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Jacks, Wildcats preview

Saturday's match-up: The Odessa Jackalopes and Wichita Falls Wildcats meet up for the first time this season as the Jacks embark on South Division play. The ‘Cats won last year's season-series 6-2. Saturday’s contest will be game one of 10 between the two teams in 2015-16. Both teams won three games in Blaine, Minn. for the NAHL Showcase with the Wildcats going 3-0-1 and the Jacks going 3-1-0.

Showcase History: The Odessa Jackalopes three wins in Blain, Minn. was the best performance in club history since joining the NAHL in 2011. After dropping game one to the defending Robertson Cup champion Minnesota Wilderness, 2-1, Odessa rebounded with a 3-2 win over the defending President Cup Champion Janesville Jets and followed up the first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over the Bismarck Bobcats and wrapped-up Blain with a decisive victory over the Springfield Blues, 5-1.

Shooting Star: Jacks forward Brandon Tucker turned in one of the best showcases in Jacks history, tallying five points (three goals/two assists) with a +3 rating and two game-winning goals. Tucker’s impressive showcase earned the Colorado native the second star of the week for the NAHL South Division. The Jacks selected Tucker in the 5th round of the 2015 NAHL Draft from the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes AAA Midget.

River’ Dam: Jacks goaltender Gunner Rivers has been sensational since joining Odessa in mid-September from Lone Star via trade. In two games in Blaine, Rivers went 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .942 SV%, earning a NAHL South Division honorable mention for Star of the Week. Before joining the NAHL in 2015, Rivers spent the last year in the Central Canadian Hockey League, in 44 games the right-handed catching goaltender had a 2.74 GAA and .913 SV%. Both Rivers’ father and uncle played in the NHL.  His uncle, Jamie Rivers was drafted in the third round of the 1993 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues appeared in 454 NHL games totaling 66 points (17 goals/ 49 assists) and 385 PIM with the Blues, Islanders, Senators, Bruins, Red Wings and Coyotes.

What can Brown do for you? Third-year Jacks forward Derek Brown has yet to find the back of the net since rejoining the Jacks the day of the season opener in Amarillo, but the veteran forward who is committed to play at Niagara University (NCAA Div. 1)  has still filled up the stat sheet with his ability to set up his teammates. Brown is tied atop the team for points with six (six assists) including three assists against the Springfield Blues on Sept. 26. In 2014-15 Brown broke out with 49 points (21 goals/28 assists) in 59 games with the Jacks.

Desert Dogs: The Odessa Jackalopes have five players who played portions of their youth hockey for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes. Connor Stuart, Taylor Gatto, Derek Brown, Daniel Kiraly and Brandon Tucker all played for the Jr. Coyotes in the last three years before joining the Jacks.

Bernie Mac: Jacks forward Ryan MacKellar has quietly been an offensive force this season. Through five games, MacKellar has six points (three goals/three assists). In 51 games last year with Odessa the Indianapolis, Indiana native had just 14 points (five goals/nine assists)

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.