The Texas Stars felt the sting of their first shootout or regulation loss this evening as the Abbotsford Heat claimed the extra point in the skills competition to win 3-2. Texas jumped out to a lead in the second period with a power play tally from Matt Fraser and extended it on a goal by Ray Sawada in the 3rd. The Heat roared back with two goals in the last 4:04 of the game, including one with the goalie pulled, to tie it. The game would go to the shootout where Texas would go scoreless and see the Heat snipe three to win. "We had tons of chances to win the game throughout," said forward Ray Sawada. "So it was a frustrating way to lose the game."
The Stars and Heat skated to a scoreless first period with the Stars going 0/2 on PP opps in the period. The shots were 9-6 after one, favoring Texas. The tight physical game continued in the second. Abbotsford took an ill-advised slashing penalty with Jordan Henry slashing Brenden Dillon out of frustration with the puck on the other side of the ice. Texas capitalized with Matt Fraser's 9th goal of the season, assisted by Morin and Larsen. The goal was scored from Fraser's favorite place, the right wing circle, to set the score at 1-0. The period ended with that score and shots for Texas at 22-11.
Ray Sawada extended the Stars lead with a hard charging play to open the third. Sawada went hard to the net and got a favorable bounce off goalie Leland Irving to make it 2-0. Linemates Fraser and Morin assisted the play. The Stars continued to pour it on, getting open looks and breakaways all night, but continuously getting shut down by Leland Irving, who earned a third star for his performance. "Their goalie played very, very well," said Coach Pyle. "He made some saves that most goalies wouldn't make." Irving was quick on the glove and with any luck the Stars won't get a repeat performance tomorrow night.
Texas spent 8 minutes of PP time in the third, including two 5-on-3s totalling 90 seconds, but couldn't put the last nail in the coffin. Despite the lack of success in the game, Texas did well not to retaliate and keep themselves a man up. "We'll go on the power play all day if they're going to take cheap shots," said Sawada.
With five minutes left, Ryan Garbutt took an interference penalty that resulted in a Heat forward on the ice for an extended period. He eventually skated off without incident, but Texas was on the PK. Just nine second into the penalty, Brendan Mikkelson bombed one from the point to beat Bachman and make it 2-1. "With 5 minutes left, we take a penalty that you can't take," said Coach Pyle. "I don't care what you have to do to stay out of that position, but that penalty turns the whole game around. You cannot take that penalty."
The back-breaker came as the Heat pulled Irving and, with 46 seconds left, tied up the game on a garbage play in front of the net. Texas skated through a scoreless overtime period to arrive at the shootout for the first time this season. Only four Heat shooters were needed as three scored and Texas came up empty on three attempts of their own.
Coach Pyle was frustrated with the way the game slipped away in those last four minutes, especially given the chances the Stars had all night. "We had open nets and breakaways, and we have to find a way to manage those last four minutes better." Texas isn't looking to change anything in their early play tomorrow, but they have to work to close out games better. After last Thursday's last minute goal by Toronto, Texas was lucky to emerge with two points in overtime. This time, the luck went the other way. Coach Pyle hopes to ensure that next time, luck isn't involved.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Coyle, Godard, Roman (scratched)
Tomas Vincour and Francis Wathier were scoreless in the game, ending both of their scoring streaks.
Tonight's attendance was 5,393.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Abbotsford - November 11 2011