Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Texas Falls Flat Against Manitoba, Loses Ground in Division

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
After an initial burst from Texas, Manitoba controlled the pace and tempo of most of tonight's game in Cedar Park, ultimately upending the home side 6-3. Curtis McKenzie had two power play goals in his first home game since returning from a six-week injury. It wasn't enough to overcome a balanced 5-on-5 attack and heavy physicality from the Moose.

"They showed us that if you play like a team you're probably going win more nights than not," said Coach Laxdal. "5-on-5 we didn't establish a forecheck or enough offensive zone time. They looked like a team that wanted it more than we did."

Texas had bright spots in the game, including their early power plays and the late, extended 6-on-5 sequence to end the game.

Laxdal noted that this game was creeping up on the Stars in a way. They got away with a low shot count, highly defensive game in Tucson thanks to Landon Bow, but the rookie goalie couldn't save them tonight. The two clubs were evenly matched on shots in the first at 13-13 but Texas only managed 4 and 8 in the ensuing periods. Bow was pierced for six before giving way to Philippe Desrosiers. The Stars hung Bow out to dry tonight, according to Laxdal.

"We're defending too much, Physically, we don't have the energy to go on offense. We have to defend quicker and harder and not get stuck in the D zone. We can't rely on our goaltender as much."

That bright spot of the power play was moving pucks with aplomb early. Curtis McKenzie was on the receiving end of a nice pass from Justin Dowling for the game's first goal.

"We talked before the game that we wanted more out of the power play unit," said McKenzie. As a five man unit we were moving well today, zipping the puck, and I was on the backend of some nice plays tonight. We need a little more urgency 5-on-5 and that will keep us away from games like this."

Manitoba answered back fast with two goals in 30 seconds around the eight minute mark. Both came off the sticks of low scoring defensemen.

Peter Stoykewych, another defenseman, potted the 3-1 goal before Texas halted the bleeding a bit. Again on the power play, McKenzie found twine off the backdoor feed of Travis Morin. The active period ended at 3-2 Moose.

Texas got into a decent amount of penalty trouble in the second with three consecutive calls for interference. JC Lipon would make Texas pay on McKenzie's interference call with his twelfth of the year. Texas wasn't able to establish much in that second period and it put them behind the eight ball in the third.

Pushing the pace to get back into it, Texas had two more end up in the back of their net. Sam Laberge would score late, but it wasn't of consequence. The Stars pulled Desrosiers for the extra man with 3:46 left in the third period and Manitoba's Jamie Phillips pulled out some of his best saves of the night, including point blank chances on back to back plays within two minutes of the end.

The Stars rerack and play Cleveland on Friday before facing these same Moose on Saturday to end the season series. With the loss, Texas dips to fifth place in the division, outside the playoff picture, and could stay there by morning depending on the outcome of west coast games.

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

Bayreuther-Regner
Bodnarchuk-Scarlett
Hansson-Paliotta

Bow
Desrosiers

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Kelleher, French, Rallo, O'Brien (scratch)
Dickinson, McKenna, Heatherington (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 5,067.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Manitoba - March 14 2018

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