|(Photo Credit: Bakersfield Condors)
Bakersfield, CA - The Texas Stars could not overcome sloppy conditions and were unable to solve Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers affiliate) goalie Calvin Pickard when the chances arose as the Stars fell 2-1 in front of 2,908 Wednesday night at Mechanics Bank Arena.
In a near record-setting night the two teams combined for only 33 shots (17-16 Condors), one off of the franchise low of 32, set back in the inaugural season in a 5-2 loss to the Houston Aeros on December 15, 2009.
Neither team was able to get anything going early - or ever for that matter. The teams combined for only five shots through the first-half of the opening period before Bakersfield got the first crack on the power play due to a Will Butcher hook with 8:30 left in the first.
With the Condors settled into their offense on the advantage, Raphael Lavoie at the top of the left circle found Justin Bailey parked next to the left post and Bailey was able to tap it past Stars netminder Remi Poirier for the easy power play goal to give Bakersfield the 1-0 lead.
Texas got their turn late in the period while on their lone power play opportunity of the night and got their best chance of the first to get to Pickard when Matej Blumel, from the right circle, found Tanner Kero crashing toward the net. Despite the open-look, Kero banked it off of the post. Bakersfield was able to kill off the penalty and head to intermission leading 1-0, despite being outshot 6-3.
Neither team were able to get on the scoreboard in a second period that saw the Condors outshoot Texas 5-4. The Stars best chance to post a tally came early in the frame when Marian Studenic recovered a turnover in the neutral zone and went streaking one-on-none at Pickard, but the puck got stuck in a snowdrift and Studenic's speed took him past the puck.
With the ice surface seemingly deteriorating as the game went on, once again neither team was able to get anything going as the game ventured through the third. The Condors seemed fine slogging through the slush since the biggest enemy of a team that counts on speed - like the Stars - is a slow ice surface.
Considering the conditions, the pace of play and that the Stars had been outshot 8-2 late in regulation, Texas head coach Neil Graham went empty net with 2:57 left. Bakersfield met the challenge and potted a James Hamblin empty-netter to make it a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 Condor lead with 2:17 left.
Texas managed to get to Pickard on a Blumel goal, set up by Rhett Gardner with six seconds left to spoil Pickard's shutout attempt, preventing the Stars from being blanked for the first time this season, but it was too little too late for the Stars. Blumel's goal gave Hamblin the rarely tallied empty-net, game-winner.
Each netminder had solid nights for their respective clubs, despite neither having been challenged much. Each of the goalies found themselves with identical lines of 15 stops on 16 shots. With the loss, Poirier saw his record drop to 4-3-1 in his rookie season.
Despite the loss, Texas (31-17-7-3, 72 pts.) remains atop of the Central Division standings, one point ahead of the Milwaukee Admirals (33-19-3-2, 71 pts.) who were idle Wednesday night.
The Stars now head to San Jose for a back-to-back pair against the Barracuda starting at 9:00 p.m. CST Friday night at Tech CU Arena.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Karow, Stranges (scratch)
Karlstrom (day-to-day, lower body injury)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance was 2,908.
1. BAK - J. Bailey
2. BAK - J. Hamblin
3. BAK - R. Lavoie