The Texas Tornado travelled to Amarillo to open their NAHL South Division Finals series against the Amarillo Bulls on Thursday evening. Both teams came out with energy early in the period but the ice slowly began to tilt toward Texas goaltender Hunter Leisner.
With exactly five minutes to go in the first stanza ex-Tornado Tyler Rostenkowski sent a shot on goal from center point which Leisner knocked down and attempted to cover up. Somehow the puck squirted out from under Leisner’s glove and Hampus Gustafsson alertly slapped it into the back of the net. Amarillo struck again at 19:53 with one of those goals last minute goals that a team never wants to give up. Clint Carlisle put a backhander on net off of Leisner that led to a mad scramble in front. Tyler Deresky sent the rebound off the post directly onto the tape of TJ Sherman. Sherman’s shot rank off the crossbar and then apparently off of Leisner and across the line. Texas cleared the puck and started up ice, but referee Lucas Martin signaled a goal to the surprise of everyone on the ice.
A dangerous checking from behind by Gage Christianson put the Tornado on the power play at 6:06 of the second. With three seconds left on the man advantage Justin Greenberg took a pass from Michael Hoy and blasted it off of Paul Berrafato. Drew Mayer was all alone at the near hash mark to onetime the rebound past Berrafato before he could recover.
At 17:05 Amarillo iced the puck at the end of a long shift, but used their standard practice of loading the ice and confusion to delay the dropping of the puck. With the Tornado lined up to take the draw the Bulls shuffled four players back and forth on and off the ice resulting in a full 61 seconds delay from the whistle to puck drop completely wiping out the no change penalty of the icing. After the puck finally dropped, Texas controlled play briefly before Amarillo got possession and sent a long pass to Gustafsson in neutral ice. As Gustafsson entered the zone Jason Eddy had him lined up and leveled him with a big open ice hit in the high slot. Multiple reviews of the hit revealed that Eddy never raised his arms on the hit and no Amarillo players including Gustafsson reacted to the hit, yet Eddy was sent to the box for elbowing. The resulting power play led to another last minute goal for Amarillo by Brady Ferguson with assists to Carlisle and John Rey. The goal halted any momentum Texas had and gave Amarillo a two goal cushion to play with in the third.
The Tornado put a lot of pressure on Berrafato in the final 20 minutes but never could get the puck past him. Then with under a minute left to play Omar Mullan went for a wrap around of the far post and Leisner kicked it away only to find the puck directed right back at him by an open Ryan Cole in the near circle. Cole’s goal came on Amarillo’s 54th shot of the night.
Amarillo dominated the shots on goal at 54-26 and were 1-3 on the power play. Texas on the other hand went 1-2 with the man advantage.
During the first intermission Tornado radio voice Corey Hersch played an interview he had done with Tornado forward CJ Reuschlein. While discussing the importance of scoring the first goal of the game, CJ made a statement that rings true for the Tornado going into game two. “If you don’t get that first one you have to fight back” said Reuschlein. “You can’t let the negatives override your bench.” Friday night will reveal if the Tornado fight back or if the negatives set in.