|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
Between two teams that only had one preseason game combined, this game felt like their preseason replacement game. In the often disjointed contest, Tucson emerged victorious with a 3-2 final score.
Logan Stankoven and Kyle McDonald each picked up their first career goal. Lian Bichsel had his first AHL point as well. The two teams will re-rack tomorrow night to sharpen the sword a bit more.
"We definitely saw more positives than negatives," said head coach Neil Graham postgame. "I thought we played within ourselves. There's definitely a lot of areas to clean up, but you could say the same for them."
McDonald added, "That's our first together, and there were some mistakes. There were some really good things and you've got to find a good middle ground and then build and be really good hockey team down the stretch."
Notably, Texas lost Gavin Bayreuther to injury in the dying minutes of the third period. He went down awkwardly defending a breakaway and had to be helped off the ice and seemed to be in considerable pain. Bayreuther was wearing the team's second "A" in his first game back with the club where he made his professional debut in 2017.
Jan Jenik got things started for Tucson with a bad-angle shot from the goal line that beat a shrugging Remi Poirier over the shoulder. But before the end of the period, rookie McDonald evened things up with his first pro goal. It was also Bichsel's first AHL point as his bomb from the blue line caught the tip from McDonald, whose father was in the building tonight for his first pro game.
"I like to be around the net," said McDonald after the game. "[From Bichsel], it was a great shot, and I was there. That's kind of like where I want to be running. That's where I'm gonna make a living"
The teams again traded goals in the second period as Texas collected loads of power play time in the frame. Tucson again went first with a scramble play in front finding the stick of Josh Doan for a quick tap to the net amid the traffic.
Those aforementioned power plays finally paid off as the power play master himself, Curtis McKenzie, set up Stankoven in the slot for a one-timer that beat Matthew Villalta clean.
Tucson outshot Texas 9-2 early in the final frame. They eventually outscored them as well, getting the game winner on a failed clearing play. Texas struggled the find a clean breakout, and Ryan McGregor found Aku Raty breaking to the net with Milos Kelemen. Raty passed to Kelemen on the left side and beat out and outstretched Poirier over the pad.
"We have an opportunity early in the first to maybe get one of those that are bouncing in the slot when we're uncontested. Unfortunately theirs happened to be with eight minutes left in the third. Besides that, it was probably a pretty even affair. "
The Stars worked to even things up, including a frantic final 38 seconds after their timeout to strategize. Stankoven, Mavrik Bourque and Matej Blumel all had chances. Derrick Pouliot and Christian Kyrou drew blue line duty with Bayreuther out. Nothing came of it, and the 3-2 final stood.
Texas and Tucson face off again tomorrow before the Stars head out on the road for a trio of games in the Midwest.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Grushnikov, Mastrodonato, Seminoff, Reedy, White (scratch)