PREVIEW: ICERAYS @ BULLS (GAME #45)

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS

@

AMARILLO BULLS

Friday, February 19 at 7:05 P.M.

Game #45 • NAHL Game #491 • Series: Tied 5-4-1
Amarillo Civic Center • Amarillo, TX
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM) • Video: FASTHockey.com

Mobile: TuneIn Radio Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The IceRays begin their final trip to the Texas Panhandle and begin a two-game weekend set against the Amarillo Bulls at the Amarillo Civic Center.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays and Bulls have matched up equally through 10 games this season with each side earning a 5-4-1 record after their last meetings to end January. Over the last two seasons, the IceRays and Bulls are also even at a 9-7-2 record. All-time, the IceRays are 20-29-3 against the Bulls while going 8-18-2 at the Amarillo Civic Center.

Last Game: The IceRays couldn’t erase an early deficit, falling 4-2 to the Lone Star Brahmas on Saturday night at the American Bank Center. Brahmas defenseman Dalton Skelly (PP, 5:22 1st) picked up the game’s first goal with a shot from the blue line and gave his side a 1-0 lead. Just over three minutes later, Brahmas defenseman Bud Madej (8:52 1st) followed up with another from the same location to double the lead, 2-0. On their second power play, Brahmas defenseman Cameron Clarke (PP, 15:58 1st) found an open puck and batted in the rebound to take a 3-0 lead. Early in the second period, Brahmas forward Johan Lundgren (2:16) tucked in a pass on the back door to give Lone Star a 4-0 lead. After a goaltending change, the IceRays found answers late in the second period from forward Drake Lindsay (PP, 17:43 2nd) and defenseman Colton Meekhof (15:30 3rd) to cut the lead in half, 4-2, but couldn’t draw closer in the late stages. Brahmas netminder Conor O’Brien (11-4-5) saved 27 of 29 shots in the win. IceRays goalie Graham Hunt (10-13-3) picked up the loss, turning away 10 of 14 shots in 22:16 minutes, and Dryden McKay halted all 14 shots faced in 36:14 minutes of relief.

My Shining Star: IceRays goaltender Dryden McKay was named NAHL South Division Star of the Week on Monday morning for his efforts against the Lone Star Brahmas. Over the three-game set, the 18-year-old recorded a 1-0-1 record with a 1.12 goals-against average and a .961 save percentage while only allowing three goals. The Downer’s Grove, Ill., native earned his first shutout of the season and third in his NAHL career on Thursday, stopping all 30 shots faced in a 3-0 win. After helping to earn a point for the IceRays in a 4-3 shootout loss with 30 saves on 33 chances, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound goaltender halted all 14 shots in 36:14 minutes of relief during Saturday’s 4-2 loss. McKay has conceded fewer than two goals in five of his last six games as well as eight of his last 10 appearances, improving to 8-8-2 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage through 21 games.

Our Top Prospects: Four IceRays competed in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament earlier this week and came away with production in their two-game showcase. Forwards Brad LeLievre of Team South and Regen Cavanagh of the NAHL Selects each earned assists in their respective first games on Monday afternoon. Forward Drake Lindsay earned a goal and an assist in Monday’s 4-3 shootout win over Team East, becoming the fourth player in IceRays history to score at the event and the second to earn a multi-point game. Goaltender Graham Hunt stopped 19 of 22 shots between both games while earning wins in each. He now is the only IceRays goaltender to earn wins in both appearances at the tournament.

Southern Split: The Amarillo Bulls split their two-game weekend set against the Odessa Jackalopes with a 8-5 on Friday and 5-2 loss on Saturday at the Amarillo Civic Center. Three different players earned three-point weekends for the Bulls, including recent acquisition Coale Norris and leading point scorer Joey Molinaro, who each had a goal and an assist, as well as George Mika (3 assists). In total, 12 different Bulls scored points with seven of those as different goal-scorers. Goaltender Brian Baker earned his first win with the Bulls on Friday, stopping 25 of 30 shots, and Anton Martinsson stopped 32 of 37 shots in Saturday’s loss.

Playoff Push: The Bulls have a lot of ground to make up in order to stay in the running for the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Despite their deficit, they are still mathematically in the hunt for the fourth and final playoff spot but must overcome two teams right at the cusp. However, with 16 games remaining, their magic number for elimination is only 15, meaning that either 15 points won by the currently holder of fourth place (Corpus Christi) or lost by Amarillo will take them out of contention. In order for them to make the playoffs, they would need the IceRays to go (at worst) 7-9-0 in their final 16 games and the Odessa Jackalopes to go 7-10-1 in their last 18 games with the Bulls going a perfect 16-0-0. The Bulls would need to at least go 9-7-0 and hope the IceRays and Jackalopes do not earn any points the rest of the season. They have the largest hill to climb of teams still in contention for any playoff position with the next largest gap being nine points (Coulee Region Chill, Midwest Division).

South Division Standings:
Wichita Falls Wildcats (34-9-4, 72 PTS)
Lone Star Brahmas (29-10-7, 65 PTS)
Topeka RoadRunners (28-18-1, 57 PTS)
Corpus Christi IceRays (18-21-5, 41 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (18-20-4, 40 PTS)
Amarillo Bulls (10-30-4, 24 PTS)

Next Game: The IceRays close out their 2015-16 season series with the Amarillo Bulls on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 7:05 p.m. from the Amarillo Civic Center. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM) and FASTHockey.com.