Friday, 09.15.2017 / 9:42 pm CT
Following their most successful season in junior franchise history, the IceRays dictated the start of their 20th annual season opener in Topeka and defeated the RoadRunners by a final margin of 4-1.
With most of the players relatively unfamiliar with their opponents, the start of the game consisted of safe and simple plays as the teams felt each other out. However, the IceRays maintained superior puck possession and had the edge in shots on goal. Their advantages quickly paid off.
At the 6:45 mark of the contest, the IceRays scored their first goal of the season. Veteran forward Jayson Dimizio fed a pass from the left circle into the mid-slot, where the rookie Brandon Osmundson fired the puck past Topeka goaltender Emil Gransøe.
Corpus Christi would find itself in penalty trouble late in the opening period, conceding back-to-back power plays to the RoadRunners. However, the IceRays’ penalty kill started its season on a strong note and convincingly fought off its first two infractions.
Shortly after the second period began, the visitors were granted their first chance on the man-advantage. With only two seconds remaining on their first power play of the season, the IceRays capitalized when Dimizio ripped a hard shot over Gransøe from the right circle for his second point of the game.
Veteran IceRays goaltender Camden Burggrabe had been perfect in net until eight minutes into the middle period. Chad Hillebrand scored the RoadRunners’ first goal of the season after being fed a pass at point-blank range on another Topeka power play. He managed to tuck the puck past Burggrabe, and Topeka cut the IceRays’ lead in half with plenty of time remaining.
Burggrabe continued to hold his ground, despite sustaining heavy contact from the Topeka forecheckers. Near the end of the middle period, veteran IceRay Garrett Hallford nearly extended the visitors’ lead, but was denied by an excellent lateral save from Gransøe.
The IceRays refused to allow their opponents back into the game in the final 20 minutes. Understanding how fragile their 2-1 lead was, they kept the puck away from their net with composure and eventually tallied an insurance goal.
The starting forward line, consisting of NAHL veterans Brendan Miller, Josh Tripp, and CJ Regula, came through to bury a third goal past Gransøe. Miller, the recently-named Captain of the IceRays, finished off the three-way passing play and put the RoadRunners in a deeper hole.
Pulling their goaltender in a late effort to tie the game did not pay off for the Runners, who surrendered an empty-net goal to Miller in the final second of regulation. The IceRays secured a 4-1 victory to commence their 20th season as a franchise.
Both goaltenders had strong performances and gave their respective teams a chance for victory. Burggrabe earned his first win of the season, denying 27 of the 28 shots to fly his way. Gransøe performed well, but was charged with a defeat after stopping 36 of 39 attempts. The IceRays will close the weekend series tomorrow night in Topeka. Puck drops at 7:05 pm CT.