|Bakersfield scores shorthanded (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"Of all our losses this year, that's probably the most disappointing one," said Stars' captain Curtis McKenzie. "That's a game that we have a chance to close out, in the third period up by a goal at home. We just have to find a way to clamp down."
Things fell apart rapidly for Texas late in the second period and into the third as Bakersfield pushed back with a three-goal scoring binge in just over eight elapsed minutes of game time to go ahead and ultimately win the contest 4-2.
"I thought we got really tired in the second and third," added Coach Laxdal. "I didn't like the energy of our group today. It's tough to have a big crowd in the building and lay an egg like that."
The disappointment was palpable in the tone and sombre mood of the normally chipper captain, who echoed that the team was "pretty frustrated with themselves right now in the room."
The game, as previously mentioned, started out positively as Texas bombed shots on Nick Ellis throughout the first but didn't score until their final two of the frame. Curtis McKenzie knocked one in from his knees as the Condors had just crosschecked him there and were about to be shorthanded for it. On the ensuing faceoff, Austin Fyten came down with speed to beat Ellis again to make it 2-0.
"Our fourth line has been our best line the last three games," commented Laxdal, while also positing that that fact might not be the best for the overall health of the club. "We're going to have to look in the mirror here and pick ourselves up."
Bakersfield counterpunched in the second, outshooting the Stars 15-9 and scoring a power play goal. All-Star Ty Rattie found twine with 21 seconds left in the period to make it a 2-1 game.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance to build any momentum off our power plays," noted Laxdal. "And then we gave up a power play goal there and that started the ball rolling." He hesitated to call it mental tiredness though, as Bakersfield has played the same three-in-four schedule as Texas has.
Texas's power play gave up a shorthanded goal to start the third and that broke the dike. Two minutes later, the Condors netted the ultimate game winner. Texas had a chance on the 6-on-5, which had scored the previous night but couldn't make it past Ellis despite solid zone time and high quality shots over a full 2:30 of empty net time. An errant pass ended up on the stick of Josh Currie, who fed Iiro Pakarinen for an empty net goal to ice it.
"We did a good job getting pucks to the net," said McKenzie, whose club put a season-high 40 shots on Ellis. "But in the third period, it's the sort of game you have to be desperate to win. It's one where we shouldn't be sitting back. We have to keep going after them."
The Stars will have another crack at the Condors in Bakersfield on Wednesday to start a ten-day, six-game road trip.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McNeill, Hanna, French, Laberge (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 6,156.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Bakersfield - January 6 2018