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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes look to build momentum - Odessa American: Jackalopes

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes look to build momentum

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Posted: Sunday, November 29, 2020 8:35 pm

After getting off to a solid start this season, the Odessa Jackalopes fell back to earth, going through a five-game losing streak.

They brought an end to that skid this past weekend and head coach Jason Fortier and his players are optimistic about carrying that new-found momentum going forward into the month of December.

The Jackalopes began the season by rattling off consecutive victories for a 3-0 start which included wins over Wichita Falls (winning by scores of 5-4 after a shootout and 4-0 the following day) and then adding a home-opening 3-2 win over Amarillo to begin November.

That fast start met a quick end, however, as Odessa then lost its next five including a series sweep by Shreveport in which the Jackalopes were outscored 13-4 from their two games combined against the Mudbugs.

They lost back-to-back games against Amarillo last week before finally getting their first victory in 22 days in a 4-3 contest against the Bulls on Saturday at Ector County Coliseum.

“It’s definitely something that when you’re losing, you don’t like the things that are going on,” Fortier said. “It makes the rink a tougher place. Guys aren’t extremely happy and you’re not having as much fun, but you work through it and you go through some dark times together and get more work ethic and coaches become more angry, become more firm (but) we’re getting that push back that we’re looking for. That’s something that we need to keep building on.”

It’s still early in the season and the Jackalopes sit at 4-5 for the season. Odessa is in third place in the South Division standings with eight points, tied with Wichita Falls (3-4-0-2) and eight points behind first place Lone Star (8-3-0).

Fortier said that part of the reason for the Jackalopes’ slump was due to not getting the full 60 minutes from players.

“We weren’t getting a full compete,” Fortier said. “We had guys who weren’t working for a full game. We’d have guys play three, four, five good shifts and then take four, five off and then we’d be our worst enemy.”

At times, a promising stretch in the games would be followed by a few small turnovers that would end up becoming goals for the other team.

“You play 24 good minutes and then three minutes, you’re down three goals all of a sudden,” Fortier said. “It’s something that you talk about with being more calm and eliminating mistakes and I think that’s part of the game.”

After talking with the team, the players soon got the message from coach.

“Coach just told us that we had to get back to the grindstone here and get pucks deep and we’ve got to be harder on our chances,” forward Fletcher Anderson said. “That was a difference in a couple of those games where we didn’t score the chances that we needed to in order to win those games.”

Anderson is currently the leading goal scorer along with Jacob Badal with four. He’s also had four assists so far this season.

Anderson is hopeful that Saturday’s win can lead to bigger and better things from the team.

“It’s unbelievable to get that first win in quite some time,” Anderson said. “It’s good for us to get some confidence going. It’s good for the team.”

Since the start of the season, the Jackalopes have added a few players, including defenseman DJ Hart from Stamford, Connecticut, who’s already committed to play at Ohio State.

He’s played in five games for Odessa and has two goals, both of which came in Saturday’s win over Amarillo.

“DJ is a talented kid,” Fortier said. “He’s a big time player. He showed (Saturday) that when he wants to step up and make plays, having him in the lineup and developing him here has been a big thing for the program.”

For Hart, this weekend’s win was his first in a Jackalopes uniform, joining the team during their five-game losing skid. For him, it was a sigh of relief to finally get a victory.

“I thought I played pretty well,” Hart said. “We all stuck together and did what we had to do. We were able to grind out the win. We hadn’t won a few games here, but it was a great feeling to get one down.”

He’s looking to make the most of his time in West Texas.

“Things have been amazing,” Hart said. “I’m happy that I ended up here. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Coaches have been amazing. The guys are real and it’s a family here.”

The Jackalopes will now go on a four-game road stretch starting with Friday’s contest against Wichita Falls at Kay Yeager Coliseum in a two-game series before traveling to Shreveport the following week.

Odessa will return to the ice at Ector County Coliseum against Lone Star on Dec. 17.

“We’re going to start looking at Wichita Falls and we’re going to correct what we need to correct,” Fortier said. “We’ll start breaking down Wichita Falls.”

Odessa, TX

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