CEDAR PARK — The Texas Stars had a chance to clinch a playoff spot Friday, but the 10th-place Hamilton Bulldogs stayed in the playoff hunt with a 4-3 victory at the Cedar Park Center.
Texas, currently in fifth place, entered Friday’s game needing a point to clinch a playoff spot and can still clinch a spot Saturday when it plays Hamilton again. But the Stars lost out on their slim chance of catching the San Antonio Rampage, who clinched the West Division title in a 2-0 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“You have to pick yourself and get ready for tomorrow night,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “You win some games you shouldn’t win and you lose some games you probably should lose. I would probably agree tonight, if we won, it would have been game we shouldn’t have.”
Texas outshot Hamilton 44-36, but a pair of goals by Nick Sorkin and 41 saves by Mike Condon were the difference for the Bulldogs.
Sorkin scored the first goal of the game 2:25 into the first period and he scored the game-winner with 7:47 remaining.
Jussi Rynnas returned to the lineup for Texas and made his first start in goal since suffering a lower-body injury against the Lake Erie Monsters on March 17. The Finn looked confident and stopped 32 shots, but was beat on a couple of tight-angle chances.
“It was a chance for Jussi to get a game, he’d been out for three weeks, and I thought it might bring some energy into the room,” Laxdal said. “It was just OK tonight.”
Sorkin’s first goal was one of those tight-angle tallies.
Sorkin was able to weave his way past Stars defensemen Cameron Gaunce and Julius Honka, then tucked the puck between Rynnas’ left leg and the post.
Honka made amends for his defensive mistake midway through the period when his point shot was tipped by Branden Troock and past Condon to tie the game.
Hamilton added a second quick-strike goal 25 seconds into the middle stanza and reclaimed its lead when Eric Tangradi beat Rynnas with a wrist shot from the slot.
Texas had the game’s next eight shots, but couldn’t beat Condon until Derek Hulak scored on the power play with 4:15 left in the period.
After Drayson Bowman was called for hooking, Greg Rallo won the ensuing face-off back to Travis Morin, who fired a high wrist shot that rebounded high above the Hamilton goalie. Hulak had a pair of swings at the rebound as it landed, connecting on the second for his 21st goal of the season.