L'Esperance Scores Twice, Landon Bow Strong in 3-1 Texas Win Over Manitoba

The Texas Stars knocked off the Manitoba Moose 3-1 on Friday for their sixth straight win at home. Goaltender Landon Bow had one of his strongest games this season, finishing with 34 saves. He really shined when the Moose made their late push to the tune of 20 shots on net in the third period.

“I was just having fun with it,” said Bow after the game. “It was just a battle there. We know how [Manitoba is]. They throw a lot of pucks to the net, and they didn’t really do that in the first two periods. So you knew it was only a matter of time before they got to that.”

(credit: Texas Stars)
Joel L’Esperance scored two goals including the game winner, and his line-mate Travis Morin tallied once. L’Esperance’s night vaulted him into sole possession of the number two slot in AHL goal scoring. He’s not really thinking about that right now, though.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess,” he said. “But just gotta keep playing. Can’t let it get to my head. Just gotta keep going out there and do what I can do.”

The Moose attacked the Stars with speed in the opening minutes of the contest. The Stars were having trouble clearing the zone and were forced into long shifts. After shaking off the cobwebs, the Stars eventually tilted the ice in their favor, and it resulted in their first power play opportunity. Eight and half minutes into the period, Morin picked a corner on goaltender Eric Comrie and sniped a beauty right past his left shoulder.

“We didn’t handle their speed well in the first six or seven minutes of the game,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “Obviously, getting that first goal on a broken play gave us a little bit of energy.”

The Stars generally pushed the Moose around in the second period. Not only were they winning the physical battles, they also suppressed the Moose attack to just six shots in the frame. A huge part of that, as would be the case in the third period, was defenders laying out and blocking shots. Even newly minted AHL All Star Denis Gurianov had a key block halfway through the period.

“Guri’s [block], oh my God,” said Bow. “That was a hard shot, and it’s nice to see. When you have guys doing that and battling for you, it makes you want to work even harder.”

L’Esperance had been given a new line combination with Morin and Michael Mersch that seemed to be clicking early. It paid off nearly fourteen minutes into the period when L’Esperance cleaned up a loose puck generated by his connection with Mersch. Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther also assisted on the play for his 50th career point.

Laxdal like what he saw from the line: “They were good tonight. They managed the game well. At moment’s in the game they gave us some good energy and settled Manitoba down.”

L’Esperance agreed and commented on his wingers. “[Morin’s] unbelievable,” he said. “He can put a pass on your tape from anywhere. Just get to a spot and he’ll get it to you. Mersch is the same way. He finds a way to get you the puck, and he gets to the net, too. He creates space for you by getting to the net.”

With a 2-0 lead in the third period, the Stars had only to play disciplined the rest of the way. They couldn’t quite clear the bar as they gave the Moose over a minute of 5-on-3 play with back-to-back penalties four minutes into the period.

Moose winger Marko Dano made them pay when he put back a rebound and pulled his team within one. It seemed the Moose would seize momentum, but the Stars met them at every turn with more shot blocking and crease clearing. “Give our guys a lot of credit for just kind of hanging in there and finding a way,” said Laxdal. “We bent, but we didn’t break, especially after giving up that 5-on-3 power play goal.”

After the Moose made their push, Mersch found L’Esperance again with a little over two minutes left of regulation. Mersch put a soft puck right in the slot as L’Esperance got ahead of the back-checking defensemen. L’Esperance buried it to put the game out of reach.

“I think we have a gutty team,” said L’Esperance of the effort. “We can find a way to win in close games, and we did that tonight.”

The Stars stay in Cedar Park for another bout with the Moose on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Nyberg, Payne, Naas (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 5,011.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Manitoba - January 4 2019


  1. I'm pretty sure that Naas was playing tonight, as I remarked to my friend that I didn't know what nationality that name was and asked if it might be French.

    1. He didn't play tonight, but may have been in for warmups.

      As far as I can tell, Naas could have many different origins, all Northern European, from Ireland to Germany to Norway.

  2. Maybe he was in warm ups, but didn't play?


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