Rays Dominate Game Three
The IceRays thrived on the offensive and defensive side of the puck last night, striking five times and limiting Shreveport’s scoring chances. It was about quality, not quantity last night for the Rays, who were outshot 26-23 but had far better opportunities. Seldom did they allow a good scoring chance to slip away, and they made the Mudbugs pay for nearly every mistake they made.
Oftentimes there is a clear turning point in the game, a play which causes a momentous shift in the momentum and ultimately decides the fate of both teams. Last night’s turning point was during an IceRays penalty kill in the later stages of the second period. Shreveport had struck about ten minutes earlier to draw to within a goal, with plenty of time remaining to level the score. Chad Veltri made a handful of critical saves with his team shorthanded, keeping the Rays up 2-1. Then, in the last minute of the second period, Larry Jungwirth finished off a nice pass by Brendan Miller to deflate the Mudbugs’ bench heading into the second intermission. It was all IceRays from that point on.
Win or lose, tonight’s game will be the IceRays’ last home game until next season. They will not have access to the American Bank Center during Round Two, and they must win tonight if they are to force a Game Five in Shreveport on Sunday night. With yesterday’s convincing win, the momentum of this series has shifted to the Rays’ side.
Shreveport had played six times at the ABC during the regular season, and never lost by more than a goal. Last night, they lost by four. At the very least, the IceRays made a loud and clear statement to a team looking to escape the first round unscathed. The seed of doubt has been planted, and it will grow tonight if the Rays can continue executing on their chances and competing for one another the way they did last night.
Selfless plays need to be made in the postseason for teams to advance and make a deep run. A couple of team-first plays made by Conor Yawney and Blake Coffey last night helped the IceRays secure the victory and keep their playoff hopes alive. In both cases, the Rays were shorthanded and were depending on their penalty killers to keep Shreveport’s attackers at bay. Yawney blocked a shot with his skates in the second period, quite possibly saving a goal which would’ve tied the game. On the next PK, Coffey put himself in front of a missile from Gueorgui Feduolov, absorbing the shot with his leg. He limped in pain for 45 seconds before he could get to the bench for a change, choosing to tough out the discomfort rather than abandon his team even for a few seconds. Fortunately, he was able to finish out the game.
Julian Makary has been suspended for the cross-checking incident in which he drew contact with Shreveport’s Captain Dominick Procopio. He was looking to bat the puck out of mid-air instinctively, even though it was above the height of the crossbar. Unfortunately, his stick connected with Procopio’s face and Makary was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Makary had tallied an assist in each of the first two games of this series, and the IceRays will be without one of their key playmakers for tonight.