Texas Stars Come Out on Top 6-4 in Late Back-And-Forth Battle

(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Cedar Park, TX -
Coming off of a relatively strong road trip where the Texas Stars picked up four of a possible six points, the Stars topped the Iowa Wild 6-4 en route to extending their point streak to four in front of 5,860 Friday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.

"Two points. We needed two points. Two points and four straight games," Texas head coach Neil Graham said after the game. "It's not always how you draw it up, obviously, but at the end of the day. I think we're seeing a lot more good than [bad]. I thought we were on our toes. So like I said, take the two points."

The scoreless first was rather uneventful as neither team had many solid chances, despite Texas having an 8-7 shot advantage. Texas caught a break with ten seconds left in the period when Iowa was caught in a change and were called for a too many men infraction. While Iowa was able to get out of the period unscathed, the Stars would open the second with 1:50 on the advantage.

It didn't take long for Texas to take advantage their lone power play of the evening as Kyle McDonald picked up right where he left off when he beat Wild goalie Jesper Wallstedt from the slot for his ninth power play goal of the season just 34 seconds into the second. McDonald's power play tally not only leads the team but leads all AHL rookies, despite his prolonged absence.

Shortly after, the momentum completely turned the Stars way when Curtis McKenzie broke up a breakout and snapped a pass to Mavrik Bourque who one-timed it past Wallstedt to give Texas a 2-0 lead 8:10 into the stanza.

The crowd went into a frenzy just over a minute later when Derrick Pouliot redirected a limping Matej Blümel shot past Wallstedt, seemingly giving Texas a commanding 3-0 lead with 10:36 remaining in the second. 

With the Stars cruising and in complete control, Iowa snuck back into the game when Steven Fogarty parked at the left post poked one past Texas goalie Matt Murray to make it 3-1 with 2:42 left in the middle frame. The teams headed to their respective rooms with Texas having a 14-9 shot advantage for the period, giving the Stars a 23-17 edge through forty.

Texas had their struggles in the third. Iowa's Sammy Walker flipped one top right on Murray 6:03 into the third to cut the Stars lead to 3-2 and the Wild were right back in it.

The Stars battled but were unable to get through the neutral zone time after time throughout the third. Frederik Karlström probably made the play of the game just over eight minutes into the period when he blocked a shot, and Matej Blümel collected the loose puck and went on a breakaway, five-holing Wallstedt to give Texas a 4-2 lead with 11:21 left, giving the building a collective sigh of relief.

"That was a big goal by [Blümel] but I think it's even equally as important to notice the block[ed] shot there at the top of the zone. They have an opportunity to create offensive the towards the net, and Freddy Karlström blocks a shot at the top of the neutral zone and a great footrace by Matej Blümel to finish."

The pesky Wild weren't going down quietly. Adam Beckman scored on the power play with 6:27 left to make it 4-3. Shortly after, Beckman won a faceoff and apparently passed it to himself, flipping one past Murray, and the game was knotted at 4-4 with 4:24 left in regulation.

At this point, the game seemed destined for bonus hockey, but clearly the Stars were having none of that. Just 24 seconds later, Pouliot cleaned up his own rebound and buried one past Wallstedt from the right post into the yawning net and Texas retook the lead at 5-4 with exactly four minutes left on the clock.

Texas was able to ride out the clock despite having been outshot 20-7 for the third. Karlstrom polished off his stellar three-point night with an empty netter with 28 seconds left to finish off the 6-4 victory.

"It was good. It was really good." Graham said of Karlstrom's slide-busting three-point night including the major block. "[H]e wants to contribute. He wants to be a part of it and he's such a good teammate and a good person. I'm happy for him." 

Between the pipes Murray improved his record to 11-9-2 as he stopped 33 of the 37 shots he faced. Wallstedt's record dropped to 14-12-0 while saving 24-of-29

With the win Texas improved to 23-17-3-2 (51 pts.) to put them in sole possession of second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of Grand Rapids who lost to Cleveland in overtime Friday night. The Stars moved to within fourteen points of the Admirals who were idle on Friday. With the loss, Iowa fell to 17-26-1-2 (37 pts.), keeping them in the cellar of the Central.

Up next, the teams re-rack for a 7:00 P.M. rematch at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Saturday night to close out the weekend series. 

Tonight's lines


(* - starters)

Injuries, scratches and notes
Becker, J. Murray (scratch)
Bayreuther (out - ankle)
Berard, Reedy, Caamano (out - upper body)

Three Stars
1. Pouliot
2. Blümel
3. Karlström

Tonight's attendance was 5,860.

Kirsten Welsh was a linesperson for the game on Friday, marking just the second time a female official called a game in Cedar Park.