Friday, May 11, 2018

Texas Stars Punch Ticket to Conference Finals with OT Win

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Rookies and veterans. Skaters and goalies. Everyone contributed tonight as the Texas Stars dusted off their second round opponent in overtime to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in team history.

Veteran Mike McKenna stopped 37 of 39 shots across three periods and change. The fourth line center Joel L'Esperance had the overtime winner and a dandy assist in the first period.

"It was a hard fought series," noted Coach Laxdal. "It was a lot closer than 4-1."

Mike McKenna added, "You look at the quality of the prospects and the veteran players who have won championship and been to finals. It's been a great fit and a lot of fun. We're only halfway there."

The fourth line was the motor of the team tonight, putting Texas on the board and scoring the winner.

"It's not just to see them succeed on a personal level. It's knowing that we've had all four lines contributing. We carried the play through all four lines, and they're every bit as important as one and two."

L'Esperance got the scoring started with an NHL-level drive to the net, bursting around Ryan MacInnis to earn a shot. Colin Markison cleaned up the rebound into a yawning net. It was a strong start to the first period where Texas truly controlled the pace of the game throughout.

The power play got Texas in trouble later on in the frame. The Stars had a chance at a 5-on-4 power play but Sheldon Dries took a retaliatory penalty and Texas saw things go to 4-on-4. With Matt Mangene taking a tripping minor, the Stars were at the always awkward 4-on-3 disadvantage. Lawson Crouse was unmarked at the net and roofed one backhand over McKenna for the tie score.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Tucson came out strong in the second period, outshooting Texas 7-1 in the early going. Late in the frame, the Stars got a power play of their own and cashed in. Travis Morin lofted one over Adin Hill from the right wing point to go up 2-1. Texas got another power play chance thirty seconds later and essentially had the chance for the kill shot. The Roadrunners broke in 3-on-2 shorthanded, and Ryan MacInnis redeemed himself with a shorty to tie the game at two.

The teams went to the locker room tied at forty. After a scoreless third, overtime loomed once again.

The start of OT was fast and furious. The two clubs played the first 6:39 of the frame without a whistle. Texas got in trouble as Dillon Heatherington and Brent Regner got hemmed into the zone for a lengthy portion of those six plus minutes. The Stars made it out alive, and the fourth line stepped up.

L'Esperance picks up the story, "Laberge and Markison were doing a good job on the forecheck and we got some good zone time. Bayreuther had a nice shot from the point, nice and low for a rebound. It popped right to me and I swiped it in."

Texas won four straight in the series after losing Game 1. The Stars have home ice advantage against Rockford and will start at home next Friday.

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

Heatherington-Regner
Bodnarchuk-Scarlett
Bayreuther-Mangene

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Nyberg, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Desrosiers (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,117.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - May 11 2018

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