|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"We knew we could come back and we just had to play the right way," said Gemel Smith, whose hat trick was the first of his pro career. "We weren't happy about the first two periods. We just needed to push and push."
The game has to be a major confidence boost for a team that needs to nearly run the table to make the playoffs at this point. "It can be a defining moment in our season," said Coach Laxdal. "The message afterwards was 'Remember this feeling.'"
The Stars came out with a solid first period, earning a 1-0 lead off a rebound goal from Travis Morin, his 20th of the season. They capitulated in the second period, allowing four goals in the frame and scoring just one. The Griffin goals came in pairs, two at the start of the period and two at the end. They were separated by Gemel Smith's first of the night, another rebound that made it 2-2. Ben Street scored a pair and made it 4-2 after forty.
The entire game really came down to the final five minutes. With Julius Honka in the box for interference, Texas saw opportunity. The combination of the Stars' team speed and the Griffins' deployment of forwards on the point for their power play was a deadly one. Smith noted, "We're a fast team and if any pucks are chipped out, we're first on it."
Brandon DeFazio commented on playing defense as a forward, "It's an uncomfortable feeling to be skating back as a forward and playing it 1-on-1. It's something that we rarely do so I'm sure for them, playing 2-on-1s with that kind of speed, you're probably in a really uncomfortable spot."
"We want to be aggressive when we have a chance," he added. "In that situation, down a couple, you have to [take chances]."
The first shorthanded marker was Smith and Justin Dowling. The second was Smith from Jason Dickinson.
"It was pretty crazy," assessed Laxdal. "You get one shorthanded, and you're thinking what are you going to do when the penalty is done to set [the next one] up. All the sudden you score another."
The Stars finished off the insane sequence with Brandon DeFazio's 17th goal of the year, breaking a nine-game scoreless drought.
"I haven't scored in a little while. I stayed on the ice a little longer today to work on my shot, try to see the puck going into the net. It was a great play for McNeill to put that right on my stick."
Grand Rapids got frustrated, taking a late penalty, and probably lost the game on the momentum alone after the second shorthanded goal to tie things at four.
Texas stays here at home for a weekend set with Iowa starting Friday.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie (call up)
Herbert, Bystrom, McMurtry, Dietz (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 4,402.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 8 2017