|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"It's just lucky," said Gurianov. "I wanted to score in the five hole because [I had] big speed."
Coach Laxdal expanded on Gurianov's new role, "We've elevated him in the lineup to get him more ice time. The goals [in the past two games] were great goals by him in key moments. It's nice from a coaching standpoint to see him grow his game."
Gurianov started the year in a top 9 role but is clearly cementing himself into a top 6 position. Laxdal even noted that he will be moving Gurianov onto the Stars penalty kill to take advantage of his speed.
Manitoba opened the scoring with an unfortunate mistake by Matej Stransky. On the power play, Stransky whiffed on a breakout pass, putting the puck directly on the stick of Quinton Howden. The former Rampage forward beat Bow on the blocker side for the 1-0 lead. The Stars would answer with a power play tally from Gemel Smith, a tip play for the 1-1 tie. Gurianov had the second assist.
Down 2-1 in the second after a Moose power play goal, the Stars poured on the shots and spent extended periods in the Moose zone, generating dangerous chances.
"The first 30 minutes we were a little tired and lethargic from the road trip," said Coach Laxdal. "The last 30 minutes we picked it up and played the way we were capable of."
Julius Honka got things going on the comeback with the tying goal from the point late in the second. The Stars gained the zone and had the Moose all out of sorts, chasing the puck as it whizzed from stick to stick. When Honka got it at the point with no one within 15 feet of him, the tally was good as counted.
"I think [the game] just started out a bit choppy, no flow and pucks bouncing around," said Jason Dickinson. "It took a bit to find our legs with such tough road travel. We had to create some energy."
The second period closed with the Stars driving the net repeatedly and generating good momentum for a lively third period. Texas was rewarded for their efforts with an early goal by Dickinson. The sophomore forward lofted one over Eric Comrie off the pass from Caleb Herbert behind the net.
"It was a great forecheck. Herbert made a nice play, took a look over his shoulder and saw me. I was lucky enough to be able to put it home."
Gurianov would notch his game-winner unassisted in the third. Postgame, he noted that he feels much more confident after his stint at World Juniors, "I feel better, a little bit better. I played a lot in World Juniors and I [am playing] a lot now in Texas."
Laxdal continued, "He's a first round pick with great wheels. Early in the season, he had good looks but wasn't scoring. Now he's burying those chances."
With a 6-on-5 advantage, Manitoba would come within one goal at 4-3. However, Landon Bow and the Stars would lock it down. Bow had 24 saves on 27 shots.
The Stars home stand was shortlived, however. Texas now hits the road for a pair in Des Moines Friday and Saturday night.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Van Brabant, Stevenson (scratch)
Justin Dowling will not make the road trip but the Stars do not anticipate it to be a long-term issue.
Tonight's attendance was 4,313.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Manitoba - January 18 2017