The Odessa Jackalopes scored first during their North American Hockey League game Thursday against Wichita Falls.
The lead lasted all of two minutes.
The Wildcats tallied six of the game’s next seven goals and exited Ector County Coliseum with a 6-2 victory to kick off a three-game set between the squads.
The Wildcats (16-22-3) lead the season series 4-1. The Jackalopes (6-33-2) won 1-0 on Nov. 9, and since then, Wichita Falls has outscored Odessa 25-9 over four encounters.
The teams play eight more times, including two more this weekend, today and Saturday, at the Coliseum.
“We’ve had a problem all year holding a lead, but that’s one thing we are working on,” Jackalopes defenseman Matthew Montemurro said. “I thought we played pretty well. We had a couple bad breaks that cost us. We have to play more safe and double check our decisions to make sure they are the right ones.”
The Jacks grabbed their 1-0 advantage five minutes into the first when Montemurro jumped into the action and took a pass from Corey Hoffman on Wildcats’ goaltender Evan Cowley’s front porch, burying the shot. Zane Popilock also was given an assist.
That lead was short-lived, however. Matt Robinson beat Erick Majerle to even the game at 7:02 of the opening period. It was the first of three unanswered goals for the Wildcats, who late in the game, responded to the Jackalopes second goal with three more of their own.
Jackalopes forward Taylor Portner and defenseman Stephen Inman had shots stoned by Cowley late in the period and the teams remained tied 1-1 after one period.
A 2-on-1 breakaway that had its inception deep in the Jackalopes zone turned into a real threat when Odessa could not retreat into the proper defensive position. Ben Kurcera finished the sequence for Wichita Falls, which then went up 3-1 by the 7:30 of the second period on a goal by Tyler Ledford.
Ledford, unmarked, skated across the Jackalopes blue line on the weak side and took a pass from Charles Hemstrom that he poked in between Majerle’s legs.
Steven Haydon, whose eight fighting majors this season is tops in the NAHL, brought the Jackalopes within 2-1, scoring after assists from Dylan Campbell and Johan Sjoden with 12 minutes to play in the second.
“We played really good in the first period. We were all over the puck, we had good puck pressure and then, really, we allowed a couple soft goals in the second,” Odessa head coach Paul Gillis said. “But we kept fighting back and it’s a 3-2 game going into the third period.”
Anthony Olguin hit the post and the Jackalopes went on the power play twice in the third period, but the one or two more needed never came for Odessa, which ended 0-for-5 on the power play.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats made the climb that much more steep, registering a trio of third-period goals to inflate their cushion.
“We came out strong tonight and looked really good,” Haydon said. “After they scored their second and third goal, we kind of dipped down a bit. Our third period we just had a classic collapse.”
Robinson and Ledford, both posting their second of the game, and Colin Staub had goals for Wichita Falls in the third.
“It’s the same story each and every day, we are doing some good things but it’s too easy for the other team to score on us,” Gillis said.
Cowley stopped 27 of the Jackalopes 29 shots, while Majerle, making his first start for Odessa, made 27 saves on 33 shots.
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