GAME PREVIEW #4 – AT MINNESOTA WILDERNESS

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS

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MINNESOTA WILDERNESS

Thursday, September 18 at 8:00 P.M.

NAHL Game #31 • Road Game #3 • Season Series 0-0-0
Schwan Super Rink #2 • Blaine, Minn.

NAHL Showcase Game #2
Video: FASTHockey.com • Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 7:45 p.m. with Countdown to Faceoff

Today’s Game: The IceRays help to close out day two of the North American Hockey League Showcase as they take on the Minnesota Wilderness at Schwan Super Rink #2 in Blaine, Minn. This is the second-straight season the two teams have met in the NAHL Showcase.

Last Game: The IceRays earned their first win of the season, defeating the Kenai River Brown Bears 5-2 on Wednesday afternoon. Defender Anthony Cortese gave the IceRays their first lead of the game, 1-0, at 10:18 of the first period after putting away a loose puck off a Brad LeLievre shot for his first goal of the season. After allowing a power play goal toward the end of the first, Cortese fired back in the second period with a power play goal of his own to give the IceRays the lead again, 2-1, at 6:27. The IceRays would allow another goal just under three minutes later, but Cortese finished the hat-trick at 16:58 of the second period and gave his team the lead, 3-2. In the final period, forward Nathan Bryer earned his first two goals of the year, one at 5:21 and the other at 17:28–the latter goal was on a breakout.

Making History: With the hat-trick, Anthony Cortese becomes the first IceRays defender in the organization’s 17-year history that a blue liner has recorded a hat-trick in a game. That includes the team’s stint in the Central Hockey League and the first four seasons in the North American Hockey League. Cortese joined the team from the QMJHL a week ago today.

Trips For Trio: In addition to Cortese’s hat-trick, two additional players earned three points on the afternoon. Nathan Bryer scored two goals and assisted on the final Cortese goal, and Connor Kelly also added three assists to his season total.

Showcase Past: The IceRays have played 17 games at the NAHL Showcase, going 9-6-2 over their last five years. In 2013-14, the IceRays went 1-2-1 under John Becanic, winning their first game 5-4 against Minot. They would lose to Coulee Region (3-2), MN Wilderness (2-0), and Port Huron (4-3 SOL).

2013-14 Wilderness: Minnesota finished their first season in the North American Hockey League with a 37-14-9 record, earning 83 points and second place in the Midwest Division, eight points behind Robertson Cup Champions, Fairbanks IceDogs. Despite the strong regular season campaign, the Wilderness lost in the opening round of the 2014 NAHL Playoffs 3-2 against the Wenatchee Wild. Eric Brenk finished the season leading the team in goals (21) and points (43). Jakob Romo led the team in assists (22) and plus/minus (+33).

Last Time They Met: The IceRays lost in their only game against the Minnesota Wilderness, 2-0, during last year’s NAHL Showcase on day two. Dominik Tiffels scored the opening goal on the power play at 9:22 of the first period against IceRays goalie Ben Myers. The Wilderness wouldn’t score again until the third period when Brett Heikkila put the game away at 11:47 to secure the win. Wilderness netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo earned the win, stopping all 24 shots. The IceRays were outshot 25-24.

Sophomore Season: Nine players return to the Wilderness from their final 2013-14 roster for their second season in the NAHL. Leading returning players is forward Billy Exell (8+21=29), who leads returners in assists and points. Forward Dan Litchke (9+5=14) leads returners in goals. Ivan Chukarov (4+8=12) was the third-highest scoring defender on the roster last season and returns as the leading defensive scorer. Netminder Brock Kautz appeared on the final roster but did not play last season.

Buzz Kill: The Wilderness started the 2014-15 season strong with a 6-0 win on Wednesday against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees from the Schwan Super Rink #2 in Blaine, Minn. Neither team put through a goal in the first period, but Brett Heikkila started the scoring with an unassisted goal at 7:08 of the second period. Tyler Cline scored the next two goals in the period: the first on the power play at 17:50 with the help of Ivan Chukarov, and the second at 19:43 thanks to Jack Forbort and Dan Litchke. In the third period, Cline finished the hat trick at 4:37 with a power play goal assisted by Aaron Miller and Michael Covach. Miller added a tally at 16:50 with the aide of Nick Hedemyr, and Isak Bergland scored the final goal at 18:35 with Tyler Hart adding an assist. Ryan Anderson earned his first win of the season, saving all 15 shots against him.

Shot Stiflers: Minnesota only allowed 15 shots throughout their first game of the season. Though allowing ten shots in the opening period, the Wilderness kept the Killer Bees to two shots in the second period and three shots in the third period.

South Division Standings
1 – Topeka RoadRunners (3-0-0, 6 Pts)
2 – ICERAYS (1-1-1, 3 Pts)
3 – Amarillo Bulls (1-0-0, 2 Pts)
4 – Wichita Falls Wildcats (1-1-0, 2 Pts)
5 – Odessa Jackalopes (1-1-0, 2 Pts)
6 – Lone Star Brahmas (0-1-0, 0 Pts)
7 – Wenatchee Wild (0-1-0, 0 Pts)
8 – Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (0-1-0, 0 Pts)

Next Game: The IceRays continue their NAHL Showcase schedule on Friday, September 19 against the new members of the South Division, the Wenatchee Wild. Coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. with Countdown to Faceoff on FASTHockey.com with the opening faceoff at 1:45 p.m.