|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Cedar Park, TX - Anthony Louis scored 2 goals and 8 skaters garnered points as the Texas Stars won in decisive fashion 6-1 over Laval Rocket in front of a sold out crowd of 6,772 Friday night at the HEB Center on Star Wars night.
Texas goalie Anton Khudobin turned away 24-of-the-25 shots he faced in his return to the AHL after 2 weeks with the big-club, made some stellar stops for the Stars but was never really tested after a 4-goal 2nd period Texas outburst.
Laval opened the scoring 9:43 into the game on Tory Dello's first career AHL goal. The 3rd year veteran Dello threw the puck on net in traffic from the left point, beating Khudobin on his stick-side after careening off of Texas defenseman Ryan Shea.
The 1-0 Rocket lead would hold thru the end of the period and at 4:24 of the 2nd and the Stars on the power play Joel L'Esperance skating across the front of the crease beat veteran Laval goalie Kevin Poulin to knot the game at 1-1. L'Esperance finished the night with a goal and 2 assists.
Less-than 2-minutes later, just :09 into the Stars next power play, First Star of the Game Louis picked up his first goal on the night that was absolutely buried from the left point, giving the Stars a lead, they would not relinquish at 2-1. The diminutive forward was not done at that point as he provided the insurance goal just 4:18 later, beating Poulin once again to pad the Stars lead at 3-1. Louis has found a sweet spot against the Rocket, scoring 6-goals in the 3-games they've faced each other.
"Yeah I don't know tonight I just got 2 tap-ins, pretty much 2 lucky goals. You gotta take those when you can get on them." an ecstatic Louis said after the game. "I think our team in general is having fun and it's obviously more enjoyable to play the game when you're having fun so we're going to ride it and keep the wagon going here."
The game got out-of-hand later in the period when Jeremy Gregoire capped the 4-goal 2nd period with one of his own that Poulin didn't even see. The goal from Gregoire, his 5th on the season, gave the Stars a commanding 4-1 edge as the 2nd period unwound.
The 4-goal period was a season-high for the Stars and was possibly their best period of the season.
"I thought we found our legs in the 2nd period and obviously that 1st power play goal was huge that tied the game and I thought we just thought we kept getting better and better as the game went on." Stars Head Coach Neil Graham said afterwards. "I thought our guys did a great job adjusting, you know, kind of finding their energy and then keeping it close and then once we had our legs, we had a pretty strong game."
Tension mounted as the teams headed to the 3rd period. Laval clearly frustrated and playing from behind allowed their emotions to take over. Texas, never turning off the engine, picked up goals from Nick Caamano and Ty Dellandrea respectively (Dellandrea's being highlight-reel quality) to close out the scoring at 6-1, while outshooting Laval 15-3 for the period. The story of the 3rd was the penalties as the frustrations of the Rocket came to the surface. Texas and Laval combined for 80 penalty minutes in the game with 70 coming in the in the final frame.
With the victory Texas improved to 12-14-4-2 (30 pts./.469%) but remain in 7th place in the 7-team Central Division with multiple games-in-hand on the other 6 teams in the division.
"I believe we're finding consistency in our compete, our battle effort" Graham later said. "We're starting to figure it out as a group, I can see us building the right direction, I think that's what the positive is."
The 2 teams square off again at the HEB Center at Cedar Park Saturday night with the puck-drop scheduled for 7 p.m.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Barteaux, Wardley, Merchant, Kawaguchi
Tonight's attendance was 6,778 (sell out)