|(Credit: Michael Owen/Texas Stars)
Needing a point to clinch the Central Division, Texas did that and more with an authoritative overtime goal from captain Curtis McKenzie to win 2-1 over the visiting Iowa Wild. The sellout crowd roared in approval as Texas secured the win and home-ice advantage in the first and second rounds of the playoffs.
"It feels good," said head coach Neil Graham. "We played with compete, and our guys weren't gonna be denied today. I'm proud of them."
McKenzie added, "It's a lot of hard work over the season to get that first seed. Very proud of the guys on the year we've had so far. Now it's off the fun stuff in the playoffs."
If you were looking for a preview of what playoff hockey feel like this year, welcome to the show. The Wild are fighting for their playoff life. With the Wolves nipping at their heels, they need every point they can get this weekend in Cedar Park.
"They have some dangerous players in their lineup that can make you pay if you give them too much time and space. I liked the way our guys were diligent, sticking to the plan all night long."
The Stars opened the scoring in the first period with Oskari Laaksonen scoring his first home goal of the season. Mavrik Bourque continued his strong play in the last week with the pass to Laaksonen after looping the zone. Laaksonen jumped into the play off the bench and blasted the puck past Zane McIntyre.
Texas dominated for stretches of the game, but Iowa hung around. It's part of what makes them a dangerous first round opponent if they are indeed the draw for the Stars.
That hanging around turned into a goal for the Wild in the second period as Adam Beckman scored in the early going to even things. Laaksonen didn't take a minus for the play, but he changed just as the play came back against Texas, leaving Michael Karow behind the play as Beckman charged past the Stars' bench.
Neither team could solve the other as Murray and McIntyre both looked strong. As the third wound down, Iowa seemed content to take the point and fight again tomorrow.
After securing the overtime point, Texas was in for the kill for the hometown fans.
McKenzie noted, "They change games and the momentum with the sellouts and how loud this arena gets. It's so fun to play hockey down here, and we're lucky to have them behind us."
McKenzie lifted one past McIntyre and raced to the bench to jump into his waiting teammates.
The Stars play tomorrow with nothing on the line. Expect some of the kids to check in. Game time is 5 PM.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Olofsson, Harley (callup)
Wells, Thomson, Barteaux, Mastrodonato, Damiani, Grushnikov, Berard (scratch)
Rosburg (out for season - upper-body injury)
Karlstrom (out for season - knee injury)
Tonight's attendance was 6,778, the tenth sellout of the year.