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NA Now: Odessa Jackalopes

August 31, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 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.

Odessa Jackalopes

Head Coach: Scott Deur (3rd Season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 30-27-3, 63 pts. (6th in the South Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Ryan Mansfield (55 points)

2023 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2023-24 Division: South

First regular season game: Wednesday, September 13th vs. Maryland Black Bears

Home opener: Friday, October 27th vs. El Paso Rhinos

In their second year under head coach Scott Deur, the Odessa Jackalopes showed improvement again last season. The Jacks matched their point total from the 2021-22 season with 63 points and improved in the win department with 30 wins. Heading into the final month of the regular season, the Jackalopes had a outside shot to make the playoffs, but three losses in their last four games sealed their fate.

“I think it’s tough to consider the season a success if you don’t make the playoffs. However, we have done some things here in Odessa in my two years that have improved the team and is moving us in the right direction. The next step is to make the playoffs and give yourself a shot at winning a Championship. We had some good NCAA commitments and are proud to move guys onto the next level. Overall, it was a success, but we still have the void there of not making the playoffs,” said Deur.

One area where the Jacks were noticeably better were in their NCAA commitments. In total, 12 players ended the 2022-23 season with an NCAA commitment, which almost doubled their total from the prior season. Leading scorer and Top Prospects forward Ryan Mansfield committed to Bentley University. The next three leading scorers, Emerson Goode (Ferris State), Tanyon Bajzer (Miami), and Dayne Hoyord (Army) are also headed to play NCAA Division I hockey.

Deur and Jackalopes are hoping that their upward momentum continues into the upcoming 2023-24 season. They have a challenging schedule at the NAHL Showcase, but then things get even more difficult after that as they are on the road for the next 10 consecutive games after that, including stops in New Mexico, Colorado, El Paso, Amarillo, and back to El Paso before hosting their home opener on October 27th.

Watch: NA Now video interview with Scott Deur

“Every game is tough, night in and night out. The South has a very difficult travel schedule, but we are fortunate to kind of be geographically right in the middle of it. There’s a little time to figure out the speed and work ethic that you have to have on a nightly basis to compete and the quicker you get through those, the quicker you can have a better season. You must really know your team and see how they are feeling. There is a fine line between knowing when to push the players and ease up, so communication is the key,” said Deur. “We must start fast this season and get off to a good start. We got off to a decent start last year and kind of took it for granted and it hurt us at the end. The two big things we want to clean up heading into this season is playing better in our defensive zone and having an effective power play.”

The Jackalopes will be fortunate to have 8-9 returning players, which include defensemen Trevor Mitchell and John Wojciechowski, who are both entering their third season in the NAHL. Mitchell is a veteran of 98 NAHL games, while Wojciechowski has appeared in 101 career games. “Both Trevor and John know what I am looking for and know what I want, so it should provide us with some good leadership this season,” said Deur.

Following that upward trend that has been established under Deur, the Jackalopes feel like the 2023-24 season should be one where the team gets back to the Robertson Cup Playoffs, which last happened during the 2017-18 season. “It’s been a while since the Jackalopes have made the playoffs and it’s something our fans and community deserve because they have been so supportive. Win or lose, they are there for us, so we would like nothing more than to give them some playoff hockey in 2023-24,” said Deur.

The action for the Jackalopes begins at the NAHL Showcase as they face the Maryland Black Bears on Day 1. Deur, who played in the NAHL, said that it is a memorable experience for everyone. “Having been there both as a player and as a coach, it’s just a wonderful event. It’s great to see everyone that’s involved in our hockey world and catch up with them. As a player, there are some nerves there. Everyone wants to play well and they know there are a lot of eyes on them, so they really have to make sure to focus and play to their strengths.”

Next Up: Oklahoma Warriors

 
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