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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Gatto resigns as Jackalopes coach - Odessa American: Sports

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Gatto resigns as Jackalopes coach

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2019 6:23 pm

Greg Gatto has resigned as coach of the Odessa Jackalopes, the team announced Sunday.

The Jackalopes completed the 2018-19 North American Hockey League season Saturday against the Amarillo Bulls, finishing sixth in the South Division standings and missing the playoffs.

“The ownership group just felt it was time for a change,” Jackalopes president Kevin Leisgang said. Leisgang then deferred any more questions to the ownership group.

Calls to former Jackalopes defenseman Adam Doyle, part of the ownership group, were not returned.

Gatto, who took over during the final 10 games of the 2013-14 season when Matt Cressman was dismissed, compiled a 124-156-17-13 record in five-plus seasons at the helm of the program, qualifying for the playoffs after the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons.

“I think we could call it a mutual decision,” Gatto said by phone. “I would like to stick it out; I came here for a reason and to me it’s what are you doing for these kids.

“I understand that you are going to be judged on wins and losses. We have a lot of kids who have moved on to Division I and Division III schools and that’s what the goal has always been.”

Gatto watched his team struggle this season as the its top players were traded away, including James Crossman at the trade deadline in February, with Odessa receiving a tender in return for Crossman.

Zach Heintz, Kyle Herbster and Jared Christy also were moved during the season and, along with Crossman, still were among the top six points earners for the Jackalopes this season when the final horn sounded Saturday, despite all playing less than 40 games in the Permian Basin.

All four will be taking part in the Robertson Cup playoffs that start this week — Christy and Herbster with the Austin Bruins, Crossman at Jamestown and Heintz with South Division-rival Lone Star.

Joseph Winklemann, part of the trade for Herbster and Christy with Austin, finished as the Jackalopes’ leading scorer with 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists). He had 30 points (12-18) in 21 games with Odessa.

Connor Fedorek (8-24, 32 points) was second.

Gatto, who played for the Jackalopes in 2002-03 when they were a member of the Central Hockey League and then was an assistant on Don McKee’s staff during the 2003-04 season, said he will spend some time with his family before making a decision on where he will go next, adding that several Division I and Division III schools already have expressed an interest in having him join their programs.

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