|(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs)|
Rockford, IL - Rookie netminder Matt Murray continued to carry the load for the Texas Stars, turning away 28-of-30 shots but it wasn't enough as Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliate) goalie Arvid Soderblom matched him save-for-save - and then some, while IceHog rookies Lukas Reichel and Carson Gicewicz provided the offense with a goal apiece to lead Rockford to a narrow 2-1 victory over the Stars Wednesday night at BMO Harris Bank Center. With the victory, Rockford claims a 1-0 lead after game one of a best-of-three first round playoff series.
As expected, the game took a little time to get going as both teams spent the first several minutes going through the traditional Game One feeling out process. Neither team got out to an advantage initially as the teams traded a handful of shots over the opening frame.
Texas got a chance to take the first advantage midway through the period when IceHog defenseman Alec Regula was called for holding Ty Dellandrea, sending the Stars on their first and only power play chance of the night. Texas was unable to capitalize on the man-up, never seriously threatening Soderblom.
Despite having been shut down on their lone power play opportunity of the first, momentum swung the Stars direction, at one-point leading Rockford 11-4 on shots in the first.
Momentum swung back the IceHogs direction late in the period when they got their lone chance of the night on the power play with 1:40 left in the period when Stars blueliner Alex Petrovic was called for interference.
After an initial clear, Rockford returned to their offensive zone and absolutely peppered Murray with a flurry of vulcanized rubber as the period began to wind down. Murray made the save of the period when he stabbed a Reichel shot with his glove to end a succession of four IceHog as the net came off its moorings, thankfully drawing a whistle as the netminder froze the puck.
The teams went to the intermission scoreless after Texas edged Rockford 11-10 in the shot department.
Rockford opened the second period with 20 seconds left on their power play, which the Stars were able to kill off effectively. The level of intensity was rising when with just over 13 minutes left in the second, Texas turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Reichel led an odd-man rush into the offensive zone, took a Michel Tepley pass and buried it past Murray to give Rockford the first lead of the series at 1-0.
The score seemed to inspire the Stars as they immediately went to work on the next shift. Unfortunately for Texas, the pressure was short-lived as they then went the next ten minutes without a shot before a pair of meaningless shots in the final minute of a frame that saw Rockford outshoot the Stars 11-10.
The teams opened the third with every bit of the dynamic feel that you would expect of the opening game of the playoffs and the game seemingly took a turn 4:06 into the period when Gicewicz skating through the slot redirected an Isaak Phillips shot and got it past his former UMass teammate Murray who never saw the puck, giving Rockford as commanding of a 2-0 lead can be.
Not unfamiliar to playing from behind, Texas however had not trailed in a game by 2 since the closing minutes of a 6-4 loss to Chicago on April 16th and as they had after Reichel's goal, the Stars got right to work. Less than a minute after Gicewicz's tally, Stars center Joel L'Esperance awkwardly freed up the puck from the boards that Karlstrom found at the end of his stick. Karlstrom, recently reassigned to Texas by the parent club, skated into the circle and fired one past Soderblom's stick-side to cut the Rockford lead in half to 2-1 with 15:07 still left to play.
The teams traded blows the remainder of the period with every characteristic of a playoff game as each goalie went unblemished the rest of the way.
Texas had some chances late in the game as they went empty net with 2:25 left but Soderblom met each challenge as the time expired.
With the loss, Texas once again has their backs against the wall and for seemingly the umpteenth time this season will play yet another must-win game, situations where they're experienced and have found success.
Only this time, it's win or go home. Game two is Friday.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Comeau (injury, has not played)
Khudobin (injury, out for season)
Roth, Martin, Jurusik, Gregoire, Lipanov, Caamano, Barteaux (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 3,411