Amarillo 4 @ Odessa 3 (OT) (Amarillo leads series, 2-1) - In a memorable, pulse-pounding South Division semi-final battle, the Odessa Jackalopes fell in game three of a five-game playoff series in overtime, 4-3 to the Amarillo Bulls Saturday at Ector County Coliseum. With the victory, top-seeded Amarillo took a two games to one series edge in the two teams’ South Division semi-final series.
For the third consecutive game, the Jacks scored first, when Tyler Cayemberg won a footrace to a loose puck deep in the right corner of the Amarillo zone at 11:55, swatting a wild shot over Amarillo goaltender Mike Taffe’s shoulder from an impossible angle. Then, exactly one minute later, in the aftermath of a Bulls turnover, Matt Williams and Tyller Robert found themselves on a two-on-one break and after a brilliant toe-drag move to evade the sweep check of an Amarillo defenseman, Williams found Robert in the high slot and the Maplewood, Minnesota native did the rest, banging a one-timer over Taffe’s right shoulder to double the Odessa lead.
Just like in Saturday’s game two, Amarillo scored the first goal of the second period, jumpstarting their comeback with back-to-back tallies from Luke Jenkins at 1:08 and John Gustafsson three minutes later to tie the game at two. Finding themselves in a precarious position, the Jackalopes dug deep and found their answer at 6:24 when Mikko Virtanen sent a hard wrister from the left point on Taffe and after the puck glanced off Darren Lapic’s stick, Willie Faust capitalized on the far doorstep, lifting the Jacks to a 3-2 advantage.
Faust’s score stood up for quite some time, as despite 26 third period shots, it took until the 18:44 mark of the final frame for the Bulls to even the score. With just over one minute remaining in regulation and with the net empty, Bulls defenseman Karl Beckman clapped a stinging slap-shot into a mass of bodies in front of the Odessa cage that ticked off Omar Mullan’s stick and past Jacks goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game at three and force a sudden-death overtime period.
Just 2:59 into the extra session, a similar, high-traffic play in front of the Odessa net yielded Amarillo’s game-winning tally, as John Gustafsson swatted and backhanded home a loose puck on a rebound play to deliver the Bulls a 4-3 win and a 2-1 series edge.
In another stong performance, Hellebuyck matched his own single-game Jackalopes franchise record for saves with 61 stops in the loss. Amarillo's Mike Taffe made 21 saves in the win.
Next up, the Jacks face elimination in a must-win game four, Tuesday at 7:05 pm at Ector County Coliseum. A loss in that game means Odessa’s season is over, but a victory would propel the Jacks into a decisive game five Saturday night in Amarillo.