Corpus Christi IceRays (11-14-2-0, 24pts) vs. Odessa Jackalopes (17-9-0-1, 35pts)
at Ector County Coliseum in Odessa, TX
Time: 7:15 p.m. CDT
Broadcast: (Home) HockeyTV | Listen Live Here
What You Need to Know:
Season Series: 1-0
COR: 16pts, Kuznetsov (10g-6a)
ODA: 20pts, Goode (9g-11a)
Break in the Action:
This is the final weekend of games for all teams before heading into the holiday break. Odessa has faced Corpus Christi only once this season which is the fewest out of any South Division team. That game was played on a Sunday as the IceRays were at the end of a 3-in-3 series at home. Dayne Hoyord scored a hat trick as the Jacks would go on to win 5-2. With four points on the line, the IceRays could move up as far as fifth place. Whereas a dominant weekend could have the Jacks sitting in first place heading into the holiday break.
The top-three teams in the South are all separated by one point and one win. Amarillo has 36 points (18-7), Odessa is in second, and New Mexico is in third with 34 points (16-8-1-1). The Wranglers will host the Lone Star Brahmas whereas the Ice Wolves will faceoff against the El Paso Rhinos. Odessa and Corpus Christi have also played the greatest number of games in the South at 27. The South Division is the only one to have every team over 20 points. The IceRays have allowed the most goals in the division (88) whereas the Jacks have scored the most (85).
Corpus Christi held their annual Teddy Bear Toss last Friday. They were swept by Amarillo but did score to send on hundreds of stuffed animals to be donated to local charities. This Saturday, the Jacks will have their annual Teddy Bear Toss. The IceRays and Jacks have a bit of history while playing in Teddy Bear Toss games. On December 8, 2018, Corpus Christi hosted Odessa for their Teddy Bear Toss and won the game, 5-2. A week later and it was the Jacks hosting the IceRays for a 3-in-3 series. Their Teddy Bear Toss was on the final game and unfortunately, they fell to the IceRays in that game, 7-5. However, the Jacks did collect 1,700 stuffed animals to give to local charities. The Jacks have scored in every game so far this season. They are the only South team that can say that. Which certainly gives them a lot of confidence heading into one of their biggest games of the year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
IceRays (F: #16 – Stepan Kuznetsov)
The native of Biloxi, MS leads all IceRays players in goals with ten. Nine of his goals have been with Corpus Christi. The 17-year-old started his NAHL career with the El Paso Rhinos (6gp, 1g, 3a). The Rhinos drafted him #30 overall in 2021. The 6’1”/180lb. right-handed forward has scored five goals and assisted on one in his last five games. His father, Sergei Kuznetsov, played in the AHL in 2000-01 with the Springfield Falcons. He also spent four seasons in the ECHL as well as six seasons in Russia. He has been an NHL Scout for the last six seasons (Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers). Stepan was drafted #56 overall by the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) in 2021. The Gamblers also drafted him #114 in 2020. Last year, he played 52 games for the New Jersey Rockets (16U AAA). He finished fifth on the team in points with 46 (35g).
Jackalopes (F: #25 – Nick Ahern)
While the Chicago, IL native has only played five games for Odessa (1g, 1a) he has already made a big impact. The 5’10”/170lb. left-handed forward scored both game-winning goals last weekend against New Mexico. While his shootout goal will not count towards his stats, the 19-year-old has already proven that he thrives during the big moments of a game. Ahern started this season playing in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks (1g). Last year, Ahern played for three different teams. He started with Fredericton Red Wings (MJAHL) by playing eight games (4g). He then only played one game for the Boston Advantage (NCDC) before going to the Utica Jr. Comets (NCDC). He played 26 games for the Comets and tallied 35 points (18g).
Photo credit: Danne Braden