GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Texas Stars opened their final road trip of the 2017-18 campaign with a tense uphill battle against the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday night.
Landon Bow was between the pipes for the Stars, and for the third straight game would allow two goals or less to give Texas a chance. Bow would need to be on top of his game, as the home squad dominated the shot count to the tune of 41-20 through 65 minutes of play. Bow’s 39 saves would extend the drama to the shootout before Texas fell in the shootout. With the valuable point gained, Texas sees their record move to 34-23-7-4 (79 points, .581 pts%) on the season, and remains in the Pacific’s fourth and final playoff spot.
The game would start with an evenly played opening frame, with the Griffins holding a narrow 11-9 edge in shots through 20 minutes. Bow would make several key saves early to keep the game scoreless, allowing the Stars to turn to the attack and find the opening goal late in the frame.
With 2:37 left on the clock, and the squads playing four-on-four, Brian Flynn spied Roope Hintz get a step on the Griffins defense. Flynn got out his pitching wedge and chipped a perfect pass up and over the defense, leading Hintz in on a breakaway. Hintz waited a moment to time his shot, then with a quick release, wired a shot five-hole on Griffins tender Tom McCollum to open the scoring.
The Stars would take that lead into the second period, where they would find themselves under an all-out assault as the Griffins fought to even the score. Grand Rapids would hem the Stars in the Texas zone, outshooting the Stars 12-4 in the middle stanzas. Bow would keep the Stars on top until the midpoint of the frame, when Grand Rapids finally found a crack to tie the game.
11:57 into the frame Dominik Shine carried the puck into the Texas zone, then slammed on his breaks and turned to look for a pass to the slot. His quick turn opened the slot up for attack, and he fed Filip Hronek for a quick two-on-one. Hronek waited for Stars D-man Gavin Bayreuther to commit to covering the pass, then fired a shot under the glove of Bow to even the score 1-1.
The score remained that way for the remainder of the second, but 35 seconds into period three, the Stars would find themselves behind. Colin Campbell dropped a quick pass to Ben Street, who immediately fired a perfectly placed one-timer into the top corner. Bow never had a chance on the play, and just like that, the Stars were behind 2-1.
The Stars would need under five minutes to respond, however, as 4:56 later, the game was even once again. Colin Markison won an offensive zone faceoff back to Niklas Hansson, who walked the point looking for a shooting lane. He wristed a shot through traffic that was deflected home by Samuel Laberge to even the score at two apiece with 14:29 to play in regulation.
Grand Rapids would control the puck throughout the game, and it was no different over the final 25 minutes, as the Stars were outshot 18-7 during the third period and overtime. It felt like every shift took place in the Stars zone, but as he has the last three games, Landon Bow would stand tall. Bow has stopped 103 of 108 shots (.954 SV%) in three starts since Mike McKenna was recalled to Dallas, allowing the Stars to salvage 3-of-6 points from otherwise underwhelming performances.
The Stars had multiple chances to win in the shootout, but they would save one, and only one, point. Texas could have won with a goal or a save in round three, but Travis Morin missed wide and Filip Hronek scored a beauty for Grand Rapids to extend the action. Each team would score in round four, then McCollum stopped Justin Dowling in the top of the fifth to set up the winner. Axel Holmstrom would shoot fifth for the Griffins, and his shot squeaked through the legs of Bow to end the night’s festivities.
With the shootout loss, the Stars see their record move to 34-23-7-4 (79 points, .581 points%) and keep treading water in fourth in the Pacific. The Stars will now move on to the west side of Lake Michigan, for weekend contests against Milwaukee and Chicago. The Stars will look to continue success against the two, as the Stars are 3-0 against the Admirals, and 3-1-1 against the Wolves this season. Faceoff for Friday’s game in Milwaukee is set for 8 ET/7 CT.
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