Sunday, April 4, 2010

Odessa wins third straight

Brahmas face elimination after 2-1 loss

Just a week ago, the Texas Brahmas were on top of the world, having just one their second straight playoff game on the road against the Odessa Jackalopes. A considerable feat, since Odessa had only lost six regular season contests at home and the Brahmas had only won nine games on the road this year.

Now the Brahmas are facing elimination from the Southern Conference Semi-finals after dropping their third consecutive game to the Jackalopes in a 2-1 battle on Saturday night at the Ector County Coliseum.

3,278 fans witnessed post-season hockey at its very best, complete with defensive battles, remarkable saves and the best thing they could have hoped for – a dramatic win by the home team.

The Brahmas came out firing early in the first period, sending four consecutive shots towards the net, only to have them turned away by Odessa net minder Juha Toivonen. A slashing call on Brahmas defenseman Ross Rouleau led to the Jackalopes’ first power play of the night. Unleashing four shots of their own during the man-advantage, Odessa found themselves equally challenged by the efforts of Brahmas goaltender Joe Palmer.

After a scoreless 20 minutes, shots were even at nine and both teams returned to the locker rooms for the first intermission.

The middle frame opened to seven seconds of four-on-four hockey due to off-setting minors late in the first period. The Jackalopes had two early power play opportunities but were unable to solve Palmer, who had made 12 saves to this point.

Texas defenseman Justin Kinnunen nearly had the first score of the game, but a quick thinking Toivonen was able to shift from the right post to the left post to stop the shot, deflecting the puck with the right toe of his skate before it could cross the goal line.

8:45 into the period, Odessa’s Kenny Bernard dropped the gloves with Jason Deitsch for the first fight of the series. The two battled briefly to a draw and earned matching five minute majors for their efforts.

With less than six-and-a-half minutes remaining, the Brahmas thought they had scored on a blast from Tyler Skworchinski, but their celebration was cut short when referee Jon McIsaac ruled that the puck never crossed the goal line.

Consecutive minors on Odessa gave the Brahmas a 5-on-3 opportunity for 1:38 but the visiting team remained unable to solve Toivonen.

After 40 minutes, shots were 25-21 in favor of the Brahmas, but the game remained scoreless.

The Jackalopes began the final frame on the power play due to an unsportsmanlike conduct call on James Hiebert late in the middle frame. Joe Palmer managed two huge saves on shots by Kenny Bernard and Philippe Plante and the Brahmas were able to kill off the penalty.

Over 45 minutes into the game, the first tally of the night was finally registered by the home team. After winning a face off in the left circle, Collin Circelli fed the puck to Jeff Pierce. Pierce found Sebastien Thinel who sent in a wrister from above the left hash mark, beating Palmer five hole for the score at the 5:32 mark.

A high-sticking double minor on Matt Pierce, followed by a hooking call on Scott Thauwald would lead to a 24-second 5-on-3 opportunity for the Jackalopes, who wasted no time making it count for something. With eight seconds remaining on the two-man advantage, Sebastien Thinel took possession of the puck in the right circle and fed it to Philippe Plante who sent his shot inside the left post to give the Jackalopes a 2-0 lead at the 14:14 mark.

An exhausted Brahmas team continued to battle but managed to do nothing more than prevent the shut-out. With Joe Palmer pulled in favor of the extra attacker, a redirection in front of the net by Tyler Skworchinski beat Toivonen with 13 seconds remaining to seal the final score at 2-1.

Palmer stopped 35 of 37 shots faced but took the loss; his first of the playoffs. Toivonen stopped 34 of 35 shots to earn his third consecutive post-season win.

The series now shifts back to the NYTEX Sports Center, where the Brahmas will either be eliminated or force a Game Seven Showdown.

No comments: