It was a productive weekend for the Odessa Jackalopes in their first and only preseason series of the 2020-21 campaign. Despite losing both games in North Richland Hills, positive signs abound as the Jacks prepare for their tenth season as a member of the North American Hockey League.
On Saturday, the Jackalopes fell to the New Mexico Ice Wolves 5-2, despite out-shooting New Mexico 40-22. The Jacks benefited from an early goal by newcomer Fletcher Anderson to take a 1-0 lead before New Mexico rattled off four straight goals in the first and second periods. Odessa got one back off the stick of Dayne Hoyord before New Mexico answered with their fifth tally of the night. There were no goals scored in the third period.
Sunday afternoon was a much better, and an arguably more indicative, performance for the Jackalopes as they faced off against the Lone Star Brahmas, falling to Lone Star 2-1 in the shootout.
Jackalopes netminder Connor Hasley was exceptional, making 21 saves on 22 shots on net, most of those shots were of high quality. Like Saturday, the Jackalopes scored early with Charlie Banquier netting the first goal less than two minutes in. However, the Brahmas capitalized on a defensive miscue late in the period and tied the game up 1-1. The second and third periods saw plenty of back-and fourth action but both goalies were stout. In overtime, the Jacks had five quality chances to win the game but were unable to find the back of the net. Lone Star won the shootout 2-1.
Despite the loss, the Jackalopes out-shot their opponent, 27-22 on Sunday, for the second night in a row. Odessa weathered adversity in the form of a late penalty kill in the third period and they gave as good as they got against one of the top teams in the south division. They also played physical, frustrating the Brahmas at times and forcing them to up their physical game.
If any cautious inference can be made about these two preseason games, it is that the Odessa Jackalopes are better now than they were last year.
The Jacks will open their season on the road on October 23 against the Wichita Falls Warriors before coming back to the Ector County Coliseum for their home opener against the New Mexico Ice Wolves on October 30.