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Ice Bats Stumble, Regroup for 2nd-to-Last Home Weekend, Komen Benefit

February 17, 2005 - Central Hockey League (CHL) - Austin Ice Bats News Release

Setting the Stage: The Austin Ice Bats of the Central Hockey League are 22-20-4 on the 2004-05 CHL season, in second place in the league’s Southeast Division. The Ice Bats trail first-place Corpus Christi by six points, while holding a two-point lead over third-place Laredo in the division standings.

While ten games over .500 at home, the Ice Bats are just 5-13-2 on the road, which makes the next two weeks critically important to the team’s playoff push. The Ice Bats will play their second-to-last weekend at home, hosting Rio Grande Valley Friday and Wichita Saturday. Saturday’s game is a benefit for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Bats will then travel to Hidalgo to face the Killer Bees on Sunday.

A look back: The Ice Bats picked up just a single standings point in three games last week, losing their last two games by lopsided scores. In their best performance of the week last Friday, the Bats dropped a 5-4 shootout decision in their first-ever trip to Wichita. The Bats surrendered a 3-1 third period lead before scoring a late goal to force overtime.

The Bats led first on a Kelly Smart goal off a Mike Mohr centering pass at 5:47, but Wichita’s Mike Corneau jammed in the game-tying goal just 33 seconds later. The Bats’ John McNabb then scored twice in the second, ripping a shot from the right wing past the glove of Thunder goalie Jason Flick 1:41 into the period. McNabb’s shorthanded breakaway goal at 14:42, combined with phenomenal saves from Austin goalie Matt Barnes, gave the Bats a 3-1 lead heading to the third.

Early in the third, the Thunder threw three goals on the board in a span of three minutes, including two shorthanded scores on the same penalty kill. Mike Carter scored even strength at 3:13, and Tyler Liebel and Travis Clayton added shorthanded scores on odd-man rushes 58 seconds apart.

The Bats looked to be toast, but defenseman Jeff Alcombrack blew around the Wichita defense for the tying goal with 1:32 remaining in regulation. It proved to be a one-point goal, as after a scoreless overtime, the Thunder scored on three of four shootout attempts. Thunder d-man Paul Esdale was credited with the game-winner.

Last Saturday, the Oklahoma City Blazers recorded their first-ever win over the Ice Bats in emphatic fashion, scoring four power play goals en route to a 9-2 thrashing of the Bats at the Ford Center. The Ice Bats, limited to 13 skaters because of injuries to defensemen Brian Pasko and Ryan Leasa and forward Mike Olynyk, could not keep the Blazers from buzzing the net for point-blank scores throughout the game.

The Blazers opened scoring on a slam-dunk goal by Pat Hallett 1:30 into the contest, but the Ice Bats countered 53 seconds later on a Dallas Anderson wraparound goal. Bang-bang goals by Jason Goulet and Hallett, and a power play score by Brad Herauf stretched the Oklahoma City lead to 4-1.

The Ice Bats seemingly got back into it after Anderson obliterated Goulet in a late first period fight, and Jared Dumba scored off a Jeff Neufeld centering pass with 3:37 left in the period.

But Oklahoma City center Kahlil Thomas scored a power play goal on a rebound that bounced away from Bats goalie Matt Barnes midway through the second. And the Blazers poured it on with four goals in the third. Bryan Forslund and Ryan Power scored consecutive power play goals 22 seconds apart, and Power and Scott Selig pumped the lead to 9-2 with goals 27 seconds apart early in the final period.

Specialty teams were a huge difference in the game, with Oklahoma City converting on four of seven power play chances, while the Ice Bats were scoreless on eight opportunities. But equally as distressing was the Ice Bats’ repeated inability to clear pucks and traffic from the crease. Power led the Blazers with 2 goals and an assist, Hallett scored twice, and Herauf had four points. It was the first Blazer win in nine chances over the four-year series between the teams.

Sunday, the Ice Bats incurred their sixth loss in the last seven outings, blanked 6-0 at home by New Mexico. Alexandre Piche’s hat trick and a 22-save performance by goalie Miguel Beaudry led the Scorpions.

