Amarillo Wranglers win series at Odessa to finish first half of NAHL season

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Amarillo’s Nolan Gagnon goes passes the puck against Odessa during a North American Hockey League game on Thursday at the Ector County Coliseum in Odessa. [Michael Bauer/ Odessa American]
The Amarillo Wranglers closed out the first half of the North American League Hockey season on a high-note by going on the road and taking two out of three games from Odessa on Thursday through Saturday at the Ector County Coliseum.

Amarillo took the first game with a thrilling 2-1 victory on Thursday. After falling on Friday, 3-2, the Wranglers bounced back taking the series from the Jackalopes with a 3-2 win on Saturday to close the weekend.

The Wranglers were able to grab a key five out of six points against Odessa improving to 16-9-5-1 overall (38 points) that puts Amarillo in third place of the NAHL South Division. Amarillo will now get a much-deserved Christmas break before starting the second half of the season at home with special games on Saturday, Dec. 30, and New Year’s Eve, against New Mexico.

Thursday Night

The Amarillo Wranglers skated into the Ector County Coliseum and saw the Jackalopes strike first at the 18:47 mark of the first period when James Richmond scored a very confusing and cumbersome shot to get it between the pipes. This period saw no other scoring as the Jackalopes took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The second period saw a hockey game that utilized every square foot of the ice with what can only be described as a back-and-forth marathon between the two teams. At the 10:46 mark of the second period, officials called an interference penalty on Jackalopes skater John Wojciechoski, giving Amarillo a power play. Just 16 seconds later, Wranglers forward Alexander Papaspyropoulos took a beautiful feed from defenseman Drew Jeffers to score his seventh goal of the season. The game remained tied throughout the end of the second period.

Starting the third period, Wranglers fans felt the energy of the game through their electronic media.  It was the “Jack and Jack” show when Wranglers’ Jack McDonald was able to connect with Army commit Jack Ivey to get the final and winning goal at the 16:10 mark of the third period. Amarillo closed this one out with an exciting 2-1 victory. Wranglers’ goalie Connor McDonough saved 23-of-24 shots to win his 12th game of the season.

Friday Night

With a two-game winning streak and a high level of confidence, the Wranglers looked to continue their winning way. Odessa, however, had other ideas when Hayden DeMars was able to get the puck past Connor McDonough to give Odessa an early 1-0 lead. Odessa went on to score again, taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Wranglers trailed most of the second period when at the 22.9 second mark, recently released from concussion protocol Wranglers captain Jack Ivey made a statement goal when line mate Jack McDonald passed the puck like a rocket ship to Ivey as he found the back of the net, bringing the Wranglers back within one goal.

The Wranglers “never give up” attitude was on full display. Pucks were flying into the crowd at Ector County Coliseum this Friday evening that only added to the tension. The Jackalopes held onto this slim, single goal lead going into the third period when at the 16:59 mark Jack McDonald found the other half of the Ivey twins, Jack, in front of the net. Ivy poked the puck past the Odessa goalie, giving Jack Ivy his 15th goal of the year. This game remained tied throughout regulation, and the Wranglers went into their 14th overtime game of the season. The five-minute overtime went scoreless, so this contest went into a shootout. Amarillo scored two goals, however the Jackalopes scored three goals to take the victory and gather those very important two points. The Wranglers fell 3-2.

Saturday Night

With the shootout loss fresh in Amarillo’s minds, the Wranglers skated into this game with a huge chip on their shoulder. The Wranglers fought hard in a scoreless first period with goalie Connor McDonough playing with an edge stopping a perfect 13-of-13 shots.

Amarillo scored with a classic “Import Line” goal as Roman Zap started the rush and passed the puck to Alexander Papaspyropoulos, who intern passed the puck to Topi Puikkonen as he found the back of the net, giving the Amarillo Wranglers a 1-0 lead at the 11:58 mark of the second period. Puikkonen scored again in the second period, giving Amarillo a 2-0 lead going into the final intermission of this game.

Amarillo penalties proved to be problematic throughout this game, with over 32 minutes of box time. At the 12:29 mark of the third period, Wrangler forward and former Mason City Toros (Tier III) Jacob Miller scored his first NAHL goal, which ended up being the winning goal this Saturday night.

Odessa was able to score two more goals in the third period making this game somewhat interesting. However, Amarillo closed out the victory in this exciting and exhausting game, garnering 5-of-6 possible points for the weekend. Amarillo goalie Connor McDonough put on a clinic, saving a whopping 40-of-42 shots during this game, giving him his 13th victory of the season.

Editor’s Note

Please listen for Tommy Tee‘s weekly recap of the Amarillo Wranglers hockey on the “Drive at Five” with Lance Lahnert at 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoons exclusively on 102.9 FM the Panhandle Sports Star.

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