Odessa Jackalopes Shouldn't Feel So Bad
Jason Cohen ITC Staff Writer
El Paso, TX -
After taking in their upset of the top-seeded Jacks,
no one around the Central Hockey League expected the
El Paso Buzzards to roll over in the Southern Conference
No one expected
them to put three goals past the Ice Bats inside of
five minutes, either.
took out Austin 6-1 in Game 1, doing the most damage
early, with Van Burgess tallying 80 seconds in and Derrell
Upton scoring twice in 26. The 3-0 cushion was enough
of a surprise that the County Coliseum press box received
a call from someone wanting to confirm the score was
take them lightly, but we weren't ready to play,"
Ice Bats coach Brent Hughes said. "They were the
better team tonight, and they showed it."
El Paso was simply
faster, smarter, harder, especially to start the game.
Burgess' goal was freakish, a bad-angle slice that appeared
to zip across the crease behind McMullen, only to be
knocked in by the goaltender himself. At the other end,
Jeff Levy made close-up stops on both Gerald Tallaire
and Kelly Smart, setting the stage for Upton's double
play. Troy Linna got a step on the Austin defense for
a shot from the left circle; the rebound popped into
the slot and Upton got it as a sea of solid jerseys
came crashing to the ice. That came at 4:17 of the first
period. The second goal was on a similarly scrambly
follow-up at 4:43.
three goals weren't pretty, they just went in the net
off bad breaks, but when you work, you get breaks,"
off to a bad start," Bats defenseman Daniel Tetrault
said. "We didn' t respect our opponent. Maybe it's
a wake up call for our team. Maybe it's good to lose
the first one. Now we know it's not going to be easy
but nothing in the playoffs is. We took that
for granted tonight. Give them credit, they're a hard
working team and we've got to respect them. We've got
to match their work ethic."
The Bats were
0-for-2 on the power-play in the first period, when
it counted, and 0-for-2 in the second as well, though
by then John Hanson had made it 4-0 with the first of
his two goals. Mike Rees also scored for El Paso, while
Tab Lardner ruined Levy's shutout with a third-period
shorty. Austin settled down and found its game the last
two periods, but Levy stayed strong, and his teammates
never slackened. They seemed to get a stick on more
than 50% of Austin's attempted shots and passes, all
they responded after we had a 3-0 lead, continuing to
be physical, that was important for us tonight,"
El Paso coach Trent Eigner said "With the way the
series was set up, with the first two at home, we thought
getting a quick start was important. I'm sure we'll
see a much better Austin team in Game 2."
fighting back and fighting back but we couldn't grab
one," Hughes said. "Levy played great for
them. We need to find a way to get more traffic, get
more shots and get our power play clicking. A split
is still a great situation with the next three at home,
so tomorrow's a big hockey game."
Talk among El
Paso's fans hearkened back to the team's two championship
seasons, and Eigner didn't shy away from the comparison.
"Having played on those teams I think some of the
things I see are similar," he said. "The level
of commitment, and we have a character group of guys.
They know the meaning of 'team' and they work hard for
each other. That's an important thing in the playoffs."
NOTE: El Paso
beat Austin in six games in 1997, the first-ever Western
Professional Hockey League season. The Buzzard went
on to win the first two President's Cups. With Bossier-Shreveport
remaining in the North, there's still a 50% chance that
no new team will take the Cup (never mind that all those
Miron and Levins Cup winners from the previous edition
of the CHL complicate the issue).