AHL Central News: One Month to Make A Stand

We have one month left the American Hockey League’s regular season. Less than 20 games remain for the teams of the Central Division to make their final stand. The top three teams continue to battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs while the rest of the division duke it out for one postseason berth.

Shorthanded Wolves Playing Best Hockey of the Season

The Chicago Wolves (36-18-5-2) have been hit with a late-season injury bug but they have responded by playing some of the best hockey of the season. After earning a point on the road to start the week, they swept a three-game weekend to increase their lead in the Central. They now have 79 points and have opened up a three-point lead on second place.

The Wolves began their week with a Tuesday matinee at the San Antonio Rampage where they suffered a very costly 2-1 shootout loss. Tye McGinn scored his second goal in as many games to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second period. Tobias Lindberg picked up his second assist since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators as part of the Mark Stone trade.

The Rampage drew even with a power-play goal late in the second period. The big moment of the game came in the first minute of the third period when Daniel Carr left with an injury. The AHL’s leading scorer was laid out by Jordan Nolan after he gave up the puck. He did not return to action.

Although no penalty was called on the play, Nolan was suspended for two games for his actions.

The game headed to a shootout after a scoreless overtime. Max Lagace gave up a pair of goals after making 15 saves in regulation and overtime. T.J. Tynan and Gage Quinney were denied on their attempts.

On Thursday, the Wolves signed forward Brady Shaw to a professional tryout contract (PTO). The 26-year-old has 21 goals and 50 points in 54 games split between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and Fort Wayne Komets. This was a move that needed to be made with Carr joining forwards Reid Duke and Tomas Hyka on the injury list.

The Wolves got their weekend off on the right foot on Friday night with a 4-1 win at the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals scored less than six minutes into the game and held onto that 1-0 lead into the third period. Then the Wolves’ offense caught fire and woke up for four goals in the final frame.

Keegan Kolesar’s 13th goal of the season evened things up early in the third as he redirected a centering pass from Griffin Reinhart. Less than six minutes later, Brook Macek was slashed on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. He converted to score the Wolves’ first penalty shot goal since Jan. 5, 2018, and it proved to be the game-winner.

Curtis McKenzie added a pair of empty-net goals to give the Wolves some late insurance. Kolesar had the primary assist on both goals to cap off his three-point night. With the win, the road team has won seven of the nine games this season.

Curtis McKenzie, Chicago Wolves
Curtis McKenzie continues to produce for the Wolves. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wolves returned home on Saturday to host the Iowa Wild but lost Kolesar to an injury during pregame warmups. Even with another key forward out of the lineup, they rolled to their second straight 4-1 victory. With so many injuries up front, the Wolves planned to produce some offense from the back end. Defenseman Dylan Coghlan opened the scoring midway through the first period by getting a shot through traffic directly off a face-off win.

Macek doubled the lead less than five minutes later by redirecting Zach Whitecloud’s point shot into the Wild net. Nic Hague scored another goal from the blue line, while on an early second-period power play, by one-timing the puck into the net from the top of the right circle. Tynan increased the lead to 4-0 midway through the third period.

Las Vegas Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague
Nic Hague has become a weapon on the blue line. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Oscar Dansk had his shutout bid spoiled with under seven minutes left in the game. He finished with 28 saves for his 18th win of the season. Dansk was called into action again on Sunday afternoon because Lagace was recalled by the Vegas Golden Knights under emergency conditions. Zach Fucale was reassigned from the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL to take his roster spot.

The Wolves ground out a 2-1 overtime win over the Admirals on Sunday in a game that featured two teams playing their third game in as many days. The Admirals took a 1-0 lead into the middle frame after scoring a power-play goal early in the first period. The Wolves tied things up about seven minutes into the second period when Tyler Wong found McKenzie in the right circle, where he fired a wrist shot into the Milwaukee net.

