Saturday, 03.03.18 / 9:46 pm CT
Photo: Chip Pitcairn
Closing out their eight-game home stand on Grades for Blades Night, the IceRays played a tight, closely contested game with the Odessa Jackalopes but were defeated by a 4-2 score and swept on home ice for the first time all season.
The Rays had won five consecutive game two’s of series, and they sought to continue that trend on Saturday. They had a very defensively sound first period, keeping the majority of Odessa’s shots at long range. The Jacks did, however, manage 16 first period attempts on net. Chad Veltri stopped all of them.
Brett Epp made his sixth start of the season against the IceRays. No goaltender has given the Rays a more difficult time this season, as Epp had posted a 4-0-1 record and a .945 save percentage against Corpus Chrsiti entering the contest. He stopped all nine shots he faced in the opening stanza, although a Matt Novo backhand shot found its way through his equipment and into the net before being disallowed due to an early whistle blown by referee Robert Esposito.
Just 40 seconds into the following period, Veltri made a trio of spectacular saves. He initially denied a sharp-angled shot with his stick, then lunged out his right pad to deny an attempt, and then flashed his glove to take a whistle. His brilliance in net gained momentum for the IceRays.
At 26:57, Rylee St. Onge motored down the left wing and ripped a heavy wrist shot from above the left circle, using the Odessa defenseman as a screen. The shot whistled over Epp’s glove and into the top right corner of the net, giving St. Onge his 17th goal of the season and the IceRays the lead.
Less than two minutes later, Odessa responded to tie the score. James Crossman found the puck after a goal-mouth scramble, and fired it past Veltri from the left circle. The Jacks would gain their first lead of the game from a Blake Bride bar-down snipe 23 seconds after a successful IceRays penalty kill.
Two minutes and thirteen seconds after the Jacks took the lead, the IceRays re-tied the game on a two-man advantage. Going onto their first 5-on-3 power play, five forwards cycled the puck quickly around the offensive zone. Adam Kadlec fed Larry Jungwirth at the goal line, who one-touched a pass to the right circle for St. Onge. The Canadian fired home his second goal on the night on a rebound, and tied the score 2-2 heading into the second intermission.
St. Onge made a nice play in neutral ice to spring Angus Scott down the slow with a chance to give the Rays the lead, but he hit the outside of the left post with his shot.
With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Peyton Frantti flung a cross-crease pass to Ricky Carballo, who angled the puck past Veltri to regain Odessa’s lead. The Rays made a late push to tie the game, pulling Veltri for a sixth attacker. However, Matt Brown sealed the game with an empty-net goal.
Veltri was given his 10th regulation defeat of the season, stopping 36 of 39 shots. Epp had another solid game against Corpus Christi, denying 36 of 38 and earning his 12th victory. The IceRays will make their first road trip since January and head out to Amarillo to take on the Bulls next Friday, March 9th, at the Amarillo Civic Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm CT. The game will be broadcast on HockeyTV and on SportsRadio Corpus Christi (1230 AM, 95.1 FM, 96.1 FM).