Thursday, 02.09.2017 / 2:39 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
The Wildcats will pay their second and final visit to the Amarillo Civic Center this season, hoping to extend their dominance over the Bulls and further their claim for second place in the South.
Cats Have Lassoed the Bulls
For the first time in a month and a half, the Wildcats will play an opponent other than Lone Star and Shreveport. What we saw last season between the Cats and the Bulls was Amarillo winning its first matchup decisively, followed by eleven consecutive Wichita Falls victories. This season, the Cats have taken five straight against their rivals after falling 3-2 to them in their home opener. Oddly enough, all six matchups between them have been decided by a single goal. Four of those six games would go to overtime. The games have all been close despite Amarillo’s sixth-place position. They are not yet eliminated from postseason contention, but they’ll need to go on a tear for the two months to have a chance. Bad news for the Wildcats; this weekend’s games are virtually must-win for the Bulls.
On the Road Again
The Wildcats will probably be thrilled that six of their final nine weekends will be on the road. For reasons unknown, they’ve been a substantially better team in opposing rinks than they have at the KYC all season long. They’ve got the second best road record in the NAHL, only slightly behind Lone Star. At home? 17th. They’ve got the second best road power play in the NAHL, only slightly behind Shreveport. At home? Dead last. They’ve got the fifth best road penalty kill in the NAHL. At home? 22nd. They’ve got the second best road goal differential in the NAHL. At home? 19th. This level of discrepancy is very uncommon, especially when it so heavily favors road performance. Is this a strange phenomenon? Absolutely. There’s probably never been a team in the NAHL play so significantly better away than at home. Odd as it may be, if the Cats continue this trend for the rest of the season, holding second place is a foregone conclusion.
Point of No Return
The trade deadline has come to pass, and the Wildcats did not make any moves. Coach Nelson has again conveyed his confidence in the group he has, and he fully believes they are capable of winning a championship. Last season, Trent Dillinger added some size and grit to a relatively small team at the deadline in late January. This time around, the skill-to-grit and size-to-speed ratios seem to be balanced enough to make for a deep postseason run. With the deadline now in the rearview mirror, the players can cast aside another potential distraction and continue to grow internally as they duel Shreveport and Corpus Christi for the second seed in the South.
McBey Likely to Make Debut
Eighteen-year-old Dallas native George McBey has practiced with the Wildcats the last two weeks and has served as an emergency back-up while Jared Dempsey recovers from a minor lower-body injury. As an emergency back-up, he was not allowed to play unless Moyse was injured. However, now that he’s been made an affiliate player, he’s expected to take some of the workload off of Moyse this weekend and make his Wildcats debut against Amarillo. McBey boasts a 2.06 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 12 games played with his HC Dallas 18U team this season. Domantas Cypas is questionable while Blake Ripley remains doubtful to play due to injury.