|(Photo Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)
Cedar Park, TX - The Texas Stars saw an eleven-game home point streak snapped as they fell 5-3 to the Rockford IceHogs in a testy affair in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,778 Saturday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. It was also the Stars' first regulation home loss since October 14th, the opening weekend of the season.
Derrick Pouliot got things started early in the first when he found the twine just 1:30 in. Pouliot took a cross-ice pass from Mavrik Bourque near the blue line, dragged it down near the left circle and wristed one past IceHogs netminder Mitchell Weeks for his sixth goal of the season to give Texas the 1-0 lead. Who else but Logan Stankoven was credited with the secondary assist.
Rockford tied the game at 1-1 when they took advantage of a Stars turnover in their own defensive zone. Winger Kale Howarth retrieved the loose puck and tapped it over to Logan Nijhoff who put it past Stars goalie Remi Poirier to knot the game at 1-1 with 12:48 left in the opening frame.
Texas struck back late in the stanza when Bourque found the back of the net. The third-year pro took a pass from Curtis McKenzie in transition and wristed one far side from the right circle to make it 2-1 Stars with 2:17 left in the period. Bourque's tally was his fifteenth of the season, making him the co-leader (with Stankoven) on the team. With his two points Saturday, the 2020 Dallas first rounder sits alone atop of the league with 41 points through 31 games.
With the second period, chaos ensued. Shortly after Rockford's Mike Hardman tied the score on a 3-on-1 rush 4:31 into the middle frame, a shot that Poirier never had a chance on, things turned ugly.
Midway through the period IceHog veteran Brandon Baddock lit up Stankoven late and away from the play in what many would consider a dirty play. The Stars were incensed. Every player that was on the ice at the time headed in his direction, led by the captain McKenzie. The offender turtled under the pile. Once the dust had settled, Baddock was hit with a five-minute major, and the bloodied forward left the ice with a game misconduct. Rockford's Josh Healy was also hit with a roughing minor, as was McKenzie. A normally even-keeled Texas head coach Neil Graham had some choice words for Rockford's head coach Anders Sorensen to make his point clear about what he thought about Baddock's play.
Unfortunately for Texas, not only were they unable to convert on the advantage, they gave up a shorthanded goal when the IceHogs' Anders Bjork beat Poirier with 7:43 left to give Rockford their first lead of the weekend at 3-2.
For the second consecutive period, Texas scored a late goal when they tied the game back up with a shot from the right point to make it 3-3 as the teams headed to the second intermission.
Overall, in the second period, there were eleven infractions for 33 minutes doled out.
The game turned sour for Texas in the third. Jackson Cates gave the IceHogs a 4-3 lead with a shot from the slot with 9:52 left in regulation. Bjork added insurance with his second goal of the night with 4:59, and the rest was history.
Texas had a late chance on the power play with Poirier pulled, but the recent Texas magic wasn't there on Saturday and the IceHogs closed out their 5-3 win.
Texas finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play. Rockford went 0-for-3 on the advantage.
Between the pipes, Poirier stopped 25 of 30 shots as he saw his record fall to 11-5-2 after his eighth consecutive start. Weeks had 28 saves on the 31 shots he faced as his record improved to 2-0-0 in the limited action that he's seen in the 2023-24 season.
With the loss, Texas' record drops to 19-9-2-1 (41 pts.), still good enough to remain atop of the Central Division standings, two points ahead of Milwaukee. The Admirals also have a game in hand on the Stars. Rockford's record improves to 13-14-3-1 (30 pts.) leaving the IceHogs in fourth in the division.
Up next the Stars don't hit the ice again until next Saturday as they host division rival Chicago in a Saturday/Sunday matchup. Faceoff Saturday is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. while Sunday's affair is scheduled for 5:00 P.M.
Injuries, scratches and notes
J. Murray, Reedy, McDonald (scratch)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)
Tonight's attendance was 6,778.