Friday, 03.03.2017 / 2:08 pm CT
By Alex von Keudell
The Wildcats pay a visit to Corpus Christi for the first time in three months, looking to extend their three-game winning streak against one of the hottest teams in the NAHL.
Road to Recovery
It isn’t surprising the Wildcats’ three-game winning streak has coincided with a number of important players returning to health. Jared Dempsey, chief among them, played in his first game in over a month last Saturday night against the Amarillo Bulls and backstopped the Wildcats to a .928 save percentage in his return, earning the Second Star of the Game as a result. Blake Ripley has also been vital to the Wildcats’ goal-scoring potential this season. Upon his return to the lineup, Ripley played a key role on the Wildcats’ highest scoring line against Amarillo last weekend with Steven Tillie and Ricky Carballo on his right. Ripley also potted his 9th goal of the season in just his second game following his month-long injury. Another substantial piece of the puzzle, CJ Walker, is expected to make his return this weekend. After going on a five-game losing streak, their longest since January 24th of 2014, the Cats have now won three straight. However, if they wish to prolong their winning ways, they’ll have to do so against the hottest team in the NAHL at the moment.
IceRays are Rolling
The IceRays are coming off their most dominant month in franchise history, going 7-0-1 throughout February. They helped out the Wildcats greatly by sweeping the Shreveport Mudbugs on the road the day before the standings were frozen for the Top Prospects Tournament. The following two weeks, they would sweep the Odessa Jackalopes and the Topeka RoadRunners on home ice before finally being defeated 2-1 by the Lone Star Brahmas last Friday night. They’d respond with a 2-1 victory on Saturday. A daunting challenge awaits the Wildcats, who will face a team which has won eight of its last ten home games. The IceRays have begun playing playoff-style hockey, and will be fighting to earn home ice advantage for the first round given how well they’ve played at the American Bank Center.
Despite the Rays’ dominant stretch of recent home victories, the Wildcats got the better of them when they last visited their building. On December 3rd, the Cats would come from behind and own the third period to defeat Corpus Christi 4-2. They’d follow that up with their first shutout of the season in a 4-0 Sunday afternoon victory in what Coach Nelson described as the “perfect road game.” Wichita Falls has now won four straight against the IceRays and has outscored them 19-5 in that span. All weekend, however, they’ll be without the services of Ilya Skvortsov, who was suspended for his hit-from-behind on Amarillo’s Bray Crowder. Second on the team with 36 points this season, the Wildcats will need to find contributions from throughout the lineup to replace the high-scoring Russian forward’s production. The IceRays are wrapping up an eight-game home stretch, and will be looking to end it on a high note before commencing a three-game road series next weekend at Kay Yeager Coliseum, where they’ve struggled immensely in recent years.