Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Insider Preview: Odessa Jackalopes @ Texas Brahmas

Jacks in town to face an open can of NYTEX whoop-ass

The Texas Brahmas (7-7-2, 16 points) will host the Odessa Jackalopes (12-2-2, 26 points) for a pre-Thanksgiving bunny roast at the NYTEX Sports Centre on Wednesday night. This will be the second of four meetings between the two teams during the regular season.

The Jackalopes currently lead the league in wins (12), points (26), goals (75), power play percentage (33.63%).

The Brahmas embarrassed the Jacks at the Ector County Coliseum last Thursday with an unexpected 7-3 win which ended an eight game win streak. In their previous meeting in Game Seven of the Southern Conference Championship in April, the Brahmas smoked the Jacks with an 8-1 score that advanced them to the President’s Cup Final. That’s a 15-4 combined score in the last two games for the Brahmas. Let’s hope that trend continues.

The Jacks are coming off of a 4-3 road loss to the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees on Saturday night. They’ve lost two of their last three games. Odessa has a 6-1-1 road record thus far this season.

Last season, they only won one of five regular season contests and one of four games during the playoffs at NYTEX. That’s only two of nine games (22.22%) won on the road at NYTEX. They also lost the only shootout there. Only two of the games (on February 13-14th ) were decided by one goal.

The Jacks lost both games at NYTEX in 2007-08. That makes an 11-2 win record against Odessa for Dan Wildfong’s Brahmas at NYTEX.

The Brahmas have won two of their last three games, including a 2-0 shut out of the Laredo Bucks on Saturday night.

Although the season got off to a shaky start, the team has begun to find its stride, earning four of six points on its recent road trip through Odessa, Rio Grande Valley and Laredo.

Odessa's three top scorers include Dominic Leveille (F) with 26 points (6 G, 20 A, +4), Sebastien Thinel (F) with 21 points (3 G, 18 A, +2) and Colin Circelli (F) with 20 points (11 G, 9 A, 0). Their leading defensive scorer is Alex Dunn with 18 points (7 G, 11 A, +3).

Their top goons are defensemen Patrick Mbaraga (38 PIM) and Garrett Gruenke (35 PIM). I’m pretty sure that Gruenke has fought at least one Brahma in every game between the two teams in which he's played.

On special teams, the Jacks have the number one power play with a 33.63 percentage and the number four penalty kill with an 85.71 percentage. They also have three short-handed goals.

Juha Toivonen (6-1-1) is expected in net for the Jacks. He has fallen to sixth in the league with a 2.60 GAA and 10th in the league with a .912 save percentage.

Defenseman JR Bria is still out on 30-day injured reserve and is not expected to play as this writing.

The Brahmas top three scorers are AJ Gale (F) with 15 points (8 G, 7 A, +3), Grant Jacobsen with 12 points (7 G, 5 A, 0) and Kevin McLeod (D) with eight points (6 G, 6 A, 0). McLeod is also the Brahmas leading defensive scorer.

On special teams, the Brahmas are 14th in the league with a 11.34 percentage and 12th on the penalty kill with an 80.95 percentage. They lead the league with five short-handed goals.

I'm not sure who will get the start in goal. My bet would be Brett Jaeger (3-5-0) who's had a difficult start to his season but was successful in the first meeting between the Brahmas and Jacks this season. I’m curious to see if Fonger will start Joe Palmer (4-2-2), who has not faced the Jacks before.

As of this writing, Anders Strome is still out on injured reserve (foot) but the Brahmas are otherwise healthy.

The game starts at 7:05pm and can be seen on CHL-TV if you can’t make it in person.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

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