Preview: IceRays @ Amarillo Bulls (Game 16)

 

Please, No More-berg
Simon Morberg’s face might have been in the IceRays’ nightmares last night. No matter what the Rays did to slow him down, he could not be stopped. He scored from long range, he scored from in tight, he scored from a rebound, and he scored on a deflection. His line was dominant, so it might not be fair to give him solitary credit. Still, it is worth mentioning that no player has ever scored a four-goal natural hat trick against the IceRays in history.

Another potentially troubling fact is that yesterday was his first game against Corpus Christi. Obviously, last night’s performance will be an outlier, but he might just be another IceRays killer the way Troy York and Jonathan Waring were last season. Matchups could play a factor tonight.


The Matchup

It is easy to look at yesterday’s scoreboard and to think that it was a one-sided affair, but that simply was not the case. Frankly, Jason Grande had the best game of his career and made a handful of saves he had no business making. It was surely a frustrating night for the IceRays scorers, but they came back and delivered the last time they were shut out.

Two weeks ago in Shreveport, after suffering a 7-0 blowout, the IceRays played arguably their best game all season and stomped the Bugs with a 5-2 response. The Rays are 3-1-0 in games following goose eggs in the Brad Flynn head coaching era. They are a proud group, one that is chock-full of veterans and frustrated stars who have been on the cusp of scoring their first goal for far too long. It’s only a matter of time before some of them have a breakthrough. Given their past success in this building and their tendency to respond well after being shut out, history suggests tonight could be the night.


Acton, DiCesare Show Promise in Debuts

Jake Acton made his first start as an IceRay last night, and responded extremely well after conceding a long-range goal within the first eight minutes. His recovery in the first period kept the Rays within a goal after a few defensive zone breakdowns could have buried them early. He made 19 of a possible 20 saves in the second period, but was finally overwhelmed in the third. Should he be given the nod again tonight, the Rays will be dead-set on providing strong offensive support for the birthday boy to lead him to his first win.

A.J. DiCesare had his first crack in the lineup after practicing with the IceRays for a couple weeks. The rookie defenseman displayed smart defensive awareness and hockey sense, and didn’t shun away from blocking shots. He also drew a penalty in the second period to give the Rays a chance on the power play, which unfortunately fell silent despite looking potent at times.


Penalty Parade

The game was fairly innocuous to start yesterday, but it certainly did not end that way. Tempers escalated on both sides to an extreme degree in the third period. In the first forty minutes, there had only been six total penalties called. In the closing twenty, there were thirteen.

Brendan Miller and Matt Novo were both sentenced to four-minute roughing penalties, but there were fortunately no suspensions to stem from anything. While it is expected that at least some of last night’s hostilities will boil over into tonight, the Rays have to be careful not to give an Amarillo power play (24.1%) too many opportunities to strike.