(Photo: Troy Young)
The two games between the Wildcats and Roadrunners mark the first meetings between the two teams this season. Last year, Wichita Falls posted a 4-8-0 record against Topeka, but that mark included a dramatic, two-game sweep at the beginning of March. The Wildcats posted a comfortable 4-1 win in the first game of that series on March 1, before storming back from a 3-1 deficit with three unanswered goals in the third period the next night. Colin Staub scored the game-winning goal with just eight seconds remaining in the contest. The Roadrunners have had the Wildcats number in head-to-head competition, with Wichita Falls owning a 13-38-5 record against Topeka in regular-season play.
The Roadrunners come into the weekend sitting in third place in the NAHL South Division with 42 points in 34 games played. Topeka finished its 2013 schedule with a strong showing, with only one regulation loss in its final seven games of the calendar year. The Roadrunners’ balanced attack is led by Tyler Poulsen (15-10–25) and Jake Kamrass (9-16–25), with a further 11 players recording double-digit points to date. In net, PJ Bridges has seen the majority of recent minutes, posting a 9-3-1 record since joining Topeka in late October. Bridges currently boasts the league’s second-best goals against average with a 1.38 mark, the second-most shutouts with four and the third-best save percentage (.947).
Wichita Falls Wrap
The Wildcats enter this weekend’s action eager to pick up where they left off in December. Wichita Falls closed the first half on a season-best six-game winning streak, a stretch that included a road sweep in Corpus Christi, and the Wildcats’ first-ever sweep of the Amarillo Bulls. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the recent run of good form has been the fact that the Wildcats did most of their winning on the road, with five of the six wins in that streak coming away from the Kay Yeager Coliseum. The winning streak also helped the ‘Cats set a new high-water mark for points before the holiday break with 45.
After leading the Wildcats to their first-ever sweep of the Amarillo Bulls, Wildcats netminder David Zevnik was named the South Star of the Week in the NAHL’s Easton Divisional Stars of the week for the week ending Dec. 22. Zevnik made 68 saves on 71 shots faced on the weekend, giving him a 1.50 goals against average and a .958 save percentage over the two contests. He is the fourth Wichita Falls skater to earn Star of the Week honors this season, joining Jordan Jancze, Chase Munroe and Will Vosejpka. Nick Farmer also earned recognition in the Stars of the Week for the week ending Dec. 22, garnering a Second Star nod after notching two goals and an assist in the Wildcats 4-2 win against Amarillo on Dec. 20.
The Wildcats conclude a road-heavy portion of their schedule this weekend with their two-game series in Topeka. Including this weekend’s contests, Wichita Falls will have played eight of its last nine games away from the Kay Yeager Coliseum, dating back to Dec. 6 against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Following their two-game tussle in Topeka, the Wildcats will open a nine-game home-stand on Jan. 17 when they welcome the Amarillo Bulls to town.
Bazevics is Back
The Wildcats are bolstering their defensive corps with the return of Kristaps Bazevics this weekend. Bazevics missed seven games for Wichita Falls while he was representing Latvia at the IIHF U20 Division I Group A World Championships. The Riga-born Bazevics helped Latvia claim the silver medal at the competition, with one assist and a plus-3 mark in five games played.
Fans may follow the weekend’s action in a variety of ways. Video streaming is available on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast available by visiting our Ustream channel. Fans can also follow along on Twitter (@WFWildcats) for score updates throughout the contest.