Ranford Scores Twice, Jeffrey Two Assists, Ritchie Nets Game-Winner
DES MOINES, Iowa – Brendan Ranford scored two goals, while fellow rookie Brett Ritchie potted the game-winning goal late in the third period as the Texas Stars beat the Iowa Wild 4-2 Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena. The victory was Texas’ 200th regular season AHL win, while also extending the team’s current road winning streak to five games and their road point streak to seven games (6-0-0-1).
The Stars got off to a flying start when rookie Brendan Ranford scored on the very first shot of the game. A seemingly normal rush up the ice suddenly turned into a two-on-one with Dustin Jeffrey snapping an inch-perfect cross-ice pass to Ranford at the right wing circle and the rookie forward slapped a one-timer into the open net before sprawling Iowa goaltender Johan Gustafsson could get across to cover the angle. The goal, assisted by Jeffrey and Scott Glennie, was Ranford’s 10th of the season. The Stars stifled the Wild defensively, allowing just one shot to reach starting goaltender Jack Campbell, which was a season-low; Texas out-shot Iowa 15-1 in the first period.
Ranford was on target again a mere 77 seconds into the second period, scoring his 11th goal of the year on a shot from the low right side of the net, squeezing his shot between Gustafsson’s left pad and the right post. Jeffrey had the primary assist, his second of the game, while Jamie Oleksiak picked up his 20th point of the year with the secondary assist. An interference penalty to Matej Stransky gave Iowa their first, and only, power play of the night and Brad Winchester scored on a one-timer from the inside left hash mark at 7:24. Winchester’s goal noticeably lifted the Wild’s energy and they would tie the game with 2:09 left in the second period. Tyler Graovac stole a puck in the neutral zone and raced away on a breakaway, beating Campbell to the left post for an unassisted goal.
The first 17 minutes of the third period played out as a back-and-forth contest with neither team yield much to the other. Then with just 2:24 left in regulation, Brett Ritchie tipped a Justin Dowling shot through the pads of Gustafsson to put Texas back in front 3-2. It was Ritchie’s 16th goal of the year, assisted by Dowling and Derek Meech. The Stars would tack on an insurance goal with exactly one minute left in the game as Kevin Henderson blasted home a rebound from the high slot, his 10th goal of the season assisted by Cameron Gaunce and Travis Morin, completing a 4-2 Texas win.
Jack Campbell (9-1-0) improved to 4-1-0 since returning from a long-term injury, making 12 saves on 14 shots in goal for Texas. Johan Gustafsson (11-14-2) had his three-game winning streak snapped, allowing four goals on 36 shots to take the loss for Iowa. The Stars out-shot the Wild 36-14 and went 0-for-3 on the power play; Iowa was 1-for-1 with the man-advantage.
Note: The Stars won their 200th regular season AHL game tonight, improving their all-time regular season record to 200-135-18-23 (441 pts., 0.586) in 376 games played. With the win, Texas stretched its West Division lead to 11 points over second place Abbotsford with 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Stars (86 pts.) also moved two points ahead of Grand Rapids for first place in the Western Conference; Texas also owns the tiebreaker over the Griffins with 37 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) – Grand Rapids has 35 ROW.
The Texas Stars will return to Cedar Park Center on Friday, March 21st as they host the Oklahoma City Barons at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s game kicks off Military Appreciation Weekend presented by Round Rock Auto Group and $3 Beer & $4 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wine Night. Pro-rated full and partial 2013-14 Texas Stars Season Tickets are on sale now. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.
Photo credit: Ted Sandeen/Iowa Wild