January 22, 2016
CEDAR PARK, TX – Stefan Noesen scored on a backhand shot top-shelf with 2:33 left in the third period, helping the San Diego Gulls to a 3-2 victory over the Texas Stars in front of 4,220 fans at Cedar Park Center, just north of Austin, Texas. Noesen’s fourth goal of the year, on an assist from Chris Mueller, gave the Gulls (19-16-1-1) their first win over Texas in their fourth of six contests.
The Stars (21-16-3-3) had tied the game with 3:15 remaining in the third on Matej Stransky’s goal in front of the crease, set up by Texas defenseman Matt Mangene, who carried the puck from center ice behind the San Diego net before leaving the puck in front. Noesen had the answer just 42 seconds later, drifting between defenders before lifting his backhand try past goalie Phillip Desrosiers and just inside the crossbar for the eventual game-winner.
The Gulls entered the night 0-3 against the Stars, outscored by a 16-7 mark over the course of the three games. San Diego tempted fate by conceding the game’s first goal, a power play strike by Curtis McKenzie on a walkout in front of the net of San Diego goalie Matt Hackett (19 saves) 5:02 into the opening period.
San Diego, just 4-16-1-0 when allowing the first goal, carried the 1-0 deficit into the second period before springing to life. Mike Sgarbossa knotted the score at one, 6:57 into the second stanza with his ninth goal of the season.
The Gulls then received a power play opportunity when Texas’ Brennan Evans was sent to the penalty box for a high-sticking minor midway through the second. Facing the AHL’s 30th ranked penalty kill unit, the Gulls took advantage on Harry Zolniercyzk’s deflection of a Shane O’Brien shot from the far wall, knocking the puck past Desrosiers point blank for a 2-1 San Diego lead 11:41 into the frame.
The goal was Zolniercyzk’s fourth of the year, but first since missing 25 games due to a lower body injury. Zolniercyzk found the back of the net in just his second game since returning from injury.
The Gulls found the disciplined defensive game needed to slow down the league’s second highest scoring team, limiting Texas to just 21 shots while committing only three minor penalties. The result moves San Diego back into fourth place in the AHL Pacific Division, while climbing within .017 of the Stars for third place.
The two teams will meet once again tomorrow night at Cedar Park Center, a 5 p.m. PT faceoff.
NOTES: Kyle McKinnon made his first appearance for the Gulls after missing the first 36 games of the season with a lower body injury; McKinnon was scoreless with one shot but stood out with strong defensive zone faceoffs…San Diego improved to 12-1-1-1 in one-goal games, the best record in the AHL…Despite surrendering the lead, the Gulls came back for the win in regulation and are now 15-0 when leading after two periods…Zac Larraza earned an assist on the Sgarbossa goal, his second point in as many games; Larraza is in the fourth game of a PTO contract…Brandon Montour earned a power play assist on the Zolnierczyk goal, his AHL-best 22nd power play point and 18th power play assist…Stars captain Travis Morin, held scoreless by the Gulls for the third straight game, played in his team record 450th game for the Stars on Friday night…tied for third in the AHL in scoring (11-27=38 points), Morin has been held to just one goal and one point in four games against San Diego this season…prior to the contest, the Gulls released wingers Rocco Carzo and Robert Czarniak from their PTO contracts.
1st Star: SD Stefan Noesen (GWG); 2nd Star: TEX Curtis McKenzie (1-0=1); 3rdstar: TEX Phillipe Desrosiers (stopped 23-of-26 shots faced)