|(Photo Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)|
Cedar Park, TX - For the second straight night, the Texas Stars tallied four goals in the second but were able to tag on several more on as they trounced division rival Grand Rapids 7-4 in front of 5,723 Saturday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, completing the two-game sweep as they concluded Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend. Texas got two goals apiece from Matej Blümel and Antonio Stranges along with a 37-save effort from Remi Poirier as Texas prevailed in a game that was not nearly as close as the score would appear.
The Griffins dominated the shots in the opening minutes, however unlike the Stars 4-2 victory over the Griffins on Friday night, a frenzy of goals highlighted the opening period. Texas got on the scoreboard first on just their second shot when forward Fredrik Karlström found a loose puck trickling in his direction smack-dab in the middle of the slot. The Swede buried it high glove side on Griffins goalie Michael Hutchinson 6:27 into the period. Before the fans in attendance could even sit back down on the ensuing faceoff, the Stars recovered a turnover and Blümel retrieved that loose puck and fired a wrister past Hutchinson just 14 seconds later to give Texas the 2-0 edge early in the frame.
Grand Rapids returned the favor just 3:58 later when Dallas native Cross Hanas found the twine with a wrister from the right circle to halve the Stars lead at 2-1. Just as Texas had done earlier in the period, the Griffins stormed right back and tacked on another tally when Jonatan Berrgeren added an unassisted goal just 1:27 later to knot the game at two apiece with 8:38 left in the first.
Grand Rapids took control the rest of the frame, peppering Poirier with 21 shots, compared to Texas' 10 but late in the stanza, Logan Stankoven intercepted an errant pass in the neutral zone that led to a two-on-one breakaway. The rookie sensation finished the job on his own, wristing one past a stunned Hutchinson to give Texas a 3-2 lead with 48 seconds left in the period for his team-leading tenth goal of the season and a lead that they would take to the first intermission.
The fireworks picked up right where they left off in the opening minutes of the second when Karlström retrieved a turnover from behind the Grand Rapids net and found Mavrik Bourque crashing the net and the newly-minted team leader buried it glove side on Hutchinson to give Texas a 4-2 lead just 1:08 into the second.
The Stars took control in the middle frame, outshooting Grand Rapids 11-6 in the process. The floodgates opened midway through the period when with Texas on a five-on-three advantage, Blümel found a juicy rebound to the left of the cage, took two swipes at it before putting it past Hutchinson for his second goal of the night, giving Texas a commanding 5-2 lead with 8:33 left in the second.
With 1:14 remaining on the advantage, the Stars wasted no time adding another goal when just 28 seconds later, Stranges got the proverbial monkey off his back when he went glove side from the slot for his first home goal of the season, extending the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 6-2 while ending Hutchinson's night.
Texas finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play.
Stranges wasted no time welcoming John Lethemon to his first AHL appearance of the season when he picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone and buried a wrister into the yawning stick side of the cage to make it 7-2 with 3:48 left in the middle stanza, and the rout was on.
With a five-goal advantage going into the third period, Texas seemed content to keep the game in front of them, while not necessarily wanting to run up the score despite being only two goals away from matching a team record for most goals in a game either.
Grand Rapids added an Amadeus Lombardi goal 3:55 into the period, and Tyler Spezia tallied a power-play goal with 4:42 remaining in regulation, but the game was never in doubt after the four-goal second.
The Griffins finished the night going 1-for-5 on the power play.
Between the pipes, Poirier turned away 37 of 41 shots to improve his record to 4-1-2 on the season. Hutchinson stopped 12 of 18 for Grand Rapids as he saw his record drop to 2-4-0. Lethemon had 12 saves on the 13 shots that he saw in relief.
With the win the Stars record improves to 8-3-2-1 (19 pts.) to maintain their lead in the Central Division. With the loss, Grand Rapids falls to 4-7-1-1 (10 pts.) leaving them in fifth in the division.
The Stars now head on the road for five games, where their road record stands at a sterling 5-1-0 to face the Colorado Eagles for a Black Friday matchup at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. Faceoff is scheduled for 8:05 local time.
"We have time to prepare, we have time to continue to improve in areas that we want to improve on," Graham said of the upcoming road trip. "Let's just keep things in perspective. Let's stay humble in our approach and make sure we're ready to start the next trip on time."
Texas will not return home until Friday December 8th when the annual Teddy Bear Toss will be featured as the Stars host the Chicago Wolves.
From all of us at 100 Degree Hockey, have a happy Thanksgiving.
Injuries, scratches and notes
Grushnikov, McDonald, (scratch)
Bayreuther (out long-term/ankle), Reedy (day-to-day/upper-body injury)
Tonight's attendance: 5,723