|(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)|
"Our four centermen tonight were all rookies, so you're throwing them in a playoff race," said Coach Laxdal. "It's an all-stakes-in race to make the playoffs. They battled, but at the end of the day, I think experience probably ended up winning the game for [Grand Rapids]."
"I think we had some good opportunities," added Nick Caamano, who had a goal on the night. "I thought those guys up the middle did a pretty good job tonight. They didn't look out of place at all, but they're a great team over there with playoff experience and veterans. It was a test for our group."
The Stars led as late as halfway through the third period, which is when a weak call from the refs put the league's worst power play on the job. Ty Dellandrea put Turner Elson into the Stars bench and earned an interference call.
"They stung us late on a power play that I thought was a weak call," said Laxdal. "It was a nothing hit by the bench. The guy made a play with the puck, and he went through the body so I didn't like that call."
Grand Rapids scored on the advantage and then again three minutes later to jump ahead of the Stars. "The third goal, at that time of the game, we kind of forced a pass in the neutral zone, and we didn't finish our route well. We probably needed a save at the net."
The Stars outshot the Griffins in a scoreless first period. It took until the twelfth minute of the frame for Landon Bow to see his first shot. Texas had a pair of power plays but scored on neither, rolling out power play personnel full of newcomers, including Ty Dellandrea and Joe Cecconi.
The second period brought a goal each way and a contentious ending. Joel Hanley found the net for his sixth of the season off a deft pass from Adam Mascherin as the two broke in 2-on-1. Hanley had another chance a few minutes later, a deflection, also on a rush, that struck Sateri's mask and glanced off.
Dellandrea had a great chance off the pass from Nick Caamano, but he himself physically ended up in the net on a collision with the puck going the other way. Dominic Turgeon cashed in on a tipped point shot from Vili Saarijarvi.
The Griffins were targeting the ATO additions all night, Dellandrea chief among them. Dellandrea got taken down at the end of the second, which created a fracas in the corner. The Stars ended up with a power play to start the third but lost Michael Mersch and Gavin Bayreuther to ten-minute misconducts for continuing the altercation.
"The third period, with Mersch and Gavin in the box, it broke up our first power play so it looked a bit disconnected when we got on the power play. Our second unit had some good puck movement."
That good movement gave Caamano the go-ahead goal just after the penalty expired. The Stars looked like they would be able to skate away with at least one point, but the Griffins' experience jumped ahead. Grand Rapids' aforementioned pair of goals netted them the two points. Texas would get a late power play to get a 6-on-4 chance. Nothing would come of it.
Milwaukee beat Rockford tonight, so the Stars lose ground in the playoff race. Texas is idle until Wednesday against Manitoba.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Hanna, Calderone, McClure, Point, Hansson (scratch)
Tonight’s attendance was 5,775.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 23 2019