A powerplay goal from Renato Engler would prove to be the game winner as the Wichita Falls Wildcats took a 3-1 victory over the Corpus Christi IceRays at American Bank Center on Friday. The Wildcats third consecutive win puts them five points behind the fourth place IceRays and the final playoff spot in the NAHL South.
Zach Pochiro would have a hand in all three Wildcats goals, scoring once and picking up two assists. The Las Vegas, Nevada native has recorded four assists in the three game winning streak.
Wildcats goalie Matt Leon would have a spectacular game, notching his seventh win of the season against the IceRays. Leon is now 7-1-0 against Corpus Christi this season and has picked up the win in all three games during the current streak.
Both teams would come out firing in the first period, with Corpus Christi holding a 16-14 shots on goal advantage. Leon would keep the IceRays away from the back of the net, while the Wildcats took an early 2-0 lead.
Wichita Falls would draw first blood with just 1:49 burned off the clock when Pochiro took control of the puck in a scramble. Brennen Parker would take the pass from Pochiro to score his eighth goal of the season and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
As the opening period approached the 10 minute mark, a recent trend of 4-on-4 hockey would continue when an IceRays powerplay evened out with a too many men on the ice penalty. After 21 seconds of 4-on-4, the Wildcats would be on a powerplay and the captain would cash in 22 seconds later.
Engler’s 11th goal overall and first powerplay goal of the season gave Wichita Falls a 2-0 advantage. Pochiro picked up his second assist on the goal and the score would hold to the first intermission.
Goalies would highlight a scoreless second period, with the IceRays Anthony Stolarz stopping all 12 Wildcats shots and Leon flashing the glove on just eight shots by Corpus Christi. After the IceRays Danny Fetzer traded blows with Nate Myeroff to open the third period, the forward would turn attention back to offense.
With the Wildcats on a powerplay, Fetzer would steal the puck and score on a breakaway at the 6:47 mark. The unassisted effort was Fetzer’s third shorthanded goal of the season and seventh overall. The goal not only spoiled Leon’s bid for his second shutout, but created tension for remainder of the period.
Wichita Falls still held a 2-1 lead with 1:14 left in regulation when a face off in the Wildcats zone prompted the IceRays to pull Stolarz in favor of an extra attacker. The move would not pay off.
With less than one minute left on the clock, Engler would take control of the puck and pass to Pochiro who scored on the empty net. Pochiro’s 10th goal of the season with 44 seconds remaining would cap the scoring.
Leon would record 30 saves on 31 shots to improve to 13-9-1 on the season.
Stolarz saved 33-of-35 shots in the losing cause as he falls to 17-14-2.
The Wildcats improve to 17-26-4 and pick up two points in the standings, while Corpus Christi falls to 20-21-3.
Sandwiched between the Wildcats and IceRays, the Odessa Jackalopes hang on to fifth place in the division with a 5-4 overtime victory over the New Mexico Mustangs on Friday. The win keeps Odessa one point ahead of Wichita Falls and pulls them to within four points of Corpus Christi.
The Wildcats and IceRays complete the two game series on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m.