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Preview: IceRays vs. Amarillo Bulls (Game 47)

Rays Win Third Straight on Hockey & Heels Night

On Saturday night, the IceRays played their third straight dominant defensive game. While they conceded 31 shots on goal, they kept Topeka off the scoreboard for nearly 59 minutes of play before the RoadRunners finally found the net.

Lucas Herrmann’s late goal tied the game, but the Rays still managed the victory by striking just 46 seconds into overtime. Brendan Miller put his explosive speed on display and buried a low-blocker snipe on a breakaway. The January Dillard’s Player of the Month had made it 15 points in as many games with the goal, and lifted Chad Veltri to a 3-0 record since returning from his injuries. He has only allowed a single goal against in three straight games played.

The Matchup

There is no sugarcoating that it’s do-or-die time for the Amarillo Bulls. While losing tonight’s matchup does not eliminate them from the playoff race, it will certainly be very difficult for them to sneak into fourth place in the South Division if they don’t take at least the majority of points available to them this weekend.

The IceRays currently sit ten points ahead of them and have a much more favorable part of the schedule on the horizon. Only four of Amarillo’s remaining fifteen games will be played at home, while the IceRays will play ten of their remaining fourteen tilts at the American Bank Center. However, these teams will square off against each other six more times before the regular season ends, and Amarillo realizes it can eventually switch places with the IceRays in the standings if it wins most of the head-to-head matchups. Tonight will mark the beginning of an intensified late-season rivalry and is likely to have a playoff-like feel throughout.

Veltri’s Chance for Vengeance

The last time the IceRays’ star goaltender suited up against Amarillo, he was unknowingly concussed midway through the game and allowed a goal six seconds into overtime on a shot he typically stops. Veltri would later struggle through a month-long period of nagging injuries and flus, watching his team from his billet home as they travelled to Odessa. Since his return, he’s saved 74 of the 75 shots he has faced and will have the opportunity to avenge himself against the team which silenced the near 5,000 in attendance with an overtime goal on him back on January 13th.

Acciaioli, Scott Make Commitments

Two players tonight will be playing their first games as IceRays after having made their NCAA commitments. Oftentimes the relieved stress and confidence boost helps players in their performance following commitments, as has been the case for Veltri this season. However, there is always the caveat of the complacency factor. Both Acciaioli and Scott are highly competitive athletes who have matured through spending years in the junior hockey process, and have stood out as locker room leaders all throughout the campaign. They have their sights set on winning a championship, and it’s unlikely that complacency will set in for either of them. Even so, their performance this weekend will be worth keeping an eye on.