Texas Pulls Away from Pesky Wolves in Third, 5-2

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

On Teddy Bear Toss Night, the Stars defeated the visiting Wolves by a 5-2 final with Mavrik Bourque scoring the Teddy Bear Toss goal and potting two more assists. With the points, he claimed sole possession of first in the AHL's scoring race with 29 points. Teammate Logan Stankoven sits just behind at 27 thanks to an assist tonight.

"They're a dynamic pairing," said head coach Neil Graham. "They've obviously been able to be consistent in their offensive game and they've also been good on the defensive side of the puck."

Mavrik Bourque noted that they are essential to each other's success, "I don't think I can do this by myself. And  I think it's the same thing for him. In my experience playing my [first] year last year, I could not really find someone that that fit that good like [Stankoven] this year."

Texas battled through illness on the evening as the general winter malaise of cold and flu season has bitten the entire room hard.

"I'm proud of our group's effort. I know most of the teams under the weather, but in all reality I expect their team is as well. You don't have a lot of time initially to feel sorry for yourself or you're going to end up in the losing column. We had to get a little more recovery time early in the week in order to allow our energy levels to regain some pace in our game."

Matt Murray stopped 30 of 32 as he extended his record to 7-3-1. Former Star Adam Scheel took the loss with 33 saves on 37 shots.

Chicago scored the only goal of the opening frame, though it wasn't a goal on the ice to start. Ryan Wagner tipped in a shot from Tyson Feist but the referee closest to the play immediately waved it off for a high stick. On review, the play was overturned, and the Wolves led 1-0 after 20.

It felt like former Star Adam Scheel was getting lucky on scrambly plays and rebounds in the paint. It wouldn't last forever, of course.

Bourque made the 2,419 bears rain down with a putback goal at the net, just going hard at a rebound off the initial effort from Curtis McKenzie. It was not his first Teddy Bear Toss goal, as he scored one during his 16 year-old season with Shawinigan of the QMJHL. It was his eighth of this year and came after a Bakersfield game which was just the third all season where the sophomore AHLer has been held off the scoresheet.

Teddy toss games can be dangerous in a coach's mind. From intense focus to complete insanity on the ice in a second and a lengthy cleanup. The Wolves, now tied at one, let their focus drift and gave up the go-ahead goal just one minute later.

"What I liked is there could be a little bit of a lull," said Graham. "But then we came right back on our toes... we were able to control some momentum."

With the Wolves defense changing, Antonio Stranges collected a turnover and went in mostly untouched for a backhand breakaway goal, his fifth tally of the year and the 2-1 lead.

Both teams had 5-on-3s in the middle frame and came up empty.

The final frame saw Texas separate themselves in a way that seemed inevitable throughout the game. Oskar Bäck scored off the assist from Stankoven on the power play and that very play earned Texas another power play, which led to yet another, where they also cashed in. In a flash, it was 4-1.

With the Wolves on the power play themselves with six minutes left, Bob Nardella pulled Adam Scheel for the 6-on-4 attack. Fredrik Karlström scored into the empty net to make it 5-1, technically a shorthanded goal, to put things out of reach for the visitors.

The Wolves would score on a dribbling puck, deflected past Murray in the blue paint, to set the final at 5-2.

Despite all the goals and points, there were other positives all across the ice. Gavin White, who will now see more regular duty with the departure of Lian Bichsel, had a very solid night, as did his partner Michael Karow.

These two teams re-rack and play again tomorrow before Texas hits the road yet again for a three-game road trip through the Midwest.

Tonight's lines


M. Murray

Injuries, scratches and notes
Jake Murray, McDonald, Berard (scratch)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)

Tonight was the first game following Lian Bichsel's assignment to Sweden.

Tonight’s attendance was 6,024.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - December 8 2023