As the bus pulls into a tunnel leading into the Amarillo Civic Center, the driver is informed he must park elsewhere. "We've got to back out," the driver mutters. "They're staging some kind of animal show in there."
The animal show turns out to be the city's annual Nativity pageant, being held in the auditorium adjacent to the hockey arena. The cast includes donkeys, lambs and llamas. To reach their dressing room, the Jackalopes must file through the town of Bethlehem, complete with Roman soldiers.
Before the game, as the Virgin Mother, Joseph and a trio of wise men look on with expressions of profound dismay, trainer Greg Andis tapes the knee of a player who is standing in a passageway with his hockey pants pulled down, revealing a protective apparatus he has hand-labeled MISTER CUPPY. A little while later in the locker room, the Jackalopes make a vow: They will not lose tonight.
In a scene out of Hoosiers, about 100 Odessa fans who have traveled 250 miles through the winter storm sit behind the visitors' bench to cheer for their team. Their loyalty is rewarded. With nine minutes left, Laine ties the game at 3-3 on a 12-foot shot from a bad angle that finds the upper left corner. The Jackalopes avert a crisis in the final minutes as Tornquist, playing the game of his life, makes a glove save while performing a one-and-a-half backward somersault with a twist, enabling the Jacks to kill a five-on-three penalty and push the game to overtime.
Odessa's Dan Lavergne, who was playing for Colby College against teams like Williams and Amherst a year earlier, scores a goal in the OT shoot-out. So does Laine. The Jackalopes win for the first time in six games, 4-3. In the dressing room Triano, who has played about 25 minutes with the broken toe, presses his face against the wall, sobbing in agony, while Andis cuts off the skate and exposes a foot that is grotesquely swollen and black.
"You won't walk for a month," says an onlooker.
"I'll play Tuesday night," says Triano. An hour later, Triano and the Jackalopes board the bus again. They ride off into the darkness, toward a vague light in the sky that glimmers just beyond the Panhandle horizon