Related: Wolves Benefiting From McKenzie’s Leadership and Play

In overtime, McGinn sent the near-capacity crowd home happy at 1:43 into the extra time. He was sent into the offensive zone by a nice stretch pass from Stefan Matteau where he bull-rushed the net and slid a backhand shot over the goal line. Dansk made 16 saves to secure the Wolves’ eighth straight win on home ice and increase their division lead.

“I think we’re playing a really good team game,” head coach Rocky Thompson said about his team’s weekend. “We’ve been dealt some blows in the last little bit and guys have been challenged to have to pick it up. And I think they’re answering the challenge.”

Player of the Week: It took a while for McGinn to find the score sheet in Chicago. With one assist in his first 16 games after being acquired from the Manitoba Moose, McGinn has three goals in his last five games. He scored two huge goals last week as he got the only tally in Tuesday’s shootout loss and the overtime winner on Sunday.

The Week Ahead: Friday, March 15 vs Cleveland Monsters; Saturday, March 16 vs Rampage

Griffins Lose Ground Despite Successful Week

The Grand Rapids Griffins (33-17-6-4) took five out of a possible six points last week, but still lost ground to the Wolves in the race for the division crown. They now find themselves in second place with 76 points, three points out of the top spot.

The Griffins’ offense showed up in a big way in Wednesday night’s 5-2 beating of the Texas Stars. Leading scorer Chris Terry picked up the first five-point game of his career.

Terry’s big night started about 13 minutes into the game when he scored from the left hash marks while the Griffins were on a 5-on-3 power play. The goal was his 25th of the season and first since Jan. 31. The Stars answered to tie the game with less than a minute left in the first period. They then went ahead less than four minutes into the second period before the Griffins scored the final four goals of the night.

The Griffins drew even on the power play just over five minutes later as Terry sent a cross-ice pass to Martin Frk, who buried a one-timer for his second AHL goal of the season.

Martin Frk Grand Rapids Griffins Detroit Red Wings
Martin Frk has been a force since returning to the AHL. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Carter Camper extended his point streak to six games by taking a feed from Terry and then beating the goaltender one-on-one. Terry picked up his third helper of the night on Christoffer Ehn’s backhand goal with just over two minutes left in the game. He put an exclamation point on his evening with a late empty-net goal.

The following day, Ehn learned that he was rejoining the Detroit Red Wings. He has two goals and seven points in 44 career NHL games with the Red Wings.

The Griffins were back in action on Friday night with a huge game against the Wild. They earned a point in a hard-fought 4-3 overtime loss. Frk got the scoring started just 17 seconds into the game by scoring on the team’s first shot of the night from the left circle. The Griffins continued their early surge as the had an 8-1 shot advantage and a 2-0 lead just over seven minutes after the puck dropped. Givani Smith got to the rebound off a Dylan McIlrath shot in the slot and swept it back into the net to double the lead.

Givani Smith Grand Rapids Griffins
Givani Smith contributed with a big goal. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

After the initial charge by the Griffins, the Wild had nine of the last 10 shots of the first period and were able to get on the board with just over a minute left in the opening frame.

The second period saw three separate fights and a single goal by the Wild to tie the game. Iowa scored their third straight goal to take a 3-2 lead with 7:25 left in the third period. The Griffins responded less than a minute later to force overtime. Matt Puempel’s shot from the left side trickled behind the netminder and Axel Holmstrom crashed the net to push it the rest of the way.

The Wild were called for too many men in overtime, but the Griffins could not capitalize. Shortly after Iowa killed off the penalty, they converted on a 2-on-1 rush for the big win. The Griffins wrapped up their week with a bus trip to Milwaukee to take on the Admirals. Patrik Rybar made 24 saves in a 4-0 blanking of their long-time rivals.

Patrik Rybar Grand Rapids Griffins
Patrik Rybar stopped all 24 shots Milwaukee threw at him. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Quick strike offense was the theme of the night as the Griffins built a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals just 17 seconds apart in the first period. Matt Ford opened the scoring by redirecting Terry’s shot from the right circle. Dominik Shine doubled the lead by getting his stick on a Smith shot from off the left wall.

