Friday, 09.22.17 / 3:21 pm CT
In a stingy, hard-fought battle on Friday afternoon, the Philadelphia Rebels managed to break the hearts of the IceRays with a late rally to oust them by a 3-1 final.
The Philadelphia Rebels are last season’s Robertson Cup runners-up, and have decisively won the East Division Title two years in a row. They started the 2017 Showcase with back-to-back victories and rode their momentum right into Friday afternoon’s game.
Only 85 seconds into the affair, Andrew Bellant, the Rebels’ leading scorer from last season (55 P), accelerated down the left side and sniped the puck past Camden Burggrabe to open the scoring.
Corpus Christi turned up the heat in the closing minutes of the first period, but a surfeit of whistles and stoppages prevented them from converting their momentum into a goal.
Despite dropping a second consecutive power play to start the second period, the IceRays overwhelmed the Rebels in shots on goal. By the time the first 40 minutes had concluded Corpus Christi had outshot Philadelphia 17-10. Still, they could not find a weakness in Eli Billing’s game. Billing had pitched a flawless performance with 2/3 of the game in the books.
At the end of the middle segment, rookie IceRay Brayden Uhrich was found guilty of spearing Philadelphia’s Ryan Patrick. Uhrich was charged with a five-minute spearing major penalty, and was assessed a game misconduct. He will not play in Game 4 of the Showcase.
The majority of the ensuing five-minute penalty bled over into the third period. NAHL veterans CJ Regula, Brendan Miller, and Josh Tripp gallantly blocked an abundance of Philadelphia slap shots. The latter appeared injured after putting his body in front of a howitzer from Hugh Quinn. Tripp eventually skated off the ice with his left leg patched up and did not return to the game.
Tripp’s sacrifice, combined with a long and successful penalty kill, inspired the IceRays. They dominated the tempo in much of the third period and put the Rebels on their heels. Blake Coffey hit the post on two separate occasions. Despite a number of unfriendly bounces, Corpus Christi finally managed to tie the game.
Matt Acciaioli slung a wrist shot at the net and forced Billing to make a save in traffic. The Philadelphia goaltender denied Acciaioli’s bid, but could not secure a handle on the puck. Larry Jungwirth located it and tucked it past Billing to finally put the IceRays on the board and tie the game at 49:08.
A valiant effort was met by an unjust end, as Jensen Zerban scored off a loose puck rebound six minutes later. With Philadelphia leading 2-1, the IceRays pulled Burggrabe for a sixth attacker. The Rebels scored an empty-net goal on a controversially close offside play to seal the game.
Burggrabe was handed his second defeat of the season, stopping 18 of 20 Philadelphia shots. The IceRays were opposed by yet another strong goaltending performance, as Billing denied 23 of the 24 attempts sent his way. The IceRays will close their Showcase tournament on Saturday morning against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The game is set for 9:30 am CT.