Ice Bats Have Faith With Two Weeks Left
Setting the Stage: The Austin Ice Bats of the Central Hockey League are 20-24-14 on the 2006-2007 CHL season, fourth in the Southeast Division. The Ice Bats begin the week just two points back of Rio Grande Valley in the race for the sixth and final playoff position in the Southern Conference. The Bats have begun play at all-new Chaparral Ice Arena, located on I-35 between Howard Lane and Wells Branch Parkway.
This weekend, the Ice Bats visit Laredo, before returning for "Faith & Family Day" against the Bucks on Sunday. Then a critical game that had been scheduled for Saturday at Rio Grande Valley has been moved to next Tuesday, because of building availability.
A look back: The Ice Bats snapped two streaks in a 3-2 shootout win last Friday over Arizona-- an eight-game overall winless skid, and a seven-game losing streak in overtime or shootout games. As a result, the Bats moved back into a tie for the Conference's final playoff berth.
Austin's John Ronan scored the first goal 1:11 into the contest, circling from the left wing into the slot, and picking the upper left hand corner of the net. Arizona's Ladislav Kouba tied the score on a breakaway at 5:52. Ronan scored again 1:38 into the second period, but the Sundogs retied the score at 6:56 on Karl Sellan's rebound goal.
The game stayed tied through the third period and overtime, but the Bats scored on their first two shootout attempts, and Austin goalie Tony Quesada blanked all four Arizona shooters. For the game, Quesada stopped 29 of 31 shots faced, handing Arizona their first shootout loss of the season.
Last Saturday, the Ice Bats were outclassed in a 6-3 home loss to Colorado. The Eagles soared to a 5-0 lead and never looked back. Colorado scored four times in the first period, including Chris Hartsburg's shorthanded breakaway 3:39 into the contest, and Ed McGrane's goal with just five seconds left in the period.
The Ice Bats began to climb back into it over the game's final 23 minutes. Center Jason Kenyon picked the pocket of a Colorado player at the blue line and skated in for a shorthanded breakaway goal late in the second. Hooked from behind on a shorthanded breakaway of his own, Julian Smith was awarded and scored on a penalty shot midway through the third.
Forward Henry Kuster's power play goal with three minutes left closed the gap to two, and the Ice Bats were awarded a power play with 50 seconds left to make things interesting. But McGrane wrapped it up with a shorthanded empty-net goal, scored with seven seconds left. Hartsburg led scoring with a goal and three assists.
On Sunday, forward Mike Tucciarone's third period hat trick led the Ice Bats back from a three-goal deficit, and gained a valuable standings point in a 4-3 shootout loss at Rio Grande Valley.
The Killer Bees scored twice in a fiery first period, as the teams played up to the game's importance. Forward Rob Voltera rebounded Mike Looby's shot off the crossbar at 8:08, and David Masse added a goal from the high slot at 12:16. The Ice Bats, already short two skaters with injuries, lost two more as a result of first period fights. Forward Chris Murphy received a game misconduct penalty early in the first, and Marty Doyle earned a ten-minute misconduct inside the final minute of the period.
The Ice Bats continually missed on open scoring chances, and the Killer Bees padded their lead on Masse's breakaway goal 6:31 into the second period. But Tucciarone scored consecutive power play goals early in the third to start the comeback. He slammed in Henry Kuster's centering pass from the slot at 1:54, then two minutes later, scored from the left circle off an Aaron Wilson pass.
Tucciarone then brought the Ice Bats even with 1:18 remaining in regulation, redirecting Aaron Davis' centering feed between the pads of Rio goalie Jeremy Symington. After a scoreless overtime, the Killer Bees scored on three of four shootout chances, while John McNabb netted Austin's only goal in four tries on Symington. The team's 14th overtime or shootout loss ties a CHL record.
Arrivals: Last Friday, the Ice Bats signed free agent defenseman Jordan Weibel, who played in the Alberta and Saskatchewan Junior Leagues, and played in ten games as a rookie this season with Laredo. With Houston's call-up of goaltender Tony Quesada on Sunday, the Ice Bats signed Quesada's backup at Holy Cross College, Ben Conway. Conway played four seasons alongside Quesada with the Crusaders, then was 1-1 in two pro starts this season with Memphis. Quesada is expected to remain with the American League Houston Aeros through the rest of the season.
Departures: To make room for Weibel on the roster, the Ice Bats Friday released defenseman Marek Dora, who had one assist in 13 Ice Bats games.
Wounded Wings: Defenseman Adam Davis and forward Mike Possin were both injured in Saturday's game against Colorado, and did not play Sunday. Davis, who suffered a broken nose when hit in the face by a puck, is expected to return this weekend. Possin is listed as questionable.
Player Plaudits: Winger Henry Kuster has taken over the team scoring lead with 25 goals and 28 assists. John McNabb is next with 20 goals and 23 assists. Center Aaron Davis has 41 points, and Mike Tucciarone has 18 goals and 22 assists. Goalie Miguel Beaudry is 12-10-11 with a 2.96 GAA in net, and ranks among the league's top 13 goalies.
