Jackson Leef’s goal with 4:40 left in the game broke a 4-4 tie and proved to be the game winner as the Texas Tornado continued their dominance over the Wichita Falls Wildcats. The victory at Kay Yeager Coliseum improves the Tornado’s record against the Wildcats this season to 5-1.
A typically physical game between the two squads avoided the fisticuffs from Friday nights game and brought only 12 minutes worth of penalties on six infractions for both teams. There was still plenty of heat with verbal barbs and good, hard play on both sides of the ice.
After the goalies were the stars of the show on Friday night, the offenses came to play on Saturday. Texas goalie Jimmy Kruger and Wichita Falls goalie Tyler Green had their hands full from the first drop of the puck as a total of five goals were scored in the first period alone.
Wichita Falls penalty kill unit did well in the loss, holding the Tornado to an 0-for-6 clip despite Texas keeping the puck in the Wildcats zone most of the time while having a man advantage.
Wichita Falls would open the scoring while some fans were still making their way to their seats. Chris Leone would slip one in from the right wing at the 1:36 mark for his eighth goal of the season. Ryan Frost and Mikhail Sentyurin would record assists.
Texas would tie the score 1-1 at the 7:22 mark of the first period by virtue of the old saying “It’s only against the rules if you get caught”.
The Tornado were offsides on the play leading up to Brett Hebel’s game tying goal, but five feet in front of an official was evidently far enough away to get by with the infraction. Offsides or not, Hebel’s goal was his first since coming to Texas from the Fresno Monsters. Justin Jones and David Rigatti were credited with assists on the goal.
The Wildcats defense would be caught out of position at the 16:55 mark of the first period, and it would put them behind on the scoreboard. Jack Prince centered a pass to Nathan Sliwinski who pushed the puck by Green for his 11th goal of the season. Leef would also record an assist on the goal and Texas would take a 2-1 lead.
Prince would score a goal of his own with 1:30 left before the first intermission. Prince’s 20th goal of the season and third of the series matched the previous night’s final score of 3-1 with just over two full periods left to play.
With the smell of a blow out looming, the Wildcats Russell Blaser found the back of the net at the 18:57 mark of the first. The goal was Blaser’s fifth of the season and first since coming to Wichita Falls from Port Huron. Nick Marsh and Keil Zornow would record assists.
Things didn’t slow down once the second period began, with Texas increasing their lead on a J.D. Howard goal at the 1:41 mark with an assist from Jimmy Murray. The goal was Howard’s 22nd of the season and 40th of his NAHL career.
Former Tornado Joe Adams cut the Texas lead to 4-3 at the 4:50 mark of the second. The goal was Adams’ second of the season and first as a Wildcat. Drew Allen and Ryan Frost would get assists on the goal.
The Wildcats would re-tie the game 7:41 into the second period with the only power-play goal of the game. The goal was Allen’s 14th of the season and first since the only Wildcats win over Texas on February 5. Dakota Klecha and Tanner Fahlstedt would get the assists, and the game would go to the final period tied 4-4.
Defenses would tighten in the third period as both teams struggled to get shots on goal. Overtime was threatening when Leef scored the game winner to begin a battle between the Wildcats and the clock. Wichita Falls missed a wide open net as time ran out to give Texas the victory.
Wichita Falls drops to 21-21-4 on the season, but still hold a sizeable nine point lead over Corpus Christi for the final playoff spot.
Texas improves to 29-12-6 and remains in second place, increasing their lead over third place Amarillo to four points.
A rough two game series between Texas and Wichita Falls included Ralfs Freibergs leaving blood on the ice Friday after a high stick from Patrick Yudez. The series ended Saturday with taunts from the Tornado as the teams left the ice.
Those actions, along with several other incidents, could cause some awkward moments in the next week as members of both teams will become teammates for the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.
The Wildcats’ Chris Leone, Tanner Fahlstedt and Dakota Klecha and the Tornado’s Jackson Leef, Jack Prince, Nathan Sliwinski, and Ralfs Freibergs will all be part of Team South in the February 20-22 tournament.
The Wildcats return to the ice as a team on February 25 for game one of a two game series against the New Mexico Mustangs at Kay Yeager Coliseum.
Texas returns to Dr. Pepper Arena for a two game series against the first place Topeka RoadRunners February 24.
In the NAHL South:
In the only other South action, the Topeka RoadRunners solidified their place at the top of the division with a 4-2 victory over the Springfield Jr. Blues. With the scored tied 2-2 in the final period, goals by Jake Lynes and Jordan Davis gave the RoadRunners the win.
NAHL South standings:
- Topeka RoadRunners, 35-9-3 (73 points)
- Texas Tornado, 29-12-6 (64 points)
- Amarillo Bulls, 28-11-4 (60 points)
- Wichita Falls Wildcats, 21-21-4 (46 points)
- Corpus Christi IceRays, 17-27-3 (37 points)
- New Mexico Mustangs, 13-30-3 (29 points)
- Points: Ryan Frost (44)
- Goals: Dakota Klecha (23)
- Assists: Ryan Frost (33)
- +/-: Ryan Frost (+15)
- PIM: Dakota Klecha (228)
- PPG: Dakota Klecha and Mikhail Sentyurin (8)
- Shorthanded goals: Jason McAloon and Patrick Yudez (2)
- Game winning goals: Dakota Klecha (6)