NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes remain at home to face familiar foe

This weekend, the Odessa Jackalopes will be going up against the El Paso Rhinos for what will seem like the billionth time this season.

It’ll be the last series between the two sides for the regular season.

This week’s two-game home series will start at 7:15 p.m. Friday and again at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Ector County Coliseum.

The Jackalopes currently sit in seventh place in the North American Hockey League South Division standings at 9-10-2 with 22 points while the Rhinos are in second at 14-8-1 with 30 points.

Despite being five places ahead of the Jackalopes, both teams have kept it pretty close in each of their head-to-head matchups this season.

From their last six matchups against each other, El Paso has won four while Odessa has won twice.

However, four of those six games were decided by only one goal.

“We match-up very well,” Odessa head coach Scott Deur said in this week’s press conference at Ector County Coliseum. “They’re a good team. We’ve played them really tough. There have been a couple of fights so I would expect the same thing this weekend. It should be pretty entertaining this weekend. They’re a good team. They’re well coached. They’re going to come out fired up.”

The Rhinos are coming off a split against Amarillo last weekend in which the Rhinos won the first game in overtime, 2-1, before losing the next game in overtime, 3-2.

>> SPEAKING OF AMARILLO: The Jackalopes endured their first three-game weekend series this season with last week’s home stretch.

The Jackalopes began last weekend with a 1-0 shootout loss to Shreveport last Friday before coming up short in a 4-3 contest the following night against the MudBugs.

Odessa closed out the weekend with a 6-3 win over Amarillo on Sunday, gaining three of a possible six points in the standings.

“We still played a good game on Friday,” Deur said. “Saturday, we had to battle back. We got the lead and went up 3-2 with 10 minutes to go before they scored two goals and went up 4-3. … It was disappointing. It was another one-goal game that we lost. That’s like seven for us now. Then we went to Sunday and played some good hockey. We took off in the third period. We were in that sync like Saturday. We had a conversation in between periods where I said we couldn’t just sit back. We had to attack. Our guys did a good job of attacking and we had a 6-3 win.”

Deur said he liked the way his team played considering the challenges of having to play three games in as many days last weekend.

“Three-game weekends can be tough because you have to turn around and play three games, but we did a pretty good job,” Deur said. “We saw a different team on Sunday which is always challenging. We didn’t do any scouting or talking about them, I just had our guys go out and play. I told them what we wanted to do versus what the other team was doing to us.”

>> STILL AT HOME NEXT WEEK: After this week’s series, the Jackalopes will remain at home when they face the Corpus Christi in a two-game series on Dec. 8 and 9 at Ector County Coliseum.

After that, the Jackalopes will face Amarillo in a three-game series on Dec. 14-16 before going on their Christmas break.

>> THE REST OF THE SOUTH DIVISION: It’s Lone Star and everybody else in the South Division right now.

The Brahmas are at the top of the division (10 points ahead of El Paso) at 19-6-0 with 40 points.

Shreveport is one point behind El Paso with 29 points, tied with Amarillo and New Mexico who are fourth and fifth in the standings.

Sixth place Oklahoma is four points ahead of Odessa while Corpus Christi (19 points) and Colorado (17 points) sit in eighth and ninth, respectively.