Rookies Ritchie, McKenzie Spark 4-1 Win Over Checkers

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Rookie goal scoring led the way tonight for the Texas Stars as Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie both tallied in a 4-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers. Ritchie potted two while McKenzie added a single. Mike Hedden rounded out the Stars' scoring with his 19th of the year.

"They don't seem like rookies anymore," said Coach Desjardins of McKenzie and Ritchie. "They've been with us for a long time. They both go to the net well and that's how we scored. They were at the net and the pucks were at the net. They may not be the prettiest but they count."

Both rookie goal scorers started their AHL careers on amateur tryouts last season in Cedar Park, a valuable experience according to Brett Ritchie.

"At the start of the season, if I hadn't done that there would have been more of a feeling out process. That experience helped to start."

Coach Desjardins added, "It makes a big difference because you know what the league is about. They both stepped in right away to be regular players."

Dressed in specialty black and pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness, Texas jumped out to a three goal lead in the first period and made that lead stick with solid goaltending throughout the contest. Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and stopped 36 of 37.

"We kept them to the outside," Nilstorp added. "They were good shots to get as a goalie."

The Stars first goal came on a bit of a scramble play at the net. A fallen Jokipakka threw the puck up the ice to Justin Dowling and eventually Patrik Nemeth. After the initial shot, Brett Ritchie tapped in the idle puck on the backdoor for the 1-0 lead.

Less than 30 seconds later, an odd bounce off the endboards sent the puck careening through Murphy's crease behind him. Curtis McKenzie was Johnny-on-the-spot to pop the puck in for the 2-0 lead. Sceviour and Fortunus assisted.

Late in the period, Taylor Peters and Brendan Woods got tangled in the Checkers' zone. Peters was coming in for a check and Woods slipped and moved suddenly to place his head and upper body directly in the path of the check against the glass. There was no call ont he play but Woods was slow to othe bench. He did return for the second.

The play came back up ice after leaving briefly and Ritchie picked a corner on Mike Murphy for the 3-0 advantage. Mike Hedden had the only assist.

Ritchie's goal was his sixth in his last eight games.

"Sometimes it's luck," he said. "I've been getting shots and chances all year. SOmetimes you're hot and sometimes you're not. I've got to ride with the flows."

Early in the second, Peters was called to the carpet for the hit in the first and fought with Corrente. There was no scoring in the middle frame despite a power play for each club.

No doubt Charlotte got exactly what they wanted to start the third period. Chris Terry slipped behind the defense and picked a corner of his own on Nilstorp to end the shutout bid and set the score at 3-1 Texas.

With less than six minutes left in the period, Travis Morin had the stick hacked out of his hands on a breakaway, leading to a power play. The Checkers were pressing hard, putting pressure on the Stars' net. Cristopher Nilstorp had an acrobatic, yet awkward, jump to swat away a puck that had popped up high on him after the initial shot. Justin Dowling collected it and found Mike Hedden all alone on the opposing blue line. He skated in easy and polished off the scoring with a PPG to make it 4-1.

Nilstorp was a little embarrassed by the jumping effort but confided, "It was a good apple, at least."

Texas and Charlotte play again tomorrow night to end the Pink in the Rink weekend set.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Labrie, Wathier (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Coach Desjardins on the fourth line and its effort: "All three played really well. It's nice when I can play them in any situation. I was able to play them against the other team's top lines and late in games. When I'm able to do that, it makes our team better."

Tonight's attendance was 5,249.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - February 21 2014