Texas Stars fall to Rockford in series opener

Devin Shore and Dennis Rasmussen fight for a face-off in Game 1. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Devin Shore and Dennis Rasmussen fight for a face-off in Game 1. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The Rockford IceHogs took advantage of power-play opportunities in a 4-2 win over the Texas Stars in Game 1 of the AHL Western Conference quarterfinals Friday night at Cedar Park Center.

Rockford scored a pair of goals, both by Spencer Abbott, including a game-tying tally during a 5-on-3 power play in the third period.

Abbott’s second goal canceled out Texas’ only lead of the night and set the stage for Kirill Gotovets winning blast with 7 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.

Abbott has historically been a Stars killer in the AHL playoffs. He now has eight points in eight career playoff games against Texas.

On Friday, he extended his playoff-scoring streak to five games against Texas, dating back to last season when he played for the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference finals.

“They beat (Toronto) in Game 7 last year and that hurt,” Abbott said. “It would be nice to knock them out this year for sure.”

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is 7 p.m. Saturday at Cedar Park Center. The series will shift to Rockford’s BMO Harris Center for Games 3 through 5.

Rockford capitalized on a clinical power play in the first period and took an early 1-0 lead.

Alex Broadhurst won the offensive zone face-off, after Curtis McKenzie was called for tripping, to secure possession. The IceHogs then worked the zone for 10 seconds before finding Abbott wide open in the slot. Abbott beat Jussi Rynnas with a wrist shot.

It was an exclamation point on a dominant opening 10 minutes for Rockford.

The IceHogs had the first six shots of the game and could have grabbed a 2-0 lead, but a quick whistle negated a potential goal by Brandon Mashinter early in the period.

“I thought we started a little bit slow,” Texas coach Derek Laxdal said. “It kind of set the tone … I expected more battle out of our group.”

Texas picked up its physical play and started to generate chances midway through the period.

Patrick Nemeth had Texas’ best chance with 2:18 left in the period, but Leighton gloved it down.

Rynnas helped keep Rockford at bay before Texas tied the game in the second period.

Rynnas stopped Cody Bass on a short-handed breakaway less than a minute into the middle stanza. He then made a flurry of stops on the penalty kill, including a crowd-pleasing glove save six minutes into the period.

McKenzie made up for his earlier penalty when he tied the game at 16:37 of the period.

Texas took its first lead of the night 4:24 into the third period when Julius Honka’s point shot beat Leighton between the legs.

The lead didn’t last and Abbott countered with his second power play goal of the night.

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

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