(Photo: Troy Young)
AMARILLO, Texas – Colin Staub’s third period, shorthanded goal led the Wichita Falls Wildcats to a hard-fought, 4-2 victory over the Amarillo Bulls on Friday, giving the Wildcats their first win in Amarillo since Nov. 23, 2011.
Nick Farmer scored twce for Wichita Falls, Ben Kucera had a goal and an assist, while Kyle Bauman and Will Vosejpka each added a helper. David Zevnik made 35 saves on 37 shots to earn the win, his fourth-straight for the ‘Cats, as Wichita Falls stretched its winning streak to a season-best five games. With the win, the 'Cats now sit alone in first place in the division standings.
Amarillo were first to find the back of the net, and did so by capitalizing on a Wildcats miscue. Wichita Falls did not clear the zone completely, which allowed Matt Sieckhaus time and space to get a shot away. His effort was wide of the net, but it rebounded right to his stick, and he managed to beat Zevnik.
The Wildcats rebounded about ten minutes later off a gorgeous shot from Farmer. After Kucera poked the puck free, Farmer and Vosejpka entered the zone on a two-on-one. Farmer looked to pass to Vosejpka, before rifling a shot under the crossbar for his eighth goal of the season to make it 1-1.
In the second, Amarillo took the lead through Mike Davis, as he directed a centering feed past Zevnik at the 15:47 mark, but once more the Wildcats responded.
After being hemmed into their own zone for a spell, the ‘Cats were able to break out as Evan Okeley found Kyle Bauman rushing up ice. Bauman’s shot from a sharp angle was kicked into the slot right to Kucera, who beat Collin Delia to tie the game at 2-2. The goal, Kucera’s eighth of the season, came at the 18:58 mark of the middle frame.
The third period started with both teams ratcheting up the physicality, which lead to multiple man-advantage opportunities for both teams. With Rudy Junda in the box for tripping, the deadlock was finally broken, but it was the Wildcats who disrupted the tie score.
Staub and Farmer started an aggressive forecheck while shorthanded and forced the Bulls to turn the puck over. With the puck loose in the slot, Staub swiveled and fired a shot that deflected off a leg and fluttered past Delia to give the ‘Cats a 3-2 lead. It was Staub’s 10th goal of the season, and the ninth shorthanded goal of the year for Wichita Falls.
Amarillo ramped up the pressure following the tally, forcing Zevnik into multiple great saves, but Farmer sealed the deal for the Wildcats with an empty-net goal to make it 4-2 with 17 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats and Bulls conclude their weekend set on Saturday, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Amarillo Civic Center. Fans can follow the action on FASTHockey.com, as well as on UStream.com.
NOTES: With the victory, the Wildcats have recorded 20 wins before the holiday break for the first time since the 2007-08 season…The Wildcats win was their first against Amarillo in their last 11 meetings, and first win in Amarillo since Nov. 23, 2011…the Wildcats lead the North American Hockey League with nine shorthanded goals…
Amarillo – Matt Sieckhaus (Timmy Moore, Mitchell McPherson) 4:07
Wichita Falls – Nick Farmer (Ben Kucera, Matt Koch) 13:43
Amarillo – Mike Davis (Tyler Gernhofer) 15:47
Wichita Falls – Ben Kucera (Kyle Bauman, Evan Okeley) 18:53
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (shorthanded) (Nick Farmer) 11:45
Wichita Falls – Nick Farmer (Will Vosejpka) 19:43