ODESSA, TX — It may have been just one win in the grand scheme of things, but this one felt different. This one was emotional for the Odessa Jackalopes (4-5-0-0) and their fans. Not only did they end a five-game winless streak, not only did goaltender Noah Rupprecht earn his first North American Hockey League victory, but the Jackalopes did it against a determined Amarillo Bulls (3-5-0-1) team that was quickly becoming a thorn in their side.
The Jackalopes held off Amarillo to notch a 4-3 victory at the Ector County Coliseum on Saturday night to earn a weekend split.
The scoring got started in the first period as defenseman D.J. Hart was able to get on the board less than six minutes in as a pass came to him in the high slot and Hart sent a quick snap-shot towards the net. Hart, who had a number of shots blocked on Friday, was able to put this shot in to earn his first goal as a Jackalope.
Though the Bulls came back and tied the game 1-1 on the power play, Hart and the Jackalopes fought right back and answered. Just as an Odessa power play was expiring, Hart streaked up the left-hand side, skated over the blue line and wired a hard shot into net after a give-and-go play with Liam O’Hare. Hart’s second of the night gave the Jackalopes a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
Odessa started off strong again in the middle frame as the power play finally broke through as Lucas Coon, the third round draft pick out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado was able to score off a great shot from the left circle to earn his first NAHL goal.
The Bulls came on strong midway through the period however and scored twice, including once on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game at 3-3. As the second period was drawing to a close, it looked like there might be a tie-game going into the third. But the Jackalopes were not done just yet.
In the offensive zone, a nifty cross-ice pass found Jacks defenseman Evan Orr pinching in from his point. Orr, with all kinds of time and space walked in and out-waited the Amarillo netminder. As the goalie went down Orr tried to stuff it in short side, unsuccessful he then tapped the rebound over across the crease to Gabe Bennett, the rookie out of Findley, Ohio. Bennett made no mistake and slit the puck in for his first NAHL goal and point with 47 seconds to play in the second period.
The Jacks were ecstatic and took that energy into the locker room and into the third period. The Amarillo Bulls launched a massive offensive effort in an attempt to tie the game, sending 18 shots toward Rupprecht in the third period and 37 in total, but he and the Jackalopes defense stood tall. As the horn sounded the celebration began as the Jackalopes, who had endured some tough times in November, ended the month just as they began it: with a close home win over the Amarillo Bulls.
Photo Credit: Danne´ Braden Photography