|(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Cedar Park, TX - The Texas Stars got two goals from Scott Reedy and Ryan Shea netted the game-winner with 4:22 left, while goalie Matt Murray turned away 32 shots as the Stars skated to a 3-1 win over the Coachella Valley Firebirds in front of 4,068 at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Tuesday night.
"It was obviously an important two points." Texas head coach Neil Graham said after the game, "We [have] played a lot of hockey and you know we were struggling to find our identity in the first and Murr (Murray) made some nice saves that allowed us to get into our game, so we will take it."
Texas got off to a bit of a slow start in a period that saw the Firebirds get the majority of the scoring chances in a frame that saw Coachella Valley outshoot Texas 14-7. Midway through the opening period the Firebirds got their first chance on the power play when Tantner Kero was called for tripping. Compounding matters, moments later Rhett Gardner was called for a questionable roughing penalty to send Coachella Valley on the 5-on-3.
After a road trip that Texas struggled on the penalty kill, the Stars were able to meet the challenge and kill off both ends of the Coachella Valley advantage. Just 17 seconds after the huge momentum boost the Stars struck first when Reedy, playing in his first home game as a Star, took a pass a from Curtis McKenzie and blasted a shot from the top of the left circle past Firebirds goalie Christopher Gibson with 4:40 left in the opening period.
"It was a good job there by Macker (McKenzie). They're just bringing a guy into him and then he trusted me to lay one for me, that close to blue line, and then I just saw an opening low right and let the D(efense) kind of take the goalie's eyes away, and then just put it there." Reedy said of his first goal.
Coachella Valley continued the pressure the rest of the period, but Texas was able to stave off any challenges as Murray kept his club in the game and Texas took their 1-0 lead to the first intermission.
"We didn't get out of the gates overly hot but it's a huge kill early and then a five-on-three kill, so to then score goal immediately after, it was kind of a good shot of life and I thought we had a much better second period.
The aforementioned second period was, in fact, much better for Texas. The Stars were clearly the aggressor in the middle frame with Texas winning most of the puck battles and outshooting Coachella Valley 16-7 in the process. Neither team would get on the board in the scoreless second but Texas, still leading 1-0, clearly had the advantage as the teams headed to the second intermission.
In what could be a playoff preview, both teams had their chances in the third as they traded blows like it were a heavyweight bout. Time wound down in a frame that saw Coachella Valley outshoot Texas 12-10 before things got tenuous.
With the Stars were looking to close out the game, the Firebirds finally got to Murray when with the Firebirds just coming off of a power play, Coachella Valley left winger Tye Kartye one-timed a shot past the UMass alum that the netminder really couldn't do much about and the visitors leveled the score at 1-1 with 5:53 left in regulation.
While the wind could have really been sucked out of their sails, Texas remained undaunted and went right back on the attack and just over a minute later their "no quit" attitude paid off when blueliner Alex Petrovic fielded a loose puck in his own defensive zone and fed it to Shea near the left wall. Shea sent the puck up ice where Matej Blumel took it below the goal line in the offensive zone. Finding himself harassed by the Firebirds defensemen, Blumel found Shea at the blueline and the third-year pro from Milton, Massachusetts fired a rocket through traffic past Gibson with what would be the game-winner with 4:22 left in regulation.
With Texas having regained the lead at 2-1, Coachella Valley went empty net with just over 1:30 left in the game. After the Stars iced the puck multiple times late, Reedy added to his night with three big faceoff wins in the clutch and then ultimately added an empty-net goal to bookend the scoring and send Texas to a 2-1 victory.
Between the pipes, Murray stopped 32-of-33 shots in the win that saw his record improve to 15-9-5. Gibson 30-of-32 in the loss.
The teams close out their two-game series Wednesday night with the faceoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Laaksonen, Stranges (scratch)
Karlstrom (day-to-day, lower body injury)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 4,068
1. TEX - R. Shea
2. TEX - M. Murray
3. CV - C. Gibson