Five goals in the third period deliver Game One win
Odessa Jackalopes broadcaster Brien Rea was seen holding up a sign that read "Take what's yours boys", but the wrong boys took the message to heart as the Texas Brahmas took Game One of the best-of-seven semi-final series with a 5-2 win at the Ector County Coliseum.
The win is the third consecutive playoff victory for Brett Jaeger and the Brahmas who hope to carry the momentum into tomorrow night, where another win will give them a 2-0 lead on the Jackalopes. The series then shifts to the NYTEX Sports Center on Wednesday.
Five different Brahmas players scored goals, demonstrating the depth of this team that has struggled all season on the road. Grant Jacobsen had three assists on the night.
The crowd at the Ector County Coliseum was sparse for a Friday evening but the after work crowd trickled in steadily, filling seats and adding to the noise level.
Referee Tom Steinel made it clear that he wouldn't be calling a lot of penalties in this game as is customary during the playoffs. Both sides took advantage, with the Brahmas' James Hiebert and the Jackalopes' Garrett Gruenke handling instigator duties. Both teams looked sharp as they felt each other out during the first half of the first period. Defensively, both sides did a good job crowding any offensive opportunities.
Midway through the first period, the Jackalopes led the shot count 6-2 with Brett Jaeger managing to stop a pair of dangerous slap shots and his teammates doing a good job clearing rebounds.
The Brahmas offense got to work in the second half of the frame, eventually matching shots in the period at 10 apiece.
There was only one penalty in the first 20 minutes, called on the Brahmas' Matt Pierce for Interference. The Jackalopes got right to work with the number one power play in the league during the regular season, wasting no time scoring on Jaeger at the 11:57 mark.
Alex Dunn took a feed from Dominic Leveille and sent a bullet past Jaeger from the top right corner of the left circle. Kory Karlander was also credited with the assist on the score which came 17 seconds into the man advantage.
There was no further scoring in the period and the Jackalopes took the 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The Jackalopes got their second power play 57 seconds into the middle frame due to a Goalie Interference call on Jason Deitsch but the Brahmas, who had the number three penalty kill in the regular season, held them off. Likewise, the Brahmas had two power play opportunities but Odessa's number one penalty kill prevented any special teams scoring.
Momentum increased for both teams as the period developed, but neither side was successful in solving the other's net minder as Brett Jaeger and Joel Martin put in spectacular performances. Martin took a spear to the mid-section in the final minute of play but appeared to shake it off and continued in net.
Odessa led the shot count 12-8 in the period and 22-18 after 40 minutes, but the score remained at 1-0 heading into the second intermission.
The Brahmas came out firing in the final period, unleashing a flurry of shots that bore immediate fruit. 1:07 into the frame, Matt Pierce took a feed from James Hiebert and sent the puck past Martin from in front of the crease to tally the equalizer.
Less than a minute-and-a-half later, Jordan Cameron sent a pass to Lee Jubinville, whose slap shot surprised Martin, giving the Brahmas the 2-1 lead at the 2:27 mark.
Just 30 seconds later, the already physical play began to erupt into aggression as two skirmishes broke out in the Odessa zone. Justin Kinnunen and Kenny Bernard wrestled in the right wing corner as Dave Van Drunen and Jason Deitsch battled behind the net. Van Drunen and Deitsch were given matching Roughing Double Minors.
During the four-on-four action, Odessa defenseman Alex Dunn attacked Lee Jubinville in the Jackalopes' crease and after the ensuing tussle, both were sent to the penalty box for Roughing with Dunn drawing a double minor.
With the man-advantage, the Brahmas went right to work and 25 seconds later Kinnunen sent in a shot that deflected off the body of Garrett Gruenke and into the net. Five minutes into the period, the Brahmas had the 3-1 lead and were by no means done.
1:44 later, Brahmas defenseman Tyrell Mason had possession of the puck and patiently weaved his way around a crowded crease and then flipped the puck up and over the shoulder of Martin to make it a 4-1 game.
The Jackalopes weren't quite ready to fold despite the Brahmas scoring frenzy and Mike Lesperance cut the lead in half with a one-timer from the top of the left circle at the 8:24 mark.
Motivated by the tally, the Jackalopes stepped up their play but were held off time and time again by the Brahmas' net minder.
Texas rookie A.J. Gale struck the final blow against Odessa, roofing a wrist shot off the crossbar and into the net at the 17:36 mark, establishing the final score at 5-2.
The Brahmas had the 16-9 shot advantage in the final frame and 34-31 in the game.
Brett Jaeger stopped 29 of 31 shots and earned his third consecutive win of the post-season. Joel Martin had 29 saves on 34 shots and takes the loss.
Game Two of the series will take place on Saturday night in Odessa.
Photo Credit: Robert Keith