Oct. 13, 2017

Curtis MacKenzie scored a goal and added an assist, while goaltender Mike McKenna made 27 saves as the visiting Texas Stars skated to a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls. The loss dampened a home opener sellout crowd of 12,920 at Valley View Casino Center, the fifth sellout in Gulls history since the club’s inception in 2015. A pair of first period goals by the Stars (3-0-0-0) held up, with Austin Ortega’s third period tally not enough to complete the comeback for San Diego (1-1-0-0).

“We were standing around a little in the first period,” head coach Dallas Eakins reflected. “We need to wake up a little sooner.”

Stars rookie Roope Hintz opened the scoring at 4:01 of the first period, pouncing on a loose puck in traffic between the circles to net his second goal of the season. Later in the first, a deflected crossing pass off the stick of San Diego defenseman Steve Oleksy came to Stars’ longtime captain Travis Morin, who smoothly fed a backdoor pass to Curtis MacKenzie, who slammed home his first goal of the campaign at 14:16.

The Gulls had three power play opportunities in the opening period but failed to generate the chances they sought, as San Diego was out-shot 14-6 in the first 20 minutes. The Gulls clamped down in the final two periods, out-shooting Texas 22-10.

A scoreless second frame saw the Gulls generate the period’s best chance, with Kalle Kossila feeding rookie Giovanni Fiore on a cross-ice pass between the circles on a 2-on-1 rush. Fiore fired off the outside of the net, drawing a roar from the crowd who thought the Gulls had gotten on the board when the goal light came on, but no goal was awarded as the rookie forward’s shot trickled off the side netting.

San Diego pressed the action in the third period and were rewarded on the power play. With MacKenzie in the box serving a two-minute minor for tripping, Ortega found a rebound above the crease, sweeping a shot off the skate of Texas’ Gavin Bayreuther and into the net for his first goal of the season. It was a 2-1 Stars lead at 8:56 of the period.

McKenna’s best save came later in the period, denying an upper-left corner backhand shot by San Diego’s Sam Carrick with a snapping glove stop. The Gulls had a power play with 2:45 remaining, and pulled goalie Kevin Boyle for an extra attacker in the final minute, but Matt Mangene sealed the game for Texas with a full-ice empty net goal at 19:52.

The Gulls come right back to home ice on Saturday night as they welcome the Stars back for a rematch, and the second of the six-game AHL Pacific Division series. Faceoff is scheduled for 7pm.

Three Stars:
1. Curtis MacKenzie (TEX)
2. Austin Ortega (SD)
3. Mike McKenna (TEX)