Photo: Cody Wooten
Saturday, 10.01.2016 / 9:49 pm CT
Crossing paths with the Odessa Jackalopes for the first time since the Wildcats eliminated them from the 2016 playoffs, the Cats ousted their rivals in a 4-2 victory on Saturday night.
With the one-game suspension to Tony Curtale in effect, 27-year-old Assistant Coach Josh Nelson was the lone coach behind the bench for the first time in his career.
The game was evenly played at the start, with both teams exchanging surges of shots on goal. The Jackalopes jumped out to a 5-1 edge in shots to start the contest, but were answered by five straight Wildcats shots. On their next rush, however, Odessa struck first. Connor Wood jammed the puck past Evan Moyse to open the scoring from a net-mouth scramble. The puck barely trickled over the goal line, but the referee was certain it was a good goal.
Going behind did not dampen the Wildcats’ spirits. Less than three minutes later, Ilya Skvortsov was sprung by a clever touch pass from Ryan Burnett. Skvortsov ripped a hard wrist shot past Odessa goaltender Jonny Hogue for his first goal in six games to level the score. Only two shifts later, Bobby DeFriest rung a shot off the left post, off of Hogue’s equipment, and into the back of the net for his first goal as a Wildcat.
Odessa came out with a thirst to tie the game. They had a very long surge on successive shots and continuous pressure in the Wildcats’ zone. Finally, defenseman Rowan Savidant led an Odessa rush up-ice and wristed a heavy shot over the glove of Moyse to tie the game at two. Savidant’s goal was his first as a Jackalope.
At the 14:58 mark of the second period, recently named Captain Seamus Donohue kept the puck alive at the offensive blue line after an Odessa clearing attempt. He swiveled his way past two Jackalopes and rifled a shot past Hogue to regain the lead for the Wildcats. Donohue demonstrated a tremendous amount of poise and puck control with the goal, further exciting the fans as to what the skilled defenseman can bring to the table this season. He and Wood would later be given offsetting double-minors and unsportsmanlike conducts at the end of the period.
A hard-fought third period yielded scoring chances few and far between. The best chance of the period came off a 2-on-1 in which Ricky Carballo set up Skvortsov right down the slot. The Russian center was robbed by Hogue, who punched out his blocker to knock the shot away. Despite a stretch of pressure at the end of the game, the Jackalopes couldn’t solve Moyse. Isaac Kobienia tucked home an empty-netter to seal the deal for his second goal of the campaign.
Moyse was rock-solid again for the Cats in net, stopping 27 of Odessa’s 29 shots and improving to 4-3-1 on the season. Despite making some crucial stops, Hogue was given the loss, denying 26 of 29 and falling to 2-2-0. The Wildcats will close out the series against the Jackalopes in a rematch on Sunday, October 2nd at 7:05 PM CT.
(Photo: Cody Wooten)