|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
“At the end of the day, with our young group, I thought our guys did a really good job right to the end of the game,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “I thought we had them in the shootout. That’s a big weekend for us, three out of four points. It’s in our own hands.”
Rockford was the more desperate team, as a regulation loss would have all but eliminated them from postseason contention. With two points, they rise to 78 total and stay in striking distance of the final spot.
“I saw a team desperate to try and win the game,” said Laxdal of Rockford. “They’re battling for their life to get back in the pack and we’re trying to get points. I give our guys credit. They battled their arses off from start to finish.”
The IceHogs struck first in the game. It was their first shot of the contest, a 2-on-1 effort that beat the pass defense of Ben Gleason and went roof on Jake Oettinger. Joel L’Esperance, fresh off assignment from Dallas, was quick to re-open his scoring account. Off the feed from Erik Condra, L’Esperance went bardown to even the score.
“You see a player that’s really taken another turn in his game. He looked like an NHLer out there tonight. Just controlled the play. His first goal was just tremendous where he walked off the wall and went bar down.”
L’Esperance got the call at 11:30 AM and was in town by 3:45, heading straight to the rink after the drive down I-35 in the rain. He added, “There was a little excitement going into the game. I was fired to get back down here and get some games in.”
Texas put a blistering 13 shots on the Anton Forsberg in the first period and only allowed three themselves. Two of those three shots came in the last minute of the period. Those numbers would continue into the second period with a 13-5 advantage for the Stars.
“They had some looks and shots that missed the net or didn’t get through. I think our guys did a good job blocking shots, especially in the second period. There were some looks they had where if they hit the net it might have been a goal.”
Despite the shot differential, the scoring result was the same. Nick Caamano went first this time for Texas. On the power play, generated by a boarding call to Dmitry Osipov, Gavin Bayreuther dished to Caamano down low. His shot bored through Forsberg to trickle in five hole.
The lead didn’t last long, just 36 seconds to be precise. Peter Holland tipped a shot from Matt Highmore. The entire sequence seemed to bewilder the home side.
The third period was another even scoring affair. Rhett Gardner slammed home his second in a week off the assist from Colin Markison. Tyler Sikura answered back with five minutes left on a fluky goal that fluttered up over Oettinger for the 3-3 tie.
Overtime was frenetic. Oettinger had two ten-bell saves on the same shift through the middle of the five-minute segment to keep the game even. Neither club scored, and the shootout commenced.
Colton Hargrove scored the only goal of the shootout in the first round. Peter Holland kept it alive in the third round with a goal, and Jacob Nilsson finished it off in the fifth.
Texas has three games left to make the playoffs, all against San Antonio. Wednesday night starts the final stretch.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Nyberg, Hanna, Cuglietta, Damiani (scratch)
Tonight’s attendance was 6,331, a sellout. Texas sold standing room only seats, making it a sellout, but their sellout number is lower due to the broken west 'end zone' seating area.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - April 6 2019