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Sometimes in hockey, goalies are more easily recognized by their masks than their style of play on the ice.  Masks can be decorative, unique, or plain, but in most cases, the mask says something about the man behind it.  When the Corpus Christi IceRays return to the ice later this week, their own man behind the mask will be sporting a brand new paint job.

Corpus Christi’s rookie goaltender Pheonix Copley got an early Christmas present.  Just before the team departed for a two week break, Copley received a brand new IceRays themed mask, designed by Bob Howell of Grand Junction, CO and his company, Sungod Graphics. (

Howell, a friend of general manager Pat Dunn and Corpus Christi fan, had already designed former IceRays goalie Kris Tebbs’ mask.  For Howell, Copley was an easy client.

“Pheonix actually sent me sketches of what he wanted on his mask and I started out trying to incorporate his ideas with what would look best visually on his mask,” said Howell.  “We both wanted the tandem IceRays logos to be the prominent feature of the mask.  That, combined with the brick work design, really makes the mask stand out.”

“I sent him the sketches of what I came up with on the computer, he approved, and we got to work.”

The mask, which took about a month to complete from pen to paint, is white with a brick design throughout its entirety.  Below the cage is Copley’s number, 29.  The Corpus Christi crest secondary logo fills one side while a version of the primary logo featuring the sting ray inside a wave completes the opposing side.  The Texan and Alaskan (a nod to his home state) flags along with the NAHL logo are prominently located on the back.

Copley could not be more excited to wear the mask.

“I love it,” Copley said.  “I used it in practice a little bit before we left to get the feel for it and it will be great to get to wear it when we play.  Bob did such a great job on the design and I cannot thank him enough.”

Previously, Copley wore a generic, plain white mask.  However, this season, his play has been far from plain or generic.  In November, Copley became the first Corpus Christi player to receive a monthly award from the league when he was named the NAHL Goaltender of the Month.  During the month, Copley went 4-3-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.  He has since propelled himself into the number one goaltending position for the IceRays.

Howell has been designing and painting masks for 18 years.  He founded his company, Sungod Graphics, when he was a senior in high school and has painted everything from goalie masks to racing helmets and surfboards.  He has done many goalie masks for goalies in both the United States and Canada, mostly at the Junior level.  Much like the players he has designed masks for though, he has bigger goals in mind.

“I’ve been airbrushing for 18 years and have learned from some of the best in the business,” Howell explained.  “In the near future, I would love to design a mask for an NHL goalie.  I was a former goalie myself.  I started painting my own masks and just went from there.”

Just a rookie, Copley has been a bright spot for the IceRays in his first North American Hockey League season.  A native of North Pole, Alaska, “Cops” is 8-8-1 with a 3.60 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage.  He averages nearly 30 saves per game playing against the toughest competition in the NAHL.

“I’m definitely growing as a goalie,” the 18-year old said.  “Hopefully I can continue to get better and help our team get into the playoffs.”

When that playoff push does begin later this week, fans will get to see the new mask and now know the story of the man behind it.

For more pictures of the mask, visit the team’s Facebook page.

The IceRays return to action Thursday, January 6, 2011 when they host the Topeka RoadRunners at the American Bank Center with the puck drop slated for 7:05 PM.  Fans can catch the pre-game show on the flagship home of the IceRays, News/Talk 1440 KEYS,, with the voice of the IceRays, Ryan Holt, beginning at 6:50 PM.  The game will be available online through the league’s pay-per-view website,  For more information call the Rays’ front office at 361.814.PUCK (7825) or crash the net at