The Texas Tornado and Corpus Christi Icerays stepped in to the ring on Saturday both needing a win to further their NAHL South Division playoff pursuits. The game resembled a good welterweight title bout with both teams figuratively trading punches and counter punches up and down the ice. Corpus Christi scored first at 4:03 of the opening period when Brandon Smith took the puck down the near side with speed then slid it across to Ryan McNeely trailing the play. McNeely stepped around Anthony Mousseau and went high stick side for the goal.
Texas was the beneficiary of a tripping penalty whistled on Smith at the 4:19 mark putting the top ranked home power play on the ice. Unlike last night the power play was up to the challenge and knotted the score at 5:25 on a Michael Hoy bomb from the far point. Nick Neville and Jackson Leef assisted on the goal.
With just over 9:00 minutes to go in the second Eric Purcell blocked a shot at the blueline and got behind the defense on a scamper down the middle. Aaron Davis came out to cut down on the angle and forced Purcell to go high over the crossbar. CJ Reuschlein controlled the carom and sprung Justin Greenberg and Max Shuart on a breakaway of their own. Greenberg used his speed to force the defenders to him then gave the puck up to Shuart streaking down the far side. Shuart pulled the puck to the middle, did a spin-a-rama around John Rosium and fired it past Hayden Stewart’s glove hand for the only goal of the period. Time of the Shuart goal was 11:05.
Texas used the momentum from the Shuart tally to jump on the Icerays early in the third. Just as a title conteder does when he gets an opponent on the ropes the Tornado started firing knockout punches. Just 46 seconds into the third, Drew Mayer picked off a pass in neutral ice and sent Scott Conway into the offensive zone. Conway skated it to the near circle and ripped a shot off the Iceray on Stewart’s chest. The rebound kicked out to the leftwing circle for Leef to deposit in the back of the net. The Tornado scored again less than five minutes later to take a three goal lead. Jason Eddy put his big body in front of the net to create the screen for a Mousseau slapper from the far point and tipped the puck over Stewart’s left pad at 5:38. Texas was controlling play and had an extended shift around the Corpus Christi cage. Eddy had a couple of point blank attempts turned aside by Stewart but kept working until he found Reuschlein on the left wing. Reuschlein deked the defender and drove to the slot for a wrister that went off the right pad, but Mitch McPherson cleaned up the rebound. The Tornado found the twine again 31 seconds later on a scramble just off the right post and Mayer flipped it over a sprawled Stewart chasing the Iceray’s netminder from the game. Leo Lumm and Hoy were credited with the assists.
Texas outshot the Icerays 36-19 and the power play was 1-3 while the penalty kill was 4-4. Davis made some big saves and was cool under pressure. He is now 2-1-0 since joining the Tornado giving them another option between the pipes. With a goal and an assist on the night, Leef now has 56 points to tie Brandon Hawkins for the team lead.
The dominating performance from the Tornado is what Texas fans have come to expect, hopefully it will carry over to next weekend as the Tornado travel to Topeka to take on the Roadrunners in a three game set.