Special teams shine, but comeback falls just short in Wichita Falls

WICHITA FALLS, TX — It is not often that a team wins the special teams battle but loses the game. It’s the hockey equivalent of Hannibal wining every battle against the Romans but losing the war. It doesn’t happen very often in history and it doesn’t often happen in hockey. Unfortunately for the Jackalopes (8-20-2-2), it happened on Saturday night as they fell to the Wichita Falls Warriors (17-8-1-3) by a score of 5-4 on Saturday night.

The night didn’t start off right for the Jackalopes as they surrendered the first goal of the game on a breakaway just 21 seconds into the contest. But they quickly rebounded as they embarked on thier first power play of the game. It didn’t take long for the power play to strike.

A perfect tic-tac-toe play from Jack to Joey Musa on the right side was tapped over to Fletcher Anderson in the low slot uncovered. Anderson made no mistake in burying he chance to tally his second goal and fourth point in four games.

The Jackalopes extended thier lead on a similar play on thier second power play a few minutes later, again it was a Musa down low finding Anderson in the slot. The back-to-back goals by Anderson but the Jackalopes in the lead 2-1. But that lead would last just 19 seconds as the Warriors countered up on the next shift and tied the game on a quick rush up the ice.

The Warriors scored again in the late stage of the first period just after the Jackalopes finished killing off a five-on-three disadvantage and took a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.

In the second period, Wichita Falls flexed thier muscles while playing five-on-five, extending thier lead to 4-2 in the early stages and then finding thier first, and only, power-play goal to go up 5-2. But it was after this fifth goal the the Jackalopes started to collect themselves and surge forward. Ironically it was a power play that sparked them.

From a short angle on the base of the right circle, Jack Musa was able to send a hard wrist-shot to the top shelf. Musa’s tally marked his second point of the night and brought the Jacks within two going into the third period.

In the third the Jackalopes continued thier attack. It payed off as Liam O’Hare was able to stuff in a rebound seven minutes into the third to bring the Jackalopes within one. Wichita Falls, remembering how the Jacks were able to erase a four goal deficit in the third period on October 24, started settling for stretch plays and desperate clears to keep the Jackalopes at bay. It almost wasn’t enough as the Jacks had a golden opportunity on thier fifth power play.

A goal-mouth scramble saw several Jackalopes poke and jam the puck tward the open net, but somehow Warrior netminder Owen Bartoszkiewicz was able to keep the Jacks from tying the game. Odessa goaltender Connor Hasley made several heroic saves of his own as he stopped a two-on-one shot from going in with his stick as he was already sliding to his right.

In the end, though the Jackalopes had good chances, they could not find the comeback magic that they enjoyed in October.

Despite the loss, there were numerous positives for the Jackalopes. Namely the special teams. The Jackalopes power play looked the best it has ever looked in the past season or so, finishing 3/5 and scoring multiple power-play goals for the first time this year. It coulve very easily ended 4/5 or even better as the Jackalopes were a threat to score every time they took the ice. Odessa’s penalty kill was also noticeable as they continued thier constant success, killing off seven of eight Wichita Falls power plays. The Odessa penalty killers have now skated off 27 of thier last 29 kills.

Finally, much may be said about the re-emergence of Fletcher Anderson. Odessa’s leading scorer has six points in his last four games since returning from injury and has been held off the scoresheet just once in that time span. With the Jackalopes searching for offensive leadership, Anderson’s hot-streak is a hopeful sign of better things ahead.

Photo Credit: DanneĀ“ Braden Photography