Ice Bats in Division Hunt
Setting the Stage: The Austin Ice Bats of the Central Hockey League are 3-4-2 on the young 2006-2007 CHL season, and tied for second place in the CHL Southeast Division. The Ice Bats have begun play at all-new Chaparral Ice Arena, located on I-35 between Howard Lane and Wells Branch Parkway.
This week, the Ice Bats try to establish home ice advantage with a Thursday game against Corpus Christi and a Saturday contest against Odessa, wrapped around Friday's game at Bossier-Shreveport.
A look back: The Ice Bats took four of six possible points last week, winning both road games. In a season full of close games, last Thursday's game was a needed bit of breathing space. The Ice Bats took control with three unanswered goals in the second period and coasted to a 5-2 win at Corpus Christi.
For just the second time this year, the Ice Bats built a multiple-goal lead, scoring twice in the first period. Julian Smith skipped out of an attempted ankle tackle to center for a Mike Tucciarone goal on a two-on-one rush at 7:14. The Ice Bats then scored a power play goal at 12:41. Already up two skaters on a pair of minor penalties against the Rayz, the Bats turned it into a de facto five-on-two advantage when Corpus Christi forward Matt Turek broke his stick and was unable to grab a replacement. Ice Bats defenseman J.F. Picard buried the goal from above the left circle to make it 2-0.
The Rayz dominated the first five minutes of the second period, and clipped the lead in half 2:28 into the period. Corpus forward Derrick McIver popped down brother Chad, an Ice Bats defenseman on a check, then zipped a shot past Bats goalie Miguel Beaudry.
But the Ice Bats soon took command with goals :18 seconds apart. Tim Earl's hard backhander from the slot was followed quickly by Jason Kenyon's whirling backhand shot to produce a 4-1 lead. Austin forward Mike Possin then scooped up a deflected pass at center ice and left the defense in the dust for a breakaway goal at 12:14.
Corpus Christi's Justin Quenneville scored a power play goal in the third, but the Rayz could get no closer. Tucciarone led scoring with a goal and two assists, while Beaudry stopped 32 of 34 shots faced.
Last Friday, the Ice Bats were shut out on 13 power play chances, losing 4-1 at home to Bossier-Shreveport. The Mudbugs jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, scoring on a failed clearing attempt 60 seconds into the contest, and adding a Karlis Zirnis goal midway through the period. Bossier-Shreveport's Chris Brassard made it 3-0 with a shorthanded goal early in the second.
But the Mudbugs played a touch undisciplined, putting the Ice Bats on the power play on 11 occasions over the final two periods, including four separate two-skater advantages of various lengths. Still, the Ice Bats could only manage a John McNabb shorthanded goal in the second, as Bossier goalie John DeCaro made big saves when the Bats did get the puck on net. The 'Bugs wrapped it up on a Dan Wildfong empty net goal in the final seconds.
DeCaro stopped 29 of 30 shots.
On Saturday, defenseman Terry Virtue's overtime goal helped the Ice Bats outlast Rio Grande Valley, 6-5 in a wild affair at the Dodge Arena. The Ice Bats gained the first of several short-lived leads on a John McNabb breakaway goal 2:29 into the contest, but Rio Grande Valley's Jason Cirone tied the score on a backhanded wraparound 21 seconds later. McNabb scored again from the slot on the power play 5:47 into the second period, but less than two minutes later, Rio Grande's Emery Olauson retied the score with a rebound goal.
The Bats popped two goals on the board 11 seconds apart midway through the period. Mike Tucciarone swatted the puck past a defender and raced in for a breakaway goal, and defenseman J.F. Picard followed with a rebound goal at 8:44.
McNabb completed the hat trick with a shorthanded goal 19 seconds into the third period. Poking the puck free at his blue line, McNabb outraced two defenders to push the Bats to a 5-3 lead. But the Killer Bees again retaliated quickly on a Cirone goal 38 seconds later. And Rio Grande Valley winger Jonathan Robert tied the game with 4:04 remaining.
Less than two minutes into overtime, Aaron Davis' centering pass deflected into the air, and Virtue waited for it to settle below the crossbar before tapping in his first goal of the season. McNabb finished with four points to lead scorers, while Davis chipped in three assists.
Arrivals: Last Thursday, the Ice Bats added free agent defenseman Doug MacIver to the roster. The 6-5, 223-pound MacIver, no relation to new teammate Chad McIver, played four junior seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, and four pro seasons in the ECHL. MacIver began this season in camp with Bossier-Shreveport, but played his first regular season game with the Ice Bats last Thursday.
Wounded Wings: Ice Bats forward Britt Dougherty has been placed on 45-day injured reserve. Dougherty was to undergo knee surgery this week, to determine whether a return to the lineup is possible this season.
