PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. MUDBUGS (PLAYOFF GAME #3)

SOUTH DIVISION SEMIFINALS – GAME 3

#3 CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS VS. #2 SHREVEPORT MUDBUGS

Wednesday, April 19 • 7:05 P.M. • American Bank Center • Corpus Christi, TX
Series: COR leads 2-0
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM)
Video: Hockey TV • Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The Corpus Christi IceRays return home to the American Bank Center with a chance to clinch the South Division Semifinals series against the Shreveport Mudbugs in Game 3. The two sides will play a best-of-five series to determine who moves on to the South Division Finals.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays have won three-straight games against the Mudbugs dating back to April 1 and overall 11 of their 14 meetings through the regular season and postseason. The IceRays need just one win over their next three possible games to take their first junior franchise series win and head to the South Division Finals. Overall, the IceRays are 11-2-0-1 against the Mudbugs in the junior series while also 32-27-6 including the professional meetings.

Last Game: The IceRays poured on four goals in the second period en route to a 5-3 win over the Mudbugs on Saturday night from George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum. Mudbugs forward Jack Jaunich (11:54 1st) opened the scoring with a deflection for their first goal of the series and a 1-0 lead. In the second period, the IceRays charged ahead starting with a tap-in by forward David Baskerville (3:56 2nd) followed by two goals from forward Nathan Bryer (PP, 4:31 2nd; 7:45 2nd) to jump out to a 3-1 lead. Mudbugs defenseman Kristaps Jakobsons (10:08 2nd) ended the run with a rebound goal and draw within one, 3-2. IceRays forward Larry Jungwirth (12:41 2nd) was opened in the right circle to double the lead again, 4-2. One more came across thanks to IceRays center David Thomson (2:35 3rd) and his takeaway before Mudbugs defenseman Croix Evingson (8:34 3rd) answered again to the final scoreline, 5-3. IceRays goaltender Tomáš Vomáčka halted 45 of 48 shots in the win. Mudbugs netminder Dylan Lubbesmeyer stopped 16 of 20 shots in 32:41 of the loss, and John Roberts turned aside eight of nine shots in 27:19 of relief.

On The Precipice: For the first time in franchise history, the IceRays won consecutive games in a playoff series to take a 2-0 series lead. The two wins thus far joins the 2000 WPHL Playoff roster and the 2007 CHL Playoff roster as the only three postseasons where the team has won multiple games in a playoff series. With a win this week, the IceRays can become the second team in franchise history to advance to the second round of the playoffs with a series win, also joining the 2000 WPHL Playoff team that won 2-1 over the El Paso Buzzards. The IceRays have never swept a playoff series but were swept twice: 2010 CHL Playoffs (2-0 vs. Texas Brahmas) and 2015 NAHL Playoffs (2-0 vs. Wenatchee Willd).

Home Cooking: The IceRays continue to head into unfamiliar territory with tonight’s game coming at the American Bank Center, a place the IceRays have not done well in the postseason. In four attempts, the IceRays are 0-3-1 with a combined 10 goals (2.50) compared to the opposition’s 16 tallies (4.00) in that same span. A home playoff win tonight would be the first since Mar. 25, 2009 in a 6-2 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees during the 1st Round of the 2009 CHL Playoffs. The IceRays have lost five-straight home playoff games and are 7-8-5 in 20 playoff games in franchise history. During the regular season, the IceRays picked up a 18-9-2-1 record at the American Bank Center, which ranked in the top-half of the NAHL and tied for second in the South Division with the Mudbugs.

Must-Win: The Mudbugs head on the road in a must-win scenario for the rest of the series including tonight and, if necessary, tomorrow. The Mudbugs were just as good on the road as they were at home this season, sporting a 17-10-2-1 record, which was second in the South Division and fifth in the NAHL, only behind Lone Star, Aston, Janesville and Minot (the four division winners). However, in postseason history, the Mudbugs have been in a do-or-die scenario 16 times over the franchise’s professional history, recording a 7-5-4 in those games, meaning nine of 16 games came up as losses in this situation.

Paving The Way: Saturday night’s win set more team marks in junior postseason history heading into the middle of their third playoff series. The team’s five goals breaks a three-time mark of three goals set in the 2013 South Division Semifinals, and their four-goal second period breaks their three-goal mark from Apr. 6, 2013 against Amarillo in that same series. Speaking of the second period, the first two IceRays goals in the second period scored just 35 second apart were the fastest consecutive tallies, breaking the 1:26 stretch in the third period of the 3-2 loss to the Wenatchee Wild on Apr. 4, 2015. The three-straight goals in that period were the first in the playoffs in junior franchise history, and the IceRays have their first consecutive wins in junior franchise history.

Deuces Wild: IceRays forward Nathan Bryer joined exclusive company on Saturday night with his two-goal effort against the Mudbugs. He’s now just the third player in junior franchise history to record a multi-goal game, joining A.J. Jarosz (Apr. 6, 2013 @ Amarillo, 6-3 L) and Rudy Sulmonte (Apr. 9, 2013 vs. Amarillo, 5-3 L) as the only players to perform that feat. In addition, the multi-point games by Bryer and forwards Larry Jungwirth, Brendan Miller and David Thomson give the IceRays nine total players in three playoff runs with multi-point efforts. It’s the most two-point players in a single playoff game in junior franchise history, and Miller’s two assists joins four other players with a two-helper night.

Falling Action: The Mudbugs continue their downward slide after last weekend’s results to open the South Division Semifinals. The loss on Saturday marks the sixth-straight loss since opening April, going 0-5-1 in that time while breaking a five-game streak of two or fewer goals with their trifecta on Saturday. Opponents now have scored four or more goals in three of their last six games while conceding 3.50 goals per game. This marks the longest losing streak of the season, breaking the five-game slip from January 16 to February 4 against all three other playoff teams combined. On the brighter side, the Mudbugs have not lost by more than two goals in now five-straight games.

Taste of La Croix: Mudbugs defenseman Croix Evingson was one of three goal scorers in Saturday’s loss, but the contribution comes as no surprise based on his season performance. The UMass-Lowell commit led the NAHL in defensive scoring and assists, becoming the only player to record 50+ points (12+40=52) during the regular season and was one of nine defensemen to earn double-digit goals. The second-year member played 38 games with the Kenai River Brown Bears before spending the rest of the season with the Chicago Steel, recording only one goal and three assists for four points in the NAHL.

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 – Friday, Apr. 21
**Game 4: Brahmas @ Wildcats – Saturday, Apr. 22
**Game 5: Wildcats @ Brahmas – Monday, Apr. 24
**if necessary

#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 – Wednesday, Apr. 19
**Game 4: Mudbugs @ IceRays – Thursday, Apr. 20
**Game 5: IceRays @ Mudbugs – Tuesday, Apr. 25
**if necessary

Next Game: If the IceRays do not win tonight, then Game 4 of the South Division Semifinals against the Shreveport Mudbugs will take place on Thursday, Apr. 20 at 7:05 p.m. from the American Bank Center. Tickets are available at the arena box office or Ticketmaster.com. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM) & Hockey TV.

If the IceRays do win tonight, then the team will wait until the end of the weekend to decide the schedule and opponent for the South Division Finals.