Stars Survive Late Push By San Diego, Win 4-3

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

On a night where the most impactful news for the Dallas organization happened off the ice, the Texas Stars also played some hockey, a solid win over the visiting San Diego Gulls by a mark of 4-3. Christian Kyrou scored a pair while Mavrik Bourque potted two assists and Matej Blümel had a goal and an assist.

"I really like the pace we came on with," said head coach Neil Graham. "I think we put the opponent on their heels... We were clean. We trusted our structure, and in turn we played pretty fast."

The Stars put up four points against a team they needed to beat. The Gulls sit ninth in the ten-team Pacific Division with a record four games below five hundred. 

The power play had three goals on four chances on the night to keep cooking with gas on the season. Texas is not satisfied with their power play success and keeps pushing. Coach Graham noted that assistant coach Travis Morin, in charge of the power play, made a breakout adjustment tonight to establish more of a threat off zone entries.

"[The power play] was critical for the win tonight. Back-to-back coming off the travel, to get two here at home was big for our group."

Texas got the game started on time, as their coach likes to say, with a quick two-goal lead in the early going. Blümel rifled one from the left-wing point off the pass from Bourque to open things. Just 31 seconds later, Christian Kyrou floated one through on Alex Stalock after walking the blue line back and forth in search of the shot.

"It was a good load up high by Seminoff and good play by my teammates to create havoc in front," said Kyrou postgame.

The Stars would take that lead to the break with a 8-7 shot advantage to boot. In the second period, the teams traded power play goals with San Diego going first. Olen Zellweger snuck down the left-wing side to find a hole in Remi Poirier far side for the 2-1 margin. Texas would answer late in the frame with Oskar Bäck's sixth of the season, a redirect off the shot-pass from Bourque. Blümel had the secondary assist.

Texas would go ahead 4-1 with yet another power play goal, this time from Kyrou early in the third. Chase Wheatcroft had the keep along the blue line, finding Kyrou for his second of the night.

San Diego mounted a comeback bid in the final segment of the game with two goals. 

"We hit a fatigue wall," admitted coach Graham. "Getting that third power play goal was critical. They started driving plays a little deeper. They just had a push. They skated hard in the third, and they were able to make some plays towards our net. It wasn't for a lack of focus or effort. I think we hit a little bit of a fatigue wall."

Josh Lopina got a slick redirect in the paint off a pass from a below-the-goal-line Brayden Tracey to make it 4-2. With more than four minutes left, the Gulls would pull Stalock for the extra man, and it would pay off. Glenn Gawdin floated one through traffic through a screened Poirier to make it 4-3.

With the goalie still pulled, San Diego poured on the pressure but could not earn the tying goal.

With injury to Gavin White and the trade of Grushnikov, Texas is once again in a dire situation with no healthy scratches as they head on the road for a stint. The Stars are likely to call on Idaho once again. In a bit of irony, a top potential target, Patrick Kudla, is already on a PTO with AHL Calgary. Texas may need to fish for something other than a Steelhead.

The Stars hit the road yet again for a quick pair in Winnipeg on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2 PM.

Tonight's lines

Zloty-J. Murray


Injuries, scratches and notes
Stankoven (callup)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)
Berard, Reedy, Caamano (out - upper body)
McKenzie (injury, lower body out until late March/early April)

As noted here, Artem Grushnikov was technically a scratch but was traded during the game to Calgary. Grushnikov found out about the scratch just before puck drop, but he stuck around and addressed the team after the game. Graham said, "He's a first-class individual. He wanted to say a few words and spoke very highly of our organization and his time here. We feel the exact same way about him.

"I told him I'm from Calgary. If he needs anything, a home cooked meal, let me know."

Tonight's attendance was 5,093.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Diego - February 28 2024