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Preview: IceRays @ Odessa Jackalopes (Game 42)

IceRays Slip Early against Odessa

Many parallels can be drawn between last night’s game and the previous Friday night. The IceRays fell into a 2-0 hole in the first period, they began to turn things around early in the second, scored to gain momentum, were answered shortly after to turn the tide, and ultimately fell by a 6-2 final.

Like the Friday tilt against Shreveport, there was a clearly defining moment at which the tide turned and the momentum shifted, ultimately sealing the IceRays’ fate. After Jayson Dimizio scored a one-handed goal in which he tapped the puck through Alex Camarre’s five-hole, the Corpus Christi bench awakened. The team was back to within two with half of the game still remaining. Most of them were still standing on the bench when Odessa responded a mere 47 seconds later on a Matt Brown deflection. From that point on, the Rays struggled to generate a similar buzz.

The Matchup

Tonight will be the last time the IceRays play at Ector County Coliseum this season. Though their record in this building is only 1-2-2 this season, they’ve played the Jackalopes fairly well. Yesterday was the only instance of the Rays falling in Odessa by more than a goal since November 13th, 2015.

Much like their 7-3 victory over the Jackalopes the game before the holiday break, last night was an outlier. It was Odessa’s homecoming game after spending a month on the road, and the IceRays were without their captain and star goaltender. While Chad Veltri will still not be available for tonight, Brendan Miller is back and the Jackalopes’ buzz will have subsided significantly. A good team doesn’t use excuses to justify defeats, but there’s no question the odds will favor the IceRays tonight more than they did yesterday.

Built Hall Ford Tough

If there was one player who could be singled out yesterday from the IceRays as someone who had a strong game, Garrett Hallford would likely be the one. He stepped up and assumed a crucial role on the penalty kill with Miller suspended. He assisted on both of the IceRays’ goals with his family in attendance. Hallford leads all IceRays in points against Odessa this season with seven (3 G, 4 A) and has collected 10 points against them over his career. The return of Pavel Koreshkov to the lineup meant shifting Hallford from center to right wing yesterday, but like Brad Flynn has said, he would probably suit up as an emergency goaltender if he was asked to.

Carpe Diem

The IceRays have plenty to look forward to. After this game, they will have their first bye-week of the season not including Christmas weekend. Following their bye, they commence an eight-game home stand which stretches from February 8th until March 3rd. They were in a similar situation over a month ago, in which they were squaring off in Odessa right before heading home for the holidays. They proved to not be distracted by the delights lying ahead, staying focused and smoking the Jackalopes by a 7-3 decision. Last Saturday, they played some of their best hockey against the first-place Shreveport Mudbugs the day after a 6-2 defeat. History, it seems, is on the IceRays’ side. Now the onus falls on them to seize the day.