NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Aggressive approach propels Jackalopes in win over Rhinos

The Odessa Jackalopes haven’t had any trouble scoring this season, finding the back of the net 97 times through 30 games played.

Even though they have maintained a consistent scoring trend, they still suffered a slow down in a two-game losing streak before facing the El Paso Rhinos Friday at the Ector County Coliseum.

The Jackalopes took a combined 24 shots on goal in the first period of their most recent losses against the Corpus Christi IceRays.

That changed against the Rhinos, as the Jackalopes employed a more aggressive approach and took 22 shots on goal in the first period.

“In the past we’ve been a little passive and wanting to be a little too cute,” Jackalopes head coach Scott Deur said. “The message, really all this week was, ‘Get pucks to the net, put as much shots on as possible.’”

The team benefitted from the way it was attacking, as it picked up an 8-2 victory to close out 2021.

Eight different players converted to give Odessa a new season-high in goals scored in a single game up to this point in the campaign.

Deur said his team has grown in confidence by facing many different situations over the season, including having to play in games where they’ve faced deficits of one-goal.

Finding ways to win close games has helped the Jackalopes continue improving on their scoring mark.

Dayne Hoyord and Tanyon Bajzer got the scoring started in the first period against the Rhinos, with the lead eventually swelling to 5-0 after Ryan Kelly, Justin Hughes and Emerson Goode scored second period goals.

Matt Johnson and Tyler Pfister put El Paso on the board before Chris Duclair, John Perdion and Trevor Taulien scored the final goals of the game for the Jackalopes.

Duclair’s distance shot gave him his 13th goal of the season, increasing his standing at the top of the goal scoring table for the Jackalopes.

The rookie said his team still has things to work toward as it heads into the second half of its season.

“The season’s not over, there’s plenty of games to play and plenty of hockey to play,” Duclair said. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time and one day at a time.”

Duclair, Goode and Hoyord are pacing the scoring attack for the Jackalopes, putting up double digits in goals scored.

Goode has played 30 games this season, while Duclair and Hoyord have played in 29.

Deur said it feels good to have a variety of attacking lines to switch things up during games.

“It’s just good to have that consistent scoring across almost four lines,” Deur said.

The Jackalopes (18-10-1-1) moved into second place in the North American Hockey League’s South Division after defeating the Rhinos.

Duclair said he knows his team will face even tougher challenges in the new year.

“It’s only going to get harder from here for sure, we’ve got to keep working hard,” Duclair said. “What happened to this point doesn’t mean anything and we just have to work even harder.”

Deur was pleased with what the Jackalopes have shown this season, ending their two-game losing streak before 2021 came to a close.

The Jackalopes will continue regular season play against the Amarillo Wranglers at 7:05 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Budweiser Bullpen in Amarillo.

They will be on the road for six straight games before returning to the Ector County Coliseum against the Wichita Falls Warriors on Jan. 28.

“We’re ending the year on a good number,” Deur said. “Next week starts the next year, so hopefully we can continue our success.”

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