Corpus Christi’s hockey team, the IceRays, opened their season with two home games against the El Paso Rhinos. The teams met at the American Bank Center for the season-starting bout on Sept. 23 and 24.
The first game started out shaky, with Rhinos forward Tory Lund scoring a goal by the end of the first period. Luckily, IceRays forwards Pierson Sobush and Mathieu Bourgault responded in kind with a goal apiece in the second period before the Rhinos tied it back up. The third period was quiet until two poorly timed penalties forced the Rays to field only three players against the Rhinos’ five.
The Rhinos pounced on the opportunity, scoring one last goal in the game’s dying minutes, to which there was no response. Thus, the IceRays ultimately fell in their season opener, a 3-2 loss against the Rhinos.
Head coach Sylvain Cloutier was disheartened by the outcome.
“Not the start we wanted at home,” Cloutier said in a statement following the game. “It’s tough losing the game at the end on a 5-on-3.”
Luckily, the next day’s game started out on a stronger foot, with IceRays forward Stepan Kuznetsov scoring a goal in the first period. The second period saw both teams score two goals apiece, leading to a 3-2 score by the start of the final period. Things were looking up when Kuznetsov scored another goal early on, and they started turning dire when Rhinos forward Ryan Gingher responded with a goal of his own.
The game’s time elapsed before any more scoring could happen, however. The IceRays triumphed in their second game, 4-3. IceRays defenseman Samuel Belanger was pleased with the results.
“It was huge,” Belanger later said in a statement. “I mean, it was something we were looking for.”
The next IceRays home games will be against the Oklahoma City Warriors at 7:05 p.m. on Oct. 6 and 7 at the American Bank Center.