It’s not quite do-or-die for the Odessa Jackalopes and their playoffs hopes.
It is, however, getting very close.
With 14 games remaining to play in the regular season, the Jackalopes sit 15 points behind Corpus Christi for the fourth, and final, South Division playoff spot.
Friday night’s result didn’t help.
The visiting Shreveport Mudbugs scored once in each of the first two periods and then tallied twice in the third period, the final one into an empty net with 1.75 seconds to play to skate away with a 4-2 victory in North American Hockey League play at the Ector County Coliseum.
The Jackalopes (18-24-5) now have just 13 games remaining to make up ground on the IceRays.
Ludwig Stenlund and Ryan MacKellar scored for Odessa, with Cooper Zech, Chase Thudium, Zac Herrmann and Noah Poindexter each finishing with one assist.
"I thought we had some great chances in the first period that we didn’t finish," Jackalopes coach Greg Gatto said. "We hit a crossbar and it doesn’t go in and then we can’t get a pass through the middle with Thudium wide open at the left post.
"And there guy (goalkeeper John Roberts) played well. But we have to finish those chances."
Shreveport (27-15-4) took its first lead of the game with 6:33 elapsed in the first period, the marker coming at the tail end of a five-minute power play when Odessa’s Nick Wilson was ejected for instigating, fighting and abuse of officials.
Gathering in a puck that was redirected off the left-wing boards by teammate Erik Zohovs, Mudbugs forward Gueorgui Feduolov skated in all alone on Jackalopes’ netminder Jon Flakne, who was guarding the left post.
Feduolov was able to get Flakne moving toward the right post before dragging the puck back to the left and depositing it inside the left post for the extra-man goal.
That’s how things stayed until the 4:08 mark of the second period when hard work by Thudium and Herrmann put the puck on the tape of Stenlund’s stick and the Swede didn’t miss, beating Roberts to level the game, 1-1.
That lead lasted little more than three minutes before another Shreveport power-play goal put the Mudbugs back in front.
Gaining control of the puck behind Flakne’s right shoulder, Shreveport’s Kieran Durgan skated unchecked from behind the net to just outside the crease, and with Flakne trying to protect short side, snapped a wrist shot inside the right post with 8:13 gone in the second 20 minutes.
MacKellar tied the game 6:34 into the third period when he redirected a shot by Zech from the left point over Roberts’ head, everyone watching the puck as it tumbled through the air and landed behind the goal line.
"It was nice to see that one go in," said MacKellar, who returned Friday after missing six weeks with an injury.