Monday, 11.20.17 / 2:11 pm CT
For the third consecutive time, an IceRay has been honored with an NAHL South Division First Star of the Week recognition. Matt Acciaioli has become the team’s first defenseman to win the honors this season, following back-to-back nominations to Larry Jungwirth.
Acciaioli lit up the scoresheet in the games against the Lone Star Brahmas, tallying half his season’s total points last weekend alone. Throughout the series, the veteran blue-liner set things up on the power plays and gave teammates a number of high-quality scoring opportunities.
On Friday night, the alternate captain assisted on three of the IceRays’ four goals, including the eventual game-winner which was scored by Larry Jungwirth early in the second period. He set up Brendan Miller with a crisp breakout pass which led to Jungwirth’s first goal, and sprung Garrett Hallford on an empty-net breakaway to seal the victory.
“Matt plays an extremely effective game. Although he isn’t the biggest defenseman, his intensity, compete, poise and hockey sense are right up there with anyone I have seen in our division,” IceRays head coach Brad Flynn said. “He works extremely hard in practice and puts in the extra time working on fine-tuning his skill set and the hockey gods smile on guys that put in the extra work to improve daily.”
Saturday night, Acciaioli assisted on a power play strike by feeding Rylee St. Onge in his wheelhouse in the right circle. The following period, he fired a long-range shot through a heavy screen and sniped the puck just inside the top right corner of the net. He would also jolt Trevor Wilhelm down the left wing with a heads-up play, which ultimately led to Jungwirth’s second goal on Saturday.
“Much more than the point production last weekend, I think Matt has done an excellent job in a leadership role,” Flynn said. “He has been a great partner for Trevor Wilhelm as they are both cut from the same cloth. Although he isn’t the loudest leader he does a great job of letting his play do the talking and leading by example.”
Jungwirth also had yet another goal-scoring bonanza last weekend, scoring twice in each of the contests. However, his First Star of the Week recognition had already come to pass.
The skilled winger’s absurdly dominant play began on Saturday, November 4th in Topeka. Early in the third period, he scored on a quick wraparound to put the game out of reach, and jumpstart the IceRays’ five-game winning streak. The next day, he assisted on Rylee St. Onge’s game-winning goal and scored twice back-to-back to propel the IceRays to the road sweep.
“Larry came in and took time to find his game and in the last three weeks, took advantage of an opportunity,” Flynn said. “He and his line-mates Rylee St. Onge and Aleksi Peltonen combine to be one of the most dangerous lines I have seen in our league. The attention to detail on both sides of the puck has been just as impressive to myself and Larry’s teammates as his point production has been. We always say the game is fair, and right now Larry is playing the right way and being rewarded.”
Somehow, he outdid himself the following weekend. Upon the team’s homecoming to the American Bank Center after a ten-game road stretch, Jungwirth put on a clinic for the home crowd. He scored his first career hat trick on Friday night, potting the IceRays’ first, third and fourth goals and leading them to a 5-2 triumph over the RoadRunners. He would also tie the following game in the third period to force overtime, setting the stage for Wilhelm’s heroics.
“Any time our team and organization get league recognition for their success, it’s a proud day in Corpus Christi,” Flynn said. “I believe it is fitting that as our team grows it learns that it is two 20-year-olds who are a big part of the turnaround along with our Captain Brendan Miller, Assistants Conor Yawney and Garrett Hallford, and Jayson Dimizio and Angus Scott. We stress the better we play as a team, the more individuals are rewarded, and the last three weeks have been a prime example.”