Jack Prince played the part of the villain again when the Wichita Falls Wildcats took on the Texas Tornado at Dr. Pepper Arena. The Tornado forward scored two powerplay goals in the third period Friday night to give Texas a 4-3 comeback victory and hand the Wildcats their fourth straight loss.
A night after Prince highlighted a 6-0 Tornado victory with his fourth hat trick of the season, the forward spent most of the first two periods on Friday as a non-factor. By the time the third period ended, Prince had notched his third game winning goal in the last five games.
The comeback victory for Texas spoiled what had been a good game for both Wildcats goalie Jo Jo Jeanetta and forward George Pagonis. Jeanetta was a wall in the first period, while Pagonis would give Wichita Falls a 2-0 lead early with his second and third goals of the season.
Tyler Hope would center a pass to Pagonis at the 2:28 mark of the first period to open the scoring. Nate Myeroff would also get an assist on the goal to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
Pagonis would come up with the puck in a scramble at the 8:24 mark to pick up his second goal of the game unassisted. The Monument, Colorado native poked the puck by Tornado goalie Joakim Jutras to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead that carried to the first intermission.
Shades of Thursday nights problems began to rise in the second period as Wichita Falls started finding themselves in the penalty box. Texas would have a 5-on-3 advantage for 19 seconds early on, but the Wichita Falls would manage to kill off one penalty before the Tornado ended the shutout.
A slap shot from Nick Neville found the back of the net 4:49 into the second to cut the Wildcats lead to 2-1. Jordan Greenberg and Drew Allen would pick up assists on the powerplay goal.
Wildcats captain Renato Engler would increase their lead to 3-1 13:27 into the second period, though it didn’t come easy.
Engler had the puck in the Tornado zone, but was on the short end of a 3-on-1 situation before Nick Szopinski and Zach Mohr skated to the rescue. Mohr would wind up with the puck, weaving his way through a host of Tornado before feeding it back to Engler near the net.
Engler pushed the puck by Jutras for his ninth goal of the season, with both Mohr and Szopinksi recording assists. However, the teams wouldn’t reach the second intermission before Texas answered.
Michael Hoy would send a laser from the point for his third goal of the season. The unassisted effort cut the Wildcats lead to 3-2 and capped the scoring in the period.
Prince tied the game 5:33 into the third period, coming around the back of the net on Jeanetta’s glove side to poke in his 30th goal of the season. Neville and Luke Whelan would pick up assists on the powerplay goal, sparking a physical third period as both teams fought to avoid overtime and come away with the win.
Free hockey was 2:22 away when Prince gave the Tornado their first lead of the night on his second straight powerplay goal. Allen and Whelan would record assists on the game winner.
Jutras would save 33-of-36 shots to improve to 17-6-3 on the season.
Jeanetta would take the loss, recording 30 saves on 34 shots as he fell to 1-5-2.
Texas improves to 28-11-6 and is now tied with the Topeka RoadRunners for second place in the NAHL South with 62 points. Topeka swept the Corpus Christi IceRays in a two game series February 1-2, but is idle until February 10.
Wichita Falls drops to 14-26-4 with the loss. With the New Mexico Mustangs also losing on Friday night, Wichita Falls maintains a four point lead over the cellar dwellers.
Wichita Falls and Texas wrap up their three game, home and home set with a match up at Kay Yeager Coliseum on Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.