It took a shootout, but the Texas Tornado defeated the Coulee Region Chill by a score of 4-3 on Saturday, likely clinching the NAHL Showcase crown. The Tornado finished the Showcase with a mark of 4-0, and a goal differential of +12. Kalamazoo went 4-0 but was unable to beat Texas’s differential, while two more 3-0 teams, Wenatchee and Brookings, play each other later on Saturday. If Brookings wins by less than eight goals or Wenatchee wins by less than six, the Tornado will take home the crown.
Brandon Hawkins had a pair of power-play goals for the Tornado, while Justin Greenberg added a marker of his own in the third. Greenberg added a goal in the shootout along with Nick Neville, while Tornado goaltender Hunter Leisner stopped 25 of 28 shots and 4 of 5 in the shootoout.
The Tornado opened the scoring with a power-play goal, giving them markers with the man advantage in all four Showcase games. The first shot came from the left point and Michael Hoy, but went well wide. After the puck ricocheted out to the right point, Nick Neville tried his luck. The puck hit the crossbar, but fell right to Hawkins’ stick. He corralled it and beat Chill goaltender Aaron Davis and gave the Tornado a 1-0 lead.
The Chill answered before the first period was up on a goal scored by Mac Jansen. Jansen, who saw passes on a pair of two-on-ones lead to great saves by Leisner, was the recipient of a saucer pass from Jake Kaupilla. He took the pass and redirected it past Leisner to tie the score at 1, which would hold through the first intermission.
Just one goal was scored in the second period, and once again, it was Hawkins on the power-play. The play started when Anthony Mousseau hit C.J. Reuschlein with a pass at center point. With time, space, and Hawkins setting up a screen in front, Reuchlein stepped into a wrist shot that Hawkins managed to get his stick on. The puck redirected past Davis, and the Tornado took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room after two periods.
It took less than a minute into the third period for the Tornado to make it a two-goal game, on Greenberg’s first goal of the season. Reuschlein took a pass from Greenberg and shot it on goal from the left wing. Davis made the stop, but couldn’t get to the rebound as Greenberg drove hard to the net up the middle and put the rebound home to make it a 3-1 game.
But a pair of power-play goals from Coulee Region allowed them to tie the score. The first was Jansen’s second of the game and came after he took a Brady Reisgraf pass and shot it past Leisner for the goal. Then, with less than two minutes left, a skirmish in front after a whistle led to a roughing call on Jason Eddy put the Chill a man up, and a slapshot from Derek Smith found the back of the net to tie the score.
Neither team scored in the remaining 1:49 of third period or overtime, so the teams went to a shootout, where the Tornado prevailed. They return to the ice on Saturday, September 29th, when they open the home portion of their schedule against the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Opening faceoff from Dr Pepper Arena is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.