After an up and down season, the Corpus Christi IceRays are two games away from a potential return to the Robertson Cup Playoffs. However, if the IceRays do make the playoffs, it won't be easy or without a little help from an unlikely ally. The IceRays and Odessa Jackalopes are now tied for the final playoff spot in the South Division heading into the final weekend thanks to an IceRays home sweep and Odessa home split last weekend. The IceRays would need just one point more than Odessa does in the final two games to clinch. Sounds easy enough, right?
That's where the rub comes in.
The IceRays head back on the road to rematch with the Wichita Falls Wildcats at the Kay Yeager Coliseum, a place that has been unkind to the IceRays not only this season but throughout the last six years. The IceRays have lost all four meetings this year with a combined 18-5 scoreline in the road portion of the season series while also having only five wins to the franchise's name since the 2010-11 season. That doesn't favor Corpus Christi. What does help is the fact that the IceRays have won three-straight against the Wildcats (albiet all at home) after starting the season 0-7-0 in the series, surprising many people around the league considering the odds heading into last weekend.
Despite the numbers, the IceRays also get some help from scheduling. The IceRays and Wildcats are the only two teams in the NAHL playing a Thursday–Friday series, and while one may not see that as an advantage, it turns into one if Corpus Christi can earn a win to open the weekend series. That places them with sole possession by two points, forcing a bit of pressure on Odessa heading into their first game of the weekend. In turn, if the Wildcats win the first game, Odessa would need just one win in two games at home to clinch or an IceRays loss on Friday night.
The Jackalopes also have a little tilt toward their side of the scale purely based on matchups. They close the year at the Ector County Coliseum against the Amarillo Bulls, who just broke a 11-game winless drought last Saturday night in overtime after holding a 3-0 lead in the third period. Odessa has been strong against the Bulls, earning a 7-2-1 record through 10 of their 12 games along with a 3-0-1 record at home. That number has been spread numerous times over the last few weeks, but it puts into perspective the difference in scheduling for both sides. Now, this doesn't always translate to sweeping success. The IceRays hosted Amarillo in the final weekend of the season and were dominated 5-1 in that opening game. Many Bulls players are still playing for scholarships or places on next year's team, and the idea of spoiler can motivate an out-of-position team to rise up.
With all that being said, this weekend all comes down to points. As a reminder, here are the tie-breaking scenarios:
1. Most Wins (Odessa currently owns)
2. Head-To-Head (Split: 6-4-2)
3. Head-To-Head Goal Differential (IceRays own +4)
4. Season Goal Differential (IceRays own by 3)
5. Coin Flip
Odessa currently holds the key with the first tie-breaker as well as a night to watch and see what the IceRays do on Thursday. No matter what the other team does, the team looking to clinch needs to earn more points, plain and simple. But how will things shake out in complicated scenarios?
Let's take a look at what could happen:
1. If the IceRays earn one point or more than the Jackalopes do, then the IceRays clinch.
2. If the IceRays and Jackalopes earn the same amount of points…
a. …without OT/SO losses, then the Jackalopes clinch.
b. …but the Jackalopes lose twice in OT/SO and the IceRays win one game overall, then the IceRays clinch.
– As clarification, both teams would end with the same record, forcing the scenario to the third tie-breaker.
3. If the IceRays earn less points than the Jackalopes, then the Jackalopes clinch.
The best bet for the IceRays is the hope of having Amarillo get on a roll as well as a drop-off by the Wildcats to put momentum in their favor. However, if Corpus Christi cannot win or at least earn any points on Thursday night, then the final playoff spot becomes Odessa's to lose heading into their last two games and the final game for the IceRays.
The season now resides on just one weekend.
– Defend The Bend –