AMARILLO, TX – The Amarillo Bulls gave their fans an early Christmas present on Friday night at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center.
Brooks Behling scored twice and Mike Taffe stopped 22 of 23 shots to lift the Bulls past the Odessa Jackalopes 3-1 for their 24th win of the season. That victory coupled with a Texas Tornado 7-3 loss in Wichita Falls, increased the Amarillo lead to eight points in the South Division.
The difference in the game was the second period when the Bulls fired 23 shots on goal, scored twice, and totally dominated the Jackalopes at all ends of the ice surface.
“The second period was by far the most dominating period we have played all year long,” said Bulls Assistant Coach Rocky Russo. “We outshot them 23-6 and it was just a complete period from all 12 forwards to all of the ‘D’ (defensemen) getting ice. We were able to cycle down low, control the puck, cut off, get to the short side and make plays. Connor Hellebuyck kept them in and made some big time saves. It could have easily been 5 or 6 nothing before the period was over.”
It was an entertaining opening 20 minutes between the two teams. It was largely dominated by special teams with five total power plays. The Bulls scored the game’s first goal when Brooks Behling teed off a shot from the high slot area with just 16 seconds remaining in the stanza. That goal sent the Teddy Bears and Stuffed Animals down from the stands in support of the Toys for Tots Program. The Bulls outshot Odessa 17-7.
The Bulls came out buzzing in the second period and totally dominated the Jackalopes with 23 shots on net. Brooks Behling gave the Bulls a 2-0 advantage when he scored shorthanded at the 2:28 mark. It’s Behling’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season. With just six seconds remaining in the stanza, the Bulls bench erupted when Ryan Taylor converted a pass from Luke Jenkins for his first goal in an Amarillo uniform.
A fight started the third period between Omar Mullan of the Bulls and TJ Sennott for Odessa. The Jackalopes gave the Bulls all they could handle in the final 20 but could only manage one goal on Mike Taffe that took place in the second half of the stanza. In the final minute Odessa pulled its goaltender but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Tonight’s contest was the Bulls first of three in four nights before the Christmas Break. Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams said he wanted his charges to come out and finish strong before they left for the holidays.
“I know the guys were excited to be back at home, but the biggest thing we had to focus on was that it’s not the break yet,” Williams said. “We have three tough games ahead of us here and it would be a great to leave on a winning note. I really expect our guys to stay focused, and play like they can. I told them they can have their break on Tuesday morning.”
The Amarillo Bulls outshot the Odessa Jackalopes 45-23. There were a total of 12 power plays in the game and neither team could score a goal.
The Bulls and the Jackalopes will meet in the second game of the home-and-home series tomorrow (Saturday) night at 7 pm at Ector County Coliseum. Fans can tune into the game live on ESPN1440 and www.amarillobulls.com fueled by UStream, beginning at 6:45 pm. Denis J. Puska has the hard hitting action to follow. The game is also available on Pay-Per-View courtesy of Fast Hockey and a high speed internet connection is required in order to view the game.