Stars's Playoff Hopes Dented in 5-3 Loss to Rampage

The Texas Stars’s playoff hopes took a major hit on Wednesday as they fell to the San Antonio Rampage in a 5-3 decision. Brad McClure, Joel Hanley, and Rhett Gardner all scored to help the Stars to a 3-1 lead in the early minutes of the second period, but they went on to allow four unanswered goals.
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
“I thought it was a tale of two different teams tonight,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “Played decently the first half and just fell apart in the second.”

“We came out hard in the start of the second and we popped a couple,” added Hanley. “It was nice to get ahead there, but I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit and let them back in the game.”

McClure opened the scoring fourteen minutes into the period after two Stars power plays failed to do the trick. McClure went short side on Jared Coreau who couldn’t get the full glove on it.

The Stars dominated in puck possession and shot total, outshooting the Rampage 14-3 in the opening frame. They left the period with a tie game, however, as the Stars gave the Rampage almost two minutes of 5-on-3 at the close of the frame resulting in a goal from Mitch Reinke.

It was a shame, too, because Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger made the best save of his young professional career. The Rampage had the angle they wanted and got the puck to their one timer option on the left wing. Oettinger absolutely robbed Ryan Olsen to send the building into a frenzy.

“I thought he made some big saves when he had to,” said Laxdal of his rookie netminder. “It’s a lot of pressure on him. We gotta win to get in. And that’s what it’s all about is his game growing.”

The Stars scored two quick goals within the first five minutes of the second period to seize temporary control of the contest. Hanley’s goal came from the point where he beat Jared Coreau through a screen. Gardner chipped in when he cleaned up a loose puck created by Ben Gleason.

The Stars’s grip on the steering wheel was wrested away from there when red hot Rampage winger Joey LaLeggia got going. “We got it to 3-1 to start the second, and I thought our demeanor changed as a group.”

Nearly eleven minutes into the middle frame, he extended his point streak to eight games with a goal to cut the lead to 3-2. LaLeggia’s second goal came near the five minute marker of the third period to tie the game.

“LaLeggia’s been hot. He’s been carrying their offense, and he got a couple of looks tonight and scored. I think the second goal was kind of a broken play in the neutral zone. Shot off the wall, and we lost coverage.”

An empty netter from Ryan Olsen sealed the deal on a second half to forget for the Stars.

A somber and sullen Hanley fought for words to try to explain the loss. “Sometimes you can run into teams like that that are out of the playoffs and have nothing to lose,” he said. “But that’s no excuse on our part. I know we have a younger squad, and that’s not excuse either. There were a couple of bad bounces and they’re in the back of our net. It’s a tough one to swallow, but we just have to keep moving forward.”

Heading into this three game set against San Antonio, the Stars needed five of the six available points to give themselves a good chance to get into the postseason. Now that that’s off the table, they’ll certainly need to win the final two games and get help from other teams.

“The only thing we can do is just look ahead and take care of business moving forward. So that means winning the last two games and just hope we get some luck with the other teams. That’s our focus right now.”

The Stars head to San Antonio for Friday’s contest.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Nyberg, Cuglietta, Damiani (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 5,448.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 10 2019