|Brett Ritchie celebrates the ultimate game winner.|
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
"I expected a tight game and was hoping we wouldn't get behind," said Coach Desjardins. "You're wondering if it's ever going to start going. The only thing you can do is keep going."
Texas got a key addition back in the lineup with Justin Dowling playing his first game since injuring his arm in Game 5 against Grand Rapids. His reunion with Brett Ritchie and Mike Hedden and addition to the power play unit yielded a goal and two assists for each member of the line.
"Anytime you get a guy that caliber back in the lineup it will help," said Mike Hedden. "Ritchie and I were happy to get our center back."
After the Stars went down two, 51 seconds in the second would knot them at two as the power play activated.
With the game tied at two and the Cedar Park Center electrified, another pair of goals separated by 17 seconds in the third set the score at 4-2. Two more, including an empty netter, would set the 6-2 final.
Coach Desjardins said, "We needed everything we could to get out of it."
Once again, the Marlies opened the scoring. After Texas dominated the early play, Toronto scored on their second shot of the game. Frazer McLaren potted his first goal in over three years.
The Marlies only managed three more shots in the frame. Texas poured it on with a power play opportunity, earning 13 shots. That didn't count the post that Scott Glennie hit down low as well.
Toronto got a 2-0 lead on their first shot of the second. A strange rainbow of an arc over Cristopher Nilstorp extended the lead off the stick of Peter Holland.
"Guys were down a little bit but we said to stay focused," said Hedden. "It's a long game still. We know we'll wear teams down."
As the period wore on, it could have easily been 3-0 if not for the left toe of Nilstorp stopped the puck on a scrambling play. Desjardins added, "That was a big save. I thought that was going." That was key to what came next.
Derek Meech passed the puck up the ice, a play that looked like it missed its intended target, Brett Ritchie. The rookie winger caught up to the puck in the corner and threw it to the net. It went in off Mike Hedden and the lead was cut in half.
"Once we got that first goal, it was a shot of adrenaline. The fans were so loud," said Dowling.
Jerry D'Amigo picked up a penalty 200 feet from his net just seconds later, hooking Jokipakka. The Stars made him pay for the infraction with just their 4th power play goal in the series. Dustin Jeffrey found twine to set the crowd on fire, tying the game at two all.
"I watched video today on how they kill," said Dowling. "I was trying to draw the guy out and feed it to Hedden. He made an unbelievable pass to Jeffrey, who put it upstairs."
Hedden added, "When we scored those first two, I had chills down my back."
It was a complete reversal of fortune in just 51 seconds of game clock. Texas would head to the intermission tied at two.
Another pair of quick goals would put the game away for Texas in the third. Brett Ritchie finished off a Justin Dowling pass at the net to go up 3-2 on Toronto in the period's sixth minute.
"It was nerve wracking," said Ritchie. "20 minutes to go to the final. I knew we were going to get one. We could feel it."
Just 17 seconds later, Matej Stransky scored on a wrap-around goal and the rout was on.
Ritchie continued, "I was still sitting down breathing heavily, and I didn't even see his go in. To get that two goal cushion to sit on, it was huge."
Texas had to kill a four minute high sticking minor a few seconds later as Travis Morin got his stick in the grill of Jarred Smithson. The Stars blocked shots and cleared the zone easily on the kill. Whatever got through ended up smothered in the pads of Nilstorp.
Justin Dowling would finally get one of his own to make it a 5-2 score. Hedden and Ritchie assisted on the five hole tally for the center.
Dustin Jeffrey would put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal with five minutes still left in the game.
Texas will open the Calder Cup Finals against the St. John's IceCaps on Sunday at Cedar Park Center.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Hulak, Vause, Wrenn, Byström, Desrosiers (scratched)
Klingberg, Peters, Campbell, Petersen (injury)
Today's attendance was 3,466.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 3 2014