"Slap Shot" meets "A Season on the Brink" in this twisted tale of minor league hockey in the place with more pro teams than any place in North America: TEXAS!

By Jason Cohen

CORPUS CHRISTI -

The Austin Ice Bats have always performed well in the face of adversity. It's adversity-free situations that seem to be the problem.

With that in mind, the Bats went out and spotted last place Corpus Christi a two-goal lead Wednesday. Only then could Austin take it to the Ice Rays, finally prevailing in a shootout, 3-2.

Mike Gaffney got the winner in the fourth round of the extra frame, his first goal this season in an Austin uniform. Goaltender Bryan McMullen finished out the night with an on-the-ice glove stop of Ice Rays All-Star Kurt Wickenheiser.

Current Central Hockey League player of the week Gerald Tallaire made the whole thing possible, scoring a 6-on-5 goal with 89 seconds remaining in the game after former Bat Roger Lewis won, but could not control, a defensive zone faceoff. In the ensuing scramble, Tallaire popped on the loose puck from the heart of the slot, with an assist by Gaffney.

The Bats (41-15-5, 87 points) now lead San Antonio by three points, and can clinch the Southeast division with a win against the Iguanas Friday night.

Before tonight, the Rays had lost nine games in a row. Head coach Taylor Hall had even made practice sessions "optional." But with Lewis and his fellow former Bat Matt Sharuga setting an energetic tone, the Rays embraced the spoiler role. Goals by Sharuga and Layne Roland gave Corpus a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes gone in the second period.

Brett Seguin's power-play marker at 1:35 of the third period got Austin back into the game, but Rays goaltender Eddy Skazyk kept them off the board at even-strength, finishing the game with 44 saves. On a power play at 13:48 of the final period, the Bats also hit two posts.

Then, with McMullen absent from the crease, Tallaire redeemed the night.


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