PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. BRAHMAS (PLAYOFF GAME #7)

SOUTH DIVISION FINALS – GAME 4

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

Wednesday, May 3 • 7:15 P.M. • Dr. Pepper StarCenter • McKinney, TX
Series: COR leads 2-1
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 have a chance to claim their first berth into the national semifinals tonight in Game 4 of the South Division Finals against the Lone Star Brahmas from Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney. 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 have now earned wins in three of their last five meetings with the Brahmas and have a chance to claim the series outright tonight. The IceRays have outscored the Brahmas 10-5 over their last three games and have also scored three goals in all postseason games. This season, the IceRays are 6-5-2-1 against the Brahmas while going 4-1-1-1 in “home” games. Overall, the IceRays are 18-17-7 all-time against the Brahmas.

Last Night: The IceRays held strong defensively to a tight lead, adding insurance late to claim a 4-1 win over the Brahmas on Tuesday night at Dr. Pepper StarCenter. Despite being outshot 13-4 in the first period, IceRays forward Griffin Loughran (2:46 2nd) took a slap shot from the neutral zone that knuckled under the netminder for the opening goal. Loughran (2:25 3rd) doubled the lead, 2-0, with a steal and wraparound from the Brahmas goaltender. Brahmas forward Troy York (8:03 3rd) broke the goal drought with a one-time shot from the left circle to cut the lead in half, 2-1. With the opposing goaltender pulled, IceRays center Mason Krueger (EN, 18:59 3rd) and forward Cole Gammer (EN, 19:46 3rd) added insurance goals late to earn the 4-1 win. IceRays netminder Tomáš Vomáčka stopped 34 of 35 shots in the win. Brahmas goaltender Alec Calvaruso turned away eight of nine shots in 26:45 minutes, but Max Prawdzik picked up the loss in relief, halting 12 of 13 shots in 32:57 minutes.

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.

One Win Away: Last night’s win for the IceRays set them in new territory for the 19-year franchise this deep in the playoffs. The IceRays are one win away from earning a second round win for the first time and also have claimed two wins in a second round series for the first time. In addition, the team recorded the most wins in a single postseason, surpassing the four-win total set during the 2007 CHL Playoffs in a first and second round loss. The IceRays have also extended their point streak to eight-straight games since April 7 and through all six postseason meetings this year. Plus, IceRays head coach Brad Flynn will, at worst, hit a .688 point percentage in the postseason, marking as the best percentage by a head coach in the regular season or postseason in franchise history.

Back End Strength: IceRays goaltender Tomáš Vomáčka continues to dazzle in the postseason and come up strong in the biggest moments of the season. The Trutnov, Czech Republic netminder shutout the Brahmas for five-straight periods over the last two games before conceding his first goal in nearly four days through 108:03 minutes of action, the longest goalless streak per minutes this season. He has played all six games in the playoffs so far, holding opponents to just nine goals and earning a 1.41 goals-against average while moving just one thousandth of a percentage under the best save percentage in playoffs and owning 190 saves through 199 shots. His two shutouts are the most this postseason and is one of just five goaltenders in the last five years with multiple shutouts in the playoffs, and one more will tie Gavin Nieto (Fairbanks – 2016) at three, which is tied for the most in postseason history since 2005 with six other players.

Dire Straights: The Brahmas stand on the brink of elimination for the first time this postseason and just the third time over the last three seasons in the playoffs. The last occurrence came in the 2016 South Division Semifinals against the Topeka RoadRunners from the Kansas Expocentre in Game 4 and then again in Games 2 and 3 of the 2015 Robertson Cup Semifinals against the Austin Bruins. The Brahmas are 1-2 in those games but haven’t done down without a fight, winning 3-1 in Game 2 against the Bruins before falling 3-2 in overtime the next night and 5-4 in overtime to the RoadRunners. Conversely, the Brahmas are 3-0 in games where they can eliminate their opponents.

Coming Close: Despite the three-goal differential at the end of last night’s game, the IceRays took another close games into the late stages of the contest this postseason. Four of six games have been separated by two goals or less though only two (including last night) needed an empty net goal to help seal the win, joining the 2-0 shutout win against Shreveport in Game 1 of the South Division Semifinals. The IceRays have also taken a lead into the third period in five of their six games so far, going 5-0-1 in those contests with the only time not leading coming against Shreveport in their clinching 2-1 overtime win in the South Division Semifinals.

Offensive Dip: The Brahmas have been able to put away their opposition throughout the playoffs by sheer shot totals but haven’t had as much luck converting on those attempts as other teams still alive. The Brahmas have outshot their opponents in five of their six postseason games so far but hold a shot conversion percentage of 10.11%. Compared to their opponent this series, the IceRays have a conversion rate of 13.10% while scoring the same number of goals (19). Of the eight remaining teams, the Aston Rebels (15.38%) lead in that category with the Brahmas sitting fourth behind the IceRays and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (10.69%). The Minnesota Wilderness (9.45%), New Jersey Titans (9.32%), Janesville Jets (9.09%) and Aberdeen Wings (6.69%) round out the remaining teams.

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 –7:15 p.m.
**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 two sides will setting the series on Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. from the NYTEX Sports Centre. Coverage begins at 7:15 p.m. on SportsRadio Corpus Christi and Hockey TV.