Dallas Stars Prospects: Texas Wins Game 1 of First Round Series

The AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars took Game 1 of their first round postseason series in thrilling overtime fashion, riding strong games from some of their top prospects.

CEDAR PARK, Texas — The Texas Stars fought a 2-1 third period deficit and a late six-on-five goal to defeat the Ontario Reign 4-3 in overtime. Veteran forward Brian Flynn tapped in a wonderful set-up by Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov to take Game 1 of their first round Calder Cup Playoffs series.

Flynn’s overtime winner came just 1:55 into the extra period, after Reign forward Matt Moulson netted an equalizer with the extra attacker on late in the third. It was Flynn’s first career AHL postseason goal, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I lost the faceoff dead clean, and Roope jumped on it and somehow got a tie up, then Denis jumped in and they did a good job getting the puck on net,” Flynn said post-game. “I found a quiet spot and I was fortunate to get a bounce right to me.”

The Stars, the primary affiliate of the Dallas Stars, took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series with the win. It was their first victory in the American Hockey League’s postseason since April 23, 2016.

“Good for our guys, we battled hard and we deserved it,” Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said after the win. “It was a battle right to the end. Give our guys a lot of credit.”

The Stars opened the scoring with speed right out of the gate, as rookie forward Sheldon Dries tallied his first career playoff goal on a net-front jam early in the first. Dries was assisted by linemates Colin Markison and Samuel Laberge, whose helpers were also their first career postseason point.

“It was a great play,” Dries said. “Marky chipped it in and Sammy was the first guy on the puck, they threw it to the front of the net, I just had to be there. That’s how we have to play: a simple game, but at the same time, hard on the body.”

It was important for the Stars to come out swinging with their league-renowned fast gameplay style. “The first goal was created on the forecheck. [Markison] and then Sam [Laberge] did a great job getting in there and turning the puck over,” Laxdal said. “We’re gonna be better as we move along, and I think we’ll be even better tomorrow night.”

However, it was the exact opposite of this fast, beat them with speed game the Stars played in period two. Ontario fought back with two quick goals in a helter-skelter middle frame, first as Justin Auger scored for the Los Angeles Kings farm team, and second with Kings top prospect Jonny Brodzinski capitalizing on a turnover and flipping one past Texas starter Mike McKenna.

“They wanna run up on us in the neutral zone, but we gotta have the mindset of chipping it by them and far-side winger slashing to create those oppotunities,” Dries said.

Luckily, it didn’t take long for the Stars to find the energy to work their way back into it. Eight minutes into the third, Hintz stormed past two Reign blueliners and located Gurianov with a pinpoint pass, with which the Russian made no mistake and slapped past Ontario netminder Cal Petersen.

Hintz and Gurianov have been prolific linemates at the AHL level nearly all season long, and their chemistry is really paying off. “If you look at Denis’s goal with Roope, that’s an NHL goal,” Laxdal said. “Just some speed through the neutral zone and kicking it out for a one-timer.”

The leading-scorer for the Stars in the regular season took matters into his own hands in a tied, 2-2 game, as Travis Morin banged home a rebound attempt just four minutes after Gurianov leveled the score. After Moulson’s aforementioned tying goal with Petersen on the bench, Flynn did the rest in overtime. The veteran of 262 National Hockey League games certainly played like he had been there before, sending the HEB Center at Cedar Park crowd into elation with the overtime winner.

It was Texas’ 29th overtime game in their 77th total match of the season, and in no way an unfamiliar setting. “There’s no panic in the locker room at all, we’ve got a lot of older guys in there,” Flynn continued. “I don’t know how many OT games we’ve played this year, but it feels like a ton.”

McKenna was strong in the blue paint for the home team on Thursday, stopping 38 of 41 shots and keeping his cool when playing the puck. McKenna, Morin, Flynn, and captain Curtis McKenzie provided exactly what veterans are supposed to supply in postseason play: calm, reserved experience.

The Dallas Stars’ last win of the season came against the Kings, and now, their farm team is continuing that success. Texas will play Ontario tomorrow night at 7:00pm for Game 2 of the first-to-three Pacific Division semifinal matchup at HEB Center at Cedar Park, about 25 miles north of Central Austin.

“It was a hard-fought game, a typical playoff game. It was a big win for us, especially here on home ice,” said Laxdal. “Now we’ve gotta reset and get ready for tomorrow night.”