CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Over the past few weeks, the Corpus Christi IceRays have seen their teammates injured one after another. With all the injuries on the table the ‘Rays have added four new faces to the roster to bring some size and veteran leadership heading into the weekend against Amarillo. Today, Corpus Christi acquired (F) Brad LeLievre from the Kenai River Brown Bears in exchange for IceRays (F) Eric Purcell, while also adding (D) Jake McNamara, (F) Sami Pokka, and (F) Connor Kelly.
“It is never easy to trade your captain and leading scorer,” said head coach John Becanic. “But with the rash of injuries we have faced here over the past several weeks we needed to bring in some players that can help keep us competitive and continue to push for points. Eric will be missed.”
Letting the captain and leading scorer go wasn’t easy for the IceRays, but the move had to be done and in the end could benefit both parties. “It's always hard to let players go but we had no choice at this time,” said general manager Pat Dunn. “Letting Eric go made it even harder. I have never seen as many bad injuries to a team. We need bodies and obviously the teams that want to trade want one of your best players. So we did have to give up our top scorer and captain, in order to fill other spots that are left empty with all our injured players. It certainly came as a surprise to Eric but the good thing is he is going to a first place team, which I'm sure will help him filling his dream of getting a Division 1 commitment.”
Coming to Corpus Christi from Alaska is Brad LeLievre, playing in his third season in the North American Hockey League. “I'm extremely excited to be heading to Corpus Christi,” said LeLievre. “I couldn't be more thrilled to play for a top notch and well respected organization in this league. Coach Becanic is an excellent coach that I have had the pleasure of working with in the past and I am happy to have the opportunity to play for him again.”
In his two seasons with the Brown Bears, the Mill Creek, Washington native has 13 goals and ten assists in 65 regular season and playoff games in Kenai River.
“I am very familiar with Brad. He played for me in Wenatchee and will bring us some much needed grit and competitiveness,” the first year IceRays head coach added.
In addition to bring in LeLievre, the IceRays also traded for the rights to (D) Jake McNamara from the Amarillo Bulls, (F) Sami Pokka of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, and (F) Connor Kelly who was a member of the Bismarck Bobcats.
“I was really excited when I found out I was coming down here to play for Corpus Christi,” said McNamara who appeared in six games with Amarillo this year. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this organization and their fan base. I think it's a great opportunity for me to develop and grow as a player as well as helping the team succeed all together.”
Sami Pokka, a Finland native, has appeared in 12 games for the Killer Bees scoring one goal and adding one assist as well. The final addition, Connor Kelly, played in just three games for the Bismarck Bobcats, who last year made it all the way to the national semifinal game.
“In adding Pokka, McNamara and Kelly it makes us a bigger stronger team,” Becanic added. “In the South Division we are playing against some much older and more experienced teams.”
The IceRays also signed two tenders this past week. (F) Ryan Cagnoni and (F) Mason Kreuger who are both members of Omaha AAA in the NAPHL were each signed to tender deals. “With getting two tenders it also helps us for the future of the program in allowing us to sign more players for years to come,” Becanic finished. “As an organization we want to set ourselves up for long term success.”
Currently the IceRays are without Mikkel Hojbjerg, Brandon Berkley, Malo Ville, Kyle Froese, and Caleb O’Brien, all of whom are injured.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)