(Photo: Troy Young)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – The Wichita Falls Wildcats used a three-goal third period to take Game 1 of the South Division Play-In round, claiming a 4-2 win over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Thursday night.
Nick Farmer and Evan Okeley each notched two points on a goal and an assist, while Cam Knight also recorded a multi-point night with two assists. Austin Albrecht and Colin Staub found twine for Wichita Falls as well, with Albrecht’s goal standing as the game-winner, while Kevin Charyszyn, Tommy Apap and Konstantin Chernyuk each registered an assist in the win. Austin Shaw started in net for the ‘Cats, making 16 saves to earn the victory.
The Wildcats opened their playoff run in ideal fashion, capitalizing on some mayhem around the net to take an early lead, but Rio Grande Valley bounced back and capitalized on a couple of broken plays to take a 2-1 lead.
After the ‘Cats had posted the first five shots on goal of the game, Okeley gave the red-and-black a deserved 1-0 lead. After skating in two-on-none with Nick Farmer to his right, Okeley centered to Farmer who was unable to put it home. Okeley crashed the net though, digging the puck loose and flipping it home past Ben Johansson for his second-career postseason goal.
The Killer Bees answered back with two goals of their own, with Stathis Soumelidis capitalizing on an awkward bounce off a glass support in the Wildcats’ defensive zone and beating Austin Shaw upstairs to tie the score.
Minutes later, after Charyszyn has been ejected for checking from behind, the Bees took the lead on a power play goal by Austin Swingle, who just managed to force the puck over the goal line out of a net-mouth scrum.
The second period saw no further scoring, but not for lack of trying, as Cam Bleck and Anthony Croston missed the net on good looks for Rio Grande Valley, while Colin Staub and Austin Albrecht had chances turned aside by Johansson at the other end.
Down by one entering the final frame, Wichita Falls began the third with almost two minutes of carry-over power-play time and made the most of the man-advantage to tie the contest.
Knight worked the puck down to the left-wing corner where Okeley collected the pass, before slinging it through the crease for Farmer on the back door. Farmer’s one-timer from the bottom of the circle was on the money, sneaking past Johansson to level the score, 2-2.
The ‘Cats went to work on offensive following that goal, and took their second lead of the night roughly five minutes later.
After joining the rush into the offensive zone, Chernyuk dug the disc free behind the net and looked to the front of the net where he spotted Albrecht racing out of the corner. As he was checked down to the ice, Albrecht chopped the puck into roof of the net to give the Wildcats their second lead of the evening, 3-2.
With time ticking away, Staub added an insurance tally for the Wildcats, lifting a loose puck into the top shelf with Johansson scrambling, pushing the lead to 4-2 for Wichita Falls.
Rio Grande Valley charged forward in the closing moments of the third, forcing Shaw to make a number of strong stops late, but a comeback never materialized for the Killer Bees, as the ‘Cats claimed Game 1, 4-2.
The Wildcats and Killer Bees continue their first-round series with Game 2 on Friday night at the KYC. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with video coverage available via FASTHockey.com. Fans that cannot make it to the game may also follow the action using an audio-only stream on YouTube.
Tickets for the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs are on sale now at the Kay Yeager Coliseum box office, and can be purchased in person or by calling (940) 716-5555. Stay updated on the latest team news and notes by connecting with the Wildcats on Facebook (WFWildcats), Twitter (@WFWildcats), Instagram (WFWildcats) and YouTube (Wichita Falls Wildcats).
NOTES: The 4-2 win for Wichita Falls marks the first time in franchise history the Wildcats have opened a playoff series with a win.
Wichita Falls – Evan Okeley (Nick Farmer, Kevin Charyszyn) 3:07
Rio Grande Valley – Stathis Soumelidis (unassisted) 7:40
Rio Grande Valley – Austin Swingle (power play) (Daniel Nilsson, Elliot Lorraine) 10:39
Wichita Falls – Nick Farmer (power play) (Evan Okeley, Cam Knight) 1:18
Wichita Falls – Austin Albrecht (Konstantin Chernyuk, Tommy Apap) 6:16
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (Cam Knight) 13:51