Terry made it 3-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the third period. Just over a minute later, Turner Elson set up Frk on a 2-on-1 rush, who deposited the puck for his fourth goal on the season.

Player of the Week: After being held off the score sheet on Wednesday night’s win, Terry had himself quite the weekend. He followed up his five-point effort on Friday with another goal and assist on Saturday. He finished the week with three goals and seven points.

The Week Ahead: Friday, March 15 vs Rockford IceHogs; Saturday, March 16 @ Admirals

Wild Split Weekend Against Teams They are Chasing

The Wild (31-18-7-5) had a huge week with games against the two teams they are battling with for the Central crown. After splitting the games, they find themselves in third place with 74 points. They are in striking distance of the first spot and are in a very good position to make their first ever Calder Cup playoff appearance next month.

The week started off with a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime victory at the Griffins on Friday night. The game got off to a rough start as the Griffins scored just 17 seconds into the game and then doubled the lead seven minutes later. The Wild cut the lead in half with just over a minute remaining in the opening period. Mitch McLain was in the perfect spot to put the rebound off a Sam Anas shot into the net for his ninth goal of the season.

Will Bitten tied the game about eight minutes into the second period by redirecting a Cal O’Reilly shot into the Griffins’ net. O’Reilly picked up his third straight multi-point game by putting the Wild up 3-2 with a one-timer from the right circle late in the third period. The Griffins were quick to respond and tied the game less than a minute later to force overtime. After killing off a too many men penalty, Mark Bartkowski won the game for the Wild by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with O’Reilly.

The following night, the Wild wrapped up their six-game road trip with a 4-1 loss at the Wolves. Chicago built a 2-0 lead after the first period and extended their advantage to four goals midway through the final frame.

The Wild ran into a hot goaltender in Dansk, as they got 29 shots on goal but were only able to get one past him. Kyle Rau ended the shutout bid with less than seven minutes to play with a power-play goal. He became the first player in Wild franchise history to record back-to-back 20-goal seasons.

Oscar Dansk Golden Knights
Oscar Dansk was a tough nut to crack on Saturday night. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Player of the Week: The Wild scored five goals last week and O’Reilly was a factor in four of them by scoring one and assisting on three others. His assist on Saturday night gave him 500 helpers in his professional career: 450 in the AHL, 33 in the NHL and 17 in the KHL.

The Week Ahead: Tuesday, March 12 vs Rampage; Friday, March 15 vs Rampage

Stars Pad Lead for Final Playoff Spot

The Stars (30-25-4-3) are starting to hit their stride at the right time of the season. After dropping two mid-week games, their offense exploded over the weekend to earn four big points. They are all alone in fourth place with 67 points and have opened up a three-point lead on the final playoff spot.

The Stars began their busy week by traveling to the Admirals on Tuesday night for their eighth and final meeting of the regular season. The Stars had earned 12 of the possible 14 points against the Admirals so far this season, but Milwaukee dominated the final game with a 6-2 blowout victory.

Things started off well for the Stars as they scored the lone goal of the opening period. Michael Mersch put the Stars up 1-0 by following up his own shot and scoring on the rebound at the side of the net. Dennis Gurianov doubled the lead in the opening seconds of the middle frame by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush with Justin Dowling from the right circle. Things went downhill quickly after the second goal.

Denis Gurianov
Denis Gurianov has been as consistent as it gets for Texas this season. (Photo: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

The Admirals began their surge about seven minutes later by getting on the board with a power-play tally. Two minutes later, they tied the game and then took the lead just over a minute after that. They added two more goals, including one on the penalty kill, to cap off a five-goal barrage in less than 10 minutes of play.

Milwaukee added a second shorthanded goal in the third period to finish off the scoring for the night. Goaltender Landon Bow surrendered all six goals after giving up nine total goals in his previous six games against the Admirals this season.

