CEDAR PARK — Despite its relative anonymity, the Texas Stars’ fourth line of Jesse Root, Eric Faille and Branden Troock — all rookies — had the biggest impact in a 5-4 win Saturday over the Chicago Wolves.
The line brought extra energy, won crucial faceoffs and was the Stars’ only offensive unit that wasn’t on the ice for a Chicago goal.
“That was our role tonight and last night,” Troock said. “Coach called us in, our line, and he wanted us to bring energy, be physical and create havoc all over the ice.”
In addition to the intangibles, Root scored a crucial goal — after a pair of fans failed to recognize his face during the game of “Secret Identity” on the scoreboard.
“I guess I’ve got to do a little more to make sure they know my name,” Root joked after the victory.
He still helped the Stars to a crucial win before the AHL All-Star break.
By sweeping Chicago, the Stars improved to 18-15-9 and have 45 points, one behind Grand Rapids for the eighth and final playoff spot. It was also the first time this season Texas had won on back-to-back nights.
“We’ve played very well in the first game but kind of fell back a little bit in the second,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “So that was kind of our mindset today. … I thought our guys responded with a good effort.”
Cameron Gaunce gave Texas a 1-0 lead 1 minute, 55 seconds into the game on a shot from the point, and Julius Honka made it 2-0 on a power-play blast later in the period. But the Stars fell behind 3-2 until an impressive 11-second stint late in the second period.
With David Shields in the box for hooking, Brendan Ranford and Justin Dowling dissected the Wolves’ penalty killers on a tick-tack-toe passing play, ending with Ranford’s easy tap-in.
On the next shift, Faille won the center ice faceoff, and Troock controlled possession entering the zone. Root was then set up in the slot and fired a wrist shot to beat Jordan Binnington on the stick side.
Early in the third period, Curtis McKenzie gave Texas a 5-3 lead. That stood up as the winner.