Tornado close out regular season with 6-1 win
Jackson Leef scored two goals in the Texas Tornado’s final game of the regular season, a 6-1 win over the Corpus Christi IceRays. Taylor Herndon, Mark Biggs, Ondrej Kopta, and Jordan Lovick joined Leef in the goal column, while Hunter Leisner picked up his 10th win in a Tornado uniform with 13 saves in two periods. Joakim Jutras replaced Leisner after the second period and played a scoreless third period.
The Tornado broke the scoreless tie about midway through the first with what was the only goal of the period. Herndon skated into the IceRays zone and hit Nick Neville with a drop pass at the right wing. Neville returned the puck back to Herndon at the side of the net, where the Oklahoma City, Okla. native redirected it through the legs of Stolarz and over the goal line. The goal was Herndon’s 20th of the season and came at 10:06 of the first.
Corpus Christi evened the score very early in the second period, with a goal scored by Eric Purcell just 48 seconds in. Purcell took a pass from Danny Fetzer and skated into the Tornado zone. He got to the top of the right-wing circle and fired a shot that managed to beat Leisner and tied the score at one.
That was as close as the IceRays would get, however, as the Tornado reeled off five straight goals to close out the game. At 11:36 of the second, a couple of fortuitous bounces led to the first of Leef’s goals. A centering pass went off the skate of IceRays defenseman Chris Taff and then back into the crease. Anthony Stolarz reached his stick out to poke the puck away, but in doing so, moved it right to Leef in the slot. He settled the puck and sent a wrist shot top shelf and gave the Tornado a 2-1 lead.
Just over two minutes later, Kopta scored his first goal since he had two against Fresno on January 27th. Mico Solorzano had the puck behind the net and spotted Kopta waiting in the slot. His one-timer beat Stolarz and extended the Texas lead to two goals. Two and a half minutes later, Biggs picked up his second goal in as many games. John Kirtland had the puck in the left-wing circle before getting the puck to Biggs in the slot. The native of Plano set his feet and unleashed a wrist shot that once again beat Stolarz high and made it a 4-1 game.
Still in the second period, Leef doubled his goal total on the night after taking a pass from Jordan Lovick and slipping it through the five-hole to make a 5-1 game. It was still 5-1 when the teams went to the dressing rooms for the second intermission, and when the third period started it appeared that both teams were content to skate the final 20 minutes without much incident. But at 12:12 of the third, Lovick picked up his 20th goal of the season on a quick wrist shot the beat Stolarz.
The Tornado finish their regular season at 36-16-8, good for 80 points overall. The next Tornado game will be against Topeka in the first round of the Robertson Cup playoffs, though where and when remains to be decided. Whether or not they place second or third in the South depends on the results of Sunday’s game between Topeka and Odessa. A Roadrunners win means that Topeka will leapfrog the Tornado in the standings and earn home-ice advantage in their first round matchup. Should Odessa win, Texas will hold on to the second seed and host a possible Game 5 against Topeka in the first round. Playoff dates and times will be announced as soon as they are made official.