Friday, 09.29.17 / 10:00 pm CT
Photo: Chip Pitcairn
Playing their first home game since April of 2017, the IceRays let a late lead slip away from them and were defeated 2-1 in overtime on Home Opening Night.
The goaltenders dominated play in the first 20 minutes. Camden Burggrabe kept the puck out of his net 11 times, while Brett Epp turned aside all 13 of the IceRays’ first period shots.
Conor Yawney and Larry Jungwirth each had tremendous opportunities to draw first blood. On both occasions, Epp was able to spring from his right to left in anticipation almost instantaneously. It was clear from the first period that Friday night would be a goaltending duel.
Scoring opportunities were plentiful in the following period, but the net-minders were equally sturdy. Burggrabe tallied another 11-save stanza, but Epp was finally solved.
After a slot shot from Larry Jungwirth was blocked by a Jackalopes defender, Aleksi Peltonen recovered the puck behind the Odessa goal. The Finnish center blindly spun a pass into the slot, where Blake Coffey released a wrist shot. He tucked it between Epp’s pads before the Odessa goaltender could drop to the butterfly position. Coffey’s first goal of the season electrified the American Bank Center and finally gave the IceRays a 1-0 lead.
Shortly thereafter, Brenden Stanko rang a shot off the inside of the right post and nearly leveled the score heading into the second intermission. His bid missed by inches and the IceRays entered the third period leading by a one-goal margin.
Closing out games has been a struggle for the IceRays early in the season. They allowed a game-tying goal in the final minute in the last game of the 2017 Showcase, and conceded their lead again late in the home opener.
With just over two minutes remaining, Zac Herrmann motored down the left wing and swung a pass onto the tape for Lucas Andersson. The Swedish defenseman unleashed a wrist shot which cleanly beat Burggrabe, who had pitched a perfect game until facing Andersson’s shot.
Tied at 1, the rivals entered overtime. Not long after the start of the 3-on-3 sudden death period, the IceRays were called for a controversial penalty which gave the Jackalopes the chance to win the game on a 4-on-3 power play.
Though the IceRays’ penalty kill was strong throughout the night, they could not keep Odessa off the board in overtime. Herrmann found a loose puck fall onto his stick after a shot block, and fired it past Burggrabe before he could adjust to the angle. The Jackalopes would skate away with a 2-1 overtime victory.
Burggrabe kept his team in the game until the very end, stopping 37 of 39 shots. Earning the win, however, was Epp for Odessa, who denied 35 of 36. The IceRays will close the series Saturday night at the American Bank Center. Puck drops at 7:05 pm CT.