(Photo: Troy Young)
HIDALGO, Texas – A rough first period proved to be the Wichita Falls Wildcats (15-10-3) undoing on Friday, as the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees scored three times in the opening stanza and did not look back, claiming a 3-0 win at the State Farm Arena.
David Zevnik started in net for Wichita Falls and posted 13 saves, while Andrew Kerr and Jake Townsend turned in strong efforts defensively.
The Killer Bees jumped out to a big lead in the opening stanza, and did so by capitalizing on Wildcats turnovers. First, Evan Schmidbauer pounced on a loose puck at the left faceoff circle and found some room between the pads of Zevnik to make it 1-0. Then, Dean Balsoma made it 2-0, going top-shelf after another turnover in a nearly identical position.
Anthony Croston capped off the dominant first period by beating a screened Zevnik off a faceoff to make it 3-0 at 18:57 of the frame.
Wichita Falls responded in the second period, creating multiple chances and outshooting the Killer Bees 10-3 in the frame. Will Vosejpka had the best chance of the period, with an open net and Olli Kalkaja out of position, but a Rio Grande Valley defenseman blocked Vosejpka’s effort to keep it 3-0.
The Wildcats battled to find a way back into the game in the third period, creating a couple of odd-man opportunities and ringing a shot off the crossbar, but Kalkaja slammed the door to preserve his shutout.
The Wildcats and Killer Bees will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m. when they conclude the regular-season series. Video is available on FASThockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast accessible via Ustream.com
Rio Grande Valley – Evan Schmidbauer (unassisted) 6:11
Rio Grande Valley – R Balsoma (unassisted) 13:04
Rio Grande Valley – Anthony Croston (Evan Schmidbauer) 18:57