|(Photo Credit: Tim Garland/Iowa Wild)
Des Moines, IA - A great man once said; "Any team can go out and win when they are playing their best, but teams with strong will, high character and a whole lot of trust in each other can do it when they aren't."
Ok, I just made that up but you get the gist.
The Texas Stars overcame a slow start to score twice on the power play, including Yauheni Aksiantsiuk's first career AHL goal, while netminder Matt Jurusik saved 30-of-31 and added an assist as the Stars beat the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild affiliate) 4-1 in front of 2,842 Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena, sweeping the 2-game series. Texas has won 3 in-a-row and has points in 5-straight games.
With temperatures in the teens and blizzard-like conditions outside, inside the teams struggled to get anything going. Texas controlled the opening 10 minutes with a stifling defense, not allowing a shot in the process. Offensively however, they were unable to generate any offense themselves.
Midway through the period, Iowa got a couple of chances on the power play, allowing Iowa to spend a good portion of the rest of the frame in the Texas zone. The Wild power play was held scoreless by the Stars penalty kill unit but Texas was outshot 14-5 over the opening 20.
The second period picked-up right where the first left off, with Iowa on the power play. No sooner had the Stars killed off the penalty that resumed at the beginning of the period, they found themselves back on the job again. At one point the Stars spent 6 minutes of a 6:43 stretch on the kill but the team met the challenge going a perfect 3-3 over that time. Iowa's power play unit ended the night 0-4.
With the Wild still seeming to dictate the pace, midway through the second Iowa finally got to Jurusik when 29-year-old veteran Kyle Rau found the back of the net after he deflected a Kevin Czuczman shot attempt. The deft-deflection was no-chancer for Jurusik and the Wild took a 1-0 lead.
Despite still struggling to make their presence felt throughout the second, a period that saw the Stars get outshot 10-7, Texas finally saw the puck bounce their way late in the period when Jeremy Rosburg, quarterbacking the offense, kept the zone and flung the puck at the net where Frederik Karlstrom finished the job and lit the lamp for the second time in as many games in the series, tying the game at 1-1 with 4:09 left in period 2.
Aksiantsiuk picked up the secondary assist on the goal for his first AHL point. It was a night of firsts for the first-year Belarusian as he picked up his first penalty minutes of his blossoming AHL career, having picked-up his first career infraction - in the first.
The teams briefly settled in after the tying goal and both seemingly satisfied to take the 1-1 tie to the intermission when Texas finally got a chance on the power play with just over 2 minutes left in the period.
Texas who had come into the game having gone scoreless in their last 23 chances on the power play, got one at the most remarkable of times. After a listless and shotless first power play unit came off, Ty Dellandrea announced his presence with authority and fired one from well above the hash and over the shoulder of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones to give the Stars an unexpected 2-1 lead they would take to the second intermission.
Texas came out in the third period with a little more life in their step. Just over 5 minutes into the period and the Stars on the power play, Aksiantsiuk found the net for the first time in the AHL to give the Stars some breathing room at 3-1.
Texas finished 2-4 on the power play.
With Iowa playing from behind and out of their game, Texas was able to set the pace for remainder of the contest, avoiding last-minute Iowa heroics that almost cost the Stars the game on Tuesday.
Oskar Back put an exclamation point on the game with hockey's version of the slam dunk on an empty net goal with just over a minute left to put a cap on Texas' 4-1 win.
With the win, Texas improves to 17-18-5-4 (43 pts/.489%) to lift them into a virtual-tie with Iowa for 6th in the 7-team Central Division. Iowa drops to 20-21-3-3 (46 pts/.489). Texas has 3 games-in-hand on the Wild.
Texas has a short trip and a day-off Friday in Rockford where they will wait on the IceHogs, who play Iowa in Des Moines Friday night.
Texas and Rockford lace them up on Saturday and Sunday with Saturday's game scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Caamano (5th straight, day-to-day), Damiani (5th straight, day-to-day), Melnick (6th, day-to-day), Comeau (back/has not played) Tufte (to Dallas), Martin, Khudobin
Tonight's attendance was 2,827.