Friday, April 1, 2011

Brahmas outlast Jackalopes, win 5-4

First of final series between old rivals in the book

Traveling to the arena known affectionately as "the shoebox" and playing in front of the Central Hockey League's most annoying fans didn't sway the Odessa Jackalopes, who battled hard for 60 minutes but were unable to overtake the Texas Brahmas, who came away with a narrow 5-4 win.

The opening round of the 2011 playoffs paired the two teams for the third consecutive post-season, perhaps bittersweet (were it not for the intense rivalry between the two teams) due to the fact that next season, the Jackalopes will be playing in the NAHL.

Conspicuously absent from the arena was Brahmas head coach Dan Wildfong, serving the final game of a reduced suspension for his actions in last Saturday's game in Rio Grande Valley. Despite this, Wildfong was seen in the player's bench area for the entire game - thanks to a clever fan who blew up a life sized photo of the coach and placed it on the glass behind the bench.

As always, the contest was a rough and tumble affair as the evenly matched squads did battle in the rink recognized as the worst place for a visiting team to play in - not due to conditions, but because of the close proximity to the aforementioned fan base who is well-schooled in getting under the skin of the opposition.

Brahmas Captain Jason Deitsch set the tone of the evening when just :18 seconds into the Brahmas first power play of the post-season, his one-timer from the top of the point whizzed past Odessa goalie Mike Mole for the 1-0 lead.

Brahmas net minder Wayne Savage made his mark early, stopping penalty shot by Kenny Corupe with his acrobatic moves in the crease.

The Brahmas led the shot count 17-8 and defended their 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The middle period saw an increase in physical play and an interference call on Matt Burto provided an opportunity for Odessa, which was seized by Jackalopes defenseman Matt Gens, who 19 seconds later, found daylight and managed to beat Savage to the back of the net.

The tie wouldn’t last for long though, as Brahmas special teams took to the ice on another power play. Ryan Bennett, fed by Chad Woollard and Jason Deitsch, buried the puck at the 11:33 mark to put the home team up 2-1.

The special teams battle continued three minutes later when Mike Ramsay led the Jacks for their second power play goal of the evening to even the field at 2-2.

Proven to be a standout in post-season's past, Deitsch pounded his second goal of the series from the crease to regain the Texas lead headed into the intermission.

Before the mid point of the final frame, the lamp was lit four times, twice for each team. Darryl McArthur’s initial shot from the blue line beat Mole for the 4-2 Texas lead. The Jacks came back within one when a puck shot by Sebastien Thinel to Savage’s blocker side squeaked by at the 4:02 mark.

Dylan Stanley sent Brahmas ‘mini bulls’ flying, as well as Mole’s water bottle when he shelved his goal for Texas’ fifth of game. 41 seconds later, Jacks forward Mark Ehl came flying into the zone and rifled his shot to the back of the Brahmas' net to make it a 5-4 contest, providing hope for Odessa with almost 13 minutes left to play.

Alas, it was not to be. The Jacks would finish the game on the power play and despite last minute heroics and pulling Mole for the extra attacker, the Brahmas kept their defense up and prevailed for the victory.

Game two of the series will be played on Saturday night at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

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