PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. BRAHMAS (PLAYOFF GAME #6)

SOUTH DIVISION FINALS – GAME 3

#3 CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS VS. #1 LONE STAR BRAHMAS

Tuesday, May 2 • 7:15 P.M. • Dr. Pepper StarCenter • McKinney, TX
Series: Tied 1-1
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM)
Video: Hockey TV • Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The Corpus Christi IceRays look to gain a one-game edge on the Lone Star Brahmas for Game 3 of the South Division Finals at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, Texas. The two sides will play a best-of-five series to determine who represents the South Division at the Robertson Cup Semifinals.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays split their first weekend on the road to even the series at 1-1, scoring three goals in each contest to improve their season record against the Brahmas to 5-5-2-1. The IceRays are now 2-4-1-0 at the NYTEX Sports Centre this season and overall 5-13-3 over the last four years. The IceRays own an all-time 17-17-7 record against the Brahmas.

Last Game: The IceRays awarded the Lone Star Brahmas (4-1-0) their first shutout loss of the season with a 3-0 victory on Game 2 of the South Division Finals on Saturday night from the NYTEX Sports Centre. IceRays defenseman Cody Fleckenstein (3:02 1st) began the scoring early with a one-time shot on a rush to jump out with an early 1-0 lead. The IceRays added a second that period thanks to a spinning shot by forward Nathan Bryer (13:38 1st) to double the lead, 2-0. Despite five penalty kills including a 5-on-3 in the second period, the IceRays kept the Brahmas at bay and added another tally from forward David Baskerville (8:21 2nd) to triple the lead at 3-0. The Brahmas swapped goalies and even pulled for the extra skater midway through the third period, but the IceRays silenced the Brahmas 3-0. IceRays netminder Tomáš Vomáčka stopped all 36 shots faced. Brahmas goaltender Max Prawdzik picked up the loss, stopping 16 of 19 shots in 28:21 minutes, and Alec Calvaruso turned away all 10 shots in 25:59 minutes of relief.

Home Away From Home: Due to scheduling conflicts at the American Bank Center, the IceRays are playing both their South Division Finals home games at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, Texas this week. The facility is one of seven practice and community rinks in the greater Dallas area owned and operated by the Dallas Stars. The facility hosts two regulation-size ice sheets with room for around 420 spectators in the South Rink, the location of both home playoff games. This is the first time the IceRays have needed a neutral site to play a home playoff game, but the NAHL has seen this before. For example, in 2010, the Owatonna Express had a similar issue and were forced to play home playoff games in Faribault, Minn. instead of the Steele County Fairgrounds. However, that rink was just over 20 miles north of Owatonna.

Moving Forward: Thanks to Saturday’s win, the IceRays are just one win away from recording their most wins in a single postseason in franchise history. In their previous trip to the second round during the 2007 CHL Playoffs, the IceRays earned three wins during their 4-3 series loss to the Arizona Sun Dogs and one win in a 4-1 series loss to the Laredo Bucks. The win does pass the most wins when winning the first series, moving by the three wins from the 2000 WPHL Playoffs trip. This is also the most consecutive games with a point earned by the IceRays in the playoffs and extends the team’s point streak to seven games since April 8.

Rigid D: Defensive strength continues to be the framework for the IceRays in the playoffs, and Saturday’s win is evidence of that. The IceRays are the only team in the 2017 NAHL Playoffs with two shutouts and are tied for the best goals against per game (1.60) as well as fewest goals against (8) among both remaining and eliminated teams, joining the Janesville Jets at the same number through five games. While teams have outshot the IceRays in all five games, they own the second-best save percentage (.951) behind the Jets (.956) while taking on more shots. As a comparison in the South Division, the Lone Star Brahmas average 2.40 goals per game (6th of 16), the Shreveport Mudbugs have a 3.00 goals per game (10th of 16), and the Wichita Falls Wildcats finished at 4.67 goals per game (16th of 16).

Shut It Down: For the first time this season and in postseason history, the Brahmas were blanked by an opponent on Saturday night in their home rink. The shutout loss is the first since Feb. 11, 2016 (84 games) in a 3-0 loss to the IceRays at the American Bank Center to begin a three-in-three set. It’s also their first home shutout loss since Nov. 25, 2015  (56 home games) in a 4-0 loss to the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Over the course of this season, the Brahmas have shutout opponents six times including the opening game of the South Division Semifinals. The Brahmas also went 17 playoff games without a shutout loss. As a professional team, the Brahmas were shutout four times: Apr. 13, 2008 (2-0 loss to Colorado Eagles), Apr. 7, 2011 (5-0 loss to Odessa Jackalopes), Mar. 30, 2012 (5-0 loss to Allen Americans) and Apr. 18, 2013 (3-0 loss to Wichita Thunder). On the opposite side, the Brahmas have recorded seven shutouts against opposition in the playoffs with six in the professional franchise.

Buzzy Bee: IceRays forward David Baskerville has found a new level of production in the playoffs, only adding to his value for the team on the ice. After leading the IceRays in blocked shots and making his mark with his defensive performance, the Eden, N.Y. native now has points in three of his last four games, all of which include one goal to share the team lead in goals and points. Baskerville owned a six-game point streak during the regular season but only recorded seven goals during his 27 points. He now shares the lead for most postseason goals by an IceRays player both for a single-playoff and career. His line with Nathan Bryer and Brendan Miller own a combined 10 points through five games, which is 27.03% of the team’s total production (37 points), and their six combined goals is 40.00% of the team’s goals (15).

Goalie vs. Team: Brahmas goaltenders have been able to stay effective in net despite not facing an overt number of shots compared to their opposition both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Jake Kupsky (‘14-’15) holds the only save percentage over .900 when playing at least four games in the playoffs (.930) while Corbin Kaczperski (‘15-’16) and Max Prawdzik fall below this line. During the regular season, more goaltenders have breached this mark but only one owns a .915 save percentage or higher over the last four years: T.J. Black in 2013-14 (.923) and 2014-15 (.915). The biggest telling statistic about their philosophy is goals-against average: only one player earned above a 2.50 goals-against average in a single year (Jett Salinas in 2013-14, .886). The IceRays, by comparison, have four goaltenders with a .915 save percentage or higher in their history with three of those coming in the last two seasons.

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 –7:15 p.m.
**Game 4: Brahmas @ IceRays –7:15 p.m.
**Game 5: IceRays @ Brahmas –7:30 p.m.
**if necessary

Next Game: The IceRays will continue the South Division Finals against the Brahmas with Game 4 on Wednesday, May 3 at 7:15 p.m. from the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, Texas. Tickets are available at the arena the day of the game or by emailing tickets@goicerays.com. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. on SportsRadio Corpus Christi and Hockey TV.