(Photo: Troy Young)
In what could be a preview of the first round of the divisional playoffs, the Wildcats and Bulls lock horns this weekend for their seventh and eighth regular-season matchups. When these teams last met on Jan. 17 and 18, the Bulls earned a pair of one-goal victories at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. The road team has won the previous six head-to-head contests this season, including a historic sweep by the Wildcats in December. Wichita Falls claimed a 4-2 win on Dec. 20 behind Colin Staub’s shorthanded goal in the third period, then completed the sweep with a 2-1 shootout victory the next night. Nick Farmer (3-1–4) and Josh Haverstrom (1-3–4) lead the Wildcats in points against Amarillo this year, while on the other side of the ice, Mike Davis and Joe Grabowski each have five points for the Bulls in six games against the ‘Cats. Wichita Falls is 2-3-1 against Amarillo on the year, and is 8-23-1 against the Bulls dating back to the 2010-11 season.
The Bulls come into this weekend’s series after getting swept by the Topeka Roadrunners on Monday and Tuesday. Amarillo (37-14-5) currently sits in first place in the South Division with 79 points in 56 games played, but have hit a rough patch of late. Following a stretch in which they won 16 of 18 contests, the Bulls have just one win in their last six tilts, an 8-3 victory over the Lone Star Brahmas on March 15. Amarillo is still averaging 3.41 goals per game despite the recent skid, the second-best mark in the league. Six Bulls skaters boast at least 40 points on the season, led by Mike Davis (24-33–57) and Tyler Gernhofer (29-21–50), who leads the league in goals scored. Paul Berrafato and Collin Delia have seen even minutes in the Amarillo net this season; Berrafato is 17-7-5 with a 2.14 goals against average and .919 save percentage in 32 games played, while Delia is 20-7-0 in 29 games played with a 1.61 GAA and .935 save percentage.
Wichita Falls (30-21-4) enters this weekend hot on the heels of a busy week that saw the Wildcats win three of four contests, including a road sweep of the Topeka Roadrunners. The red-and-black rallied from two goals down to claim a 3-2, overtime victory over Topeka on March 10, before Sam Piazza’s hat trick led the ‘Cats to a 4-1 triumph the next night. The Wildcats followed the strong road showing with a convincing, 3-1 win over Kenai River at the Kay Yeager Coliseum last Friday, before stumbling to a 5-3 defeat against the Brown Bears on Saturday. Wichita Falls currently has 64 points in 55 games played, and is virtually locked into being the fourth seed in the South Division playoffs.
Munroe, Piazza Earn Weekly Honors
After a string of strong performances last week, Wildcats goaltender Chase Munroe and defenseman Sam Piazza were recognized by the league for their efforts in the Easton Divisional Stars of the Week. Munroe was named the South Division Star of the Week after recording three wins, a 1.75 goals against average and .933 save percentage in four games played last week. It marks the second time this season the Naperville, Ill.-native has been recognized by the league; he previously earned top weekly honors in November after leading the Wildcats to a road sweep over Kenai River. Piazza garnered Second Star honors after notching four goals and two assists last week, including a hat trick against Topeka on March 11. The Darien, Ill.-native has 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 total points in 54 games played, setting a new single-season record for most points by a Wildcats defenseman. This marks the second time this season that Wichita Falls has swept the South Division’s weekly awards; David Zevnik and Nick Farmer were tabbed as the division’s top performers on Dec. 23 after the Wildcats swept the Amarillo Bulls.
Pochiro Going Pro
Former Wildcats forward Zach Pochiro made news recently when he signed a three year entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues. A fourth round selection by the Blues in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Pochiro led the Wildcats in goals and points during the 2011-12 season, posting 18 goals and 16 assists in 52 games played. After his time in Wichita Falls, the St. Louis-native played two seasons with Prince George of the Western Hockey League (CHL), recording 42 goals and 63 assists in 128 games played for the Cougars. Pochiro’s signing comes after a strong showing at the 2013 Prospects Tournament and in Blues training camp last summer.
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.