Saturday, 02.25.2017 / 10:06 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell / Photo: Tracey Koby
On Cancer Awareness Night at Kay Yeager Coliseum, the Wildcats bolted out to a dominant first period and never looked back, conquering the Amarillo Bulls by a 4-2 score.
The Cats overwhelmed Amarillo again in the first period, outskating them by a country mile in the opening 20 minutes.
Six and a half minutes into the contest, Amarillo’s Eric Cooley was given a two-minute minor penalty for checking from behind and gave the Wildcats their first power play of the night. After some good puck movement, Jonathan Waring ripped a shot through a screen off the right post. The puck ricocheted off of Brandon Bussi and into the net before the Bulls’ net-minder could locate it, and the Cats jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
Another player who hadn’t scored in over a month, Blake Ripley, also came up big for the Cats. Ripley had spent four weeks recovering from an injury to his oblique, and playing in just his second game after the injury, he rifled home a one-timer from between the circles after the puck was fed to him from behind the net by Ricky Carballo.
Shortly after Ryan Burnett was denied on a shorthanded breakaway, he followed up a shot from Roman Kinal which bounced off the right pad of Bussi and right to Burnett’s stick. The Wildcats veteran scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season, which was his third in as many games.
Jared Dempsey was tested only five times in net for the Cats in period one and made all five saves, as the Cats went into the first intermission leading 3-0.
Tempers would escalate in the second period. Brendan Walkom was ejected from the game after blindsiding Burnett with a hit to the head.
The NAHL’s leading scorer George Mika fired home his 24th goal of the season on a 2-on-1 Amarillo rush to give the Bulls some life. Then, late in the period, Ilya Skvortsov delivered a hit from behind on Bray Crowder behind the Amarillo net. The collision resulted in Crowder’s face being split open, causing a trail of blood to follow him from the end boards to the bench. Skvortsov was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
The Bulls failed to convert on their five-minute power play, which carried over into the third period. At 49:19, a shot taken by Zach Heiser from the right point was blocked and the puck settled on Carballo’s stick in front of the Amarillo net. Carballo spun around and backhanded a shot just inside the left post for his 17th goal of the season to give the Cats a 4-1 lead.
At 57:03, Nick Rosa was given a penalty for hooking, which gave the Bulls one last chance to rally from behind. Near the end of their power play, the Bulls struck after Eric Cooley fed Jovan Zimmerman a cross-crease pass, where the ex-Wildcat managed to tuck the puck past Jared Dempsey for his first goal of the season to cut the Bulls’ deficit to two. Pulling their net-minder with just a minute and a half remaining, time ran out on the Amarillo Bulls and the Cats would secure their third straight victory.
Dempsey made 26 of 28 saves and earned his 12th victory of the season after playing his first game in over a month. At the other end, Bussi went 26/30 and was charged with his seventh regulation loss. The Wildcats will play the Corpus Christi IceRays at the American Bank Center next Friday and Saturday night.