The Odessa Jackalopes aren’t in the position they want in the first round of the North American Hockey League’s South Division playoffs, down 2-0 to the Lone Star Brahmas.
The Jackalopes are, however, in a position to do something about the deficit.
Odessa hosts the Brahmas in Game 3 of the series at 7:11 p.m. Friday at the Ector County Coliseum, looking to extend the series to Saturday’s Game 4, at the same time.
“They won both games at home and now it’s our turn,” Jackalopes head coach Greg Gatto said. “I thought we played well in Game 1 against them and then not quite as well in Game 2 and we let them know about it.
“We’ve had a good week of practice and we need guys to step up and play. We win these next two games and get back to their place for a Game 5 and anything can happen.”
Making it happen, however, is tougher against the league’s defending champion.
Brahmas coach Dan Wildfong has molded his team after the style of play he used as a professional — gritty, abrasive and opportunistic, not afraid of stick his nose into any situation.
That’s the attitude that Gatto wants to see his players take this weekend at home or he knows it’s going to be a short postseason for the Jackalopes.
The Jackalopes players know it, as well.
“We have to do the little things better,” said forward Ricky Carballo. “Getting the puck in deep, going to the front of the net, getting shots on net and being in position for rebounds.
“We didn’t do enough of that in the first two games and it showed. Lone Star is a good team and you have to work hard against them.”
The Jackalopes were successful at home this season, winning 17 of 28 contests inside Ector County Coliseum. They also know they can’t rest on that success in Game 3.
“We have to come out and play our game,” Carballo said. “We have to use our rink to our advantage and I think we’ll be fine.”
Carballo started the season in Aberdeen (S.D.) after the Wichita Falls Wildcats disbanded after the 2016-17 season. He joined the Jackalopes 20 games into the season and quickly established himself as one of the top players on the team and in the South Division.
Carballo finished with 56 points in the regular season (20 goals, 36 assists), 45 of those points coming after the November trade to the Permian Basin.
Blake Bride, who played the first six games of the season with the Minnesota Wilderness, had 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) for the season.
Add in Peyton Frantti (16-32-48), Evan Somoza (15-31-46), Zach Heintz (12-30-42), Matt Brown (16-25-41) and Zac Herrmann (9-31-40) and the Jackalopes have plenty of firepower offensively.
They just need to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net.
“We have a lot of talent, but I think they’ll all tell you that they didn’t play well the first two games.” Gatto said. “I know they want to show that they can play better.
“We just need to get into our game, in our building and take advantage of our chances. We didn’t do that in the first two games, not going to the net and getting traffic in front of their goalies and that’s something that needs to improve if we expect to win.”