Odessa, TX – The Odessa Jackalopes and Wichita Falls Wildcats played, probably, the most exciting game of hockey in the league on Saturday night. The Jackalopes won the game 8-6 in the final meeting between the two teams.
Coming off of two straight wins against the Wildcats, Odessa was looking to finish Shriners Weekend with a three-game sweep. As well, Zach Zech was on Century Watch as he was only four points away from 100 all-time as a Jackalope.
The first period opened up like any other game when Connor Stuart opened the scoring halfway through. Zach Zech fed Stuart in front of the net, looking for the back-door goal. Stuart got handcuffed and fell to a knee, but was still able to stick with it and net the first goal of the game past the Wildcats’ Jared Dempsey.
Odessa would add another one later as Chase Thudium kept the scoring parade coming with a goal for his fourth on the weekend. The Jackalopes headed to a power play thanks to a CJ Regula roughing call. Ludwig Stenlund fed Cooper Zech for a one-timer that Dempsey saved, but playing too aggressively, left the net wide open for Thudium’s rebound and tuck.
A late scuffle in the first period between Ilya Skvortsov and Zach Heintz set the tone for the remainder of the game, as it would slowly snowball into a game where both teams played with nothing to lose.
Wichita Falls opened the 2nd period with a goal before Ludwig Stenlund’s quick release beat Dempsey for the Jacks’ third of the night thus far. Stenlund flipped a puck high in the air for Peyton Frantti, who controlled it and passed it right back to Stenlund. Stenlund kicked it off his right skate and onto his stick and snapped a fast one across Dempsey’s body into the net.
Levi Wunder would add another one three minutes later after a Wildcats turnover and rebound. Wichita Falls tried to pass the puck in front of their own net, but an aggressive forecheck slowed the puck down, allowing [Zach] Zech to intercept and take a shot at the top of the crease. Dempsey made the save, but Wunder was there to bury the rebound and put Odessa up three. The assist for Zech was his 98th career point.
Just over the halfway point in regulation, Peyton Frantti and Matt Hanewall began to dance around one another, as at the other end the Wildcats were busy scoring on an odd-man rush. Ryan Burnett netted the Wildcats 2nd goal of the night, but Frantti and Hanewall had all eyes on them. Hanewall would take his helmet off for the fight, but the large, 6-foot-3 frame of Frantti was too much, as he delivered multiple blows for a higher angle over the officials before they had to be separated. It fired up the crowd and the snowball was still rolling.
Only 20 seconds after the altercation, Zach Heintz won a defensive draw cleanly to Chris Donaldson. Donaldson carried the puck coast-to-coast, dangled past one defender, and before getting to the second defender, fired one off past Dempsey who had no chance of saving Donaldson’s quick release.
Wichita Falls would bury one more as Ricky Carballo fired one through traffic to beat a screened Jon Flakne to keep the game at a two-goal difference through two.
An early fight in the final period saw Nick Wilson receive a slash from Blake Ripley and took exception to it, one-punching Ripley to the ice with his left hand. A Wildcats power play would score a goal as Ryan Orgel was able to fight another shot past Flakne to bring the game within one. This would bring upon a goalie change for the Jackalopes as Jonny Hogue jumped into the crease.
That was the closest they would come though. Connor Stuart fought off a check and drove to the goal line before feeding Zach Zech in the slot before he snapped one off past Dempsey for a quick shot and a quick goal, his first of the day and point number 99 in his Jackalopes career.
A few minutes later, the Jackalopes would head to another power play and play with the puck behind the Wildcats net. Herrmann found Thudium who would then give it to an open Zach Zech between the circles. Zech was able to snap one in the same direction that Dempsey came from as the goaltender over-played the shot from Zech.
The goal for Zach Zech was his 2nd of the night, as well as his 100th career point, becoming only the third Jackalopes in team history to hit that mark. Zech has now joined Hampus Sjodahl and Derek Brown as the only players to have hit the century mark as a Jackalope.
This prompted a goalie change for Wichita Falls, seeing Evan Moyse replace Jared Dempsey after 7 goals given up. The Wildcats would retaliate with one as Nick Rosa beat Hogue through the wickets for his first of the night.
Less than a minute later, Tyler Pietrowski took a shot before he was called offsides, yet it prompted the entire Wichita Falls unit on the ice to confront Pietrowski before it became a full five-on-five quarrel. The find wouldn’t hold to the skaters Evan Moyse skated towards center ice without his gloves and mask, prompting Hogue to do the same.
The fans got to see a goalie fight for the first time since Bill Pye did it 20 years ago in the Jackalopes inaugural season. Moyse landed one blow before Hogue turned him around and threw him on the ice, landing a couple of uppercuts with Moyse on the ice before the officials separated the two, and subsequently ejected them from the remainder of the match.
It worked in Odessa’s favor as Zach Heintz and Tyler Pietrowski had a two-on-two break, but a trailing Zach Zech received the puck instead from Heintz. Zech collected the puck and fired it off all within one motion for a hat trick, the second on the weekend for Odessa. That would be his 40th career goal, tying him with Derek Brown for 2nd all time on the Jackalopes career goal sheet.
Wichita Falls would pull their goaltender and score one more before time expired, but the 8 Odessa goals was too much as the Jackalopes earned their 25th goal of the season. The Jackalopes are now .500 for the first time since October 27th when they took on the Lone Star Brahmas.
With one more point this season, they have matched the highest winning percentage in Jackalopes history, and with one more victory, they have secured themselves the first .500 season since making the move to junior hockey six years ago.
The Jackalopes final two home games are next Friday and Saturday night as they take on the Amarillo Bulls.
The 2017-2018 Odessa Jackalopes season tickets are on sale now! To reserve your seats, contact the Jackalopes’ ticket office today at 432-552-7825 or log on to www.jackalopes.org for more information.