CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – After one game in which the Texas Stars found success against the Rockford IceHogs by frustrating them into making untimely mistakes, the Stars looked to repeat this performance at home at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Sunday evening.
That they did, and again the Stars limited the IceHogs to just two goals in the game which needed extra time to determine a winner.
John Hayden lit the lamp after connecting on a one-time pass in front of goaltender Mike McKenna. Before the period was over, both teams would trade chances on the power play, with neither able to find success thus far. At the buzzer of a back-and-forth period, it was the IceHogs leading the Stars 1-0 and with the 11-6 shots on goal advantage.
Just three minutes into the sandwich stanza, the IceHogs made their first critical mistake of the game when they left Jason Dickinson all alone after the defense collapsed too far inwards. He was in a perfect spot for the crisp cross-ice pass from Matt Mangene, and the winger wristed one in from the left of Collin Delia to tie the game.
For the second game in a row, a Lance Bouma penalty led to a Stars power-play goal. This time, it was Brent Regner whose shot from the point beat Delia glove-side, off the post, and in to give the Stars a 2-1 lead at 8:15 of the second.
Following yet another parallel of game one, the IceHogs were given another chance on a two-man advantage, and Chris DiDomenico figured in yet again. This time, it was DiDomenico himself who scored on the cross-ice pass from Cody Franson to tie the game on the power play at 11:09 of the second. The second period ended in a 2-2 tie, with the IceHogs having a slight 19-18 shots on goal advantage.
Each team would get an early chance on the power play in the third to jump ahead, but both penalty kills stood strong. Texas did a good job of preventing Rockford from sustaining any play in the offensive zone, and Delia stoned a chance on the rush to keep his team from allowing a goal.
The king of untimely penalties this series, Bouma returned to the box with five on the clock in regulation, but the IceHogs kill stood strong again.
Regulation would end locked in a 2-2 tie, but a 30-23 shots on goal advantage for the Stars would prove indicative of the final result.
Rockford had an early chance to end the game and tie the series when two of its players streaked down the ice in a 2-on-1. However, a diving Dillon Heatherington and alert McKenna kept the rush from resulting in a quality chance.
Fittingly, extra time ended on a power-play goal by Curtis McKenzie, who had drawn the penalty when he was taken down by Gustav Forsling. Delia gave up a rebound on the initial shot, and it was McKenzie who popped the rebound up and over the goaltender through the chaos in front.
Texas had won it in overtime 3-2 and finished the game with a 37-26 shots on goal advantage. Special teams were a key part of the game’s outcome, with three of the five total goals coming on the man-advantage. The Stars went 2-for-7 on the power play, while the IceHogs were 1-for-5.
Delia made 34 saves in net, while McKenna turned aside 24.
Delia was not out-dualed Sunday. Rather, his team was out-battled in the third and the overtime, allowing themselves to get baited into taking untimely penalties. If Jeremy Colliton’s team wants to come back from a 2-0 series deficit, it needs to tighten up its gameplay and start playing like the team which frustrated both the Chicago Wolves and Manitoba Moose by preventing them from sustaining pressure and creating quality shots.
As for Derek Laxdal’s team, it did everything right in the waning moments of game two. While game one could have gone either way, the Stars controlled the final 40 minutes of the second game. If they continue to play like this, then the IceHogs are looking at a substantial uphill climb with the series returning to Rockford for the next three games starting tomorrow night.