Thursday, 04.19.18 / 10:12 pm CT
Photo: Chip Pitcairn
With their backs against the wall, the IceRays got off to a terrific start on Thursday night and never looked back, completing a convincing 5-1 victory against the Shreveport Mudbugs to live to fight another day.
Another strong start to the game was in store for the IceRays, who made an early statement that they would not be lightly conquered by Shreveport. At 9:07, Dakota Concannon ripped a shot from the left half wall. The puck found some daylight on the near post and leaked through Jaxon Castor’s equipment, and the Rays managed to draw first blood for the second consecutive game.
At 17:35, they were able to gain their first insurance lead of the series. After making a sound read on the forecheck to intercept a pass, Adam Kadlec displayed excellent skill as he toe-dragged around a defender before feeding a nice pass between the circles for Rylee St. Onge, who tapped the puck into an open net for his second goal of the series. The Rays had an opportunity to triple their lead with a late first period power play, but they were stymied on that attempt.
Shreveport began to tip the scales in their favor in the second period, scoring a goal just 3:11 into the middle frame. Nikolai Jenson pinched down to the bottom of the right circle, and the puck fluttered his way before he smashed it past Chad Veltri to cut the Mudbugs’ deficit in half.
It looked as though they might tie the game on a power play they received at 33:43 after a Concannon tripping minor. However, Conor Yawney blocked a shot to potentially save a goal, and Veltri made a number of saves with his team shorthanded to keep them in front.
In the last minute of the second stanza, Brendan Miller pursued the puck in the offensive zone, forced a turnover, and centered a pass for Larry Jungwirth. Jungwirth executed a brilliant maneuver from his forehand to his backhand before shoveling the puck past Castor to re-extend the Rays’ lead to two.
At the very end of the second, Julian Makary attempted to knock the puck out of mid-air with his stick, and inadvertently checked Dominick Procopio in the face. Starting the third, the Rays killed off the penalty with Noah Roofe serving the time in the box, and seconds later, he found himself on a 2-on-1 rush with St. Onge on his right. Rather than risking the pass, Roofe took the shot and perfectly placed it inside the right post, beating Castor past his glove.
St. Onge added his third point of the night off a circle-to-circle one-timer, beating Castor cleanly through the five-hole at 51:44 to give the Rays a 5-1 lead.
Veltri had a rock-solid game in net. Seldom are goaltenders given a star of the game in high-scoring affairs, but the Niagara commit made 25 of a possible 26 saves to earn his first playoff win as an IceRay, and secure a Third Star of the Game nomination, as well. Castor was pulled in exchange for Gustavs Grigsals late in the contest, and the Latvian made all three saves in relief. Castor stopped 15 of 20 shots and was charged with his first postseason defeat as a Mudbug.
Win or lose, Game Four will be the final home game the IceRays play in the 2018 Robertson Cup Playoffs. Puck drops at the American Bank Center at 6:30 pm CT. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV and on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (1230 AM, 95.1 FM, 96.1 FM). The IceRays must win to keep their playoff hopes alive. If they do, a decisive Game Five will be played in Shreveport on Sunday, April 22nd, at 7:11 pm CT. Tickets to Game Four are available by calling the American Bank Center Box Office at (361) 826-4744, or by ordering through the IceRays’ website, goicerays.com.