The Stars had a quick turnaround as they were right back in action the following night at the Griffins, where they lost 5-2. The Griffins converted on a 5-on-3 power play to open the scoring about 13 minutes into the game. Dowling drew the Stars even late in the opening period as he was able located a deflected puck and backhanded it into the net for his 13th goal of the season.

Mersch scored his third goal in as many games to give the Stars a 2-1 lead early in the second period by redirecting a pass from Dillon Heatherington into the net. The Griffins responded with another power-play goal to even things up heading into the second intermission.

The Stars had plenty of chances to take over the game as they had three power plays during the third period, but could not convert on any of them. The Griffins lit the lamp three times in the final frame to win.

On Saturday, the Dallas Stars announced that they signed Dowling to a two-year, two-way contract extension which will run through the 2020-21 season. The 28-year-old center leads the team with 34 assists and is tied for the team lead with 47 points.

Justin Dowling (Ross Bonander / THW)
Justin Dowling has been a mainstay in the Texas lineup for years. (Ross Bonander / THW)

Later that night, the Stars traveled to San Antonio where the beat the Rampage 6-4 in a thrilling back-and-forth game. The Rampage struck first about three minutes into the opening period. Gurianov tied things up late in the first while the teams skated with four players on each side.

Niklas Hansson gave the Stars a 2-1 lead five minutes into the second period as his shot deflected off a defender’s stick and into the net. The Rampage responded with a goal off a deflection of their own less than three minutes later. The Stars opened up a 4-2 lead with a pair of the goals later in the period. Ben Gleason found Adam Mascherin all alone at the left post for the easy goal. Four minutes later, Gurianov struck again for his second multi-goal game of the year.

The Rampage scored a pair of quick goals early in the third period to once again draw even. Tony Calderone scored the eventual game-winning goal with just over 12 minutes left in the game. Fifty-eight seconds later, Colton Hargrove drove hard to the net and gave the Stars an insurance goal. Bow made 24 saves for his 21st win of the season.

The rivals traveled back to Cedar Park for Sunday’s rematch at the Stars’ home building where Texas rolled to a 7-4 victory. Eleven players recorded a point in the win, and seven had multi-point games.

The Stars dominated the opening minutes and had eight of the first nine shots on goal. Nicholas Caamano opened the scoring midway through the period by putting in a rebound off a Heatherington shot. The Rampage drew even five minutes later, scoring off an odd-man rush. Caamano scored again on a late first-period power play as he redirected a pass from Gurianov into the San Antonio net.

Colin Markinson increased the lead to 3-1, three minutes into the second period, by corralling a loose puck and depositing it into the Rampage goal. The Stars struck again on the power just moments later. This time, Erik Condra found the top corner of the net from the right circle.

The Rampage scored on a shorthanded breakaway late in the middle frame to cut the deficit to 4-2. Hargrove reestablished the Stars’ three-goal cushion, before the second intermission, by firing a shot through heavy traffic off a face-off win. Joel Hanley’s shot from the point found the back of the net just 30 seconds into the third period to give the Stars a 6-2 lead. After the Rampage scored a power-play goal, Hansson scored the Stars’ seventh and final goal. The Rampage added one more late goal, but it was far too late to mount a serious comeback.

Player of the Week: Hansson is not known for his offense. He entered the week with just four goals and 11 points on the season, tying his output from his first full season last year. The 24-year-old blueliner had one the best weeks of his professional career with a pair of goals and a team-high seven points.

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, March 13 @ Manitoba Moose; Friday, March 15 @ Moose; Sunday, March 17 @ IceHogs

IceHogs Road Woes Continue up North

The IceHogs (27-24-4-6) entered the week in the fourth and final playoff spot. After earning just one point in two games, they find themselves in fifth place with 64 points, three points behind the Stars.

Before their weekend north of the border began, the IceHogs lost All-Star goaltender Collin Delia. The Chicago Blackhawks recalled Delia on Tuesday after Cam Ward suffered a minor knee injury.

