Wildcats Sweep Mudbugs in Convincing Fashion
It was expected that a challenging series was in store for the Wildcats as they paid their first-ever visit to Shreveport, Louisiana last weekend to take on the Mudbugs. Facing heavy adversity, the Wildcats broke a four-game losing streak, a three-game losing skid against Shreveport, ended a seven-game Mudbugs point streak, and swept their division rivals on the road. Matt Hanewall scored his first goal as a Wildcat to open the scoring on Friday night, which came off a picturesque pass by his former Brookings Blizzard teammate Jeff Skinner. He would add another in the third period after Blake Ripley, Kevin Fees and CJ Walker all found the back of the net to match Shreveport’s largest margin of defeat all season. Things started well for the Cats on Saturday as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Mudbugs would not waver. Shreveport fought back to tie the game and force overtime, where they would spend two minutes on a 4-on-3 power play. First Star of the Week Evan Moyse held his ground to not only extend the game to a shootout, but also stopped all five Mudbugs shooters to allow the Cats to win off a Ryan Orgel slap shot. Breaking three active streaks last weekend was impressive and was enormously beneficial to the Wildcats in the division race. However, there is a much longer and more daunting streak in town this weekend.
A fortnight ago the Brahmas swept the Wildcats on CMN weekend to accumulate a ten-game winning streak. That stretch of victories has now increased to twelve, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Dating all the way back to mid-December, the Brahmas have tallied more than double the goals they’ve allowed, outscoring their opponents 43-21 in their last twelve games. Coach Nelson has utilized their hot streak as a means for motivation. Coming off a very successful road sweep and returning home to face a team who’s beaten them four times in a row, he’s confident the Wildcats will be as motivated as ever to snap the streak and secure some valuable points this weekend.
Carballo, Kinal Return; Ripley & Donohue to Sit
Wildcats leading scorer Ricky Carballo has served his one-game suspension for fighting Shreveport’s Dominick Procopio after a whistle, and he returns to the lineup for tonight’s game. He is expected to jump back alongside Nick Rosa and Kevin Fees. Defenseman Roman Kinal is also back in the fold after nursing a three-week shoulder injury. However, Seamus Donohue has been suspended for an accumulation of misconduct penalties and will have to sit tonight’s game out. With the Cats missing their top defenseman, it will be helpful to have Kinal’s services back in the mix, especially with Domantas Cypas serving the final game of his spearing suspension. Kinal will likely take Donohue’s spot alongside Ryan Orgel at the blue line. Blake Ripley is banged up after taking a handful of cross-checks to the back against Shreveport last weekend, so we will likely not see the Cats’ sharpshooter in the lineup for this series.
George McBey Joins the Mix
Wildcats goaltender Jared Dempsey was given pleasant news earlier this week, as he learned the lower-body injury he’d sustained was nowhere near as severe as was feared. He is expected to return in two weeks or so. In the meantime, Dallas native George McBey has been called up from his HC Dallas team to serve as the Wildcats’ emergency back-up for this weekend. He will not play against the Brahmas unless Evan Moyse gets injured, but he may see some time against the Amarillo Bulls next weekend when he becomes an Affiliate Player. Coach Nelson and the team have firmly stated they feel confident in his abilities.
Projecting the Top Prospects Tournament Roster
This weekend’s games are critically important for reasons other than ending a rival’s winning streak. The NAHL standings will be frozen this Sunday. Based on the teams’ positioning, they will be allowed a distinct number of players to send to the most heavily scouted hockey tournament in the world at the end of February. Should the Cats hold second place on Sunday, they will send four players, and Josh Nelson will be named Assistant Coach of the South Division team. Should they slip to third place, only three players will be allowed to go. Ilya Skvortsov and Domantas Cypas are not eligible to play college hockey because they played professionally in Europe, so they will not be considered. There is little doubt that junior hockey veterans Nick Rosa and Jonathan Waring will represent the Wildcats for Team South, as they are both in their final year of junior eligibility and are without NCAA commitments. In addition, Wildcats veteran Ryan Burnett is a player whose name has been mentioned as a likely participant. The three of them are the clear front-runners, but the potential fourth spot is relatively up for grabs. Top goal-scorers Ricky Carballo and Steven Tillie have made strong cases for themselves throughout the season, as has dynamic defenseman Ryan Orgel. The roster is expected to be finalized sometime next week.