The Dallas Stars opened the NHL Prospect Tournament with a win, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New York Rangers, 4-3, in overtime Friday night at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.
Brett Ritchie scored off a scramble in front of the net with 1:59 remaining in regulation to tie the game, 3-3, and then tallied off a backhand 3:28 into four-on-four overtime to give the Stars the victory.
“I knew I had the D beat, I wanted to go to the net but there was a lot of traffic and I just shot it from my backhand,” Ritchie said of his game-winner. “I am not going to say I tried to pick a corner. I just tried to get it on net.”
Ritchie led the Stars offensive attack with three points (two goals, one assist). Matej Stransky and Jason Dickinson also scored goals. Philippe Desrosiers got the start in goal and stopped 19 of 22 shots.
“You look at all eight teams here and it is the first game all these kids get put together. It is a little scrambly at times,” said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching the Dallas prospects. “At the end of the day they bonded together in the third period to battle back and tie it up and then won it in overtime.”
The Stars controlled play early and took a 1-0 lead when Stransky scored off the rush from the right wing at the 3:42 mark of the first period.
A couple of Dallas turnovers led to goals by Ryan Haggerty and Samuel Noreau that put the Rangers up 2-1 after one period. The Rangers extended the lead to 3-1 with a Richard Nejezchelb power play goal late in the second.
The Stars’ penalty kill came up big later in the second and into the third, killing off three minutes of a major penalty to Brett Pollock, who was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for checking from behind on Rangers’ forward Nathan Burns.
The Stars took ten penalties in the game and put the Rangers on eight power plays.
“We took a lot of penalties tonight and slowed down the pace of the game we wanted to play,” Laxdal said. “Once we got back to five-on-five we got some of that energy back, once we had that big penalty kill. That’s a good sign that the kids took a step in the right direction.”
The Stars stepped up the pressure in the third and cut the lead to 3-2 when Dickinson put home the rebound of a Ritchie shot at the 5:48 mark. Radek Faksa had a great chance to tie the game with 5:28 remaining, but Rangers goaltender Brandon Halverson made a sharp blocker save. But Ritchie finally got the equalizer with just under two minutes left and that set the stage for his overtime heroics.
“We had them on their heels,” said Ritchie. “They had the lead and they sat back a little. That hurt them. We caught them sleeping a few times and luckily we were able to put a couple in the back of the net.”
Notes: Brett Ritchie gets the ‘C’
*Brett Ritchie is wearing the “C” as the captain of the Dallas Stars prospect team in Traverse City. Matej Stransky and Jyrki Jokipakka are the alternate captains.
*The Stars outshot the Rangers 29-19.
*Ritchie led the Stars with five shots on goal. Stransky had four.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power and 7-8 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars play Carolina Saturday at 2:30 (CST).
Dallas Stars lineup
Brendan Ranford-Jason Dickinson-Brett Ritchie
Remi Elie-Radek Faksa-Matej Stransky
Gemel Smith-Brett Pollock-Branden Troock
Collin Shirley-Cole Ully-Matej Paulovic
Jyrki Jokipakka-Julius Honka
Esa Lindell-Ludwig Bystrom
Alex Peters-Aaron Haydon
Prospect snapshot: Jyrki Jokipakka
Talk to Dallas Stars management about up and coming defensemen and Jyrki Jokipakka’s name is always in the mix. The 23-year-old native of Finland is coming off a strong rookie campaign with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
“He was a surprise,” said Scott White, Dallas Stars director of hockey operations and Texas Stars GM. “Jyrki is a soft-spoken individual, but he lets his play dictate how he is heard. He has been solid. He didn’t miss one beat. He had a good tournament in Traverse City (last year), good camp in Dallas and then he kept going in Texas. Our coaches in Texas really liked him, they had confidence in him. With the exception of a one-week lull in the middle of the season, which was probably fatigue more than anything else, he was probably our most consistent player at the backend.”
Jokipakka registered 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists) in 68 games with Texas in his first season in North America.
“There were some ups and downs, but it got better,” said Jokipakka, a seventh-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. “It’s pretty similar to playing in Finland, but it is faster. You have to make quicker decisions. But it is not that big a difference from Finland.”
Adjusting to life away from Finland went well. Jokipakka found some advantages to living in Texas.
“I like the weather. It’s really nice here,” he said. “The food is pretty good, too.”
His favorite new food?
“Barbecue,” he said.
Jokipakka had five assists in 21 playoff games as Texas won the AHL’s Calder Cup championship. He played primarily with Patrik Nemeth, and those two formed an effective pair on the blue line.
“He’s European, so we understand each other,” Nemeth, who is from Sweden, said with a laugh. “No, he’s a really good player. He’s really good with the puck. He goes back and gets the puck quickly because he’s a good skater. He’s a good player.”
There’s nothing fancy or flashy about Jokipakka’s game. He’s mobile and moves the puck well, and has some offensive upside.
“He’s about today’s game, mobile, get to pucks quickly, get in the way defensively and get the puck up the ice,” said White. “He’s got a big enough rear end that he’s keeping guys away from the net. He was a pleasant surprise. Now, it is up to him to take another step.”
Jokipakka, Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and John Klingberg are the four young defensemen the Stars are counting on to come into training camp and push for playing time. The Stars think Jokipakka is getting close to being NHL ready.
“He has NHL written all over him,” Stars assistant GM Les Jackson said of Jokipakka. “It’s just a matter of experience and maturing, but I think he is going to push rather quickly.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.