After surrendering an early lead, the Odessa Jackalopes managed to score two unanswered goals in the final five minutes of the game to take a 3-2 victory over the New Mexico Ice Wolves in North American Hockey League action Friday night at Ector County Coliseum.
Trailing 2-1, Odessa’s Joey Musa tied the game up and Aidan Cobb scored a minute later to give the Jackalopes a come-from-behind victory.
“We talked about playing more desperate and playing with energy and working on the things that we’ve worked on at practice,” Odessa head coach Jason Fortier said. “It was a big thing for us to know that when we start getting in the battles, we’re all in. I thought the last few minutes, we started to play better and then in the last five, we played great.”
“This win means a lot to us,” Cobb said. “It was a great win. This is a great group and we were able to fight back.”
The Jackalopes (11-32-2-3 overall, 27 points) were outshot 28-22 by the Ice Wolves.
Odessa goalie Connor Hasley had 26 saves for the Jackalopes while New Mexico’s Beni Halasz had 19.
“I thought Hasley made a lot of good saves,” Fortier said. “He made a key save in the first period and then we got a goal. At the end of the day, he has to make a saves to help us and he did that tonight.”
The Jackalopes began the night on a promising note, creating numerous scoring opportunities in the first period.
However, those missed chances left the hosts frustrated as the opening period looked destined to end with no scoring until the final minute when Gabe Bennett found the back of the net to give the Jackalopes a 1-0 lead with 44 seconds left in the first period. Joe Schubert and Charles-Edward Tardif were credited with assists.
“I thought we started out pretty slow but we kept chipping away,” Fortier said. “It wasn’t that we were giving up a lot, we felt like we were always behind the play. Then we talked about playing desperate and it seemed like we turned it up another gear.”
While the Jackalopes had their scoring chances in the first period, the Ice Wolves also made a number of threats. New Mexico (18-28-2-2) couldn’t capitalize on Odessa’s three penalties from the opening period. The Ice Wolves outshot the Jackalopes 13-8 in the first 20 minutes.
An Odessa penalty on Ben Doherty for tripping led to a New Mexico power play six minutes into the second period.
New Mexico capitalized on the power play advantage when Keegan Langefels shot one past Black and the game was tied up at 1-1 with 12:59 remaining in the second period.
The Ice Wolves kept the momentum into the third period went ahead 2-1 thanks to Mitch Becker’s goal with 11:12 left to play.
However, the Jackalopes had answers late as Musa fired a shot past Halasz with 4:28 left in the period to tie the game up at 2-2. A minute later, Odessa reclaimed its lead for good with Cobb putting his team back in front from the left wing with 3:22 left on the clock for the go-ahead goal.
“It was awesome,” Cobb said. “Ben Doherty made a great play to me and I was able to make the shot. Right when they scored, we were able to battle back. We were able to pull it back.”
The Jackalopes will return to action Saturday to finish their series with the Ice Wolves.
“I think every win is important,” Fortier said. “Every win feels good. But the emotion behind it, guys kept with it and kept working. Some of our top guys weren’t playing well but then the light switch went on and we started playing better.”
>> Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at @OAMichaelba