Preview: IceRays vs Topeka RoadRunners (Game 45)

Rays Lock it Down in Shutout vs. Lone Star

Last Friday night marked the third consecutive weekend in which the IceRays responded with a victory in game two following a defeat in game one. The difference was, however, the Rays were not soundly defeated in game one, and played arguably their best defensive game of the season in game two.

The first game ended with a disappointing 4-3 regulation defeat, after a number of questionable calls and power play goals came back to haunt the Rays. During game two, however, they did not allow any of their frustrations from the previous night to seep into their play. They played with extreme attention to detail, competed the entire night, and capitalized on their scoring opportunities. Chad Veltri, who’d been sidelined for nearly a month, returned with a bang and earned his first shutout of the 2017-18 season.

For a team which struggled keeping the puck out of its own net at the early stages of the season, the IceRays have noticeably been improving their defensive game considering they’ve shut out both Shreveport and Lone Star in the last month.

The Matchup

It’s been well-established that there is no longer an “easy” game in the NAHL South anymore. There is too much parity, every team is too competitive, and the division is always too tightly contested. However, if there is one team in the South that is beginning to turn its attention to next season rather than focusing on a playoff run, the Topeka RoadRunners are it.

Things have not gone Topeka’s way this season. They lost their captain and best player Nick Granowicz to the USHL, as well as Will Schlagenhauf and their best defender Jake Rosenbaum. Their top-scoring defenseman Sam Martel was also recently injured for the rest of the season. On top of that, their head coach Josh Kamrass was instated as the Director of Hockey Ops, leaving first-year assistant Justin DeMartino as the interim head coach. It’s turned into a rebuilding year for the RoadRunners, who will be playing with nothing to lose at this point.

New Additions Flourishing

The sample size is obviously quite small, with only two games having been played since the trade deadline. However, it’s fair to say that the two players brought in have done an outstanding job of adapting in a very short period of time. Grayson Gavin had an assist in each game against Lone Star last weekend, including a smart heads-up pass to Jayson Dimizio in the low slot after forcing a turnover. He possesses sharp vision and offensive awareness, and promises to serve as a capable two-way center going forward. As for Adam Kadlec, he put his high-end skills on display in his assist to Rylee St. Onge, which was named the NAHL #3 Play of the Week. Kadlec’s speed and his patience with the puck are poised to work wonders for the IceRays, especially while playing between two highly-skilled wingers in St. Onge and Julian Makary.

Top Prospects Announced

NAHL Top Prospects rosters were announced this week, and the IceRays are privileged to be sending five players. All of them are uncommitted and will be given the chance to showcase their talents at the most heavily-scouted hockey event in the country.

Pavel Koreshkov is an ultra-skilled 17-year-old rookie who was named to the NAHL Selects roster, as a young player capable of drawing NHL interest as a potential draft pick. The three named to the South Division roster are all 20-year-olds returners in their last season of junior hockey. Brendan Miller, who’s scored 13 points in as many games, was selected as well as the IceRays’ top scorer Larry Jungwirth and their highest-scoring defenseman Matt Acciaioli. The East Division needed another player, which created an opening for Brad Flynn to send Garrett Hallford. Hallford’s in his fourth season of juniors and is one of the most experienced players in the league. He will have the chance to put his high-end speed and versatile skillset on display in Plymouth, Michigan. The tournament will take place on Tuesday, February 27th and Wednesday, February 28th.