Texas Stars off to great start

Stars introduced at home opener (Mitch Cooper)

Stars introduced at home opener (Mitch Cooper)

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars got off to a great 2012-2013 season start, winning both of their opening weekend games. The Stars topped the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday night 2-1 in what turned out to be a real nail-biter. Then they came back from a 3-1 deficit in their home opener Sunday against the Charlotte checkers to win 4-3 in an exciting nine round shootout.
Coming back from a 3-1 deficit was something that was rarely seen last year.
“I think we have a lot of young, hungry guys that can skate,” Stars forward Cody Eakin said. “Our whole mentality is that we don’t quit and are relentless. We have the right mix of young and old guys and it’s going to be a fun year.”
In San Antonio, the Stars jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, scoring both goals in the opening period. Stars’ Captain Maxime Fortunus opened the scoring with a blue line slap shot that hit the post and went in. Texas increased the lead when Toby Petersen beat goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris from the slot.
Petersen is a native of Minneapolis, MN and has a wealth of NHL experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars.
Texas was in control nearly the entire game, but struggled on the power play, going 0-8. They dominated the game leading in shots 34-19, but couldn’t finish some good scoring chances. This led to a frantic last minute of the game when San Antonio’s David Shore beat goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp to close the gap to 2-1.
San Antonio pulled Grumet-Morris and nearly tied the game with seconds left, but Texas came out ahead, giving Nilstorp his first win in North America.
Nilstorp is from Sweden where he played in the Swedish elite league and maintained a goals-against average of just over two goals per game while stopping around 92% of the shots he saw.
Texas opened its home season the next night in Cedar Park against the Charlotte Checkers in front of 5,072 fans. After the debacle that was last season, the fans were ready for some good hockey and that’s exactly what they got.
“It’s tough when you’re down 3-1 to come back,” Stars’ Head Coach Willie Desjardins said. “You don’t come back from that very often and it was good for us to come back. (There were) lots of good performances from a lot of guys.”
The Stars came out firing and forechecking in the first period and did everything but put the puck in the net. They outshot Charlotte 12-7, but neither team scored. Texas had a decisive advantage in shots, outshooting the Checkers 43-30.
The Checkers got on the board first at 13:23 of the second period when Zach Boychuk took an errant defensive clearing pass and fired the puck on net. Stars’ goaltender Jack Campbell stopped the first shot, but Boychuk was able to bat the rebound past him for the 1-0 lead.
Texas knotted the score at one when Eakin was able to slap a Tomas Vincour centering pass past Dan Ellis, energizing the crowd and the team.
Texas initially came out a little sluggish in the third period, committing some untimely penalties that led to two Charlotte power play goals.   Riley Nash trickled a shot through Campbell for a 2-1 lead and just two minutes later, Bobby Sanguinetti beat Campbell high under the crossbar.
Stars go on the power play while teams discuss the penalty (Mitch Cooper)

Stars go on the power play while teams discuss the penalty (Mitch Cooper)

Texas climbed to within one on their first power play goal of the season when Cam Barker fired a hard blue line shot past Ellis. Texas tied the game when Cody Eakin scored a short-handed goal, firing the puck from the left circle and beating Ellis up high.
“(Eakin) really played well tonight,” Desjardins said. “It’s one thing to play well when you’re fresh, but he did it when he was tired for some of the shifts. He still found a way to get it done.”
Neither team was able to score in the overtime. The ensuing shootout went nine rounds. Matt Fraser scored in the second round for Texas and Jerome Samson evened the shootout score in round three. The goaltenders took over until Jamie Benn made a nifty move and slid a backhand past Ellis for the game winner.
“Campbell was great in the shootout and the overtime,” Desjardins said. “He’d like to have a couple of those (regulation) goals back, but he did a really good job today.”
Texas struggled in both games on special teams, going 1-15 on the power play. They’ve also given up three power play goals in 11 attempts.
“We’re going to work on our special teams a little bit,” Desjardins said. “We’ll work on our power play and try to keep our tempo and energy up.”
Texas will have to keep their energy levels up as they play their first “three games in three nights” this weekend. They play a home and home game series with the Houston Aeros on Friday (in Houston) and Saturday (in Cedar Park), then finish the weekend against Lake Erie at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Contact the writer at: mitch.cooper@prohockeynews.com
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