(Photo: Cody Wooten)
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Colin Staub scored with just over a minute remaining to force overtime, but it was not enough to prevent the Wichita Falls Wildcats (36-14-3) from dropping a close contest to the Corpus Christi IceRays (29-20-5), 5-4, at the AmericanBank Center on Friday night.
Staub also added an assist to go along with his goal, while Austin Azzinnaro, Matt Koch and Nick Farmer also found twine for the Wildcats in the loss. Austin Shaw performed well in the loss, making 32 saves to help the ‘Cats claim a point.
The first period played out scoreless but was not without offensive chances, as both goaltenders made several strong saves and received from help from their goal posts, as Johnny Lazarus rang the iron for Wichita Falls at one end, and Wes Michaud clanged a shot against the frame for Corpus Christi.
The game sprung to life in the second period, as the two teams combined for chances aplenty and five goals.
The IceRays opened the scoring after a bad bounce and defensive miscue by the Wildcats gifted possession to Maksim Dzhioshvili. The Russian forward stepped in front with space all around him and pushed it in front for Landon Quinney to put past Shaw.
The ‘Cats responded though and took advantage of a bad bounce of their own. Farmer picked up the puck in his own zone and skated down the right-wing wall. As he gained center ice, the forward flipped the disc towards the cage of Andrew Lindgren to start a change. The puck bounced on end right in front of Lindgren though, and skipped over his pad to tie the game at 1-1 on Farmer’s 21st of the season.
Wichita Falls took its first lead of the night a few moments later on a shorthanded rush that was started and finished by Koch. The defenseman sent a great outlet pass up the ice to Staub and immediately raced forward to join the rush. Staub centered from the right circle for the trailing Koch in the slot, and Koch lashed it past Lindgren for his seventh of the year.
The ‘Rays answered right back on the power play though, with Dzhioshvili getting a tap-in from the top of the crease, but the Wildcats responded quickly once more.
Knight made a great play to keep play onside at the right point, then stepped down the right-wing wall and fed a cross-ice pass to the bottom of the left dot for Albrecht. With nowhere to shoot, Albrecht tried a wraparound chance that Lindgren saved, but Azzinnaro was on hand to dig the disc loose and force it home for a 3-2 lead entering the third period.
The Wildcats held that 3-2 edge for much of the third period, before Corpus Christi tied things on a power play goal from Michaud.
Moments later, the ‘Rays were in the lead when Dzhioshvili nabbed his second of the contest after the Wildcats could not win the faceoff in the defensive zone, and the forward beat Shaw in close.
With time winding down, Wichita Falls began to throw everything on the IceRays net and found a reward for the efforts with just over a minute remaining. Staub picked up the puck in the neutral zone and wheeled through traffic to gain the zone. His initial shot was saved by Lindgren, but the veteran followed the play, snagged the rebound and put it home to tie the contest, 4-4, and send it to overtime.
Once into the extra session, Corpus Christi ended things quickly, as Mason Krueger managed to shake free and score from above the crease just 39 seconds into the sudden-death period to hand the ‘Rays a 5-4 win.
The Wildcats and IceRays conclude their two-game set at the AmericanBank Center on Saturday, with opening puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. Fans who will not be at the game may follow all the action live on FASTHockey.com, or by tuning into an audio-only broadcast available via YouTube.
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2nd Period Corpus Christi – Landon Quinney (Maskim Dzhioshvili, Anthony Cortese)
Wichita Falls – Nick Farmer (unassisted)
Wichita Falls – Matt Koch (short handed) (Colin Staub)
Corpus Christi – Maskim Dzhioshvili (power play) (Matt Colford, Wes Michaud)
Wichita Falls – Austin Azzinnaro (Austin Albrecht, Cam Knight)
Corpus Christi – Wes Michaud (power play) (Ryan Cusin, Maskim Dzhioshvili) 7:27
Corpus Christi – Maskim Dzhioshvili (unassisted) 6:04
Wichita Falls – Colin Staub (Tommy Apap) 1:11
Corpus Christi – Mason Kreuger (Wes Michaud, Anthony Cortese) 4:21