Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Icerays are raw, but feisty

Just a week to-go-till the Icerays will make their NAHL Debut and the team has now officially revelled their 25 man roster which will be cut down to at least 23 before the team's home opener on October 1, which is the same date that all 26 NAHL Teams have to be down to their final 23 which will take them into rest of the regular season as they look to emerge as a surprise contender in the NAHL South Division.

Among the 25 players that will play the Icerays are 3 players that the team found at its DFW Prospects Camp back in July in Kyle Hughes (Round Rock), Derrek Schartz (Plano) and Alex Rosado (Cypress).

This is a team that is very new to Juniors and will look to mold into a strong unit when the NAHL Blaine Showcase gets underway next Wednesday with the Icerays first game against the Traverse City North Stars.

Many first time players with a few players that played for the Alpena Ice Diggers before they moved over the off-season and a few other teams as well. Also at last check with our poll, our voters have said that Corpus Christi will have the best season of the 3 Expansion Teams in the South Division against the Amarillo Bulls & New Mexico Mustangs.

After the North Stars who won the North Division last year, Corpus Christi will take on 2 of the league's other new teams against the Dawson Creek Rage and the Chicago Hitmen. Also going up against the Icerays are the Owatonna Express who are looking to rebound where after finishing 2nd in the Central Division, got crushed by the Alexandria Blizzard in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Icerays have a late home opener as the team's first home game is on October 1 as they host a weekend series against the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Prior to that is a 3 game road trip from September 24-26 with 2 games against the New Mexico Mustangs and a game as the expansion teams will get some interesting early battles against each other after the Blaine Showcase.

Here's the info the Corpus Christi Icerays.

Showcase Schedule

9/15: VS. Traverse City North Stars 10:15 AM

9/16: VS. Chicago Hitmen 10:30 AM

9/17: VS. Owatonna Express 10:30 AM

9/18: VS. Dawson Creek Rage 3:45 PM

Full Schedule

Corpus Christi Icerays Roster

Corpus Christi Icerays Website

Here's the story from Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller

The Sweaters were the same, the drills looked familiar and head coach Brent Hughes was his useful colorful, demonstrative self on the ice.

In fact, one would have to look pretty hard to notice the differences between the new Icerays and their professional predecessors.

The franchise, new in the junior ranks, began its first North American Hockey League training camp on Friday at the American Bank Center.

If you want to see up-tempo, wide open hockey with an abundance of hitting, it will be your thing. But there are differences from the pro game Corpus Christi saw for 12 seasons in the Central Hockey League.

The players at this level aren't necessarily as poised with the puck nor the skills as refined as the pros. That should come in time, as player development is the NAHL's forte, with 87 alumni playing in the NHL last season.

Justin Quenneville, who played four seasons with the CHL Icerays, finished as the franchise's all time leading scorer and hung up his blades in the summer to become an assistant coach for the NAHL Squad, don't expect fans to be disappointed by what they see in the October 1 home opener.

"I know people down here are going to recognize (the difference) in terms of intensity," Quenneville said. "They're going to feel like there's a lot more intensity on the ice. Players skate hard, they stop on pucks, they hit everything that moves and they're very fast paced.

"I think at the professional level, where you'll see the difference is there's a little bit more fluidity and a little bit more patience. But that's something these guys will learn over time and you can see of our returning players have that. But in terms of being up-tempo, there's definitely not much of a difference."

However, until they see the new product with their own eyes, fans my skeptical, and that's their prerogative.

After all, it will be hard to forget dynamic players from last season such as Ryan Garbutt, Steven Later and Kyle Peto and old favorites Quenneville and Richards. But after seeing Cody Milligan who doesn't turn 17 until Tuesday pull off a backhand toe drag and create a scoring chance in Friday's Afternoon scrimmage, it may not take long for the new crop to generate a following.

"If fans liked Ryan Garbutt last year, then they're going to like at least 10 of the guys on our team this year," Quenneville said of last season's sparkplug rookie. "We've got a lot of (that type). There's a lot of raw talent out there and a lot of potential to work with.

"They're very coachable and that's the exciting part for Coach Huges and me. It's going to be exciting. I think fans are really going to enjoy this."

And if first impressions are any indication, the reviews should be favorable.

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