|Mike Hedden scores the game winner and the crowd goes wild.|
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"We were excited to go tonight with first place on the line," said Mike Hedden, who scored the game winner and had two assists in the contest.
After Texas burst out to a four goal lead by the start of the second period, the Griffins switched goalies and started to chip away at the Stars' lead.
"When their other goalie came in, he made some good saves and they got some greasy goals," said Colton Sceviour, who had a single goal tonight. "That's the type of game they play. They're a simple hardworking team. That's how they've been successful recently."
The Stars never trailed in the game but had some tense moments as the two clubs combined for 39 shots in the third period alone. Texas set a franchise record with their total shot count of 59. The Griffins put up 42 for a total of 101.
"They're a good team that doesn't give up a lot of goals, so you have to get pucks and bodies to the net all night. Any chance we had, we were trying to get pucks to the net."
Coach Desjardins looked at the Griffins' ability to claw back into the game as a good measuring stick for his team.
"You don't win championships by not having a lot of character," he said. "That's a playoff type team the way they play and it's good for us to face that."
The win extended Texas' home winning streak to twelve. Josh Robinson got the start and stopped 38 of 42. Pat Nagle backed up, having made it from Boise earlier today.
The Stars got things started early with some defensive point shots that found twine. Former Griffin Derek Meech went first on a shot straight up the guts off the pass from Justin Dowling on the 4-on-3 power play. Brendan Ranford went next, tipping home a point shot from Cameron Gaunce.
Hedden added, "We wanted to get a lot of shots on net and traffic on net. A lot of our goals were guys hard to the net getting screens."
Ranford scored again off a frenetic play in front that saw Dowling and Hedden break into the zone two-on-one and Ranford come in as the cleanup man to score. Texas ended the period up 3-0 and outshooting the Griffs 23-11.
Travis Morin tacked another onto his goal total with his 25th of the season, getting a stick on a shot from William Wrenn sneaking down the right wing side. That would end the night for Grand Rapids' tender Tom McCollum. Jared Coreau came in as the reliever and mopped up pretty well.
Grand Rapids picked themselves up and tallied two before the end of the period. Trevor Parkes finished off Triston Grant's wrap-around and Teemu Pulkkinen wristed one past Robinson three minutes apart to cut the lead to 4-2.
The third period opened with a rough hit on Stars' center Justin Dowling. Brennan Evans hit Dowling up high, squarely in the nose, in neutral ice. William Wrenn stepped up for the fight as Dowling left the ice under his own power. He would return later in the game.
Wrenn picked up the unsportsmanlike for starting the fight, but Evans got five for fighting, five for elbowing and game misconduct. Surely a league review will follow. Texas scored a power play goal on the ensuing major.
Hedden describes the tally, "I had a step on the D and knew Oleksiak was going to put the puck on net. I just went there hard and got good position on the guy and the good tip."
The fifth goal ended up being the game winner. The Stars would tck on the insurance goal at 10:29 of the third. Sceviour's 27th of the season was a wrap-around tally, assisted by Hedden and Morin.
Penalty trouble gave Grand Rapids life as the period was dwindling.
"They're a team that you can't let up on. They have a lot of scoring ability there. We did a poor job staying out of the box and gave them the ability to crawl back into the game."
Teemu Pulkkinen scored on a 5-on-4 PP from the point to make it 6-3 then Morin and Chris Mueller found their seat in the box on slashing and roughing calls, respectively. Jeff Blashill pulled Coreau and setup a 6-on-3 power play.
"I can't say I've ever killed 6-on-3," said Sceviour. "I don't kill 5-on-3 that often either. You have to go out there and hope the puck hits you on those point shots. Their d-men had both their late power play goals, getting pucks through with traffic in front."
Adam Almquist scored 6-on-3, but that was it for the Griffins. The final of 6-4 sets up another battle for first place tomorrow, this time with Texas defending the top spot.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Nilstorp, Nemeth, Campbell, Ritchie, Jokipakka, Vause (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 4,639.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - January 24 2014