Facing each other for the third time in seven days, the Wichita Falls Wildcats and Amarillo Bulls took the ice at the Amarillo Civic Center for the second game of a two game series between the North American Hockey League rivals. A hard fought 60 minutes ended with a 4-3 Bulls win.
The Amarillo win splits the two game series between the teams. Wichita Falls rolled to a 5-2 victory on Friday.
The Wildcats would have to make up for two huge holes in their lineup on Saturday. Mac Olson returned home after a death in his family, while Ryan Frost was out due to an injury. Going into Saturday, Olson’s 12 goals tied him for the team lead with Dakota Klecha and Sean Keane, while Frost led the Wildcats with 19 assists.
The Bulls would strike early when Joe Kozlak scored his sixth goal of the season to put Amarillo up 1-0 at the 4:13 mark. Matt Johnson and Luke Jenkins recorded assists on the goal.
Aside from the early goal, defense would key an exciting first period as both the Wildcats Tyler Green and the Bulls Chris Eiserman turned away tough shots. Amarillo would put nine shots on goal to Wichita Falls’ five, but neither team would score the remaining 15:47 of the first period.
The second period began looking like a slapstick comedy at times as the Bulls somehow managed to hang onto a 1-0 lead and the Wildcats somehow managed not to fall farther behind.
Ricky DeRosa, last weekends hero for the Bulls with four goals, put the Wildcats on a powerplay after evidently trying to put himself into the Wildcats goal and drawing an interference penalty.
With their penalty kill unit on the ice, the Bulls cleared the puck to the other end. After two Wildcats ran into each other while coming back down the ice, Kozlak snatched the loose puck and shot at an empty net but completely missed the goal and a chance to go up by two.
Getting a reprieve from the hockey gods, the Wildcats tied the game at the 7:02 mark when Alex Betts scored his first goal of the season in just his second game with Wichita Falls. Keil Zornow and Bobby Chapman would get the assists.
The slapstick comedy then became The Jerry Springer Show midway through the period. DeRosa again barreled into the Wildcats goal, this time falling on top of Green and leading to tempers flaring between players on both teams.
The tempers would drift to the bench as Wildcats head coach Mark LeRose and Bulls head coach Dennis Williams exchanged heated words while the referees sorted things out on the ice. When all was done, three players for each team were handed penalties, with Klecha being tagged with cross checking and delay of game.
Once the players got back to hockey, Chris Leone gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game on his sixth goal of the season with just over five minutes left in the period. Drew Allen and Jason McAloon would get the assists and the Wildcats would hold a 2-1 lead after an eventful middle period.
At the 8:05 mark of the third period the Bulls Chris Cass was hit with a 10 minute misconduct penalty, but it would be Amarillo on the powerplay when Sean Keane was nailed for slashing in the same altercation.
DeRosa would quickly take advantage of the powerplay opportunity and tie the game 2-2 with assists from Dan Sherer and Karl Beckman. It was DeRosa’s sixth goal of the season, all of which have come against Wichita Falls.
Another penalty on the Wildcats would keep the powerplay going and briefly give the Bulls a 5-on-3 advantage. Michael Erickson would put the Bulls ahead 3-2 with assists from Kozlak and Johnson at the 12:06 mark, spurring a flurry of scoring.
Fifty seconds later, with both teams at full power, Cody Freeman increased the Bulls lead to 4-2 with assists from Kyle Sucher and Colton Warner, but Mikhail Sentyurin would follow just over a minute later with a powerplay goal to cut the Amarillo lead back to one. Leone and Miha Stebih would assist on Leone’s goal.
Amarillo would control the puck through most of the final minutes and hang on for the 4-3 win.
Amarillo improves to 13-4-1 on the season and gains 2 points to give them a total of 27. Wichita Falls drops to 14-8-2.
The Bulls now head to Frisco for a one game set against the first place Texas Tornado on November 24 before traveling to Topeka for a two game series against the RoadRunners November 26-27.
The Wildcats have another odd weekend ahead. Wichita Falls hosts the Corpus Christi IceRays at Kay Yeager Coliseum on November 26, then goes to New Mexico for a two game series against the Mustangs November 27-28.
In the NAHL South:
After ended a 15 game winning streak by the Texas Tornado on Friday, the Topeka RoadRunners put the division front runners on a two game losing streak with a dominating 5-1 victory Saturday night at the Kansas ExpoCentre. The Topeka win keeps them in third place, one point ahead of fourth place Amarillo, and draws them closer to second place Wichita Falls.
Both Corpus Christi and New Mexico were idle on Saturday.
NAHL South Standings:
- Texas Tornado (37 points)
- Wichita Falls Wildcats (30 points)
- Topeka RoadRunners (28 points)
- Amarillo Bulls (27 points)
- Corpus Christi IceRays (20 points)
- New Mexico Mustangs (12 points)