Development versus winning has been a constant battle for the Texas Stars this season as they've become closer to the Dallas squad. It was no more typified than Game 2 against the IceHogs last weekend.
Players with tons of AHL playoff experience like Scott Valentine and Kevin Henderson found themselves scratched in favor of Mattias Backman and Mattias Janmark. Janmark was playing his first AHL game since the fall when he was with Grand Rapids.
And now it's all on the table for the Stars. Thanks to the best-of-five series format, Texas has already played all of its home games and now goes to Rockford for three straight. Outscored 8-3 at home, the Stars need to be offensively and defensively better.
There isn't much else to say. Win, or it's all done. If it comes to pass, it will be the first series sweep the Stars have suffered in franchise history.
Idaho Steelheads Eliminated in Game 6
Idaho had huge hopes for the playoffs but ran into a very hot goaltender who cut them down. Igor Bobkov and the Utah Grizzlies blanked the Steelheads on Monday night in Salt Lake City to win the series 4-2.
Unfortunately, the third period has been a bugaboo for the Stars agasint the IceHogs this season. That trend continued into the playoffs Friday as Texas ceded three goals in the final frame to lose by a 4-2 mark in the first game of their opening round playoff series.
Spencer Abbott, who has collected a point per game against Texas in his playoff career, continued that trend with two goals tonight at the Cedar Park Center. A third period 5-on-3 goal tied things up and set the stage for a game-winning tally by defensive D-man Kirill Gotovets, only his second career AHL goal of either the regular season or postseason.
The Stars gave the IceHogs two 2-man advantages in the final frame and were really just asking for trouble by putting themselves in that position for a total of over a minute in the frame.
Two games into the Calder Cup defense and the Stars will face elimination on Wednesday in Rockford. A flat first period compounded into an overall flat effort in general as the IceHogs pasted Texas 4-1 in their own building.
"We have to come out stronger," said captain Maxime Fortunus. "We have to respond better in that aspect of the game."
Texas was already down 2-0 on the scoreboard by the first intermission after volleying just four shots at Rockford's Michael Leighton in the frame. The IceHogs sent 11 shots toward Jack Campbell, who was pierced by two.
The most curious aspect of the game was the depth left in the seats to wear suits and watch the game instead of playing. Scott Valentine, Kevin Henderson and Matej Stransky all saw their names in the scratch column this evening. Instead, Mattias Janmark played just his ninth North American pro game, and Mattias Backman drew in as the seventh defenseman.
The Week Ahead
Tonight's game could be the last of the season. Game 3 is tonight. Games 4 and 5 will be Friday and Saturday, if necessary.
Radek Faksa is the only player out at the moment.