Collin Delia, Jordan Greenway
Collin Delia is back for another stint in the NHL. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The IceHogs began their lackluster weekend in Manitoba with a 3-1 loss to the Moose on Saturday night. The Moose took a 2-0 lead into the third period when defenseman Dennis Gilbert cleaned up a rebound off of a Peter Holland shot to cut the deficit in half. Manitoba regained their two-goal advantage shortly after Gilbert’s tally.

The IceHogs had plenty of chances to take control of this game including 19 shots on goal during the third period. Going 0-for-6 on the power play killed them in the end. Sunday’s rematch wasn’t much better for the offense, but they earned an important point in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Holland got the IceHogs on the board early in the first period by ripping a shot from the top of the left circle into the Manitoba net. The Moose tied the game midway through the third period and then won it in the first minute of overtime. Kevin Lankinen was the hard-luck loser as he made 26 saves and was the biggest reason why they earned a point. The IceHogs put up 67 shots on goal over the weekend, but only scored two goals.

Player of the Week: The IceHogs gave up a decent prospect in Darren Raddysh to acquire Holland from the New York Rangers and it has been worth it. Holland had the primary assist on the only goal in Saturday night’s game and scored on Sunday. He now has three goals and six points in seven games with Rockford.

Peter Holland Rangers
The acquisition of Peter Holland has been huge for the IceHogs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Friday, March 15 @ Griffins; Saturday, March 16 vs Monsters; Sunday, March 17 vs Stars

Admirals Keeping Playoff Hopes Alive

The sixth-place Admirals (25-24-13-1) are a winning streak away from getting back into a playoff spot as they are three points out of fourth place. If they are to make a run, the Admirals will need to find some consistent offense. After scoring six goals in their first game of the week, they only lit the lamp twice over their next three games.

The Admirals began their week with a pair of roster moves on Monday. First, they acquired defenseman Adam Plant from the Laval Rocket in exchange for future considerations. Plant had an assist in 14 games with Laval after playing four years at the University of Denver. The Admirals also recalled forward Matt Lane from the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL for his third stint in the AHL this season.

Tuesday night’s game against the Stars did not get off to the best start, but the Admirals exploded for five goals in the second period to win 6-2. The Stars scored the lone goal of the first period and then doubled their lead during the first minute of the middle frame. Anthony Richard got the scoring started at the 7:14 mark with his team-leading 19th goal of the season. Garrett Ross scored on a nifty redirection just over two minutes later to even things up.

Just over a minute later, Vince Pedrie gave the Admirals a 3-2 lead by blasting home a slapshot from the top of the right circle. They were far from done as Laurent Dauphin scored shorthanded which was quickly followed by a Jarred Tinordi tally. The Admirals took a 5-2 lead into the second intermission after scoring five goals in less than 10 minutes.

Coyotes center Laurent Dauphin
Laurent Dauphin has been a nice fit since coming over from Arizona. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Joe Pendenza finished off the scoring with the Admirals’ second shorthanded goal just less than eight minutes into the third period. Troy Grosenick made 23 saves to give the Admirals their first win on home ice since Jan. 16, snapping a six-game home losing streak.

The Admirals started a stretch of three games in three days by hosting the Wolves on Friday night in a disappointing 4-1 loss. Alex Carrier gave the Admirals an early 1-0 lead by taking the puck from a Justin Kirkland face-off win and firing it through heavy traffic for his fourth goal of the season. The lead held up into the third period, but the Wolves scored four goals in the final frame: an even-strength goal, a penalty shot conversion and two empty-net tallies.

Milwaukee Admirals Alexandre Carrier Troy Grosenick
Alexandre Carrier (55) and goalie Troy Grosenick had big weeks for the Admirals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The loss marked the first time this season that the Admirals lost in regulation after taking a lead into the third period.

