The Wildcats will host the Amarillo Bulls this Friday and Saturday night at Kay Yeager Coliseum at 7:05 pm.
Recapping Last Games
The Cats just enjoyed their season’s last remaining off-weekend outside of Christmas. The weekend before last, they took on Amarillo in their first road games of the campaign. For a young team struggling to find consistency heading on its first road trip together, they showed remarkable resiliency and won both games by a 5-4 score in extra time. On the first night, the Cats were thoroughly outplayed, particularly in the second period. With the help of goaltender Evan Moyse, they managed to keep the game close and entered the third period trailing by only a goal. Down 4-3 in the closing moments with Moyse pulled for an extra attacker, Ilya Skvortsov leveled the score with 4.5 seconds remaining to stun the Amarillo crowd and force overtime, where Seamus Donohue ended the night with the game winning goal. The following night was a back-and-forth battle which saw the Wildcats forfeit their lead three times in the game. In the third period, the Cats jumped out to a lead twice and saw the Bulls respond first within 63 seconds and then within 22 seconds. Fortunately, they were able to best the Bulls in the 3-on-3 overtime period in which Ryan Orgel set up Jonathan Bendorf for a tap-in goal to end the game on a hat trick.
The Weekend Matchup
By now, the frustration has certainly begun to mount for the Amarillo Bulls. They’ve lost three close games in a row to the Wildcats and out-played them for large portions of each one. Coming off of another home stand in which they were swept by the Corpus Christi IceRays, the Bulls will be coming into this series with no short supply of anger amidst a seven-game losing streak. As usual, the Cats will have to be mindful of Amarillo’s top line. George Mika (#19) had a four-goal series against them two weeks ago and currently leads the entire NAHL in points with 23. To defeat the Bulls tonight, they will have to start by shutting down Mika and his line.
Nick Rosa Returns
Word has reached the ears of most Wildcats fans by now; one of the cornerstones of last season’s record-setting journey has returned for his final season of junior hockey. There is little doubt that Nick Rosa will instantly become a key contributor to this roster. He was more than just the fifth best scorer on the Cats last season. He was the faceoff ace, he was a centerpiece largely responsible for the breakout seasons of Austin Albrecht and Jonny Lazarus, and he was a complete, humble player who put the team’s best interest first. He dominated at the Wildcats’ first main camp at Orchard Lake this summer, scoring hat tricks in scrimmages and making a case to be the team’s number one center. However, opportunity knocked in Sioux City, where he expected to take on a larger role than he ultimately did. We can expect Rosa (#16) to make his presence known this weekend.
Burnett Serves Final Game of Suspension
The Wildcats’ leading goal-scorer this season will serve out his final game of a three-game suspension for his spearing of Shreveport’s Dominick Procopio back on October 15th. In his absence, the Cats managed to win both games out in Amarillo two weeks ago with Ilya Skvortsov taking Burnett’s spot as the top line right wing. The Russian played extremely well in Burnett’s stead, tacking on two goals and two assists over the weekend. When Burnett makes his return as he is expected to Saturday night, it will be interesting to see where he is placed in the lineup. Does Coach Curtale risk fixing what isn’t broken by reuniting him with Aleksi Poikola and Jonathan Bendorf, whom he’s played alongside for most of the season? Does he place him on Rosa’s line and leave Skvortsov where he is? It’s tough to say.
Hanewall, Dempsey Expected to Make Wildcats Debuts
Former Brookings Blizzard forward Matt Hanewall (#25) and former Fairbanks Ice Dogs goaltender Jared Dempsey (#30) are expected to get their first starts as Wildcats this weekend. Hanewall is a speedy winger who can put opponents on their heels. He tallied three shots on goal in as many games with Brookings just over a month ago. Demspey is a tall goaltender (6’2″) who had a strong showing in three games with Fairbanks. He joins the Wildcats boasting a .934 Save Percentage and a 1.53 Goals Against Average this season. He will likely start one of this weekend’s games.
Military Appreciation Night
Saturday night, the Wildcats will be honoring our nation’s military by wearing special jerseys throughout the game. The jerseys will be available by silent auction at the Guest Services Table. All active, retired, and military veterans will also be given a free ticket to the game by showing their military ID, and are entitled to as many as four $5 tickets for family members. The Wildcats extend their thanks to The Ford House for sponsoring Military Appreciation Night.