The Texas Tornado opened a two game set against the visiting Corpus Christi Icerays on Thursday evening. The series is crucial for both teams as the Tornado are working to overtake the Topeka Roadrunners while Corpus Christi is trying to hold off the Wichita Falls Wildcats for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NAHLSouth Division.
There was a lot of feeling out between the teams in the first period and even though the Icerays outshot the Tornado, it was Texas who had the better scoring chances. Corpus Christi net minder Hayden Stewart made several point blank saves and had multiple pucks slide just past the posts. Had it not been for the play of Stewart and the bad bounces, the Tornado could easily have taken a two or three goal lead into the first intermission.
In the middle frame it was the play of Hunter Leisner early that kept the Tornado in the game stopping two Corpus Christi odd man rushes. Then at the 17:04 mark the Icerays broke through on a strong individual effort by Charles Baldwin as he brought the puck into the zone, worked around the defense and put it just under the crossbar glove side. Nick Monfils and Ryan McNeely had the assists.
The Tornado took two penalties in the third that dug a huge hole for the defense. First Alexey Soloviev went for hooking at 9:37 then with Soloviev’s penalty about to expire, Louie Rowe was called for checking from behind at 11:25 giving the Icerays a 5 on 3. Immediately off the draw to Leisner’s right Michael Economos pulled the puck to the middle and ripped a shot on net. Leisner made the glove save but could not hold on, Economos followed his own shot to put home the rebound. Time of the goal was 11:29. Economos scored another quick power play goal just 36 seconds later on a deflection of a Beau Walker shot from the point with the secondary assist going to Emil Romig.
At 13:10 the Tornado began to claw their way back in, Nick Neville brought the puck into the zone down the far side and sent it deep. Neville chased it down and sent a backhand centering pass to Max Shuart who snuck it between Stewart’s left arm and his body. Drew Mayer got another scoring play started when he sent an indirect pass to Shuart off the end boards. Shuart found Michael Hoy sneaking down from the far point for a onetimer over the left pad at 16:33. With time winding down Leisner headed to the bench for the extra attacker and the Tornado began peppering Stewart with shot after shot, but he hung tough and turned aside all the rubber that came his way to hang on for the win.
The Tornado’s special teams play that had been on fire of late did not come through tonight. The power play was 0 for 5 and the penalty kill allowed 2 goals on 6 penalty kills. Texas outshot the Icerays 37-30 including 14 of the last 16 shots on goal.