The Texas Stars moved one step closer to their first AHL Calder Cup Championship in team history when they knocked off the defending champion Grand Rapids Griffins Sunday with a dominating 7 – 1 win. Texas needed six games to dispatch the Griffins in the Western Conference Semi Finals.
The Stars jumped out to a two game lead at home to open the series with 5 – 2 and 4 – 0 wins on Cedar Park Center ice. Dustin Jeffrey had two goals to lead the offensive attack in game one while Jack Campbell made 23 saves for the win. Christopher Nilstorp was in net for game two and stonewalled Grand Rapids for the shutout, stopping all 30 pucks sent his way. Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford had two goals apiece in support of Nilstorp.
The series shifted to Grand Rapids for game three and the Griffins rebounded with a 5 – 2 win in front of the home crowd. Grand Rapids had built a five goal lead by the 16:07 mark of the second period with Tomas Jurco notching the hat trick. The Stars had opportunities ringing a couple shots off the posts and had a second period goal waived off for goalie interference. The Griffins evened the series with a controversial 3 – 2 game four win. Midway through the second period Griffins’ forward David McIntyre batted in a rebound out of mid-air. The goal was emphatically waived off by the referee stationed behind the net. However, all four officials huddled to discuss the call and it was overturned giving Grand Rapids the lead.
The Stars took the tough luck loss in stride and rather than letting it bury them, they responded with a 3 – 2 overtime thriller in game five to reestablish the series lead. After jumping out to a two goal first period lead, Texas saw Grand Rapids respond with two of their own in the second. A scoreless third period set the stage for Chris Mueller’s heroics just 3:18 into the extra period. Campbell started the game in net, but left with just two minutes left in regulation due to an injury. Campbell made 34 saves before leaving the game. Nilstorp faced only four shots to pick up the win and send the series back to Texas with the Stars needing to win one of the next two games.
Game six did not get off to a good start as the Griffins jumped ahead just 36 seconds into the contest. However, that was Grand Rapids last hurrah as the Stars poured in seven unanswered goals to advance to the Western Conference Finals against the Toronto Marlies. Dustin Jeffery and Radek Faksa each scored twice to pace the offense. Nilstorp was stellar once again allowing only the early first period goal on 24 shots faced.
The top seeded Stars will now prepare to face the third seed Toronto Marlies. The series 2 – 3 – 2 format series will open May 23rd in Cedar Park. Texas will have their work cut out for them as they face a Toronto team who has yet to lose in the post season.
Fri May 23 – Cedar Park Center
Mon May 26 – Cedar Park Center
Wed May 28 – Toronto Ricoh Coliseum
Thu May 29 – Toronto Ricoh Coliseum
Sat May 31 – Toronto Ricoh Coliseum **
Mon Jun 2 – Cedar Park Center **
Tue Jun 3 – Cedar Park Center **
** If necessary
Playoff Goaltending Comparison
Who is Hot
Inside the Game
Toronto’s Drew MacIntyre has been in goal for all seven of the Marlies post season games.
MacIntyre’s 1.56 GAA and .949 SV% are both second among goalies in the playoffs. Nilstorp is fourth with a 1.68 GAA and fifth with a .934 SV%.
Jerry D’Amigo’s 12 points is tied for second in the league. Travis Morin is eighth at 10 points and Mike Hedden is ninth with 9 points.
Stars’ rookie Brendan Ranford has goals in six of the last eight playoff games. His seven goals are tied for the post season league lead.
Derek Meech is leading Stars defensemen in scoring with 8 points and is second among all blueliners in the playoffs. He is tied with the Marlies’ T.J. Brennan for the league lead in goals by a defenseman with three.
The Marlies have scored first in all seven of their playoff games.
Toronto and Texas are the second and third least penalized teams in post season play. The Marlies are averaging 8.86 minutes per game while the Stars average 10.44.
In the post season both the Stars and fifth in the league in power play efficiency while Toronto is fourth. Texas has converted 9 of 41 opportunities or 22.0% while Toronto is coming in at 25.0% on 9 of 36. On the penalty kill the Stars are fifth at 86.7% allowing 4 goals on 30 kills. Toronto is second at 89.7% with 3 goals allowed on only 29 times short handed.