SOUTH QUARTERFINALS: ICERAYS VS. WILD (GAME #1)

SOUTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS

CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS

vs.

WENATCHEE WILD

Friday, April 3 at 7:05 P.M.

Series Game #1 • Series: 0-0 • Home Game #1
American Bank Center • Corpus Christi, Texas
Radio: SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM) • Mobile: TuneIn Radio

Video: FASTHockey.com • Twitter: @goicerays

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

Tonight’s Game: The Corpus Christi IceRays open the 2015 Robertson Cup Playoffs with a South Division Quarterfinal matchup with the Wenatchee Wild from the American Bank Center. The two sides will play a best-of-three series to determine who moves on to the South Division Semifinals.

Head-To-Head: The IceRays won the season series 4-1-0 over their five-game stretch in the 2014-15 season with their lone loss coming on Jan. 16 in Wenatchee in a 4-1 loss. The IceRays are a perfect 3-0-0 in home games against the Wild and are 4-2-0 in their franchise history. Overall, the IceRays are 21-7-0 in games played at the American Bank Center, while the Wild are 15-14-1 in games played away from Town Toyota Center.

Last Meeting: The IceRays finished off the weekend with their first road win of the season and first shootout win in two years during a 4-3 victory against the Wild on Jan. 17 from Town Toyota Center. Wild forward Austin Von Ungern-Sternberg gave the home side an early edge before IceRays forwards Ryan Cusin (PP) and Joe Chitwood gave the IceRays a 2-1 lead midway through the second period. Mitch DeMario drew the Wild even, 2-2, heading into the third period. Just 14 seconds into the third period, IceRays forward Tanner Lomsnes edged the road side ahead, 3-2, but forward Colin Burston evened the score heading into overtime. In the five-round shootout, IceRays defenseman Anthony Cortese scored the lone goal in the second round to give the IceRays the 4-3 win. Andrew Lindgren stopped 25 of 28 shots in the win, while Zach Quinn saved 17 of 20 in the loss.

Great Success: The IceRays closed out the 2014-15 season with a 31-24-5 record with 67 points, their best record in junior franchise history. Over the season, the IceRays set team records in most wins, best ending win percentage (.558), best home record (23-7-0), and highest ranking of power play (1) and penalty kill (1). A few individual players reached milestones with forward Connor Kelly reaching 100 NAHL games on Saturday, forward Brad LeLievre hit his 150th NAHL game on March 21, and forward Wes Michaud played his 100th IceRays game on Feb. 20. Two IceRays players also took down team records this season: Wes Michaud now leads in single-season goals (30), single-season assists (43), and single-season points (73); Travis Howe leads in single-season and career penalty minutes (246).

Second Rodeo: The IceRays are appearing in their second stint in the Robertson Cup Playoffs since joining the NAHL in the 2010-11 season. In their last appearance, the IceRays fell in the South Division Semifinals 3-1 to the Amarillo Bulls in a best-of-five series. After winning the opening game 2-1 at the Amarillo Civic Center, the IceRays were outscored 16-8 over their next three games. In game one, forwards Emil Romig and Brandon Berkley scored goals in the third period after trailing 1-0 through two periods to come away with the win. In game two, Amarillo scored four goals over the first two periods to pull ahead despite two goals by AJ Jarosz in their 6-3 loss. The last two games took place at the American Bank Center, but Rudy Sulmonte’s two goals could not help the IceRays come back, falling 5-3. In the decisive game four, the Bulls put up two goals in each of the final two periods to take control and the series with another 5-3 win.

Back In The Fray: IceRays head coach John Becanic is making his first trip to the Robertson Cup Playoffs with the IceRays and fourth in the North American Hockey League. His first trip came back in the 2013 Robertson Cup Playoffs with the Pittsburgh Forge, during which Becanic helped lead his team to not only a Robertson Cup but also a USA Hockey Junior A National Championship. His previous two appearances came with the Wenatchee Wild during the 2011 & 2012 Robertson Cup Playoffs, earning a combined 7-2-6 record both ending in the West Divisional Finals.

Postseason Powerhouse: The Wild are entering their seventh-straight season in the Robertson Cup Playoffs, making the postseason every season since joining the North American Hockey League in the 2008-09 season. In six years, the Wild have earned a 36-16-10 record in postseason play along with a 6-6-1 record in the Robertson Cup Finals. Overall, Wenatchee has made two appearances in the Robertson Cup Finals, falling 3-2 in overtime to the St. Louis Bandits in the 2009 Finals and dropping 5-0 to the Amarillo Bulls in the 2013 Finals. They have never owned a losing record in playoff games, and over their last two seasons under head coach Bliss Littler, the Wild are 13-9-1 with a 2-2-0 record in the 2013 Robertson Cup Finals.

Last Game: The IceRays ended the 2014-15 regular season with a 4-2 win over the Amarillo Bulls last Saturday night from the American Bank Center. The IceRays tallied three times in the opening period with forwards Tanner Lomsnes (twice) and Nic LaBurn combining to give the IceRays a 3-0 lead. The Bulls came around early in the third period to get on the board, 3-1, thanks to forward Will Harrison before the IceRays answered back just over a minute later from forward Connor Kelly to stretch back to a three-goal lead, 4-1. Amarillo forward Luke Novak scored late in the third period but couldn’t do enough to overcome the 4-2 deficit. IceRays netminder Luke Pickar picked up the win, stopping 22 of 24 shots, while Bulls goaltender Jacob Weatherly grabbed the loss, facing 30 of 34 shots.

