CEDAR PARK, TX- The red light was functional in Texas Friday, the Texas Stars and Chicago Wolves would test it 11 times just to be sure. The offenses were on fire in an electric season opener for both squads, with Texas taking an early lead and then just barely keeping Chicago at arm’s length. After falling behind 3-1 in the first period, Chicago would respond. They would cut the lead to one three different times; at 3-2, 4-3, and 6-5, but the Wolves never found the equalizer. As time expired, the Stars could exhale, as they held on for the 6-5 win over Chicago.
The scoring would start 8:24 into the first when Jason Dickinson drove hard to the net and pulled the puck to his forehand trying to beat Wolves netminder, and former Stars goaltender, Maxime Lagace. Lagace made the save, but there was a scramble for the rebound, and it would be Dickinson who would find the puck and lift it into the net for the first goal of the year.
Chicago would respond quickly as Alex Tuch would score a power-play goal just 1:24 later to knot the score. The first period belonged to Texas though, and they would score twice more before intermission. The Texas forecheck was lethal all game and would strike back 1:41 later. Denis Gurianov stole the puck in the corner and whipped a pass to the slot, where a wide-open Brian Flynn blasted a one-timer into the top corner.
Texas would not relinquish the lead again.
The Stars would give themselves breathing room when Roope Hintz made a beautiful play to make it 3-1 2:48 before intermission. After a gorgeous stretch pass from Brent Regner, Hintz drove the net while protecting the puck on his backhand. Quick as a snake, he would pull it to his forehand and lift it over Legace and put the Stars up two after one.
Chicago would start the second well, taking advantage of an early power play. The combo of Tuch, Brandon Pirri, and Teemu Pulkkinen would be a thorn in Texas’ side all night. On the man advantage, Pulkkinen slid a seeing-eye pass through four Stars and found Tuch who hit his mark, making it 3-2. Texas would extend the lead back to two before intermission when Sheldon Dries netted his first pro goal. Regner would set it up with another great pass. After another steal on the forecheck, he circled to the top of the circle and fired a bb backdoor to Dries who made no mistake and Texas led 4-2 after 40.
The deadly line of Chicago’s would strike again early in the final frame when Pulkkinen buried a power play tally to make it 4-3 with 17:20 to play. Once again though, Texas had the answer with their forecheck. Off yet another takeaway, Dries fed the slot where Colin Markison was able to get a stick on it and slide the puck under Legace to restore the two-goal advantage.
Just 71 seconds later, the Stars struck again with what would end up being the game-winner. Remi Elie drove hard to the net using his backhand to protect the puck. He whipped a backhander that rode the Wolves defenseman’s stick like a ramp up and over Legace and in to make it 6-3 Texas. Chicago would not go quietly, however, and the Stars would have to hold on. With 7:54 left, Tuch would finish his hat-trick as he collected a rebound and beat Mike McKenna to make the score 6-4.
Just over two minutes later, Tuch would add an assist to his stellar season opener, as he sent a pass to Shea Theodore who blasted a one-timer from the point off the crossbar and in to cut the lead to one once again with 5:38 to play.
There would be nervous moments down the stretch, especially when Chicago went on the power play with 4:05 to play. It was short-lived, however, as Beau Bennett would take a double minor for high-sticking effectively ending Chicago’s hopes. The Stars would hold on and win a thriller, 6-5.
Chicago outshot the Stars 33-27 and won the special teams battle going 2-for-5 on the man-advantage compared to 0-for-4 for Texas. The Stars were able to hold on though thanks to an outstanding effort offensively and a deadly forecheck. The teams will meet again tonight inside the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, TX; faceoff is set for 7:00 Central time.
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