The Stars finished out their five game home stand in most disappointing fashion tonight against the West division leading Chicago Wolves. The Stars collected 2 of a possible 10 points on this home stand, only winning against Peoria last Saturday and losing all four of the other games in regulation.
Tonight's game was hard to watch. Todd Ford got the start in net with Matt Climie still feeling a bit less than 100%. In fact, the Stars signed goalie Chris Whitley of the Allen Americans to a PTO and had him ride the pine for the game just in case. Its pretty clear that the shine is off the apple on Todd Ford. After going 4-0-0-1 in January, Ford is 0-4-0-0 in February. Is it time to give Richard Bachman a cup of coffee?
The Stars came out a lot better than they did last night (minus the goal at 19 seconds last night). There was a lot of energy on the ice, especially by the Sawada-Gagnon-Peters line about halfway through the period. Peter Mannino, the Wolves netminder, would have none of it. Chicago notched the only goal of the first when Stars defenseman Hutchinson flatout passed it to Brett Sterling for his 28th of the season and first of the night.
Texas would strike next at 6:56 of the second when Scott McCulloch potted his 4th of the season on garbage duty. Andrew Hutchinson skated the puck down the left wing side into the goal area and took a shot. All three Stars forwards touched the puck in the melee that ensued before Smooch snapped it home from the slot.
From there out it was mostly Chicago's game. The Wolves put two more behind Ford in the period from Stewart and Sterling, his second of the night. Both goals were a bit of freak plays. The first was a puck that rainbowed up over Ford, who didn't see it and went in. Think this, but ten feet in the air and with about 5 people in front of the net. The 3rd goal was not technically a power play goal, but was scored before Beaudoin could jump in the play. A hard kick off the end boards rebounded out past the goal line where Sterling put it in over Ford.
Maxime Fortunus wired one to the top right corner of the net from the left wing circle with 4 minutes left in the period. At that point, the comeback seemed possible at 3-2. But remember that stat? Texas has never won when trailing after two, and Chicago has never lost when leading after two. Sadly, no change to that trend tonight.
Spencer Machacek scored the 4th of the night for the Wolves on a puck Matt Stephenson had tried to clear unsuccesfully. Krog netted the last goal of the night on garbage collection himself when Brent Sterling's drive-by attempt at the hat trick was mishandled by Ford and dropped.
Now the not so fun part. This time last week, I mentioned that the Wolves needed to watch their heels because the Aeros might be nipping at their fourth place spot. Now, it is the Stars that need to watch their heels. In one week, the standings in the West's top 4 slots have completely inverted themselves. Chicago now leads at 68, Rockford, 67; Milwaukee, 66; and Texas, 65. The Aeros won tonight in OT against the Griffins and now have 61 points. They play tomorrow at home against the same Wolves who just annihilated your Stars. I don't think they'll be winning that game, but they are a little too close for comfort. Chicago has now won 18 of 24, and Mannino is 9-0-0-0 in his last nine starts.
Now Texas heads to the Great White North for a game against North Division leader Hamilton.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wilson and Krahn (injured)
Climie, Korostin and Neal (scratched)
Wathier (call up)
Emergency back-up, Chris Whitley, looked like he might be needed on the ice approximately two minutes into the second when Ford made an awkward save. Ford thought the puck was going to his right, but it came five hole and Ford closed the knees to save it. He stayed down for a bit and grasped the back of his right leg. Ford toughed it out and finished the game.
Despite the above lineup, Stafford and Jancevski started on defense for all three periods then switched to the above lineup after their first shift.
Game highlights from Wolves TV:
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - February 13 2010