|(Credit: Mollie Kendall/Texas Stars)
“It was a gutsy effort by a thin group,” said head coach Derek Laxdal, who was missing Travis Morin due to illness tonight, among all the other forward depletion. “I thought everyone up and down the lineup played one of their best games of the year.”
Chicago scored twice within 120 seconds early in the contest, putting Texas in a hole and taking the air out of the building. Laxdal called a much-needed timeout.
“We just had to regroup,” said Nick Caamano. “I don’t think we were playing a bad game, they just got a few lucky bounces there. We just had to settle down and find our own game.”
Laxdal added, “I just told the guys that I didn’t mind our game. We were playing well. Just calm down and just get a little bit harder down low.”
Things turned around immediately for Texas, as they took it to the Wolves. Shane Hanna earned a call late in the frame and the Stars #2 ranked power play went to work. The scoring sequence for Michael Mersch was a quick one as Justin Dowling found Erik Condra below the goal line then Condra dished to Mersch in the slot for the goal.
“[That goal] was huge. It got us back in the game. Chicago is a very good hockey club and they haven’t given up many goals in their last ten games.”
Texas owned the second period, dropping a pair on Chicago. Another power play goal started things off. Former Star Curtis McKenzie headed to the box on a boarding call, and it didn’t take long for Erik Condra to notch his 17th of the year. It was a simple play at the net where he just found the elevation he needed to lift the puck over the pad of Oscar Dansk and in for the tie. Mersch had the primary assist on the play.
“We got two big goals [out of our veterans]. We had a lot of meetings this morning on the power play, trying to expose an area we saw last night. Give the guys credit for translating what we talked about in the meeting.”
Where things went from good to great was the Caamano goal, which really pulled the crowd back into the contest. The rookie forward dropped on to the ice and collected the puck off a clear attempt from Chicago. Swooping down and in, right to left, he patiently outwaited Dansk, who couldn’t track his skating across the crease, and casually tapped the puck into an empty net.
“It’s something I used to do in junior a lot, drive the net,” said Caamano. “I’m starting to find my groove out there, get more comfortable. It’s a play I like to do.”
Laxdal complimented the rookie, “His game is growing. He’s taking some steps. There’s a learning curve there, but we like the way he is taking off.”
The rookies weren’t done as Robbie Payne rifled one by Dansk for the 4-2 marker off the assist of fellow rookie Adam Mascherin. It would be the final tally of the night as Texas held the Wolves to just 20 shots.
“They’ve got a well-rounded veteran group and for us to hold them to 20 and 22 shots at home, it shows the effort the guys are putting in to defend first.”
Landon Bow got the win, stopping 18 of those 20 and pushing his home record to a stellar 16-3-1.
The Stars hit the road for a three-game set, starting in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin, Gurianov, Naas (scratch)
Tonight’s attendance was 6,458.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - March 2 2019