CEDAR PARK, Texas — The Ontario Reign went to head-to-head with the AHL’s highest scoring team and prevailed in a 7-6 victory against the Texas Stars.
Five different players registered multipoint nights, including Jordan Samuels-Thomas who scored the game-winner with 3:33 remaining after Texas had battled back to tie the game at 6-6.
“I don’t think either coach will like it with 13 goals. But 7-6 is a win just like 2-1 is a win,” Ontario coach Mike Stothers said. “You hear all this talk about more offense and bigger nets, things like that. I guess people should just come watch us.”
Michael Mersch had a pair of goals, Nic Dowd dished out a pair of assists, while Sean Backman and Kurtis MacDermid each had a goal and an assist.
“They’re a quick team and that was the first game we really played like that,” MacDermid said. “We don’t want to play like that every night. But we’ll take the two points and we’re happy.”
Ontario led 4-2 after a lengthy and bizarre first period.
The Reign scored on their second and third shots of the game, chasing Stars starter John Muse just 4:01 into the contest.
MacDermid had a hand in both early goals with his quick release from the point. The first shot missed the net completley, but a hard bounce off the end boards went straight to Mersch who scored with a backhand. MacDermid didn’t miss on his second chance, this time he picked a corner over Muse’s left shoulder.
“Starting strong is important,” MacDermid said. “We needed that type of start, especially with how they charged back.”
After MacDermid’s goal Texas outshot Ontario 6-2 over the next 10 minutes and Greg Rallo batted home a rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
In response the Stars fans tossed 1,607 stuffed animals onto the ice, which will be dispersed to needy children in the Austin area this holiday season. It also created an impromptu timeout as the game was paused almost six minutes to collect the bears.
That moment, combined with the first media timeout 12 seconds after play resumed, could have zapped Texas’ momentum. But the Stars kept pressing and tied the game when Devin Shore fired home a wrister from the slot.
A pair of Texas mistakes helped Ontario regain the lead before the intermission, which came 50 minutes after the opening face-off.
Mersch scored his second goal of the period on the power play after an initial shot was poorly played by Stars goalie Jack Campbell, and the Reign left winger easily scored into the empty net. Less than two minutes later Adrian Kempe converted a Texas turnover into his fifth goal of the season, beating Campbell with a wrist shot from between the circles.
It was the type of goal Campbell will want back, and he had a couple more of those in the second period.
After Texas had cut into the lead on a floating shot by Esa Lindell, Samuels-Thomas put home a rebound where Campbell didn’t seal off the left post.
Ontario then received a power play when Texas forward Brendan Ranford was called for slashing, and Backman converted with a power play blast that went off the cross bar through traffic.
At that moment Stars coach Derek Laxdal said he contemplated pulling Campbell and re-inserting Muse, but he stuck with the former first-round pick.
Texas added to the see-saw battle when Matej Stransky scored on a power play midway through the second period.
That ran the goal total to 10 before 30 minutes of hockey had been played.
The Stars continued to push and pulled within one less than two minutes into the third period when Justin Dowling beat Emery on another rebound.
Emery then made a series of nice saves — including a 2-on-1 on Radek Faksa — before Texas finally tied the game with 8:07 remaining when Rallo scored on a rebound before Samuels-Thomas’ game-winner.
Notes: This was the first meeting between the Kings and Stars primary affiliate since the 2003-04 season when the Utah Grizzlies and Manchester Monarchs played four times … Texas will visit Ontario on Jan. 5 and the teams will meet six times this season … between the two teams 23 players were part of the 2014 Stars Calder Cup Championship or the 2015 Manchester Monarchs Championship teams … the six goals allowed where the most Ontario has allowed this season … Ontario went 2-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-7 on the penalty kill … Emery finished with 31 saves, while Campbell made 24 saves for Texas in the loss.
Michael Mersch – Nic Dowd – Jonny Brodzinski
Justin Auger – Adrian Kempe – Sean Backman
Jordan Samuels-Thomas – Andrew Crescenzi – Valentin Zykov
Joel Lowry – Ryan Horvat – Scott Sabourin
Kevin Gravel – Kevin Raine
Kurtis MacDermid – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Nick Ebert
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.
Photo: Christina Shapiro
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