SAN ANTONIO — There’s a right time and wrong time to take a fight.
Curtis McKenzie executed that perfectly in the Texas Stars’ 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage on Thursday night.
With the Stars trailing 1-0 early in the second period, McKenzie had a lengthy bout with San Antonio’s Blake Parlett. After the fight, Texas outshot San Antonio 11-2 for the remainder of the period and took a 2-1 lead.
With the game tied at 2-2, McKenzie didn’t take up Jonathon Racine’s offer with 15:11 left in the third, even after the Rampage defensemen unloaded an uppercut into his chin.
“I’ve got to pick and choose my times, and that certainly wasn’t my time,” McKenzie said. “I’ll take the punch there and get the power play. I think it worked out.”
By AHL rules, McKenzie would have been given a game misconduct penalty for his second fight and the teams would have remained at even strength. Instead, Racine was given a double-minor for roughing, setting up a power play that Texas cashed in on when Greg Rallo scored the winning goal.
“That’s smart. That’s not a trade-off we would want,” Rallo said of McKenzie potentially fighting Racine. “Curtis plays big minutes and is a big part of our team. I know he’s always willing to go, so it wasn’t for lack of willingness. It was all a smart play for him.”
The third meeting in a week between the Interstate 35 rivals turned into the Stars’ most physical game of the season.
It started in the second period when McKenzie bested Parlett. Gemel Smith then fought Parlett in the second period and a bench-clearing fracas nearly broke out early in the third.
Rampage defenseman Shane O’Brien stared down the Stars bench after a San Antonio goal, prompting Stars coach Derek Laxdal to exchange words with Rampage coach Tom Rowe.
The teams then came together as Laxdal shoved the pane of glass that separates the benches. Laxdal cut his hand during the heated moment and Texas was given a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After the game, Laxdal described the exchange as “emotions.” Texas seemingly built on the added energy and outscored San Antonio 3-1 in the third period on goals by Rallo, Jamie Oleksiak, and Brendan Ranford into the empty net.
Texas wouldn’t have been in a position to win without goalie Anders Lindback who stopped 30 of 32 shots in the victory. The goalie did his best work in the first period when he turned away 13 shots, including a pair of breakaways.
“He was outstanding,” Laxdal said. “Lindback was solid and he just settled it down … He held the fort long enough for us to get rid of our bus legs.”