(Photo: Troy Young)
The Wildcats and Brown Bears square off this weekend for the third and fourth times this season. Wichita Falls traveled to Alaska for two games in November and earned a sweep over Kenai River, winning 3-2 on Nov. 15, before triumphing in a shootout the next night, 2-1. The red-and-black used a balanced attack to claim four points that weekend, as Alfred Johansson, Sam Piazza, Will Vosejpka and Stan Sojka each found the back of the net over the two games. Chase Munroe earned the win in net in both of those games, stopping 76 of 79 shots in the two tilts on his way to earning South Division Star of the Week honors. The Wildcats are 14-6-0 in 20 head-to-head meetings with the Brown Bears dating back to 2007-08.
Brown Bear Beat
Kenai River enters this weekend sitting in fifth place in the Midwest Division with 59 points in 54 games played. The Brown Bears swept Corpus Christi last week by scores of 4-0 and 3-1 to break a four-game winless streak, as they continue to fight for the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. The Kenai River roster boasts the league’s leading scorer in the form of Alec Butcher, who has 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points. Zach Quinn has seen the majority of minutes in goal for the Brown Bears, posting a 17-16-3 record, 2.47 goals against average and a .927 save percentage in 37 games played.
Catching up with the ‘Cats
The Wildcats come into this weekend riding high after a successful road trip that saw them claim seven of eight available points over the four-game trip. Wichita Falls secured a postseason bid with a shootout win over Lone Star last Friday, its first since 2010-11, and then followed that up with a sweep of the Topeka Roadrunners on Monday and Tuesday. Monday’s contest saw the Wildcats erase a two-goal deficit with a dramatic third-period rally, before Kyle Bauman completed the comeback with a power-play goal in overtime. The next night, Sam Piazza’s hat trick carried the ‘Cats to a 4-1 win, as Wichita Falls finished its run of eight-straight road games with a record of 6-1-1.
An Overabundance of Overtime
When Monday’s contest against Topeka headed to overtime, it marked the fourth-straight game that Wichita Falls has played beyond regulation to decide a winner. That represents a new franchise record for most consecutive games decided in overtime or a shootout, surpassing the previous mark of three, which had occurred on three prior occasions. The Wildcats have skated in 13 games that have gone to overtime or a shootout this year, third-most in team history behind 18 games in 2008-09, and 15 contests in 2004-05. This season, Wichita Falls is a combined 9-4 in games decided in overtime or a shootout.
Piazza Picking up Points
With a goal and two assists against the Roadrunners on Monday, Sam Piazza set a new franchise record for points in a single season by a Wildcats defenseman. Piazza now has 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists this year, surpassing Brett Morrell, who posted 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) during the 2007-08 campaign. Kent Detlefsen, also a member of the 2007-08 squad, posted 49 points overall that year, however only 14 of those points (seven goals, seven assists) came in a Wildcats sweater following a mid-season acquisition from the Alaska Aces. Piazza is currently on a four-game point streak, with four goals and four assists in that span.
On Monday, Ben Kucera became the latest Wildcat to skate in 100 career games in the North American Hockey League, following Jake Townsend, who played his 100th contest last Friday against the Lone Star Brahmas. There are currently seven active Wildcats who have reached the century mark in games played this season, including Colin Staub, Nick Farmer, Tyler Ledford, Will Vosejpka and Kyle Bauman. A few other current ‘Cats are approaching the 100-game plateau; Kristaps Bazevics has played 99 games in his career, while Rudy Junda has skated in 95 contests for Wichita Falls.
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.