|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
"We're going to the Finals!" exclaimed McKenna postgame. "I don't think it could feel any better. We've battled all year long and haven't had anything handed to us."
Coach Laxdal added, "Our guys have been warriors. If you look at the overtimes, our guys have battled and persevered. We settled down and did what we do well. It was a hell of series. It had the making of going to seven games."
After winning the first three in the series, Rockford put Jeff Glass in net and got two in their own building, setting up tonight's game six in Cedar Park. "You've gotta give Glass a lot of credit. He gave them a breath of life in the series. It could have gone either way. Fortunately we came out on the high end."
Texas has been on a tear in the playoffs, and really the second half of the season, that seemed ot come out of nowhere. AHL vet McKenna expanded on what makes the AHL different in that team gel aspect, "It's hard to pinpoint something [that clicked] because this league is funny with movement and transactions. Sometimes it takes half a season before you figure out your identity. It took us that, it took me that. Since then, we've been on a nice roll, but we're not done yet."
Glass was the story of the first period. Texas was buzzing hard multiple times in the frame and was stomped out by Glass. Just five minutes in, a hard dump-in bounced unepectedly of fthe end boards and generated a quick chance for the fourth line. The ensuing grinding shift generated a few more but no goal for Matt Mangene, Austin Fyten and Colin Markison.
Travis Morin had a superb opportunity halfway through the period off the pass from Brent Regner charging hard down the slot. Morin was all alone off the side of the net and moved quickly to fire the puck. Glass moved one tick faster to catch the shot with his left pad. The frame would end with shots at 11 a piece and no score.
Texas would break through in the second period as Sheldon Dries got his team-leading seventh of the postseason. It was an awkward play but a good goal nonetheless. Attempting to center the puck, Dries saw his pass ride up the stick of Gustav Forsling and down the back of Glass into the net. A short review confirmed the puck crossed the line for the 1-0 lead.
Brent Regner had another great chance on a drive down the slot, putting home his own rebound. He got the goal light but not the goal as the officials immediately waved the goal off for playing the puck with a high stick. Texas protested but the replays, even from the best angles available, were inconclusive. Remember that the AHL only allows reviews from the camera mounted above the net. The refs did not review the call via video and play went on.
With time winding down, Texas had a sublime chance off some deft stickhandling by Justin Dowling. Glass thwarted the attemp and Texas went down the ice as Rockford picked up the extra man. Chris DiDomenico scored his seventh of the playoffs with 1:34 left in the third to send the game to overtime.
Rockford and Texas traded high danger chances in the overtime. John hayden and Andreas Martinsen broke in 2-on-1 only to be turned away by McKenna at the 10 minute mark. Matt Mangene dished to Justin Dowling for a quick one-timer, also denied by Jeff Glass in the 15th minute.
The final minute of the period was the most dangerous though. Colin Markison won a puck draw and Roope Hintz takes it from here, "First I saw Markison had a good forecheck going on. He saw me in the middle, so I got ready for the shot." Hintz picked the corner on Glass for the game winner with 8.5 seconds left.
"The ace of spades can fire the thing," noted McKenna. "It's a great shot, and it doesn't surprise any of us."
Texas will take tomorrow off and pick up practice again on Wednesday before heading to Toronto for Game 1 on Saturday.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Gurianov, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Laberge, Desrosiers (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 5,961.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - May 28 2018