|(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
“It was your typical playoff game,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “It was real tight out there. They had a push at the end with the power play, but I thought our guys managed it well. For us it’s good to get that second win at home. Now we gotta focus on Friday.”
Goaltender Mike McKenna returned to form in an impressive 27 save shutout, his third of the postseason if you include his relief work in game three against Ontario. Brian Flynn’s two assists pushed him to ten postseason points, the first player to reach that marker in these playoffs. “You get some breaks, you make a good play and the guy scores,” said Flynn about his personal postseason success.
Andrew Bodnarchuk tallied his first point of the postseason. The ten year veteran blue liner pinched down on the rush with 4:35 left in the second period to clean up Denis Gurianov’s rebounded shot attempt, giving the Stars a bit of breathing room with a two goal lead.
Bodnarchuk described the play. “It’s always nice to chip in on the offensive side of things. I was open weak side off the break and Flynn made a great pass. I had a lot of room to skate. [Gurianov] put an unselfish shot off the pads and the rebound kind of skipped right out just as it got past their defenseman, and I was able to get a stick on it and get it through [Adin] Hill.”
Roadrunner winger Michael Bunting, who had both goals in Tucson's game one victory, put a scare in the Stars in the early going when he took a great pass up the middle and was left all alone on the rush less than two minutes into the game. McKenna stoned him on the play and was great in the first period when the Roadrunners were creating chaos with their forecheck.
“We really gotta tip our hat to McKenna right now,” said Bodnarchuk. “He’s standing on his head for us and today was no different. They had some grade A looks and he’s been really solid when we’ve had breakdowns.”
For Laxdal, the script was flipped from Monday’s game. He said that Tucson made their push in the first period. “I thought their push was in the first tonight and I thought we settled in. Mike was a brick wall in net.” The Stars ended up outshooting the Roadrunners 10-5 in the first period.
They also managed to dust off their power play tonight with a goal from Curtis McKenzie. Flynn and Justing Dowling set the Stars captain for a one timer from the slot twelve minutes into the middle frame to open the scoring. Up to that point, the Stars were a perfect 4-0 in the playoffs when scoring first. After misfiring on the same play during Monday’s game, Flynn was happy to get another crack at it.
“Today I hit [the pass]. It’s kind of a quick 3-on-1 at the net. If they want to run their guys out high and pressure us that much we just gotta make one quick good pass and make a play at the net.”
The Roadrunners pressured in the third period, much like in game three, but were not nearly as successful. Although they did hit a post on the first of two power plays in the frame, Tucson never threatened much as the Stars buckled down to avoid a third overtime game in the series. “It’s part of the progression of the playoffs,” said Laxdal. “You learn to play in certain situations. I thought our guys handled it better in the third period.”
Touting the best road power play in the AHL, the Roadrunners have yet to crack the Stars in Cedar Park on the man advantage. Wednesday was no different. Bodnarchuk talked about how his team has been successful on the penalty kill. “We’re just sticking to our system and realizing [Tucson’s] strengths. They are one of the better offensive teams we’ve seen and we know that at any moment they can turn it on. So we gotta try and limit them from getting those chances but at the same time stick to our game plan when we do get on the kill.”
With a chance to end the series on Friday, coach Laxdal’s message is simple. “For us, you have to win one more to get through. We’re going to focus on Friday’s game and we’re not going to change the way we play and change who we are. We’re going to continue the way we’re going.”
The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Nyberg, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Desrosiers (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 5,192.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - May 9 2018