|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
The Stars never trailed in tonight's contest against Iowa and scored the game-winner in the final minute of the third to earn a huge two points.
"Fortunately, we had a week to prepare [for the Wild] after a real tough schedule in the last couple weeks," said head coach Neil Graham. "It was important for us to reset and redefine our identity."
The game came down to a gritty third period effort from the home team. "I'm really proud of the guys on the bench for staying up there when they tied it towards the end of the game," noted Riley Tufte, who had two points tonight, both in the third. "Nobody got down and we stuck with it and I think that means a lot. It tells you a lot about this team."
Tufte was a key part of that third period. His shorthanded tally put Texas up 3-2 early in the frame on a 2-on-1 with Josh Melnick. Tufte gave a ton of credit to Melnick for the tally, but he still went bardown when it counted.
"[Tufte] pushes the pace; he adds size and speed and then some grit [to the first line]," said Graham. "And when he does that, it also helps the other two guys - L'Esperance and Robertson -- let's their skill shine through."
The biggest goal came with just 51.6 seconds remaining. Tufte broke in with Joel Kiviranta and collected the puck behind the net. Kahkonen bit hard on the wrap around while Tufte went back against the grain to Kiviranta for the 4-3 goal. "I kind of gave a look back to Kivi and did the ol' behind-the-back pass."
The special teams dominance that Texas displayed tonight was also a big part of the win. Texas was perfect, going 2-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the power play. All of that against a 5th ranked Iowa team on both the PP and PK. Graham noted that Texas spent a lot of time working on the gameplan this week for Iowa with a full five days off since their last contest.
And it didn't hurt that Jake Oettinger was making some great saves like the one below after the puck caromed awkwardly off a stanchion on a dump-in.
Following an eleven minute delay to start the game due to a broken panel at the penalty box door, the contest got underway. The power play was good for Texas tonight across the game. Fresh off assignment from the NHL, Jason Robertson stepped up to score his 21st of the year. It was a nice five-hole tally off the assist from Taylor Fedun, his second of the conditioning assignment. Iowa would even things up four minutes later on a wonky play where the initial shot from Nico Sturm ticked off Oettinger and died right on the goal line. Sam Anas tapped it in for his 18th of the year.
Robertson had a chance for his second on a 2-on-1 early in the second period but it kissed the post and stayed out on the ensuing scramble. Instead, it was Reece Scarlett with the next goal. Josh Melnick dished a cross-ice feed to Scarlett who beat Kahkonen high on the near side.
It wasn't to last as Dmitry Sokolov was left alone in front off the pass from Connor Dewar behind the net. His backhand bid made it 2-2 after forty.
Texas laces them up again tomorrow for the rematch against this same Wild club.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Nellis, Gleason, Cuglietta, Cecconi (scratch)
Mascherin, Caamano, Louis, Bow (injury)
Tonight’s attendance was 5,377.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - February 21 2020