The Jackalopes’ two-goal comeback in the third period ended up not being enough as Odessa was dealt a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Wichita Falls Warriors in North American Hockey League action Friday night at Ector County Coliseum.
The Warriors, who moved to 26-17-1-6 with 59 points for the season, scored twice in the first period to take control of the game before the Jackalopes (12-32-3-3 with 30 points) responded with power-play goals by Ben Doherty and Joey Musa in the third period to force overtime.
Wichita Falls survived with Owen Baumgartner’s game-winner in overtime.
Odessa assistant coach Nate Skidmore was filling in for head coach Jason Fortier who was out on a recruiting trip.
“We started poorly,” Skidmore said. “I thought the effort wasn’t there. We weren’t finishing. We just didn’t show up to play. The second period, we started to come back a little bit. We were building up and then in the third period, I was proud of the effort. We had a chance to win the game.”
The Jackalopes finished with 33 total shots while the Warriors had 32.
Odessa goalie Cooper Black had 29 saves while Wichita Falls’ Owen Bartoskiewicz had 31.
The Warriors got off to a strong start, only needing five minutes to find their first goal when Joseph Harguindeguy slipped the puck past Black for a 1-0 lead.
Things did not get any easier for the Jackalopes as the Warriors doubled their lead six minutes later when Thomas Weis scored unassisted.
A penalty for tripping on Weis gave the Jackalopes the power play late in the first period but the hosts were unable to capitalize on the advantage as Odessa’s Dayne Hoyord’s shot from the right side of the net was denied by Bartoszkiewicz.
Wichita Falls’ lead was 2-0 after the first period.
Early in the second period, the Warriors were penalized with Owen Baumgartner called for holding, giving the Jackalopes their second power play of the night.
Just like the first one, the Jackalopes were unable to capitalize on the extra-man advantage and the Warriors soon turned the pressure on Odessa with numerous close opportunities, forcing Black to make some tough saves.
The rest of the second period remained largely uneventful and the Jackalopes’ disadvantage continued to remain at a two-goal deficit.
The third period got pretty chippy at times with numerous fights close to breaking out.
The Warriors were then penalized when Hunter Jones was called for spearing, giving the Jackalopes a power play.
This time, Odessa was able to capitalize as Doherty gave the Jackalopes a lifeline with his goal with 12 minutes left in the third period.
With four minutes left, the Jackalopes were given another power play when the Warriors were penalized for having too many men on the ice.
Musa was able to tie it up on the power play and the Jackalopes’ fortunes had completely turned.
“We just were good in front of the net and Musa had a good shot and it was good to see the special teams take a step,” Skidmore said.
Baumgartner ended Odessa’s momentum, scoring nearly two minutes into sudden death for the visitors.
The Jackalopes will return to their home ice for the final time this season when they finish up this week’s series in a 7:30 p.m. contest Saturday.
>> Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at @OAmichaelba