SOUTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS
CORPUS CHRISTI ICERAYS
Saturday, April 4 at 7:05 P.M.
Series Game #2 • Series: WEN leads 1-0 • Home Game #2
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 and Wenatchee Wild play Game #2 of the South Division Quarterfinals at 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: With a loss last night, the IceRays fell behind 1-0 to the Wild and can be knocked out with a loss in one of the next two games. 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.
Last Night: The IceRays and Wild battled close, but the Wild came away with the 3-2 overtime win on Friday night from the American Bank Center. Frankie Melton notched the first goal of the postseason for the IceRays early in the first period before David Powlowski tied the game, 1-1, for the Wild. Scoring held off until late in the second period, when Brendan Harris gave the Wild a 2-1 lead. Less than three minutes later, Wes Michaud tied the game again, 2-2. The game eventually went into overtime, where August Von Ungern-Sternberg redirected a Dan Bailey shot to gain the win. Zach Quinn stopped 31 of 33 shots in the win, while Andrew Lindgren saved 36 of 39 in the overtime loss.
Against All Odds: The IceRays head into tonight’s game with their season on the line. In this best-of-three series, the IceRays need to win the next two games in order to advance to the South Division Semifinals against the Topeka RoadRunners but will be eliminated with one loss in one of their next two games. The IceRays have never won a playoff series in franchise history, including in 12 years as a professional organization, and have never advanced to the second round by winning a series. The 2007 Corpus Christi Rayz lost their first round series 4-3 to the Arizona Sun Dogs but advanced in the CHL Playoffs because the league needed another playoff team. They would lose 4-1 to the Laredo Bucks in that round.
Bonus Hockey: For the first time in junior franchise history, the Wenatchee Wild won a playoff game in overtime while playing away from Town Toyota Center. Over the last six seasons, the Wild have gone 0-6 in road overtime games including the 2009 Robertson Cup Final against the St. Louis Bandits (3-2 L). With last night’s win, the Wild have won three of their last four postseason overtime games and are undefeated in 2014-15 including the regular season (4-0). They now own a 7-10 record in the extra period. On the other side, the IceRays played their first overtime playoff game in their fifth postseason game and dating through the regular season broke a 8-game winning streak in overtime games. Their last overtime loss came on Oct. 10 in Lone Star (3-2 L).
Postseason Numbers: Frankie Melton and Wes Michaud become the eighth and ninth players in IceRays history to record a goal in the Robertson Cup Playoffs thanks to their tallies against the Wild. Only four players in junior franchise history to record two goals in a single postseason: Brandon Berkley, AJ Jarosz, Emil Romig, and Rudy Sulmonte. No player has ever scored three goals or more. In points, Romig leads all IceRays historically with five points (two goals, three assists) followed by Beau Walker, who leads in postseason assists with four.
Tale of Two Goalies: Both netminders form last night are trending in opposite directions through the end of the regular season. After gaining the overtime win last night, Wild goaltender Zach Quinn earns his fourth win in his last five chances at a decision, his best stretch since recording six-straight wins from Nov. 8 through Dec. 7 during the regular season. The win is also his second in postseason play following a 1-3-0 showing for Kenai River in the 2014 Robertson Cup Playoffs. On the other hand, IceRays netminder Andrew Lindgren has now lost his last five-straight games while allowing three goals or more in each of those three games. His last win came on Mar. 13 against Wichita Falls (5-4 OTW). IceRays goaltenders are now 1-3-1 with a 3.99 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage in five postseason games.
Veteran Leadership: The Wenatchee Wild still hold veteran leadership from last season’s Robertson Cup Playoffs that are already contributing this postseason. Brendan Harris scored his second goal in NAHL postseason play with his other goal coming on Apr. 19 in the 2014 Midwest Finals against Fairbanks (4-2 L). Jake Ahlgren’s assists brings him up to five points (three goals, two assists) over the last two season while sharing the active lead in goals with David Powlowski after his third goal and fourth point in postseason play. Though he didn’t register a point last night, Chris Jones leads all active skaters in postseason points with eight assists, and Mike Coyne follows in second with six points (one goal, five assists).
Keep On, Stephan: Wild forward Kyle Stephan continues his recent point stretch into the postseason with a pair of assists last night against the IceRays. He now has four points over his last three games stretching back to the regular season and six points over his last seven games. Since joining the Wild on Jan. 12, the Barrie, Ontario, native has averaged just under a point per game, recording 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) over 24 games.
Back To The Ice: Both the IceRays and Wild anticipate seeing players return to action this weekend. IceRays defenseman Travis Howe serves the second of a two-game suspension tonight for too many 10-minute misconducts but can return to the lineup if the IceRays force a third game. 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 as well as defenseman Mitch Demario. All three of their skaters are probable for this weekend’s games after sitting out last night. 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.
Southern Implications: Elsewhere in the South Division Quarterfinals, the Wichita Falls Wildcats earned the sweep of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees last night thanks to a 5-4 win on home ice at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. The Wildcats will now be the high-seed coming out of this round of playoffs, meaning the three-seed will take on the two-seed Topeka RoadRunners in the South Division Semifinals starting next weekend. That also means that the winner of this best-of-three series will play the South Division Champion Lone Star Brahmas in the divisional semifinals. That series will start at the NYTEX Sports Center in North Richland Hills, Texas.
Central Lighting: Two former IceRays players earned big nights in the Central Division Semifinals last night to help their teams to opening game wins. At Riverside Arena, the Austin Bruins and Aberdeen Wings combined for 13 goals in a 8-5 Bruins win, and two of those goals came from forward Nico Sturm. The Augsburg, Germany, native struck twice in the third period with the eventual game-winning goal at 10:27 and an insurance goal at 19:41 with an empty net. At Maysa Arena, forward Nick Monfils recorded a hat-trick over two periods as his Minot Minotauros earned a 4-1 win over the Bismark Bobcats. He scored twice in 3:42 minutes in the second period and finished the trifecta at 7:46 of the final frame.
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 Night's Playoff Scores:
SOUTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS
• GAME 2: RGV Killer Bees 4 – Wichita Falls Wildcats 5
– WFS wins series 2-0; advances to South Division Semifinals vs. Topeka RoadRunners
CENTRAL DIVISION SEMIFINALS
• GAME 1: Aberdeen Wings 5 – Austin Bruns 8
• GAME 1: Bismark Bobcats 1 – Minot Minotauros 4
Tonight's Playoff Matchups:
CENTRAL DIVISION SEMIFINALS
• GAME 2: Aberdeen Wings (4th) – Austin Bruins (1st) – 7:05 p.m. – Riverside Arena
– AUS leads 1-0
• GAME 2: Minot Minotauros (2nd) @ Bismark Bobcats – 7:05 p.m. – Maysa Arena
– MNT leads 1-0
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: If the IceRays win tonight's game, then they will close out the South Division Quarterfinals against the Wenatchee Wild with Game #3 on Monday, April 6 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.