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Stopped in Saturday shootout

The Wildcats got a pair of strong efforts on Friday and Saturday, but couldn't crack the Texas Tornado, losing 3-2 on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout Saturday.

The 'Cats dominated play early on Friday, outshooting the Tornado 12-7 in the first period, then jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a blast by Charlie Hemstrom that went by netminder Hunter Leisner's stick side.  The shot was so hard that the puck actually got stuck in the netting, hanging in place until the referee came and removed it.  Tyler Ledford picked up the lone assist.  Just over five minutes later, the Tornado got on the board themselves, as Jackson Leef struck midway through the game to knot it up 1-all.

In the third, the Tornado's excellent power play capitalized.  Coming into the game at 25% success against the Wildcats, they took the lead on Nick Neville's goal 24 seconds into the third.  Just like the opener, the Wildcats outshot the Tornado 12-7 in the third, and Chris Knudson tied the game once again, coming in and putting a wrister past Leisner in nearly the same spot as Hemstrom's earlier goal.  But the Tornado power play wasn't done, as Neville struck again with 5 minutes left, giving the Tornado a 3-2 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

Saturday featured an even better start for the 'Cats before faltering in the second and eventually dropping a 4-3 decision in a shootout.  The shots were an even 7-7 in the first, but the Wildcats put two in the back of the net.  Kyle Bauman took a centering feed from Ben Kucera and neatly deposited it past Leisner for a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, Nick Farmer struck off an assist from Kristaps Bazevics for a 2-0 lead through the first 20 minutes.

Texas came back strong in the second: just three minutes in, Jackson Leef scored on a scramble in front of the net, followed by former Wildcat Jason Eddy picking up a goal only 13 seconds later.  The 'Cats used their timeout to settle things down, and it appeared to work, as the rest of the period went scoreless.

The Tornado barrage looked to start up again in the third period as Eddy put in his second of the night, but the Wildcats struck back on the power play with seven minutes left: Colin Staub redirected Eliot Grauer's blast from the high slot, and the game was back to 3-3.

The final seven minutes, plus five of overtime went scoreless as the teams went to a shootout.  Brandon Hawkins scored as the first shooter for Texas, followed by a pair of stops before Rudy Junda evened things up.  Two more saves came, but the Tornado scored on their final two shots with Nick Neville and Jackson Leef scoring to give the Tornado the victory.  The Wildcats picked up a point in the standings with the loss in extra time.

The 'Cats will take on the Odessa Jackalopes in three games next weekend.

WEEKEND NOTES: The Wildcats went 1-2 in overtime/shootout games against the Tornado this season. The one win came in OT, while the two losses went to shootouts… Saturday's power play goal was only the Wildcats' third against the Tornado this season on 31 opportunities.

NAHL SOUTH NOTES: The Wildcats only lost one point of ground to Corpus Christi, as they split a two-game set with Odessa… Texas took control of first place by a point as Amarillo and Topeka split a hotly-contested series. Topeka won 1-0 Friday and Amarillo won Saturday's penalty-filled 3-1 game.