Wildcatters Season, Era, Ends in Gut-Wrenching 4-1 Defeat
Beaumont, TX--The Texas Wildcatters' Kelly Cup playoff run and ECHL tenure to an end last night as the Catters gave up to empty net goals in the closing seconds, falling 4-1 to the Columbia Inferno in Game 5 of the South Division Semifinals. Columbia wins the series 3-2.
The Wildcatters fired 47 shots but their only goal came late in the second period as Troy Riddle gathered a rebound off the back dasher and slid in inside the far post. Todd Ford, who was sensational in each of the final three games of the series, gave another championship caliber performance in goal for the Inferno.
The Wildcatters, who went 0-for-18 on the power play in the final three games of the series, had two chances on the man-advantage in the first period but were unable to convert. Power play goals had been equally difficult to come by for Columbia-who went 0-for-12 in Games Three and Four-but Peter Tsimikalis broke the streak when he converted on the first Columbia power play at 12:49 of the first period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Anton Khudobin, who again gave Texas a heroic performance between the pipes making 26 often-spectacular saves, took a shot in the chest and momentarily lost sight of the puck as the rebound fell behind him in the goal crease. Mac Faulkner jumped on the loose rebound and tucked it home with four minutes remaining in the second period to give Columbia the 2-0.
Riddle's timely goal came with just :52 seconds left in the second period as Tim Cook's blast from the point bounced off the boards behind Ford and straight to the stick of Riddle on the far post. John Adams also collected an assist on the play.
Down just a goal in the third period, an energized crowd of about 1,000 would be on their feet for much of the frame. The energy seemed to transfer to the ice as Texas fired 20 shots on goal in the final 20 minutes in a frenzied battle to extend their season.
Ford proved impenetrable, and when Khudobin was pulled for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds of the game, two empty-net goals sealed the victory for the Inferno and put an end to a the Wildcatters Kelly Cup hopes and the ECHL era in Southeast Texas.
The Wildcatters will become the Reign of Ontario, California in 2008-09. Local investors hope to bring a CHL franchise to the Beaumont area but details are yet undetermined.
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