|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Stars veteran leader Greg Rallo talked about the statistic: “They’re a hard forechecking team. When we [did] get chances to put pucks on the net we seemed to be missing the net or bobbling pucks. It’s something we have to bear down on tomorrow. We have to put more pucks on the goalie and test him, and make him make saves.”
Tucson dynamo Dylan Strome was plenty noticeable for the Roadrunners, when he was on the ice, recording one assist on a power play goal. In a scary situation, he took a puck to the face with less than a minute to go in the second period but did return to the game in the third. Mike McKenna relieved Landon Bow (18 saves on 22 shots) late in the second period after he gave up back-to-back power play goals.
The Stars got the start they wanted with a goal a couple of shifts into the game. Justin Dowling set Greg Rallo up in front of the net for an easy look that beat rookie Hunter Miska. Though they clicked on the goal, it was one of only two shots on net Texas managed in the first period. “They made it hard on us early,” said Laxdal. “I don’t think we had an answer.”
Time in the offensive zone was hard to come by as the Roadrunners were backchecking and forcing turnovers. The Stars struggled to clear their own zone a few minutes after the Rallo goal, and Dysin Mayo’s shot from the point beat Bow, knotting the game up.
Laxdal commented further on Tucson’s play saying, “The thing for them is they move the puck well. Their D are very agile. Any puck that’s on their tape, it’s up. If you watch their forwards on the back checks, they’re hard through the middle of the ice. One’s pressuring the puck, two are looking for loose pucks. They were the quicker team tonight and they got rewarded for it.”
Though the Stars were being heavily outshot, they were in decent shape with a potential tie headed into first intermission. What was once a routine finish to a lackluster period made a turn for the worst when the Stars gave up a goal with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Tyler Gaudet crashed the net to put back his own rebound when Bow couldn’t freeze the puck in time.
“They’re a fast team and a hard forechecking team and they stay on you,” said Rallo. “They seemed to bury their chances tonight so that helped them.”
Zone time was still hard to come by in the second period, and it led to the Roadrunners getting three cracks at the power play that yielded two goals from Laurent Dauphin. On the first, he sent a screaming one timer from the right point in past Bow. The next goal came less than a minute later when he scored from in close and chase Bow from the game.
The Stars began the third period with a power play, and right after it expired, Reece Scarlett forced a turnover at the Tucson blue line and got the puck over to Travis Morin on the rush. Morin went five hole on Miska to temporarily inject a little buzz in the building. “We got it to 4-2 and pushed a little bit,” said Laxdal. Ultimately, the Stars were blanked on the power play after four chances.
Rallo weighed in on the struggling power play: “It’s tough. Trying to simplify is what coach is preaching right now. Trying to just get puck to the net like [Tucson] did tonight. A couple of their goals were just shooting pucks to the net from the blue line and that’s something we have to focus on."
They tried to apply zone pressure the remainder of the game, and played marginally better the rest of the game. The puck came right back out of the zone on just about any entry, and the Roadrunners played like a bunch of first round draft picks. Laxdal agreed. “[The Roadrunners] dictated the game. They dictated the way they wanted to play. But we didn’t have any answer for it.”
The Stars emptied their net with two minutes to go, and Tucson forward Lane Pederson scored easily sending the Stars home with plenty to think about for tomorrow’s game. Rallo confirmed the team’s message: “Get ready. Tonight is over. We know what they got now. [Tucson is] a fast, hard forechecking team and we have to match it. There’s no questions asked.”
The Stars complete their two game set on Saturday, February 10. The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Mangene, Hanna, Paliotta (scratch)
Dickinson, Heatherington (call up)
Tonight's attendance was 4,570.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - February 9 2018