Every game the IceRays have won this season has been in a hostile building. They have yet to be swept on the road and have a 4-2-0 record when playing in an opponent’s rink. Typically, veteran-heavy teams like the Rays fare well in road games and have the ability to recover quickly after decisive defeats. Last weekend was a case in point.
In Amarillo, the Rays conjured a four-goal third period in a come-from-behind victory to overwhelm the Bulls and eventually sweep the series. They roared back again last Saturday, after conceding eight unanswered Shreveport goals in the first four periods of the weekend. The Rays responded with four straight tallies of their own, and managed a road split despite suffering a punishing defeat on Friday.
With a fifth of the season now in the books, the Rays have already built a reputation as a team that can score in bunches when trailing. This is an aptitude few teams possess and one which could take them a long way.
The IceRays have not seen the Brahmas since May 6, when their best season in junior franchise history was ended by a Troy York overtime goal at NYTEX Sports Centre. Since then, the defending champions have reloaded. The majority of their offense thus far has been driven by veterans Julian Biondo, Austin O’Rourke, and Justin Addamo. However, they just added ex-Wichita Falls Wildcats sharpshooters Blake Ripley and Ryan Orgel, as well as Ture Linden from the USHL’s Lincoln Stars.
While they’ve had a middling start to their season, the Brahmas are coming off a road sweep of the Odessa Jackalopes in which they outscored them 7-2 on the road. As usual, they appear to be a sizeable, veteran group riddled with experienced and hard-nosed players. Bringing the same competitive edge they did last Saturday will be paramount for the Rays in this series, as victories against Lone Star will not come easily.
Lights, Camera, Acton
Livermore, California native Jacob Acton came aboard earlier this week and has practiced with the IceRays since. The 6’0,” 165 lb. goaltender brings an athletic and reactional style to the crease, and could debut for the Rays this weekend.
Acton started the season with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild, where he made two starts and pitched a .917 save percentage and a 2.20 goals against average. Last season, he evenly split 18 appearances between the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians. Having already played in three upper-tier junior leagues, the 18-year-old brings experience to a fairly young goaltending duo. He and Chad Veltri have both had promising starts to the season.
First is the Worst
A dozen games into the campaign, there’s been an alarming discrepancy between first period and third period performances. In the first 20 minutes of play, the IceRays have been outscored 15-4 this season. While they’ve allowed just as many goals in third periods, they’ve also scored ten more times. Second period output has been right in the middle.
This is a clear indication that the Rays have been improving as the games have worn on. They’ve proven themselves capable of coming from behind, but building and sustaining leads is a more practical strategy for success down the stretch. Knowing they need to improve their starts, and returning to a building where gloomy memories still haunt them, don’t be surprised if the Rays get off to an explosive start.