Saturday, 01.27.18 / 10:07 pm CT
In a hard-fought, thrilling battle in Odessa on Saturday night, the IceRays survived a late surge of penalties to force overtime and defeat the Jackalopes 2-1 and split the series. They had an excellent night on the penalty kill, going 6-for-6 and fighting off late back-to-back 5-on-3’s.
The IceRays dictated the pace to start Saturday’s tilt, not allowing themselves to fall into the same hole they did the previous night. Larry Jungwirth fired two shots on net in the first 30 seconds, but Brett Epp stood tall. He would later rob Rylee St. Onge on a shot, as well, sliding over to deny him after a nice cross-ice feed by Julian Makary.
Jake Acton made an enormous save just seconds into the game, anticipating a no-look spin-o-rama backhand pass through the slot from Eric Huss. He also denied UMass-Lowell commit Matt Brown on a clear-cut breakaway. The IceRays’ net-minder denied all ten shots he faced in the first period.
Just 27 seconds into the second period, Garrett Hallford raced down the right wing after receiving a diving pass by Brendan Miller. He sniped a shot under Brett Epp’s blocker to draw first blood. Hallford’s tenth goal of the season and third point on the weekend gave the Rays their first lead of the series.
Acton continued to keep the Jackalopes at bay and halted all six second period shots. At 16:17, CJ Regula took exception to Noah Poindexter’s hit, and dropped the gloves with the Odessa forward. The two of them exchanged haymakers, each throwing a pair before Regula lost an edge.
Only a minute and a half later, Lucas Andersson was given a delayed penalty for cross-checking Conor Yawney in the left corner. Yawney wasn’t pleased, and decided to throw down his mitts and fight the Swedish defenseman. Yawney fired a handful of punches before Andersson hit the deck, ending the second period on a thrilling note for the Rays.
At 48:21, Petr Miko took the puck wide on a winded Ryan Rosenberg and dipped the shoulder before cutting to the inside and tucking it past Acton’s right pad. He couldn’t fling his leg out quickly enough, and the Jacks tied the game.
Three consecutive penalties were called against Corpus Christi in the final five minutes of regulation, giving Odessa back-to-back 5-on-3’s. The IceRays penalty killers valiantly fought off the threats, and forced overtime.
After a frightening flurry of opportunities in front of the Rays net, Julian Makary stole the puck near the Odessa bench and skated down the right wing with Blake Coffey on his left. Makary fed a saucer pass over the defenseman’s stick, setting up Coffey for a one-timer opportunity. The IceRays defenseman hammered the shot past Epp to give the Rays the 2-1 victory on his 20th birthday.
Acton backstopped the IceRays to a 38-save performance, stopping all but one shot to earn his first victory against Odessa. Epp denied 36 of 38 and was charged with his first defeat against Corpus Christi. The IceRays will return home to host the Lone Star Brahmas on Thursday, February 8th at 7:05 pm CT at the American Bank Center. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com and on YouTube.