Amarillo, Tx– In comeback fashion, the Wranglers defeated the Odessa Jackalopes to secure their ninth-straight win and clinch the final south division playoff spot.
The Wranglers would have to win the season finale without affiliated goalie Connor McDonough who reached his ten-game limit in the NAHL this season. Carter Clafton would get the nod for game 60 of the season.
Odessa would score in a hurry to open up the game. Just 1:29 in, the Jackalopes would score a power play goal from Dayne Hoyord. For the entire opening period, the Jackalopes would limit the Amarillo offense and keep them off the board to take the one-goal lead into the second period.
Controversy would surround the second Odessa goal in the early stages of the middle period when Kyle Demarco and Brendon Finn collided with Clafton, knocking the net off but sending the put over the goal line. After a conversation with the officials, they determined it to be a good goal, and the Jackalopes would have a 2-to-0 lead.
For most of the second period, Amarillo would find a second gear and fire pucks at Gergely Orosz but to no avail. Jack McDonald would finally find the back of the net for Amarillo when the Wranglers took away the puck, and McDonald crashed to the goal on a breakaway. McDonald would score his 15th of the year to make it 2-to-1 heading into the third period.
With a chance to clinch a playoff berth, Amarillo wasted no time getting to work down by a goal in the third period. Just 1:24 into the period, Ben Ivey would find the back of the net to tie the game. After Ivey’s goal, Amarillo again stepped up their attack on the Odessa goal. With close to 17 shots on goal, Amarillo would turn to a familiar scorer to grab their first lead of the game. At 14:49 on the power play, Ben Ivey would again find the back of the net to make it a 3-to-2 game with under six minutes left.
In the next five minutes, Clafton and the Wranglers’ defense would shut down any Odessa advances and melt down the clock to set up a tense final minute. With a fleury of action in the Amarillo zone, the Wranglers would clear the puck to center as the last few seconds came off the clock. The buzzer sounded as the Wranglers poured over the bench to celebrate the playoff berth.
Amarillo held Odessa to just four shots in the last twenty minutes of the game. The New Mexico Ice Wolves defeated the Oklahoma Warriors and would finish one point behind Amarillo.
The Wranglers will take on the regular season champion Oklahoma Warriors in the Robertson Cup Playoffs opening round. Oklahoma finished the year with a 44-14-1-1 record, and Amarillo surpassed last season’s win total with a 34-23-2-1 record this season.
The first two rounds of the playoffs will be the best-of-five series. Games one and two will occur at the Blazers Ice Center in Oklahoma City next Friday and Saturday. Amarillo will host game three Friday, April 28, and game four, if needed, on April 29.