|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
The Texas Stars put up a pair in the first and never looked back, defeating the visiting Rockford IceHogs 4-1 this evening in Cedar Park. Jake Oettinger got the win, his third of the season, while dropping his GAA to 1.64 and upping his SV% to 0.951.
"I thought we really found some rhythm," said Texas head coach Neil Graham. "Probably the most rhythm our team got into so far early in the season. We were rolling the lines, and matchups were secondary. It was more about keeping our pace and guys making plays faster."
The game overall felt more complete than any before it for Texas. Passes were clicking; goals were dropping. Texas kept it simple, but at the same time, got some of the fancier plays to go for them as well. The Stars put pucks on net too, with a final shot count of 34-25 in their favor.
"We weren't thrilled with how we came out for game one and game three [of the season], being the first two games of those series. It's important that we came out to start this series correctly. And I thought we had a plan in place the guys executed, and we did it with pace and we made some plays."
Ty Dellandrea notched his first of the year to open the scoring in the first period. Oskar Back, Ben Gleason and Dellandrea skated in with Gleason taking the initial shot, which rebounded to the stick of Dellandrea to beat an out of position Malcolm Subban.
Texas doubled their lead just two minutes later with Riley Tufte breaking in alone off the pass from Fredrik Karlstrom, his first AHL assist. It was a pass that cut the entire neutral zone and left Tufte alone to pick the corner on Subban high on the blocker side.
"My original thought was just try to get a quick shot off," said Tufte. "You know, it was a great pass by [Karlstrom]."
The clubs traded goals in the second period with Rockford going first early in the frame. Just 26 seconds in, Carson Gicewicz found twine to cut the lead to 2-1 for Texas.
Andreas Borgman would break in from the left point to backhand roof one off the pass from Jordan Kawaguchi. The vision on Kawaguchi's pass through traffic was top notch, and Borgman's finish made the play worth the work put in.
"I didn't expect that finish [from Borgman]," added Graham. "That was a nice, nice read by Kawaguchi and a nice play by Andreas to find the lack of coverage in the backside."
Texas had a tendency to let games slip away from them last year but didn't let that happen this evening. Tufte noted, "We were up by two goals, which can be a tough lead at times to hold. I thought our team did a great job and the coaching staff did a great job with our confidence."
The Stars even managed an empty net goal in the game's last second. It was Oskar Back's first AHL goal to make it 4-1 off the assist of Josh Melnick.
These two teams rematch on Saturday after a day's rest.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Shea, Martin, Gregoire, Gardner, Felhaber (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 3,874.