ODESSA, TX — For the past few weeks, the Jackalopes have been looking to see who would step up offensively, who could be relied upon to provide a spark when needed and play with the confidence of a scorer. After tonight, two names have emerged as possibilities. Dayne Hoyord and Gabe Bennett. The two forwards of the second line powered the Odessa Jackalopes (8-16-2-1) to a 3-1 victory over the New Mexico Ice Wolves (6-18-1-1) on Friday night at the Ector County Coliseum.
Building off their strong performance on Thursday, the Jackalopes started strong right from the opening puck drop. It was Bennett who stuck first for the Jackalopes with a strong wrist shot from the right-hand circle. The puck sailed into the top corner and Bennett put the Jackalopes up 1-0 just over five minutes into the game. It goal marked Bennett’s second in as many nights and fourth in the last six games.
In the second period the Jackalopes faced major adversity as they were forced to kill off four consecutive penalties including a five-on-three. Jackalopes goaltender Cooper Black made several clutch saves to keep the Wolves off the board. But the turning point came in a goal-mouth scramble after Black had made the initial stop and was trying to cover the loose puck. Sticks and bodies crashed violently in the blue-paint but the Jackalopes were able to clear the zone. The Jackalopes were able to get a man back on the ice and reset to defend their zone again. Now down on a five-on-four disadvantage, the Jackalopes caught the Ice Wolves disorganized as they came into the zone. A turnover forced by Hoyord led to a short-handed odd-man rush up the ice.
Hoyord stepped in over the blue line to the right and sent a hard shot, low and on the ice, that beat New Mexico netminder Owen Parker to his stick side. The goal by Hoyord was significant as it gave the Jackalopes a much needed insurance goal and shifted momentum back firmly in their favor as the Ice Wolves were threatening to tie.
But that didn’t mean the Jacks were out of the woods yet. An early goal by New Mexico brought them within one in the third period. But Odessa rallied and pushed the play back into the Ice Wolves’ zone. They came close to scoring on several ocassions with Jacks captain Evan Orr just narrowly being denied by the shoulder on Parker, not once but twice.
In the end, New Mexico was forced to pull their goaltender and the Jackalopes capitalized on Hoyord’s second goal of the game with just seven seconds remaining.
Black made 28 saves in his first victory as a Jackalopes and he helped end an 11 game winless skid that the Jackalopes have been on since the start of the new year.
Though the Jackalopes still remain nine points out of a playoff spot, the win is significant for the growing moral of the team as they look for their first weekend sweep at home on Saturday night. Face-off is set for 7:15 pm.
Photo Credit: Danne´ Braden Photography