(Photo: Troy Young)
Wild Weekend for the Wildcats
Wichita Falls rolls into this weekend after splitting two games with the Corpus Christi IceRays last week. The Wildcats claimed a 2-1 victory in an eight-round shootout on Friday night in a game that saw David Zevnik post a season-high 38 saves in regulation and overtime. Jordan Jancze scored in regulation for Wichita Falls, while Ben Kucera tallied the decisive goal in the shootout. The Wildcats could not replicate their success on Saturday however, as they lost 4-1 with Colin Staub picking up his fourth goal of the season in the contest. The Wildcats still sit in first place in the North American Hockey League’s South Division, one point ahead of second-play Topeka and two points clear of their opponents this weekend, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.
Rehashing Rio Grande Valley
The Killer Bees buzz into the Kay Yeager Coliseum sitting in fourth place in the South Division. Rio Grande Valley is tied with Amarillo on points (21), however the Bulls currently sit ahead of the Bees having accumulated that total in three fewer games. The Bees split a home series with the aforementioned Bulls last weekend, losing 2-1 on Friday before rebounding with a 4-1 victory on Saturday. Ben Greiner is the Killer Bees leading scorer with a 6-12-18 line in 17 games played, and enters this weekend riding a ten-game point streak (3-10-13). In net, Olli Kalkaja has posted an 8-2-5 record in 15 starts with a goals against average of 1.87 and a .913 save percentage, and has not lost a game in regulation since losing to the Wildcats on Sept. 29, 3-1.
Wildcats vs. Rio Grande Valley
This weekend’s action marks games five and six of eight total regular-season matchups between the Wildcats and Killer Bees. Through the first four head-to-head meetings, Wichita Falls owns a 3-0-1 record, including a road sweep on Sept 28 and 29. These two teams split a pair of shootout decisions when they last met on Oct. 15 and 16, with goaltending shining throughout the two-game set. Following this weekend, the Wildcats and Killer Bees will conclude their regular-season series in Hidalgo, Texas on Dec. 6 and 7.
Stinging the Bees
Jordan Jancze, Colin Staub and Andrew Kerr have enjoyed playing against the Killer Bees so far this season, as each has recorded four points in the four head-to-head meetings in 2013-14. Jancze has three goals and an assist against Rio Grande Valley, all of which came in the Wildcats’ road sweep at the end of September. For their part, Staub and Kerr have both posted four assists in four games against the Bees.
Zevnik Zooming out of the Gates
Wildcats goaltender David Zevnik continues to impress in the early stages of his first year in the NAHL. The Lakeville, Minn.-native posted a season-high 38 saves against Corpus Christi in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Wildcats last Friday. For his efforts, Zevnik was named the South Division’s 2nd Star of the Week for the week ending Oct. 27. With the win, he has now recorded a victory in each of his last four starts. In six starts, Zevnik has yet to lose in regulation, posting a 5-0-1 record with a 1.80 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.
When last Friday’s contest against Corpus Christi headed to a shootout, it marked the Wildcats third-straight game that went to a shootout, and fourth of the season. With the trio of shootouts, Wichita Falls has now played in three-consecutive games requiring a shootout three times dating back to the 2004-05 season. The most recent instance came during the 2010-11 campaign, when the Wildcats took part in three-straight shootouts from Sept. 24, 2010 to Oct. 1, 2010, going 2-1 in those matchups. Wichita Falls is 2-2 in shootouts this season, and owns a 27-36 all-time record in games decided via the shootout.
This November, the Wildcats are joining other NAHL teams in partnering with Gongshow Hockey and Movember to put a new face on men’s health. Throughout the month, players, coaches and staff will grow beards and mustaches to raise money for Movember’s campaign to support men’s health and raise awareness for the fight against prostate and testicular cancer. Founded in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia, the Movember campaigned has transformed into a global initiative over the last decade, with 1,127,152 participants worldwide in 2012.