Thursday, 12.03.2015 / 10:15 am CT
By Alex von Keudell
Show on the Road
The Wildcats have played as many games on the road as any team in the North American Hockey League and have the league’s second best away record, trailing only the Fairbanks IceDogs. In the time since the Wildcats last played at home, they’ve had a miraculous comeback victory in Amarillo against the Bulls, a shutout against one of the best teams in the NAHL in the Lone Star Brahmas, and a sweep against the Odessa Jackalopes. That buzzer-beater scored by Austin Albrecht with 0.2 seconds remaining in Amarillo was just the beginning. Four days later, the Wildcats would shut out the Lone Star Brahmas at the NYTEX Sports Centre. It was the first time the Brahmas were held scoreless in their own rink since February of 2014. Then, less than 48 hours later, the Wildcats hopped on a bus to Odessa the morning after Thanksgiving for a four and a half hour road trip to take on the Jackalopes. The Cats defeated the Jacks in a shootout on Friday and won 6-3 Saturday, completing the sweep and improving to 7-0-0 against the Jackalopes on the season.
The first series of the season between the Wildcats and the Lone Star Brahmas began the way it was expected to begin- with a series split. Each game, furthermore, was closely contested and was decided by just one goal. Both games went to overtime and both ended with a 2-1 score. The last game, however, yielded an outcome which nobody expected. Last Wednesday, the Wildcats were in command of the game from start to finish and decisively defeated the Brahmas by a score of 4-0. The Wildcats are the only team to have beaten the Brahmas in that building all season long. With Wednesday night’s embarrassing defeat freshly looming in their minds, the Brahmas are expected to give the Wildcats a run for their money tonight. This game also has the potential to set the tone for the next couple of weeks, as the Cats and Brahmas square off six straight times leading up to Christmas Break. The last time these teams met at the KYC was on February 18th of 2015, when the Brahmas defeated the Wildcats in a shootout by a final score of 4-3.
Albrecht, Kapelmaster Receive Monthly Honors
Wildcats left-winger Austin Albrecht and goaltender Justin Kapelmaster have been named the Easton Hockey NAHL Forward of the Month and the Vaughn NAHL Goaltender of the Month. Albrecht had the best month of his career this November. He led the NAHL with 16 points. He’s become a “do-it-all” type of player; he had eight goals, eight assists, was a +7, and he fought former Wildcat Hogan Davidson. He has already passed his point total from last season and has been largely responsible for the Wildcats’ success this year. As for Kapelmaster, the month started a bit shakily. He did not have his best performance against the Bulls in the Wildcats’ first game of November. However, he bounced back extremely well and won his next five starts. He had a shutout against one of the best teams in the league in the Brahmas, and gave up just 14 goals in seven games played. He had a 2.12 goals against average and a .926 save percentage on the month. The Wildcats are the first team this season in which two of its players were honored in the same month. The last time a team saw two of its players simultaneously win monthly awards was the Amarillo Bulls in January of 2014.
Rounds, Gilreath Huge Factors to Recent Success
With the amount of scoring the forwards have done, and with the quality of goaltending the Cats have had this season, it is easy to overlook contributions from defensemen. However, the quality of blue-liners from top to bottom is far more balanced than it was last season. Michael Rounds has worked his way up from being a last-resort defenseman to one of the team’s power play quarterbacks. His wrist shot is deceptively accurate and elusive, and he is a big part of the reason the Wildcats’ power play is the 2nd best in the NAHL. He has four points in his last six games. Noah Gilreath was probably the biggest reason the Wildcats beat Odessa last Friday, aside from Kapelmaster. He cleared the puck out of the crease on what would have been a sure goal on multiple occasions and has earned the trust of the Wildcats coaching staff to play more meaningful minutes.