|(Photo Credit: Michael Owen/100 Degree Hockey)|
Cedar Park, TX - The Texas Stars scored three goals in the second period, while goaltender Anton Khudobin had 33 saves as Texas overcame a late rush to edge the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliate) 3-2 in front of crowd of 6,483 in the opener of a two-game set at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Saturday's game was also the first of a two-game Military Weekend celebration at the friendly confines.
Texas complicated matters for themselves just moments later when Fredrik Karlstrom picked up an ill-advised roughing penalty, sending the Stars on their first kill of the night. Rockford had multiple opportunities on their first chance on the power play, tallying six shots on Khudobin but getting none past the veteran netminder.
Texas came to life late in the frame but got nothing on the board. The teams headed to the intermission with Rockford having outshot the Stars 13-10 for the first.
The Stars picked things up in the second but weren't able to get on the board until 10:44 when Fredrik Karlstrom leveled the score at 1-1 when he buried a rebound of a Curtis McKenzie shot that bounced off of a Rockford defender and onto the waiting Karlstrom's stick in the slot.
"I think we had a pretty good road trip in Canada and Colorado," Karlstrom said after the game. "We wanted to stick to our game, and I think we did it today."
The momentum of Karlstrom's goal could have been taken away moments later when Riley Barber was sent to the sinbin for a slash, but the Stars turned a negative into a positive when the PK unit did its job and Riley Tufte forced a turnover in their offensive zone. Forward Rhett Gardner was able to retrieve the loose puck and went tape-to-tape to Thomas Harley who went top-shelf from the high slot on IceHog netminder Dylan Wells to give Texas a 2-1 lead. The goal was Harley's second of the season and first career shorty for the third-year defenseman. Tufte and Gardner were credited with the assists.
Texas made it 3-1 late in the period when Marian Studenic took a Ben Gleason drop-pass and fired a wrister over Wells’ glove from the top of the left circle, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Studenic's goal capped a period of domination for Texas that saw the Stars outshoot Rockford 16-4 for the middle frame.
Texas opened the third, still aggressive, but clearly not wanting to make any mistakes. Texas spent much of the final-20 on the defensive, with Khudobin meeting every challenge. When Rockford went empty net with three minutes left in the final frame, they were able to mount a flurry of shots on Khudobin and finally got to him with the extra attacker when IceHog center Brett Seney tipped in a shot by Blackhawks top-prospect Lukas Reichel to cut the Stars lead one with 2:31 remaining.
Rockford went on to make things interesting in the waning moments, but Khudobin met the moment, turning away four shots in the final minutes to secure the victory. Rockford ended the frame outshooting Texas 18-8 over the last 20, despite Texas having the 36-35 edge for the game.
"We can revue the one goal we gave up on the five-v-six, but it's a good two points and we'll take it" Coach Graham concluded.
Khudobin finished the night making 33 saves on 35 shots to earn the win, improving his record to 4-2-2 on the young season. Wells stopped 33-of-36 while taking the loss.
The teams make a quick turnaround and lace them up again for the finale of the two-game series Sunday.
"I think we gotta get some rest, get the guys back here tomorrow evening and probably simplify a little bit of our shift length, shorten them up a bit" Graham said of the preparations for Sunday's quick turnaround. "But at the end of the day we gotta find that pace again in order to execute the plays we want to."
Puck drop Sunday is at 5:00 p.m. in Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Cecconi, Rosburg, Ducharme, Stranges (scratch)
Tonight's attendance was 6,483.