ODESSA, TX — Relentless, resilient, and reasonably lucky. Those are the words best used to describe the Jackalopes during their 2-1 shootout win on Saturday night at the Ector County Coliseum. It was an emotional win as the Jackalopes (10-28-2-3) played spoiler to the Warriors (22-12-1-5) to earn a weekend split.
The contest started out well for the Jackalopes as they jumped on Wichita Falls early with several good scoring chances in the opening minutes, but like the last few nights they were unable to capitalize. The warriors gained momentum back in the mid-stages of the period after putting together some strong shifts and sending pucks and bodies to the front of the net, but they were all stopped by Odessa netminder Noah Rupprecht and the defensive corps in front of him. It was the Jackalopes however that were able to get on the board first. A board battle in the right corner was won by Mike Manzo who skated below the goal line before sending a quick pass to the low slot. Standing there uncovered was Liam O’Hare and he made no mistake as the pass found him on the tape, enabling O’Hare to deflect the puck in past Wichita Falls netminder Owen Bartoszkiewicz.
The goal put the Jackalopes up 1-0 going into the second, but thier biggest challenge lay ahead.
Just like on Friday night, the Warriors were all over the play in the second period, out-shooting Odessa 12-2 in the middle periods. The shot total would’ve been more had it not been for the incredible shot-blocking of the Odessa defense and a few timely shots that hit the posts and cross-bar. Eventually, however, the barrage became too much and the Warriors took advantage on a power-play tally late in the second period to tie the game 1-1.
The Third period was in many was a microcosm of the previous two. Odessa had a strong start early on, but the Warriors countered and had all kinds of chances to take the lead. Again, Rupprecht was relentless in net, holding his line and keeping the puck out of the net, and the Jackalopes defense was relentless in contesting every shot they could so that the Warriors got few clean looks at the net. And when both of those failed, a little luck was certainly helpful as pucks rolled or hopped over Warrior sticks at inopportune moments in the slot or on top of the crease. Though regulation and five minutes of overtime Odessa had just 12 shots on net while the Warriors had 32. But like a rock in a rainstorm, the Jackalopes weathered the torrent of rubber.
Not even a ferocious third period or overtime could decide a winner, so the game had to be decided in the shootout.
Rupprecht was again stellar as he stared down three straight Wichita Falls shooters and stuffed each in turn. It came down to Fletcher Anderson to win it.
Anderson, who had gone the last four games without a point, picked the puck up at center, skated to the right side before cutting into the high slot. A slight delay by Anderson froze Bartoszkiewicz, and the Thunder Bay, Ontario native found his opening a he riffled a quick shot just over Bartoszkiewicz’s right pad. With the goal, Odessa had done it. Their relentless effort and resilient play was rewarded as they upset the Warriors to earn thier 10th win and first shootout victory on home ice.
When the story of this season is written, almost assuredly they will look back on this win and say that it was one of the most memorable and, perhaps, the most satisfying. Because it was Odessa, out-shot, out-chanced, but never out-competed, who found a way to win.
Photo: Danne’ Braden Photography