The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2016-17 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Corpus Christi IceRays
Head Coach: Brad Flynn (1st year)
2015-16 record: 25-29-6, 56 pts. (5th in the South Division)
2015-16 leading scorer: Drake Lindsay (38 points)
2016 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2016-17 Division: South
First regular season game: Thursday, September 15th @ Wichita Falls Wildcats
Home opener: Friday, October 14th vs. Odessa Jackalopes
After battling through a season of offensive struggles and inconsistent play that saw them miss out of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the winds of change blew through Corpus Christi following the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, as head coach John Becanic was let go.
Just over a month later, the IceRays found their new bench boss in former assistant coach Brad Flynn. He returned to Corpus Christi after spending the 2015-16 season as an assistant coach for Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL. Flynn helped them to a 27-35-3-3 record with an appearance in the QMJHL Playoffs. During the 2014-15 season, Flynn was an assistant coach with the IceRays, helping lead the team to a 31-24-5 record, the junior franchise’s best regular season record, as well as an appearance in the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
“Following the season, I felt that we needed a shot in the arm to take us to the next level,” said IceRays General Manager Pat Dunn. “Brad just has that energy that will help us get there. His passion for the game is infectious. He lives and breathes hockey. The players will love to play for him and will like his up-tempo style of game. He is also very active when it comes to recruiting and promoting players to the next level.”
Flynn said he is coming in with a fresh mindset, but the first thing to do was address the scoring concerns. The IceRays finished 19 out of 22 teams in scoring last season. “We have to be better offensively. It is such a tight and competitive league and division, so being able to put the puck in the net is something that we have to do consistently. I think the only way we get there is with a strong work ethic,” said Flynn. “All the other teams have been putting in the hours and work in the off-season and there are some very good coaches in this league, so we have to try and so that little extra to set ourselves apart from our competition. I want us to be a good and respectful group of guys off the ice, but a team that is really hard to play against on the ice.”
Flynn continued…“We have to start simple and have small goals. I like to work in small segments where we do some evaluation after seven-game blocks. I think that will be important, especially to start the season, so we get a read on the type of players we have and those that we may need to be successful. I think in order to generate more offense we not only have to have the right kind of players, but those that are willing to play an attack style where we are always putting pressure on our opponent.”
Flynn said that IceRays will also put a focus on getting more NCAA commitments, as well as, trying to attract some younger players that could end up as NHL prospects. One of the famous names of IceRays past was goalie Anthony Stolarz, who not only played NCAA Division I hockey, but was drafted right out of the NAHL by the Philadelphia Flyers and is now one of the top goaltending prospects. “There is so much opportunity for the players in the NAHL and each season the number of players getting committed and getting drafted into the NHL is something that everyone has taken notice of. It makes it much easier to recruit a player,” said Flynn.
Flynn said he also could not be happier being back in the Texas Gulf Coast region. “Corpus Christi has some incredible people, sponsors and our fan base is tremendous. I am excited to be back in the area and it is a great place to raise a family and provide a great experience for our players. The way that this team and teams in the NAHL conduct themselves is right up there with professional teams.”
The IceRays open the season at Wichita Falls in a three-game set against the Robertson Cup Runner-Up from last season. After that, it is games against Aberdeen, the Minnesota Magicians, Brookings and New Jersey at the NAHL Showcase. “The Showcase is an overwhelming experience and for the amount of scouts there it is second to none. There is so much detail that goes into it and the league does a great job. Right off the bat to start the season, I would like our players to have an offensive mindset that show up every day, work hard, play with grit and buy into team success before individual success,” said Flynn.