Texas Stars captain Landon Wilson prepares for a faceoff during Game 3 against the Hershey Bears. (Photo credit: James Mitchell)
The defending Calder Cup champions showed tonight why they hold that title as the Bears rallied back to stomp the Stars 6-3 in Game 3. Texas opened a 2 goal lead on the Bears early but allowed five unanswered goals in the second and third period in the loss. Winger Francis Wathier reminded the media, "We knew coming into the series that nothing was going to be easy."
Texas had a great first period. The Stars outshot the BEars 11-6 en route to a 3-1 lead after 20. Texas got an early power play goal from Andrew Hutchinson, which deflected off the skate of Kyle Wilson to make it 1-0. Wilson avenged his misdeed as Hershey evened it up just five minutes later. An attempted breakout pass by Maxime Fortunus was intercepted on the boards at the blue line to create a 2-on-1 that ended with the puck in the net.
Texas's grinders took over in the second half of the first. With the Stars on the penalty kill, Francis Wathier skated in low to pressure Michal Neuvirth as he handled the puck. Neuvirth whiffed on the out pass, and Wathier easily roofed the puck for a shorthanded marker. Texas ended the period with a Ray Sawada goal on a 2-on-1 with Scott McCulloch.
And if you're weak of heart, you may want to stop reading at this point. The rest of the game was very forgettable for the Stars. "The last 30 minutes we got outworked," commented Coach Gulutzan. Gulutzan pinned the turning point of the game at the Greg Amadio minor penalty that the Stars did not convert on early in the second. With a 4-1 lead, the game would have mostly been salted away. The kill gave the Bears momentum, which they used to strike back.
Unanswered goals from Kyle Wilson, Mathieu Perreault (2) and Andrew Gordon (2) sent the Stars to the locker room with their series lead cut in half. The mantra in the room was that it was better to lose this way than in triple OT. The Stars now have a chance to recover before Game 4. Several players and Coach Gulutzan pinned part of the issue on long travel. The Stars had to bus from Hershey to Philadelphia then fly from there to a connector to Austin. It is certain a contributing factor, but the first period showed that the Stars had it in them.
So what now for Game 4? "The only thing that we can control is their transition," commented Wathier, "We gotta make sure that at both blue lines we're putting the puck deep." Texas crushed the Bears offensive transition in Games 1 and 2. Because they didn't tonight, we saw the full-powered Hershey offense unleashed.
Texas had seven power play opportunities in the game and only scored on one. Early the Bears were taking penalties left and right, clearly frustrated with their play. The Stars need to take advantage at key junctures, as Coach Gulutzan commented to seize momentum.
"This time of year, you can't change things drastically," added Coach. "We'd like to keep [scoring] low. We have to keep them under 3 goals."
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Chupp, Korostin, Shelast, Ty. Ludwig, Tr. Ludwig, Gazdic (scratched)
Tonight's attendance was 7,014. Tonight's attendance was a record for the Cedar Park Center and definitely had an effect on the players, which they commented on. Coach Gulutzan on the crowd: "I wish we could have had a better result [for the crowd]. What a great thing for Cedar Park and Austin to have a crowd like this!" Word is that Wednesday's game is already selling as standing room only.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Hershey - June 7 2010