Texas Puts Out Firebirds With 6-1 Smashing

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

It was arguably the most complete game that Texas has played all season as the Stars dismantled the visiting Coachella Valley Firebirds by a 6-1 final with two-goal nights from both Scott Reedy and Tanner Kero and multi-point efforts from defenders Ben Gleason and Michael Karow.

"It was a full sixty," said head coach Neil Graham. "I liked the way we brought pucks out. I liked the way we defended in our own zone. I think those two things combined allowed for more energy and life in our legs."

The season series with Coachella Valley, which wrapped up four games in just 11 days, was a 3-1 victory for Texas. It's a strong statement for the club as they sit atop the Central and now have just ten games left in the season. The Firebirds are the leading points percentage team in the Pacific and have already wrapped up a playoff spot. Coachella, until tonight, had not lost back-to-back regulation games all season.

"They're first year a team who's putting up a lot of points in the standings right now," said Michael Karow. For us to go out on the two week road trip out there and split there and then for us to sweep here after coming off that road trip is a big morale boost for the team going into this last stretch of games here."

With the win, Texas itself moves two points closer to a playoff berth, lowering their magic number to six and giving them a chance to clinch this weekend against the Wolves.

It was a great night for the Stars offense. Kero opened the scoring in the first period with a putback of a point shot from Gleason. Michael Karow, in the lineup on the third pairing with Gleason, picked up the second assist. 

On the power play late in the period, relative newcomer Scott Reedy scored with just 2.2 seconds remaining to make it a 2-0 contest. Texas outshot the visitors 15-4 in the frame.

"When we play like that, the matchups become secondary," noted Graham. "All three D pairs are on; all four lines are rolling, and it's more about keeping the pace and tempo within our game."

The Stars continued the offensive onslaught in the middle stanza with Michael Karow's first of the season.  Mavrik Bourque found Karow open at the point and the defender's shot beat Chris Driedger clean: 3-0.

Antonio Stranges worked the angles for the next goal. Stranges threaded a pass through the crease from below the goal line to an open Kero for the 4-0 score. The Stars led on shots 25-9.

Matt Murray wasn't untested in the game but the shot count was particularly light. A deft 3-on-2 pad stop earned him a "Murray!" chant from the crowd late in the second.

Scott Reedy extended the lead to 5-0 on a seemingly innocuous shot. It made for his second two-goal game in as many nights. The game's excitement wasn't up yet though as Michael Karow picked up a fighting major for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. 

"That's a first," said Karow. "It's not something you plan on, but it was a good game. It was nice to get a goal, first one this season, and then just trying to back up a couple teammates there and turned it into a fight."

Harley also collected a minor on the fracas. As the ensuing penalty kill ended, Riley Tufte was hooked on a breakaway and earned a penalty shot. He scored bar down for the first penalty shot goal of the season. Coachella Valley would spoil the shutout with a meaningless power play goal late, marking off the 6-1 final.

The Stars home stand continues Saturday and Sunday as Chicago comes to town.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Poirier (callup)
Damiani, Laaksonen (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,118.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Coachella Valley - March 22 2023