CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Grand Rapids Griffins began their weekend three-in-three with a 6-4 loss to the Texas Stars on Friday at the Cedar Park Center.
Posting a 21-4-1-3 record when scoring first and backed by a league-leading power play, the Texas Stars (27-11-2-3) gained a two-point advantage over the Griffins (27-12-1-2) to claim sole possession of the Western Conference lead.
Compounding on shared minor penalties by Adam Almquist and Brendan Ranford at 5:18, Teemu Pulkkinen was called for slashing at 6:29 of the first period to yield a four-on-three advantage for the Stars. It took only 10 seconds for Texas to capitalize on the extra man when Derek Meech blistered a one-timer that snuck its way into the net on the inside of Tom McCollum’s right goal post, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Ranford then tallied a pair of goals at 15:05 and 17:36 late in the first period to give the Stars a commanding 3-0 lead that would eventually close out the first frame.
Seconds after Texas’ third goal, though, a Stars faceoff win allowed the home team an immediate rush to the Griffins net, resulting in the puck sliding past McCollum and beyond the line. Before the home celebration could finish, however, the referees waved off the goal, ruling that Curtis McKenzie kicked the puck past McCollum to keep the Griffins behind by only three tallies.
Texas’ scoring frenzy carried over into the second period when Travis Morin, who leads the AHL in points, put one home past McCollum on the inside of the left goal post at 1:14. Upon the Stars’ fourth consecutive tally, McCollum was pulled in favor of Griffins rookie goaltender Jared Coreau.
The momentum took a shift in Grand Rapids’ direction at 11:26 of the middle frame when Trevor Parkes poked in a Triston Grant wraparound to give Parkes his first goal of the season with the Griffins. Then, Pulkkinen found the back of Josh Robinson’s net on a whistling wrister at 14:31, lessening the Texas lead to 4-2.
A wild third period kicked off with a controversial hit by Brennan Evans to a Stars attacker, which resulted in a fight between Evans and William Wrenn at 3:58. Both received penalties for fighting, Wrenn endured an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and Evans took five additional minutes for elbowing and a 10-minute game misconduct. Just 36 seconds later, Calle Jarnkrok was sent to the box for tripping and Mike Hedden scored Texas’ second power play goal of the night at 7:50 to put them up 5-2.
Colton Sceviour seemingly put Grand Rapids out of the contest at 10:29 of the third, until Pulkkinen responded with a power play goal at 12:25 to make it a 6-3 contest.
Consecutive penalties against the Stars near the 13-minute mark provided the Griffins with a two-man advantage and, in an attempt to shorten the scoring gap, Coreau was pulled to give Grand Rapids three extra skaters. The last-ditch effort proved fruitful as Almquist put away a slapshot to make it 6-4 at 14:06, his first goal of the season.
However, Grand Rapids’ comeback was extinguished when Almquist and Alexey Marchenko were called for interference and slashing, respectively, in the final five minutes of the game, leading to the Griffins falling to the Stars with a final score of 6-4.
McCollum turned away 20 of 24 shots before Coreau stepped in and prevented 33 of 35. Robinson stopped 38 of 42 shots to earn the victory. Texas tallied 59 shots in the contest, while Grand Rapids fired off 42, combining for a total of 101 shots.
Three Stars: 1. TEX Ranford (two goals, one assist); 2. TEX Morin (one goal, two assists); 3. GR Pulkkinen (two goals, one assist)