Preview: IceRays vs. Odessa Jackalopes (Game 49)

Rays Split Amarillo Series to Solidify Position

Last Friday night’s game was one to forget for the IceRays, who dropped a 4-0 decision at the hands of the Amarillo Bulls. The position they found themselves in following the contest was a frightening one, as they knew Amarillo would be facing them five more times with the desire to overthrow them for the final playoff spot.

However, the Rays banded together and rallied the following night, competing a full 60 minutes on Saturday to sink the Bulls 4-2. Adam Kadlec scored his first goal as an IceRay, which preceded a two-goal performance by Angus Scott to cap off the regulation victory. Corpus Christi currently maintains a ten-point gap over Amarillo for fourth place in the division, and the Bulls have one game in hand. It’s late enough into the season now where the Rays would have to go on a small winless spell for Amarillo to have a chance of catching them, but IceRays Head Coach Brad Flynn has a different opponent in his crosshairs.

The Matchup

While fans have been concerned about the prospect of Amarillo making a late push to catch the IceRays in the standings, Flynn has been focused on catching the Odessa Jackalopes for weeks. It wasn’t a plausible goal until fairly recently, but now the IceRays sit a mere three points behind their Odessa rivals. This weekend, they will be looking out over the hood instead of glancing back into the rearview mirror.

The Jackalopes have had the IceRays’ number this season. In eight meetings, the Rays have only beaten the Jacks twice (2-3-3). However, the goal differential is fairly slim. Odessa has outscored Corpus Christi 28-23 and has taken three of the four games that have gone to extra time. Blake Coffey helped the IceRays to finally flip the script in their last matchup with Odessa on January 27th, scoring the game-winning overtime goal on his 20th birthday. Tonight will be another game with significant playoff implications, as the Rays can all but erase the gap separating them from the third-place Jackalopes.

Top Prospects Play to their Strengths

Players who have the privilege of attending the Top Prospects Tournament are normally told to play to their strengths, to show scouts the type of player they are rather than try to be a player they think someone wants them to be. As for the five who represented the IceRays at the event in Plymouth, Michigan this year, showcasing the attributes which made them unique was not an issue.

Larry Jungwirth put his exceptional hands and composure with the puck on display several times, Rylee St. Onge assisted on Team South’s first goal in a comeback on Wednesday with a good hard shift and play near the left half wall, and Conor Yawney played a rock-solid defensive game, blocking a shot that undoubtedly saved a goal on Fairbanks’ Samuel Ruffin. Garrett Hallford was a multi-purpose player for Team East and assisted on Matt Kidney’s goal in the third period on Day Two. Pavel Koreshkov was the Rays’ lone NAHL Selects player, and the 17-year-old was able to flaunt his high-end potential, speed and skill. After a long week of playing in heavily scouted games and travelling thousands of miles, a day off tonight ought to be in order for the top prospects. However, the IceRays are very shorthanded at the moment, and a game off is not an option.

Bruised and Battered D-Corps

The IceRays will likely have to roll with four defensemen tonight. Kaelan Taylor has been suspended for a verbal altercation that took place last Saturday, Trevor Wilhelm has had a minor upper-body injury pestering him all week, and AJ DiCesare was injured from a hit he took during practice. Conor Yawney has not missed a game all season, and he will be heavily leaned upon tonight despite having already played four games in the last week. He and the remaining defensemen, Matt Acciaioli, Blake Coffey, and Ryan Rosenberg, will all likely hit their season-high in ice time this evening.