|(Photo Credit: Colorado Eagles)
Loveland, CO - The Texas Stars scored four goals in the second period and never looked back as they defeated the Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche affiliate) 5-1 in front of a capacity 5,089 at the Budweiser Events Center Saturday night. Coupled with the Stars 4-3 shootout win Friday night, Texas completed their first series sweep in Loveland in franchise history.
The first period started rather ambiguous with each club getting their chances on the power play, only to come away with nothing on each chance. Texas' five-on-five was dominant, holding the Eagles to only three shots for the opening period while posting eight of their own in the scoreless first.
In the second period however, the floodgates opened for the Stars, scoring four goals before Colorado even knew what hit them.
The Stars onslaught began 5:14 into the second period when Michael Karow blasted a one-timer towards the net and Tanner Kero redirected the puck past Eagles goalie Jonas Johansson to get things started. Riley Barber also received an assist as part of a three-point night for the All Star.
Scoring first has been a proven success story for the '22-'23 Stars as they had carried a 19-2-2 record coming into Saturday night's contest when striking first.
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Texas struck again when they caught the Eagles on a line change. Texas blueliner Ben Gleason saw it coming and fired a rink-long pass to Fredrik Olofsson who dropped it to Jacob Peterson. Peterson walked in and fired it from the high slot past Johansson's stick side to make it 2-0 with 9:16 left in the second.
Late in the period, the Stars extended their lead when with their first-line forwards surging into the offensive zone, Barber fired a shot from the slot, retrieved his own rebound, found the loose puck near the left post and backhanded it top-shelf over Johansson to give the Stars some breathing room at 3-0 with 3:17 left in the second. Rookie Mavrik Bourque and Friday's hero Curtis McKenzie each were credited with assists on a goal that all five skaters on the ice touched the puck.
With their second period work incomplete, just twenty-five seconds later with Texas working hard in the offensive zone, Tanner Kero - from below the goal line - found Matej Blumel parked next to the right post and Blumel put it just below Johansson's glove to make it a comfortable 4-0 Texas with 1:52 left in the middle frame. Riley Damiani was credited with the additional assist. Blumel's goal moved him into a tie for sixth amongst rookies with his fifteenth goal of the season.
Texas has outscored their opponents by thirty-three goals in the second period through forty-six games this season.
The third period started rather inauspiciously despite the Eagles clearly pressing. Colorado outshot Texas 7-1 over the first six minutes of the third, testing Stars netminder Matt Murray for the first time all night before the Stars got their wheels under them and mounted an attack. Barber lit the lamp for the second time on Saturday when the Stars choking defensive pair of Ryan Shea and Alex Petrovic created a turnover in their own defensive zone. Veteran Rhett Gardner retrieved the loose puck and nudged it to McKenzie who found a streaking Barber, and it was off to the races on a one-on-none breakaway that All Star Barber dangled then buried past Johansson, putting the dagger into the Eagles night at 5-0 with 12:54 left in regulation.
Mitchell Vande Sompel ended Murray's bid for his third shutout of the season midway through the final period to make it 5-1, but the night was finished for the Eagles and the Stars held on for the victory.
On special teams, Texas went 0-for-2 on the power play while the Stars PK unit was a perfect 2-for-2.
In net for Texas, Murray finished the night stopping 25-of-26 in the triumph that saw his record improve to 13-7-4. Johansson made 23 stops on the 28 shots he saw while taking the loss.
With the win, Texas (26-11-6-3, 61 pts.) remains atop of the Central Division by two-points over the Milwaukee Admirals who topped Rockford 4-3 in a shootout at Rockford Saturday night. With the loss, Colorado (27-15-3-1, 58 pts.) dropped to fourth in the Pacific.
Despite being in the midst of a six-game road trip, Texas returns home for a few days before returning to the ice for the opener of a "three-in-three" in Rockford and Milwaukee. Friday night's matchup with the IceHogs is slated for a 7:00 p.m. faceoff at the BMO Center before a Saturday/Sunday affair in Milwaukee.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Back, Headrick (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Today's attendance was 5,089
1. TEX - M. Murray
2. TEX - R. Barber
3. TEX - T. Kero