Five unanswered goals by the Amarillo Bulls in the 2nd period and early in the 3rd period, was just enough as a furious Tornado comeback late in the game fell just short in Game 1 of the South Division Semi-Finals, as the Bulls edged out to the Tornado 7-5 to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 in Friday, April 1st back in Amarillo at 7pm.
The Bulls came out in Game #1 firing, testing Tornado goaltender Jimmy Kruger from the start in front of the home crowd. Less than three minutes in, a Tornado turnover in their defensive zone led to a shot on goal by Dan Sherer which was denied by Kruger, but the rebound bounced to the stick of Zack Smoot, who shelved a shot over Kruger for the early 1-0 Amarillo lead. The Tornado would respond four minutes later as Nate Sliwinski rushed the puck up the right hand wing and found a streaking Tyler Rostenkowski, who wristed a shot past Bulls goalie Nikifor Szczerba to tie the game at 1-1. Jack Prince picked up the second assist. The Tornado would get more scoring from their defensemen later in the period as a face-off win by David Rigatti won the puck to Seth Johnson who got it to the point for Walker Hyland, who's shot made its way through traffic, off of Szczerba and into the back of the net for a 2-1 Tornado lead. The Tornado outshot the Bulls 14-9 in the 1st period.
The 2nd period was one of horrors for the Tornado, as they were outplayed by the Bulls. The momentum shifted when the Tornado failed to convert on a 5 on 3 power play, failing to show any urgency to increase their one-goal lead, and it would cost them dearly. Sean Keane made it 2-2, as the Tornado would again turn the puck over in their own zone, and Keane took advantage streaking down the right side and sizzling a shot over Kruger's glove hand. The Tornado power play again let the team down as an errant pass to the point sent Matt Johnson on a shorthanded breakaway and he beat an outstretched Kruger to give Amarillo the lead back at 3-2. The Tornado then found themselves in the box, and Amarillo's power play wasting no time in showing Texas how to score on the power play as Matt Johnson again scored on a centering pass from Dan Sherer. The bleeding continued late in the period for the Tornado as TJ Sarcona beat the Tornado defense out of the corner and sent a backhand shot past Kruger for a 5-2 lead after two periods. The Bulls outscored Texas in the period 4-0 and outshot the Tornado 16-13 in the period.
Amarillo wasted no time increasing the lead to 6-2 as Sean Keane followed up a breakaway chance by Michael Erickson, with the original save coming from Kruger. The Tornado showed some spark in the second half of the 3rd period as Jimmy Murray took it upon himself to try and get the Tornado back in the game and if anything, send a message for Game #2. Murray scored from the top of the face-off circle on the power play past a screened Szczerba to make it 6-3. Murray then made it 6-4 as he circled from behind the net and backhanded a shot to the shortside of Szczerba and gave the Tornado some more life. Things looked even better for Texas as Marc Biggs scored on a pass from Tyler Rostenkowski to make just 6-5 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. With Kruger pulled for the extra-attacker in the final seconds, the Tornado had several chances to tie the game, particularly from Jack Prince in front, but Szczerba was saved his best saves for last as the Bulls ended any thought of a comeback with an empty net goal with just a second remaining to make the final 7-5 and give then Bulls a 1 to 0 lead in the best of 5 series.