The Admirals welcomed another top Central Division team to town on Saturday and were blanked 4-0 by the Griffins. Grand Rapids scored a pair of first-period goals just 18 seconds apart to take control early. They added two more goals in the final five minutes of the game to win on the road. Troy Grosenick made 32 saves to give his team a chance, but they could not convert on any of their 29 shots.

The Admirals made the short trip to Chicago on Sunday afternoon and earned a point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Wolves. Tom McCullom put together a fine effort which saw him make 31 saves in the loss.

Tom McCollum Milwaukee Admirals
Tom McCollum did all he could to earn a point in Chicago. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Adam Helewka gave the Admirals a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal just over two minutes into the game. Carrier found Helweka in the right circle where he sniped a shot into the top left corner for his 18th goal of the season and fifth with Milwaukee. It appeared that the Admirals doubled their lead later in the period, but the goal was waived off after it was ruled that Helweka interfered with Dansk.

The Wolves tied the game seven and a half minutes into the second period. They went on to take advantage of a slow line change to win the game less than two minutes into overtime. The Admirals are now 5-13 in games decided in overtime this season.

Player of the Week: The Admirals had a balanced offensive attack in their six-goal outburst on Tuesday night. They only scored two goals over their three-game weekend; Carrier scored the first and had the primary assist on the other. He also had an assist versus the Stars to pace the team with three points.

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, March 12 vs Monsters; Saturday, March 16 vs Griffins

Moose Hope to Build off of Weekend Sweep

The Moose (29-26-3-2) got themselves back into the playoff race with a weekend sweep of the IceHogs. Their 63 points have them right in the thick of things, just four points behind Texas for the last playoff spot.

There was plenty of off-ice news before the weekend series with Rockford began. On Tuesday, goaltender Eric Comrie was reassigned to the AHL by the Winnipeg Jets while Ken Appleby was sent back to the Jacksonville Iceman in the ECHL to make room on the roster.

Eric Comrie, Manitoba Moose
Eric Comrie returned after a brief stint with the Jets. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Thursday, the Moose recalled defenseman Justin Woods from Jacksonville. They also signed forward Brent Pedersen to another PTO. He has four goals and an assist in 27 games with the Moose this season.

The Moose opened their two-game set with the IceHogs on Saturday night by beating them 3-1. Alexis D’Aoust opened the scoring, from the slot about six in minutes into the game with his seventh goal of the season. Ryan White doubled the lead with just over two minutes left in the opening frame. He got to a Logan Stanley rebound and knocked it over the goal line for his first goal of the season.

The IceHogs cut the lead in half about three minutes into the third period. They nearly drew even a few seconds later, but Comrie made a huge save. Moments after the big stop, D’Aoust set up a Felix Girard one-timer to give the Moose an insurance goal. The Manitoba penalty kill came up huge as they were a perfect 6-for-6 on the evening.

The Moose swept the weekend with a 2-1 overtime victory on Sunday after getting just enough late offense to pull off the win.

It took a while but the IceHogs finally opened the scoring 12:30 into the second period. It looked like that goal would be enough until Mason Appleton tied the game with just over seven minutes left in regulation. While on the power play, Seth Griffith found an open Appleton who blasted home a one-timer for his ninth goal of the season.

Mason Appleton Winnipeg Jets
Mason Appleton played a big role on Sunday’s win. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Appleton picked up the primary assist on the game-winning goal just 51 seconds into overtime. His initial shot was blocked but it found Michael Spacek’s stick who roofed the puck for his ninth goal on the season.

Player of the Week: The Moose had a pretty balanced offensive attack in their two wins with five different goal scorers. I am going to split the honor between the two goaltenders, Comire and Mikhail Berdin. Each gave up just a single goal with Comrie making 33 saves on Saturday and Berdin stopping 32 pucks on Sunday. The duo combined for a .970 save percentage (SV%) over the weekend.

