|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Pretty much everything went the Texas Stars' way tonight as they demolished the visiting Rockford IceHogs by a 6-1 final score, extending their winning streak to eight games. The streak is the longest of any team in the AHL this season and marks the second-longest in franchise history.
"It's confident group right now," said coach Neil Graham postgame. "We're understanding that if you play that same style for 60 minutes, even if it doesn't happen right away, if you stay with it over time, you'll break through and we've seen that over the last eight games."
Eleven different skaters had a point for Texas, including multi-point nights from Riley Barber, Curtis McKenzie, Matej Blumel and Marian Studenic. Not to be outdone on the backend, Ryan Shea and Alex Petrovic were both plus-3.
"It's a new guy stepping up every night. It balances out the attack, and it's tough to pre-scout. We're more worried about the pace of play that we want to play, as opposed to matchups for the most part."
Amid all the scoring, Texas also managed to stretch their penalty killing streak to 37 in a row as they continue their reign as the league's top PK.
The game started sleepily enough for the Stars. A 1-0 lead after the first was built on solid goaltending and lucky shooting. Texas only had three shots in the period but scored on their second. It was Jacob Peterson's seventh of the year, a tip from Ryan Shea's shot off a broken play that trickled out to him at the point.
Anton Khudobin had to make some quick reaction saves and occasionally a few in rapid succession. His play in the first was what enabled the Stars' explosion in the second.
"You're not always gonna have your best game right away," said Riley Barber of the team's effort in the first. "You got to have guys bail you out like [Khudobin] did there. It could have been a 3-1, 4-1 game them in the first period."
The second was where things got out of hand for the visitors. The Stars' five goals were the most the team has doled out in a period and just one short of the franchise record.
Riley Damiani went first, finishing off a rebound at the net from Blumel's initial shot. Tanner Kero went next followed two minutes later by Studenic, and it was a 4-0 lead out of nothing. Riley Barber scored on the very next shot to make it 5-0 on an individual effort. That would end Arvid Soderblom's night with 7 saves on 12 shots. It would not end the home side's scoring.
Studenic's second of the night, a nifty move to get past the right pad of Jaxon Stauber one-on-one, made it 6-0 to end the second period.
"This is my eighth year in the league," said Barber. "And this is probably one of the best teams out I've ever been on. I think we've started to get confidence in that and we're playing the right way. Once you play the right way, your skill will take over."
The third period was mostly throwaway hockey with Rockford spoiling the shutout off a strong penalty kill that went the other way after it ended. It was the only thing that pierced Khudobin all night, as he stopped 26 and earned third star honors for his work to keep things close in the first.
These two teams rematch tomorrow in the last game before Christmas for either one of them.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Karow, Ducharme (scratch)
Rosburg (long-term upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 5,332.