The Lone Star Brahmas kicked off a big series against the Wichita Falls Wildcats on Friday night at the NYTEX Sports Centre. The teams came into the series separated by a single point in the standings.
Prior to the puck dropping, Head Coach Dan Wildfong was honored on ice for his 300 combined CHL / NAHL wins behind the Brahmas bench.
Once action was underway, Wichita Falls jumped out to an early lead at 3:13 on a shot from the far point by Jake Townsend that looked like it went off of Eric Carreras‘ stick as he went for the block. Austin Azzinnaro and Erich Jaeger were credited with the assists. Moments later the Wildcats came speeding into the zone on a two on one rush, Alex Carle took away the shooting lane forcing the pass to Jonathan Lazarusdriving the far post. TJ Black slid across and made a big pad save to keep the deficit at one. Matt Koch pushed the visitors’ lead to two at 5:27 on a drive from the near point through traffic. The puck snuck between Black’s right arm and the body for an unassisted goal.
Carle got the Brahmas on the board at 14:54. On the play Pat Egan sent the puck from the near corner to Anton Santesson at the far point. Santesson slid it along the blueline to Carle in front of the Wildcats bench and his wrister beat David Zevnik over the left shoulder. The goal was Carle’s first point in a Brahmas’ sweater.
At 3:13 of the second the Brahmas cashed in on a power play when AJ Vanderbecksent the puck deep and Storm Wahlrab pulled it out of the corner then sent it into the high slot for Ludvig Larsson and he spanked it past Zevnik stick side. Lone Star’s first lead of the night again came on the power play. With just three seconds left in the man advantage, Alexey Solovyev found Egan in the high slot and he gave it to Johan Steenwho fired a one timer low glove side at 12:14. With exactly 5:00 to go in the period, Steen pulled the puck out from behind Black’s cage and fired it down the middle toOskar Andren just outside Wichita Falls’ blueline and he bumped it to Larsson flying down the near side. Larsson carried it to the dot and rifled it under the crossbar chasing Zevnik from the net. While the boxscore credits Sebastian Vidmar with the primary assist, replay clearly shows that it was Andren who gave the pass to Larsson. With 3:23 left Solovyev just missed putting Lone Star up three with a laser from the top of the left wing circle that had Austin Shaw beat stick side, but the puck dented the near post and stayed out.
Wichita Falls got one back at 4:44 of the third on a broken play in front. Townsend sent the puck on net and Black made the initial save, but it got to bouncing around. Nick Farmer found himself with the puck just off the near post with an open net in front of him.
At 15:14 Larsson recorded his second hat trick of the season after Vidmar took a breakout pass from Santesson at the Wildcats blueline and stick handled around three defenders waiting on Larsson to come free. His cross ice backhand pass hit Larsson in stride and he did the rest putting it top shelf on a helpless Shaw. At 15:34 Hayden Hanson knocked the puck loose and Wahlrab sent it up the near wall to a streaking Egan. Egan drove the net and put it past the right pad.
With time winding down the puck went to the end boards and came to rest at the side of Black’s net where he covered it with the glove. Evan Okeley took a swipe at it andSean Giles came in to protect his netminder putting Okeley down along the endboards. As a result everyone paired up with Pete Kessel and Austin Albrecht grabbing on at the top of the near circle. Kessel looked to be content to just hold on, but Albrecht dropped the gloves and started swinging wildly. Kessel was patient and when he got an opening he started throwing rights landing square on Albrecht’s jaw. After enduring three good shots, Albrecht took one more right that dropped him to the ice giving the decisive win to Kessel.
While Wichita Falls outshot the Brahmas 35 – 31 on the night, Lone Star’s power play finally got off the schneid going 2 – 2. The penalty kill continued its hot play holding the Wildcats scoreless on 2 opportunities. The win on Friday ensures that the Brahmas will come out of the series with Wichita Falls in sole possession of second place in the division regardless of the outcome of Saturday night’s games. They also pull two points closer to division leading Topeka who is idle this weekend.