Piche wasted no time getting started, scoring 14 seconds into the game. It marked the seventh time this year the Ice Bats have given up the opening goal in the first 64 seconds. But the real damage was done in the second period, when the Scorps hung three goals on the board. Former Bat Shawn Legault scored at 5:41, and Piche scored again 58 seconds later. Another former Bat, New Mexico d-man Daniel Tetrault followed up his own shot for a late-period power play goal.

Piche wrapped up the hat trick five minutes into the third, and Ladislav Kouba added a power play goal for good measure. Legault, Erik Adams and Jordan Bianchin also had three points for the Scorpions. Despite only four minor penalties called during the game, specialty teams again played an important role, as New Mexico scored on both of their power play attempts, while the Ice Bats failed to convert on their two.

Wounded Wings: With 44 seconds to play in last Friday’s game at Wichita, the Ice Bats lost defenseman Ryan Leasa to an ankle injury. Leasa, who underwent surgery Tuesday, is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season. Meanwhile, Bats defenseman Brian Pasko has been out the last 11 games, but could return this week.

Roster Flights:

Arrivals: On Thursday, the Ice Bats signed defenseman Ryan Edwards to help on their injury-plagued blue-line. Edwards played two seasons with Ice Bats Coach Greg Gatto in San Antonio, then 11 games with Odessa in 2002-03 before a season-ending leg injury. After taking last year off, Edwards was +2 with an assist in one game as an injury replacement for Fort Worth this season.

Player Plaudits: Ice Bats winger John McNabb ranks among the top six in league scoring, with 31 goals and 30 assists. Center Chris Richards is also in the top 20, with 14 goals and 40 assists. Jeff Alcombrack is among the top eight defensemen with 7 goals, 22 assists, while Kris Knoblauch is among the top dozen rookies, with 12 goals and 16 helpers. Forward Dallas Anderson ranks second in the CHL with 285 penalty minutes.

Potential Bite Victims: The Ice Bats would be wise not to underestimate Rio Grande Valley, even though the Killer Bees are 13-29-3 and out of the playoff chase. The Bees stung both Amarillo and Laredo last week, before losing 4-2 to the Bucks on Tuesday. Up and down the lineup, the Killer Bees just haven’t gotten the anticipated scoring. Veteran Bill Newson leads the team with 16 goals and 23 assists. Forwards Matic Kralj (11 goals, 15 assists) and Joe Guenther (12 goals, 12 assists) have chipped in, and All-Star defenseman Jason Tessier has 23 points, but is battling injury. In addition to ranking last on offense (2.13 goals per game), Rio Grande Valley is also in the basement defensively (3.69 average goals allowed) and on the penalty kill (76.3%). And it’s hard to imagine goalie Jeff Levy (12-19-1, 3.17 GAA) ranking second in the league in losses. Adding to the woes, goalie Jacque Vezina (1-10-2, 4.31 GAA) hasn’t come along as hoped. 10-11-1 at the Dodge Arena, the Bees are just 3-18-2 as a road team, and have dropped 12 straight road games.

At 32-11-2, Wichita remains on Colorado’s heels for the league’s best record, six points back of the Eagles. A top four team on offense (3.62 goals per game), defense (2.6 goals allowed), power play (20.9%) and penalty kill (85%), Wichita is poised for a good long playoff run. The league’s top scorer, Jason Duda (24 goals, 55 assists) had a 19-game point streak snapped last Saturday. Second in league scoring, linemate Travis Clayton (28 goals, 46 assists) had a 20-game scoring streak earlier this year. Reigning January Player of the Month Joe Blaznek is in the top 15 with 27 goals and 28 helpers. Clayton, Blaznek and d-man Paul Esdale each have 11 power play goals, with Esdale ranking 2nd among league defensemen overall (18 goals, 27 assists). Rookie Derek Parker, who leads the league with 314 penalty minutes, will get a second shot against Austin’s Dallas Anderson. The cornerstone of their success along with the play of their top scorers, Wichita has gotten excellent goaltending from Jason Flick (17-5-1, 2.31 GAA, .922 save percentage) and Jamie Vandespyker (15-6-1, 2.78 GAA). 16-7 on the road, the Thunder rolls into Corpus Christi before coming to Austin.

