Friday, 12.15.17 / 10:18 pm CT
Though they scored three times within seven minutes to take the lead, the IceRays were ultimately caught in the third period and bested by the Odessa Jackalopes in the shootout on Friday night. The point gained in the standings lifted the Rays over the Amarillo Bulls for fourth place in the South Division.
The first period started with a bang, as Larry Jungwirth burst down the right wing with blazing speed to gain separation from the Odessa defensemen. He fed a pass across the slot for the trailing Jayson Dimizio, who quickly tapped the puck on net. Having read the cross-crease attempt, Jackalopes goaltender Brett Epp sprung over to his right and made a pivotal early save.
At 6:51, the Jacks converted. Evan Somoza was fed a pass in the high slot from Peyton Frantti on a 3-on-2. Somoza pulled the trigger and beat Jake Acton with his team-leading fifth goal against Corpus Christi this season. Acton redeemed himself with a crucial save against Zach Heintz on a breakaway to keep his team within a goal.
Matt Novo nearly tied things up before the first period concluded, but was denied on multiple backhand attempts by Epp. The Jacks maintained a 1-0 advantage heading into the first intermission.
Odessa padded its lead in the second period, after Ricky Carballo fed Heintz a pass at the bottom of the left circle. The left winger tapped the puck past Acton, who had no chance on the backdoor play.
After a shot-free first half of the second period, the IceRays suddenly turned up the heat after going onto a 4-on-4. Jayson Dimizio attempted to snipe a shot past Epp on his low blocker side from the right circle. Epp made the stop, but a big rebound bounced right out to Noah Roofe, who buried his fourth goal of the season to cut the Rays’ deficit in half.
Five minutes later, Matt Acciaioli gave Matus Havrila the puck between the hashmarks. The Slovakian forward fired a one-timer inside the left post, beating Epp blocker-side to level the score late in the second period.
Just two shifts later, Garrett Hallford sealed the right half-boards and blocked an Odessa clearing attempt. Following his interception, he skated in on net, delayed, and tucked the puck over Epp’s shoulder from a sharp angle in close quarters. The unassisted strike was Hallford’s eighth goal of the season, and gave the Rays their first lead of the game.
The next 4-on-4 went in Odessa’s favor. Frantti found the puck on his stick in the mid-high slot. He rifled a heavy wrist shot past Acton to tie the game, ultimately forcing overtime.
Larry Jungwirth nearly sealed the Jackalopes’ fate with just seconds remaining in regulation, as Rylee St. Onge fed him a circle-to-circle pass in excellent scoring position. With Epp out of position, Jungwirth’s one-timer was blocked by Nick Wilson to keep his team alive and extend its streak.
In overtime, both sides had a nearly full 4-on-3 power play to decide the game, but the penalty killers stood their ground. In the shootout, Petr Miko and Matt Brown scored, while Matt Novo and Rylee St. Onge were denied.
Acton had an outstanding performance, making 50 of a possible 53 saves en route to his second overtime defeat of the season, and second against Odessa. Epp earned his seventh victory, despite making far fewer saves (34 of 37). The IceRays will close out the series in Odessa tomorrow night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:11 pm CT at the Ector County Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com and on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (1230 AM, 96.1 FM, 95.1 FM).