Monday, March 22, 2010

Brahmas win wild Game One in Corpus Christi

Hiebert, Skworchinski heroics provide big advantage in series

To call it this contest a wild one may be an obvious understatement. 2,224 IceRays fans watched one of the most exciting games of the year at the American Bank Center. But the locals went home unhappy as the Texas Brahmas pulled off a major upset, winning Game One of the Southern Conference best-of-three opening round of the 2010 CHL post-season.

Despite having one of the league’s worst road records during the regular season, the Brahmas kept coming back after the IceRays pulled ahead three times, eventually forcing the game into overtime where former Laredo Bucks nemesis, James Hiebert, scored the game-winning goal.

It was an exciting opening period of play as both teams came out with the ferocity expected in a game of this magnitude. Each with a strong presence inside their respective defensive zones; each exhibiting physical prowess, taking advantage of the lack of penalties called during the playoffs.

Steven Later quickly established himself as the IceRays' instigator, seeming to target last year's playoff MVP, Jason Deitsch with a barrage of checks throughout the first frame. At one point, Later was tripped by Deitsch right in front of referee Kevin Graber but there was no call. Not long after, Later tried the same thing, taking down Brahmas point machine Jordan Cameron, but drew the call, leading to the first power play opportunity for Texas. Suffice it to say, Later was none too happy with the apparent double standard.

The Corpus Christi penalty killers were able to hold off the Brahmas, who had struggled in the regular season with the next to last power play in the league. Texas forward Scott Thauwald had a shot deflected as the penalty on Later expired, but Kevin Beech was able to focus and make the save.

Later was tripped up again minutes later and was furious when there was no initial call which was delayed, sending Lee Jubinville to the penalty box for Interference. This set up the first man-advantage for the Ice Rays.

The Brahmas' special teams displayed their dangerous nature when Jordan Cameron broke up a pass at the blue line and took possession of the puck. Cameron skated in on a breakaway and with a deke at the mouth of the crease, found an opening on Beech's left side and scored an unassisted short-handed goal to put the Brahmas up 1-0 at the 12:12 mark (See the video here).

Not long after, a turnover by Jason Tessier just inside the blue line gave the Brahmas an opportunity to go up 2-0 when Matt Pierce sent a pass from the left circle to James Hiebert, who drove a shot in at point blank range, but Beech managed to make the save.

A slash to the wrist of Justin Quenneville by Justin Kinnunen led to the second power play for Corpus Christi, who wasted no time converting the opportunity; four seconds to be exact. After winning the draw, Jereme Tendler flipped the puck to Jason Tessier, who sent in a slap shot from the left point past Brett Jaeger to score the equalizer at the 17:20 mark.

In the final minute of play, Ryan Garbutt took down Brahmas defenseman Kevin McLeod with a forearm to the face and was quickly jumped on by Luke Sellars, who got an arm around Garbutt's head and let loose a few blows in retaliation, knocking the rookie's helmet to the ice. Both Garbutt and Sellars were sent to the locker rooms early, along with McLeod, who had his bell rung. He did not return to the game. Garbutt was assessed two minutes for Roughing and Sellars received a Roughing Double Minor. Fonger gave Garbutt the look of death and the old "throat slash" gesture as he left the ice. Garbutt just smirked.

The period ended with the tone set for the coming frame. The Brahmas out shot the IceRays 11-6, but the score remained tied after 20 minutes.

Corpus Christi opened the second period on the power play and had an early 5-on-3 chance after Jordan Cameron was called for Board Checking 27 seconds in, but the IceRays would capitalize on the 5-on-4 when Chad Woollard and Justin Quenneville attacked Jaeger on a 2-on-1. Woollard sent a wrister just under the glove of Jaeger from the left circle as Jaeger was distracted by the oncoming pair. Jesse Dudas and Steven Later were credited with the assist.

That would be the only score of a middle frame in which bodies and words flew in every direction. A fantastic play by Brahmas defenseman Ross Rouleau prevented a second IceRays goal late in the period. Jereme Tendler had an exposed net after Chad Woollard lured Brett Jaeger out of position. Rouleau blocked Tendler's stick with his own, preventing a shot that surely would have went in.

The Brahmas led the shot count 11-9 in the second period but went into the locker room down by a score of 2-1. The IceRays were assessed four consecutive penalties but managed to hold off the Texas power play for a total of 40 minutes. Things would soon change.

The Brahmas had 44 seconds remaining on the man advantage to open the final frame but took only 26 seconds to even the score with a wrister from Justin Kinnunen. Ross Rouleau and Tyler Skworchinski assisted.

