April 23, 2016
CEDAR PARK, TX – The Texas Stars scored four unanswered goals over the final two periods, beating the San Diego Gulls 5-1 on Saturday night at HEB Center at Cedar Park. The first round series is now tied 1-1 heading back to San Diego for Games 3, 4 and 5 if necessary.
Esa Lindell earned top star honors for the Stars (1-1) with a goal and assist. Texas benefited from eight power plays on the night, as the Gulls were goaded into ten minor penalties.
“If you give a potent power play like Texas enough chances, they will bury you,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins, “I thought we took a couple bad penalties last game too.”
Texas, playing their final home game of the series and desperate not to go down 0-2, out-shot the Gulls 42-26 in a dominant performance. Derek Hulak opened the scoring 3:53 into the first period, and a second potential goal by Stars defenseman Julius Honka was nullified on video replay midway through the frame.
The momentum seemed to turn just seconds later, as Nick Ritchie burst through the Stars defense in an impressive solo act, weaving between defenders before using a toe drag in the slot to free himself for his second goal of the series. The score, at 10:12 of the first, helped San Diego bring a 1-1 tie into the locker room after 20 minutes.
The second period began with a Ritchie charging penalty, immediately followed by Brandon Montour being whistled for delay of game by clearing the puck over the glass in his defensive zone. The Stars 5-on-3 advantage was too much to overcome, as Lindell’s first wrister of the night from the high slot beat Anton Khudobin for a 2-1 Texas lead at 2:30.
The Gulls faced four other power plays in the frame, and gave up a backbreaker, which turned the red lamp just a second after the last penalty had expired. Matt Mangene’s one-timer on three consecutive one-touch passes in the zone at 19:07 allowed Texas to take a 3-1 lead after two periods.
“You can’t win when you’re in the penalty box,” said Gulls captain Joe Piskula, “We had to string a lot of kills together, and they capitalized on a few. We have to learn from this game. Most important, it’s a series now. We have to take it one game at a time.”
Curtis McKenzie and Justin Dowling scored in the third period for Texas.
The two teams now migrate to San Diego, where the series resumes on Thursday night with Game 3 at Valley View Casino Center. Game 4 will take place on Friday night.
NOTES: Dallas Eakins suffered his first loss in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs as an AHL head coach (7-1 combined between Toronto/San Diego)…Ondrej Kase recorded the lone assist on the Ritchie goal…Jack Campbell started in net for Texas, facing only fifteen shots over the final two periods; he recorded 25 saves on 26 shots…Brett Ritchie, the older brother of the Gulls’ Nick Ritchie, returned to the Texas lineup after missing Game One with a lower body injury; he recorded one assist and was given the game’s third star…San Diego was without Matt Bailey (lower body) while Texas lost forward Greg Rallo (lower body) to injury as well…the Stars have scored five or six goals, counting the regular season, in all six of their wins against the Gulls this season.
1st Star: TEX Esa Lindell (1-1=2); 2nd Star: TEX Matt Mangene (1-0=1, +2 rating); 3rd Star: TEX Brett Ritchie (0-1=1, +1 rating)