Grand Rapids shuts out Texas Stars in battle of past two AHL champions

Tom McCollum makes one of his 34 stops against Texas. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Tom McCollum makes one of his 34 stops against Texas. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The past two Calder Cup Champions were in the Cedar Park Center on Friday, and the product on the ice reflected each team’s impressive résumé.

It was crisp, playoff-style hockey that featured a combination of back-and-forth action, appropriate aggressiveness, and superb goaltending on each end.

In the end, the 2013 champion Grand Rapids Griffins got the better of the 2014 title-holding Texas Stars in a 2-0 decision.

“For the spectators it was great, for Grand Rapids it was even better,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “I thought our guys fought hard tonight and gave us a chance to win.”

Grand Rapids goalie Tom McCollum turned away 34 shots in the shutout. Jack Campbell made 36 saves for Texas, including a couple highlight-reel denials.

McCollum did some of his best work in the second period.

The 25-year-old netminder gloved down Derek Hulak’s point-blank power play chance, denied Devin Shore on a breakaway, and made a quick recovery to stone Maxime Fortunus with a shoulder save after a scramble in the crease.

“I felt like I was seeing the puck really well early,” McCollum said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my defensemen and forwards. They were giving me a lot clear lanes to see the puck.”

Campbell countered with a flurry of saves during a Griffins power play, a breakaway toe save on Andreas Athanasaiou, and a sprawling stop on a 2-on-1 against Tomas Nosek.

While the goaltenders put on a show, goals by Mark Zengerle and Landon Ferraro were the difference on the scoreboard.

Zengerle scored on a rebound 9 minutes, 36 seconds into the second period after Grand Rapids won a face-off. The goal came 15 seconds after Campbell and the Texas penalty killers had defused a high-sticking penalty against Greg Rallo.

Ferraro’s goal was a fluky one 4:16 into the third period.

Grand Rapids forced a turnover at the defensive blue line, and entered the Stars zone with an odd-man rush. Ferraro’s shot knuckled as he released it and connected with the cross bar inside of the net after it fluttered over Campbell’s left shoulder.

After a slight delay, the referee made the right call and signaled for a goal.

While McCollum smothered chances all game, Texas blew an early opportunity to take the lead in the first period after Ryan Sproul was given a four-minute double-minor for high-sticking Devin Shore.

This story was originally published in the Austin American-Statesman.

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