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Wildcats Open Final Week of Season in Amarillo

(Photo: Cody Wooten)

GAME NOTES: 3/24 vs Amarillo Bulls

POSTSEASON TICKETS: The Wildcats will announce information for postseason ticket sales as soon as all details have been determined. Fans are encouraged to routinely check the Wildcats website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for updates. Fans may also contact the Wildcats Hockey offices at (940) 716-5587 for more information.

The Matchup
The Wildcats and Amarillo Bulls conclude their season-series when they meet for the 12th time this year on Tuesday evening. Wichita Falls has gotten the better of Amarillo in head-to-head competition this year, with the ‘Cats owning an 8-3-0 mark against their North Texas rivals, however the Bulls have claimed wins in two of the last three tilts between the two sides, including a 5-4 win on Mar. 11 at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. The battles between the Wildcats and Bulls have been dominated by offense this season, with a 3-0 win for Wichita Falls on Nov. 8 standing as the only game between the two squads to feature fewer than six total goals; Wichita Falls is averaging 5.09 goals-per-game against Amarillo, while the Bulls are averaging 3.36 GPG against the ‘Cats. For the red-and-black, much of that scoring can be attributed to Nick Farmer (7-8-15) and Kevin Charyszyn (6-7-13), with Erich Jaeger and Colin Staub both posting 11 points on four goals and seven assists against Amarillo this season as well. On the other side of the ice, Amarillo’s Luke Novak has been a thorn in the side of the Wildcats, with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 10 games played against Wichita Falls. Dating back to 2010, the ‘Cats own a 16-27-1 all-time record against the Bulls, and are 8-14-0 at the Amarillo Civic Center.

All About Amarillo
The Bulls enter Tuesday’s tilt with their season hanging in the balance. Amarillo is currently in seventh place in the South Division with a record of 24-29-4 and 52 points, and trails the Wenatchee Wild by five points for the division’s final playoff spot. After rattling off five-straight wins in early March, Amarillo has dropped its last three outings, including a road sweep at the hands of the Topeka RoadRunners last weekend. As a result, the Bulls must now win all of their remaining contests and hope Wenatchee loses all three games of its series this weekend if they are to have any hope of making the playoffs for a fifth-consecutive season. Amarillo will be pleased to be returning to home ice on Tuesday though; the Bulls are 16-10-1 at the Amarillo Civic Center this season, and are 13-5-0 on home ice since Nov. 15. Cody Gylling currently leads Amarillo in goals scored (27) and points (47), however strong second-half performances from first-year skaters Will Harrison (17-23-40), Charlie Combs (21-14-35) and Luke Novak (13-19-32) have boosted the Bulls’ attack down the stretch. In net, Anton Martinsson currently owns a 15-13-1 mark, 3.15 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 37 games played, while Jacob Weatherly has appeared in 30 games for the Bulls, posting a 9-15-3 record, 3.84 GAA and .888 save percentage. Martinsson has seen more playing time than Weatherly recently, serving as the goaltender-of-record in six of the Bulls’ last eight outings, however Weatherly has been in net for all three Amarillo wins over Wichita Falls. 

Sights on Sixty 
After reaching the 50-point plateau with a goal against the Wenatchee Wild on Mar. 6 and posting six points over his last five games, forward Colin Staub now has his sights set on reaching 60 points. Should Staub pick up three points over the Wildcats’ final three contests, he would become the first skater to reach 60 points for Wichita Falls since Brian Sheehan posted 60 on 29 goals and 31 assists in 2009-10. Staub would also be just the ninth skater in team history to register 60 points in a single season, joining: Kevin Huck (24-54-78), Chad Costello (29-34-63) and Kyle Kramer (29-33-62) in 2004-05; Kramer (27-41-68) in 2005-06; Adam Cardwell (32-59-91), Luke Salazar (41-46-87) and Grant Everett (19-50-69) in 2007-08; and Sheehan (29-31-60) in 09-10.

Looking Ahead to Lone Star
Following Tuesday’s trip to Amarillo, the Wildcats will conclude their regular-season slate with two games against the Lone Star Brahmas (38-12-8) at the NYTEX Centre in North Richland Hills. Entering this week’s action, the ‘Cats are three points behind the Brahmas for first place in the South Division with one game-in-hand, however the two teams will be even on games played when their two-game set begins on Friday following the red-and-black’s midweek outing in Amarillo. Much of Lone Star’s success this season can be attributed to its dominance at the NYTEX Centre, where the Brahmas are 23-2-1. These two teams split a weekend series the last time they squared off at the NYTEX Centre, with Wichita Falls bouncing back from a 6-3 loss on Jan. 30 with a 4-3 win the next night, which marked the Brahmas’ first regulation loss of the season on home ice. The Wildcats are 3-2-1 in head-to-head competition against the Brahmas this season. Dating back to last year, the ‘Cats are 8-5-2 all-time against Lone Star, and are 3-3-1 at the NYTEX Centre.

Alumni Alerts
The Wildcats will be well-represented when the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship begins on Mar. 27, with four players competing for three different schools boasting ties to Wichita Falls.

In the Midwest Regional, defenseman Brad Shumway (2011-12) and the RIT Tigers will skate against the top-seeded Minnesota State University, Mankato on Mar. 28 at 3 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Shumway and the Tigers earned a berth into the national tournament by defeating Mercyhurst University, 5-1, in the Atlantic Hockey Championship on Mar. 21.

In the West Regional, Tucker Poolman (2011-12) and North Dakota will take on Quinnipiac University on Mar. 27 at 7 p.m. CDT. Poolman, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 2013, and North Dakota earned an at-large bid to the tournament with a record of 27-9-3.

In the East Regional, a pair of Pioneers will represent Wichita Falls when the University of Denver (23-13-2) takes on the Boston College Eagles on Mar. 28 at 2 p.m. CDT. Evan Cowley (2012-13) and Rudy Junda (2012-14) will be hoping to help Denver exact revenge for a 6-2 loss to BC that eliminated the Pioneers from the national tournament in 2014. 

In other alumni news, defenseman Steven Hoshaw (2009-11) has signed a professional contract with the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL. Hoshaw, who recently completed his collegiate career with the American International College Yellow Jackets, wasted no time picking up his first professional point, notching an assist in Tulsa’s 2-1 win over the Quad-City Mallards on Mar. 18. Hoshaw is in good company in the ECHL, joining fellow-Wildcats alumni Chad Costello (2004-05) of the Allen Americans, Zack Josepher (20006-07) of the Elmira Jackals and Kyle Kraemer (2004-06) of the Colorado Eagles.

Shaw Rewrites Another Rookie Record
Goaltender Austin Shaw has enjoyed a strong season in his first year of junior hockey. Boasting a record of 24-7-2, the Colorado-native has set a new team record for most wins in a single-season by a Wildcats goaltender in his first season of junior hockey, surpassing Evan Cowley’s mark of 22 wins set during the 2012-13 campaign. This is not the first time Shaw has written himself into the Wildcats record-book this season. Previously, his shutout streak of 106:09 stretching over his first two career appearances set a new franchise record for longest shutout streak to start a career by a Wildcats goaltender, surpassing Eric Gravaglia’s mark of 75:39 to start his career in 2010-11.