Thursday, December 13, 2018

High-End Offense Pushes Texas to Fourth Straight Win in 6-3 Victory Over Iowa

The Texas Stars knocked off the Central division-leading Iowa Wild on Wednesday night 6-3, running their current win streak to four games. The offense once again came in spades, with Texas receiving scoring from all over the lineup.

Veteran forward Erik Condra scored two goals, extending his point streak to eleven games and tying Matthew Fraser’s team record set in 2012-13. Winger Michael Mersch also notched two goals in the effort. Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov were strong with two helpers each, while Adam Mascherin scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period. A successive power play goal from Mersch salted the game away.

I think we were playing hard all night in [Iowa’s] zone,” said Mersch about his team’s offensive output. “We were cycling pucks and getting them up to the point, crashing the net. When you’re doing that and pucks are going to the net, you’re going to get opportunities. All four lines played really well tonight and generated offense.”
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Iowa made their presence felt in the opening minutes of the contest, showing why they currently lead the division. Two minutes in, Gerry Fitzgerald cleaned up a loose puck with his backhand to break scoreless play after a flurry of chances in front of Landon Bow. Bow finished the game with 25 saves on 28 shots.

“We were kind of chasing our tails a little bit in the first period,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “When they’re coming with that much speed at us--we’ve got a real young back end there without our veteran guys in the lineup. Teams do pre-scouts and they understand that, so they came real hard on the forecheck.”

The Stars got things under control as the period moved along and answered with Mersch’s first goal right as their first power play expired to knot the score at one. Mersch’s 218 lb frame was unmovable in the crease as Gurianov found him for the deflection.

The second power play unit generating the goal led to a strategic move by Laxdal as the game progressed. “Our second unit is really good. They snapped the puck around, and they scored just at the end of a power play in the first period. So they basically had three power play goals. And so I gave them the 5-on-3 [at the end]. I gave em a little cookie and they rewarded us for it.”

The Wild regained the lead five minutes into the second period when Colton Beck went high glove on Bow after catching the Stars on a change. “[Iowa] is trying to win too, and they’re a good hockey club. They’ve got 14 or 15 wins and they’re their for a reason.”

Once the game moved past the halfway point, the Stars tilted the ice in their favor permanently. Condra crashed the net hard about eleven minutes through the middle frame and was cleaned up the rebound created by Samuel Laberge. “I thought we made a real good push in the second. I think we only gave up three 5-on-5 scoring chances in the second.”

The second period push concluded with a Colin Markison goal with a minute left. Initially, he beat everyone down ice for a loose puck and missed on a backhand chance. Colton Hargrove was there to force a turnover on the forecheck a second later and found Markison wide open on the back door. Hargrove notched his hundredth career point in the AHL with his helper on a Colin Markison goal.

“You look at everybody’s stat lines, everybody’s got a lot of points,” said Mersch of the depth contributions.

The Wild couldn’t get out of their own way in the third period, costing themselves a chance to get back in the game as they were parading to the penalty box to the tune of eleven total minutes. Laxdal rolled out his second unit during a 5-on-3 and was rewarded with Mascherin’s goal from the left circle. “They took advantage of it and that’s part of the inner competition of your group,” added Laxdal.

Mersch scored the second power play goal for the Stars when he cleaned up a loose rebound after Hintz put a puck on net. “It doesn’t matter if its the other unit or our unit going out,” said Mersch of the big third period. “It’s nice to have that confidence to score the goal. We get put out there and get rewarded.”

Then the Stars opened the door a bit for the Wild with successive penalties to give Iowa some 5-on-3 time. Dmitry Sokolov found the top shelf from the right circle to cut into the Stars lead near the halfway marker of the period. “They’ve got some shooters,” offered Laxdal. “The Sokolov kid’s a shooter, and he buried one to make it 5-3.”

Condra’s empty net goal with sixteen ticks left of regulation removed all doubt, giving the Stars plenty to build on with their recent success against stellar competition. “For us to beat Milwaukee back to back, and then to beat Iowa in our building says a lot about the growth of our hockey club,” said Laxdal. “We’ve just gotta make sure we take this show on the road.”

The Stars begin a three-game road trip on Friday against the Milwaukee Admirals. The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:
Gurianov-Dowling-Mascherin
Morin-L'Esperance-Condra
Caamano-Hintz-Mersch
Laberge-Hargrove-Markison

Heatherington-Hansson
Hanna-Gleason
Nyberg-Norrish

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Vala, Point, Phelan (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,671.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - December 12 2018

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