NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Jackalopes taking advantage of this week’s bye

The Odessa Jackalopes will have their first bye week of the season and the players and coaches have been using this time to give back to the community.

This week, the Jackalopes have been busy getting their faces out into the community, including going to schools in Odessa as well as bonding as a team.

The ice rink at Ector County Coliseum has currently been melted to make room for this week’s annual Merry Marketplace, which is taking place until Nov. 5.

However, instead of being on the road this week, the Jackalopes players are using this time to relax and recover from injuries before going back at it next week once the schedule resumes.

“We’ve been on the road for a long time and these guys need some time to relax and kind of get away from the rink and then we’ll be working hard again on Monday,” Jackalopes head coach Scott Deur said during this week’s press conference Wednesday at the Ector County Coliseum.

That’s not to say no one’s doing their workouts.

The players have still been working in the gym, focusing on off the ice workouts this week.

“Obviously, with Merry Market place this weekend, there’s no practice ice,” Deur said. “We’re just doing workouts and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we’ll bus up to Amarillo to skate and then Thursday we’ll have the ice rink back here so we’ll be back here skating on Thursday and getting ready for the next games.”

Odessa will return to the ice next week starting with a 7:15 game Nov. 10 against the Colorado Grit at Ector County Coliseum.

Colorado is currently in eighth place in the division at 5-8-0 with 12 points and tied for last with Corpus Christi (5-9-1).

The Jackalopes are well-familiar with the Grit, having played them on Sept. 29-30 in a road series in which Odessa lost the first game, 5-3, before winning the second, 4-0.

The Grit are currently in their first season of playing in the NAHL.

“We just need to get our power play going in the right direction,” Deur said of next week’s series against the Grit. “I think we’re at about 15 percent and we have to get that up. That’ll be our main focus next week when we get back on the ice.”

The Jackalopes played their first home series this past weekend, splitting with the El Paso Rhinos as Odessa won 2-1 last Friday before being dealt a 3-0 loss the following day.

“On Friday night, I thought the boys played really well,” Deur said. “I thought Saturday night, we should’ve won that game too with the way we were playing, but we ran into a good goalie. It was the first time that kid’s faced us this year. He had a bit of a horseshoe going on and some good luck. But overall, I was happy with the weekend. The fans were awesome. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

The Jackalopes currently sit in seventh place in the North American Hockey League South Division standings at 6-8-1 with 14 points.

Lone Star is currently in first at 12-5-0 with 25 points while El Paso (11-4-0) is second with 23.

Even with the results, Jackalopes defenseman Trevor Mitchell said there were plenty of positives from last week’s home opening series.

“I thought it was a good weekend for us,” Mitchell said. “We won one game and lost the other but overall, we played pretty well. it’s better to come out with two points than zero at the end of the day. We went up against a good goalie on Saturday night. We didn’t get the bounces we wanted. Overall, we still have things we need to work on and we’ll fix those.”

Mitchell discussed what he and his teammates are doing to take advantage of a short break in the schedule this week.

“A lot of the guys are taking their time off the ice to get healthy again and get over some sickness,” Mitchell said. “We’re at the gym every day, whether it’s here or we’re working at the rink. A lot of guys are working on stick handling and shooting pucks. Overall, we’re just hanging out as a group, trying to get closer every single day as a family.”

As far as the team getting out into the community, Deur said that’s just a big part of this team.

“it’s a big thing for our team to get out there,” Deur said. “We were out at a school on Wednesday morning saying hi to the kids as they were coming in. Thursday, we’re at another school, greeting the kids and then we’ll be doing a PE class with them in the afternoon with them, which is always fun. Then we’ll do some work at the food bank and that kind of stuff. It’s more to get these guys seen and have them grow in the community.”

Mitchell enjoys opportunities like that to get involved in the community.

“I love it,” Mitchell said. “I think community service as a team is one of the best things to do. … It gives us exposure to the community. We’re one big community and one big family here in West Texas and the more we give to them, the more we’re hoping to get back.”