TUCSON, AZ. – The Texas Stars visited the Tucson Roadrunners for game two of the Pacific Division Finals Friday night, needing a win to even the series before it shifts to Texas for games three through five.
The Stars came in down one game to none, after falling to the Roadrunners 2-1 in overtime in game one Wednesday. That had been a defensive affair from the start, with the opening goal waiting until the closing minutes of period two to show itself. Friday night would also come down to goaltending in the end, but the offense would not need as long to appear.
The scoring started with just under four minutes to play in the first, as the Stars cashed in on a hard-working shift in the Tucson zone. The Stars got the puck deep, then used an aggressive forecheck to gain and keep control deep in the Roadrunner end of the rink. It would pay off when Jason Dickinson carried the puck around the back of the net, then flicked a backhanded pass to Remi Elie at the top of the slot. Elie took the pass and quickly whipped a shot on net which took a deflection and found its way past Hill and in. It was initially ruled to be Elie’s goal, but, after further review by the scorekeeper, it was determined that Sheldon Dries tipped the shot home. It was Dries’ second goal of the postseason, and it gave the Stars a 1-0 edge with 3:57 left in the first.
Texas was not done scoring in the frame, though, as the Stars would double their lead in the period’s final minute. The Stars did an excellent job of getting traffic in front of Hill in the first, and once again the goal would come off of a deflection in front. Travis Morin wouldn’t get an assist for his efforts, but the veteran set the goal up with a strong play along the boards. Morin kept in a Tucson clearing attempt along the far boards, then backhanded a pass around a fallen Roadrunner to Reece Scarlett at the point. Scarlett took the puck, and immediately slid it over to Gavin Bayreuther at the opposite point. Bayeuther quickly shot the puck on goal, and Curtis McKenzie was in front of Hill to redirect the puck past the Roadrunner goaltender. It was a big tally for the Texas captain, as it was his first goal of the 2018 playoffs. The goal made it 2-0 Stars with 38.5 second left in the period, and they would take their two-goal cushion to the first intermission.
The second period would begin with a flurry of Tucson penalties, giving Texas chance after chance to extend its lead with the man advantage. The Roadrunners would take four minors in the first 6:38 of the period, two of which came with a Roadrunner already in the sin bin. The Stars had two five-on-threes, and four power plays in total over that stretch, but they were unable to convert. Tucson would load the Texas power play one more time six minutes later, as the Roadrunners were given the extra minor after a scrum after a whistle. Tucson’s penalty kill was once again up to the task, however, and the Stars would finish the night 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Tucson would be given its first power play of the evening with 4:56 left in the middle frame, but Mike McKenna and the Texas penalty kill stood tall. Helped by their advantage in power plays the Stars outshot the Roadrunners again in the second, this time by a 14-7 count. The horn sounded to end 40 minutes of play with the total shot count 25-14 in favor of Texas, and the Stars leading 2-0.
The Roadrunners would not go away quietly, however, as they would ultimately control play in period three. Cheered on by the Roadrunner faithful, Tucson fired shot after shot trying to solve McKenna, outshooting the Stars by a lofty 19-7 margin over the final 20 minutes.
The rally looked to be on its way for Tucson when the Roadrunners broke through and found the back of the net to pull within one with still more than half a period to play. The goal came off a Texas turnover in the Stars’ zone, as the Tucson forecheck pressed hard and knocked the puck free. Lane Pederson picked up the loose puck, and fired a seeing-eye shot from the top of the circle that beat McKenna high glove side. The unassisted marker was Pederson’s third of the playoffs, and it cut the Texas lead to 2-1 with 11:33 still to play.
Tucson continued to put the Stars under pressure as they searched for the equalizer, but one goal was all the Roadrunners would manage against McKenna on this night. Tucson would pull Hill for the extra skater with 90 seconds to play, but less than ten seconds later they would pay for the necessary risk. Flynn was the man to ice it for Texas, as he found the yawning cage twice to seal it. Firing the first tally home from his own end with 1:19 to go, then cashing in from a much shorter distance with 0:32 left to provide the final score of 4-1 Texas.
With the victory, the Stars even the best-of-seven Pacific Division Finals at a game apiece. The series will now shift to the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park for games three, four, and five, with games six and seven back inside the Tucson Convention center if necessary. The Stars will be looking to take advantage of their momentum, and home-ice advantage, to grab the series lead when the puck drops for game three Monday at 7:00 p.m. CT.
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