Bulls Tighten Gap in Playoff Race
Yesterday marked the first of a four-game saga between the IceRays and the Amarillo Bulls. This stretch of games could very well determine which team makes the playoffs and which team is eliminated. The Rays entered this series with a substantial advantage in the race, but that advantage has been lessened after last night.
Realizing they have no choice but to win these games against the IceRays if they want a shot at making the playoffs, the Bulls played with intensity and out-chanced the Rays in last night’s tilt. Backup net-minder Trevor Micucci backstopped them to his first win as a Bull, and Amarillo would close the gap from nine points to seven in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South.
Two weeks ago, the Bulls paid a visit to Corpus Christi and controlled the first game of the series, ultimately sinking the IceRays 4-0. However, the next night, the Rays would bounce back with a 4-2 triumph on Heart Night and split the series to salvage two points.
All the IceRays truly need in their two remaining weekends against Amarillo is to split each series, and they will still be in good shape in the standings. Every point the Rays gain is a point the Bulls lose, and being seven behind means they still need these points far more than the IceRays do. Amarillo cannot afford to split their second-to-last home series, especially against Corpus Christi. Should the Rays manage a split, they will have ultimately accomplished more from the weekend than their opponents.
Game 2 Theory
Up until last weekend, the IceRays had won five consecutive game two’s of weekend series, defeating every single divisional rival along the way. Over that span stretching from January 20th to February 24th, they outscored their opponents 12-4 and almost always looked more confident and decisive than they did in game one. They did so again last weekend against Odessa, but a late regulation goal scored by Ricky Carballo would put an end to the trend. Still, the IceRays have been on a roll during the second game of series lately, with the only recent exception being the Topeka weekend. They’ve done well adjusting and adapting to their opponents and countering them effectively the next day. They will look to hold true to that pattern tonight.
Rays Catch Tough Break on the Whistle
Last night’s five-minute major and game misconduct penalty called against Jayson Dimizio was a harsh decision. The referee’s arm did not go up at all after the retaliatory cross-check, and one of the linesmen ultimately convinced him into passing a very strict sentence in an otherwise leniently called game. Dimizio, a 6’2, 225 pound veteran, is someone the IceRays love having around when playing against Amarillo, as he’s someone the team can count on who can combat the Bulls’ grit and physicality. Not only did they lose an important player for the majority of yesterday’s tilt, but they ultimately conceded a goal because of the penalty that was called as the Bulls would score just 16 seconds after it had expired before the Rays had a chance to make a line change. Assuming he plays tonight, Dimizio will have a chip on his shoulder without question.