HIDALGO, TX – The sixth and final playoff spot has been volleyed back and forth the past couple of weeks between the Amarillo Bulls and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Now, they each have a share of that spot after the Bulls dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to Rio Grande Valley on Thursday night at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo Texas.
The Bulls and the Killer Bees each have 38 points, but Amarillo is placed ahead because they have one more victory. There is one final showdown between the two teams tomorrow (Friday) to conclude a stretch of four in a row.
Brady Crabtree fired the lone Bulls goal in the middle stanza. Anton Martinsson was spectacular in net turning aside 29 of 31 shots he faced including some big ones in the third period to keep his team even. Rio Grande Valley tied the game early in the third period, capitalizing on a turnover and then won with the lone goal in the shootout.
Bulls came into the game missing both Ben Jentsch and Cody Gylling due to suspension. Kasper Emanuelsson played his first game back since being injured against Odessa. The Bulls also called up Matt Nehls from Omaha to help out defensively during the two games.
The Amarillo Bulls came out strong in the first period against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees but were unable to score. The best chances came via shots from inside the blueline from Elijiah Barriga and Riley Christensen but denied by Nick Schmit. The Killer Bees were kept back for the most part and their few scoring chances were denied by goaltender Anton Martinsson. The Bulls outshot the Killer Bees in the scoreless first period 8-5.
It was a solid second period for the Amarillo Bulls that came out skating well and were able to get several quality scoring changes on defensive turnovers by the Killer Bees. The Bulls collected the game’s first goal on a face-off win thanks to the work of Brady Crabtree, Joey DiBenedetto and JJ Huerena. Crabtree grabbed the puck and pushed it towards the front of the net and then across the goal line at the 9:57 mark. Martinsson kept the Bulls in front with some big saves and easily turning the rebounds into corner for his team to clear away. The Killer Bees outshot the Bulls 14-12 in the second.
The third period started with the Bulls having to retreat against the charging Killer Bees. A turnover inside the blueline and lone the boards led to Rio Grande Valley tying the game when a shoot beat goaltender Martinsson. That goal fired up the homeside and had the Bulls on their heels for most of the stanza. There were just 14 shots on goal with the Killer Bees having the edge 9-5.
There was nothing decided in overtime between the two teams so they entered a shootout a place the Bulls had only ventured one other time during the season. On the fourth round the Killer Bees nudged one past Martinsson for the only goal. Kasper Emanuelsson thought he had scored in the shootout but hit both goal posts before the puck stayed out.
The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees outshot the Amarillo Bulls 31-27. There were a total of five power plays with Bulls missing on four of their attempts.
The eighth and final regular season meeting between the Bulls and the Killer Bees takes place on Friday at 7:30 pm at State Farm Arena. Fans can listen to the game live on CBS Sports Radio 1440 or online at www.amarillobulls.com on watch on PPV courtesy of Fast Hockey, beginning with the Wayland Baptist University Warm Up Show, 20 minutes before the puck is dropped.
A reminder in just over a week, there is more excitement at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center when the Bulls take on the Corpus Christi IceRays at 7 pm. Friday is AT&T night and the first 500 fans receive a goalie mask. Saturday is March of Dimes Super Hero Night with the Bulls wearing specialty jerseys in support of the great cause. A live auction follows immediately after the game with proceeds to benefit the March of Dimes.
Tickets are available at the Bulls Office at 301 South Polk Polk or by calling 242-1122 or the Civic Center Box Office, all Panhandle Ticket Outlets, and online at www.panhandletickets.com.