Eric Comrie, Manitoba Moose
Eric Comrie and Mikhail Berdin (not pictured) were the keys to a weekend sweep. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, March 13 vs Stars; Friday, March 15 vs Stars; Sunday, March 17 vs San Diego Gulls

Defense Lets Down Rampage After Big Win

The Rampage (27-27-6-0) had a big offensive week but they could only muster two out of possible six points. They are at the bottom of the division with 60 points, seven points behind their intra-state rivals for the final playoff spot.

The Rampage started the week with a big 2-1 shootout victory over the first place Wolves on Tuesday afternoon. The Wolves opened up the scoring early in the middle frame after a scoreless first period. The Rampage’s power-play unit answered late in the period to draw even. Jordan Kyrou received a pass from Mitch Reinke and fired a wrist shot off the left post for his 16th goal of the season, which leads the team.

Jordan Kyrou
Jordan Kyrou leads the Rampage in goal scoring this season. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

The game remained tied through the third period and overtime. In the shootout, Austin Poganski and Joey LaLeggia scored while Jared Coreau stopped both shots to earn his first shootout win with the Rampage.

The Rampage welcomed the rival Stars for the first half of a home-and-home series on Saturday. Despite a gallant comeback effort, they eventually fell 6-4. The loss snapped their franchise-record 17-game home point streak and was their first regulation loss on home ice since Nov. 25.

Nolan Stevens opened the scoring, less than four minutes into the game by redirecting a Jordan Schmaltz shot into the Texas net. The Stars responded with a goal 10 minutes later and then took a 2-1 lead early in the second period. The Rampage tied the game less than three minutes after the Stars went ahead with another goal off a deflection. This time it was LaLeggia who got his stick on a Tyler Wotherspoon shot from the point for his ninth goal of the year.

The Stars scored two more times before the end of the period to take a 4-2 lead into the final stanza. Poganski got the Rampage to within a goal three minutes into the third period. While on a power play, Klim Kostin took advantage of a failed clearing attempt and got the puck over to Poganski who fired into a wide-open net.

Klim Kostin
Klim Kostin is starting to find the scoresheet on a regular basis. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Less than two minutes later, Bobby McIntyre tied the game by finishing off an odd-man rush for his seventh goal of the season. The Stars regained the lead less than three minutes later and then picked up an insurance goal a minute after going ahead.

The two teams made the short trip to Cedar Park where the Stars hosted Sunday afternoon’s rematch. Once again, the Rampage had trouble keeping the puck out of their net in a 7-4 loss. Shortly after the Stars opened the scoring, Ryan Olsen tied the game with Poganski picking up the primary assist.

The Stars regained the lead late in the first period and then doubled it with a power-play tally early in the middle frame. They went up 4-1 at the 6:34 mark of the second period. Olsen scored a second goal on a shorthanded breakaway to cut the Stars’ lead to 4-2, but they answered with a fifth goal just before the end of the period.

Ville Husso, who started on Saturday night, took over for Coreau to start the third period and gave up a goal just 30 seconds into it. Less than five minutes later, Reinke scored his team-high seventh power-play goal of the season from the right circle.

Ville Husso Tom Wilson
Ville Husso was called into relief duty on Sunday. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

The Stars scored their seventh and final goal at the 12:23 mark. Tanner Kaspick scored on a breakaway to cap off the scoring with just 1:33 left to play.

Player of the Week: Olsen (2 G, 2 A) and Poganski (1 G, 3 A) both paced the team with four points last week. The nod goes to Poganski as he picked up a three-point game on Saturday night. He also had a shootout goal in the team’s lone win of the week. The rookie forward is up to fourth on the team in scoring with 30 points.

The Week Ahead: Tuesday, March 12 @ Wild; Friday, March 15 @ Wild; Saturday, March 16 @ Wolves

The calendar might say the Calder Cup playoffs don’t begin for another few weeks, but the teams of the Central Divison are already in postseason mode. With the standings so close, every point is crucial and the intensity has ramped up over the past couple of weeks.