Pair of Third-Period Shorties Power Texas to 4-2 Win Over Firebirds

(Photo Credit: Coachella Valley Firebirds)

 Palm Desert, CA - The Texas Stars came from behind, led by shorthanded goals from Riley Tufte and Thomas Harley to start the third and held on the rest of the way to beat the Coachella Valley Firebirds (Seattle Kraken affiliate) 4-2, in front of 8,098 at Acrisure Arena Saturday night, in the first meeting ever between the two clubs.

After an extended stretch of the two teams feeling each other out, Texas got things started midway through the first when Fredrik Karlstrom, squarely between the circles, took a Riley Barber dish and fired it through traffic where it banked off of rookie Mavrik Bourque and past Firebirds goalie Chris Driedger to make it 1-0 Stars with 9:03 left in the opening period. Bourque's twelfth goal of the season moved him into the top-20 of AHL rookies with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists).

Texas seemed in control for most of the remainder of the period, outshooting the Firebirds 8-5 in the process, but late in the stanza, with Coachella Valley on the power play - due to an undisciplined Nick Caamano slash with under two minutes left in the period, Firebirds defenseman Brogan Rafferty ripped a one-timer past Stars goalie Remi Poirier from the top of the left circle to level the game at 1-1 with 59 seconds left in the first.

In the second, Texas went right back in control, dominating the pace on the five-on-five, outshooting Coachella Valley 12-7 in the middle frame, yet not being able to crack the scoreboard. Neither team saw paydirt until with just 1:42 left in the second, and the Firebirds once again on the power play, Coachella Valley winger John Hayden took a Jimmy Schuldt shot off of his skate and past Poirier to give the Firebirds their first lead of the night at 2-1.

Coachella Valley finished the night 2-for-3 on the power play. Texas went 0-for-2.

With the special teams seemingly failing for the night, things did not look good for the Stars when Marian Studenic took his second consecutive penalty in the waning moments of the middle period, allowing for the Firebirds to head to the second intermission with 1:56 of power play time banked to start the third.

The Stars came out like gangbusters on the penalty kill to start the final period of regulation when Tufte created a neutral zone turnover and turned it into a one-on-none breakaway that the Coon Rapids, Minnesota native forehanded past Driedger for his twelfth goal of the season, knotting the game at 2-2 just 26 seconds into the third. 

The Stars magic hit new levels when on the same penalty kill, just 1:14 later, a loose puck in the right corner bled out to Harley, standing alone in the left circle, and the All-Star blueliner blasted it past Driedger's stick side to give Texas a real momentum boost as they regained their lead at 3-2.

The teams traded blows the remainder of a period that saw the Firebirds outshoot the Stars 11-9 but neither Poirier nor Driedger gave an inch. Texas' Tanner Kero added an empty-netter with 22 seconds left to put the nail in the coffin and the Stars cruised on to the 4-2 victory.

Between the pipes for the Stars, Poirier stopped 21-of-23 shots to earn the victory that improved his record to 4-1-1 in his rookie season. Driedger made 26 saves on the 29 shots he saw while taking the loss.

With the win, Texas (31-15-7-3, 72 pts.) remains atop of the Central Division standings, holding a one-point lead over the Milwaukee Admirals (33-10-3-2, 71 pts.) with a game in hand.

The two teams lace them up in less than 24 hours as the Stars and Firebirds face a 3:00 p.m. PT puck drop Sunday afternoon at Acrisure Arena.

Tonight's lines



Injuries, scratches and notes
Back, Laaksonen, Stranges (scratch)
Rosburg (likely out for season - upper-body injury)

Tonight's attendance was 8,098.

Three Stars:

1. TEX - R. Tufte

2. TEX - F. Karlstrom

3. TEX - M. Bourque

AHL Gamesheet - Texas @ Coachella Valley - March 11, 2023