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PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. JACKALOPES (GAME #55)

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS

vs.

ODESSA JACKALOPES

Friday, March 25 at 7:11 P.M.

Game #55 • NAHL Game #607 • Series: COR leads 6-2-2
American Bank Center • Corpus Christi, TX
Radio: SportsJuice.com • Video: FASTHockey.com 
• In-Arena: 87.7FM
Mobile: TuneIn Radio Twitter: @goicerays

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

Tonight’s Game: The IceRays close out their season series with a pivotal two-game set against their opponents for the playoffs, the Odessa Jackalopes, starting tonight at the American Bank Center.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays swept the Jackalopes in their last meeting on the road to start the month, moving the season series to a 6-2-2 advantage. The IceRays can win the season series outright with a win on either night or earn one point in two games to take it by virtue of points. The IceRays are 19-4-1 at the American Bank Center against the Jackalopes since 2011-12 after being swept to end February.

Last Game: Toby Kircher scored the game-winning goal as time expired to lift the IceRays over the Lone Star Brahmas in a 2-1 overtime victory on Saturday night from the NYTEX Sports Centre. Brahmas forward Carson Kelley (6:52 1st) struck first for the home side with a stick handle and wrap-around the sprawling netminder to take an early 1-0 lead. The game remained evenly contested throughout most of the contest until late in the third period, when IceRays forward Stevie Bryant (14:05 3rd) received a pass coming off the benched and launched a shot from the blue line to tie the game, 1-1. The game traveled into overtime, and as time expired, IceRays forward Toby Kircher (4:59 OT) slotted a shot from the slot through the five-hole to seal a dramatic 2-1 overtime win. IceRays goaltender Dryden McKay turned aside 30 of 31 shots in the win, while Brahmas goalie Corbin Kaczperski stopped 27 of 29 shots in the overtime loss.

Late-Game Theatrics: Saturday’s overtime win had a few implications on the IceRays’ season and historical statistics. The win broke a three-game drought starting on January 16 in Lone Star, giving them their first post-regulation win since December 29 against Odessa at home. The game also closed the season series with the Brahmas, finishing with a 4-6-2 record including a 2-3-1 record both at home and on the road. Additionally, for the first time in junior franchise history, the IceRays won two games at the NYTEX Sports Center, claiming a 5-2 win on January 15 and the 201 overtime win on Saturday. It’s also the first ever overtime win in a road game against the Brahmas in three seasons and moves the all-time record to 3-3 in games ending in overtime or later.

Blitzkrieg: IceRays forward Toby Kircher scored the game-winning goal in Saturday’s thrilling 2-1 overtime victory against the Brahmas. The goal is officially the latest goal in IceRays franchise history, crossing the line fractions of seconds before time expired, taking over the record set last season by defenseman Anthony Cortese with one second remaining in overtime. Kircher has three game-winning goals this season with two coming with the IceRays, and all three have come in overtime: Sep. 26 vs. AMA (1:39 OT), Dec. 4 @ ODA (3:09 OT) and Mar. 19 @ LSB (4:59 OT). One-third of his goal total is overtime game-winning goals.

On The Rise: Four IceRays begin to catch fire as the season comes to a crucial stretch. Following their respective goalless droughts, forwards Stevie Bryant and Toby Kircher are picking up their point production with Bryant earning five points (3+2=5) over his last six games and Kircher picking up four points (2+2=4) in his last six games including goals in two-straight. On the back end, defenseman Michael Bevilacqua just completed a three-game assist streak and owns four in his last six games, and Cody Lichtenvoort continues to grab tallies with six points (2+4=6) over his last eight games.

All Evened Up: The Odessa Jackalopes played a four-game week to make up their games in-hand and split them with a 2-2-0 record, winning 4-1 on Tuesday night against the Amarillo Bulls, then falling 7-6 on Friday, winning 4-3 on Saturday, and dropping 7-2 on Sunday to the Topeka RoadRunners from the Kansas Expocentre. Three players earned seven-point weeks in their four-game stretch: Hampus Sjodahl (5 goals, 2 assists), Gray Marr (2 goals, 5 assists), and Derek Brown (goal, 6 assists) with Sjodahl scoring the opening goal in three of four games. Ten players earned multi-point weekends with being down four players. Goaltender Dean Shatzer played the first two games, saving 60 of 67 shots and earning the win on Tuesday. Eric Schuch picked up the loss on Friday, stopping nine of 10 shots in the third period in relief of Shatzer. Jon Flakne earned a win and a loss on Saturday and Sunday, halting 58 of 68 shots.

Missing Cogs: The Jackalopes still remain without four of their every day players through this weekend from a line brawl just over two weeks ago. Forwards Matthew Rypien and Connor Wood have two games from their six-game suspensions remaining and will return next weekend against the Lone Star Brahmas, while forward Taylor Gatto and defenseman Cooper Zech each have four games remaining on their eight-game suspensions and will get back on the ice for their final two games of the season against Amarillo. Wood leads the league in penalty minutes (261) by a 46-minute margin, Cooper Zech sits tied for seventh in penalty minutes (133), and Gatto rests 21st in minutes (110) through only 22 games.

South Division Standings:
x-Wichita Falls Wildcats (40-10-4, 84 PTS)
x-Lone Star Brahmas (35-11-8, 78 PTS)
x-Topeka RoadRunners (32-21-1, 65 PTS)
Corpus Christi IceRays (23-25-6, 52 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (23-27-4, 50 PTS)
z-Amarillo Bulls (11-39-4, 26 PTS)

Next Game: The IceRays close their season series against the Odessa Jackalopes in the battle for fourth place on Saturday, March 26 at 7:11 p.m. from the American Bank Center. Tickets are available at www.Ticketmaster.com and the American Bank Center Box Office. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on SportsJuice.com, FASTHockey.com, and 87.7FM in-arena.