division’s final playoff spot heats up. The Wildcats and IceRays will play a two-game set at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday and Saturday.
Leaving it Late
With the Wildcats tied late in the third period of Nov. 15’s contest against Kenai River, they needed late heroics to claim the win. Will Vosejpka’s goal at 19:17 of the third period provided exactly that, as Wichita Falls snatched a 3-2 victory from the Brown Bears. Vosejpka’s goal stands as the latest game-winning tally the Wildcats have recorded this season, surpassing Ben Kucera’s marker against the Odessa Jackalopes on Oct. 12, which came at 9:23 of the third period. Last season, the Wildcats’ latest game-winning score came on March 2, when Colin Staub scored with just eight seconds remaining to cap off a comeback win over the Topeka Roadrunners.
This November, the Wildcats are joining other NAHL teams in partnering with Movember to change the face of men’s health. Throughout the month, players, coaches and staff will grow mustaches to raise money for Movember’s campaign to support men’s health and raise awareness for the fight against prostate and testicular cancer. As of Nov. 26, the Wildcats had already raised over $1,400 in support of Movember. To support the Wildcats’ efforts with a donation, or to join the Wildcats’ Movember team, go to http://us.movember.com/mospace/2886229. Remember, all contributions are important, no matter the amount.