Texas Battles Through Injury Adversity to Earn 3-2 Win Over Iowa

(Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)

Playing the worst team in the Central for a second night in a row, Texas left no doubt on the final scoreboard with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Iowa Wild tonight in front of a sellout crowd at H-E-B Center.

Texas is battling adversity left and right, so it was a good victory in more ways than one. The Stars had no healthy scratches tonight as injuries continue to plague the forward ranks and Dallas is expected to recall defenseman Derrick Pouliot tomorrow. He was scratched tonight in advance of the move. Rookie Jake Murray, who stepped in, found out he was playing at 5:15 PM.

"You can't necessarily prepare for those moments," said head coach Neil Graham. "But it's how you handle them that's probably the most important. Our group handled it correctly. We had a plan. The plan didn't change."

In one of those changes, after a 12 game absence before this weekend, Chase Wheatcroft made his way to the first line. Graham noted he wanted to elevate Wheatcroft in the lineup at some point, but the opportunity presented itself earlier than planned. Curtis McKenzie is expected to be out for at least a month with the injury sustained last night.

With Wheatcroft speeding down the left wing, Logan Stankoven found Mavrik Bourque, who dished to the rookie Wheatcroft for the opening goal. "Those are two pretty special players," said Wheatcroft of his linemates.  "Bourque made a great play to me right off the bat, and I was lucky enough to put it home."

Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque both had two point nights, and the pair combined for 15 of Texas' 29 shots on goal. They continue to pace each other at the top of the AHL's scoring charts with 57 and 55 points respectively in 46 games.

The Stars' lead wouldn't last long though with Adam Beckman scoring on the next shift and resetting the score at 1-1. 

Through the middle of the frame, the fourth line with Jack Becker, Matthew Seminoff and Keaton Mastrodonato did a lot of work to generate positive momentum. That's something the team will need as their forward depth continues to be challenged.

"To be quite honest, they've done a real good job finding an identity," added Graham. "Whether they play eight minutes or twelve, they're going to check hard, be physical. They're going to block shots. It doesn't show up on the score sheet, but ... they're really adding value to our team."

As the period wound down, the Stars found themselves rushing up ice after turning a lengthy Iowa possession into numbers the other way. Matej Blümel raced in 2-on-1 with Fredrik Karlström for the latter's 15th of the season, his second in as many nights. The goal came with just 18.2 seconds left in the frame.

In a rough and tumble middle period, Texas scored the only goal as Bourque found Stankoven unmarked for the 3-1 lead. Texas had a prime chance with a major penalty assessed to Daemon Hunt for cross-checking midway through the period. They would ultimately only play shortly with the advantage after Wheatcroft took a penalty halfway through the three minutes of actual advantage after the matching penalties.

"I think we did a really good job staying out of all of that stuff and just stuck to our game," said Wheatcroft of the teams unwillingness to muck it up against a physical Iowa front.

In the third, Iowa broke through on the power play with a goal from the point by Nic Petan to make it 3-2. Iowa tried to make it interesting late with a power play and the empty net. Even the 6-on-4 could not break the Texas defense.

The Wild visit Texas once more time on the season at the end of March. With the win, Texas holds onto their sole possession of second place in the Central, ahead of Grand Rapids by just one point by virtue of the Griffins' win over Rockford tonight. They still trail the world-bearing Admirals by 14 points.

The Stars are back on the road next, hitting the midwest once again starting with a head-to-head against GRG on Wednesday in Michigan.

Tonight's lines



Injuries, scratches and notes
Pouliot (callup)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)
Berard, Reedy, Caamano (out - upper body)
McKenzie (injury)

Derrick Pouliot was a late scratch as Dallas is expected to recall the forward officially tomorrow to play this week in place of the injured Jani Hakanpää, who was hurt in this afternoon's game against Edmonton.

Tonight's attendance was 6,778, a sellout.