|(Photo Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)|
CEDAR PARK, TX - The Texas Stars overcame a last-minute Roadrunners goal and Marian Studenic picked up the game-winning goal in overtime as goalie Matt Jurusik stopped 23 Tucson Roadrunner (Phoenix Coyotes affiliate) shots en route to a physical, hard-fought 3-2 victory Saturday night at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, extending their winning-streak to three games.
For the second time in as many nights, Tucson opened up the scoring when just 18 seconds into the game, Roadrunners defenseman Cole Hults took a faceoff win from the top of the left circle and fired one past Jurusik's glove and into the net for the early 1-0 lead.
The physicality started almost immediately after that. Both teams took penalties early, but only Texas went on the power play with Tucson's penalties generally being the most egregious. The Stars went 0-for-2 in the early going on the power play but with Tucson's style many more were to come.
The second period was dominated by the Stars, getting three chances on the power play alone in the second while outshooting Tucson 11-2 in the process.
Texas finally got on the board with 4:31 left in the period. On the power play due to a Boko Imama misconduct, Riley Damiani retrieved a rebound from a Studenic shot and fired the puck towards the net, catching Roadrunner goalie Ivan Prosvetov's blocker and landing in front of Tanner Kero. Kero knew what to do with it, sending it past Prosvetov and into the net to tie the game at one, sending the 6,361 in attendance on Military Appreciation Night into a frenzy.
"I thought the difference was how fast in the second period we eliminated all time and space and defended very quickly. That gave us a lot of really energy for offense, and that's when that's when it kind of took over," said Graham of their second period prowess on Saturday.
Texas ended the night 1-for-5 on the power play.
The third period opened with the teams on the 4-on-4 due to frivolities that ended the second. The situation ended without much fanfare. Both teams seemed to settle in as they seemingly decided to play some hockey when 6:37 into the final frame and a flurry of shots from Joel L' Esperance and Oskar Back, Frederik Karlstrom found the lonely puck and drove it home for his 12th goal of the year, giving Texas their first lead of the night at 2-1.
The Stars then went into their game, controlling the pace and rolling their lines for the remainder of the third until late in the game. Texas blueliner Joe Cecconi took a slashing penalty to give Tucson their first and only power play of the night with 2:29 left to play. To compound matters for the Stars, Tucson, down 2-1, went empty net creating a 6-on-4 situation. The Texas penalty kill initially met the challenge and Jurusik made some nice stops but with just ten seconds left on the power play, Travis Barron found a gifted rebound and stuck it just past an outstretched Jurusik, tying the game at 2-2 with just 39 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
"You've just got to hang in there and persevere," Graham said of the late goal. "We play extremely disciplined, and they were running around a little bit on their side. We're trying to keep our heads and to get a call late like that is unfortunate. It wasn't a true 5-on-4, it was a 6-on-4 goal, so tip your hat to 'em. They made a play when they had to make a play to tie the game," Graham concluded.
Neither team got much going to start the 3-on-3 session with neither team wanting to make a mistake. Both teams made multiple line changes to find the right fit, and that fit was found for Texas when Studenic took a drop-pass from Ty Dellandrea, the scorer of last night's winner. Studenic walked in front of the net and flipped a backhand top-shelf on Prosvetov for the game-winning goal.
"I don't know. I just like kind of looked in," said Studenic of the game-winning goal. "I don't know what it was the guy was doing there, but I felt like he just let me go, and I just like shooting upstairs," the 6'1 Slovak flatly stated.
Studenic has six points in four games with the Stars, despite being held without a point in his first game with the organization on Tuesday against Charlotte.
"I like how he's just fit right in," said Graham when asked about newcomer Studenic. "Obviously when he's played on the ice, he's been exceptional. He's been very good on both sides of the puck, so when you get a guy like that, and his attitude has been so phenomenal."
Graham continued, "He has contagious energy and I think that showed in the way he played on the ice."
Prosvetov saved 22 of 25 shots in the loss while Jurusik, with the victory, saw his record improve to 8-5-3-1 (7-4-3 with Texas).
With the win, Texas has points in six of their last ten games and sees their record improve to 21-22-5-5 (52 pts/.491%) with 19 game left, remaining well within striking distance of the fifth and final playoff spot in the division, despite being mired in seventh in the seven-team Central.
"I think to keep the winning streak alive and to grab the points is the most important part," Graham said of the win. "I thought our guys did a great job persevering and then win it in overtime."
Tuscon leaves town having lost six in a row and now sits at 17-27-4-1 (39 pts/.398%) to remain tied for last in the nine-team Pacific.
The Stars will take a well-earned day-off Sunday after having played four games in five days before returning to the ice in preparation for a fourgame, seven day road trip that starts Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in Grand Rapids.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Melnick, Khudobin (injury)
Comeau (back injury, has not played)
Lipanov, Martin, Tufte (scratch)
Before the game, the Dallas Stars called up Adam Scheel and Riley Tufte was reassigned to Texas. Caamano was playing in his first game since February 15th (13 games). Local amateur goalie Vinny Monaco was the emergency backup goalie in Scheel's absence.
Tonight's attendance was 6,361.