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Preview: IceRays @ Odessa Jackalopes (Game 31)

Flurry of Sudden Offense Lifts Rays to Fourth Place

Last night’s game against Odessa was unusual for several reasons. There were three lead changes, there were no penalties until halfway through the contest, there was an explosion of goals (three by the Rays in seven minutes) and there were 90 total shots on net.

The three scores Corpus Christi had all came late in the second period, which not only erased their deficit but gave them a 3-2 advantage. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a way to tally again. After Peyton Frantti leveled the game in the third period, the IceRays had a late power play with a chance to snap the Jackalopes’ point streak. Larry Jungwirth nearly ended things right then and there, but Nick Wilson dove to block the shot.

Wilson’s block proved to be the difference maker, as the Rays couldn’t solve Brett Epp in the shootout and would fall 4-3. Jake Acton had his strongest outing of the season, making 50 of a possible 53 saves.

The Matchup

By this point, frustrations have undoubtedly set in for the IceRays to a certain extent. They’ve played Odessa five times this season, and have sincerely had the opportunity to win all five of those contests. They were beaten in overtime twice, in a shootout once, and in regulation twice. All five of those tilts were decided by a single non-empty net goal.

The Rays have had far more difficulty against Shreveport, for example, even though their head-to-head record against the Mudbugs would say otherwise. The season series against Odessa (0-2-3) has been nowhere near as lopsided as the record would suggest, and it’s felt as though points against the Jacks have been snatched away. In their last game before the holiday break, the IceRays will be seeking to end the first half of the season on a high note and take back some of the points which have seemingly been stolen away from them throughout the campaign.

Novo Buzzing

It’s difficult to imagine anyone on the IceRays generating more scoring opportunities last night than Matt Novo. With help from linemates CJ Regula and Angus Scott, Novo forced Brett Epp to make difficult point-blank saves multiple times throughout the affair. It appeared to be only a matter of time before his snakebitten drought would end, but Epp stymied him on at least three A+ chances during regulation, and robbed him with the glove during the shootout.

Though Novo did not snap his goal-scoring skid, he and his line threatened as much as anyone last night, even though they were the only forward line not to convert. The three of them will be worth watching this evening, as they are all likely to be playing with a chip on their shoulder.

Hockey Hiatus on the Horizon

For both sides, tonight will be the last time they play in nearly two weeks. Many of the players on both teams will be boarding airplanes just hours after the game ends, which means that focus could be a pivotal factor in tonight’s outcome.