Friday, October 6, 2017

Fourth Line Comes Up Big in Texas Stars' Season Opening Win

Texas fourth line celebrates goal
Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars
The Texas Stars continued their home opener winning streak with a high event, up-tempo affair against the Chicago Wolves. Chicago is teeming with top-end talent, and it showed tonight as NHL-tested players Alex Tuch, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Shea Theodore all scored to remain competitive in the game when Texas wanted to pull away. It showed in the 6-5 final score.

“[Chicago has] about 6 lines over there,” Coach Laxdal said, pointing to the Wolves’ deep roster. “We managed the game very well to get it to 6-3 and then we got a little nervous with some puck play. We didn’t handle the pressure great and that’s when you’re trying to find how a young team will react.”

Up 6-3, the Stars let the Wolves back in the game a bit. “They took it to us the last ten, but our guys did a good job hanging in there. I liked the start to our game and the way we rolled 4 lines.”

As Laxdal mentioned, the Stars had balanced scoring throughout as all four forward groups recorded a tally. Further, Roope Hintz and Sheldon Dries both scored their first goals for the Texas Stars. Dries, who centered the outstanding fourth line, made a lot of positive noise in this game and proved Coach Laxdal’s confidence in him. Not only did he score, the rookie forward netted an assist, saw time on the penalty kill and mixed it up in a couple of post-whistle tussles, which electrified the crowd.

“We’ve got to be the energy line,” said Dries. “We gotta be hard on forechecks, that’s gotta be our role and our mandate from here going forward. We feed off of each other very well, we definitely have something to prove here having two rookies on the line. The chemistry will come along with more games, but it was a great start tonight.”

Mike McKenna got the start and stopped 28 of 33 shots. Former Star Maxime Lagace took the loss for Chicago with 21 saves on 27 shots.

Jason Dickinson got the scoring started, receiving a pass in the neutral zone and sneaking in behind the two Chicago defenseman. His first attempt was rejected by Lagace, but the versatile forward cleaned up the rebound. “I think in the first period we were really able to take it to them,” said Dickinson. “I think they started to tighten up the neutral zone and take away a little bit of our space and time so it was a little bit harder to get the speed going, but we tried to push the pace as much as we could.”

Chicago would answer a minute later with a power play goal by Alex Tuch. The Vegas expansion draft pick stood in front of the net and deflected a point shot. Texas followed up a couple minutes when Justin Dowling dug the puck out of the back of the net and centered it to Brian Flynn in the slot.

Roope Hintz looked every bit the Stars’ elite prospect. He scored his first North American goal on Lagace’s glove side with a nasty back hander before the end of the first period.

The Stars would open the second period with a statement when Samuel Laberge punched the helmet off of Keegan Kolesar during an early period scrape. Chicago’s Alex Tuch was not done scoring. The former Minnesota Wild forward turned in a four-point night and a hat trick. He received a behind the net pass for a backhand goal in which McKenna had no time to recover.

This was the first hat trick scored against Texas since February 28, 2017 against the Bakersfield Condors. The Stars had trouble clearing their the defensive zone for most of the night. Laxdal agreed, “If you look at the PK, we had about five clearing attempts we didn’t get out and that fueled the intensity and confidence of their power play. We have to be harder on pucks all over the ice; we were swinging a little bit.”

Teemu Pulkkinnen opened the third period with a power play goal. Markison scored halfway through the third period to put the Stars up by two, and Remi Elie would quickly enlarge the lead to 6-3 with a back hander.

Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore scored back-to-back goals late in the third to make Texas fans extremely nervous. The Stars would put the game away by drawing a high sticking double minor penalty and bore down for the final minutes of the game when Chicago launched a bevy of quality shots.

“Our defense wasn’t great under pressure, and we turned some pucks over under pressure. We’ve got some work to do, but it’s a good win.”

Texas faces Chicago again tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
Flynn-Dowling-Gurianov
McKenzie-Hintz-Elie
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Markison-Dries-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Martenet (mononucleosis)

Tonight's attendance was 4,852.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - October 6 2017

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