|Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars|
Andrew Bodnarchuk, who scored the game winner in OT, had the politically correct take on the first period fracas.
“As far as the old school hockey, I think a couple of their guys took exception to a couple of hits that I don’t think are out of the game, plays that happen within the rules. Maybe borderline but nothing dirty. You see a couple plays in that scrum that you don’t like seeing. To be politically correct, not smart.”
The penalties assessed in the incident were all on the Gulls’ side of the ledger, showing that it was a one-sided affair. Essentially, Scott Sabourin and Stu Bickel squared up with two unwilling partners, with Bickel in particular laying punch after punch into Justin Dowling, who was down defenseless on the ice already.
“There’s a lot going around with head injuries these days and there’s absolutely no reason to be taking advantage of a player like Dowling on the ice. That’s disappointing.”
Laxdal was similarly diplomatic, “I’m sure the league will look at that. I’m not going to comment on it but at the end of the day we got the win and we move on.”
On the positive side, Bodnarchuk had a great move to win it in the 3-on-3 overtime. “It was a little bit of luck and timing. I was getting on the ice on a change and my foot got stuck on the bench a bit. I was panicking to get back in the play. One of our forward popped the puck out at the blue line. Once I touched the puck, I knew what I was going to do because I only have so many in my repertoire.”
Texas did not find the start they were looking for as San Diego got on the board within the first minute and a half of the game on an awkward angle shot from Julius Nattinen that skirted Mike McKenna's freeze attempt. It was Nattinen's first AHL goal.
The Stars soon had a chance to atone with a power play opportunity from a slashing call but made a mess of things that climaxed with an ill-advised tripping minor by Jason Dickinson.
Power plays were a sore spot for the Stars throughout the game. On their second attempt, the Stars struggled to enter the offensive zone, which chewed up clock and ultimately led to a 2-on-1 rush from the Gulls as time ran out on the penalty, and Alex Dostie scored again on their third shot of the game. He was the second rookie to score for San Diego on the night.
Frustration was evident for the Stars, and Sheldon Dries dropped his gloves with Stu Bickel for Dries' first professional fight.
Perhaps the ploy for competitiveness worked because Texas tilted the ice back headed into the first intermission when Denis Gurianov fired a point shot that bounced off of goaltender Kevin Boyle's pad and landed on Dickinson's stick. Dickinson, who knows what to do with a rebound, continued his torrid scoring pace and notched his sixth goal of the year.
Texas soon tied the game on their eighth shot from another rebounding point shot, this time from Curtis McKenzie. Things then got a little hairy, and the officials nearly lost control of the ice when several fights broke out at once. No one seemed to know what was going on. The result was repeat offender Bickel, along with Scott Sabourin, being removed from the game, and Stars veteran leader Justin Dowling shaken up. The outcome was the Stars being awarded two five minute major penalties.
The Stars spent five minutes with a two-man advantage to try and get their power play going, but hit the post twice on scoring attempts.
“We did everything we wanted; we were just a little bit rough on the setups,” said Laxdal. “We had a couple of passes that were missed, Boyle made some saves, we hit a post, we missed a couple on the empty net. I think if you bury early on that 5-on-3 you might get two goals on it.”
“Immediately there’s a bit of frustration,” Bodnarchuk concurred. “That’s a huge thing as far as momentum goes. If it’s not clicking, you can't let that negative momentum carry into 5-on-5. Guys really wanted it, but when it’s done, you have to put it on the back burner and not let it affect the game going forward.”
Late in the second period, Matt Mangene turned the puck over at his own blue line and had to take a penalty to diffuse the potential breakaway. It took seven seconds on Texas’ penalty kill to cost them. The Gulls had the puck singing from the moment they won the face-off, and the play ended with a tap-in goal from yet another rookie, Mitch Hults. It was Hults’ fourth goal in six games.
Centering his own line again, Dries took it to heart and tied the game back up with a slick wrister that found the corner of the net. San Diego winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas took the lead back in the third period. Dillon Heatherington answered for the Stars with a point shot that appeared to glance off of a San Diego defender.
Maintaining the physicality of the match, Texas’ Tommy Thompson dropped the gloves with San Diego’s Keaton Thompson. They are not related. Regulation ended with the Stars outshooting the Gulls 28-20.
The numbers don’t tell the story, but Boyle stood on his head several times including in overtime when he miraculously popped back into his vacated net to stop a sure goal. Andrew Bodnarchuk made an impressive play in the neutral zone and pushed the puck up ice. He dangled in front of Boyle and put the puck in with his backhand to score his first goal of the year and win the game for Texas.
Coach Laxdal was happy to get two points in the standings. “We had to grind for that one. You could see the emotion on the bench, and these guys weren’t going to let this one slip away. San Diego is a team we’re battling [in the standings] with and we’ll take the win here tonight.”
The Stars return to the ice in Cedar Park on Saturday, 7:00 PM to take on the San Jose Barracuda.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Dowling received an upper-body injury in tonight's game and is doubtful for tomorrow's game. The video of the incident is available here.
Tonight's attendance was 4,782
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Diego - October 27 2017