CEDAR PARK – The Texas Stars are going to have a chance to defend their 2014 Calder Cup Title and officially clinched a playoff berth with a 5-0 win against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday.
It’s the fifth time in six seasons the team has reached the postseason since being established in Central Texas, and the Stars left no doubt as they dominated the first period.
Devin Shore and Justin Dowling both scored in the first four minutes — before Hamilton even fired a shot – and Texas had 10 scoring chances in the first period as Hamilton goalie Mike Condon did his best to limit the damage.
It was more than enough for Jack Campbell who stopped 24 shots in his first shutout of the season.
It was a far cry from Friday, where Texas lost 4-3 to Hamilton as early goals in each period where the difference.
“Last night we didn’t come out the way we wanted to and we had some time to reflect on it,” Shore said. “We had another chance the very next day … it didn’t mean scoring a goal or anything like that. We just wanted to make sure we did the right things right off the bat.”
On Saturday, Texas second and third lines brought the energy.
Before Shore’s goal he and his linemates, Brendan Ranford and Scott Glennie, hemmed Hamilton into it’s own defensive zone for nearly 45 seconds. Hamilton’s scrambling defense cleared a couple chances, but Shore eventually scored when he beat Condon from a sharp angle.
“I thought that line was great tonight,” Curtis McKenzie said. “They brought a lot of energy and kind of carried the team. I think Ranford, that’s one his better games I’ve seen him play … it was great to see them rewarded early.”
Dowling, McKenzie, and Brett Ritchie had a similar impact on their next shift.
After winning the puck deep twice and forcing a turnover, McKenzie connected with Dowling on two-on-one rush that easily beat Condon on the glove side.
Texas iced away the game when Eric Tangradi was called for roughing and Bobby Shea was given a 5-minute major for spearing Ritchie with 2:11 remaining in the second period, setting up a lengthy 5-on-3.
Greg Rallo scored during the 5-on-3, one-timing a pass from Maxime Fortunus, while Matt Mangene scored 1:39 into the third period while Hamilton was still shorthanded.
“To get that third goal and the to score at the start of the third period kind of takes a little pressure off the guys,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “They can finish playing and protect the shutout for Jack.”
Rallo added his second goal midway through the third period after a seeing-eye pass from Travis Morin.
This story was originally published in the Austin American-Statesman.