Friday, January 5, 2018

Curtis McKenzie Breaks Stars Slump With Two Goals in 3-2 OT Win Over Condors

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Curtis McKenzie, the Stars captain and recently named AHL All-Star, put the Texas Stars on his back in the third period and overtime helping his team defeat the Bakersfield Condors 3-2.

McKenzie weighed in after the game: "Great win by the team there. Before the game we talked about playing a 60 minute game. I thought we had a really good second period, and it took all 60 plus minutes. The guys stuck with it and played hard all night."

Texas went 0-for-5 on the power play against a vulnerable 23rd ranked Bakersfield penalty kill unit, including a 4-on-3. Their woeful penalty kill play also made an appearance at the worst of times--when the game was tied at one with seven minutes left in the game. Though they had killed of four consecutive penalties in the game, helped largely by McKenzie, their first unit failed to clear the zone for over a minute.

Iiro Pakarinen cashed in short side to pull the Condors ahead by one, almost edging the Stars and sending them down a couple of spots in the division standings. The captain wouldn't allow them to go quietly, scoring the game tying goal when the Stars emptied their net, and later the game winner in the overtime frame.

Landon Bow drew the start and was forced to make two impressive, sprawling saves in the early going. The first and most noticeable came against the Condors' All-Star Ty Rattie as he had a breakaway opportunity. Bow had to lay out and catch a puck that seemed to dangle and spin for seconds in mid-air. He finished the game with 30 saves on 32 shots.

The Stars lost control of a first period they once had pretty buckled down defensively, only allowing 5 shots through the first fifteen minutes, until the Condors turned it on with five quick shots on net in the last five. The last came with 13 seconds left and Bow lost a clean sheet as Brad Malone got one past him with the backhand.

Sheldon Dries was swapped with Justin Dowling to put him at center with Denis Gurianov and Greg Rallo on the wing, and the decision almost worked when Dries nearly pushed a slow rolling puck in past Eddie Pasquale. The small tweak in the lines did eventually pay off, but for Dowling's line.

Coach Laxdal explained his lineup tweak after the game. "Tommy [Thompson] played really well last game for us and I wanted to give him a reward and he ended up generating a goal. I like his skill set and patience with the puck. I put a little bit more speed and skill."

Pasquale (32 saves on 35 shots) was stalwart, allowing the first goal after 23 shots when Thompson went weak side and tipped in a good cross crease pass from Dowling to tie the game at one. It was Thompson's second AHL goal, the first coming a week ago. The goal seemed to change the tenor of the matchup from a slog to one that could potentially be a boon to getting back on track.

Thompson was complimentary of Dowling's game. "[Dowling's] a great player, so whoever he plays with gets a little better. He just made a great play tonight and I was lucky enough to get my stick on it."

Dowling later had a breakaway chance to pull the Stars ahead but couldn't find the five hole he was looking for, and Thompson's follow-up on the rebound was snuffed out. The Stars later took an ill-timed interference penalty which led to Pakarinen's goal.

The Stars went 6-on-5 with Bow headed to the bench with two minutes to go, and McKenzie brought the fans out of their seats with the game-tying goal.

McKenzie described the play, "We had a 6-on-5 last game and we didn't get quite as much to the net as we wanted to so I was down there trying to put it in. It went off a guy and I was lucky to get a piece of it there. We just wanted to get pucks to the net and crash the net and get in the goalie's eyes because he made some incredible saves all night."

Coach Laxdal was initially apprehensive, saying, "I was a little afraid at 6-on-5 there because we didn't want to shoot the puck tonight on the power play. We just wanted to pass it around the perimeter. We got the shot on the 6-on-5 and got a redirect to get the goal."

McKenzie capped off his night by scoring in overtime and helping his team break their recent slump. "They missed the net on the shot and [Travis Morin] had quick boots to get up ice. But I didn't really realize how close the guy was behind me so Mo made a nice drop pass to me and that's when I realized the guys was right there. So I got it off quick and the rebound came back to me, so I tried to chip it up top corner. I had to get the 60 degree wedge out to get that one."

The Texas Stars will see the Bakersfield Condors again on Saturday, 7 PM CST in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-Morin
Rallo-Dowling-Gurianov
Thompson-Dries-Mangene
Laberge-Fyten-Markison

Bodnarchuk-Hansson
Heatherington-Regner
Scarlett-Bayreuther

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Dickinson, Hanna, French, McNeill (scratch)
Flynn (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,241.

Brian Flynn is likely to return tomorrow for Texas. If not tomorrow, Laxdal notes he's definitely in on Wednesday.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Bakersfield - January 5 2018

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