Wednesday, 09.20.2017 / 4:50 pm CT
Commencing their four-game stretch at the NAHL’s 15th annual showcase tournament in Blaine, Minnesota, the Corpus Christi IceRays fell 3-1 to the Bismarck Bobcats on Wednesday afternoon.
Finding a rhythm in the early minutes proved challenging for both teams, who were playing against each other for the first time in history. However, the Bobcats managed to secure the edge in the first segment of play.
A costly pinch by the IceRays’ defense led to a 2-on-1 Bismarck rush halfway through the opening period. Tommy Altounian fed the puck to Zach Van Sant in the right circle, and Van Sant managed to tap it past Corpus Christi goaltender Chad Veltri. Veltri’s lateral shift nearly cut off the angle, but Van Sant was able to tuck it over him.
Lukas Millen would double the Bobcats’ lead late in the first period after deking through a pair of IceRays and firing a wrist shot past Veltri. The first 20 minutes concluded with Bismarck leading 2-0.
The IceRays began the second frame with renewed energy and slowly began to tip the scales in their favor. Bismarck net-minder Vladimir Cibulka did a fine job keeping a surging Corpus attack at bay, but he was finally beaten at the 27:16 mark of the contest.
Strong work along the boards from Bradon Osmundson and Angus Scott led to an opening for veteran forward Matt Novo. Scott fed Novo a pass from below the goal line to the edge of the right circle, and Novo buried the puck past Cibulka to cut the Bobcats’ lead in half.
For the first time in the game, a penalty was called and Corpus’ Josh Tripp was sent to the box for high sticking. The IceRays decisively killed off their first penalty of the afternoon.
Their first power play of the game was extremely short-lived, as the IceRays found themselves penalized just 18 seconds after gaining their first man-advantage of the contest. During the ensuing 4-on-4, both Garrett Hallford and Conor Yawney found themselves with outstanding opportunities to tie the game, but Cibulka somehow managed to keep the puck out of his net after a goal-mouth scramble. The Bobcats goaltender also kicked out his left pad to deny Matt Acciaioli on a partial breakaway.
Despite generating painfully close efforts, the IceRays could not find a way to tie the score. Bismarck’s Adam Stacho tallied an empty-net goal in the final 30 seconds to ice the game and hand the IceRays a 3-1 defeat.
Both goaltenders kept their respective teams in the fight. Veltri was dealt his second loss of the season, stopping 22 of 24 Bismarck shots. Cibulka turned aside 19 of the 20 pucks sent his way for his first victory as a Bobcat. The IceRays will take on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Thursday morning in Day 2 of the showcase. The game is scheduled for 10:15 am CT.