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PREVIEW: ICERAYS @ MUDBUGS (GAME #56)

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS @ SHREVEPORT MUDBUGS

Friday, March 31 • 7:11 P.M. • Hirsch Memorial Coliseum • Shreveport, LA
NAHL Game #634 • Game #56 • Road Game #28 • Series: COR leads 8-1-0-1
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM)
Video: Hockey TV • Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 6:55 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The IceRays begin their final road trip with the first of a three-game swing starting against the Shreveport Mudbugs from George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays have taken hold of their first junior season series with the Mudbugs, picking up points in nine of 10 games with a 8-1-0-1 record and two games to go. The IceRays now have points in eight-straight games and wins in six-straight meetings. All-time, the IceRays own a 29-26-6 since the start of the professional franchise series in the WPHL.

Last Game: The IceRays fought their way through adversity to force a 4-2 win over the Lone Star Brahmas on Friday night at the American Bank Center. IceRays forward Nathan Bryer (9:06 1st) started the scoring with his second goal of the weekend to take a 1-0 lead followed by IceRays forward Brad Power (PP, 10:12 1st) to double the lead, 2-0. After missing a coach, IceRays center Mason Krueger (PP, 10:38 2nd) tripled the lead to 3-0 with a one-time shot on a rebound. The Brahmas came back in the third period with goals from forward Pete Kessel (PP, 6:11 3rd) on a 5-on-3 power play as well as defenseman Jakub Melisko (7:53 3rd) to come within one, 3-2. IceRays forward Cole Gammer (14:56 3rd) led a 2-on-1 to stretch the lead back to two, 4-2, and finish out the night. IceRays netminder Tomáš Vomáčka (18-11-6) turned away 26 of 28 shots in the win, while Brahmas goaltender Alec Calvaruso (24-7-0) knocked down 11 of 15 shots.

Step Two: Now that the IceRays have clinched a playoff spot, the IceRays are looking for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The IceRays have four points to make up over their last five games with four possible points directly against the Shreveport Mudbugs. While the Mudbugs own the first tie-breaker (most wins), the IceRays own their head-to-head record as the second tie-break. On the other side, the IceRays are just three points above the Wichita Falls Wildcats, and the Wildcats own the first three tie-breakers.

Helping The Cause: Despite the odds being stacked against them last weekend, the IceRays performed well on special teams through both games. The power play unit finished the weekend going 2-for-4 (50.00%) including a perfect 2-for-2 on Friday night during their win. The penalty kill also stayed strong with a 11-for-13 (84.62%) conversion and killing off one of two 5-on-3 kill situations. In addition, the IceRays also scored 4-on-4 during Friday’s game, marking the second time the IceRays scored in that situation, which are the only two goals scored in 55 games by either team in an IceRays game during 4-on-4 play.

Make Them Count: While the IceRays tallied their fewest shot total all season on Friday night, the game was an experiment in offensive efficiency. It was just the second time the IceRays recorded fewer than 20 shots, setting a new season low over their 19-shot performance against Odessa on October 14 (2-1 L). This time around, the IceRays converted on over one quarter (26.67%) of their shots compared to the previous situation (5.26%). In fact, it’s just the fourth time the IceRays have won when shooting fewer then 25 shots, joining 22-shot efforts on November 19 (4-1 W vs. LSB), February 17 (2-0 W vs. TOP), and February 25 (2-1 W vs. LSB). The IceRays are now 4-5-1 when recording fewer than 25 shots and 10-10-2-1 when being outshot by an opponent.

Bugging Out: The Shreveport Mudbugs earned an important road sweep of the Wichita Falls Wildcats, taking a 4-0 shutout win on Friday and a 5-4 victory on Saturday. Mudbugs forward Gueorgui Feduolov earned NAHL South Division 2nd Star of the Week for his four-point weekend (3+1=4) including two goals on Saturday, and defenseman Croix Evingson (1+3=4) joined him with his own four-point week. Three more players added multi-point weekends: defenseman Brandon Gysbers (1+2=3) and forwards Kieran Durgan (1+2=3) and Erik Zohovs (1+2=3). Goaltender Dylan Lubbesmeyer stopped all 40 shots this weekend including a 30-save shutout on Friday, while John Roberts halted 13 of 17 shots in two periods on Saturday.

Lighter Basket: The Mudbugs have been one of the best teams in the South Division heading towards the playoffs, however they may have had the easiest road to get there. The Mudbugs have now won nine of their last 11 games, going 9-1-0-1 in that span, but they’ve played only three games against playoff teams: Corpus Christi and Wichita Falls. Since February 24, the Mudbugs will have played five of their final 17 games (29.41%) against playoff opponents. The highest percentage of games against playoff opponents is Corpus Christi (15-17, 88.24%) followed by Odessa and Wichita Falls (11-16, 68.75%), Amarillo (10-17, 58.82%), Lone Star (7-12, 58.33%), Topeka (5-12, 41.67%), and then Shreveport.

South Division Standings:
y-Lone Star Brahmas (43-14-2-0, 88 PTS)

x-Shreveport Mudbugs (34-16-2-3, 73 PTS)
x-Corpus Christi IceRays (29-17-4-5, 67 PTS)
x-Wichita Falls Wildcats (29-21-4-2, 64 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (23-25-6-2, 54 PTS)
Amarillo Bulls (19-27-8-2, 48 PTS)
Topeka RoadRunners (18-32-4-1, 41 PTS)

Next Game: The IceRays continue their three-game weekend with the series finale against the Mudbugs on Saturday, Apr. 1 at 7:11 p.m. from George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. Coverage begins at 6:55 p.m. on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM) and Hockey TV.