CEDAR PARK, TX– The fourth installment of this year’s I-35 Rivalry Series was a thriller to the end, as the Texas Stars rallied from three one-goal deficits to win it 4-3.
Texas would get a big performance from their new captain, as Curtis McKenzie scored a nearly identical pair of power play markers in the game. McKenzie was awarded the “C” on Tuesday and wore it on his chest for the first time last night. The 26-year-old from Golden, British Columbia has played at least part of each of the last four seasons for NHL Dallas, and now leads Texas in goals this season with eight.
The game did not start well for the Stars, as the Rampage would jump on Texas early and strike less than 30 seconds in. Landon Bow would make the initial save on a harmless looking shot from the point, but the rebound kicked off his pad and landed between the skates of Stars defenseman Julius Honka. Honka had trouble finding it, and before he was able to locate the pill, San Antonio’s Felix Girard reached out and poked it under a rising Bow to make it 1-0 visitors.
The score would remain unchanged for the next 13:04, but then the Stars would find an equalizer on the power play. The Stars would do a wonderful job of changing the point of attack multiple times, as they quickly whipped the puck across the zone. It started when the newest Star, Reece Scarlett, sent a dart from point to point to the tape of Justin Dowling. Dowling caught it, took a step, and sent a pass across the top of the slot to Travis Morin. Morin wound up as if to blast a slapper, but instead fired a shot-pass backdoor to a waiting McKenzie. The captain put his weight on his stick to ensure stability and guided the puck home to send us to break level.
The Stars would start the second with a little momentum, and it would appear to pay off 1:33 in. Sheldon Dries got a stick on a shot from the point and deflected it past Spencer Martin and in. The light came on, and the referee positioned behind the net signaled for a goal. His partner and the linesmen wanted to discuss it, however, and after their conversation, they reversed the call and ruled Dries’ stick had been too high. The score remained even for the time being, but momentum had switched sides.
San Antonio would regain their lead at the 5:43 mark of period two when A.J. Greer found the back of the net. Greer carried the puck into the zone on the counterattack and released a seeing-eye-wrister that found a path through traffic to find twine. Greer’s first goal of 2017-18 gave the Rampage their second one-goal lead of the night, this time at 2-1.
Once again, though, Texas would answer on the power play; and once again it would be McKenzie finishing off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play to beat Martin. This time it would be Morin sending it to Dowling, who then found McKenzie for the backdoor dunk. McKenzie’s eighth of the year would level the score at two, and came with 11:41 left on the second period clock.
The second period was a busy one, four total pucks would find the back of the net, and it wouldn’t take long for San Antonio to regain their advantage. With 9:20 left in the middle stanza, the Rampage would cash in on their first man advantage of the evening. Alex Belzile found himself the recipient of a lucky bounce and deposited his first of the campaign to give San Antonio a 3-2 cushion.
It looked like the Rampage would carry their advantage to the final frame, but the Stars would level the score in the period’s final half minute. San Antonio had it in the Texas zone but fired a pass that ricocheted hard off the skate of Dires and sailed all the way through the neutral zone. Roope Hintz tracked it and chased it down just inside the San Antonio zone. With 21 seconds on the clock, Hintz picked up the puck and instantly fired a shot that eluded Martin to send us to intermission even at 3-3.
The third period would be an intense battle, as each team searched for the go ahead goal. Both Martin for San Antonio, and Bow for Texas would make key saves to keep the score level, and as time melted away overtime began to look likely.
Extra time would not be needed, however, as lady luck would smile on the Stars with just under seven minutes to play.
The Rampage tried to clear the zone, but Dillon Heatherington managed to stretch and knock the puck back towards the slot. The puck hit the ice and bounced on one hop to Matt Mangene. Mangene swung his stick and was able to make solid contact and smack the puck towards the net. The puck flew up and over Martin’s shoulder and found the twine of the top shelf to give Texas their first lead of the day with only 6:35 left on the clock.
San Antonio would try to rally themselves, but it was not to be on this night. Bow made a couple big saves late, including one with less than five ticks to go. The Stars would hold on and defeat San Antonio by a final score of 4-3.
With the win, the Stars move to 8-7-0-1 on the season, while the Rampage falls to 9-5-0-1. The two teams will now travel to San Antonio, where they will meet Saturday at 7:00 CST for the fifth of fifteen this year. Texas is now 1-2-0-1 against the rival Rampage thru four meetings.
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