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PREVIEW: ICERAYS @ BRAHMAS (PLAYOFF GAME #8)

SOUTH DIVISION FINALS – GAME 5

#3 CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS @ #1 LONE STAR BRAHMAS

Saturday, May 6 • 7:30 P.M. • NYTEX Sports Centre • North Richland Hills, TX
Series: Tied 2-2
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM)
Video: Hockey TV • Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 7:15 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The Corpus Christi IceRays and Lone Star Brahmas meet for a winner-take-all Game 5 in the South Division Final from the NYTEX Sports Centre. The winner will represent the South Division at next week’s Robertson Cup Semifinals.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays and Brahmas have gone back and forth throughout the series, and the second overtime win for the Brahmas levels the series at 2-2 heading into Game 5. The IceRays hold a 12-8 goal advantage heading into the final game and split their true road games in the series down the middle, falling 4-3 in overtime during Game 1 but won 3-0 on Saturday in Game 2. This season, the IceRays are 6-5-3-1 against the Brahmas while going 2-4-1-1 in road games. Overall, the IceRays are 18-17-8 all-time against the Brahmas.

Last Game: The IceRays lost another third period lead and fell 3-2 in overtime to the Brahmas in Game 4 of the South Division Final on Wednesday at Dr. Pepper StarCenter. Brahmas forward Pete Kessel (7:08 2nd) broke through after a scoreless first period to take a 1-0 lead. IceRays center Mason Krueger (7:58 2nd; PP, 10:40 2nd) answered back with a rebound off a faceoff draw as well as a re-direction on a point shot on the powerplay to take the 2-1 lead. Brahmas forward Carson Kelley (6:00 3rd) found the game-tying goal in the final frame to send the game to overtime, 2-2. Less than one minute in, Brahmas forward Drake Glover (0:32 OT) found a fortunate bounce off a teammate’s stick into an open net to force Game 5 thanks to a 3-2 overtime win. Brahmas goaltender Max Prawdzik (5-2-0) halted 24 of 26 shots in the win, while IceRays netminder Tomáš Vomáčka stopped 30 of 33 shots in the loss.

Do Or Die: The IceRays are facing their first elimination game of the postseason with a chance to get into the national semifinals. In their last two trips to the playoffs, the IceRays did not fare well in games on the brink of elimination, falling 5-3 to the Amarillo Bulls in 2013 and 3-2 to the Wenatchee Wild in 2015, however this season’s team has proven that they are very different from the past two instances in the Robertson Cup Playoffs with more wins and a deeper run than ever before. Combined with the professional franchise, the IceRays are 3-9-1 in elimination games with all three wins as a professional team: 4-0 win over El Paso Buzzards in 2000 WPHL Playoffs (deciding Game 3),;3-2 win over Arizona Sundogs in Game 6 of 2007 CHL Playoffs; 6-2 win in Game 2 of 2009 CHL Playoffs against Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.

Second To None: The second period has been the best frame for IceRays offensive production through seven playoff games, which is an opposite trend set during the regular season. The IceRays are outscoring their opponents 11-3 in the second period, marking 52.38% of their production in the second period, though they do not trail in any single period so far. However, the second period was the worst period for the IceRays in the regular season, only owning a +6 goal differential compared to the first period (+10) and third period (+17) despite seeing a better shots differential than the other two frames. Against the Brahmas, the IceRays are leading 7-2 in goals during the second period. The only period they trail is the third period (4-3 in favor of Lone Star).

Cardiac Kids: The Brahmas have lived on the edge during the South Division Final thus far, extending the series to a fifth game while squeaking out two overtime victories. The Brahmas have won all three overtime games they have played in seven overall contests, coming from behind in the latter of the two wins, both against the IceRays. The Brahmas lead their opposition 10-7 in third period scoring and have two comeback victories against the IceRays, one by two goals and the most recent by just one goal. The Brahmas were 3-11-1 when trailing after the second period during the regular season but are now 2-2-0 during the playoffs. They are now 2-2 in elimination games in the junior franchise.

Commanding Force: While the IceRays may appear to be playing from behind when looking at shooting totals throughout the postseason, in-game trends have shown the opposite despite the shot disparity. The IceRays have one of the lowest shots per game (24.43) in the 2017 Robertson Cup Playoffs while allowing nearly nine more shots per game (33.14) than they record, but the goals per game (3.00) compared to goals-against (1.71) tells a different story. The IceRays have never trailed after the second period and were tied only once: April 19 vs. Shreveport (2-1 OTW). Moreover, the IceRays have only trailed in a game just four times in a game so far, and all were after conceding the opening goal of a contest before scoring at least one more to equal the score. That does not include the two overtime loss results since those games went final on that goal.

Different Strokes: The Brahmas and IceRays have followed two very different paths toward goal production so far this postseason, and these trends could end up being the difference tonight. The IceRays have owned the 5-on-5 battles so far, outscoring their opponents 14-8 as well as 9-5 against the Brahmas specifically, while Lone Star trails 14-12 in 5-on-5 goals through seven games. Both teams own three power play goals though the IceRays have recorded seven fewer chances on the man-advantage, but the biggest strength for the Brahmas continues to be extra attacker (1-0), shorthanded (1-0) and overtime (3-0) goals, reinforcing unconventional scoring in the playoffs to equal their opposition.

Double KO: There should be little surprise that Brahmas forwards Carson Kelley and Pete Kessel were the two goal-scorers in Wednesday’s comeback win to force Game 5 tonight. The two have now reached the pantheon of Brahmas postseason records, sitting tied for the most career postseason points (12) in junior franchise history and sitting first and second in career postseason goals (Kelley: 9; Kessel: 8). The pair combined for 97 points during the regular season, sitting first and second in scoring in the same order of career postseason goals, but this year’s production hasn’t been solely on their shoulders. Forwards Drake Glover (7) and Hunter Stanley (6) lead the team in points though Kelley is ahead in goals (4).

South Division Semifinals (Best-of-Five):
#1 Lone Star Brahmas vs. #4 Wichita Falls Wildcats
Game 1: Wildcats @ Brahmas – LSB wins 3-0
Game 2: Wildcats @ Brahmas – LSB wins 7-3
Game 3: Brahmas @ Wildcats – LSB wins 4-3 (OT)

#2 Shreveport Mudbugs vs. #3 Corpus Christi IceRays
Game 1: IceRays @ Mudbugs – COR wins 2-0
Game 2: IceRays @ Mudbugs – COR wins 5-3
Game 3: Mudbugs @ IceRays – COR wins 2-1 (OT)

South Division Finals (Best-of-Five):
#1 Lone Star Brahmas vs. #3 Corpus Christi IceRays
Game 1: IceRays @ Brahmas – LSB wins 4-3 (OT)
Game 2: IceRays @ Brahmas – COR wins 3-0
Game 3: Brahmas @ IceRays – COR wins 4-1
Game 4: Brahmas @ IceRays – LSB wins 3-2 (OT)
**Game 5: IceRays @ Brahmas – 7:30 p.m.
**if necessary

Next Game: If the IceRays win tonight, they will enter the 2017 Robertson Cup Semifinals on Thursday, May 11 with a time and opponent to be named later. If the Brahmas win, the IceRays close the book on the 2016-17 season.