Texas Stars End Slide; McKenzie Scores Twice in 3-2 Nailbiter Over IceHogs

Photo Credit: Michael Owen/100 Degree Hockey

Cedar Park, TX - Curtis McKenzie scored 2 goals and Anton Khudobin turned away 25 shots as the Texas Stars snapped a 5-game losing streak, beating the visiting Rockford IceHogs 3-2 to earn a split of the 2-game series.

"The win is great. I like the way the guys played for each other." Texas head coach Neil Graham said after the game. "They dug in, they were mentally tough, they battled hard, our details were sharp and they earned the reward."

Khudobin was solid in net for the 2nd straight night, stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced in earning his first win as a Texas Star. The 15-year veteran, on loan from the Dallas Stars, picked up where he left off Friday night, stopping the first 23 shots he saw Saturday after stopping the last 28 he saw the night before.

Curtis McKenzie got the scoring started early into the 2nd at 2:28 with the first of his 2 goals of the night off of a sweet back-hand pass from the slot from Josh Melnick that McKenzie popped over IceHog goalie Arvid Soderblom's pad, giving Texas their first lead of the night at 1-0.

With the Stars playing at a noticeably higher level of intensity, Texas controlled the offensive zone time for the majority of the period but continually came away empty-handed until McKenzie, set up with solid tape-to-tape passes from Ryan Shea and Joel L'Esperance, picked up his 2nd goal of the night and his team-leading 8th of the season with 1:05 left in the period, giving the Stars a 2-0 lead that they would take to the 2nd intermission. 

(Photo Credit: Michael Owen/100 Degree Hockey)

The 3rd period opened with the Stars in complete control and on the power play, however Rockford successfully killed the penalty, taking away some of the momentum from Texas, until Rockford forward Garrett Mitchell took Nick Caamano hard into the boards, prompting Jerad Rosburg to drop the gloves with Mitchell, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Caamano went to the dressing room and did not return.

With the 4,625 still at full-throat, Tye Felhaber picked up his 1st goal of the season off of a sweet feed from Ryan Shea, for what turned out to be the winning goal, to give Texas a commanding 3-0 lead with 10:10 left in the game and the game felt close to being put away.

"It feels really good you know, (it) gives me a little bit more confidence and gotta give credit to all the guys in the room they've always stuck with me" Felhaber said of his first goal since March. "You know they have my back and everything like that and you know just get that 1st one feels good."

The pace continued with Texas playing 200-foot hockey until the IceHogs finally got to Khudobin when Rockford LW Mike Hardman scored his 1st goal of the season with 5:56 remaining to close the score to 3-1. 

No sooner than the score had gone on the board when Riley Damiani got called for a high stick, putting the Stars on the PK for the 3rd time of the night with 3:33 left in the game. To complicate matters more, Rockford went empty-net to start the power play and the risk paid off for Rockford when Lukas Reichel slipped one past Khudobin, cutting the Stars lead to a precarious 3-2 with 2:35 left in the game. Rockford finished the night 1-3 on the power play.

With the crowd on the edge of their seats, Rockford never managed another threat and the Stars closed out the victory, bringing their record to 8-11-3-1 (20 pts.) for the season, remaining 22 points behind Central Division-leading Chicago.

"I thought tonight we stayed to our identity I thought our battle, our compete, was consistent for 60 (minutes)." Coach Graham concluded. "They obviously had a good push there at the end but I was happy for a group that we held on and did it the right way."

Due to a COVID outbreak going thru the Manitoba Moose, the Stars next scheduled opponent, Texas won't see the ice again until New Years Eve against the Charlotte Checkers. The AHL postponed the upcoming series earlier Saturday, giving Texas an extended Holiday break.

Tonight's lines










 Injuries, scratches and notes

Comeau (day-to-day), Martin (scratch), Gregoire (illness; day-to-day)

Tonight's attendance was 4,620

Fans were treated to a local mascot get-together in celebration of Ringo's birthday
(Photo Credit: Michael Owen/100 Degree Hockey)

AHL Gamesheet - Rockford at Texas - December 18, 2021