The thin month of October continues for the Texas Stars (3-0-0-0, 6 pts, #2 Western Conference). There will be just seven games in the opening calendar month for the defending champs. The Stars are undefeated thus far, sporting the fewest goals against in the league.
Among the goals for was a record tally for Travis Morin. The reigning AHL MVP had been in a tie with Colton Sceviour for the most goals in franchise history. His game-winning tally in Saturday's game against Utica was the 100th of his AHL and Texas Stars career, putting him along at the top.
Morin, ever-deflecting of praise, summed it up simply, "It's nice to do it with the same team. Other than that, it's just another goal."
Despite giving up an early lead in the second, Texas got their second win of the season off a power play goal by Jyrki Jokipakka for a 3-2 final score. Jack Campbell started his first game of the season and stopped 37 of 39, including 12 in the final period.
Derek Meech scored the first goal of the game very early on. Just 1:45 in, Kevin Henderson's cross-ice pass to Meech ended up in the net behind Laurent Brossoit for the 1-0 lead. Julius Honka picked up his second pro point with an assist on the play.
Derek Hulak, playing in his first game of the season, scored a tap-in off the rebound just 27 seconds later and it looked like Texas was off to the races.
In the second, Texas gave up two goals almost as quickly in the middle of the frame. Jordan Oesterle got his first of the season on the power play at 9:00 and vet Jason Williams evened things just under two minutes later.
Before the end of the period, Jokipakka's power play tally would put the Stars ahead for good. Gemel Smith, who almost didn't make the roster after being in a battle for the final forward spot with Ludwig Karlsson, had the setup pass to Jokipakka for the game-winner. Smith was on a power play unit with Dowling, Glennie, Jokipakka and Honka. That's quite the vote of confidence for the rookie winger from Coach Laxdal.
OKC poured it on in the third period, but Campbell stood tall. Texas went 1/4 on the power play and stopped 4/5 power plays against. That's a much more typical penalty number for this team this year.
A tight goalie duel was finished off in the third period with Travis Morin's 100th career AHL goal, all as a Texas Star, for a 1-0 victory over the visiting Utica Comets.
Texas' Jussi Rynnas and Utica's Joacim Eriksson each faced 29 shots on the evening, but Rynnas was just one better for his first shutout as a Texas Star.
"It was an entertaining game from start to finish for back-to-back games," said Coach Laxdal. "It was a good rebound game because we didn't think we were that great last night in Oklahoma City."
Cameron Gaunce added to the level critique of the game, "We knew they weren't a very high scoring team coming in. We gave them more chances than we should have."
The game had a very physical feel to it, despite the fact that the two teams only combined for sixteen penalty minutes. Utica is a team that will finish checks and get physical more often than Texas.
"We've got a tough group of guys," said Gaunce. "We might not have the guys that will drop the gloves at every opportunity but we're a team with a lot of character. If they want to play a strong physical game, we'll use our skill, talent and speed to our advantage."
The Week Ahead
Texas will play just two games this coming week, both against the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers). They will visit the Barons on Friday and play them at home on Saturday.
Two non-NHL contracted players are on the injured list for Texas. Defenseman William Wrenn has a lower body injury and forward Greg Rallo is out with an upper body injury.