San Diego Gulls stifled by Texas Stars, O’Brien scores lone goal

Photo By: Christina Shapiro

Photo By: Christina Shapiro

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars dished and dashed their way to a 6-1 victory against the San Diego Gulls on New Year’s Eve.

It was Texas’ best passing game of the season. The Stars sliced through the Gulls defense with smart passes, and they did it with flair as they scored a handful of pretty goals.

By the end of the game San Diego looked slow and tried to muscle its way back into the game. However, Texas didn’t take the bait and San Diego gifted away seven power plays.

“We tried to attack their D with some speed,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “You had a good start to the game so confidence came early and our guys were rewarded for their work.”

It could have been worse.

While Anton Khudobin was pulled at the start of the third period, he made a handful of quality saves and Texas hit a trio of posts.

“I don’t know, I felt really good today,” Jason Dickinson said. “We generated a lot of our forecheck. We were always in the right position. Taking away pucks, picking pucks off.”

It started early as Khudobin was left out to dry in the first period when Texas built a three-goal lead.

Texas outshot San Diego 16-9 in the opening stanza and the Gulls goalie did have much chance on any of the goals.

Neither Eric Knodel nor Shane O’Brien picked up Brendan Ranford skating through the slot when he was feathered a pass by Curtis McKenzie. With ample time and space Ranford easily beat Khudobin for his eighth goal of the season.

McKenzie set up Texas second goal after a turnover by San Diego’s Brandon Montour on the power play.

After the turnover McKenzie and Jason Dickinson skated in on a two-on-zero and Stars easily converted as Dickinson slid the pass from McKenzie past Khubobin’s right pad.

Eight minutes later Texas capitalized on face-off win by Dickinson and Derek Hulak pushed the lead to 3-0 after a pass from one-time Anaheim Duck Jesse Blacker.

“It just takes the wind out of their sales,” Dickinson said. “Three goals in the first period is tough for any team. You never want to be in a hole and it’s mentally very tough for them to come back from that.”

Texas added to its array of pretty goals in the middle period when Remi Elie scored his third goal of the season.

Elie was the third recipient on a tick-tack-toe passing play and buried his own rebound after an initial save by Khudobin.

The Stars onslaught continued when Gemel Smith scored on a fortuitous deflection with 3:13 left in the second. The winger had his back to the net, but Julius Honka’s initial shot banked off his stick and beat Khudobin between the legs.

It was one of the final shots Khudobin would face. The goalie finished with 25 saves on 30 shots, while Matt Hackett entered the game to start the third period and stopped 13 of 14 shots.

San Diego broke John Muse’s shutout bid in the third period on a goal by Andrew O’Brien, but it only delayed the end result.

Texas added a sixth marker with 56.8 seconds remaining when Smith added his second goal on the power play.

Muse finished with 26 saves in the victory.

Notes: San Antonio center Joseph Cramarossa missed Thursday’s game while serving a one-game suspension after he was assessed with an instigator penalty in the final five minutes against Ontario on Dec. 27 … San Antonio and Texas will play four more times this season … the announced attendance was 4,387 … Nick Ritchie played against his brother Brett for the first time as a professional. The brothers spent little time on the ice at the same time as a result of Texas line matching … Nick Ritchie finished with 18 penalty minutes in the loss.

Lines:

Texas
Curtis McKenzie-Travis Morin-Brendan Ranford
Remi Elie-Justin Dowling-Brett Ritchie
Derek Hulak-Jason Dickinson-Greg Rallo
Cole Ully-Gemel Smith-Matej Stransky

Esa Lindell-Julius Honka
Ludwig Bystrom-Stephen Johns
Mattias Backman-Jesse Blacker

John Muse

San Diego
Nick Ritchie-Mike Sgrabossa-Stefan Noesen
Kyle Bonis-Chris Mueller-Max Friberg
Nic Kerdiles-Tim Jackman-Brian McGrattan
Bryan Moore-Antoine Laganiere-Kenny Ryan

Jacob Megna- Brandon Montour
Shane O’Brien-Eric Knodel
Stu Bickel-Andrew O’Brien

Anton Khudobin

Thank you to Sean Shapiro of Wrong Side of the Red Line for preparing the above article. Shapiro covers the Texas Stars and the AHL for multiple publications including the Austin American-Statesman and The Hockey News. Give him a follow and check out his website.


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