The Texas Stars got off to a rocky start as they began the defense of their Calder Cup championship. The Stars fell 4-2 to the Rockford IceHogs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Friday night at Cedar Park Center. The Stars overcame a slow start and rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the game, but the IceHogs scored three straight goals in the third period to secure the victory.
“I expected more battle out of our group. We knew what Rockford was going to be. They are hard on pucks, they battle,” Texas coach Derek Laxdal said. “Special teams have to better. That was the difference tonight. They had two power-play goals and we had one. I expected our group to be a little sharper and we weren’t sharp enough.”
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Saturday night at Cedar Park Center.
Julius Honka registered one goal and one assist and Curtis McKenzie also scored for Texas. Jussi Rynnas got the start in goal and stopped 33 of 36 shots.
Rockford dominated play early, went on a power play 6:06 into the game and cashed in to take a 1-0 lead when Spencer Abbott scored from the slot at the 6:23 mark.
Rynnas came up big early in the second to keep Texas within a goal, stopping Cody Bass on a shorthanded breakaway. The Texas netminder had some more sharp stops on a Rockford power play, including a nifty glove save on a blast off the stick of Ville Pokka.
Texas drew even late in the second when Honka put a shot on net from the point, and McKenzie scoredoff the ensuing scramble for the puck in front of IceHogs goaltender Michael Leighton. Brendan Ranford came close to putting Texas ahead two minutes later, but his shot that got past Leighton rang off the post.
The Stars had two power play chances early in the third and scored on the second one when Honka beat Leighton with a blast from the point at the 4:24 mark.
The Stars got into penalty trouble a few minutes later in the period, taking back-to-back penalties that led to a 53-second five-on-three power play for Rockford. Abbott scored with one second remaining on the two-man advantage to tie the game 2-2 at the 8:31 mark. Texas took another penalty to put the IceHogs on a 17-second five-on-three. Texas survived that, but IceHogs defenseman Kirill Gotovets got an open look with the teams playing at even-strength and scored to make it a 3-2 game at 12:19 of the third. Ryan Hartman sealed the victory with a late empty-net goal.
The Stars’ focus now turns to Saturday and Game 2 of the series.
“We have to have a short-term memory for tomorrow’s game,” Laxdal said. “Our whole group has to come in with the mindset that last night was last night and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
*Rockford outshot Texas 37-33.
*Julius Honka led Texas with six shots on goal.
*Rockford ended a 10-game playoff losing streak and won a playoff game for the first time since May 9, 2008.
*Texas coach Derek Laxdal indicated prior to Friday’s game that Jack Campbell would start in goal in Game 2 on Saturday.
*Center Mattias Janmark, signed to a two-year entry level contract by Dallas on Friday, skated with Texas in the morning and took warmups but did not play in Game 1 of the series.
Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Greg Rallo Brendan Ranford – Justin Dowling – Brett Ritchie Derek Hulak – Devin Shore – Scott Glennie Kevin Henderson – Jason Dickinson – Matej Stransky
Patrik Nemeth – Cameron Gaunce Jamie Oleksiak – Maxime Fortunus Mattias Backman – Julius Honka
Jussi Rynnas Jack Campbell
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.