|Justin Peters (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
"It was a full team effort, a full 60 minutes," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "It had a playoff atmosphere and that's what every game is going to be like down the stretch. It was a hard fought win."
Aiding the efforts was the home debut of newly-acquired goalie Justin Peters, who collected his first win for Texas. He stopped 22 of 23 shots and earned the cowboy hat from the locker room for the effort.
Peters agreed with Laxdal's assessment of the game, "For the whole 60 minutes, we were tight and sound with good structure. To have a tight game like that is a confidence builder."
Texas will need that confidence as they move forward. Tonight's win puts them a game above .500 and allows them to avoid slipping to last place in the division.
Nick Ebert, who scored the game winner, outlined the sentiment in the locker room, "We slipped to .500 and now we're just north of that. We have these last 32 games are playoff games because we put ourselves in that position. We have to prepare for every game like it's make or break."
The intensity in this game ramped up from the start. Ebert called it "a war" but noted, "That's the way it should be and the way it has to be." Justin Hache, newcomer to the lineup, threw down with Mason Geertsen after a hit in the first. Laxdal added that Hache "earned a lot of trust and respect from his teammates" with his play tonight.
Ethan Werek scored the game's opening goal in the first period. Mike McMurtry, playing in his first game back from Idaho, found Werek in the high slot for an easy blocker-side bid.
Diplomatically, the officiating was uneven in the game. Jeremy Smith, for example, was called for playing the puck outside the trapezoid when he clearly did not and Travis Morin was victim to a clear kneeing that was not called. Perhaps as a way of making up for it, neither team scored on the power play in the game, making it a moot point. The two clubs combined for 14 opportunities.
Wrapped up in the special teams, Peters made timely saves that the Stars were not getting on the penalty kill (and even 5-on-5) with their previous tandem. "He's real calm," said Laxdal. "He has that veteran presence back there. We want to play a little different in front of him, play on our toes with a little more calmness knowing we'll get that big save when we need it."
The power play was frustrated but had many good opportunities, missing on a few good one-timers and empty nets. The win should help increase the confidence of the entire group, lifting the power play as well.
San Antonio scored late in the second period as Girard picked a corner for the tie game. As time ticked down in the third, it appeared that Texas would be heading to overtime. Nick Ebert wasn't interested in that. On an extended shift that began as Texas came off a power play, San Antonio's tired legs gave way to Nick Ebert's 6th of the year.
Texas has a long break, as has become custom this season, before playing Tucson on Friday.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Honka (call up)
Herbert, Van Brabant (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 6,142.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - February 4 2017