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PREVIEW: ICERAYS VS. WILDCATS (GAME #57)

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS

vs.

WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS

Friday, April 1 at 7:11 P.M.

Game #57 • NAHL Game #626 • Series: WFS leads 7-1-0
American Bank Center • Corpus Christi, TX
Radio: SportsJuice.com • Video: FASTHockey.com 
• In-Arena: 87.7FM
Mobile: TuneIn Radio Twitter: @goicerays

Coverage begins at 6:55 p.m. with Countdown To Faceoff

Tonight’s Game: The IceRays begin their last home weekend of the 2015-16 regular season and a four-game stretch against the Wichita Falls Wildcats at the American Bank Center.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays earned their first win against the Wildcats in their last meeting, breaking a seven-game winless drought from the start of this season. With the win, the IceRays are 1-7-0 against the Wildcats this season and 13-14-1 at home over the past six seasons. The Wildcats own the all-time series, pitting the IceRays to a 18-30-6 record.

Last Game: The IceRays were held down despite a hard offensive push in a 3-2 loss to the Odessa Jackalopes on Saturday night at the American Bank Center. Jackalopes forward Pierce Pluemer (PP, 9:59 1st) converted the game’s opening goal to give the road side the 1-0 edge before IceRays forward Brad LeLievre (19:35, 1st) tied the game, 1-1, late in the period after receiving a pass from down low. The Jackalopes converted on three-straight power plays through the second period with two in the middle frame from forward Hampus Sjodahl (PP, 10:26 2nd) and defenseman Daniel Kiraly (PP, 13:07 2nd) to double their lead, 3-1. IceRays forward Mason Krueger (PP, 15:16 2nd) drew within one, 3-2, before the end of the frame but could not find an equalizer in the third period. Jackalopes goaltender Dean Shatzer halted 46 of 48 shots in the win, while IceRays netminder Dryden McKay stopped 28 of 31 shots in the loss.

Playoff Push: The playoff race comes down to the final four games, and the IceRays will need some help during the final month to clinch a playoff spot. Following a sweep at the hands of the Jackalopes, the IceRays remain two points back of fourth place and three points from sole possession. Odessa owns the first tie-breaker (most wins), so the IceRays will need to earn three more points than the Jackalopes over their final four games to clinch the playoffs. That means the IceRays can go no worse than 1-2-1 if Odessa were to finish the season winless, or if the IceRays ran the table the Jackalopes could do no better than two wins in four games. If the Jackalopes finished going 2-0-2 in a perfect four-game stretch for the IceRays, the third tie-breaker (head-to-head goal differential) would go to the IceRays after being equal in wins and the season series (6-4-2) with Odessa.

Midway March: The IceRays closed March on a sour note, dropping their last two games to fall to 4-4-0 through eight games in the last full month of the season. The IceRays began with wins in three of their first four games against Odessa and Wichita Falls before faltering in three of four against Lone Star and the Jackalopes. After opening the month outscoring their opposition 9-3, the IceRays slipped to a 15-10 deficit in their closing six games while being held to two goals or less in each of their last six contests. The team also slipped to fifth place for the first time in the month with their loss on Saturday night.

Bottoms Up: The IceRays push has come from the back end of their scoring over their last month while the top end has remained relatively quiet. The top-three scoring forwards came on the back line of the team: Stevie Bryant, Andy McGlynn, and Toby Kircher. All three have combined for just over one quarter of the team’s total point production (14-of-55, 25.45%) without playing every game, and Bryant (3 goals, 2 assists), Kircher (2 goals, three assists), and defenseman Cody Lichtenvoort (goal, 4 assists) lead the way with five points each. The team’s top-three scorers this season (Carter Johnson, Drake Lindsay, Regen Cavanagh) have combined eight points in March and three in their last six games.

Wildcat Running: The Wichita Falls Wildcats continued their unbeaten streak at home with a sweep of the Topeka RoadRunners, winning 4-3 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. Forward Austin Albrecht turned in a strong campaign, leading the team with four points (three goals, one assist) with two of his goals coming on Saturday and being one of five players with multi-point weekends. Forwards Jonathan Lazarus (three assists) and Andre Pison (goal, two assists) picked up a trio of points as well over the weekend. Goaltender Justin Kapelmaster earned wins on both nights, halting 61 shots through 66 attempts throughout the weekend.

Power Ahead: The Wildcats power play has been consistently strong throughout the course of the season but especially against the IceRays. Through eight games, the Wildcats have converted on 13 of 33 chances, scoring at a 39.39 percent clip. They’ve scored power play goals in seven of their eight meetings and multi-goal outputs in half of their games. The Wildcats have goals in six-straight games including going 3-for-7 (42.86%) in their last meeting in March. As a comparison, the IceRays are 1-for-32 (3.13%) this season on the power play against the Wildcats. Wichita Falls ranks third in the NAHL in overall power play percentage.

South Division Standings:
x-Wichita Falls Wildcats (42-10-4, 88 PTS)
x-Lone Star Brahmas (37-11-8, 82 PTS)
x-Topeka RoadRunners (32-23-1, 65 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (25-27-4, 54 PTS)
Corpus Christi IceRays (23-27-6, 52 PTS)
z-Amarillo Bulls (11-41-4, 26 PTS)

Next Game: The IceRays play their final home game of the 2015-16 regular season on Saturday, April 2 at 7:11 p.m. against the Wichita Falls Wildcats at the American Bank Center on Pack The House For Charity. Tickets are available at www.Ticketmaster.com and the American Bank Center Box Office. Coverage begins at 6:55 p.m. on SportsJuice.com, FASTHockey.com, and 87.7FM in-arena.