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Wildcats vs. IceRays (Pre-Series Report)

Thursday, 03.09.2017 / 12:08 pm CT
By: Alex von Keudell

The Wildcats host the Corpus Christi IceRays in their final three-game home stand of the regular season. With their Pack the House night ($2 admission) on Friday and their home schedule dwindling down, the Cats look to cool off a red-hot IceRays team.

Cats Split Series in Corpus Christi
Last weekend’s two-game road stint in the Gulf was an odd one, to say the least. The Wildcats managed to split the series, despite not leading the IceRays for any duration of time throughout the weekend. On Friday night, it appeared time would run out as the Cats pulled their goaltender for a sixth attacker late in the game when trailing 3-2. As it often has this season, yanking the goaltender proved to pay off. Nick Rosa buried his second goal of the evening with just over a minute remaining to force overtime, where CJ Walker scored the game-winner to prolong the Wildcats’ winning streak to four games. The following night would not end so heroically. The Cats fell behind very early on Saturday, with the IceRays opening the scoring just 2:10 into the contest. After conceding another goal, the Cats rallied and tied the game just minutes after, seemingly making a push for another come-from-behind victory. However, that is the farthest thing from what happened. A quick IceRays response following a Wildcats proved to be the game-winning-goal, but not before a major collapse in the third period. The wind was taken out of the Wildcats’ sails after Corpus Christi scored an insurance goal in the third, and the Rays ultimately scored five unanswered to cruise to a 7-2 victory. The trend of winning close games coupled with losing big seems to be continuing for the Wildcats, who will be looking to bounce back this weekend after one of their most poorly played periods of the season last Saturday night.

The Matchup
The IceRays have the longest active point streak in the NAHL. They’ve still not been swept since the Wildcats did the honors back in early December, and they’ve tallied at least a point in 11 straight games. Their surge has propelled them right into the mix in a very tight race for second place with the Wildcats and the Shreveport Mudbugs. All three of those teams will seek to rack up as many points as possible to avoid playing the dominant Lone Star Brahmas in the first round of the playoffs, which will make for each game remaining–especially against one another–all the more enticing. The Cats have outscored the Rays 14-7 on home ice this season, though they’ve not hosted them since September 17th. Historically, Corpus Christi has struggled at Kay Yeager Coliseum as much as anyone. With history on their side, the Cats will look to overthrow a surging IceRays squad and become the first team since January 27th to defeat them in regulation (Odessa).

Jared Dempsey Commits to Army
The Wildcats’ star goaltender made his long-anticipated decision to commit to a Division I program earlier this week. He will be joining ex-Wildcats Nash Worden and Garrett Van Wyhe at the US Military Academy at West Point this fall. He’s become the sixth Wildcat this season to make his commitment, and the sixth to commit to a D1 school. Known as much for his sharpness off the ice as his prominence on it, Dempsey made it clear he was interested in an institution well-known for its academics. While he did generate interest from the Ivy League, Army assured him he’d have the opportunity to compete for the starting job next season. It speaks volumes to the quality of Army’s program that two of their other commits in the South Division are captains of their teams. The IceRays Captain, Mason Krueger, will join the Black Knights next season, as will Brahmas Captain John Zimmerman.

Blue Line Grows Thin
We’ve seen defensemen step up to play forward a number of times this season. It’s said to be an easier adjustment than the contrary. However, tonight will be the first time we see a forward dressed as a defenseman. Last season, the Wildcats were blessed with versatile forwards like Erich Jaeger who could jump back and play defense when needed. This season the Cats have CJ Regula, who’s played a great deal of defense in his career. He will partner up with Zach Heiser on the blue line as Seamus Donohue and Wyatt Mathews are dealing with injuries, while Domantas Cypas serves a two-game suspension for his elbow hit on Saturday.