CEDAR PARK — Gemel Smith has played some of the best hockey of his life against the San Antonio Rampage.
The 20-year-old rookie has eight career goals and six have come against the Texas Stars’ southern rival. He’s also been a physical pest against San Antonio, and he’s well aware of the impact.
“No veterans like for a young guy to come in and do well against them,” Smith said at Tuesday’s morning skate. “I’ve been trying to get into their kitchens. And I think it’s been bothering them and getting under their skins a little bit.”
Smith got under San Antonio’s skin and on the scoreboard twice in a 6-1 victory Tuesday.
His first goal came 2 minutes, 33 seconds into the second period to give Texas a 3-0 lead. That was more than enough of a cushion for Jussi Rynnas, who stopped 28 shots.
The goal — a quick wrist shot on a rush — came less than two minutes after Jamie Oleksiak had given the Stars a 2-0 lead on the power play. That tally cashed in on a new power-play approach, which positioned the 6-foot-7 defenseman in front of the opposition net.
In the third period, Smith and Oleksiak combined for a pretty tick-tack-toe power-play goal that capped Texas’ biggest home win of the season.
It was Oleksiak’s best game of the season for Texas.
He dished out another assist on Cameron Gaunce’s first goal, imposed his size on San Antonio and hit the post twice.
“You know what? He’s an offensive defenseman,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “He had a lot of confidence tonight. He’s been challenged down here to play that heavy game … he stepped up especially on that second goal we scored, nice little spin-o-rama to beat the goaltender.”
The second hit post came after a brilliant individual rush. Oleksiak showed off speed, finesse and a move that someone with his 250-pound frame seemingly shouldn’t have been able to pull off. It was reminiscent of a big rig — fittingly, Oleksiak’s nickname — haphazardly weaving its way through Interstate 35 traffic and somehow coming out unscathed.
Curtis McKenzie and Greg Rallo also scored for Texas in the victory, which kept the team within a point of eighth place and a playoff spot in the Western Conference.