CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Corpus Christi IceRays (31-19-4-5) tied a junior franchise record for wins in a season and simultaneously sealed their best junior franchise standings finish with a 5-4 regulation win over the Wichita Falls Wildcats (29-23-5-2) on Friday night from the American Bank Center. The IceRays tie the record set in the 2014-15 season and will meet the Shreveport Mudbugs in the South Division Semifinals with a third place finish.
After a scoreless first period that had a lot of physical play to set the tone for the night, the middle frame sparked a lot of offensive output for both sides. Four combined goals stretched across in a 2:20 minute span starting at 3:34 of the second period. Wildcats forward Ricky Carballo fed a shot off the back of the IceRays netminder on their first power play of the frame to take a 1-0 lead. The next three goals came within one minute, and IceRays forward Griffin Loughran began the charge back with a backhanded shot from the left circle at 5:03 to tie the game, 1-1. Wildcats forward Nick Rosa answered back on their next power play at 5:37 with a shot from the left circle to take back the lead before IceRays forward Josh Tripp jammed home a loose puck after multiple opportunities at 5:54 to knot the game again, 2-2. The Wildcats did find a lead heading into the final period when forward Jeff Skinner poked a scrambling puck through the netminder at 16:36 to edge ahead, 3-2.
An early double-minor helped the IceRays gain back momentum to claim a game-tying goal. IceRays center Mason Krueger deflected a shot by defenseman Cody Fleckenstein between the circles at 2:46 on the power play to knot the game, 3-3. The IceRays earned their first lead of the night at 14:01 when center David Thomson batted in a third attempt from the left circle off a rebound to take a 4-3 advantage. The Wildcats did not go quietly, and at 17:12 defenseman Jonathan Waring slipped a shot from the left circle into the net to even the score at 4-4. With third place on the line, the Wildcats pulled their goaltender, and Krueger flipped a clear into an empty net at 19:43 to seal the 5-4 win and third place.
IceRays netminder Tomáš Vomáčka (19-13-6) earned the win, halting 36 og 40 shots, while Wildcats goaltender Jared Dempsey (13-12-3) received the loss, stopping 26 of 30 shots. The IceRays finish the 2016-17 regular season against the Wildcats on Saturday, Apr. 8 at 7:05 p.m. from the American Bank Center on Pack The House Night. Tickets are available at the American Bank Center Box Office and Ticketmaster.com. For groups or suite packages, call the IceRays at 361-814-PUCK. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on SportsJuice.com, Hockey TV and 87.7FM in-arena.
The IceRays are heading to the postseason for the third time, and 2017 Robertson Cup Playoffs tickets will be announced next week. For tickets to the final home weekend, call the IceRays Front Office at 361-814-PUCK. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), Snapchat (@goicerays), and Periscope (@goicerays).