CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars took to the road for the first time this week, traveling north for divisional matchups in Iowa and Rockford.
The Stars played hard once again this weekend, and continue to show great resiliency so far. While the never say die attitude secured a point on Friday, it was the only one Texas could gain on the weekend. With the results, the Stars now own a visually pleasing symmetrical record of 1-1-1-1 (4 pts) through four games.
Friday: Iowa 4 Texas 3 SO
After a scoreless first, Iowa drew first blood when a clearing attempt hit a Star in the back and went right to Ryan Murphy for an open shot. The Stars responded well, with Adam Mascherin scoring his first pro goal, and Gavin Bayreuther adding a power play tally to give the Stars the lead.
The Wild tied it late in the second, then went ahead again midway through the third on another lucky break. Texas broke two consecutive sticks while in the offensive zone, leading to an odd-man rush and the go-ahead goal for Iowa. The Stars pulled Landon Bow for the extra man, and it paid off when Bayreuther set up Denis Gurianov with just 8.2 seconds to play to secure at least a point.
The Stars showed great heart during the battle with Wild, overcoming bad bounces and a late deficit to force overtime. Things won’t always go your way in sports, as in life, and being able to respond appropriately goes a long way in determining who wins at a higher rate along the way. The Stars answered the first Wild goal within 44 seconds, then followed that up by drawing two penalties with hard-working shifts in the offensive zone. Bayreuther blasted a one-timer home on the second man advantage to put the Stars on top.
The Stars then overcame their fragile twigs with Gurianov’s last-second tally to force overtime. It was the second consecutive game in which the Stars tied it in the final minute, after Joel L’Esperance lit the lamp with 36 seconds left against Milwaukee. While the Stars may have fallen in the end of both contests, the two points gained have kept them with an even .500 points percentage through four games.
The final takeaway from Friday, puck luck matters. The Stars played well enough for the full two points, but the Wild were able to capitalize when given the bouncing disc of vulcanized rubber.
Saturday: Rockford 5 Texas 3
Rockford struck first on a power play, but Texas responded with goals from James Phelan, his first as a pro, and Gurianov to lead 2-1 after 20. The IceHogs tied it early in the second, but Justin Dowling deflected a Bayreuther shot late to restore the one-goal lead through two.
Colton Point played well in the Texas net, fighting hard to try to preserve the advantage. The IceHogs finally broke through in the second half of the third, however, beating Point twice in 2:56 to take the lead. An empty net marker provided the final score of 5-3 Rockford.
The Stars continue to take too many penalties, loading the IceHogs power play six times in the game. The Stars killed 5-of-6, but this is the third time in four games that they have been shorthanded six times. The Stars have killed 18-of-21 (85.7%) total opponent power plays this season, which ranks 13th in the league. The Stars have had an issue with first period penalties, taking ten minors (2 PPG allowed) in four opening frames so far. When you form a parade to the sin bin, you keep the other team’s offensive stars on the ice, and yours on the bench. This is a trend the Texas coaching staff will be looking to end.
The final takeaway is you have to stay focused defensively for a full 60 minutes. The Stars played well enough defensively to be up a goal with 9:00 left, but two IceHogs goals in 2:56 flipped the script on them. Rockford’s tying goal was scored when the backdoor was left vacant, while the winner came off the rush after Texas overextended itself trying to regain the lead. When protecting a lead, especially on the road, the game can slip away in a matter of moments. It did on Saturday.
Three Stars of the Week:
Third Star: Adam Mascherin — The rookie from the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers scored his first career goal on Friday. He came close to adding a second in overtime, beating his man with a slick move then forcing a stellar save.
Second Star: Gavin Bayreuther — Bayreuther was a force from the blueline, posting his first three points of the year. He had a goal and a helper in Iowa, then added an assist against Rockford.
First Star: Denis Gurianov — The third-year pro led the way for the Texas offense, posting back-to-back two-point games. He had a goal and an assist each night, including the tying goal in the dying seconds on Friday.
There are certainly things to work on going forward, namely limiting penalties. The Stars have been good at even strength this year, they just need to spend more time with five skaters. The offense continues to look good, with the Stars having scored exactly three goals in each game. Overall it was a below average weekend for the squad, but the Stars can move ahead knowing the pieces for success are there.
The Stars now move on to Grand Rapids for matchup number two of the campaign against the Griffins, with faceoff set for Wednesday at 6 CT. The Stars claimed a 3-1 victory over the Griffins on opening night in Cedar Park. Texas was 2-0-0-1 as guests in Grand Rapids a year ago. The Stars will then return home for a weekend set against Iowa inside the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. The Stars won both home meetings with the Wild in 2017-18. The Stars and Wild will faceoff at 7 CT on both Friday and Saturday night.