PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. WILDCATS (GAME #24)

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS VS. WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS

Saturday, December 3 • 7:05 P.M. • American Bank Center • Corpus Christi, TX
NAHL Game #251 • Game #24 • Home Game #12 • Series: WFS leads 2-0-1-0
Radio: SportsJuice.com • Video: Hockey TV • Twitter: @goicerays • In-Arena: 87.7FM

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

Tonight’s Game: The IceRays welcome the Wichita Falls Wildcats to the American Bank Center for the first time this season to kick off a rare Saturday-Sunday weekend set on City-County Night, presented by Citgo.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays met the Wildcats in the opening weekend of the 2016-17 season, and the Wildcats took two of three games while the IceRays grabbed an overtime win on game one. While the IceRays own an even 15-14-1 record through six seasons at the American Bank Center in the franchise series, the Wildcats have taken a majority of the total games, forcing the IceRays to a 21-34-6 record.

Last Game: The IceRays couldn’t overcome multiple hurdles in their 5-2 loss to the Amarillo Bulls on Saturday night at the American Bank Center. Bulls forward Brendan Walkom (PP, 10:59 1st) got the scoring started to take a 1-0 lead before the IceRays answered back less than a minute later thanks to defenseman Cody Fleckenstein (11:43 1st) to tie the game, 1-1. IceRays forward Jayson DiMizio (5:16 2nd) gave the home side a brief 2-1 lead before the Bulls came back with two quick goals from forward Jake Nitche (8:20 2nd) and defenseman Bray Crowder (8:46 2nd) to take a 3-2 lead. The Bulls added two more insurance goals in the third period thanks to forwards Luke Edgerton (13:45 3rd) and Kosta Likourezos (PP, 18:33 3rd) to bring the final to 5-2. Bulls goaltender Nikita Babintsev (6-8-2) stopped 40 of 42 shots in the win, while IceRays netminder Camden Burggrabe (4-2-1) halted 24 of 29 shots in the loss.

Falling Even: The IceRays closed out November making no changes to their total point percentage but stayed at .500 with a 4-4-0-0 record through eight games. During the month, the IceRays only played the Lone Star Brahmas and Amarillo Bulls and came up with opposite results. The IceRays went 1-3-0-0 against the Brahmas while being outscored 9-6 and obtaining their lone win on November 19 at home. On the other hand, the IceRays went 3-1-0-0 against the Bulls and outscored them 12-7 while only losing on Saturday night. The IceRays now have four wins in each of their last two months of play with 17 of 23 points.

Holiday Cheer: Heading into December, the IceRays will be tested by the top three teams in the South Division starting with the Wichita Falls Wildcats at home followed by back-to-back road weekends against the Lone Star Brahmas and Shreveport Mudbugs with one more mid-week set after the holidays at home against Shreveport. The IceRays have a combined 2-5-0-0 record against the Wildcats and Brahmas but have yet to play the Mudbugs this season.

Back End Strength: November was a month for defense to shine for the IceRays, and defenseman Cody Fleckenstein was at the helm during that span. While leading the team among defensemen in points (2+2=4), he also was one of the defensive leaders in hits (31) and blocked shots (10) while contributing a +4 rating in all eight games played, helping to earn NAHL Defenseman of the Month Honorable Mention. He leads IceRays defenseman in points (4+11=15) and shares second on the team in assists as well as fourth in scoring.

Cats Gone Wild: The Wichita Falls Wildcats took part in their second-straight three-game week, taking a 5-4 win against the Lone Star Brahmas from the NYTEX Sports Centre on Wednesday night followed by 4-2 and 4-3 wins against the Odessa Jackalopes from the Kay Yeager Coliseum on Friday and Saturday. 15 different players cashed in with points over the weekend led by forward Ryan Burnett (1+5=6), who was one of three players to grab points in all three games including defenseman Seamus Donahue (1+3=4) and forward Nick Rosa (1+3=4). Forward C.J. Walker (2+2=4) also tapped in with a four-point week. Goaltender Jared Dempsey played all three games over the week, earning a perfect 3-0-0 record with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage as well as an assist on Friday.

In Nelson We Trust: The Wildcats recently made a change on their bench, suspending head coach Tony Curtale indefinitely and promoting assistant Josh Nelson to interim head coach. Despite the change, the Wildcats continue to be one of the most threatening teams in the South Division. Since Nelson’s takeover on November, the Wildcats are 5-1-0 though playing five of six games from the Kay Yeager Coliseum but have still recorded four or more goals in their last five games, including seven in their lone loss to Topeka on November 18 and six the following night against the RoadRunners. Overall, the Wildcats have won nine of their last ten games and finished November with a 7-1-0 record, which stands first among South Division teams.

South Division Standings:
Lone Star Brahmas (20-7-1-0, 41 PTS)
Wichita Falls Wildcats (14-6-2-0, 30 PTS)
Shreveport Mudbugs (14-7-0-1, 29 PTS)
Corpus Christi IceRays (10-10-1-2, 23 PTS)
Topeka RoadRunners (9-13-2-1, 21 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (9-12-2-0, 20 PTS)
Amarillo Bulls (7-12-6-0, 20 PTS)

Next Game: The IceRays finish up their two-game weekend against the Wildcats on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 3:05 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, Hockey TV, and 87.7FM in-arena.