Saturday, January 23, 2016

Texas Stars Keep It Simple in 5-2 Win Over San Diego Gulls

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After last night's loss, Texas needed a big response game against San Diego tonight. The Stars got just that with a 5-2 win over the Gulls, curing many of the ills from the night before.

"We know we let one slip last night," siad Derek Hulak, who had a goal and two assists. "We addressed that. We're getting to that time of year where every point matters."

Hulak's line with Radek Faksa and Greg Rallo combined for nine points on the night, despite just being thrown together today by head coach Derek Laxdal.

"Honestly with our team, it doesn't matter who you play with," said Hulak. "We have 12 good forwards. Faksa has a lot of confidence right now, and whenever you're on a line with Greg Rallo, good things are bound to happen."

Laxdal praised the performance of the line, which was an engine for positive results in the game. Radek Faksa alone was plus-4. Hulak and Rallo were plus-3 and plus-2, respectively.

"[The Gulls] were matching hard, a little bit of a chess game out there. Their line did a good job, scoring three goals against [San Diego's] top line."

The Stars didn't have a lot more shot than last night, just 25 overall, but the quality was higher. Texas generated a lot of confusion in front of Anton Khudobin with their quick rush game, ending up in the goaltender's lap seemingly just after crossing the blue line.

Texas altered their lineup a bit as Stephen Johns re-entered on the backend and Brett Ritchie was out with a lower body injury. Laxdal called Johns' game, "structure and calm, but physical," noting that he didn't miss a beat despite his time away.

Mattias Backman opened the scoring for Texas with a five-hole blast from the point. The goal was generated by the Faksa line as they cycled hard in the zone to keep the play alive. Hulak earned a goal off a sequence of rebounds to make it 2-0 quickly thereafter. San Diego picked up a power play tally on a bar-down shot from Simon Despres to end the period.

The second period saw Texas take "too many penalties," according to Laxdal. However, they came out on the right side of it on the scoreboard. The only scoring in the period was Radek Faksa's twelfth of the year in the final minute of the period.

The Texas power play came up big on an early third period chance. Greg Rallo notched his now team-leading 16th from the left wing circle. Despite the fact he had to double clutch the puck, he found twine as Khudobin couldn't make it over in time.

The power play was unkind in the coming minutes though as a bad zone entry by Honka sent Kenny Ryan the other way for the 4-2 score. Overall, Texas got the message to simplify its game. Julius Honka was an exception, as he continued to go for fancy plays instead of the easy ones.

Throughout the game, Texas did a good job of not getting goaded into bad penalties. Laxdal called the rivalry that has spawned between the teams "intense," and Hulak noted that Texas is aware of the Gulls' proclivities and wants to beat them on the power play instead of with their fists.

Texas polished off the scoring with an empty net goal from Brendan Ranford. Dallas Eakins pulled Khudobin with over five minutes left in the third.

The Stars finish their 3-in-3 weekend with San Antonio tomorrow.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Stransky-Dickinson-Elie
Rallo-Faksa-Hulak
Mangene-Smith-Ully

Backman-Honka
Johns-Oleksiak
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Lindell (callup)
Shore, Dowling, Blacker, Ritchie (injury)
Kane, Kamrass, Muse (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,460.

Brett Ritchie missed tonight's game with a lower body injury, which Laxdal calls "day-to-day." He could play tomorrow against San Antonio.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Diego - January 23 2016

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