|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
"We really needed to come out strong today," said Fortunus. "They're ahead of us in the standings and that's motivation enough to come out strong."
The game had a physical edge to it as referee David Banfield let the teams play a little more than normal. The Stars matched up well against the physicality of a big Wolves roster.
"Chicago has a couple lines with guys who play hard," said Coach Laxdal. "Our guys did a good job responding. It was a good game, a good game to watch."
Fortunus expanded, "They're a team that comes strong. They've got a coaching staff that likes to put the pressure on other teams. That shows through their play. That's one aspect of the game we want to get on to."
The game had an inauspicious start as Derek Hulak was dinged for four minutes on a high stick. The early power play is often more a negative than a positive for a club, and Texas took advantage of that.
Morin, a huge part of the Stars power play, hinted at the Wolves' mindset in the situation, "I personally don't like it when I get a power play before I've really touched the puck or taken a stride. When you come off the anthem and immediately go to the power play, it can be a little difficult, I think."
Texas held Chicago to a single shot in four minutes, an effort that Fortunus called "a big momentum builder."
The Stars cashed in first in the second period. Brendan Ranford had an electrifying finish to a pass from Morin right on the doorstep. He deked Binnington to tap it in backhand for the 1-0 lead. Curtis McKenzie got the second assist as Laxdal reunited the Stars top line from the Calder Cup playoffs last year.
Fortunus got his first of the night at even strength late in the second. With no one in the vicinity, he had plenty of time to wind up for a blistering slapshot from the right point. The net-front presence helped Texas get the goal.
"Net front presence was better," said Laxdal. "It wasn't great but better. It was something we talked about after the San Antonio game. You've got to go to the front of the net."
Chicago pulled to within one with a goal late in the second on the power play, a point shot of their own.
Texas regained their two-goal lead in the third period with the seventh goal of the year and second of the night for Fortunus. This time it was Curtis McKenzie on the net front presence, tying up two Wolves to screen out Jordan Binnington.
The best 'almost' chance of the period came as Binnington robbed Branden Troock on a two-on-one. The rookie forward got the shot off but found the glove of Binnington off the pass from Eric Faille. It was a well-executed play by Troock, Faille and Jesse Root, and Coach Laxdal praised the group for the effort.
The Stars had a chance at the empty net late but couldn't convert thanks to a strong Wolves backcheck. Shane Harper got a late goal to make the final 17 seconds interesting, but Texas held on for the win.
The same Wolves stay in town to play Texas again tomorrow night.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ritchie (call up)
Valentine, Wrenn, Glennie, Peters (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 4,443.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - January 23 2015