CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – The Texas Stars came into Saturday night’s contest badly needing a win to stay within the Pacific Division’s top four, but Kasimir Kaskisuo of Chicago would make 24 saves in route to a 4-1 Wolves victory inside H-E-B Center. The game would unfold much like the previous four between the evenly-matched squads this season, with the teams unable to create separation from each other. While the other four would all end as one-goal wins for the victor, tonight the Wolves would notch two empty net markers to win by a final of 4-1.
The game would not start well for the home side as Chicago took to the attack early, but despite a high volume of quality shots, the Wolves would not be able to find the opening goal. Instead, the Stars would break the ice against the flow of play and take the lead midway through the opening frame. In his first game since being recalled from ECHL Idaho, Max French stole the puck at the Stars’ defensive blue line resulting in a quick three-on-two rush. French would pass to fellow rookie Austin Fyten, and quickly cut hard and break towards the far post. Fyten saw this and whipped a silky backhand pass back over to French who beat Kaskisuo to give the Stars a 1-0 lead at 10:37 of the first.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as only 0:49 later would Chicago respond and rip momentum away from Texas. T.J. Tynan picked up the puck and circled the perimeter of the slot looking for a passing lane to reveal itself. He found Brandon Pirri open backdoor and wired a pass through the slot straight to Pirri’s tape. Landon Bow quickly pushed off his post and stretched across to cover the far one. Pirri, however, anticipated this and patiently waited and cut back across the slot to deposit the puck into the open portion of the net Bow had just vacated. It was a gorgeous display of patience and vision from both Pirri and Tynan, and it would give Chicago a quick equalizer to restore their momentum. The first period would play out without any additional scoring, and the game hit intermission even at a goal each.
The second period would be a battle of wills to see who could grab the lead, and midway through the frame, it appeared as though the Stars had won. The puck was thrown into a mass of bodies in front of the goal and found its way past an obstructed Kaskisuo. The officials would review the play to see whether or not Samuel Laberge had interfered with Kaskisuo, and also if it was intentional. They would rule that Laberge had prevented Kaskisuo from making the save, but also that he had been knocked into Kaskisuo by a defender. In the end, the right call appeared to be made as they waived off the goal and did not call any unfair penalties.
The Wolves seemed to gain confidence after the review reset the score to 1-1, and they would have the better of the attack for the remainder of the frame. Chicago would finally break through and take the lead on a power play with 2:31 remaining in the middle stanza, and once again it would be Pirri who found twine. He fired a shot from the boards which eluded Bow and gave Chicago the would-be game-winner. The goal also gave Pirri a four-game point streak and was his fourth point (3G, 1A) in two games this week against Texas.
The Stars would send everything they had at Chicago over the final twenty minutes, but Kaskisuo stood tall every time. The home team even pulled Bow late for the extra man, but Chicago found the empty net twice to seal the deal and establish the final margin of 4-1. With the loss, the Stars fall to 29-21-5-3 (66 points, .569 points %), and slip to fifth in the Pacific Division. Texas will now travel south down I-35 for a Sunday afternoon tilt with arch-rival San Antonio.
Chicago, meanwhile, wins its fourth contest in a row and improves to 31-18-6-2 (70 points, .614 points %). They will stay in Texas for a game in San Antonio Tuesday night.
@SinBinWolves shares her thoughts about Chicago’s effort Saturday:
- Reid Duke played in his first professional game tonight and had an average debut. While his ice time was limited because of the amount of time on the power play the Wolves had, he appeared lackluster in his own zone at points. He was very strong at the dot though.
- Kaskisuo continued to be extremely confident in net tonight, making save after save through traffic to keep his team ahead 2-1 when Texas was controlling in the third.
- Pirri’s patience tonight is the biggest reason why he’s the team’s leading goal-scorer. He was able to open up Bow and create two big goals.
- The Wolves did not take their foot off the pedal tonight even with a 3-1 lead. That’s the type of play you want to see from a future playoff team. You can’t get comfortable with any lead, and this team has shown time and time again just how well it understands that.
You can follow both the Stars and Wolves as they travel to San Antonio, and throughout the season, by following @SinBinStars or @SinBinWolves on Twitter.