CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Special teams have been one of the many key to success this season for the Amarillo Bulls. That was the case again on Thursday night at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, TX.
Two power play goals and another set up after an excellent penalty kill lifted the Bulls past the Corpus Christi IceRays 5-1. It was the Bulls 39th win of the season and it officially secured home ice in the first round of the NAHL playoffs that begin next month.
Goaltender Mike Taffe won his fourth against the IceRays this season, stopping 26 of 27 shots he faced.
“Mike Taffe played great tonight and gave us a chance to win,” said Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams. “We scored a big goal in the final minute of the first period by Mike Erickson at the side of the net. We were able to score on a couple of our chances, and Corpus Christi was able to come back and make a game out of it in the third period. That made us grip the stick a little bit more, but we were then able to separate ourselves and score that fourth goal.”
It was an opening period dominated by special teams. The Bulls killed off a five-minute penalty with some strong work including two partial breakaway opportunities. Near the end of the opening period, the Bulls struck first when Michael Erickson scored on a great shot at the side of the net from Karl Beckman at 19:48. The Bulls outshot Corpus Christi 13-10 in the first period.
The Bulls opened the game up in the middle stanza with two goals 1:37 apart. It was started after a penalty kill when Luke Jenkins jumped on the ice and scored on a breakaway at 11:08. The Bulls fed off that goal and the momentum. It didn’t take long before Joe Kozlak got into the act, by scoring on a rebound in front of the net. Zane Popilock, John Gustafsson and Brandon Lubin earned assists on the goals. Amarillo outshot Corpus Christi 14-12 in the second period.
The IceRays closed the gap to 3-1 with a goal just two minutes into the third period. TJ Sarcona helped the Bulls separate themselves from the IceRays when he scored on a great shot. Sarcona, who broke his stick prior to the goal, had to rush to the bench and to grab Jude Warner’s. Sarcona took a great feed from Joe Kozlak and John Gustafsson.
Omar Mullan rounded out the scoring for Amarillo when he pushed the puck just across the goal line on the power play from Karl Beckman and Mike Erickson.
It was the IceRays fourth loss in a row and they failed to increase their lead for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South. Corpus Christi visits Odessa for a pair of games this weekend. The Bulls won their league leading 21st game on the road.
This was the lone game for the Amarillo Bulls this weekend. The Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center will be a busy place next Friday, Mar. 9 and Saturday, Mar. 10 when the Bulls host the Texas Tornado at 7 pm. Friday is Dollar Hot Dog Night, while on Saturday one lucky fan will shoot to win a brand new Scion TC courtesy of Street Toyota Scion. Tickets are available at the Bulls Office located at 301 South Polk in the Amarillo Building, Civic Center Box Office and all Panhandle Ticket Outlets. For further information on Group Rates, Playoff Packages or Corporate Marketing Partnerships, please call the Bulls Office at 806-242-1122.