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Odessa Takes Three out of Four Points against New Mexico

February 7, 2021 - North American Hockey League (NAHL) - Odessa Jackalopes News Release

ODESSA, TX - For the past few weeks, the Jackalopes have been looking to see who would step up offensively, who could be relied upon to provide a spark when needed and play with the confidence of a scorer. After tonight, two names have emerged as possibilities. Dayne Hoyord and Gabe Bennett. The two forwards of the second line powered the Odessa Jackalopes (8-16-2-1) to a 3-1 victory over the New Mexico Ice Wolves (6-18-1-1) on Friday night at the Ector County Coliseum.

Building off their strong performance on Thursday, the Jackalopes started strong right from the opening puck drop. It was Bennett who stuck first for the Jackalopes with a strong wrist shot from the right-hand circle. The puck sailed into the top corner and Bennett put the Jackalopes up 1-0 just over five minutes into the game. It goal marked Bennett's second in as many nights and fourth in the last six games.

In the second period the Jackalopes faced major adversity as they were forced to kill off four consecutive penalties including a five-on-three. Jackalopes goaltender Cooper Black made several clutch saves to keep the Wolves off the board. But the turning point came in a goal-mouth scramble after Black had made the initial stop and was trying to cover the loose puck. Sticks and bodies crashed violently in the blue-paint but the Jackalopes were able to clear the zone. The Jackalopes were able to get a man back on the ice and reset to defend their zone again. Now down on a five-on-four disadvantage, the Jackalopes caught the Ice Wolves disorganized as they came into the zone. A turnover forced by Hoyord led to a short-handed odd-man rush up the ice.

Hoyord stepped in over the blue line to the right and sent a hard shot, low and on the ice, that beat New Mexico netminder Owen Parker to his stick side. The goal by Hoyord was significant as it gave the Jackalopes a much needed insurance goal and shifted momentum back firmly in their favor as the Ice Wolves were threatening to tie.

But that didn't mean the Jacks were out of the woods yet. An early goal by New Mexico brought them within one in the third period. But Odessa rallied and pushed the play back into the Ice Wolves' zone. They came close to scoring on several ocassions with Jacks captain Evan Orr just narrowly being denied by the shoulder on Parker, not once but twice.

In the end, New Mexico was forced to pull their goaltender and the Jackalopes capitalized on Hoyord's second goal of the game with just seven seconds remaining.

Black made 28 saves in his first victory as a Jackalopes and he helped end an 11 game winless skid that the Jackalopes have been on since the start of the new year.

Frustrating would likely be the word of choice for Saturday night's result. It was frustrating that the Jackalopes fell behind 1-0 in the second period. It was frustrating that their 2-1 lead was erased by two quick goals by New Mexico in the third. It was frustrating that their miraculous comeback with under two minutes to go was all four nought as the Jackalopes (8-16-2-2) fell to the Ice Wolves (7-18-1-1) by a score of 4-3 at the Ector County Coliseum.

After a scoreless first period the Jackalopes fell behind in the second period in the early goings. But Odessa showed good resiliency as they settled in, killed a penalty and went back on the attack. The tying goal came off of the stick of Kyle VanCompernolle as a bouncing puck found him at the side of the cage and he made sure that puck crossed the goal line for his second goal of the season.

Exactly two minutes later the Jackalopes took their first lead of the game. Charlie Banquier led a two-on-one rush up the ice with rookie Jack Musa. After skating in on the left side, Banquier fed a picture perfect pass over to Musa who went upstairs with his quick release to net his second goal of the season and put the Jackalopes squarely in the drivers seat.

It seemed that the Jacks would ride out the third period to their second straight win, but the Ice Wolves had other plans. Two back-to-back goals in less than two minutes put New Mexico back in front and the Jackalopes behind the eight-ball.

Odessa had several opportunities on a late power play to score but came up empty.

It came down to the final two minutes, when Jimmy Rayhill, the defenseman, pinched in low below the right circle and came up to the near-side post. Rayhill was able to back-hand a puck into the net with under two minutes to play to tie the contest up 3-3.

The Jackalopes went to overtime for just the second time in 2021. Like the third period, Odessa had several great chances to score and end the game. The best was a break-away in the mid stages of the extra session. But eventually, the game required a shootout to decide a winner. New Mexico was able to score on their third shooter while the Jackalopes were all stonewalled.

Despite the loss, the Jackalopes did finish the weekend series with three out of a possible four points and made a small step forward in capturing a post-season berth. But perhaps the biggest accomplishment of this weekend was the strides that this team has shone. The play on the ice is night and day from a few weeks ago when the Jacks were in the grip of a massive winless streak. Confidence is starting to build in players, and a belief that things can and will turn in Odessa's favor. If nothing else, there is a victory in that.

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