CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – The Texas Stars scored three times in an explosive middle frame Wednesday night to defeat the Iowa Wild 4-2 at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. With the victory. the Stars moved back into the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot, improving to 31-21-5-3 (70 points, .583 pts %). Colin Markison paced the Stars with three points on the night, including scoring the tying goal early in the second before tallying assists on the go-ahead and insurance goals.
The Wild were the ones who came out strong in the opening frame, and they would draw first blood. Just 0:56 into the game, Kurtis Gabriel got behind the Texas defense and came flying in alone against Landon Bow. Gabriel took his time and picked his spot, flinging a quick shot over Bow’s outstretched glove and into the corner to give the visitors the early lead.
The Stars would respond; just under 8:00 later the game would be even. Hard-working Sheldon Dries would win a race to the corner to retrieve a dump-in, and then wheeled and fired a low hard pass towards the crease. The puck would deflect off the skate of Iowa netminder Niklas Svedberg before rattling off each post and making its way across the line to level the early proceedings. They say luck is when skill meets opportunity, and that was indeed the case here. Dries used his speed, agility, and offensive awareness to not only win the race to the puck but then avoid the defender and whip the puck into a dangerous area. His skill was what gave the Stars the opportunity for the lucky bounce, and it combined to even the score.
The Wild would not be outdone, however, and they would retake the lead before the first intermission. With 3:12 to go in the frame, and Iowa on a power play, Ryan Murphy fired a shot that was deflected by Zach Mitchell past Bow and into the net. The goal restored the one-goal Wild edge, and Iowa would take that 2-1 lead to the second period.
The middle stanza would a fantastic period for the Stars, as Markison and company would put three pucks behind Svedberg. The attack would start early. Just 34 seconds into the frame, Markison would put himself in the perfect position to tie the game off another “lucky” bounce. Gavin Bayreuther fired a shot from the point, and as Markison cut to the front, the puck would ricochet off of him and past Svedberg. The officials would review the play, but the call would stand to even the score.
With Iowa on the power play 7:14 into the second, it was Texas who would grab ahold of the lead and not relinquish it. Markison was the catalyst for the shorthanded tally, poking the puck away and gaining a step on the Wild defense. Svedberg opted for a diving poke-check, and while he did knock it away from Markison, he was then nowhere near the net to deal with the rebound. Austin Fyten scooped up the delicious leftovers and fired them into the gaping net to put the Stars on top.
The Stars would go on establish a two-goal cushion with 2:11 remaining in the frame. Markison was involved again, recording his second primary assist of the game. This time he would pass the puck to Justin Dowling and allow him to do the heavy lifting. Dowling fired a perfectly placed shot from a tight angle which eluded Svedberg and careened in off the crossbar. His tenth of the year sent Texas to the third ahead by two.
The final frame would feature five power plays, two for Iowa and three for the Stars, but the shots on goal were limited to six and seven each, respectively. The Stars did well to prevent shots in their defensive zone and they controlled both the puck and the clock while on the attack. When Iowa did get a shot through the defense, Bow was there to turn it aside. He made 20 saves in total on the night, and the Stars would skate off the ice as 4-2 victors.
With the win, the Stars jump ahead of the Stockton Heat to grab hold of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific with a points percentage of .583 (31-21-5-3, 70 points). The Stars now hit the road for two crucial games in The Grand Canyon State, battling the first place Tucson Roadrunners Friday and Saturday night. Both match ups with the Roadrunners will face off at 9:05 CT. The Stars are 0-1-1-0 against the Roadrunners this year, falling 5-2 and 2-1 in OT during a weekend set February 9-10 in Cedar Park.
You can keep up with the Stars in Tucson – and all season – by following @SinBinStars on Twitter. Every game, home or away, is live-tweeted with the most detailed updates available online.