|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
"It doesn't matter where you coach, playoffs are tough to get into," said Coach Laxdal. "Give our guys credit, it's been a battle. We're ready for the next challenge moving forward."
The Stars answered the challenge from the opening drop with Devin Shore scoring what would be the game winner in the first three minutes of the contest. A second from Justin Dowling 90 seconds later set the tone for the night.
"Last night we didn't come out the way we wanted to," said Shore. "The good thing was we had another chance to get it back. We did the right things off the bat and got rewarded for it."
Shore's line buzzed the Hamilton zone for a long time before they scored their goal, a theme that continued all night.
"Puck management, taking care of the puck, protecting the puck and putting it on net when it was the right play. When you manage the puck, you get extra zone time and extra shots. Eventually they go in."
Coach Laxdal noted that the line could have potted "two or three" on that shift alone. The play from Shore's line, matched by the play from Dowling's line, put Texas on a path to victory this evening.
It was a physical game, probably the second most physical game of the season behind the Adirondack game on April 1. The two teams combined for 55 penalty minutes including two fights, a misconduct to Texas and a game misconduct to Hamilton.
"It was a little chippy," said Laxdal. "You get that with teams battling for the playoffs."
He noted that Brendan Ranford, not usually known for his physicality, led the way in that department tonight. Curtis McKenzie agreed, "He's a little wrecking ball out there. It was fun to see. the guys on the bench noticed for sure. When he's willing to play like that, it gets everyone else going to match that."
Gemel Smith bloodied Josiah Didier in their bout as Didier hit his head on the goal post after falling backwards into the net. Cameron Gaunce dropped the gloves with one-time Dallas Star Jake Dowell and earned an instigator for the play. A frustrated play from Hamilton put the nail in the coffin for their night though as Bobby Shea picked up a game misconduct for butt-ending and gave Texas a five minute major power play. A minor for roughing to Eric Tangradi on the same play made it a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes.
Greg Rallo pasted his chance from the left wing circle during the 5-on-3 portion and closed the second at a 3-0 lead for Texas. Matt Mangene scored from nearly the same spot to open the third period, again on the power play, and it was pretty much over.
Laxdal noted, "To get that third goal takes the pressure off and lets us protect the shutout for Jack."
Campbell was not heavily challenged through long stretch of the game but made great saves when called upon, stopping a few odd-man rushes throughout the game.
Greg Rallo finished off the scoring into a yawning cage off a brilliant passing play between Travis Morin and Jamie Oleksiak.
The Stars are off tomorrow and will hit the ice for practice on Monday ahead of their first of three games against San Antonio to end the season.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Valentine, Troock (scratch)
Faksa, Meech (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 5,404.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Hamilton - April 11 2015