Player Plaudits: Ice Bats winger John McNabb has vaulted among the league's top five scorers, with 7 goals and 7 assists. Forwards Aaron Davis and Mike Tucciarone are next in team scoring with 11 and 9 points, respectively. In net, Miguel Beaudry (2-2-2, 3.27 GAA) and Kevin Couture (1-2, 3.34 GAA) have been splitting time, with Couture picking up his first win last Saturday.
Potential Bite Victims: Despite losing their last three games, 4-6 Corpus Christi is tied with the Ice Bats for second place. Defensively the Rayz have been ok, but their offense ranks last, averaging a mere 2.3 goals per game, and they rate in the bottom three in both specialty teams categories. Justin Quenneville has done his part, ranking third in league scoring with 6 goals, 9 assists. And forward Derrick McIver has 5 goals, 8 assists. Goalies Ron Vogel (3-4, 3.15 GAA) and Brent Zelenewich (1-2, 2.49 GAA) haven't always been spectacular, but have been good enough to keep the Rayz in most games. Without practice ice at home, the Rayz have been skating in Austin since Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's game.
With just two home games under its belt, Bossier-Shreveport has still managed a 4-3-3 record, third in the Northeast. The Mudbugs put opponents on the power play a lot, ranking fifth with 34 penalty minutes per game. But they still place second in total defense (2.6 average goals allowed), thanks to a penalty kill that leads the league with an astounding 91.5% efficiency. Experienced forwards Chris Brassard (6 goals, 5 assists) and Karlis Zirnis (5 goals, 6 assists) lead the team in scoring. While the Bugs were waiting for Ken Carroll's immigration status to be approved, John DeCaro (2-2-3, 2.45 GAA) was more than adequate between the pipes. Carroll is off to a 2-1 start with a 1.69 GAA and .946 save percentage. Bossier will be at Lubbock Thursday, before returning for that third home game, against the Ice Bats.
Winner of two straight, Odessa is 3-4-1, good for 4th in the new five-team Southwest. The Jackalopes don't feature a lot of stars, just a lineup of guys, many of them mainstays, who go out and get the job done. Forwards Steve Shrum (6 goals, 3 assists) and Mike Rutter (9 points) lead the team in scoring, and have the Jacks ranking second on the power play (22.6%). But the marquee players in Odessa are usually the goalies, and this year's tandem is no exception. Mike Gorman is 2-2-1 with a 2.76 GAA, Derek Dolson 1-2 with 3.01 GAA. 0-3-1 as an away team, the Jackalopes will host Rio Grande Valley and Arizona before coming to Austin.
The Series: The Ice Bats are 55-29-8 lifetime against Corpus Christi, heading into the fourth meeting already this year. The Bats are 1-1-1 against Corpus so far this season.
After splitting two games against Bossier-Shreveport, the Ice Bats are now 16-19-8 lifetime against the Mudbugs.
Austin is 15-6-3 lifetime against Odessa, but won just one of four meetings last season.
Comments From the Coach:
On Last Week: "In general, you take four of six points, you have to be happy, although we'd have liked to win the one at home. Having been around long enough to know what I'm looking at, I'm more concerned that we stunk the first ten minutes of that game, as opposed to our lack of production on the power play. We hit two posts and a crossbar, their goalie made three or four unbelievable saves, and so you end up 0 for 13. Again, that doesn't bother me as much as our poor start in that game. Still, if we can take four out of six points every week, we'll be all right in the end."
On This Week: "Every game has been so close, and that's the way it's going to be all season. There's so much parity in the league, especially in our division, that every break and every call is going to have enormous consequences night to night. That's why you have to be prepared to step up and play every night, and be able to overcome things that don't go your way. We'll get better as we go along, as many teams do. Guys are still feeling things out. It's the team that can make adjustments and stay away from injuries that wins. We may need to upgrade here or there, I don't know yet. But you never make change just for the sake of making change."
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.
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.
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.
Thu., Nov. 16th, 7:30pm, vs. Corpus Christi Rayz, at Chaparral Ice Arena, Austin, Texas
Fri., Nov. 17th, 7:05pm, vs. Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, at CenturyTel Center, Bossier City, Louisiana
Sat., Nov. 18th, 7:30pm, vs. Odessa Jackalopes, at Chaparral Ice Arena, Austin, Texas
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Central Hockey League Stories from November 16, 2006
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- RiverKings players waited tables for charity Tuesday - Mississippi RiverKings
- Rage in the Community - Rocky Mountain Rage
- Rayz game airs tonight on 1150AM KCCT - Corpus Christi IceRays
- SteelHounds vs. Oilers Game Preview - Youngstown SteelHounds
- Former RiverKings coach Doug Shedden to coach Finnish national team - Mississippi RiverKings
- Cotton Kings Home Game Preview - Lubbock Cotton Kings
- Killer Bees Game Night - Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
- Ice Bats in Division Hunt - Austin Ice Bats
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