Stars Erase 3-0 Deficit, Beat IceCaps 4-3 in Overtime to Take 3-1 Lead in Calder Cup Finals
ST. JOHN’S, NFLD – League most-valuable Travis Morin scored twice, including the overtime-winning goal for the second straight game, as the Texas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-3 in Game 4 of the 2014 Calder Cup Finals on Monday night at Mile One Centre. The victory gives the Stars a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and puts St. John’s on the brink of elimination.
St. John’s grabbed momentum early on with the help of back-to-back power plays in the opening five minutes. Texas was able to kill off both man-advantages and even had two of their own over the next five minutes. However, during the Stars’ second power play of the game, IceCaps defenseman Ben Chiarot scored a shorthanded goal to give the home team a 1-0 lead at 13:02. Patrice Cormier won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly back to the power and Chiarot’s shot from the blue line elude a screened Cristopher Nilstorp and tucked inside the right post. Texas’ netminder was otherwise spectacular, as he made several dazzling saves, totaling 20 saves on 21 shots in the first period.
Carl Klingberg kept the pedal down in the opening minute of the second period, as he raced in and lifted a backhand shot over the glove of Nilstorp for a 2-0 lead just 57 seconds into the frame. Penalty trouble continued for the Stars as they handed the IceCaps a five-on-three power play. The Texas penalty kill had denied St. John’s on its first 12 power play chances in the Calder Cup Finals, but the IceCaps finally broke through on the two-man advantage. Kael Mouillierat scored for the fourth straight game in the series, blasting the puck home at 9:21 for a 3-0 lead. At that point, St. John’s was out-shooting the Stars 29-6 and looked in complete control of the game.
However, the tides slowly shifted as Texas started to find its legs and create some chances on goaltender Michael Hutchinson. With 4:27 left in the second period, Travis Morin got the Stars on the board when he took a Brendan Ranford pass from behind the net and one-timed it home from the low slot. Less than three minutes later, AHL Rookie of the Year Curtis McKenzie made it 3-2 when he poked in a loose puck at the top of the crease at 18:09, assisted by Morin and Ranford. The Stars rallied late and ended up out-shooting the IceCaps in the period 17-10.
The third period was all Texas. The Stars out-shot St. John’s 15-4 over in the final 20 minutes of regulation and rookie Brett Ritchie thought he tied the game when his shot got through the pads of Hutchinson and appeared the cross the goal line before the IceCaps goalie reached back and corralled the puck with his catching glove. The officials did not award the goal during the play and the ruling stood after a lengthy video review. Ritchie would get another chance to find the equalizer and he made no mistake this time. Jamie Oleksiak made an incredible leaping grap at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone, evaded two defenders and then made a crossing pass to find Justin Dowling on the right side of the slot. Dowling one-touched the puck back across the middle to Ritchie would easily blew a shot by the stranded Hutchinson at 17:51 to tie the game at three. Captain Maxime Fortunus nearly won the game with mere seconds left in regulation, but his shot from the right point hit squarely off the crossbar and the game headed into overtime.
It didn’t take long for Texas to win the game in the extra session. Just 2:24 into overtime, McKenzie made a nice pass to send Ranford into the offensive zone. As three IceCaps defenders converged on the rookie puck-carrier, Ranford calmly slid a pass over to the right circle and Morin crushed a one-timer into the top right corner of the net to win the game 4-3. The victory now gives the Stars a 3-1 lead in the Calder Cup Finals, putting them one game away from winning their first AHL championship.
Cristopher Nilstorp (12-5) turned in another outstanding performance in the Texas crease, stopping 32-of-35 shots to earn his 12th win of the playoffs. Michael Hutchinson (12-8) finished with 34 saves on 38 shots and took the loss in goal for St. John’s. The Stars out-shot the IceCaps 38-35 and went 0-for-3 on the power play; the IceCaps were 1-for-4 with the man-advantage.
With a 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven series, the Texas Stars will face the St. John’s IceCaps on Tuesday night, June 17th at 7:30 p.m. NDT (5:00 p.m. CT for Game 5 of the 2014 Calder Cup Finals at Mile One Centre. If necessary, Games 6 & 7 will be back at Cedar Park Center on Thursday, June 19th and Monday June 23rd, both at 7:30 p.m. CT. Texas Stars season ticket packages for the 2014-15 season are on sale now. For more information, call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Colin Peddle/St. John's IceCaps