Saturday, 03.04.2017 / 10:42 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
Looking to become the first team to sweep the Corpus Christi IceRays in three months, the Wildcats fell victim to a third period collapse and surrendered their four-game winning streak with a 7-2 setback.
For the second straight night, the Cats fell behind rather early on the scoreboard. Just 2:10 into the contest, Cody Fleckenstein unleashed a long wrist shot following an offensive zone faceoff win. Jared Dempsey never saw the puck, which sailed over his blocker and into the top corner of the net.
Despite going on back-to-back power plays, the Cats could not solve Corpus Christi’s net-minder Tomáš Vomáčka in the opening period. The Czech goalie stopped all seven shots thrown his way, and kept his team up 1-0 heading into the first intermission. The Cats killed off an IceRays power play just before the first period ended.
A thrilling second period kept the audience on the edge of their seats. At 24:36, Brendan Miller and Garrett Hallford found themselves on a 2-on-1 rush against Seamus Donohue. Miller waited for the right moment and slid a pass across the slot before Hallford tapped home his fifth goal of the season past the glove of Dempsey to double the IceRays’ lead.
At 27:30, Jeff Skinner finally put the Cats on the board. Aleksi Poikola won a puck battle in the left corner and whipped the puck to the front of the net. It caromed off Ricky Carballo and right to Skinner at the bottom of the right circle. The Katy, Texas native wasted no time and fired a shot past Vomáčka’s glove to cut the Cats’ deficit in half.
Less than two minutes later, Ryan Burnett would locate a loose puck near the edge of the left circle after a shot by Isaac Kobienia was awkwardly fought off by Vomáčka. Burnett buried his team-leading 20th goal of the season under the crossbar to tie the game.
The Wildcats’ jubilation following Burnett’s milestone, however, was short-lived. Nathan Bryer finished off a nice pass by Miller just over a minute later to regain the IceRays’ lead.
On a controversial decision, Domantas Cypas was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for head contact against Corpus Christi’s David Thomson. Thomson would return the very next shift, and the Cats were forced to kill off an extended penalty. They did so with ease, generating more scoring chances than they conceded. They fought off the long disadvantage and entered the second intermission trailing the Rays 3-2.
A colossal collapse would haunt the Wildcats in the closing period. In a surprising turn of events, the IceRays dominated the final 20 minutes, scoring four third period goals to stun the Cats and rout the Cats by a 7-2 final. Miller and his line continued their dominance. He would end the night with three assists, while Bryer finished with a pair of goals and an assist of his own.
Dempsey had a night to forget, stopping 27 of 34 in his sixth defeat of the season. Vomáčka was solid in net for the IceRays, winning his 15th game of the season and stopping 28 of 30 shots in the process. The Cats will kick off a three-game home stand on Thursday, March 9th against the IceRays at Kay Yeager Coliseum. Friday night is Pack the House Night; all tickets are $2.00. Puck drops all three nights at 7:05 pm CT.