|(Photo Credit: Brad Repplinger/Rockford IceHogs)
Rockford, IL - The Texas Stars closed out a successful six-game road trip with a convincing 5-3 win over division-rival and perpetual thorn in the side, Rockford IceHogs in front of 2,612 on a very blustery Wednesday night in Rockford.
The game started with Texas firmly on their heels. With Rockford pressing early the IceHogs struck first just 1:49 into the contest when noted Stars-killer David Gust found the back of the net for the first of his two goals Wednesday night to make it 1-0 IceHogs early.
With the wake-up call already in their face, Texas dug in, only allowing one additional shot over the next eleven minutes.
Texas got the equalizer when Oskari Laaksonen fired a puck from the top of the right circle and Jacob Peterson retrieved the loose puck that bounded in front of the net and lifted it over IceHogs goalie Arvid Soderblom to make it 1-1 with 10:01 left in the first.
The Stars resilience was further proven later in the first when defenseman Michael Karow appeared to net his first goal of the season when he laced one from the left point that went off of a skate to make it 2-1 Texas with 4:21 left in the opening period. After further review the scorekeeper deemed that the puck had gone off of Texas winger Riley Tufte's skate to give him his eleventh goal of the season. Riley Damiani was credited with the additional assist.
Texas took their 2-1 lead to the first intermission having outshot the IceHogs 11-7 for the period.
The second period opened up with Rockford on the power play but the Stars penalty killing unit was able to stifle any hope of evening the game up at that time. Rockford ended the night 0-for-2 on the power play. Texas was scoreless in their two chances on the evening.
Rockford was however able to even things out 5:29 into the middle frame when Michael Teply beat Poirier to make it 2-2 for the only goal of the middle frame that saw each team get eight shots on goal.
Neither team was really able to generate any offense in the early goings of the third period. With each of the last three games between the two division-rivals having gone to overtime, this one seemed to be heading in that direction.
However, just past the midway point of the period Peterson retrieved a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated in free to the offensive zone and patiently waited for fellow countryman Fredrik Karlstrom to enter the play, when Peterson saucered one to his fellow Swede and Karlstrom, in his first game back after a two-game stint in Dallas, wristed one past the blocker side of Soderblom to give Texas a 3-2 lead with 9:49 left in regulation. Marion Studenic was credited with the additional assist.
Just over five minutes later Texas got an insurance goal when Ben Gleason created a turnover a dumped the puck to rookie Mavirik Bourque. Bourque was able to find Barber streaking into the offensive zone where the winger fired the puck from the top of the left circle and clanked one in off the post for what would turn out to be an important goal to make it 4-2 Texas with 4:35 left in regulation.
With the way Texas had smothered the IceHogs for the majority of the night, Barber's goal felt like the nail in the coffin, however Rockford made things interesting late when with Rockford going empty net, Gust caught Texas netminder Dustin Poirer out of position and netted a rebound for his second goal of the night to make it 4-3 Texas with 2:03 left in the third. Gust's two goals Wednesday was his twenty-fourth of the season, with eight coming against Texas.
Rockford went empty net after the ensuing faceoff but the gamble didn't pay off for a second time Wednesday when Barber went on a true one-on-none and had the chance to slam dunk the cap on the night, but true to his unselfish reputation, the Pittsburgh native elected to hold off and dump the puck to Tanner Kero to finish off the empty net goal, and the IceHogs last hope for the night.
Between the pipes, Poirier quietly had a good night, making both the routine stops as well as the spectacular when needed. The rookie netminder making his third career AHL start finished with 19 saves on 22 shots as his record improved to 2-0-1 on the season. Soderblom finished with 26 saves on 30 shots as he took the loss.
With the win, Texas (28-12-7-3, 66 pts.) separated themselves from the Milwaukee Admirals (30-15-2-2, 64 pts.) who were idle Wednesday night. The Admirals have a game in hand against the Stars. With the loss, Rockford (25-18-4-4, 58 pts.) solidly remains in fourth place of the Central Division.
Texas, with any luck, will begin their trek back home on Thursday, weather permitting, before opening up a two-game series with the Bakersfield Condors Friday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Faceoff is slated for 7:00 p.m.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Stranges, Headrick, Caamano (scratch)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 2,612
1. TEX - J. Peterson
2. RFD - D. Gust
3. TEX - F. Karlstrom