|(Credit: Ross Bonader/Texas Stars)
Seeking to salvage a split of the weekend, Texas fell 2-1 to Bakersfield tonight in Cedar Park in front of a sellout crowd. It was their tenth loss of the calendar year, dropping them to 3-10 in 2024 and keeping them tied for second in the Central by virtue of Grand Rapids not playing tonight.
"We obviously addressed multiple things from the game the night before," said head coach Neil Graham. "I thought our guys competed all night. I wish they would have got two points to feel the reward for competing"
After playing potentially one of their worst games of the year on Friday, the turnaround effort was notable even in the loss. "When you compete that hard, you will win more than you lose."
Keaton Mastrodonato, who had the games only goal, added, "Despite the result, I think every single guy in that room can be proud of the effort to compete tonight."
Ultimately, it was former Star Jack Campbell earning the first star of the game as he stopped 36 of 37 in net. It was his first return to Cedar Park since December 13, 2017 with the Ontario Reign.
"I coached Jack," added Graham with a wry smile. "I love to see success for him. I wish it wasn't necessarily tonight."
The first period had no scoring, but that didn't mean it was uneventful. The most notable moment was when the Stars got caught scrambling deep in their own zone with the puck sliding through the crease at least twice. The high danger shift ended without a goal. Texas had several power plays in the first but didn't get anything to convert.
Scoring amped up in the second period as Texas opened their account on the night with Mastrodonato's second of the year. He was the recipient of a smooth, on-target pass from Curtis McKenzie at the left wing wall straight to the slot.
It was Bakersfield answering back and then pushing the score further to end the frame. The Condors' top-ten power play found paydirt on a play that looked very similar to how Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven have scored a number of PPGs this year. This time it was Lane Pederson, scoring from the left wing dot on a one-timer to even things at one.
Dino Kambietz made it 2-1 Bako from the right wing dot around the halfway point of the frame. He had enough time to corral the puck and beat Poirier glove side off the pass from Cam Dineen.
It seemed like Texas would have a puncher's chance in the final frame, especially as the Condors only managed one shot in the entire period. It took them until the 12th minute to log it as well.
"We were getting pucks to the net and having traffic, having those secondary chances," added Mastrodonato. "So that's always going to help when you have layers and just keep following pucks to the net."
The Stars pulled Remi Poirier with two minutes left but could not register the tying goal.
Texas hits the All-Star Break with a 21-17-2-1 record after starting 2024 at 18-7-2-1. They play next on Friday, an away match in Rockford, and next hits the ice for practice on Wednesday.