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Game Preview: Jacks vs. Cats (Feb. 6)

Jacks (16-19-4) vs. Cats (32-8-4)

Tonight’s Matchup: The Odessa Jackalopes will look for a three-game series sweep against Wichita Falls Saturday night at Ector County Coliseum in the final regular season matchup between the Jacks and Cats. Odessa entered the weekend 0-6-1 against the Wildcats, but wins on Thursday and Friday has Odessa at 2-2-1 at home against the first-place club. Odessa is 12-30-4 all-time versus their South Division rival (2011).

Last Time Out: The Odessa Jackalopes never trailed Friday night until the 16:31 mark of the third period. After Wichita Falls gained its first lead, it looked like the Cats were destined for a  3-2 win until Zach Zech wrapped around the equalizer with two seconds left in regulation. After neither team scored in the overtime, Hampus Sjodahl beat Justin Kapelmaster with a five hole backhand and Jon Flakne secured his third consecutive victory with Odessa, after being acquired from Minot, by stopping all three Cat’ shooters including Ryan Burnett at the end. The miracle comeback pushed Odessa just two points behind Corpus Christi for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Magic Man: Zach Zech collected his 14th goal of the season Friday night with just two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, The South Lyon, MI native has goals in three-straight games and is now fourth on the team in points (28) and second in goals. In nine games against Wichita Falls, Zech has three goals and three assists.

Heroic Hampus: No Jacks player has been more consistent this season than Bemidji State committed center Hampus Sjodahl. Sjodahl scored his team leading 20th goal Friday for Odessa and his seventh on the power play and then won it in a shootout with the lone goal. The Stockholm, Sweden native has twelve points (5 goals, 7 assists) in his last 10 games and now has one goal, five assists and a +5 rating against Wichita Falls in nine games.

Wildcat Killer: Gray Marr redirected his fifth goal against Wichita Falls Friday in his ninth game. The Twin Butte, AB, CAN native has a team leading nine points against the Wichita Falls this season and a +4 rating. Marr is third on the Jacks in goals (12) and third in points (32). In his last 10 games, Marr has five goals, six assists and a +4 rating.

Flakne on Fire: Since Odessa acquired goaltender Jon Flakne from Minot in exchange for Gunner Rivers and a 5th round pick two weeks ago, the Maple Plain, Minnesota native has only gone 3-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Aside from beating the two best teams in the South Division (Lone Star, Wichita Falls) Flakne has stopped 84 of the 90 shots he faced. Flakne is 10-6-2 with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage combined between Minot and Odessa.

Cat Trap: En route to solving the riddle that has been Wichita Falls the Jacks have also figured out something about the ultra-talented Ferris State committed goaltender Justin Kappelmaster. Kap has lost a season-high three games in a row and has lost two in a row to Odessa after beginning the year 5-0 against the Jacks. Odessa has scored six goals on Kapelmaster in two games over the weekend compared to 10 (1.43) in the previous seven games. Kapelmaster has the second most wins (23-6-2) in the NAHL.

Down South: The Jacks 4-3 SO win and IceRays 4-1 loss to Lone Star Friday moves the Jacks within two points of the Rays for the fourth and final playoff spot. The Jacks are 5-1-0 in their last five games while Corpus is just 2-4-0 in their last six. All six South Division clubs are in action Saturday. Corpus Christi and Lone wrap up their two-gamer at NYTEX Sports Centre while Topeka and Amarillo battle it out at Amarillo Civic Center as the Bulls look for a series split after a 6-4 loss Friday.

Jackalopes Broadcast: Join the voice of the Jacks’ Nick Nollenberger live for every game on the Jacks’ flagship station Classic Rock 102.1 FM and fasthockey.com