|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Cedar Park, TX - Goalie Adam Scheel turned away 35-of-the-36 shots he faced and Joel L'Esperance picked-up a goal in his fourth straight game to lead the Texas Stars to a thrilling 3-1 victory over the visiting Manitoba Moose in front of 3,741 Wednesday night at the HEB Center at Cedar Park.
Scheel, making just his third start since his disastrous outing January 15th at Charlotte when he gave up 5-goals in 15-plus minutes, was outstanding in net allowing just a single power-play goal late in the game, earning him First-Star honors.
"Hockey's all about being ready when your name is called and just about every day preparing and doing everything that you can to get ready for when your name is called." Scheel said afterwards.
Scheel has been on fire in his 3 starts since the Charlotte game, going 1-0-1-1 allowing only 4 goals on the ninety-eight shots for an astounding .959 save-percentage and an otherworldly 1.26 GAA.
"I think he's had 3 really nice starts in a row, he's done a good job for himself," Texas Head Coach Neil Graham said of the netminder after the game. "He looks square, his body looks connected right now and I think he's confident all the time."
For the second time in as many nights, Joel L'Esperance opened up the scoring when Riley Damiani had a shot blocked in front of the net and the bounding puck landed right in front of L'Esperance who without hesitation buried the puck in the net to Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin's stick-side giving, the Stars the early 1-0 lead just 3:18 into the game. The goal extended L'Esperance's goal-streak to 4-games, while extending his point-streak to ten, the Stars longest individual point-streak of the season.
Just 1:21 later Stars winger Anthony Louis extended his own point-streak to 5-games when Damiani took advantage of a 2-on-1 with a dangler to pause the defender only to dish it to a streaking Louis who lit the lamp with what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
"With Lou (Louis), he's always yelling for puck out there, he's very vocal and he's easy to guy to play with" said Damiani of his linemate. "When he's yelling like that, if I don't give it to him then I'm going to hear it on the bench so I'm happy I made the play."
The Stars 2-0 lead held through the remainder of the period and through the scoreless second. Despite the scoreless frame, there was plenty of action to be had on both sides, with each team getting chances on the power play only to come-away empty as both goalies were flawless. Manitoba controlled the tempo for much of the period as they outshot Texas 15-11 over the middle-20.
Texas regained control of the game in the third, occupying most of the offensive-zone time while outshooting Manitoba 12-10 and getting 2-of-their-4 power play chances, including a 5-on-3 midway thru the period, but time-and-time-again Berdin met the test for the Moose.
Texas finished the night 0-4 on the power play and ended the 2-game twin bill a dismal 0-11 on the job. The Stars on the season have struggled at home on the advantage, battling to a lowly 16.9% in the friendly confines of the HEB Center, compared to an even 25% on the road. In spite of the goose-egg against Manitoba over the 2-game set, Texas is still 9 for their last 35 on the power play.
"It's funny how often you see the alternate but the way it's worked we've been hot on the road" Graham said of the team's home/road power play splits. "You're going to go through ebbs and flows, but if you're generating chances, they eventually crack for you and then that's when you go on a streak."
Late in the game with defenseman Thomas Harley in the box for tripping Manitoba finally got to Scheel when Matt Alfaro nailed a one-timer from the right-point past Scheel, ending the Lakewood Ohio native's bid for his 1st career AHL shutout with 5:55 left in the game and the Stars hanging on to a slim 2-1 lead.
"I'm not too worried about getting a shutout, the only thing that really matters is getting to the win, 2 points is really all the matters." said Sheel of the late goal.
The Stars met the late challenge defensively and even added a Curtis McKenzie empty-netter with 6 seconds left to close out the game with the 3-1 final. McKenzie's goal was his second in as many nights, with both coming in the final seconds.
With the victory and in picking up points in 9 of their 10 games, Texas improves to 13-15-5-3 (34 pts/.472%) , to remain in 7th in the 7-team Central Division, with multiple games-in-hand against every team in the division.
"We made some switches over the break and [it] took a couple games for it to fully settle in," Coach Graham said of their recent boon. "I think our guys really embraced the changes that we wanted to make and I think they're working hard to keep improving in those areas and they're recognizing success." Graham continued. "Our guys have fully bought-in to the switch that we made and I'm glad that they're getting some success."
Manitoba's record drops to 25-12-2-1 (53 pts/.633%), good for 2nd in the Central.
The Stars, after playing the third game of a brutal 5-game in 7-day and 13-in-21 stretch will take a hard-earned day-off on Thursday before returning to the ice on against the Milwaukee Admirals Friday and Saturday night with matching 7 p.m. faceoffs.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Barteaux, Merchant, Kawaguchi, Back, Khudobin, Comeau
Tonight's attendance was 3,741
|AHL Linesperson Kirsten Welsh prepares to|
drop the puck early in the 3rd period of
Wednesday night's game.
(Photo credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)