The intrastate rivalry between the Wichita Falls Wildcats and Texas Tornado saw fireworks during one of two North American Hockey League South match ups on New Years Eve. Third period goals by Donald Olivieri and Taylor Herndon would bring the Tornado out on top with a 4-2 victory.
The one game set between the teams at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco would get a little nasty at times, particularly in the second period when the Tornado would see their points leader ejected from the game.
It was only the second time the teams have faced each other in the regular season, and with a few roster changes since their November 17 meeting it may have seemed like two new teams on the ice.
One of the newer faces for the Wildcats would give them the early advantage when Wade Bennett scored his second goal of the season at the 11:31 mark. Will Suter and Dakota Klecha would get the assists and the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead.
Jack Prince would provide the answer for the Tornado on a powerplay goal 16:21 into the game. Jackson Leef and Ralfs Freibergs would get credit for the assists, and the back and forth first period was underway.
With one minute left in the first period, the Wildcats won a faceoff on the Texas end of the ice that quickly led to their second goal. Steven Hoshaw pushed the puck to team points leader Ryan Frost who bounced it off the back of Tornado goalie Jimmy Kruger for his eighth goal of the season.
By a matter of a split second the 2-1 Wildcats lead failed to hold until the first intermission. As the buzzer sounded to end the first period, Prince sent the puck into the back of the net for his second goal of the game if he got the shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Despite a protest by Wichita Falls head coach Mark LeRose, officials counted the goal and sent the teams into the second period tied 2-2.
The Tornado pulled Kruger for the second period in favor of Jake Stafford and the move seemed to work. There was no scoring in the second period, but plenty of action as a total of 14 penalties were called. The most significant penalties may have stemmed from a bruised ego.
Late in the second period the Tornado's Rock Einersen was pulverized on a clean hit by Bennett. Seconds later an altercation broke out in front of the Wildcats goal, leading to Einersen being given a major for slashing when he hit Wildcats goalie Eric Garavaglia in the face with his stick.
With five seconds left in the second, Einersen was ejected from the game and the Wildcats Daniel Hildebrandt was given a 2 minute penalty for roughing. Klecha also received two minutes for delay of game.
Because of the penalties the final period began with the unusual situation of a 4-on-3 Tornado advantage, which paid off when Donald Olivieri used some spectacular stick work to give Texas a 3-2 lead 1:02 into the third.
Two minutes of 4-on-4 would follow the goal, then the Wildcats would have a full three minutes of a 5-on-4 advantage because of the major against Einersen, but the Wildcats failed to score.
Taylor Herndon would tack on his fourth goal of the season at the 6:52 mark to close out the scoring.
Garavaglia would take the loss, recording 35 saves on 39 shots. Stafford would get the win stopping all 12 of the shots he faced in two periods of play.
The Wildcats fall to 16-14-3 on the season. Texas improves to 20-7-5 and stay a step ahead of the second place Amarillo Bulls who defeated the Topeka RoadRunners 3-2 in the only other NAHL South action on Friday.
The Fresno Monsters are the next opponent for both teams as the California based team makes a sweep through the Lone Star State.
Texas will host Fresno in a one game set at 7:30 p.m. on January 11, but first the Wildcats welcome the Monsters into Kay Yeager Coliseum for a two game series January 7-8. Both games at KYC have a scheduled start time of 7 p.m.
NAHL South Standings
- Texas Tornado, 20-7-5 (45 points)
- Amarillo Bulls, 21-5-2 (44 points)
- Topeka RoadRunners, 19-8-2 (40 points)
- Wichita Falls Wildcats, 16-14-3 (35 points)
- Corpus Christi IceRays, 13-17-2 (28 points)
- New Mexico Mustangs, 8-20-3 (19 points)
Current Wildcats Leaders:
- Points- Ryan Frost (32)
- Goals- Mac Olson (18)
- Assists- Ryan Frost (24)
- Wins- Tyler Green (9)
- Shutouts- Eric Garavaglia (2)
- Saves- Tyler Green (572)