The Iowa Stars had every opportunity in the world to put the Chicago Wolves away in Game Three of their West Division Finals series. The effort was most certainly there for the home-standing Stars, but the execution was not.
photo by Deena & Co.
Twelve power plays. A 5-on-3 advantage for nearly three minutes in the third period with only one shot on goal. A rowdy crowd of 3,100-plus Stars fans cheering them on at Des Moines' Wells Fargo Arena.
Instead of capitalizing on those opportunities, Iowa saw Chicago's Brett Sterling, the 2007 AHL Rookie of the Year, connect on a key third-period power play that fueled the Wolves to a 5-3 victory on Sunday evening. Chicago now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.
"We had lots of opportunities on the power play, but we just didn't capitalize on them," said defenseman Matt DeMarchi, who recorded a goal and an assist in the game. "We need to keep shooting, going to the net, creating good screens. They had a lot of power plays themselves and they put theirs away, so you have to give them credit."
"Our speed and our skating created some power play chances for us, but we weren't able to capitalize," said Iowa Head Coach Dave Allison. "Especially on the 5-on-3 we had in the third period, we needed to do more. They got a power play right after that and they scored. I like the way we fought, I like the way we competed and the series is really just starting."
The first period featured an inordinate amount of extracurricular activity, resulting in four Iowa power plays and three for Chicago. Unlike in Game Two, however, where seven of the game's nine goals came on special teams, both teams struggled early on their man-advantages.
The Stars went up 1-0 seven minutes into the second period on a tic-tac-toe power play goal from Matt DeMarchi. Junior Lessard accepted a pass from Loui Eriksson behind the net and after drawing Chicago goaltender Michael Garnett to the near post, saucered a pass across to DeMarchi, who buried his second goal of the AHL Playoffs.
Iowa goaltender Dan Ellis then made a series of sprawling saves against a furious Wolves attack, but Chicago's Jordan LaVallee finally broke through midway through the second frame to even the game at one. It was LaVallee's third goal of this West Division Finals series.
photo by Deena & Co.
Chicago went ahead six minutes later, as defenseman Trevor Byrne fed Darren Haydar in a 4-on-4 situation for his fifth goal of the AHL Playoffs. As the second period neared its conclusion, Iowa went on the power play once more when Wolves defenseman Boris Valabik took a senseless roughing penalty -- his third emotion-fueled minor of the night.
Joel Lundqvist made him pay with just 11.7 seconds remaining in the period, beautifully tipping a DeMarchi one-timer from the blue line past Garnett."
"To tie it up at two there shows a lot about the way we have battled all season," said Allison. "We got stronger as the game went on, and I think the Lundqvist line, with Loui and Junior, really started to click."
Iowa played virtually the entire first half of the third period on the power play, including nearly three minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage, but the home-standing Stars were unable to capitalize on the four consecutive Chicago penalties.
"The 5-on-3 that we had in the third was just terrible," said Lundqvist. "We have to be better than that if we expect to win in the playoffs. I don't even think we had a quality scoring chance in that time, which is not good. We have battled well the last couple games and we know we just have to keep working."
When Mark Fistric was whistled for a slashing penalty 8:38 into the third period, Chicago didn't take any time to make the most of their power play, as Haydar whisked a cross-ice pass to Sterling, who beat a diving Ellis to put the Wolves up 3-2.
Haydar added an empty-net goal for a 4-2 margin with 1:30 remaining, only to see Junior Lessard cut the Iowa deficit to one with 63 seconds remaining. The Iowa comeback was not to be, as Chicago's Niko Dimitrakos collect an empty-netter for the final 5-3 margin.
photo by Deena & Co.
"We are a skating team and we are going to stick to the same gameplan starting on Tuesday night," said DeMarchi. "I think overall, we had a good effort tonight, but they just had one more than we did. We are getting great goaltending from Danny (Ellis), we just have to capitalize on chances when we have them."
"The bottom line is that I liked our resiliency," said Allison. "We kept coming, even after they went up by two goals late. We had some great opportunities at the end, and we are disappointed in the score, but I thought there was a lot we can really build on."
Scouts Honor: The Dallas Stars amateur scouting staff will be holding meetings this week in Des Moines in advance of next month's NHL Entry Draft in Columbus. Dallas Assistant General Managers Les Jackson and Frank Provenzano will attend the pre-draft meetings, as well as Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Bernhardt, Director of European Scouting Kari Takko and player development chief Andy Moog.
Also expected to attend the meetings this week from Dallas' top-notch amateur scouting staff are: Shane Churla, Jack Foley, Bob Gernander, Dennis Holland, Jim Johnston, Butch Ott, Jim Pederson and Brad Robson. Dallas General Manager Doug Armstrong was scheduled to attend, but is instead representing the team at the 2007 World Championships in Moscow.
The 2007 NHL Entry Draft will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on June 22-23, with the first round in prime time on Friday night, and rounds two through seven on Saturday afternoon.
World Championships Report: Jere Lehtinen and Antti Miettinen are both representing Team Finland and the Dallas Stars at the 2007 IIHF World Championships in Moscow.
Lehtinen has recorded a goal and two assists for Team Finland, while Antti Miettinen has collected a helper. The Finns lost 1-0 to Sweden today, but have already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals. Team USA and Team Canada, who play each other on Monday, are atop their respective group and have both already advanced to the quarterfinals round.
Iowa's Proud Buckeye: For fans and alumni of the Ohio State Buckeyes, 2007 hasn't been the best of years thus far. Granted, the scarlet and gray reached the national championship games in both football and men's basketball, but lost both in heartbreaking fashion to the University of Florida. For as much heartache as Buckeye fans have felt this year, Iowa Stars center Scott May can serve as a bright spot.
The Surrey, B.C., native had a stellar four-year career at Ohio State, playing in 161 consecutive games and collecting career highs in assists (25) and points (35) while earning All-CCHA accolades as a junior in 2002-03. May was drafted by Toronto in the seventh round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
However, since leaving Columbus, he has bounced around the minor leagues until landing with the Iowa Stars this season. He played for St. John's and Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, and Pensacola, Trenton and Phoenix of the ECHL, before getting his break in Des Moines. In 28 games for the Stars, May recorded five goals and five assists for 10 points, and has solidified his spot in the Iowa lineup.
"I feel like I'm in a great organization here with Iowa and I'm going to keep working as hard as I can to help us win playoff games," said May, who admitted to mixed emotions while watching Dallas play his hometown team, Vancouver, in the NHL Playoffs. "I really enjoyed watching the Stars-Canucks playoff series and you could really feel the energy in those buildings, with the towels waving and the national anthems. I've been asking Joel (Lundqvist), Loui (Eriksson) and (Niklas) Grossman all about that series."
May has a playoff series of his own to take part in, and has collected one assist during Iowa's playoff run this spring. He also plans to return to Columbus this summer to complete his degree. So cheer up, Ohio State fans...2007 hasn't been all that bad!"