Winning Wild: The Wenatchee Wild finished out their 2014-15 campaign by picking up five of a possible six points against the Topeka RoadRunners from Town Toyota Center, winning 3-1 on Friday and 4-3 on Saturday while dropping their season finale 3-2 in a shootout. 15 different skaters scored points over the weekend, including team-leading scorer Jake Ahlgren, who registered two goals and one assists. Forwards Mike Coyne and Chris Jones each earned a goal and two assists, and forward Donovan Ott earned three assists in two games, almost doubling his season point total in the process. Goaltender Michael Bullion went 1-0-1 on the weekend, stopping 43 of 46 shots (.935), and netminder Zach Quinn turned away 32 of 35 shots in Saturday’s 4-3 win.

All About Wes: Forward Westin Michaud has been the strongest asset for the IceRays throughout the 2014-15 regular season. In 58 games, the Colorado College commit has earned a team-high 30 goals and 43 assists for 73 points, all of which set single-season records for an IceRays skater. He finishes third in the NAHL in scoring as one of three players with 70+ points, tied for third in the NAHL in goals, and tied for fourth in assists. He leads all IceRays players with 28 power play points (10 goals, 18 assists), which also ranks third in the NAHL behind Chandler Madry (Fairbanks) and Ludvig Larsson (Lone Star). Michaud comes into the postseason with 12 goals and 8 assists for 20 points over his last 13 games while retrieving points in 11 of 13 and recording a hat-trick on Mar. 11 against the Lone Star Brahmas in a 4-3 overtime victory. Michaud is as close to the complete package as one can find, combining speed, skating ability, puck handling, ice vision, and scoring to create a true offensive threat.

All About Ahlgren: Forward Jake Ahlgren is one of a few players that can say he’s played in every game for a single team this season. In 60 games, the Fergus Falls, Minn., native leads the Wild in scoring with 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points with a +6 rating and four power play goals. The left-winger has combined with co-liners Brendan Harris and Kyle Stephan, who sit second and third, respectively, in scoring on the Wild, to produce a strong top line to power into the postseason. Ahlgren’s speed and scoring ability work well with the skill set brought by Harris and Stephan, and all three become strong scoring threats when left wide open. Ahlgren represented the Wild this season at the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, recording one assist in Team South’s 9-2 loss to Team USA U18. This is his second-straight trip to the postseason, owning three goals and one assist for four points in 10 games during the 2014 Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Holding Corts: IceRays defenseman Anthony Cortese has not only been one of the strongest offensive defenseman in the NAHL this season, he’s been the best asset against Wenatchee. In five games played against the Wild, Cortese leads the team in scoring with two goals and five assists for seven points and shares the team lead in power play points (two assists). His shootout goal in the second round on Jan. 17 was the game-deciding goal in the team’s first road win of the season and first shootout win under head coach John Becanic. While he hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 31 in Odessa (18 games), he finished the regular season tied for first among NAHL defenseman with Matt Koch (Wichita Falls) in scoring with 51 points and sits third in goals (13), assists (38), and power play assists (17).

Me And Mr. Jones: While he’s better known for causing havoc away from the puck, Wild defenseman Chris Jones has been the best player for the Wild over their recent stretch heading into the postseason. He shares the team lead in scoring over his last five games and owns the spot outright over his last ten, earning three goals and four assists for seven points. Pairing with defenseman Tyler Rockwell (one goal, five assists), the two have a combined 13 points over their last ten games and sit among the top-four in scoring on the Wild.

Back To The Ice: Both the IceRays and Wild anticipate seeing players return to action this weekend. While IceRays defenseman Travis Howe starts the first of a two-game suspension tonight for too many 10-minute misconducts, forward Frankie Melton comes back from his three-game suspension and is available. The Wild have listed three affiliates coming to Corpus Christi, and they are hopeful to see two big role players return to the lineup: forwards Ivan Bondarenko and Dakota Raabe. Both of their skaters are probable for this weekend’s games. However, the IceRays still are without defenseman Trevor Heuser (lower body) as he will not play this round and is questionable for a possible second round matchup.

Tonight's Playoff Matchups:
SOUTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS

            • GAME 2: RGV Killer Bees (6th) @ Wichita Falls Wildcats (3rd) – 7:05 p.m. – Kay Yeager Coliseum
                        – WFS leads 1-0
CENTRAL DIVISION SEMIFINALS
            • GAME 1: Aberdeen Wings (4th) @ Austin Bruins (1st) – 7:05 p.m. – Riverside Arena
            • GAME 1: Bismark Bobcats (3rd) @ Minot Minotauros (2nd) – 7:35 p.m. – Maysa Arena

Final South Division Standings:
z-Lone Star Brahmas (40-12-8, 88 PTS)
y-Topeka RoadRunners (39-15-6, 84 PTS)
x-Wichita Falls Wildcats (39-16-5, 83 PTS)
x-Corpus Christi IceRays (31-24-5, 67 PTS)
x-Wenatchee Wild (27-25-8, 62 PTS)
x-Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (25-25-10, 60 PTS)
Amarillo Bulls (25-31-4, 54 PTS)
Odessa Jackalopes (15-38-7, 37 PTS)

z – South Division Title    y – First-Round Bye    x – Clinched Playoffs

Next Game: The IceRays head into Game 2 of the South Division Quarterfinals on Saturday, April 4 at 7:05 p.m. from the American Bank Center. Tickets are available by calling 361-814-PUCK, online at www.Ticketmaster.com, or at the American Bank Center Box Office. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on the IceRays flagship station for all games in the 2015 Robertson Cup Playoffs, SportsRadio Corpus Christi (KSIX 1230AM), & FASTHockey.com.