Preview: IceRays vs. Lone Star Brahmas (Game 22)

Photo: Rebekah Bing

Rays Make it Five
The IceRays have now strung together the most consecutive wins since their record-breaking seven-game stretch last season. Oddly enough, in two straight games now, the IceRays have opened the scoring on their first registered shot on goal. Drawing first blood proved to be consequential last night, as the Rays were able to build on their momentum and add a couple more goals to pad their lead, which ultimately sustained them throughout the rest of the night. Lone Star is a team that is far more effective at playing with a lead than they are when trying to muster a comeback, so scoring first is always paramount against them. However, they gave the Rays all they could handle last night and came 2/3 of the way from completing the comeback. The Corpus Christi zone was under siege virtually the entire second half of the game. Playing a full 60 minutes will be critical in game two, with fatigue, frustrations and hostilities all sure to play a bigger factor tonight.

The Matchup
The first head-to-head matchup this season was almost a reversed version of last night’s contest. Back on October 20th, the Brahmas scored three early goals, the IceRays tallied twice in a concerted effort to tie the game, and eventually had their hopes dashed by an empty-net goal. Jumping out to such an early lead against either one of these teams can be dangerous; it’s been proven several times this season that they are both more than capable of rallying and chipping away at substantial deficits. Tonight, the Brahmas are playing their last road game before embarking on a ten-game home stand. They’ve just had their three-game winning streak snapped, and also just conceded the first-place spot to the Shreveport Mudbugs. There is no question their resolve will be strong tonight, and there’s also little doubt the IceRays will be squaring off against the second best goaltender in the NAHL at the moment. Mitchell Gibson, well-rested, has won seven of his last eight starts. The Rays will have their work cut out for them.

November Dominance
November has been a month to remember for the IceRays. Having won every tilt in the month so far, they’re now just two wins away from tying a junior franchise record. Last season, once February hit, the IceRays showed how unstoppable they could be when they started rolling. Winning seven straight back in February launched the IceRays from being a bubble team to one that was competing for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. This season, taking five straight has instantly brought the Rays back into the South Division picture. They are now tied for fourth place with the Odessa Jackalopes, a team they were eight points behind when November began. With help from Shreveport and Topeka, the IceRays can jump into third place tonight and instantly capture the attention of the rest of the division, if they haven’t done so already.

Jungwirth Does it Again
Back-to-back South Division First Star of the Week performances. Nine goals and eleven points over his last five games. A pair of highlight-reel goals yesterday, including the eventual game-winner. Larry Jungwirth has simply been on another level. He seems to create something every time he has the puck on his stick. His silky-smooth hands and craftiness in tight quarters make him a constant threat, and as of late, he’s finished off almost every chance he’s given himself. At the start of the season, he had as many scoring opportunities as anyone, but struggled to convert on many of them. Now, when he has the puck somewhere near the net, one can almost assume it’s going in.