Friday, January 27, 2012

Corpus Christi fires back at Wichita Falls

After getting sweeped last weekend against the Wichita Falls Wildcats in a pair of losses (4-2 last on Friday & 2-1 (OT) on Saturday) to continue to show the rest of the South Division that they are the favorites to finish 4th and get into the Playoffs for the 1st time in the NAHL Era as the Ice Rays are now 8 points up on the Jackalopes right now. Both teams will be playing again tonight at 7:05 PM at the American Bank Center.

Else where in the South Division Coming up tonight, the Amarillo Bulls visit Odessa while the Texas Tornado play their only game of the weekend as they entertain the Fresno Monsters while Topeka welcomes the New Mexico Mustangs this weekend.

By Greg Rajan of the Corpus Christi Caller

From Corpus Christi, Texas: Ice Rays Head Coach Justin Quenneville said his team really didn't play any differently against the Wichita Falls Wildcats on Thrusday then on eight previous occasion's.

There was one notable difference, though: the goal light behind Matt Leon's net finally got some use.

Corpus Christi ended Leon's run of dominance in a big way, rolling to a 5-2 victory over Wichita Falls at the American Bank Center.

The IceRays (19-17-3, 41 Points) moved eight points up on Odessa (14-19-5, 33 Points) and 10 on Wichita Falls (14-23-3, 31 PTS) for the final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League South Division. Corpus Christi also matched it's win total from last year, it's first in the NAHL.

"We had more pose tonight," Quenneville said. "I haven't even watched the game film, but I can tell you that we didn't play any different then we did the nights before. We kept things simple, made the plays and were effective at both ends of the ice," he added. "The goals just went in tonight. The guys buried (chances) and I'm proud of them. We had a ton of chances. I'm glad they started going in for them."

The story entering the game was Leon. the Wichita Falls Goalie who was 6-0 against Corpus Christi and had allowed just seven total goals. But by the end of the second period, the IceRays had pumped five pucks past him to turn a close game into a rout.

"Honestly, I can't tell you exactly (what we did differently)," said Forward Joe Smereck who had a goal and played a strong two way game. "Hockey is a funny sport, and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. But I guarantee tonight we worked a lot harder then we have any other night."

"Tonight we just found our niche. Sometimes, you just can't find it," he added.

The Icerays trailed 1-0 late in the first period before a strong individual effort by Perry D'Arrisso gave them a spark.

The forward beat the Wichita Falls Wildcats Defensemen Tucker Poolman to a loose puck, skated in Leon and faked the goalie to the ice before slipping in the equalizer at 15:22.

"That's a goal scorers goal right there," Quenneville said. "He recognized had a bead on the defensemen. We had been preaching a long time to the guys to make that move to the outside, gain speed and then the power to move to the net.

"Yeah, you take a licking, but you'll get a great (chance) out of it," he added. "That was a great play by him and a big (confidence) builder for us."

The IceRays then got to Leon for four goals in 14 minutes during the second, giving goalie Anthony Stolarz - who made 41 saves - plenty of offensive support.

First, Beau Walker's left circle shot went off Leon's right shoulder under the crossbar at 4:14, then at 9:22, A.J. Jarosz snapped a wirst shot from the high slot off the left post and in on the power play.

At 14:33, Smereck tailed after a strong rush down left wing and around the defense. Erik Purcell then capped the second period scoring from the low slot at 18:04 and Captain Frank Misuraca pinched in from the right point and found Purcell alone in front.

"On the Bench, were going wild," Jarosz said. "It just felt good to finally put five up against him."

"With Leon, he stays in the net, and you've got to be patient with him and wait for him to go down. I think we played pretty well tonight against him."

Lose Pucks

IceRays defensemen Ladislav Hruska left the game with 10:35 left in the first period with an ankle injury after a collision along the left wing boards with Wildcats Forward Renato Engler. Hruska was down on the ice for several minutes before being helped off and didn't return.

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