Texas Stars Late Comeback Falls Short in 4-3 Loss To IceHogs

(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Cedar Park, TX -
The Texas Stars scored twice in the final three minutes but were unable to complete the comeback as they fell 4-3 to the Rockford IceHogs in front of 4,739 at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Wednesday night. To add insult to injury, the game-winning goal was an empty-netter that was set up on an obvious high stick.

"In a big game like this, when you see what you're capable of, when your backs are against the wall, it's twice as important to make sure you come out that way," Texas head coach Neil Graham said after the game. "[I]t wasn't a lack of effort. It was a lack of ability to execute in important moments."

Texas had a chance to take command of the game close to midway through the first when they had a full 1:40 on a 5-on-3. Despite some good looks, they were unable to garner any offense, generating only one shot in the process.

Rockford took advantage of the momentum shift and was able to net the first goal of the game late in the frame when the Stars defense broke down and Rem Pitlick, alone in the slot, took a Brett Seney dish and beat Stars goalie Matt Murray to make it 1-0 Rockford with 1:23 left in the first. The IceHogs would take that lead to the intermission after a period that saw the teams match shots at 7-7.

Texas got on the scoreboard early in the second when Curtis McKenzie, in his sweet spot parked in front of the crease, deflected a Derrick Pouliot shot from the point to knot the game at 1-1 just 4:57 into the second.

The Stars momentum was short-lived. Rockford took back the lead with 8:39 left in the middle frame when Ryder Rolston banked a shot off of Stars blueliner Michael Karow and past Murray to make it 2-1. Late in the period, Colton Dach extended the IceHogs lead to 3-1 as he stickhandled through the defense and chipped one through Murray's five hole with 4:54 left. Rockford took their 3-1 lead to the second intermission, despite having been outshot 17-12 for the period.

The Stars listless play continued into the third. With his team struggling and trying to find a spark, Graham pulled Murray to send Texas on the 6-on-5. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for the Stars. Ethan Del Mastro fielded a high-flying puck with a high stick, knocked it down to Jalen Luypen who buried the empty-netter from center ice to make it 4-1 Rockford with 3:38 left, seemingly putting the nail in the coffin on the Stars night.

Par for the course, Texas went shorthanded with 3:28 left, and the game was clearly in the IceHogs favor. But with 2:54 remaining, Fredrik Karlström fielded a loose puck and a breakaway ensued. The Swede made things interesting at 4-2 with 2:54 left.

With the Stars empty net again, Oskar Bäck - on his birthday - was able to sneak one past Stauber, on a drawn up play to cut the Rockford lead to 4-3 with 17.2 seconds left. It was too little, too late for the Stars. Their late desperation went for naught as Rockford was able to hold on to the 4-3 victory.

Between the pipes, Murray finished his night stopping 23 of 26 shots as he saw his record fall to 13-12-2. Stauber turned away 24 of 27 while seeing his record improve to 11-7-3.

With the loss, Texas falls to 27-24-3-2 (59 pts.), tied for third in the Central Division. With the win, Rockford pulls even with the Stars at 25-21-5-2 (59 pts.) but with two games in hand.

McKenzie when asked how to approach Wednesday's game responded with a simple answer: "Just flush it out".

Up next, the teams re-rack and close out the season series with another matchup on Wednesday night. Faceoff is slated for 7:00 P.M.

 Tonight's Lines



M. Murray

Injuries, scratches and notes
Berard, Mastrodonato, Karow, Thomson, Pettersen, Romano (scratch)
White (undisclosed injury)
Reedy (out - upper body)

Tonight's attendance was 4,739.

Prior to the game, Texas signed forward Anthony Romano out of Clarkson University in the first ATO of the season for the club,

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rickford - March 12 2024