Lapses in defense helped lead to five consecutive goals for the Corpus Christi IceRays as the Wichita Falls Wildcats opened a two game series against their division rivals on Thursday night. The Wildcats 5-2 loss at American Bank Center also marked the first time goalie Matt Leon has lost to Corpus Christi, with his personal record against the IceRays falling to 6-1-0.
The Wildcats would control the puck through most of the game, out shooting the IceRays 43-29 in the game. Despite the advantage for Wichita Falls, the IceRays would explode for four goals on 13 shots in the second period alone.
Fireworks would bring the first period to a close and open the third period as tempers flared between the North American Hockey League South rivals.
The IceRays Joe Ginley would jump Wildcats team captain Renato Engler with 30 seconds left in the opening period, sparking a total of five penalties. Engler would get two minutes for high sticking and a five minute fighting major, while Ginley was tagged with two minutes for instigating, a five minute fighting major, and a 10 minute game misconduct.
Shortly after the teams hit the ice for the third period a scrum in front of the IceRays net would end with two players on each team in the penalty box. Chris Taff and Danny Fetzer for the IceRays, and George Pagonis and Tucker Poolman for the Wildcats would all get two minutes for delay of game.
Before Corpus Christi began their barrage of scoring, the Wildcats broke a scoreless tie at the 7:41 mark. Patrick Yudez followed up a shot by Tyler Hope to score his third goal of the season and give Wichita Falls a 1-0 lead.
Coming into the game, the IceRays had scored seven goals in six games against Leon and had been shutout once. Corpus Christi would find the first piece of the Leon puzzle 15:22 into the first period.
Mississauga, Ontario native Perry DArrisso scored his 11th goal of the season, picking up a loose puck to tie the game. Taff would get the assist on the goal, and the teams would go into the first intermission knotted 1-1.
The IceRays would grab the lead when Beau Walker went high in the net to record his ninth goal of the season 4:14 into the second period. Michael Dery would get the assist.
A.J. Jarosz would cash in with the only powerplay goal of the night 9:22 into the middle period with assists from Travis Maxwell and Payden Mielke. The goal gave Corpus Christi a 3-1 lead as Leon began to look less invincible.
The IceRays would take a 4-1 lead on Joe Smereck’s ninth goal of the season. The goal was disputed, but after a conference by officials it was allowed, giving Corpus Christi a three goal advantage. Mielke and DArrisso would record assists on the goal.
Eric Purcell would wrap up the scoring in the middle period with 56 seconds on the clock, slipping his 14th goal of the season past Leon to put the IceRays up 5-1. Jarosz and Frank Misuraca would pick up assists on the goal.
Corpus Christi would turn to defense in the third period as they looked to hold their sizable lead, and the Wildcats cut into that lead early on.
Tanner Fahlstedt came up with his team leading 13th goal of the season 1:25 into the third, deflecting a shot by Nate Myeroff past IceRays goalie Anthony Stolarz. Fahlstedt’s goal would by the final drop in the bucket as Corpus Christi held on for the 5-2 win.
Stolarz would turn in a fine performance, recording 41 saves off 43 shots to improve to 16-11-2 on the season.
Leon would stop 24-of-29 shots to fall to 10-9-1 on the season.
The IceRays improve to 19-17-3 and tighten their hold on fourth place with an eight point lead over the Odessa Jackalopes.
Wichita Falls drops to 14-24-3 and fall 10 points behind Corpus Christi in the standings.
The teams wrap up the two game series in Corpus Christi on Friday night. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m.