Texas's Furious Comeback Attempt Falls Short in Second Straight Loss to Rockford

The Texas Stars lost a second straight game to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday, falling in a 5-4 decision despite an exciting comeback attempt in the final frame. Their effort in the first and second periods ultimately did them in and nearly sent a frustrated coach Neil Graham over the edge.

“You have to realize you're fighting for your life,” he said. “You gotta expect other teams are going to be coming with urgency at this point in the season. So if you don't play [the way we played in the third period] for 60 you're not gonna win games.”

(credit: Texas Stars)

With twelve minutes left in regulation, the Stars were dead in the water. Rockford winger Brandon Hagel had just scored an easy goal on an empty net after Jake Oettinger was left sprawling on a 2-on-1 save. The goal gave the IceHogs a 5-1 lead.

Whatever message was given in the dressing room at second intermission finally sank in as the Stars mounted some resistance and got the crowd involved again. Anthony Louis roofed one from in close one minute after Hagel’s goal. Rhett Gardner chipped in with a shorthanded tally halfway through the third period.

The Stars were humming all of a sudden and seemed improbably poised to at least collect a point. They emptied their net on a power play with three minutes left in regulation and Joel L’Esperance buried a one timer for the proximate goal. Texas did get another crack at the power play with 46 ticks left but couldn’t find the net.

“Just a little too little too late to do it in the final 20. We weren't okay with being second on pucks [in the third}. I expected us to come up with that way for the third but, you know, we got to find it from within right now. We need better from some guys and we need that for 60, plain and simple”.

It was a tough outing for goaltender Landon Bow in his first game returning from injury. He was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on ten shots. Oettinger fared much better, finishing with 22 saves on 23 shots, and made some dazzling saves.

Rockford controlled the pace early in the game and scored the first two goals when forwards were left unmarked in the slot. They could’ve poured it on when they had 1:12 of 5-on-3 time in the second period. Texas was fortunate that they hit the post three times.

Stars defenseman Reece Scarlett had the opening goal for the Stars on a wrister from the point. He spoke in a sullen tone after the game echoing Graham’s sentiments.

“These are desperate times where we're outside looking in. That start in the first and second period is not acceptable. So, you know, it's credit to us for coming on in the third, but it's too little too late.”

Twenty one games remain on the schedule for Texas. Does this comeback attempt signify that the potential exists to play .700 hockey the rest of the way and sneak into the playoffs? Time will tell, but it’s running out and so are the opportunities.

“We know what we can do. We've had the lowest of lows this year, and then we've had some good streaks, so we know what we can do. We just have to bear down and do it.”

Tomorrow is another day to try as they take on the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
MacKay, Felhaber, Vala (scratch)
Mascherin (injury)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,884.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - February 28 2020