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Preview: IceRays vs. Topeka RoadRunners (Game 19)

Offense Explodes for Ten Goals in Topeka
Just when concerns began to surface regarding the team’s scoring struggles, the IceRays had their best offensive weekend of the season with a ten-goal outburst between Saturday and Sunday. Taking full advantage of Topeka’s defensive vulnerabilities, the Rays put their arsenal of talent and creativity on full display, effectively turning the series into their own highlight reel. Playing in his first-ever games against the RoadRunners, Larry Jungwirth looked like a man possessed by the hockey gods. His four-point weekend and South Division Star of the Week honors don’t even tell the whole story, as his superb stickhandling and playmaking led to a number of scoring chances that went unconverted. Rylee St. Onge, CJ Regula and Garrett Hallford also had an outstanding series, each scoring multiple goals throughout the weekend. All in all, it was an indication of what the IceRays’ offense is capable of doing. With the moving pieces finally coming to a halt and the team now starting to develop some chemistry, last weekend may have just been the tip of the iceberg.

The Matchup
Topeka is currently suffering through the longest active losing skid in the NAHL. They’ve dropped seven games in a row and haven’t scored more than a pair of goals in any contest throughout that span. Chad Veltri was largely responsible for the Runners’ offensive struggles last weekend, but his hot streak won’t last indefinitely. The IceRays goaltender has made three consecutive starts and has faced a total of 101 shots throughout. He has only allowed a single goal in each of those games, which puts him at a .970 save percentage over that stretch. While Veltri has given the Rays a chance to win in virtually every start he’s made this season, his absurd numbers of late won’t continue forever. This being said, the IceRays have got to take advantage of their homecoming against a defensively susceptible Topeka squad, and pick up right where they left off last weekend.

Hall Ford Tough
Garrett Hallford seems to have assumed Josh Tripp’s old role of the unsung hero who takes loads of physical punishment for the good of the team. Whether he’s blocking shots, absorbing massive hits in the corners, being cross-checked in net-front battles or just being slashed on faceoffs, Hallford has been the epitome of a true veteran this season. Perhaps what is most impressive is that he hasn’t let the fact that he doesn’t wear a letter on his jersey prevent him from leading. The things he’s done have been characteristic of an NAHL veteran, and he hasn’t been limited to exclusively doing the team’s dirty work. He is tied for the team-lead with six goals this season, already matching his totals from last year. He has brought a versatile mix of skill and grit to the table, and was the centerpiece of an utterly dominant line last weekend with Bud Winter and Noah Roofe flanking him. The latter two have been trying to establish themselves as regulars in the lineup this season, and they may have now cemented themselves as a trio for the immediate future.

Weekend Promotions
All Friday night home games this season will offer the Frosty Friday discount. All pints are $3. The IceRays will also be handing out free magnet schedules to the first 1000 fans through the doors at the American Bank Center. Saturday is Stars & Stripes Night. All tickets are free for active and former military members, as well as first responders.