FEBRUARY 18, 2015
One could venture to say that the third quarter of the 2014-15 season exceeded expectations. Others would contest that the standard has already been set, and the recent stretch has just been part of the evolution of the IceRays organization. Any way you look at it, the IceRays turned difficult odds into their favor.
As the seven-game home stand was pivotal to postseason hopes in the previous quarter, this quarter saw a seven-game road spill that included the lone trip to Washington State and a three-in-three set as well as 11 total games away from the American Bank Center and a non-existent home practice schedule. In all, the IceRays kept rolling with a 9-5-1 record and improving to 25-15-5 with 55 points on the year. The standings haven’t changed with the IceRays still stuck in fourth place, but the gap to the top has closed to just seven points.
“I think it would be really negative to say it wasn’t a successful quarter,” said IceRays head coach John Becanic. “We did some good things. For the most part, all the games were winnable, and we were in a position to win. Considering how much we played on the road and our road record going into the quarter, if you had asked me at the beginning of it I’d have been happy with even eight wins.”
The section of the season saw a few big marks for the IceRays. The team claimed their first road win of the season on Jan. 17 against the Wenatchee Wild as well as their first shootout win under Becanic after going 0-10-5 on the road and 0-14 in two years of shootouts. Forward Maksim Dzhioshvili recorded the first road hat-trick in junior franchise history on Jan. 30 against the Odessa Jackalopes. The team saw their largest crowd in junior franchise history (6,965 fans) on Feb. 7 against the Lone Star Brahmas. With that being said, there are some concerns heading into the final section of the season.
“The reality is we didn’t defend very well, our goals-against average was well over 3.50 in that span, our penalty kill has continued to plummet, and we’ve dealt with suspensions and injuries,” said Becanic. “So there are areas in which we can certainly be better, which I guess is the positive. We had a pretty good quarter, and there were some areas that we need to be better at.”