Potential Bite Victims: Laredo is easily the Conference's most complete team. At 39-15-5, the Bucks have clinched the division title, and are still in the running for best overall record in the league. After winning 11 straight, Laredo has dropped the last two, but they still rank third in league defense (2.71 average goals allowed) and in the top six in both specialty teams categories. Top 15 scorer Jeff Bes (26 goals, 36 assists) continues to climb the charts since coming back from injury. Bobby Chaumont ranks second among rookies with 23 goals and 33 assists. Serge Dube has 53 points and Adam Rivet 18 goals and 34 assists, among the top five d-men. And goalies Kevin Reiter (14-6-1, 2.48 GAA) and Eric Marvin (20-6-4, 2.57 GAA) rank among the top eight. About the only thing Laredo was missing was the kind of grit displayed by Steve Simoes and James Hiebert last year. Simoes rejoined the team a month ago, and Hiebert this week, plucked out of the ECHL by AHL Manchester and dropped back into Laredo. The Bucks are 19-8-3 at home, 20-7-2 on the road, and will host Memphis between their two games against the Ice Bats.
Rio Grande Valley is 24-26-8, two points ahead of the Ice Bats in the playoff race. Top eight scorer David Masse has 33 goals and 32 assists. Veteran Jason Cirone (24 goals, 29 assists) is the team's MVP. Forward Dennis Maxwell has 50 points, and active d-man Matt Medley 11 goals, 32 helpers. It will be interesting to see who gets more time in net down the stretch, young Jeff Van Nynatten (7-11-3, 2.80 GAA), or the more experienced Jeremy Symington (17-14-4, 3.05 GAA). Rio Grande is 14-10-4 at home, with a tough schedule of its own. They'll visit Bossier-Shreveport on Friday, and return to host Memphis Sunday.
The Series: The Ice Bats are 16-30-3 lifetime against Laredo, 2-6-2 this season. That includes a 1-2-2 record against the Bucks in Austin, 1-4 in Laredo. The Bucks have claimed the last six meetings, but just edged the Ice Bats, 6-5 in a shootout in the last meeting, on March 3rd.
The Bats are 20-16-4 lifetime against Rio Grande Valley, 6-1-2 this season. But the Killer Bees have won the last three meetings. The Bats are 2-1-1 at Hidalgo.
Comments From the Coach:
On Last Week: "It was good to get a shootout win and finally get two points. But we're treading water a bit. .500 hockey won't advance us, we have to be above that to get into the playoffs. We're not playing our best, but we're still hanging in there. I thought we played pretty well at Rio Grande Valley in our return trip there. It took us a little while to get going in the first, but I thought we deserved to win the hockey game. We played hard and did a lot of the right things. It was good to see the guys reach down deep, come back and battle and show to me they wanted to win the hockey game."
On This Week: "At some point, it comes down to do or die. We have two tough games against Laredo and Rio Grande has two tough games too. We need to get points out of the games this weekend to get back even. Obviously the biggest game is back at Rio on Tuesday. If we win that game, we're back even with one weekend to play, assuming this weekend's a wash."
The "New" Bat Cave: This season, the Ice Bats begin a new era at Chaparral Ice Arena, located on I-35 between Howard Lane and Wells Branch Parkway. This Sunday is "Faith & Family Day." Free foam hockey sticks go to all fans, courtesy of Guaranty Bank. And a free post-game skate takes place with the Ice Bats players, with live music from faith band "Crosswind."
In addition to providing tickets through the Ice Bats office at 927-PUCK, the Bats are for the first time utilizing Front Gate Tickets as the team's ticket outlet. Fans may conveniently purchase tickets at any Front Gate Tickets location, including Stubbs BBQ, Waterloo Records and Encore Video & CD.
Fans may order on-line through the Ice Bats website at www.icebats.com. Phone orders may be placed by calling (512) 927-PUCK, or 1-888-512-SHOW. Individual game tickets range in price from $15 to $35, depending on section, with discounted rates for groups of 15 or more. Fans may call the Ice Bats ticket office at (512) 927-PUCK, or log onto the team's website at www.icebats.com for more information.
In the Air: Once again, all Ice Bats away games will be broadcast on ESPN Radio, 1530 on the AM dial. The station will broadcast all road games during the 2006-07 regular season and CHL Playoffs. The games will also be available on-line, through the station website at www.espnaustin.com. Ice Bats VP of Broadcasting, Media/PR Glen Norman will handle play-by-play duties for a ninth straight season.
NOTE: Friday's game at Laredo will be carried on 1260 ESPN Deportes, with live web streaming from www. deportes1260.com.
Bats in Cyberspace: Bats fans can learn the latest about their team by logging on to www.icebats.com. Home or away, Bats fans can also follow the action with real-time scoring on the website, courtesy of Pointstreak.com. Fans will be able to access a game box score in real-time, as well as those of all other CHL games being played.
In addition, the CHL has partnered with industry leader ONEsite to launch 'myCHLteam.com', a new digital community designed to increase and enhance fan, player, team and league interaction. ONEsite is a leading provider of private labeled social networks and communities, and provides individual websites, blogs, photo galleries and much more to fans at no cost. Fans may log onto www.MyIceBats.com to sign up or for more details.
• Discuss this story on the Central Hockey League message board...
Central Hockey League Stories from March 14, 2007
- Scorpions Stomp Rayz And Clinch Playoff Birth - New Mexico Scorpions
- Rayz fall to Scorps but clinch home ice to begin playoffs - Corpus Christi IceRays
- Guerrera Posts Season-High 53 Saves in Rage Win Over Amarillo - Rocky Mountain Rage
- Ice Bats Have Faith With Two Weeks Left - Austin Ice Bats
- Laredo Bucks Weekly Update - Laredo Bucks
- Bucks Still #1 in CHL Coaches' Poll, Barely - CHL
- Eagles Add Amateur Defenseman Brett Thurston - Colorado Eagles
- Mudbugs Weekly - Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs
- Bees add Seguin, waive Mathieu - Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
- Cotton Kings Road Game Preview - Lubbock Cotton Kings
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.