Friday, 9.9.2016 / 9:43 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
A 20-game home winning streak came to an end on Friday night, as the Wildcats dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision to the Amarillo Bulls in overtime.
A team which showed so much dominance at the start of games in the preseason struggled to get the ball rolling early on. The Cats allowed five shots before tallying one of their own, and allowed a goal just a minute and a half into the game. A long screen shot taken by Brendan Michaelian was fought off by Wichita Falls goaltender Patrik Jokela, but Steven Ipri swatted home the rebound to give the Bulls an early lead.
As the first period went on, the Wildcats were able to tip the scales and test Amarillo’s netminder Kyle Madore. They also tightened things up defensively and kept an Amarillo power play off the shot sheet. However, they were unable to tie the game up in the first twenty minutes.
In the middle period, the Wildcats took their first lead in shots on goal, cycling the wagons and putting some pressure on Madore, but the goaltender was on his game. In a valiant effort to tie the game, Wildcats center Ilya Skvortsov dangled past the entire Amarillo defense on a Wildcats power play. He had only Madore to beat, but he backhanded the puck off the side of the night. A promising power play did not yield any result, however, and the Cats went into the third period still trailing 1-0.
The Wildcats dominated the play in the third period, outshooting the Bulls 12-6. Ryan Orgel scored the first Cats’ goal of the 2016-2017 season, hauling the puck down the right wing and skating straight to the net, where he smashed it past Madore to tie the game at 1. Amarillo took advantage of a fast-developing 2-on-1 shortly thereafter, and Michaelian lifted a backhand shot over Jokela to regain the Bulls’ lead.
After falling behind again late in the third period, the Cats kept their composure and continued to outskate the opposition. Seamus Donohue gave a crisp pass to Blake Ripley in the right circle, who fired a knuckling puck past Madore to tie the game back up. With the crowd already fired up, Kevin Fees dropped the gloves with veteran Bull defenseman Jeff Solow, and took him to the ice to rile his team up heading into the 3-on-3 overtime.
After a promising stint in sudden death, the Cats found themselves caught out of position when Kosta Likourezos broke through the neutral zone on a breakaway. Jokela made the stop, but Likourezos was slashed en route to the net, and won the game on the ensuing penalty shot.
Jokela denied 20 of the 23 shots he faced, being charged with his first defeat. Madore stopped 24 of a possible 26 for the Bulls, earning his first NAHL victory. The Wildcats will host the Corpus Christi IceRays to kick off a three-game home stand on Thursday, September 15th at Kay Yeager Coliseum.
Photo: Cody Wooten