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Texas Stars Claim AHL Calder Cup Championship

The Texas Stars split the opening two games of their Calder Cup Finals series with the St John’s IceCaps before weathering three straight overtime games to claim their first AHL Championship.

 

After the teams skated to a scoreless first period in game three, Brett Ritchie staked the Stars to a lead at the 15:54 mark of the second. Ritchie put a Justin Dowling rebound five hole on Michael Hutchinson. Mike Hedden was awarded the secondary assist on the play. St John’s saw the ice tilt in their favor during the third when the Stars took two early penalties. Kael Mouillierat took advantage and put a Zach Redmond rebound over Christopher Nilstorp to knot the score at one apiece. Time of the goal was 11:44 and Carl Klingberg picked up an assist. Neither team was able to find the back of the net the remainder of regulation sending the game to overtime.

 

Early in the overtime period, it looked as though the IceCaps had stolen a win but the potential game winner was waived off as the whistle had blown before the puck crossed the line. A flurry of actions at both ends of the ice had the crowd in a frenzy. First Hutchinson made an unbelievable save on Ritchie on what looked to be a wide open net. Moments later St John’s had a breakaway with Patrice Cormier coming out of the penalty box to go streaking in on net. Nilstorp came out to meet Cormier, stood his ground and stoned the IceCaps center. Curtis McKenzie took the puck the other way and left a drop pass for Brendan Ranford at the right circle. Ranford made a remarkable seeing eye pass to Travis Morin just off the left post and the win.

 

Texas outshot St John’s 33 – 31 in the contest. Neither team took advantage on the power play as the Stars went 0 – 3 and the IceCaps were 0 – 5.

 

Morin the league’s reigning MVP, played spoiler once again in game four. As had become almost routine in the playoffs, the Stars saw their opponent open the scoring in the game. With the Stars on the power play, Cormier pulled a faceoff win back to Adam Lowry who found Ben Chiarot at the point for a shot through traffic and behind Nilstorp with just under seven minutes to go in the opening period. The tally reved up the IceCaps offense and they poured 21 shots on goal in the period. Klingberg broke through on a rush in the opening moments of the second to give St John’s a two goal lead at the 0:57 mark. Mouillierat and Eric O’Dell had the assists. Two quick Stars penalties gave the IceCaps an extended 5 on 3 power play that they quickly cashed in. Mouillierat found the twine from Will O’Neill and Andrew Gordon to give St John’s what looked to be a comfortable lead. However, the Stars were just about to get the offense going. With 4:27 to go in the middle frame, Morin’s onetimer from Ranford broke the ice for Texas. McKenzie put home a loose puck at 18:09 to pull the Stars within one with Ranford and Morin logging the assists. Just as it looked like St John’s may survive a furious Stars attack, Jamie Oleksiak made a big play to keep in a clearing attempt setting off a bang-bang play where Dowling found Ritchie on the backdoor to pull even at 17:51.

 

In the extra stanza, McKenzie and Morin went into the zone against three St John’s defenders. McKenzie slid the puck across to Morin for a onetimer that Hutchinson had no chance on for the come from behind win.

 

The Stars once again outshot the IceCaps by a slim 38 – 35 margin. Texas was 0 – 3 on the power play while St John’s scored their first power play goal of the series going 1 – 4.

 

The Stars came into game five knowing they needed to win only one of the next three to lock up their first championship. They got started off on the right foot taking a one goal lead into the first intermission when Cameron Gaunce hit Ritchie with a breakout pass from the Stars defensive zone. Ritchie left it for Hedden who deked Hutchison and slid it past the down and out netminder with just over a minute to go. Ritchie and Gaunce would team up again at the 4:59 mark of the second to double the Stars lead. St John’s finally got on the board at 11:06 off a wrister from Jordan Hill through traffic in front. Nilstorp did not see the puck until it was past him. Jason Jaffray and Gordon picked up the assists on the Hill goal. Josh Lunden scored on a redirect of a Redmond shot at 16:58 making it a brand new ball game. St John’s took their first lead of the night thanks to a turn over in the defensive zone resulting in Blair Riley rifling a shot over Nilstorp. Texas did not panic however and Hedden scored on deflected pass from Dowling at 13:26 with Gaunce picking up his third assist of the game.

 

The game fittingly went to an extra period for the third night in a row. Both teams had scoring chances that were turned aside by strong goalie play. Then with 5:30 to go, Morin sprang Patrik Nemeth on a romp up the ice for a backhander over Hutchinson, sending the Stars piling off the bench. The cup clenching goal was Nemeth’s first of the post season.

 

Texas outshot St John’s 45 – 36. Both teams were 0 – 2 with the man advantage.

 

In winning their first Calder Cup Championship in their second finals appearance, the Stars iced three of the top four scorers in the playoffs. Travis Morin who was named the Calder Cup Playoff MVP led the way on 9G – 13A. He was followed by Mike Hedden 9G – 10A who finished tied for second with Andrew Gordon 8G – 11A of the IceCaps and three points ahead of rookie Brendan Ranford 8G – 8A.

 

Christopher Nilstorp with 13 and Michael Hutchinson with 12, finished one and two in playoff wins. Hutchinson had slightly better overall playoff numbers than Nilstorp in goals against average and save percentage, but in the finals when the chips were down, Nilstorp came through with a 2.23 GAA and a .928 SV% compared to a 2.98 GAA and a .916 SV% for Hutchinson.

 

The Lone Star State can now proudly claim two professional hockey championships. In addition to the Stars AHL Calder Cup Championship, the Dallas Stars other affiliate in the state of Texas, the Allen Americans won the CHL Ray Miron Presidents Cup Championship.

Tags: AHL Texas Stars Travis Morin

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