CEDAR PARK, TX – Patrik Nemeth scored his first career AHL goal, but Matt Hackett made 36 saves and stopped 3-of-4 in the shootout as the Houston Aeros defeated the Texas Stars 2-1 Tuesday night at Cedar Park Center. Texas earned a point to maintain the top spot overall in the American Hockey League.
A mere 20 seconds into the first period, Houston defenseman Paul Mara committed a slashing penalty and was then ejected from the contest after unsuccessfully trying to goad Mike Hedden into a fight. Texas was awarded a seven-minute power play, but was unable to cash in on the opportunity despite unloading six shots on Aeros starting goaltender Matt Hackett. The Stars opened the scoring at 15:19 when Patrik Nemeth scored his first AHL goal. During a delayed penalty for Houston, Nemeth snapped a wrister from the left faceoff circle that squeezed by the blocker of Hackett and trickled into the net, putting Texas in front 1-0. Forward Bretton Cameron notched an assist on the goal, his first point with the Stars in just his second game this year; Taylor Vause had the second assist. Texas outshot the visitors 8-5 during the opening frame and both squads were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
The Aeros were able to find the equalizing goal while shorthanded at 11:41 of the second period. With Kyle Medvec in the penalty box for holding, Carson McMillan zipped a wrist shot through the legs of Stars netminder Cristopher Nilstorp from the right wing and the unassisted tally evened the score at one. Texas out-shot Houston 11-4 in the period, but could not break the 1-1 deadlock after forty minutes.
The Stars picked up the offensive intensity in the third period and continued to use strong defense to stymie the Aeros attack. Texas held Houston to just five shots on goal and peppered Hackett with 15 shots of their own, but once again neither team was able to find the back of the net. The game entered sudden death overtime with the score still knotted at one and each of the division rivals having earned a valuable point.
After a scoreless overtime, the contest went into a shootout. Zack Phillips roofed a backhand over the blocker of Nilstorp to jump the Aeros ahead 1-0 in the first round and Johan Larsson beat Nilstorp top-shelf on the backhand in the third round to give Houston a 2-0 edge. Alex Chiasson closed the gap to 2-1 with a backhand of his own in round four, but Justin Fontaine shut the door on Texas when he slipped the puck past Nilstorp’s right skate with a smooth forehand to backhand finish, giving Houston the 2-1 road victory.
Houston starter Matt Hackett denied 36-of-37 shots in regulation and overtime and stopped 3-of-4 Stars shooters to pick up his 15th win of the year, while Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 15-of-16 shots and 1-of-4 shootout attempts, helping the Stars earn a point in their eighth consecutive home game (6-0-0-2). Texas outshot the visitors 37-17 and went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Aeros were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
The Stars conclude their home stand as they host the Oklahoma City Barons for a two-game weekend series on Friday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 16th at 7:00 p.m. at Cedar Park Center. Friday’s game is a Texas Lottery Lucky Row Night, a $3 Beer Night and the third Texas Stars Player Magnet Giveaway, while Saturday’s game is a Family Four Pack Night and the New Braunfels Gym Bag Giveaway. Pro-rated full and partial 2012-13 season seat packages are on sale now. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.