Odessa, TX – The Wichita Falls Warriors (22-12-1-5) hit the road for the first weekend series of three straight away from the Kay Yeager Coliseum beginning in Odessa to face the Odessa Jackalopes (10-28-2-3). The Warriors have had the upper hand in the season series with a record of (4-1-0-1) and a record of (2-0-0-0) at the Ector County Coliseum.
On Friday night, the Warriors were looking to stay perfect in Odessa. After taking two early penalties, the Warriors gained quick momentum with two straight penalty kills in the first ten minutes of the first period. During that stretch, Odessa put on some pressure and put pucks in good areas but the Warriors were able to weather the storm and then bring on one of their own on the offensive end. The Warriors would rattle off three straight goals, the first by Thomas Weis (15) off of a turnover and then two back to back by Drew Vieten (14,15,16). After that run, the Warriors would take a three goal advantage into the intermission. The second period was a tennis match between both sides with chances on either end but no goals to show for either team. Warriors goaltender Owen Bartoszkiewicz used the momentum off the penalty kills in the first period to continue building a lockdown performance between the pipes, keeping Odessa off of the scoresheet through 40 minutes of play. With no scoring in the second period, the Warriors carried their three goal lead from the first period into the third. In the third period, the Warriors would continue to pressure the front of the net in search of extending the lead and putting the game out of reach in the late stages of the third period. Eventually a turnover would spring a 2-on-1 where Joseph Harguindeguy was able to slide the puck past the Jackalopes defenseman to Cade Lemmer who put Wichita Falls up 4-0 in the final frame of regulation. Then, with just two minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors would win the offensive zone face-off back to Vieten who would find the back of the net once more to complete the hat-trick. Vieten became the first Warrior in Wichita Falls Warriors history to record a hat-trick. Bartoszkiewicz would record the win for his fourth shutout of the season and the Warriors would skate away with a 5-0 victory.
The Warriors would look for the weekend sweep on Saturday night. The game played out in the Warriors favor, with Wichita Falls controlling the possession and dominating the shots on goal, outshooting the Jackalopes 32-13. The problem for Wichita Falls was finding a way to put the puck in the net past Odessa goaltender Noah Rupprecht who was making his first start against the Warriors this season. With some big saves from Rupprecht and some pucks rung off of the iron by the Warriors, the Jackalopes were able to keep themselves right in the game, despite getting outplayed. It was the Jackalopes who took an early 1-0 lead in the first period and the Warriors responded late in the second with a power play goal by Owen Baumgartner (4) to tie the game at 1-1 heading to the third. No scoring in the third would send us to overtime where the Warriors had even more chances to finish the game, but the puck would not find its way across the goal-line for Wichita Falls and we would head to a shootout. The first five shooters in the shootout would fail to score, and Fletcher Anderson had a chance to win the game for Odessa in the bottom of the third round. Anderson would drift back to his left at the hashmarks and his quick snapshot beat Bartoszkiewicz on the blocker side and the Warriors would fall 2-1 in the shootout. The Warriors would leave Odessa with 3 of the 4 possible points and sit 4 points away from clinching a playoff birth in their first season.
Next up, the Warriors head to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first time this season in a three in three beginning on Thursday, April 8th.