CEDAR PARK, Texas – In week seven, the Texas Stars hosted two Central Division playoff teams from a year ago, falling to the Manitoba Moose before defeating the Rockford IceHogs.
The Stars played well in both games, but fell to an opportunistic Moose side 5-4 on Wednesday. Texas bounced back in a big way on Friday, however, outshooting Rockford by a lofty 41-16 margin in a 5-1 triumph. With the split, the Stars see their record sit at 7-6-1-1 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. The 16 points ranks seventh of eight in the Central, but the Stars are just three points behind the IceHogs for the all-important top four. Texas has three games in hand on Rockford.
Wednesday, November 14: Moose 5, Stars 4
Texas surrendered the opening goal, but responded to take second period leads of 2-1, and 3-2. Manitoba then scored three straight, however, going up 5-3 with 6:01 left. The Stars got back within one, and nearly tied it in the final seconds, but the Moose emerged with a 5-4 win.
The Stars were led offensively by two-point nights from Joel L’Esperance, a goal and a helper, and Travis Morin, who had two assists. Roope Hintz, Colton Hargrove and James Phelan each had a goal as well. Landon Bow suffered the loss in net, allowing five goals on 20 shots.
- The Stars looked good offensively, outshooting the Moose 30-20 on the game. Texas had two highlight-reel goals as well, with Adam Mascherin using a slick drop-pass to find L’Esperance for a laser under the bar, and Phelan dancing around a defender with a toe-drag before wiring the puck home.
- Hargrove scored for the third straight game, pulling the Stars within a goal with 3:09 to play. He then came close to tying the game late, with two great chances somehow turned aside by Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie in the final 30 seconds.
- The Stars defense did well to limit shots against, but several of the ones they did give up came in dangerous locations. Manitoba was able to pierce Bow five times on 20 shots to pull out the win. The defense has been in flux over the last few weeks, but much of that stems from the inability to put a consistent group on the ice due to injuries and call-ups.
Friday, November 16: Stars 5, IceHogs 1
The Stars controlled the game throughout on Friday, but a stellar forty minutes from IceHogs tender, and former Amarillo Bull of the NAHL, Collin Delia kept the score even at one after two. Texas broke through in the third, however, scoring four times to claim the 5-1 victory.
Texas had three players post two-point nights, with Taylor Fedun and Hintz chipping in a goal and an apple each, and Ben Gleason contributing two helpers. Hargrove, Morin, and Samuel Laberge rounded out the scoring. Bow got the start once again, this time stopping 15-of-16 to claim the ‘W.’
- The Stars benefited from some depth scoring on Friday, with two players picking up their first goal of the season. Fedun scored his first of the season after joining the Stars through a trade a week ago. He has already added a steady presence on the blueline for Texas. Laberge also scored his first of the season for the Stars.
- Hargrove continued his scoring streak, finding twine with 4:35 left to make it four games in a row with a goal. The Dallas-native now has six goals and eleven points in his first season with Texas.
- The Texas power play continues to be a big part of the offense for the Stars, going 1-for-5 Friday, and 2-for-7 on the week. The Stars rank third in the American Hockey League, converting at a 27.4% (17-for-62) clip for the year.
- The Stars could easily have buckled after the IceHogs scored with just over a minute left in the second to send the game to the third even, despite the Stars owning a 27-14 edge in shots. They did anything but, however, blitzing Rockford by a 14-2 count in shots over the final 20 minutes, and finding the back of the net four times to win 5-1.
Three Stars of the Week:
⭐⭐⭐ – Joel L’Esperance, who had a goal and two assists over the two games. He now has 14 points (7G, 7A) on the campaign, one point behind Denis Gurianov for the team lead.
⭐⭐ – Colton Hargrove, who had a goal in each game this week. He will carry his four-game goal streak into this weekend’s three-game set against San Antonio.
⭐ – Roope Hintz, who had two goals and a helper on the week. He had 11 points in nine games for Texas, before being called back up to Dallas on Saturday morning.
Weekly Grade: B
The Stars looked good this week, but couldn’t quite find a way to get a point from the Manitoba game. Despite this, the Stars fought hard in that game, and it looked for all the world like the tying goal was imminent at the end. Texas couldn’t have responded any better, though, completely dominating Rockford in the 2018 West Final rematch on Friday. The Stars offense is clicking, and with a little defensive stability, this will be a good team come spring. All things considered, the Stars earn a solid B from me for week seven.
There has already been one move at net going into week eight, with Colton Point coming back to Cedar Park, and there could be more after Dallas goalie Ben Bishop left the game early Monday night with an apparent injury. Bishop is likely out for at least a week and it’s expected Bow will get the call-up to the Stars.
Texas now has a week between games for the Thanksgiving holiday, before facing rival San Antonio for a three-game set starting the day after turkey day. The weekend series will start Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CT at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The teams will then battle inside the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park Saturday at 7 p.m. CT, before heading back south down I-35 for one more in San Antonio Sunday at 3 p.m. CT. The Stars are 2-0-0-0 against the Rampage this year, outscoring them 12-3 in a home-and-home sweep nine days ago.
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