|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
The Stars big rookies and first year players stepped up, and the top players coming into the season continued to be the top players of this season. Jake Oettinger netted his third shutout, stopping 33. Last year's standout scorer Joel L'Esperance found the net and and first-year skaters Joel Kiviranta and Jason Robertson both scored. The Stars got a power play goal and held the Griffins without a goal, penalty kill or otherwise. It was a thrilling win that was never in doubt in front of their second consecutive sellout crowd.
"I think the one thing about having a slower start, we value the wins," said coach Neil Graham postgame. "We know what goes into it, we know the effort, and you learn a lot about yourself as a team."
Everything came together for Texas as they start a lengthy homestand, five games starting tonight and ending in two weeks against the Penguins.
"It was important for us to have a good game in front of our home crowd. They're a supportive group, an exciting crowd to play in front of and... it was something that we want to make sure we were up for."
It was the second time on the year that Texas has blanked Grand Rapids. The last was Travis Morin's retirement ceremony on October 19th. Jake Oettinger needed some help from his defensemen in the game to grab pucks off the goal line and get a few fortunate bounces, but ultimately he came out with the clean sheet.
"When we're on that losing streak, I don't think we get those bounces," said Oettinger postgame. "Sometimes we need to play well but you also need a little luck on your side. The belief [around the team] is definitely a lot different than it was a couple months ago and with our team growing together and getting closer and it's fun when you get results."
In the first, Jason Robertson, one of those big rookies coming into the year, found the net for his 12th of the year. It was an easy putback off Joel Hanley's initial shot from the top of the left-wing circle.
Fresh off his first NHL game, Joel Kiviranta found the scoresheet next. Coming off a penalty, Joel L'Esperance charged into the zone with Kiviranta and dished to the Finn at the net.
|Kiviranta's first period tally|
The scoring was light in the second period with the only goal coming just 90 seconds in, a power play goal from L'Esperance that he completed with authority from the slot.
Texas made big strides in the third even though the only goal scored was an empty netter. A week ago against San Antonio, Texas frittered away a late lead and lost in overtime. Tonight, they held onto the shutout and scored one to boot.
"Especially after that last home game, we wanted to play a complete 60," said Graham. "It was great to have a lead at that point in the third again. We were able to test our will and see what we learned, and I like the way we came out."
Coach Graham wouldn't call it the Stars' most complete game, but it certainly had the feel of a game that had very few flaws overall. Dillon Heatherington's first goal of the season finished this one up into the empty net and Texas drew a late penalty to end the game on the man-advantage, preserving the shutout for Oettinger.
Texas is next in action on Friday against Toronto.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
MacKay, Cuglietta, Scarlett, Nellis (scratch)
Caamano, Mascherin (injury)
Tonight’s attendance was 6,778, a sellout.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - January 4 2020