|Derek Hulak with the helmet sticker to honor his former teammate.|
Hulak had two goals tonight. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Hulak had a little extra motivation tonight as he was wearing a small sticker on the back-left of his helmet in unity with members of his collegiate team who are raising money for a teammate affected by cancer. Cody Smuk, who grew up on the same street as Hulak and played with him through four years of CIS hockey, was in Hulak's thoughts tonight.
"I couldn't be [in Saskatchewan] for one of my friends going through that battle," said Hulak. "So I asked if I could put that sticker as a memento to let him know I'm thinking about him. Our trainer told me just before the game today. For me, that was a big confidence boost."
Hulak had the game's opening goal, a huge momentum boost for the club, which rained 19 shots on Drew MacIntyre on the first period but was stymied through much of the frame.
"It was huge for us to get that first goal and that momentum, that confidence in our building," added Coach Laxdal.
Texas's 19-shot first would be topped by their 20-shot third period. In all, the Stars bombed Drew MacIntyre with 50 shots.
"We tried to create more of a shot mentality," Laxdal expanded. "MacIntyre is a heck of a goaltender, so we wanted to generate those second-chance opportunities."
Hulak's second goal of the night, and third overall for the Stars, came on one of those second-chance opportunities.
"Lucky bounce to put the puck on my stick," said Hulak, who then prceeded to wait with the patient of a monk for MacIntyre to make a move. "I just tried waiting him out and luckily he went down."
The battle at the net was fierce on both sides tonight. Jussi Rynnas kept Texas in the game through a shaky second period that saw Charlotte outshoot the Stars 13-11. Laxdal quipped, "He earned the shutout. In the second period, he made some Grade A saves. The win was good for him and his confidence."
The shutout was made stronger by the addition of two penalty shots against Rynnas, both of which he stopped, one in the first and one in the third.
Texas had enough goal-scoring to go around in the game, four in total. Derek Meech helped solidify the momentum from the first period with a rainbow goal shot in from the point, almost as an afterthought. It befuddled MacIntyre and gave Texas the 2-0 lead.
In the third, Branden Troock added the Stars final goal of the game as he picked the top left corner for his second of the year. Gemel Smith and Jesse Root assisted on the play.
As the game appeared out of hand, the Checkers got frustrated, and things got physical. The officiating, which had been questionable all night, put its foot down in the final five minutes, assessing Troock a misconduct and Stransky a minor, both apparently for not-so-kind criticism of the officiating.
And in a stat line you are unlikely to see ever again in Texas Stars history, rookie Finnish defenseman Julius Honka was assessed a fighting major after he was dragged into a fight with Patrick Brown.
The Stars stay in town to face San Antonio and close the home stand on Tuesday.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ritchie (call up)
Mangene, Wrenn (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 5,268.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - January 31 2015