|(Credit: Kate Dibildox/Tucson Roadrunners)|
Tucson, AZ - The Texas Stars returned to the win column by virtue of a hard fought 6-2 victory over the Tucson Roadrunners (Phoenix Coyotes affiliate) in a game that was much closer than the score would indicate. Tucson outshot the Stars 38-26 on a night that included a 17-6 third period shot advantage for the Roadrunners
The Stars were led by 2 goals from Joel L'Esperance and a 36-save effort from Jake Oettinger drew their record even on the season at 2-2-0 while also earning a split on the abbreviated 2-game road trip.
Stars captain Curtis McKenzie got the scoring started on the power play 9:31 into the game on a sweet elevated shot on the stick side of Roadrunner goalie Ivan Prosvetov coming off snap feeds from Jordan Kamaguchi and Riley Damiani. McKenzie's goal was his first on the season and a much needed lift for a Texas club that suffered thru an 0-for-7 night on the power play Saturday. The goal from McKenzie was also the first scored upon Prosvetov in his first 3 games of '21-'22.
L'Esperance kept the foot on the gas scoring the first of his 2 goals a mere 3:29 later and the Stars never looked back, having never trailed from the start.
Both teams tallied 2 on the board in the 2nd and the home crowd of 2,030 had reason for optimism when the Roadrunners scored 2 consecutive goals, with goals coming from Jan Jenik and Janis Moser in a 2:30 span, shortly over 4 minutes into the 2nd frame to tie the game at 2-2. Texas however answered back in short order with 2 goals of their own less than 5 minutes later and 1:31 apart from Frederik Karlstrom (1) and L'Esperance's 2nd goal of the night, giving the Stars the lead they would never relinquish.
The 3rd period featured plenty of up and down, 200 foot hockey that saw Texas goalie Oettinger turn away 17 shots while constantly under pressure. The Minnesota native saw action for the second consecutive night, making 36 saves less than 24 hours after suffering a less-than stellar performance Saturday.
The action late in the period was a flurry as Tucson was awarded 2 power play opportunities with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game. Compounding the challenge for the Stars was the extra attacker the Roadrunners employed with 3:53 left in the game. Texas responded swimmingly when Josh Melnick scored a shorty empty-netter for his 1st goal on the season. Riley Tufte collected an empty netter of his own 1:27 later, also his 1st on the season, to close out the scoring and the victory.
Special teams, specifically the power play group was much improved, going 1-for-3 Sunday after a dismal 0-for-7 Saturday while the PK unit once again was perfect, killing all 4 times on the job. The Stars penalty kill now sits at 94.4%, tops in the AHL Pacific and good for 3rd in the entire league.
The Stars head home and a day off tomorrow. The team returns to action Thursday night at the HEB Center against the hated division rival Rockdale Icehogs with the puck-drop at 7 p.m.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Martin, Louis, Gregoire, Rosburg (scratch)