NA Now: Odessa Jackalopes
The NA Now series features a look at all 29 teams in the NAHL for the 2022-23 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Scott Deur (2nd Season)
2021-22 record: 60 GP, 29-26-5, 63 pts. (5th in the South Division)
2021-22 leading scorer: Christopher Duclair (42 points)
2022 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2022-23 Division: South
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 14th vs. New Jersey Titans
Home opener: Friday, October 14th vs. El Paso Rhinos
While the Odessa Jackalopes narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season, the 2021-22 campaign can be considered a big success for the organization under first-year head coach Scott Deur. The 29 wins and 63 points was an improvement of 17 wins and 31 points from the season prior and was also the best record the Jackalopes have had in the NAHL since the 2017-18 season when they finished with 33 wins and 71 points.
The Jackalopes began the season with a 2-2 record at the Showcase, but they turned up the heat in October going 6-1-3 and moved into 1st place in the South. The team would stay above .500 for the rest of the season, but ultimately a 13-15-4 record against the four teams that finished above them in the standings (Lone Star, New Mexico, Wichita Falls, Shreveport) would be the difference in making the playoffs.
“We had a good first year and we are pleased because it was one of the better seasons the Jackalopes have had in the NAHL. It gives us something to build off. The South is a very tough division, so we know that we are going to have to keep improving in order to ultimately make the playoffs,” said Deur. “I think my experience playing in the NAHL and now coaching in the NAHL lends itself well to what our players are trying to accomplish. You have to stay determined during every step of the way and pay your dues. I have learned something from every stop I have been at, which has enabled me to pass that along.”
Another one of the big improvements for Odessa was the list of 10 players on the 2021-22 roster that were committed to NCAA schools. Commitments are something that Deur says are a source of pride for he and the organization. “I really enjoy working with and developing our players. It pays off when you see them get that NCAA commitment and the excitement that they have and can share with their friends and family,” said Deur. “I think it’s why we all coach. I’ve got guys that I’ve coached who are in the NCAA and beyond or who also want to get in coaching and its rewarding to me to know that I have made an impact.”
Watch: Interview with Odessa head coach Scott Deur
Heading into the 2022-23 season, the Jackalopes will have one of the more high-profile schedules at the 2022 NAHL Showcase. They open with the defending Robertson Cup Champions, the New Jersey Titans, followed by games against the Aberdeen Wings, North Iowa Bulls, and Fairbanks Ice Dogs. The game against the Ice Dogs will be a special one for Deur, who served as the Ice Dogs assistant coach for six seasons, which included winning the Robertson Cup Championship in 2016. “We have a great line-up of teams we are playing at the Showcase and our schedule is going to be a challenge, but it should be fun,” said Deur.
Despite the commitments, the Jackalopes will have a good group of returners coming back this season and on paper they should again contend for a playoff spot in the South. Leading the way will be forward and Army commit Dayne Hoyord. The Wisconsin native was 3rd in team scoring last season with 34 points in 58 games played and he also has appeared in the last two NAHL Top Prospects Tournaments. Also returning is forward Emerson Goode, who is coming off a solid rookie season that saw him put up 28 points in 50 games played along with earning an NCAA Division I commitment to Ferris State. The NAPHL grad got off to a fast start last season, putting up five points at the NAHL Showcase. Another key returning forward will be Ryan Mansfield, who put up 32 points in 56 games last season.
The Jackalopes do return goalie Noah Rupprecht, who will be back for a third season. Last season in 21 games played, Rupprecht was 8-8-1 and was among the NAHL leaders in save percentage with a .916 mark.
“We have some guys that can return that are starting off in other places, but there are 7-8 guys up front that we are looking to for big things offensively this season. I think we secured some depth and help on the backend through the NAHL Draft and I think they looked really good at our Main Camp. We will have to see how everyone gels at training camp, but overall, I think we feel good about the group,” said Deur.
Next Up: Northeast Generals