Friday, 03.23.18 / 10:15 pm CT
The IceRays punched their ticket to the 2018 Robertson Cup Playoffs, edging the Mudbugs in a 5-4 barn burner at George’s Pond on Friday night.
Taking the crowd out of the game was a critical challenge the IceRays sought to overcome on Friday. They accomplished that, and then some, in the opening minutes.
Just a minute and five seconds into the tilt, Cole Quisenberry was penalized for high-sticking Conor Yawney. Adam Kadlec fired a wrist shot from the blue line which was blocked by Gueorgui Feduolov. The puck bounced high in the air, and Feduolov was oblivious to its whereabouts. Kadlec spotted it and fed Larry Jungwirth a pass right in front of Shreveport’s goaltender Jaxon Castor.
A dozen seconds later, Jayson Dimizio stuffed a shot past Castor from behind the net. Within 2:07, the Rays led 2-0. However, the Mudbugs began clawing back into the contest in the middle stages of the first period. Jordan Fader set up Cole Quisenberry from behind the IceRays’ net, and Quisenberry fired a one-timer past Chad Veltri to cut the deficit in half. Brendan Van Sweden found himself on a partial breakaway after a fortunate bounce, and scored on a nifty move to the backhand to tie the game back up at 14:09.
Before the opening stanza ended, Rylee St. Onge regained Corpus Christi’s lead. Yawney completed a long screen-pass from the blue line, setting up St. Onge at the left side of the net. He buried his 19th goal of the season through Castor’s five-hole. Yawney extended his assist streak to six games.
After fighting off their 27th consecutive penalty kill early in period two, the Rays began to push for another insurance lead. At 26:17, Dimizio ripped a heavy wrist shot past Castor from the high slot, giving his team a 4-2 advantage.
Dakota Concannon and Cam Cook were given offsetting penalties for fighting at 34:07. Concannon had delivered an enormous hit on Jacob Skolnik in the right corner, and Cook threw his gloves off and got himself into a scrap. The two of them were evenly matched for some time, but were eventually separated by the linesmen. The Rays entered the second intermission with a 4-2 lead.
Shreveport buzzed in the third period and outshot the Rays 18-6. They rallied to erase a two-goal deficit for the second time in the game. Quisenberry and Van Sweden each buried their second goals of the contest in the third period, forcing overtime.
The IceRays hadn’t gone to extra time since February 17th, and despite going onto a full 4-on-3 power play in sudden death, they couldn’t seal the deal.
In the shootout, Kadlec buried a shot through Castor’s five-hole to give the Rays an early advantage. In the bottom of the third round, Roberts Baranovskis lifted a backhand shot past Veltri as the Mudbugs’ last chance to stay alive. Brendan Miller scored on a brilliantly executed deke to his forehand in the fourth round, and Veltri denied Ryan Burnett to close out the night and secure a 2018 postseason appearance for the IceRays.
Veltri stopped 40 of the 44 shots he faced en route to his 19th victory of the season, while Castor was charged with his first shootout loss, denying 26 of 30. The IceRays will finish their last road series of the season tomorrow night in Shreveport. Puck drop is set for 7:11 pm CT. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV and on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (1230 AM, 95.1 FM, 96.1 FM) and will be streamed live at the IceRays Watch Party from Hardknocks Sports Lounge and Grill at 5862 Everhart Road. The event will begin at 6:30 pm CT.