Jacks Emerge Victorious in 1-0 Shootout Thriller



Feb. 4, 2012



Hellebuyck earns second shutout in signature Odessa win.


ODESSA, TX– One night removed from a disappointing 4-3 loss, the Odessa Jackalopes got revenge on the Fresno Monsters Saturday, topping their West Division foes 1-0 in a nailbiting, edge-of-your-seat, shootout win at Ector County Coliseum. With the victory, the Jackalopes improved to 16-22-5 this season and with 37 points, remain alone in fifth place in the NAHL’s South Division standings, but gain ground on the idle Corpus Christi IceRays for the South Division’s fourth and final playoff spot, leaving Odessa just six points behind their division rivals.

The Jacks and Monsters traded scoring chances and missed opportunities all game long as Fresno netminder Tomas Sholl and Jacks backstop Connor Hellebuyck put on a goaltending clinic, each stopping 29 shots through regulation and overtime. Saturday marked Hellebuyck’s second shutout of the season in his league-leading 38th appearance in net for the Jacks.

After a fruitless four-on-four overtime session, the five-man shootout started slowly for both teams as neither Odessa nor Fresno managed a goal through the first two rounds. Monsters forward Kyle Sucher lit the lamp in the top of round three with a burner to Hellebuyck’s glove-side, but the Jacks answered back right away as Taylor Portner responded with a goal of his own on Odessa’s next opportunity. Following two more scoreless rounds, the Jacks entered their sixth shootout chance tied at one, when, with the game on his stick, Odessa defenseman Mikko Virtanen banked a wrister of the right post and into the net past an outstretched Sholl to deliver the Jackalopes a much needed two points in the South Division standings.

Saturday’s game marked the final night of “Throwback Weekend” as the Jackalopes honored former goaltender Mike Gorman during the first intermission, inducting the longtime Jacks’ backstop into the Jackalopes Hall of Fame in a rousing ceremony led by original Jacks broadcaster and longtime Midland RockHounds voice Bob Hards. In his seven seasons in Odessa, Gorman set club records for games played in net (283), goaltending wins (143), shutouts (15), total saves (8,771) and minutes played (16,476).

Next up for the Jacks, it’s a three-game road swing to Rio Rancho, New Mexico for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series next weekend with the New Mexico Mustangs. As the Jackalopes drive towards the playoffs, they will face New Mexico, Corpus Christi or Wichita Falls in 14 of their 17 remaining games. In an interesting statistical twist, the Jacks are a combined 9-3-2 against those opponents so far this season.

The Odessa Jackalopes celebrate their 15th Anniversary in 2011-12 and drop the puck on their inaugural campaign as a member of the North American Hockey League.  Season tickets, mini-plans, and single game tickets are available by calling (432) 552-7825 or by visiting the Jacks online at www.jackalopes.org.

Be sure to follow the Jackalopes on Twitter @LetsGoJacks all season long and don’t forget to ‘Like’ the official “Odessa Jackalopes” fan page on Facebook.