Just like their Dallas big brothers a few weeks back, the Iowa Stars now find themselves in a 3-1 series hole against the Chicago Wolves after a frustrating 6-1 loss on Tuesday night in Des Moines. Game Five is Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena, but Iowa must now win three consecutive games to keep their postseason dreams alive.
Chicago scored on its first two shots of the game, and salted the win away with two goals in the first 89 seconds of the third period. Iowa was unable to create any offense from its power play (0-for-8) and the club had trouble containing their series-long nemeses, Jason Krog and Darren Haydar. In the process, goaltender Dan Ellis was relieved for the night early in the third period after allowing five goals on 14 shots.
"They have three of the top scorers in the league and we just flat-out have to limit their opportunities," said Iowa Assistant Coach Paul Jerrard. "We made a couple mental errors on their first couple goals, which we need to address, and when you look at our power play, we just have to put the puck in the net, bottom line. This is a results-oriented business, so as many chances as we thought we had, we didn't put any past him."
Krog put the Wolves ahead 1-0 four minutes into the contest on a pretty feed from Haydar, who has now recorded nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the first four games of this series.
The Stars evened the score just two minutes later, as Dan Hacker collected Francis Wathier's pass behind the net, wheeled out front, turned and then beat Chicago goaltender Michael Garnett to the near post for his second goal of these AHL Playoffs.
A miscommunication between Dan Ellis and Mark Fistric behind the Iowa net led to the Wolves' second goal just three minutes later, as Andre Deveaux shot into a virtually empty net. At the time, Chicago had scored on both of their shots on goal.
"They just capitalized on our mistakes and what they get is what we give them," said Fistric. "They've been scoring goals on odd-man rushes off giveaways and turnovers, and we need to stop giving them chances like that. We need to bear down and be stronger with the puck."
Chicago extended their lead to 3-1 midway through the second period as Colin Stuart flipped a puck up and over a diving Mark Ardelan into the crease, where Deveaux tapped in his second goal of the night past the sprawling Ellis.
Former Iowa Star Brian Fahey pushed Chicago's lead to 4-1 when he roofed a wrist-shot over Ellis' glove just 45 seconds into the third period, and Cory Larose ended Ellis' night with a goal 44 seconds later. Rookie netminder Tobias Stephan made his second appearance of the series in relief.
Krog scored Chicago's sixth goal at the 14:01 mark of the third period, controversially batting a puck out of mid-air past Stephan. The referees reviewed the goal and determined that Krog did not play the puck with a high-stick. Krog's two goals tonight give him eight points in the series (four goals, four assists), and he has now scored in each of the Wolves' eight games this postseason (four goals, eight assists).
"We have really good chemistry and we just seem to know where each other is all the time," said Krog of his linemates, Haydar and Brett Sterling. "We have been able to contribute well offensively in this series, and it's nice that we've been able to keep our regular season success going in the playoffs."
Chicago's offensive onslaught continued, as the Wolves hit two posts in the third period to no avail. Garnett stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced in the winning effort.
"We worked hard tonight and they got some fortunate bounces, but we need to come out and respond in the next game," said Chris Conner. "We have to get some shots at the net, and keep battling on the power play. We have to create some more time and space for ourselves. We have to be more aware and responsible when Haydar and Krog are on the ice."
As the Dallas Stars found out against the Vancouver Canucks in this year's Western Conference Quarterfinals, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit is a difficult task, in the National Hockey League or any other league.
The Iowa Stars faced a similar 3-1 series deficit against Milwaukee in last season's playoffs, and battled back to force a Game 7. So Iowa will certainly regroup, address some issues and come out fighting in Thursday's Game Five.
"Tonight is certainly disappointing and we had a chance to even up the series," said Jerrard, "but we are going to re-evaluate some things and I promise you we're not going to roll over and die."
DeMarchi-ng On: Iowa Stars defenseman Matt DeMarchi had a goal and an assist in Game Three of the AHL West Division Finals vs. Chicago on Sunday night, and in six Calder Cup Playoff games, has notched two goals and two assists.
The native of Bemidji, Minn., was a second round pick (No. 57 overall) by New Jersey in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, and played in the German and Russian Elite Leagues this season before signing with Iowa in December.
DeMarchi won two national championships at the University of Minnesota in 2002 and 2003, and was named to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team in both of those years. He sees a lot of similarities between those teams and this Iowa Stars squad.
"I got spoiled pretty good at Minnesota, but this is a very similar group to those teams in a lot of ways," said the 6-3, 190-pound defenseman. "Everyone wants to win so badly every single night, and everyone chips in. It's a really good group of guys to be around and I think we have a lot of outstanding hockey players in this room. This is my first playoff run in four years of professional hockey, so I am trying to take full advantage of this opportunity."
DeMarchi also regularly takes the opportunity to verbally spar with the two University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the Iowa Stars' dressing room, Junior Lessard and Matt Niskanen.
"They both know there's only one real team from Minnesota," said DeMarchi, "and that's the Gophers."
New Scout A Familiar Face: The Dallas Stars are holding their amateur scouting meetings in Des Moines this week in advance of next month's NHL Draft in Columbus, and a familiar face is involved in the meetings. Jason Botterill, Dallas' first round pick (No. 20 overall) in the 1994 NHL Draft, has joined the Stars' amateur scouting staff in a part-time role.
Botterill played for the Stars from 1997-1999 after a stellar career at the University of Michigan, where he was a teammate of Dallas goaltender Marty Turco. Botterill, who also skated in NHL games for Atlanta, Calgary and Buffalo, has been scouting out of Ann Arbor, where he is pursuing a graduate degree from U-M. His scouting focus is on the Central Collegiate Hockey Assoctiation (CCHA) and the USA National Development Program, which is based in Ann Arbor.
Idaho Farm Report: The Iowa Stars aren't the only Dallas Stars' development affiliate still alive this post-season. The Idaho Steelheads, Dallas' ECHL affiliate, currently lead the Alaska Aces 1-0 in their best-of-seven National Conference Finals series. If Idaho wins this series, they will advance to the Kelly Cup Finals, against either the Dayton Bombers or the Florida Everblades.
The Stars have five prospects under contract with Idaho, including forwards B.J. Crombeen, John Lammers, Tuomas Mikkonen and Alexander Naurov, and goaltender Steve Silverthorn. In Game One against Alaska, Crombeen collected the game-winning goal and Silverthorn stopped all 15 shots he faced in a 1-0 Idaho win. Game Two is late tonight in Anchorage, while Games Three and Four shift back to Boise's Qwest Arena.