Friday, February 17, 2017

Texas Stars Overcome Adversity, Set Win Streak at Four

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars matched their season-best with a fourth straight win. Tonight, they matched up against one of the best in the Central Division, emerging with a 4-3 OT victory over the visiting Chicago Wolves. The win showed the new backbone Texas has developed since their goaltending change. Faced with a five-minute major penalty in the second period, the Stars stopped the Wolves cold. After allowing a late goal to tie things up, Texas buckled down, earned a power play and won it in overtime.

"I think everyone is a little more involved," said forward Justin Dowling, who returned to the lineup tonight after a month out due to injury. "Everyone is on the same page, wants to do the right things and sacrifice a bit more. The confidence is rising. Every game we've gotten better and better."

To anyone who has watched this team all season, the fact that Texas halted a top-ten power play unit for a five minute major penalty is a phenomenal feat. Despite their last place ranking in the league PK standings, Texas has clearly improved their work on that aspect of the game recently.

Coach Laxdal attributed it to a few factors, "Getting some guys back with Dowling and Dickinson who take a lot of pride [in PK]. We shortened the bench pretty quick on the penalty kill. We didn't give up a lot."

Texas never trailed against the #2 ranked team in the Central, going up 1-0. 2-1 and 3-2 before winning it 4-3 in overtime.

"For us tonight, I thought the game was pretty tight. There were a couple chances here and there. We got up in the game and they battled back."

Texas opened the scoring on a tip play from rookie Mike McMurtry. After failing to capitalize on an opportunity in the crease, a tired Stars' squad gave up the 1-1 tie a few minutes later. A pretty 2-on-1 play by Jason Dickinson and Brandon DeFazio was finished by DeFazio for the 2-1 lead after twenty.

The second period saw things get heated. Samuel Blais tied things at two, unassisted, early in the frame. Then, Matt Mangene earned a match penalty after checking Greger Hanson in the face. Mangene was escorted off the ice and will have an automatic one-game suspension. Mangene and Hanson had tangled up a few times on the shift, and Mangene just lost his cool, it appeared.

Texas stopped everything that came at them.

"Everyone is just buying into it," said Dowling. "It's something we knew had to get better. Things get heated on the ice, emotions get going and sometimes that happens. We had Stevenson, Morin and Ully making big blocks, and everyone on the ice was contributing in some way on the penalty kill."

DeFazio expanded, "It's obviously huge motivation that we can get that done. We've wanted to be better on the PK, so that was a huge step and a huge point in the game. It takes great goaltending. Peters held us in their with great saves."

They were rewarded early in the third period. Travis Morin tipped a shot from Jason Dickinson past Chicago's Jordan Binnington for the 3-2 lead.

Late in the game, Texas got challenged again as Chicago scored a 6-on-5 goal to tie things at three. In overtime, Remi Elie "sacrificed his face for the guys," according to Justin Dowling, and earned the Stars a four minute minor penalty. It looked like the Stars would not prevail as time wound down. With 25 seconds left, Nick Ebert found a clean lane for a rifle of a shot to win it 4-3.

Texas plays Chicago again tomorrow to end their home stand.

Tonight's lines:
Elie-Morin-Stransky
DeFazio-Dowling-Dickinson
Gurianov-Werek-Smith
Ully-McMurtry-Mangene

Backman-Ebert
Bystrom-Honka
Stevenson-Hache

Peters

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Bodnarchuk (wife gave birth)
O'Donnell, Fyten, Herbert (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,606.

Julius Honka hit the end boards hard in the second period and did not return for the third. Coach Laxdal says he is day-to-day and will not play tomorrow. He adds, "I don't think it's too major, but obviously, it's a day to day thing with him."

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - February 17 2017

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