The Lone Star Brahmas headed into the American Bank Center to face the Corpus Christi Icerays for the last time during the regular season. Lone Star who just took over the top spot in the NAHL South were looking to put a little distance between themselves the Topeka Roadrunners and Wichita Falls Wildcats.
The night did not start well for the Brahmas as Wes Michaud caught the Brahmas in the midst of a line change and went streaking in on TJ Black with Caleb Thompson giving chase. Michaud took it down the near side and put it five hole on Black as he cut across the goal mouth at 6:56 with Matt Olson picking up the assist. The Icerays extended their lead to two goals at 18:42 of the opening period. The play started with a blocked shot in the Brahmas attacking zone by Matt Colford. Connor Kelly grabbed the loose puck and hit Maskim Dzhioshvili who managed to force his was between Thompson and Sean Giles and put it five hole on Black once again chasing him from net in favor of Jake Kupsky.
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The second period became the AJ Vanderbeck show with his first goal coming at exactly 4:00 into the period. Ludvig Larsson pulled a rebound out from in front of Kupsky and flipped it high off the glass to Vanderbeck. He went racing down the near wall with Hunter Stanley trailing the play. Vanderbeck ripped it on goal from the top of the rightwing circle but Andrew Lindgren made a pad save. The rebound went back out front, off of Stanley and behind the net where Vanderbeck grabbed it and wrapped it around the far post. With just over 12 minutes to go in the period another Icerays block turned into a Colford odd man rush. As Colford was bearing down on Kupsky, Alexey Solovyev made a huge defensive play blocking the shot with the stick from behind Colford. As a result the Brahmas took the puck the other way. Cody Wickline skated it across the blueline and dropped it to Stanley who drove the far post pulling Lindgren across opening the near post. Stanley slid it across to Vanderbeck crashing the right post and he deposited in the empty net at 8:05.
The score set Icerays head coach John Becanic off believing Solovyev’s block should have been whistled. Becanic was hit with a 10 minute misconduct and eventually the gate. Once play got underway again, Joe Chitwood was whistled for abuse of officials putting the Brahmas on the power play. Lone Star won the faceoff and sent the puck around the board, but Lindgren knocked it down leaving it for Pierre Crinon who started moving it up ice. Just before Crinon reached the blueline, Quinn Carroll robbed him blind with Stanley getting control of the puck. Stanley stick handled around Crinon and fed Vanderbeck racing back into the play and he buried it top corner at 10:25 for a natural hat trick.
However, the Brahmas lead would be short lived. Following a tripping call on Giles, the Icerays won a faceoff to Kupsky’s left. Ryan Cusin skated it across the zone then slid it to Michaud for a one timer over Kupsky from the right circle to tie the game. Time of the goal was 14:59.
To open the third period Brahmas’ defenseman Anton Santesson absorbed a big check along the boards and immediately clutched his left upper body. Santesson went to the locker room leaving Lone Star to skate the next 19 minutes with only five defensemen. The final period went by with no scoring despite some good opportunities for both squads leading to overtime.
With 3:29 gone in the extra frame a wicked bounce off the endboards gave Michaud an open net from just off the right post. Giles and Thompson converged on Michaud as Kupsky made a dive across post to post. The puck went off Michaud up the boards to Connor Kelly who found Anthony Cortese in the high slot for a onetimer through traffic and past the blocker of Kupsky for the game winner.
Lone Star outshot the Icerays 30 – 22 on the night. Both teams converted once on the power play with the Brahmas going 1 – 7 and the Icerays 1 – 4.
The Brahmas are back on the bus to make the 170 mile trip down Highway 281 to Hidalgo, TX for a weekend series with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.
Elsewhere Around The NAHL South Div.
Amarillo – Wichita Falls
In the only other game on tap in the South, the Amarillo Bulls went into Wichita Falls and not only kept their playoff hopes alive, but provide some help to the Brahmas knocking off the Wildcats 5 – 4. The Bulls got a power play goal from Charlie Combs followed by an even strength marker from Luke Novak to go into the first intermission tied at two. The teams once again traded scores in the second with Jesper Synnelius scoring on the power play for Amarillo. Two unassisted goals early in the third by AJ Duggan and Combs gave Jacob Weatherly the cushion he needed as he picked up the win on 27 saves.
Current NAHL South Division Standings
x – Clinched Playoff Berth
y – Clinched Division Title