|Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski|
Cedar Park, TX - Goalie Ben Bishop made his first start between the pipes in 466 days Thursday night and the extended time off showed as the Texas Stars lost 8-4 to the visiting Chicago Wolves in the opener of an 11-game homestand.
The game started rather inauspiciously for the 5-time All-Star Bishop as Chicago winger C.J. Smith wasted no time in putting the first shot Bishop saw past him off of a 2-on-1 breakaway just :33 seconds into the game, the first of 6 combined first period goals between the two teams in the high scoring affair.
The Texas Stars leveled the game on a break-away of their own when Josh Melnick buried his league-leading 3rd shorty just 2:14 later, tying the game at 1-1.
The crowd of 3,860 had barely sat back down when Chicago concluded that power play with a goal of their own tallied by center Andrew Poturalski, allowing the Wolves to re-take the lead.
Continuing with the trend, the Stars evened it up at 2-2 when Riley Damiani went top-shelf on a feed from Anthony Louis and a convenient screen from Curtis McKenzie, easily beating Chicago goalie Eetu Makiniemi to his glove side.
The early flurry of goals wasn't over as the Wolves re-took the lead just 2:40 later on a Jack Drury goal that Bishop may have lost in traffic, but none-the-less got past him, giving Chicago a 3-2 advantage until Louis picked up a goal of his own on the power play with 3:13 left in first to close out the scoring in the 6-goal period, tied at 3-3.
In what seemed like a replay of the first period, CJ Smith once again wasted no time getting the scoring started as, once again, he put the first shot Bishop saw past him just :24 seconds into the frame, giving the Wolves a 4-3 lead.
For the next 11:18 the fans were treated to some actual, uninterrupted hockey while Bishop settled in. A Ty Dellandrea goal evened the game up at 4-4 on a power play goal with 11:42 remaining in the 2nd. Not to be out-done, Chicago scored 1:05 later when Josh Leivo scored his first of 2 goals, while giving the Wolves the lead they would not relinquish.
A goal for Joey Keane and Smith's 3rd of the night closed out the scoring in the 2nd period and the rout was on. Bishop was briefly pulled after the 7th goal with 1:28 left in the period, only to return to start the 3rd.
While not tested much in the 3rd, Bishop played virtually flawless, allowing a the lone goal to Leivo, his second of the night and the bookend to the scoring.
Bishop, a 3-time Vezina finalist finished the night making 26 stops, which would not be horrible if not for the unsightly 8 that went past him.
"It was nice, it was a lot of fun to be back out there, obviously (I) would have liked a better result, but it's been a long process, a long road to get back in a game" Bishop said afterwards. "It's a little bittersweet. Obviously you'd like to get that win but yeah, it's been a long road and it hasn't been easy and it's nice to be back." Bishop said thru his non-stop, post-game grin.
The Stars found success on their power play Thursday night, going 2-3 on the advantage. That aforementioned success however was cancelled out by also allowing 2 goals on the 3 chances on the the PK. Texas was out-played throughout the night, finishing the night having been out-shot 34-22 by the Wolves, prompting a players-only meeting afterwards.
"It was a frustrating game obviously because we know what we do during the week to get ready for these nights and then you're frustrated when the first result is you're not really in it coming into the 3rd." Texas coach Neil Graham stated after the game. "At the end of the day we want to give a plan but they have to drive the bus and I think they recognize that and they know we need to be better." Graham said of the meeting called by his captain McKenzie.
The Stars have a day-off practice on Friday morning and then it's back to the action Saturday night at the HEB Center for a 7 p.m. puck drop against these same Chicago Wolves in the 2nd of this 3 game set.
Scheel (for 1:28)
Injuries, scratches and notes
L’Esperance, Borgman, Barteaux, Felhaber, Kawaguchi, Comeau (back, week-to-week)
Tonight’s attendance was 3,860
AHL Gamesheet - Chicago Wolves at Texas Stars - December 9, 2021
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