They had to call in law enforcement and emergency personnel, but the Wichita Falls Wildcats snapped a four game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Texas Tornado on Saturday. The Wildcats win in Wichita Falls wraps up a three game stint against Texas, with the Tornado taking the first two in Frisco.
Saturday was Emergency Responders Night at Kay Yeager Coliseum as the Wildcats honored police, fire fighters, and Emergency Medical Services workers. The timing couldn’t have been better, with Wichita Falls hoping to cool off a fiery Texas team that out scored them 10-3 on the previous two nights.
A somewhat subdued crowd of more than 1,400 may have spent most of the night waiting for the other shoe to drop considering recent games. With the help of three powerplay goals, the Tornado handily defeated the Wildcats 6-0 on Thursday. On Friday, Texas came back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 on two third period powerplay goals by Jack Prince.
Jason Eddy would give Wildcats fans something to cheer about when he opened the scoring with his seventh goal of the season 9:51 into the first period. Nick Szopinski would feed to puck to Eddy at the left wing. Newcomer Zach Mohr would also pick up an assist.
Wildcats fans would see something all too familiar this weekend before the first intermission, courtesy of a former Wildcat.
Drew Allen would tie the game 1-1 at the 14:38 mark of the first, slipping his sixth goal of the season past Wildcats goalie Matt Leon. Jordan Greenberg would record his 42nd assist of the season on the goal, making the eighth consecutive game the Plano native has registered at least one assist.
While the Wildcats had given up seven powerplay goals in the three game set, scoring them had not come as easy. Including Saturday’s game, Wichita Falls was 0-for-7 with a man advantage.
Wildcats captain Renato Engler was happy to throw a wrench in those stats 8:47 into the second period.
With both the Wildcats’ Patrick Yudez and the Tornado’s Jordan Greenberg in the box for unassociated penalties, the teams played 4-on-4 for 1:43. Yudez was one second away from getting his two minutes in when Engler found the back of the net with his 10th goal of the season to reclaim the lead. Tucker Poolman and Zach Pochiro would get assists on what was officially a shorthanded goal.
Texas would come back to tie things up again with 3:05 left in the middle period on T.J. Stuntz first NAHL goal, with Prince providing the assist. The tie wouldn’t last long as Wichita Falls would grab the lead back 1:53 before the second intermission.
Sergei Soloviev would take a beauty of a pass across the ice from Engler, firing a rocket from the point for his second goal of the season. Zach Pochiro would also record his second assist of the game on the goal, which would turn out to be the game winner.
Wichita Falls turned to defense in a tense third period, with 1,400 fans holding their breath as Texas went on their fifth powerplay of the night in the final 5:01 of regulation.
The Wildcats successfully, and aggressively, killed off the penalty, prompting Tornado head coach Tony Curtale to pull goalie Frederick Leisner in favor of an extra attacker. Oddly enough, that move led to the biggest reaction of the night from the crowd.
Wildcats forward George Pagonis would snag the puck in the Wildcats zone and send it toward the Tornado end of the ice. Fans leapt to their feet as the puck slowly wobbled it’s way toward the empty net, eventually giving Pagonis his second goal in two days and third of his NAHL career.
A solid third period by Leon would help the North Carolina native stay above .500 on the season. Leon would save 35-of-37 shots in the game to improve to 11-9-1.
Taking his first loss since coming to the Tornado at the end of January, Leisner saved 25-of-28 shots as he fell to 13-12-5 on the season and 2-1-0 with Texas.
Wichita Falls again creeps toward the Corpus Christi IceRays as they improve to 15-26-4. The Wildcats are nine points behind the IceRays and the final playoff spot in the NAHL South. Corpus Christi is on a three game losing streak, but were idle this weekend.
Texas drops to 28-12-6 and remain tied with the Topeka RoadRunners for second place in the division.
Wichita Falls plays host to the first place Amarillo Bulls in a special Tuesday night game on February 7. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.