CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – The Amarillo Bulls are going back to the South Division final for a third consecutive year.
Hampus Gustafsson scored what proved to be the game winning goal midway through the third period to lift the Bulls past the Corpus Christi IceRays 5-3 at American Bank Center on Wednesday Night. The Bulls take the Best-Of-Five Series 3-1 and will either play the Topeka RoadRunners or the Texas Tornado in the South Division Final. The Tornado have a 2-0 lead in the series that resumes this weekend. It is unsure when that championship series would start.
Mike Davis, John Rey, Tyler Deresky and Dan McNamara notched goals for the Bulls in support of Paul Berrafato. The Bulls played their strongest third period in the series and surrendered just the one goal. The IceRays tried to start a line brawl in the dying seconds of the game, hoping to get the Bulls involved but Dennis Williams charges’ skated away.
“We accomplished exactly what we needed to do,” said Bulls Head Coach Dennis Williams. “We lost that first game and I think it was us not playing well rather than the IceRays playing good or them beating us.
“We can hold our heads up high. We played with class, dignity and heart. Our Captain John Rey again led us tonight, and I couldn’t be happier for this group of guys.”
Williams said the guys didn’t panic in the third period and were disciplined with their emotions.
“It was a great road game,” he commented. “Our systems were solid. We buried our chances and when they came at us, we responded with a quick goal.”
It was a quick goal that got the Bulls into the hockey game. Tyler Deresky stole the puck off a turnover and on a partial breakaway slid the puck close to the goal line that was later tapped in by Dan McNamara to make it 1-0 just 70 seconds into the game.
The Bulls had another near scoring attempt later in the period when Geoff Fortman’s one timer dribbled across the goal mouth and Michael Davis wasn’t able to tap in at the side of the net.
The IceRays best scoring chance was in the final seconds of the period as they tried to jam something on goal but the Bulls defended well and goaltender Paul Berrafato kept the home side off the score sheet. The Bulls outshot the IceRays 16-10 in the first period.
Each team was able to score two goals in the second period. The IceRays netted back-to-back markers to take a 2-1 lead — both were scored near the side of the net as the players were left uncovered. It was the IceRays first lead since late in the third period of the opening game.
The Bulls pulled even on the power play when John Rey’s drive found the top shelf behind Hayden Stewart. The play was set up by Omar Mullan who kept the puck in at the blueline. Just 17 seconds later, Tyler Deresky stole the puck off another turnover and this time made no mistake putting it upstairs to give his club a one goal lead through 40 minutes The Bulls outshot the IceRays 17-11.
In the third period the IceRays tied the game 3-3 on their first power play goal. The Bulls continued to work hard and prevented Corpus Christi from gaining any traction after that goal. Hampus Gustafsson headed up the ice and fired a shot under the cross bar to give Amarillo the lead from Omar Mullan and Ryan Cole.
“Hampus’ release is great and he has been playing with a lot of confidence lately,” said Williams. “That is a big time player making a big time goal. No different than Mike Davis going in there and scoring with less than three minutes left.”
In the final three minutes defenseman Geoff Fortman spotted Mike Davis open and hit him with a homerun pass for a breakaway. Davis scored with a shot through the goaltenders’ legs.
Despite being outshot 12-9 in the third period, the Amarillo Bulls had the edge overall 42-33. There were 13 total power plays with the Bulls going 1 for 10 and the IceRays were 1 for 3.
A full announcement regarding the South Division Final will be made once the opponent and building availability is known. It’s not too early to start thinking about next season as 2013-14 Season Tickets are now on sale. For further information visit the Bulls Office located at 301 South Polk, Suite 101, in the Amarillo Building, or call 806-242-1122.