Early Goals from Mueller, Wathier Not Enough for Texas
ROCKFORD, IL – The Texas Stars led 2-0 just five minutes into the game, but could not hold on to the lead as the Rockford IceHogs came from behind to win 4-2 Sunday afternoon at BMO Harris Bank Center.
It took just 80 seconds for Texas to get on the scoreboard and gain a front foot in the hockey game. Brett Ritchie and Mike Hedden combined to setup Chris Mueller to fire a shot past goaltender Antti Raanta at 1:20 for his fourth goal of the year. The Stars turned up the pressure, forcing Rockford to call its one and only timeout to settle things down. The move would not work as minutes later Texas double its lead. Rookie Matej Stransky executed a quick reverse of play behind the Rockford net and then found Francis Wathier all alone for a quick one-timer at 5:03. Stransky and fellow rookie Taylor Peters both earned assists on Wathier’s first goal of the season.
Rockford broke up Cristopher Nilstorp’s shutout bid as they capitalized on the only power play for either team in the second period. On the rush Jimmy Hayes got behind the Stars defense and slid a pass across to Drew LeBlanc for a back-post goal at 16:38. It was the first power play goal conceded by Texas since October 15th at Oklahoma City and it ended a streak of 27 consecutive successful penalty kills by the Stars.
Texas put more pressure on Raanta early in the third period and were carrying the momentum when a mistake led to the tying goal for Rockford. IceHogs forward Alex Broadhurst was gifted a turnover at the Stars blue line and sped in to beat Nilstorp at 10:40 for an unassisted goal. That goal woke up the sellout crowd of 6,353 and the momentum clearly shifted to the hosts. A mere 1:46 later Mark McNeill stole the puck at his own blue line, raced down the right wing and unloaded a slap shot from the right face off dot over the glove of Nilstorp and into the top left corner of the net to put Rockford ahead 3-2. The Stars continued to fire shots at Raanta, but could not find an equalizer. With 52 seconds left in the game Klas Dahlbeck added an empty net goal to cap off a 4-2 victory.
Antti Raanta shook off the early two goals allowed and finished with 46 saves on 48 shots to record his third win in goal for Rockford. Cristopher Nilstorp made 30 saves on 33 shots and was tagged with the loss for Texas. The Stars out-shot the IceHogs 48-34 in the game and went 0-for-2 on the power play, while Rockford was 1-for-4 with the man-advantage.
Texas will continue its road trip on Wednesday, October 30th against the Milwaukee Admirals at 7:00 p.m. at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Texas will return home on Friday, November 8th for the beginning of Stars & Stripes Military Appreciation Weekend presented by Sport Clips, facing Milwaukee at 7:00 p.m. at Cedar Park Center. 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 by Kris Gray.