Ranford Tallies Two More Assists; Stars Hold on to First Place in Western Conference Standings
ABBOTSFORD, BC – Rookie Brendan Ranford dished out two more assists and defenseman Cameron Gaunce scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Texas Stars completed a two-game mid-week sweep of the Abbotsford Heat with a 4-3 win on Wednesday night at Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. The victory kept the Stars in first place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The potent Texas power play cashed in on its first opportunity of the game to put the Stars in front early on. The AHL’s leading scorer, Travis Morin, took a pass from Derek Meech and skillfully lifted the puck over goaltender Olivier Roy at 6:53 for his 29th goal of the season. Abbotsford retaliated with a power play goal of its own just 2:10 later. Stars goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp made an initial save on Josh Jooris’ shot, but Sven Baertschi got his stick on the rebound and tied the game at 9:07.
A majority of the second period was played with very little between the two teams and not many scoring chances allowed by either squad. With just 90 seconds remaining in the period, rookie Brendan Ranford sent Dustin Jeffrey down the left wing and Jeffrey then made an inch-perfect cross-ice pass to find Jamie Oleksiak in the right circle. Oleksiak received the puck and snapped a vicious wrist shot that beat Roy over the glove into the top right corner of the net and a 2-1 Texas lead. A mere 72 seconds later the Stars stretched the lead to 3-1. After Patrick Nemeth gained the zone, he played the puck behind the net to Scott Glennie, who executed a scintillating give-and-go with Ranford, which finished with Glennie one-timing Ranford’s return pass just inside the far post with 17.2 seconds left in the period. The goal was Glennie’s 10th of the season and it was Ranford’s second assist of the night, giving the rookie forward his 20th point of the year.
Nilstorp came up with several big saves early in the third period, but his goal mouth heroics would not deter the Heat from a comeback. Blair Jones started the rally at 9:13 when he redirected a shot out of mid-air and into the net to cut the Stars’ lead to one. Then, with just under four minutes left in regulation, Carter Bancks skated around the back of the net and backhanded a pass across the crease, finding Brett Olsen on the far post to tie the game 3-3.
It took just over two minutes of overtime for Texas to find the winner. Justin Dowling burst down the right wing and fired a hard wrist shot off the pads of Roy and defenseman Cameron Gaunce picked the perfect time to jump into the play, slamming home the rebound for his third goal of the season, winning the game for the Stars 4-3.
Cristopher Nilstorp (21-12-4) stopped 33-of-36 shots to record his 21st victory of the season in goal for Texas, pulling into sole possession of third place in the AHL in wins. Olivier Roy (6-5-1) finished with 27 saves on 31 shots in goal for Abbotsford and suffered his fifth loss of the year. The Heat out-shot the Stars 36-31 in the game and went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Texas was 1-for-3 with the man-advantage.
With their five-game road trip completed, the Texas Stars now return to Cedar Park Center to face the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday, March 8th for a 7:00 p.m. face off. Saturday’s game is a Coke Zero Family Four Pack Night and a Texas Lottery Lucky Row Night, as well as a Stars Team Poster giveaway and there will be a post-game autograph session. Pro-rated full and partial 2013-14 Texas Stars Season Tickets are on sale now. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat