IceRays Preview: Game 7 (Home Opener)

Rays Look to Open Strong After Bumpy Showcase
After a showcase tournament in which the IceRays suffered a number of undeserved defeats, they are looking to put the past behind them and set their sights on winning their home opener.Things simply did not go the IceRays’ way during the four-game stretch in Blaine, MN this year. They surrendered a last-minute goal in three of the four contests, all of which were decided by a very narrow margin. They didn’t allow more than two even-strength goals in any of the games they played, and had a big goal by Jayson Dimizio controversially waived off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. Dimizio’s tally would have virtually put the game out of reach, but the Knights ended up tying things late in regulation to force overtime, and eventually defeated the Rays in a shootout. Despite outplaying their opponents for large stretches of the showcase, they did not manage to take home a victory. Tonight, the IceRays are hosting an Odessa Jackalopes team which has won three games in a row and has looked strong since dropping their season-opener in Amarillo. One of their rookie forwards, Evan Rochowiak, is already tied for third in NAHL scoring (2 G, 5 A). Slowing him down and cracking a stingy Odessa defense which only allowed six goals at the showcase will be challenges the IceRays will need to solve this weekend.

The Matchup
Tonight, the IceRays are hosting an Odessa Jackalopes team which has won three games in a row and has looked strong since dropping their season-opener in Amarillo. One of their rookie forwards, Evan Rochowiak, is already tied for third in NAHL scoring (2 G, 5 A). Slowing him down and cracking a stingy Odessa defense which only allowed six goals at the showcase will be challenges the IceRays will need to solve this weekend. In addition, the Jackalopes boast the third-best power play in the NAHL (29.2%). Although the season is young and that statistic may yet be misleading, the IceRays do need to be cautious not to give a hot power play the chance to shine. Fortunately, the IceRays have shown to be fairly disciplined six games into the season, going shorthanded only three times per contest.

Veterans Leading by Example
One great sign from the young season has been the leadership displayed by IceRays veterans. The returning players make up less than a third of Corpus Christi’s roster, yet they have scored more than half of their total goals thus far. More importantly, they are proving to be two-dimensional players capable of thriving on both power plays and penalty kills. They’ve been exemplary in the shot-blocking department, as well. On Friday afternoon, Josh Tripp put himself in front of a heavy slap shot with his team shorthanded. The block took him out of the game, but he is expected to return to action this weekend. Having veterans who make selfless, crucial plays is a fundamental ingredient for success in junior hockey. Players who are new to the intensity of the NAHL learn more from watching them than they possibly could from anyone else. Once the veterans’ grit and leadership inevitably trickles throughout the rest of the lineup, the IceRays will become an extremely difficult team to defeat.

Game Night Promotions
The IceRays’ home opener will be dedicated to the Harvey victims. We have extended our regards to the victims and the first responders of Hurricane Harvey by inviting at NO cost the residents of Port Aransas, Rockport, Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Refugio along with several first responders. Frosty Fridays have also changed this year; all pints will be $3 instead of 10 ounce $1 beers.