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Jacks vs. Wilderness preview

Wednesday’s match up: The Odessa Jackalopes drop the puck on the 2015 NAHL showcase at Schwan Super Center against the Defending Robertson Cup Champion Minnesota Wilderness on Wednesday at 4:30. Both teams are in search of their first win of the season heading into the opening day matchup. It is the second time these two have met up since the Jacks joined the NAHL in 2011. The Wilderness beat Odessa in their lone meeting back in 2013, 4-1. 

Showcase history: The Jacks are 5-10-1 all-time in Blaine since joining the NAHL in 2011. Odessa went 1-3 in the 2014 Showcase, earning their lone win against the MN Magicians 5-4 in game three. 2015 will mark the 13th annual NAHL showcase. The Schwan Super Center is the location of all 88 games between 22 teams and is equipped with eight sheets of ice. An estimated 300 junior, NCAA and pro scouts will be on hand for the four-day event.

Last time out: The Odessa Jackalopes out shot the Amarillo Bulls 41-31 but didn’t get the bounces needed to earn an opening night win falling to the Bulls, 6-3, September 12 at the Amarillo Civic Center. In the first, the Jacks found themselves down two goals early but got right back into the hockey game when Gray Marr scored at 6:59 on a top shelf wrister over Bulls goalie Anton Martinsson’s left shoulder. Amarillo pushed its lead back up to two just before the end of the period when Tyler Harkins fluke-dump caught goalie Dean Shatzer off guard, giving the Bulls a 3-1 lead. Amarillo’s Zach Sarnowski made it two-for-two for the Bulls on the power play in the second, extending the Amarillo lead to three. After Andrew McLean dropped the gloves with Jason Nitsche and Taylor Gatto danced with Nick Santoro. The Jacks surged to within one goal with two quick tallies late in the second period. Zach Main scored on the power play at 16:11 and Ryan MacKeller scored with six seconds left to make it 4-3. In the third, Amarillo was too much, scoring two more goals to earn the 6-3 win.

New Addition’s: The Odessa Jackalopes have made two roster additions since their 6-3 loss to the Amarillo Bulls on Sept. 12. Odessa traded for Goaltender Gunner Rivers on Sept. 17, from the Lone Star Brahmas in exchange for a tender contract. The team also cut goalie Joe Morgan and signed Free agent Tim Faulkner on Sept. 21. Austin was born in Atlanta, GA but was raised in Ottawa, Canada, allowing for the Jacks to count him as an American roster spot. In 2014-15 with the Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL), Rivers played 44 games with a 2.78 GAA and a .913 SVS%. Faulkner played 15 game with Odessa last season, tallying one point (one assist), after being acquired from the Springfield Blues (NAHL). The Jacks traded Faulkner to the Fargo Force (USHL) where he appeared in 24 games. Faulkner made the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) 23-man roster this year but was cut only a few days after.

Veteran Group: After beginning the 2014-15 season with a 4-4 record the Odessa Jackalopes won only eleven more games in 2015, ending the season with a 15-45 record for the second consecutive year. This season head coach Greg Gatto switched his approach, veering away from youth and instead for sustained success through a veteran team. The Jacks have 10 players on their roster with a birth year of 95’, more than doubling last seasons 20-year-old crop. The Jackalopes return 10 players from last years team including forwards Hampus Sjodahl (34 points), Eric Carreras (26 points), Zach Zech (25 points), Ryan MacKellar (14 points) and Taylor Gatto (2 points), along with defensemen Andrew McLean (21 points), Dakota Menslage (21 points), Daniel Kiraly (9 points), Tim Faulkner (15 games) and Nate Werhane (18 games).

Jackalopes Broadcast: Join the voice of the Jacks Nick Nollenberger live for every game on the Jacks’ flagship station Classic Rock 102 and the Classic Rock 102 app. All games can also be watched live on fasthockey.com