ODESSA, TX – The unofficial second half of the North American Hockey League’s regular season began for the Amarillo Bulls on Friday night, but it didn’t start the way they had hoped. The Bulls blew a 2-0 first period lead and dropped a 3-2 decision in a shootout to the Odessa Jackalopes at Ector County Coliseum.
The single point kept the Bulls within five back of the Corpus Christi IceRays for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division with games on hand. The Odessa-Amarillo game was part of the New Avenues I-27 Freeway Championship Belt Series between the two teams and the Bulls still maintain a 2-1 advantage through three games with two more to come in the Texas Panhandle on Saturday and Sunday night.
Aaron Swanson and Alex Peterson fired goals for the Bulls in the first period, while Evan Somoza and Matt Brown tallied in regulation for Odessa. Somoza then added the game winner in the final round of regulation shooters.
The Bulls came out firing their guns in the first 12 minutes of play in the game versus the Jackalopes. Aaron Swanson completed a pass at the side of the net for his second of the season from Jon Russell and newcomer Nick Anderson at the 1:26 mark. Just over 10 minutes later, the power play went to work and it was the combination of Alex Peterson and Jon Russell that converted a 2-on-1 break with help from Marcus Chorney. Each team had 12 shots on goal in the first period.
The middle stanza was controlled by Odessa which had the visitors on the retreat mode for most of the 20 minutes. The Jackalopes fired 17 shots and finally found the back of the net when Evan Somoza scored on the power play with just over three minutes remaining.
The Bulls started better in the third period, but couldn’t convert any scoring chances past Brett Epp who after a leaky first period settled down and kept his team in the game. Special teams proved to be an issue for Rocky Russo’s charges as Odessa tied the game shorthanded when Matt Brown banged home a rebound at the side of the net. Amarillo asserted itself in the final five minutes of regulation but failed to gain much traction. The same could have been said for overtime as the Bulls had the better of the chances.
In the shootout there was no scoring until Evan Somoza stuffed in a puck near the crease on his attempt.
The Odessa Jackalopes outshot the Amarillo Bulls 43-33. Each team went 1 for 5 on the power play in the contest.
The same two teams hit the ice at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center with the puck drop set for 7 pm. Saturday is sponsored by Jimmy Johns with fans encouraged to bring in their receipt to help support the TOADS (Type One Area Diabetic Support) organization. Sunday is the 8th annual New Year’s Eve game sponsored by Budweiser. The first 500 fans get party favors and there is also $1 hotdogs. There is special ticket pricing of $8 for end zones and $10 red sections.
Tickets are available at the Bulls Office located at 301 South Polk, Civic Center Box Office and all Panhandle Ticket locations including United Supermarkets or online at www.amarillobulls.com and www.panhandletickets.com. For further information on Group Rates, Flex Packs and Preferred Rates please call the Bulls Office at 806-242-1122.