WICHITA FALLS, TX — The last time the Jackalopes stepped into Kay Yeager Coliseum, they walked out having suffered a 4-3 overtime defeat. That was back in 2016, and the team they faced was called the Wildcats.
This time, the Jackalopes (1-0-0-0) faced the Warriors (0-0-0-1) and overcame a four goal deficit in the third period to post one of the greatest comebacks in North American Hockey League history en route to a 5-4 shootout win over Wichita Falls.
The contest did not start out pretty for first year head coach Jason Fortier or his team. The Warriors scored their first goal on the first shot of the game and a second goal on a power play in the final minutes of the first period off a deflection.
In the second period the Jackalopes fell down 3-0 after Wichita Falls successfully killed off three straight Jackalopes power plays. The Warriors extended their lead to 4-0 early in the third period but netminder Connor Hasley remained solid for the remainder of the game.
Hasley continued to make many big saves on odd-man rushes and kept to the Jacks in the contest. Mike Manzo was able to break through the scoring drought after he found some open ice in the slot and sent a quick wrist-shot into the back of the net to make it 4-1. Then, on their fifth power play, the Jackalopes were finally able to cash in as Jacob Badal took the puck from the left side into the slot and beat Warrior netminder Owen Bartoszkiewicz with a quick shot to bring the Jackalopes within two.
On the ensuing play, after the face-off at center ice, Tyler German sped up the seam after receiving a quick pass from Brian Smith. German was able to split the defense and find time to pick his spot and rifled a wrist-shot in past Bartoszkiewicz. German’s goal came less than a minute after Badal’s and pulled Odessa to just a 4-3 deficit with three minutes to go in regulation.
Wichita Falls was able to pen the Jacks in their own zone for most of the remaining time until the Jacks were able to break out with about 95 seconds to go.
Pulling the goaltender for the extra attacker the Odessa forecheck was relentless, not allowing the Warriors to clear their end. After winning a puck battle, Fletcher Anderson was able to feed a pass to defenseman Adam Kolcon between the left circle and the blue line. Kolcon, in a spot where he had scored several times before, made no mistake as his low wrist-shot found its way into the back of the net to tie the game 4-4 with just 44 seconds remaining in regulation.
In overtime, both teams had multiple opportunities to score. Including Wichita Falls who had a goal disallowed in the extra session. Hasley was magnificent, stopping multiple odd-man rushes and breakaways.
Eventually the game was to be decided in a shootout and it was here that the Jackalopes shined. After both teams tied 1-1 following three rounds Nick Siffringer, the former Lone Star Brahma, was able to light the lamp with a quick shot at the hash-marks. This opened the door for Hasley to make a critical stop for the win, which he did. Hasley, making his first ever NAHL start, made 48 saves on 52 shots on net.
The Jackalopes completed their comeback which saw the them score four goals in the last 16 minutes of regulation time. It was arguably one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the North American Hockey League.
It was certainly an exciting way to start off the Jason Fortier Era in Odessa. The Jackalopes will play for the weekend sweep on Sunday afternoon at 3:05 pm.
Photo Credit: Rebekah Bing