CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars were unable to break out of their recent slump in week five, dropping a pair in California to push the losing streak to four.
It was the first trip west of the season for the Stars, but their former Pacific Division-foes were less than welcoming. The weekend started on Thursday with a 5-3 loss to the Ontario Reign, then closed with a 4-3 defeat against the Bakersfield Condors Saturday.
Defense continues to be a problem for the Stars, who have now given up four or more goals in four straight games. Texas has allowed less than three goals twice in 11 games this season, and currently rank 25th in the American Hockey League allowing 3.71 goals per game (41 goals against).
Thursday, 11/1: Reign 5, Stars 3
The Stars and Reign looked set for a high-scoring clash after a back-and-forth opening frame saw the Stars take a 3-2 lead to the first intermission. The Reign tied it 13 seconds into period two, but then the goaltending of Landon Bow for the Stars and Cal Petersen of the Reign stemmed the offensive flow. Ontario found a late power play tally with 5:26 left, then added an empty-net marker with 17 seconds left on the clock to win by a 5-3 count.
The Stars were led offensively by a breakout game from rookie Adam Mascherin. He fired seven shots on goal, and contributed a goal and assist to the Texas cause. Ben Gleason and Colton Hargrove rounded out the scoring for the Stars. Bow stopped 31-of-35 Bakersfield shots on the night.
- The Stars spent almost the entire second half of the middle stanza on the power play, but were unable to find a go-ahead goal. They slung 18 shots at Petersen in the frame, but he turned aside every offering. The Stars were 0-for-4 with the extra man in the period, and the game went to the third even. Texas ended the game 1-for-5 overall with the man advantage, scoring in the first period.
- Bow surrendered three goals on 11 shots over the first 20:23, but played extremely well the remainder of the game. He stopped 23 of the 24 Reign shots he faced after the rough start, giving Texas every opportunity to pull out a win. The offense was not able to solve Petersen at the other end, however, and the only puck that beat a goalie in the third would be the winner for Ontario.
- Stars forward Michael Mersch made his first visit to Ontario since signing with the Stars in the offseason. Mersch spent five seasons in the Los Angeles Kings organization, including playing the last three years with the Reign. He had 125 points (61G, 64A) in 165 regular season games for Ontario. He was held scoreless in his first game against his former squad.
Saturday, 11/3: Condors 4, Stars 3
Bakersfield jumped on Texas early on Saturday, grabbing a 2-0 edge after just 4:32 of play. The Condors’ domination continued in period two, as the hosts outshot the Stars 28-14 through 40 minutes to take a 4-1 lead to the third. The Stars comeback fell a goal short in the third, and the Condors won by a 4-3 final.
Erik Condra and Denis Gurianov each had two-point nights for the Stars, with Condra netting a goal and an assist, and Gurianov chipping in two helpers. Mersch and Joel Hanley also had goals for Texas. Colton Point got the start in net, stopping 25-of-29 shots he faced.
- Point was briefly pulled after allowing two goals in the first 4:32 of the first period. Bow came in and stopped the only shot he faced in just 16 seconds of action, before Point returned at the first whistle. The pep talk on the bench seemed to help the rookie netminder, as Point allowed just two goals over the final 55:28.
- The Stars came out on a mission in the third period, throwing everything they had at the Condor net in a desperate attempt to get back in the game. Shots were 16-2 Texas over the final 20 minutes, but Bakersfield backstopper Al Montoya was brilliant in the frame, stopping 14-of-16. The Stars did get back to within one, but by the time they did there was just one second left on the clock.
Three Stars of the Week:
Third Star: Joel Hanley, who had a goal and an assist on the trip. His goal on Saturday was his first as a Texas Star, and he now has five points on the year (1G, 4A)
Second Star: Ben Gleason, who had a point in each game (1G, 1A), and now has six points on the year (2G, 4A). The rookie defenseman was good at both ends, posting a plus-2 rating over the two games.
First Star: Erik Condra, who had a goal and two assists on the week. He contributed an assist on Thursday, then added his second goal of the year and a helper on Saturday.
Weekly Grade: D+
The Stars showed a lot of heart once again Saturday, nearly coming back from three goals down to force overtime. That effort raises the grade from a D to a D+, but the defense continues to force the offense into tough situations. The Stars have a good team, but loose coverage in the defensive zone continues to be a major issue. If the Stars can figure that out wins will follow, but until then they will have to outscore their opponents to find two points.
The Stars made several roster changes on Monday in an attempt to end the skid, with the main move being a change at backup goaltender. Point was sent down to the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, where he will likely have a chance to gain experience in a starting role. Returning to Cedar Park will be fan-favorite goaltender Philippe Desrosiers. He was 1-0-0 (0.86 GAA, .962 SV%) in two games with Texas last year, and 2-3-1 (2.76 GAA, .911 SV%) in six games for Idaho this season. There was also a swap of forwards, with Elgin Pearce called up to Texas from Idaho, and Tony Calderone heading down to Idaho.
The Stars now return to the Lone Star State for a weekend home-and-home against their bitter in-state rivals, the San Antonio Rampage. The set will start Saturday at 7 pm CT inside the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, before concluding Sunday at 3 pm CT in San Antonio. The Stars were 5-5-2-2 against the Rampage a year ago, going 3-1-1-2 at home and 2-4-1-0 in San Antonio.
The Stars have struggled on the road early in the season, with their record away from Cedar Park now sitting at 1-3-0-1. The lone win was a 6-3 victory in Grand Rapids on October 17.
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