Dowling, Hedden, Ritchie Each Notch Three Points, Texas Scores Six Unanswered To Win Game 7
Linemates Justin Dowling, Brett Ritchie, and Mike Hedden each tallied three points and the team produced six unanswered goals as the Texas Stars defeated the Toronto Marlies 6-2 Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 3,466 fans at Cedar Park Center in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, capturing the Robert W. Clarke trophy and advancing to the 2014 Calder Cup Finals.
The Marlies struck first, as they have in 14 straight playoff games. Frazer McLaren collected the puck off the faceoff and launched a wrist shot from the inside of the left circle that found the top left corner and put Toronto ahead 1-0. The Stars outshot the Marlies 13-5, but couldn’t break through in the opening period.
The visitors doubled their lead just 23 seconds into the second when Carter Ashton came in on a rush and threw the puck in front to the oncoming Peter Holland, who deflected the puck on net. Stars goalie Cristopher Nilstorp stopped the initial chance, but the rebounded hit Texas forward Scott Glennie and went into the goal for the 2-0 Toronto advantage. The Stars cut into the lead late in the period with Brett Ritchie speeding past a Marlies’ defenseman into the zone and swinging a quick pass from the right hash mark to a streaking Mike Hedden, who tipped the puck low past goalie Drew MacIntyre make it a one goal game. Dustin Jeffrey notched the equalizer a mere 51 seconds later on a power play when he collected a Hedden pass at the left circle and sniped a shot top shelf to even the game at two.
The Stars broke the deadlock at 6:28 in the third when Justin Dowling, playing in his first game of the series after returning from injury that forced him to miss seven-straight playoff games, entered the zone with Ritchie on a two-on-one rush and found him backdoor for the tap in. Rookie Matej Stransky extended the Texas lead just 17 seconds later, streaking into the zone and carrying the puck all the way down low and wrapping it around to give the Stars a 4-2 lead. Texas added another tally, as Hedden won the battle down low and fed a pass to Dowling in the slot for a laser one-timer, pushing the Stars’ advantage to three goals. Just 32 seconds later, Jeffrey sealed a 6-2 victory with an empty netter. The goal, Jeffrey’s second of the night, was the sixth unanswered strike of the game, and sent the Stars to their second ever appearance in the Calder Cup Finals, where they will face the Eastern Conference champion St.John’s Ice Caps.
Cristopher Nilstorp (9-4) stopped 25-of-27 shots faced and was earned his ninth win of the playoffs in net for Texas. Toronto goalie Drew MacIntyre (10-4) had 44 saves on 49 shots and was saddled with his fourth loss of the postseason. The Stars out-shot the Marlies 50-27 and went 1-for-4 on the power play. Toronto was 0-for-4 with the man-advantage.
The Texas Stars will open the 2014 Calder Cup Finals against the St. John’s IceCaps with Game 1 on Sunday, June 8th at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Park Center. Sunday’s game, like every Stars’ home playoff game this season, is a Texas Lottery Lucky Row Night. 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.