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Preview: IceRays @ Topeka RoadRunners (Game 17)

Chip on the Shoulders

When a team with as much talent as the IceRays have is shut out for an entire series, retribution is unavoidable. Everyone is hungry to score. Whoever falls victim to playing them next is bound to have a difficult time containing them. Containing teams has not been a strength of the Topeka RoadRunners this season, as they’ve allowed an average of 3.41 goals per game, leading the South Division.

Topeka will be hard-pressed to come across an IceRay who isn’t playing with some sort of an edge tonight, especially given the fact the end of their longest-ever road stretch is now within reach. The Rays cannot afford to miss out on an opportunity for recourse this weekend, playing against the weakest defensive team in the division with an opportunity to end the ten-game stretch with a .500 mark.

The Matchup

The season series has been something of an anomaly between Corpus Christi and Topeka. The Rays decisively defeated them in the season opener on September 15th, but were blown out 6-1 the following night. Since then, both teams have had their greatest struggles in opposite departments.

Simply stated, the Rays have struggled putting pucks in the net, while the Runners have struggled keeping the puck out of the net. Corpus Christi has tallied the fewest goals in the NAHL this season, averaging just 1.88 per game. The vast discrepancy between the 3.41 Topeka has allowed and the 1.88 Corpus Christi has scored could make for an interesting weekend, but there are more important factors to consider.

Topeka is currently in the midst of the NAHL’s longest-active losing streak, having dropped its last five contests. Four of those defeats came in regulation. The Rays, by comparison, have lost four straight, all in regulation. One skid will be broken tonight, the other will be prolonged. Mentally, both of these teams need to seize the chance lying in front of them.

Power Play with Unique Opportunity

While it’s true the IceRays are currently at the bottom of the NAHL with an 8.1% power play, they have been playing against nothing but stalwart penalty-killing teams over the last five weeks. To be fair to the Rays, Odessa, Amarillo, Shreveport, and Lone Star are all in the top six in the NAHL on the PK. Topeka? Not so much.

In their last four games, the RoadRunners have allowed five power play goals on just fourteen opportunities, and they came against middling teams (Odessa, Springfield). That clocks out to an absurd 35.7% power play success rate against Topeka over a four-game span. If there is ever a good time for a struggling power play to get back on track, now is the time.

Around the South

Tonight’s game will be the only South Division matchup in action, as Shreveport recovers from its Alaska expedition and Odessa enjoys its bye-week. The Brahmas managed a road split against the red-hot Amarillo Bulls, ousting them by a 2-1 final last night to answer their 3-0 defeat on Thursday. Both games were decided in regulation.