|(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"He’s got the ability to score in tight like he did in overtime tonight," said coach Derek Laxdal after the game. "He’s been a good player for us. That line [with Dickinson and Elie] had a lot of looks for us tonight. They were matched up against Strome [in overtime] and give them the credit. They got the best of that shift and ended up scoring the OT winner."
Production from top players like Dickinson and Hintz was especially key considering both players had yet to score a goal in the postseason. "If we're going to challenge to get some wins in the series, those guys have to be key contributors. They’re going to have to score and they scored tonight."
The first period was littered with solid scoring chances from the Stars, though the shot total in the frame only added to nine. On the first few shifts, the Stars amassed three 2-on-1 rushes that each malfunctioned in some way. Among the group was Hintz and Denis Gurianov, who couldn't connect on the cross ice feed but would atone soon after.
Dickinson spoke about the early chances. "It just seems like we connected [early in the game]. They want to come in and pressure hard and their D wanna pinch in. It’s not like we specifically targeted that, but we recognize when that happens and we get the puck to the middle and we beat them."
To break open the scoring, Hintz notched his first goal of the postseason when he cleaned up Gurianov's shot dumped into Hill's crease near the eight minute marker. "We were only able to capitalize on one of [the rushes]," said Dickinson. "But I think it set a good precedent for us that if they wanna come and pinch that hard we can take it right past them." It was an almost identical play to the one that didn't quite click earlier in the period.
Tucson winger Lawson Crouse nearly got the equalizer, but the posts were Mike McKenna's (33 saves on 37 shots) friends in the process as the second year pro hit the pipes twice. Within the last minute before first intermission, Colin Markison went 1-on-1 with Roadrunners captain after the Stars killed off a penalty and nearly batted in his own rebound.
The Roadrunners, who seemed to have an answer for every goal, evened the scored on the first shift of the second period. Defenseman Dakota Mermis, who scored twice, joined the rush and got his backhand shot to go high corner while McKenna was heavily screened. "At the end of the day, their a good hockey club," said Laxdal. They’ve got great speed, great skill. And you see their D-men activate. I think they scored three goals tonight."
The Stars would get it right back on the next shift with a tip-in goal from Jason Dickinson. Brent Regner and Remi Elie recorded the assists.
Near the halfway point of the middle frame, Brian Flynn pushed the Stars lead to two and picked up his team leading sixth postseason goal by capitalizing on several Tucson gaffes. Two Roadrunners collided near center ice, Mermis was left alone to defend the entry but took a puck to the face, allowing Flynn to walk in an get a couple of quick chances on an easy score. John Nyberg assisted on the goal for his first career AHL point.
To finish out the period, the Roadrunners temporarily set up camp in the Stars zone and were rewarded with a back door tap in from forward Carter Camper to bring Tucson back to within one with seven minutes left. "I thought we had a real good start to the game in the first and second period. And then kind of like last game, we knew Tucson was gonna push." Gavin Bayreuther fired back four minutes later when he followed up his own rebound with his backhand that the screened Hill couldn't track.
The Roadrunners pressured early in the third period and picked up another proximate goal after four minutes. After McKenna made a big stop on Dyson Mayo, he couldn't fight through the screen on the next shift when Trevor Murphy pinched down and sniped home the centering feed from behind the net.
"We looked pretty gassed in the third period. [Tucson] was like a shark. They could taste the blood in the water."
With time winding down in regulation and the Roadrunners at their most aggressive, Mermis' second goal tied the game with less than four minutes left in the game on a soft wrister from the rush that McKenna would've liked to have back.
The Stars turned in a huge penalty kill at the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime. Riding that momentum, they turned it into the game winner thirteen and a half minutes into the frame with Dries being in the right place at the right time. "It was a weird bounce that got Hill out of position and then [Dickinson] had a good flush that forced that D man to make a pressured pass and I just happened to be there," said Dries. "I tried to get a quick shot off and beat Hill."
Overall, Laxdal like what he saw from his team. "I really like our game in the first two periods. I just thought we tightened up [in the third] -- that’s something we’ll talk about. It’s playoffs, ya know? So for us, it's just put this game in the books and get ready for Wedneday night."
The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Laberge, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Desrosiers (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 5,471.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - May 7 2018