Soon afterwards, a controversial ruling prevented the IceRays from re-taking the lead. Set up by Chad Woollard, Jason Tessier cut down the right wing side and sent in a shot that preceded bodies flying into the net, taking it off of its moorings. Jaeger quickly scooped up the puck and waved it in the air, making the case that it never crossed the goal line. After reviewing the play with the goal judge, referee Kevin Graber waived off the goal.

Just minutes later, the IceRays went up 3-2 on a gritty goal by Chris Richards. Richards stole the puck from defenseman Luke Sellars who then tripped him. On his way down, Richards managed to flip the puck on the backhand over the outstretched glove of Jaeger to take the lead (See the video here). Ryan Bennett and Chad Woollard were credited with the assist.

The Brahmas would answer just 37 seconds later when Jason Deitsch, set up by Cameron and Kevin Seibel, handled the puck patiently in front of the Ice Rays' net until he found a shot that would beat Kevin Beech to tie the game at 3-3.

A Cross Checking call on Grant Jacobsen at the 8:17 mark would lead to the fourth consecutive power play goal for Corpus Christi as Steven Later beat Jaeger with a one timer from the high slot that went in just under the cross bar to make it a 4-3 contest four seconds later.

The Brahmas nearly tied it up again less than 30 seconds later but a shot from Scott Thauwald hit the post and bounced out of play as a penalty was called on Justin Quenneville for Hooking. Another Texas shot rang off the post early into the power play and the Brahmas continued attacking relentlessly but Kevin Beech managed to hold them off for more than 10 minutes.

With Jaeger pulled in favor of the extra attacker, the Brahmas continued to try to tie the game up again and were lucky to see two IceRays shots miss their empty net. Brahmas assistant coach and former IceRays goalie Ron Vogel signaled for a time out with 28.1 seconds remaining in regulation. When play resumed and with Jaeger remaining on the bench, Tyler Skworchinski buzzed in front of the IceRays' net and scored a goal with 16.8 seconds remaining to send the game into sudden death overtime.

The Brahmas led the shot count for the third consecutive period; this time 9-7 and held the 31-22 advantage in regulation.

As IceRays announcer Josh Bogorad stated during the third intermission, someone was going to be a hero in this game and that hero was the Brahmas' James Hiebert who took advantage of a neutral zone turnover by Jason Tessier and beat Kevin Beech with a bullet shot at the 5:34 mark of the overtime frame to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the best of three series (See the video here). Grant Jacobsen and Matt Pierce were in on the assist.

The Brahmas led the shot count in overtime 6-2 and 37-24 in the game overall.

Brett Jaeger made 20 saves on 24 shots faced and earned his first win of the 2010 post-season. Kevin Beech made 32 saves on 37 shots and takes the loss.

The Brahmas went one for eight on the power play. Corpus Christi went four for six. The Brahmas were assessed 14 minutes on seven infractions. The IceRays received 18 minutes on nine infractions.

The 3rd Star of the game went to Chris Richards who had a goal and an assist on the night. The 2nd Star was awarded to Jordan Cameron who a goal and two assists and the 1st Star went to James Hiebert who scored the game-winning goal and also had an assist.

Quotes from the game:

“That’s just a hard loss to take – the game could’ve gone either way. We were that close. It’s not like we got (dominated) tonight and had no chance at this. I thought we had the win and they got some bounces and got it back. Obviously, we have our work cut out for us. We have no room for error. They have room for a bad game. We won in there before and have played this team tough all year. I don’t think we’ve given them an easy game anywhere.”

- Corpus Christi Head Coach Brent Hughes (courtesy of

“In the playoffs, you just try to keep it simple and if the puck bounces in for you, it bounces in for you. If not, hopefully, one of your teammates does it. This is a big momentum boost. Hockey is all about momentum and we got some back by scoring that late goal. We knew if we could get (an overtime goal), we’d be going into Dallas sitting pretty. It’s still going to be a battle up there, so we’re going to have to work as hard as we can and hopefully come out on top.”

- James Hiebert (courtesy of

“It’s something that’s been the same story all year – a bad break. (Steven) Later blocks a shot from the point, the puck gets tangled up in his jersey and happens to pop out onto a guy’s stick for an empty-net (goal). It’s tough to say, but it’s happened too many times this year, and definitely bit us in the butt tonight. We’ve got to forget about tonight’s game and look forward. It’s do or die right now. There are no excuses and everything’s there for us for the taking.”

-Corpus Christi defenseman Kyle Peto (courtesy of

You can view the box score here and the Game Live broadcast here

You can view photos from the game here

The Brahmas will return to North Richland Hills tonight and will begin preparing for Wednesday nights' Game Two at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith (Not from tonight's game)

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