(Photo: Troy Young)
WICHITA FALLS, Texas – The Wichita Falls Wildcats (35-13-2) used goals from three different skaters to push past the Wenatchee Wild (23-22-7) at the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday night.
Jake Townsend led the ‘Cats attack with a goal and an assist, while Austin Albrecht and Colin Staub also found twine for Wichita Falls. Shane Kuzmeski, Paul Soubry, Austin Beaulieu and Nikita Litviak chipped in with helpers as well, with Austin Shaw making 21 saves to earn his 23rd victory of the season.
The first period played out scoreless, although both teams created chances in the offensive zone.
For Wenatchee, the best chance of the first came after Jake Ahlgren intercepted a breakout pass at the blue line and skated to the top of the left circle before letting a shot go, but his effort flashed wide of the post.
The Wildcats best chances of the opening period came on the rush when Beaulieu quarterbacked a well-executed four-on-two rush with Matt Koch, but Beaulieu’s chance from in close was blocked away by Michael Bullion in the Wenatchee net.
The game spring to life in the second, with the Wildcats taking the lead early in the frame before Wenatchee and Wichita Falls traded goals in quick succession.
The ‘Cats opened the scoring on a transition rush after Kuzmeski sent a headman pass to Townsend. The Wenatchee defender lost his footing as he swept his stick at the puck, allowing Townsend to walk in with Nick Farmer on his right. Townsend delayed, then lasered a wrist-shot through Bullion’s legs from the left circle for his 13th of the season at 2:08 of the period.
The Wild responded on the power play though, with Dan Bailey sneaking a shot from the blue line through traffic in front to level the score at one-apiece.
The level score was short-lived however, with the red-and-black scoring on their next trip into the offensive end. After Soubry moved the puck to Townsend at the right point, the defenseman hammered a one-timer towards the net. His shot hit Albrecht’s stick on the way through and ramped into the top corner of the net to give Wichita Falls a 2-1 edge heading into the third period. The goal, which came just 28 seconds after Wenatchee had tied the game, stands as Albrecht’s sixth of the season.
In the third, the ‘Cats tacked on an insurance tally before seeing out the final minutes of the game on the penalty kill.
Wichita Falls pushed its edge to 3-1 at the 11:13 of the final frame thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the back glass behind Bullion. A loose puck landed right on the tape of Beaulieu all alone in the high slot, but the Florida-native put his shot over. The rebound caromed right to Staub at the left post, and after fanning on the initial attempt, the veteran poked it past Bullion for his 20th of the season.
Wenatchee ramped up pressure in the waning stages thanks to three power-play opportunities in succession, but the ‘Cats penalty kill was equal to the task, repelling all Wild advances to close out the 3-1 win.
The Wildcats and Wild return to the ice on Saturday to conclude their two-game series at the Kay Yeager Coliseum, with opening faceoff slated for 7:05 p.m. The first 750 fans in attendance will receive a free 2014-15 team poster courtesy of SuddenLink Media. In addition, the Wildcats will also host the annual player jersey auction during the game on March 7.
Fans should also mark their calendars for Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday, March 11. All single-game tickets are available for free, and can be picked up by visiting the KYC Box Office.
Fans that cannot make it to the arena may follow all the action on FASTHockey.com, with an audio-only broadcast available via YouTube.
Single-game tickets for the 2014-15 Wildcats season are on sale now at the Kay Yeager Coliseum box office. Stay updated on the latest team news and notes by connecting with the Wildcats on Facebook (WFWildcats), Twitter (@WFWildcats), Instagram (WFWildcats) and on YouTube (Wichita Falls Wildcats).
NOTES: Colin Staub’s goal gives him 50 points on the season, making him the first Wildcats player to reach 50 points since Dakota Klecha (28-22-50) and Ryan Frost (14-36-50) in 2010-11…Austin Albrecht’s tally stands as the game-winning goal, marking his first of the season…Wichita Falls needs just three more wins to equal the franchise record for most wins in a single season, set in 2007-08.
Wichita Falls – Jake Townsend (Shane Kuzmeski) 2:08
Wenatchee – Dan Bailey (power play) (Kyle Stephan, David Powlowski) 9:19
Wichita Falls – Austin Albrecht (Jake Townsend, Paul Soubry) 9:47
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (Austin Beaulieu, Nikita Litviak) 11:13