The Series: Last season, the Ice Bats’ inability to beat Rio Grande Valley may have cost them a playoff berth. With the teams set to meet five times over the final five weeks, the Bats’ playoff future may again depend on their play against the Killer Bees. The Bats are now an even 8-8-1 lifetime against the Bees, after winning four of five so far this year. The teams have split their two games in Hidalgo, but the Ice Bats have outscored Rio 13-2 in their three wins at the Expo Center, shutting out the Bees in the last two “Bat Cave” meetings.

After last Friday’s shootout loss, the Ice Bats are 3-0-1 lifetime against Wichita, but have yet to lose to the Thunder in regulation.

Comments From the Coach: On Last Week: “It’s hard to find the positives from last week, but we have to find them and build upon them. I thought we played really well in Wichita, save for about a ten-minute stretch in the third. As bad as the rest of the weekend was, it’s only one weekend, and we’re still in the thick of the chase. We have to help out our goaltenders more than we did last weekend. In some instances, it’s the result of trying to do too much, to take on more than what your assignment is. So we have to get back to basics and get our confidence back.”

On This Week: “Rio Grande Valley has played us pretty tough, and I think the guys know that after the weekend we just had, we can’t take anything for granted. Hopefully, they’ve got enough inner fuel to want to come back strong, no matter who we’re playing. We’re stressing basics again this week-- three-on-three play down low and defensive zone coverage… some shooting drills to help our goalies in their confidence with the puck. It’s amazing how huge confidence can be, and we have to regain that trust in each other, to know that your teammate is going to get the job done.”

Cave, Sweet Cave: Down to just four regular season home games, the Ice Bats have a big homestand this week. Friday night, the Liberty Hill High School Band will perform as part of the Austin Community College “Marching Band Series.” Then after the game, the University of Texas Hockey team will face off against Georgia Tech. The UT Hockey club is 23-4-2, and after an undefeated run through the College Hockey Southwest schedule, has qualified for the American College Hockey Association National Tournament, to take place the first week of March in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, Freescale Semiconductor presents Komen Foundation Night, benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Austin Affiliate. The Ice Bats will make a donation to the Komen Foundation, and fans attending the game can gather information and make donations of their own to help fight breast cancer. The day begins with UT Hockey against Georgia Tech at 4:45pm. Trading card sets go to 3,000 fans from Tim Jones and Covert Hippoplex. And after the game, everyone’s favorite pirates, the “Jolly Garogers” perform in the Crown Lounge.

Individual game tickets are available now through the Ice Bats office at 927-PUCK, on-line at www.GetTix.Net, or at any of a dozen Pinky’s Wireless locations in the Austin area, including Round Rock, Cedar Park, Killeen and San Marcos. Tickets are also available at all Texas Box Office locations, including all Austin-area HEB stores, or on-line at www.TexasBoxOffice.com.

To charge by phone, fans may call the Ice Bats ticket office at 927-PUCK, Get Tix at 1-866-4-Get Tix, or Texas Box Office at (512) 477-6060.

Individual game tickets range in price from $10 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.

Tee It Up: The Ice Bats’ 2nd-Annual Charity Golf Classic benefiting Ice Bats Children’s Charities takes place on Monday, March 7th at Forest Creek Golf Club. Players may register individually or in teams of four, with all groups also including an Ice Bats player, coach or other personality. To register or for more details, fans may call 927-PUCK or visit www.icebats.com.

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 2004-05 regular season and CHL Playoffs. The games will also be available on-line, through the station website at www.espnaustin.com. The Texas Dodge Dealers Warm-up Show begins 20 minutes prior to game time. Ice Bats Director of Broadcasting, Media/PR Glen Norman will handle play-by-play duties for a seventh 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.

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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.

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