AMARILLO, TX –Another Amarillo hockey history mark was achieved on Saturday night on home ice at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center.
The Amarillo Bulls captured the Texas Panhandle’s first ever regular season overall championship by blanking the Odessa Jackalopes 1-0. It’s the second title to be captured by the Bulls this season as a couple of weeks ago they won the South Division Regular Season title.
The Bulls did it with incredible defensive play, a timely goal and outstanding goaltending from Gregg Gruehl who stopped all 39 shots he faced, including a breakaway in the third period.
“It was a great team effort and Odessa played well,” said Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams. “It was a coin toss type of game. Gregg Gruehl made all the saves he could tonight and Mike Erickson was very opportunistic on his play. This time of year you love to play in those types of games and games that are 1-0 and 2-1 are fun to coach.”
Williams said he couldn’t be more proud of his players in capturing the regular season overall title.
“From day one until now they have battled and battled and worked hard,” Williams added. “I am very excited for them and very proud of the guys who returned from last year to our guys this year. We have a great team and I expect more big things from this program and I couldn’t be happier for them now.”
It was a physical opening 20 minutes that featured no scoring. There were plenty of hard hits and punishing plays. The Bulls had a goal called off when referee stated that Bulls players were in the goal crease area, and interfered with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Amarillo outshot Odessa 14-13.
The Bulls opened the scoring early in the second period and it was set up by great penalty killing. Michael Erickson who blocked a shot and then headed up the ice on a rush. He fired the puck up high beating Connor Hellebuyck to make it 1-0. Karl Beckman grabbed the lone assist at the 7:06 mark. Odessa outshot Amarillo 14-12.
In the final 20 minutes, it was all the Bulls and their conditioning that took over. Bulls’ players pressured the Jackalopes inside their own end, wearing down the defensemen. Even though the shots were even at 12-12, the Bulls had control with a large variety of play inside the visitor’s zone.
The Odessa Jackalopes outshot the Amarillo Bulls 39-38. There were 10 total power plays with neither team being able to find the back of the net.
South Division update:It remains tied in the South Division for both second place and the fourth and final playoff spot. The Texas Tornado and the Topeka RoadRunners are tied for second following wins tonight. The RoadRunners have the advantage because of more victories. With the IceRays and the Jackalopes both losing tonight, the fourth and final playoff spot remains even. Odessa and Corpus Christi each have the same amount of points and wins. The IceRays close out the season in Texas against the Tornado, while the Jackalopes are on the road with games in Wichita Falls and then a double header in Topeka.
Next action for the Amarillo Bulls is Thursday, Mar. 29 and Saturday, Mar. 31 when they visit the New Mexico Mustangs at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The face off for both contests is set for 7:30 pm mountain, 8:30 pm central. Fans can tune into the games live on ESPN1440 and www.amarillobulls.com, beginning with pre-game coverage presented by Wayland Baptist University at 8:15 pm central. Denis J. Puska has the exciting call to follow. The games are also available on Pay-Per-View courtesy of Fast Hockey and a high speed internet connection is required in order to view the games.