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Wildcats Head to Odessa For Tuesday Tilt

(Photo: Troy Young)

GAME NOTES: 3/3 vs Odessa

Upcoming Promotions
– When the Wildcats return to the KYC at the beginning of March, fans should mark their calendars for a weekend of auctions and giveaways. March 6 will see the Wildcats Pride Booster Club hold their annual player poster auction. Then on March 7, the first 750 fans in attendance will receive a free 2014-15 Team Poster courtesy of SuddenLink Media. In addition, the Wildcats will also host the annual player jersey auction during the game on March 7.

– Additionally, fans should mark their calendars for the annual Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday, March 11, when all single-game tickets will be available free of charge.

Season Ticket Sales Open – Early-Bird Deadline Extended! (CLICK FOR FULL-SEASON TICKET INFORMATION)
Season tickets for the 2015-16 season are now on sale, allowing fans to guarantee their seats for every game of the new campaign. In addition to lowering prices on nearly all seats  in the Club (formerly, ‘Lower’) and Reserved (formerly, ‘Upper’) levels, the 2015-16 season will also see the Wildcats offer two new categories of seating. Fans may now get an “up-close-and-personal” look at the action on the ice with seats near the glass in the new “Premium” sections. Alternatively, fans who prefer watching the game from a higher vantage point may now reserve seats in the new, season-ticket only, “Roar Zone” located in Sec. 21. Season tickets can be reserved for as little as $75 per seat. However, fans who provide full payment for their season tickets by March 6 will receive additional savings of $42 per seat. Full pricing information can be found by visiting www.wfwildcatshockey.com, or by calling the Wildcats office at (940) 716-5587.

The Matchup
Tuesday’s tilt marks the eighth and final meeting between the Wildcats and Jackalopes this season. Wichita Falls owns a 5-2-0 mark against Odessa this season, and recently posted a two-game sweep over the Jacks at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Feb. 13 and 14, but that does not tell the whole story of the season series. With the exception of two tilts, every battle between the two teams has been decided by two goals or less, including all three contests at the Ector County Coliseum where the ‘Cats are 2-1-0 this season. Nikita Litviak has enjoyed playing the Jackalopes this season, posting five of his nine goals against Odessa, with Colin Staub (four goals, five assists) and Max Reisinger (three goals, five assists) also turning in strong performances in their seven games against the Jacks. On the other side of the ice, Kenny Hausinger has 11 points on four goals and seven assists against the Wildcats this season, while Derek Brown (5-4-9) and Hampus Sjodahl (4-4-8) have also been a thorn in the paw of the ‘Cats. Historically speaking, Wichita Falls owns a 25-12-0 mark against the Jackalopes, and is 11-6-0 all-time at the Ector County Coliseum dating back to 2011-12.

Jousting with the Jacks
Odessa enters Tuesday’s contest sitting in eighth place in the South Division with a record of 9-34-7 and 25 points after taking one of four points against the Lone Star Brahmas last weekend. With just three wins to their credit since topping the Wildcats on Nov. 28, the Jacks are currently the only team in the South Division eliminated from playoff contention, although Odessa does have an opportunity to play spoiler down the stretch. Beginning with a two-game set against Rio Grande Valley on March 6 and 7, seven of the Jacks’ final 10 games are against teams who have yet to secure a berth in the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs. The Jackalopes have had some bright spots this season despite their struggles, including forward Kenny Hausinger, whose 54 points on 17 goals and 37 assists ranks him seventh in the league in total points, and forward Derek Brown (18-23-41), who committed to Niagara University earlier in the year. Odessa has relied heavily on Tanner Creel in net of late; Creel is 2-14-3 with a 4.19 goals against average and .877 save percentage, and has been the goaltender of record in 16 of 19 games since joining the Jacks after leaving the United States Military Academy in December. 

Weekend Recap
The Wildcats roll into Tuesday night’s contest fresh off a successful weekend in Topeka that saw the ‘Cats claim three points against the RoadRunners. On Friday, Wichita Falls overturned an early two-goal deficit and fought back to take a third-period lead in the contest, but the red-and-black could not prevent the ‘Runners from tying the tilt on a late goal to send the game to overtime. Once there, Topeka eventually claimed the win with a goal in the final 30 seconds of the extra session. The Wildcats returned the favor in Saturday’s contest though, with Jake Townsend potting the game-winning goal on a three-on-one rush just over a minute into overtime. Colin Staub (two goals, one assist) and Kevin Charyszyn (one goal, two assists) both posted three points on the weekend, while Austin Shaw made 66 saves over the two games. Charyszyn and Shaw both received honorable mention in the North American Hockey League’s Easton Divisional Stars of the Week for their efforts.

Another Game, Another Record
When Jake Townsend buried the game-winning goal in overtime in the Wildcats’ 3-2 win over Topeka on Saturday, he claimed yet another franchise record in the process. The winning tally took Townsend’s total to 12 on the year to set a new team record for goals in a single-season by a defenseman, surpassing Sam Piazza’s mark of 11 goals set during the 2013-14 campaign. Now in his third year with Wichita Falls, Townsend currently holds the franchise record for career points by a defenseman (70), career goals by a defenseman (23), most power-play goals by a defenseman (5) and career games played by a defenseman (158). The Highlands Ranch, Colo.,-native has also tied the single-season and career records for game-winning goals by a Wildcats defenseman (2).

Painting the Playoff Picture
After picking up a point in last Friday’s overtime loss to Topeka, the Wildcats have already secured a berth in the 2015 Robertson Cup playoffs, but there is still plenty for Wichita Falls to play for entering the final month of the regular season. The ‘Cats can still finish anywhere from first to sixth in the South Division after this past weekend. With six teams qualifying for the postseason in the South Division and seeds one and two earning a first-round bye into the division semi-finals, the red-and-black’s primary focus will be overhauling the RoadRunners and the Lone Star Brahmas, who sit in first and second, respectively. Entering play on Tuesday, the ‘Cats trail Lone Star by five points for second place, and are seven points behind the first-place RoadRunners, but Wichita Falls has played three fewer games than both the Brahmas and ‘Runners.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense
With an average of 4.10 goals per game, the Wildcats boast the North American Hockey League’s top offense. Much of the red-and-black’s high-powered attack stems from the offensive abilities of the Wichita Falls defensive corps. Entering this weekend, Wildcats defensemen have accounted for 147 points on 37 goals and 110 assists, led by Matt Koch’s 43 points (six goals, 37 assists). Not only do those 147 points make the ‘Cats the highest-scoring defensive unit in the league, they also represent a new franchise record for points by the Wildcats defensive unit, surpassing the previous mark of 129 points set by the 2007-08 squad.

A Knight of Cam-elot (of points)
When Cam Knight found the back of the net and picked up in assist in the Wildcats’ 5-3 win over Amarillo on Feb. 21, he became the third Wildcats blue-liner to crack the 30-point plateau this season. In 46 games played, the Alabama Huntsville-commit has nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points, making him the first defenseman in team history to record 30 or more points in his first season in the North American Hockey League. Prior to Knight’s 31 points and counting, the most points recorded by a Wildcats defenseman in their first season in the NAHL was 29 by Tucker Poolman (seven goals, 22 assists) in the 2011-12 campaign.