After winning Game 5 in Toronto, the Texas Stars returned to Cedar Park with two chances to close it out against the Marlies. Monday's Game 6 was a flop. Texas was not ready for the game Toronto brought and ended up on the wrong side of a 3-1 score, forcing Game 7.
"[Character] is always revealed in big games," said Coach Desjardins after the loss. "We know what we need to do, and we just have to find a way to do it."
It didn't look good for the home side early in Game 7, as the Marlies scored two goals in the first 21 minutes of play to go ahead. In all previous games, the team that scored the second goal was the ultimate winner. The Stars needed to break that streak.
Fifty-one seconds in the second period changed everything. A deft tip by Mike Hedden put Texas on the board and gave the building life. A bad offensive zone penalty by Jerry D'Amigo put the Stars on the power play seconds later. Having previously been stymied to the count of 3-for-33 in the series, Texas cashed in when it mattered.
In his first game back from injury, Justin Dowling keyed the power play and the victory. He was injured in Game 5 against Grand Rapids and was given a four week timetable for return. Thanks to the Dallas training staff, he got back in two and a half. The center started the play on the advantage that would tie the game up.
"I watched video today on how they kill," said Dowling. "I was trying to draw the guy out and feed it to Hedden. He made an unbelievable pass to Jeffrey, who put it upstairs."
After Drew Macintyre had stopped 25 straight, the Stars had scored on their 26th and 27th shots to knot things at two.
Rookie Brett Ritchie was next up to the plate. "It was nerve wracking," said Ritchie. "20 minutes to go to the final. I knew we were going to get one. We could feel it."
Dowling passed from the left wing circle to Ritchie in the slot off the rush for an easy tap-in goal to make it 3-2. Just seventeen seconds later, Matej Stransky would score on the wrap-around to make it 4-2.
Ritchie continued, "I was still sitting down breathing heavily, and I didn't even see his go in. To get that two goal cushion to sit on, it was huge."
Justin Dowling would add one of his own five-hole, and Dustin Jeffrey would get his second into the empty net with five minutes still remaining in the game. The final was 6-2 after six unanswered goals by the Stars.
Coach Desjardins intoned, "We needed everything we could to get out of it."
The Stars will now face the winner of the Eastern Conference, the St. John's IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets). The IceCaps and the Stars are nearly the two most geographically separated teams in the league. Texas has never played the IceCaps in five years of existence. This will only be the third team from the East that the Stars have ever played. The other two were the Syracuse Crunch and the Hershey Bears.
Game 1 is Sunday night in Cedar Park. Game 2 will follow quickly on Monday night. Due to some building conflicts in both cities, the schedule could stretch all the way to June 23rd for a possible Game 7 in Cedar Park.
Full schedule (all times Central Daylight):
Game 1 - Sunday, June 8th - 7:30 p.m. vs. St. John's
Game 2 - Monday, June 9th - 7:30 p.m. vs. St. John's
Game 3 - Wednesday, June 11th - 5:00 p.m. at St. John's
Game 4 - Monday, June 16th - 5:00 p.m. at St. John's
Game 5 ** - Tuesday, June 17th - 5:00 p.m. at St. John's
Game 6 ** - Thursday, June 19th - 7:30 p.m. vs. St. John's
Game 7 ** - Monday, June 23rd - 7:30 p.m. vs. St. John's
** If necessary
Taylor Peters shifted out of the lineup in Game 6 after an injury in Game 5. That worked out OK as Justin Dowling came back in. That allowed Texas to get their Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie line together and wreak havoc. Jack Campbell is still out. John Klingberg and Toby Petersen are as well.