|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
"What I was impressed with is when it did go 2-0 for them, we handled that quite well," said Coach Neil Graham. "We stayed calm, and then the lines started rolling over again, and they did a nice job working to get back in the game and earn the final result."
Texas did a lot of heavy effort skating to earn their goals. Josh Melnick and Tye Felhaber assisted on the third and fourth goals, respectively, and created the tallies based on the often trite 'getting pucks in deep.'
Coach Graham agreed with the assessment, "Some skill things open up as you do that and as you make D go back for pucks. Their [defensive] gaps will start to sag a little bit and then some of these skill plays will open up."
Jake Oettinger got the start and stopped 18 of 20 shots against him.
The Griffins took it to the Stars early in the contest. Within five minutes of game time across the first intermission, Grand Rapids went up 2-0 on a pair of power play goals. Joe Veleno scored his 11th of the year at the close of the first, and Michael Rasmussen beat Oettinger on a redirect of Matt Puempel's shot. Texas had dominated the power play to that point, not allowing GR to get set up. One bad break was all it took though.
Finding that urgency from the third period of Friday's game luckily came early in the night for the Stars this evening. Two minutes later, Riley Tufte backhanded his third of the year over Calvin Pickard to cut the lead in half. Josh Melnick won the faceoff back to Rhett Gardner, who found Tufte low.
A few minute later, Ondrej Vala, in his first game of the season for Texas, scored his first AHL goal. Sneaking down from the left point, he beat Pickard glove side high to tie things at two. Vala has been more offensively minded in the ECHL this season (5-10=15 in 49 GP) while still being defensively responsible (plus-20).
Graham had praise for Vala in his first AHL game of the year, "He played within this game; he kept it simple. I thought his gaps were good. I thought he made a real hard crisp first pass; he was vocal. He was good on the penalty kill and then you know for him to get a goal is an added bonus and exciting for him."
One minute in the middle of the third flipped things around for the Stars. Josh Melnick did all the work to chip a puck past Dylan McIlrath and came with speed to pressure him. Rhett Gardner was open in front and did the old Curtis McKenzie turnaround shot in tight to make it 3-2.
"We talked about how we're getting good five on five chances," said Gardner. "We just kind of had a bear down and get harder and you know make simpler plays and when we make simple plays a lot more stuff opens up."
Tye Felhaber made a copy-paste effort of Melnick's play on the very next shift. This time, Jason Robertson was the benefactor of Felhaber's hard work, beating Pickard five-hole for the 4-2 score.
With the win, Texas floats to 54 points but is still in seventh place. Two games below .500, Texas next faces Toronto on Monday in a makeup game of the cancelled January 10th contest.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Kero, Mersch, MacKay (scratch)
Mascherin (season-ending injury)
Tonight’s attendance was 5,879.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - February 29 2020