NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes return home for 10-game stretch

This week, the Odessa Jackalopes begin a 10-game home stretch where they hope to improve their position in the North American Hockey League South Division standings.

It all begins when the Jackalopes face a familiar foe on Black Friday.

For the second consecutive week, Odessa faces Shreveport in a two-game series beginning at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Ector County Coliseum.

Both teams will be back on the ice at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

Odessa will then face Amarillo in a rare 3:15 p.m. game on Sunday to complete this week’s three-game home stretch.

Odessa will remain at home through Dec. 16.

Their next road game will come on Dec. 29 at Corpus Christi.

The Jackalopes come in at 8-9-2 with 19 points and sit in seventh place in the South Division standings.

Shreveport is one spot ahead at 12-7-0 and 25 points while Amarillo (12-7-2) is fourth with 26 points.

>> PICKING UP THREE POINTS: The Jackalopes settled for a split with the Mudbugs last week, but managed to pick up three points from a possible four the road series in Shreveport, La.

The Jackalopes began the series with a 2-0 win on Nov. 17 before losing 5-4 in overtime the following day.

“I thought we had some good goaltending,” Jackalopes head coach Scott Deur said of last Friday’s win. “We were able to score on the power play and then we got better as the game kept going. By the third period, we were in the zone. We were playing the right way.”

In last Saturday’s loss, the Jackalopes found themselves down 2-0 after the first period before scoring four goals in the second period to take a 4-3 lead heading into the third period.

“On Saturday, we got down 2-0,” Deur said. “I felt like we were playing well the first 10 minutes of the game. But then the next 10 minutes, we were slow. We figured it out when we scored four goals. Unfortunately, they got the overtime winner. But taking three out of four on the road was big for our team and our morale.”

>> THANKSGIVING: There may be a holiday this week, but the Jackalopes are sticking to a mostly normal training schedule.

The players will be still be on the ice on Thursday, but Deur said it’ll be an early practice so the players can spend time with their families and billet families.

“Monday was an off day for us,” Deur said. “We got back to work on Tuesday. Wednesday was a normal day. We will skate on Thursday before I let them off for Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of families that came down for this weekend. We’ll have an early morning skate so that they can go and spend time with their families. It’s a normal weekend for us.”

>> THERE’S ALSO FOOTBALL: Deur will also have another reason to get done with practice early on Thursday as his beloved Detroit Lions (8-2) will be playing their annual Thanksgiving game at noon Thursday against NFC North Division rival the Green Bay Packers (4-6).

“I’m a Lions fan,” Deur said. “Thankfully, they’re doing well. We’ll get the guys out of there so I can catch the game.”

>> RIGHT DIRECTION: Deur said he’s hoping that this upcoming 10-game home stretch can help push his team up in the standings.

“I think we’ve been building this whole season,” Deur said. “ I’d like to be above .500 and trending in the right direction. We have such a young team. We’ve only got eight returning players from last year. … We’re at the point where guys usually start to take off and I’m hoping to see that. We’re at home for the next 10 games.”

One of the things the Jackalopes need to get going is their power play.

“We scored two power play goals last week,” Deur said. “Over the last five or six years, we’ve had a lot more penalties so we have to make sure we have our power plays get clicking.”

>> COMMITMENT: Last week, forward Michael Kadlecik announced that he has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Air Force Academy.

“It’s awesome,” Kadlecik said. “It’s a great school and there’s so much honor to go there.”

Kadlecik is currently in his second season playing junior hockey in the NAHL for the Jackalopes.

The Lansing, N.Y., native has played in all 20 games this season for the Jackalopes, scoring four goals and registering seven assists.

Now that he’s made his commitment, he says it helps lift a lot off his back as he can turn his attention to finishing up this season before moving on to the collegiate level.

“It gives you a lot of confidence and the guys’ support has been great,” Kadlecik said. “They’ve been congratulating me, but it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”