Friday, January 13, 2012

Corpus Christi scores key victory in NAHL South Division Playoff Race

Corpus Christi was able to score a huge 2-1 Shootout victory and was able to increase their South Division Lead to 5 points with the help to a great goaltending performance by Anthony Stolarz, who by the way was ranked 21st among North American Goaltenders earlier this week in the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Season Draft Rankings.

Also the only goal in regulation, just 5 minutes later, Odessa scored their only goal of the game from Josh Obregon. After that, it was a battle of goalies where both Stolarz & Connor Hellebuyck made some great saves in the performances. For Hellebuyck, he made 34 of 35 shots while Stolarz made 29 of 30 shots in the OT Game.

Even the shootout was dominated by the goalies when Tyler Cayemberg scored 1st in the 3rd Round of the Shootout. However, they couldn't take advantage of Hellebuyck's great performance to prevent Zachary Lindsay & Dmitry Ermakov to score in the 4th & 5th Rounds to comeback to win the SO & the Game 2-1 last night at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.

Both the Ice Rays & Jackalopes will be playing again tonight at 7:05 PM as well where the Ice Rays can extend their lead again for the 4th & Final Playoff spot in the South Division. Also the Amarillo Bulls & Topeka Roadrunners are playing in Amarillo at 7:00 PM in a game where Topeka will be looking to get in a 2nd Place Tie with the Tornado in the South Division.

Finally the Texas Tornado will host the Wichita Falls Wildcats at 7:30 PM at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco tonight. The Tornado have lost 3 in a row as the team is battling injuries and a surging Roadrunners Team that has won 9 of their last 10 with a rock hard defense that has given up 2 or fewer goals in every single victory over that span. The only loss was a 7-1 defeat at home where the Wild scored 4 Power Play Goals back on December 17 just before the Christmas Break.

Current NAHL South Division Standings

1. Amarillo  38 GP  30-3-5  65 PTS  168-86

2. Texas  37 GP  22-9-6  50 PTS  135-101

3. Topeka  36 GP  23-11-2  48 PTS  111-92

4. Corpus Christi  34 GP  16-16-2  34 PTS  100-106

5. Odessa  33 GP  12-16-5  29 PTS  69-99

6. Wichita Falls  35 GP  12-21-2  26 PTS  87-115

7. New Mexico  35 GP  10-23-2  22 PTS  94-162

From Corpus Christi, Texas: Given the playoff stakes, it was only natural that Thursday's Game had a post-season feel to it.

There was tentative, cautious play at times and stellar goaltending was the dominant theme. In the end,  the Icerays found enough timely scoring to nab themselves a critical victory. Corpus Christi outlasted the Odessa Jackalopes 2-1 in a shootout at the American Bank Center, giving the Ice Rays consecutive victories for the first time in more then two months.

The Ice Rays (16-16-2  34 PTS) moved up 5 points up on the Jackalopes (12-16-5 29 PTS) for the final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League's South Division (NAHL), with their two game set wrapping up tonight.

"There was a sense of relief that we got the point (for getting to overtime)," Ice Rays Coach Justin Quenneville said. "Realistically, that's not the goal we set to accomplish. We wanted the four point swing. We left (one) point on the table, but at the end of the day, a win is a win. We've got to build off it."

For the fifth time in the last six games, the Ice Rays allowed two goals or fewer.

"The Guys are really buying into the system," said Ice Rays Goalie Anthony Stolarz, who made 29 saves. "The maturity is coming in and the discipline is the most important thing, listening for the coaches. As long as we listen to what they have to say, I think the success in the end will definitely be worth it."

In the shootout, Stolarz out dueled Odessa Counter part Connor Hellebuyck, stopping four of the 5 Jackalopes' five attempts. Corpus Christi trailed entering it's final two shooters, but Zachary Lindsay & Dmitry Ermakov beat Hellebuyck to claim the victory.

For Ermakov, it was his second straight shootout winner. He scored in the eighth round to decide Saturday's 3-2 victory at Amarillo. Against Odessa, Ermakov used a backhand-to-forehand move and flipped a shoot over the 6'5" Hellebuck's blocker and inside the left post.

"He's been a big goalie like our goalie, so it's just a matter of getting him moving side to side and then finishing it," Ermakov said. "As our coach stated to us, (in the 2nd) half of the season we treat every game as a playoff game and and play a playoff style."

The teams traded second period goals, with Brandon Smith tallying for Corpus Christi and ex-Ice Ray Josh Obgren responding for Odessa. But otherwise, it was all about Stolarz and Hellebuyck, who from 12 feet, 9 inches of goaltender between them and showed why they're two of the top net minders in the NAHL.

"When you've got two great goaltenders playing like they did tonight, you knew it was going to be a frustrating contest in terms of offensive output," Quenneville said.

"But we showed a lot of good signs in terms of creating more four ourselves and being patient with the puck. They're frustrating steps - you want to see the results all the time and right away - but it does take time. With 15 first year junior players, we know there is going to be some heartache.

"But they're working hard and the energy is there. It's the bearing down and the execution from the top to bottom. We've got to find ways to put teams away early when we have the momentum and the opportunities."

Loose Pucks

Ice Rays goalie Anthony Stolarz was ranked #21 among NA Goalies in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's Mid-Season rankings released this week. Stolarz was the only NAHL Player to crack the CSB Rankings.

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