CEDAR PARK, Texas — The Stars continued their homestand this weekend against the Tucson Roadrunners, picking up their first home sweep of the season. Coming off a huge 7-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers, the Stars wanted to build off that dominant performance with a pair of wins. In what would be a high-flying, intensely physical battle, the Stars would collect two 3-2 victories in back-to-back nights.
The Stars fell behind early in Friday’s contest, allowing a goal in the first five minutes. Like so many times before, the Stars were in danger of fading early. Coming out of the first intermission, the Stars struck quickly. Ty Dellandrea and Tanner Kero each netted a goal in the first 90 seconds of the period. Their lead would disappear just a few minutes later. Tucson’s Cameron Hebig tallied the game-tying goal on the power play. After the Hebig goal, the Stars took over and asserted themselves. Carrying that momentum into the final 20 minutes, the Stars were stymied by the steadfast goaltending of Ivan Prosvetov. With time winding down and shots flying at the Tucson netminder, the Stars finally broke through on Dellandrea’s second goal of the game. With just over two minutes to go, Tucson tried to get Prosvetov to the bench, but was hemmed into its own zone until the final seconds. That would prove to be enough and the Stars took the opener.
Saturday night was an opportunity for the Stars to do something they hadn’t done all season: sweep a series in their home arena. Things didn’t look good early on as Tucson’s Cole Hults scored just 18 seconds in. In the same predicament as Friday, the Stars tightened up and battled back. It took them until late in the second period to crack Prosvetov this time. On the power play, Marian Studenic whistled a howitzer wide and the rebound was collected by Riley Damiani. Damiani zipped a shot past to the slot and Kero was there with the perfect deflection to tie it up at one.
Heading into the final 20 minutes, the opportunity was ripe for the taking. Six minutes into the period, Fredrik Karlstrom feathered a between-the-legs pass to Oskar Back in the crease. Back’s shot hit off Prosvetov’s pads for a big rebound that Karlstrom would bury.
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The Stars clung to their one-goal advantage until the final minute when Travis Barron scored on the power play with the net empty. An opportunity to win both in regulation washed away in an instant. Overtime was at hand and the Stars threw their top forwards on immediately. With just over a minute left in overtime, Dellandrea left a drop pass for Studenic who walked in and roofed a backhander over the glove of Prosvetov. A huge game-winner got the H-E-B Center rocking louder than it has all season. This was a special moment for a team that has struggled to string together wins all season long.
First off, what a week for the Stars. They claimed six out of a possible eight points at home and were very close to getting another one in their opener against Charlotte. The last three games have showcased a team far different from the one that stepped on the ice back in October. This team is playing with confidence, implementing a heavy attack, and displaying a level of skill we have only seen in spurts.
Second, the camaraderie and willingness to stand up for teammates was a common theme against Tucson. Friday saw Jerad Rosburg getting run a handful of times by Bokondji Imama. There was a clear, concerted effort to go after Rosburg from the second period on. In response, Alex Petrovic leveled Imama a few times on his own to send a message. On Saturday, the story was the same, but with a twist. In the second period as Prosvetov froze the puck, Imama threw a right hand at Studenic and shoved Anthony Louis. Immediately after that, Petrovic dropped the gloves and traded haymakers in what was one of the most intense fights this season. Petrovic was signed last summer as a veteran defenseman to solidify the physical presence of the blue line. He’s been valuable in that sense and even more.
The chemistry between Stars players looks to be coming in pairs. A month ago, the emergence of the Louis-L’Esperance combo led this team to a season-long point streak. Now, the combination of Dellandrea and Studenic is the shining star. Studenic was claimed off waivers from the New Jersey Devils less than two weeks ago. He has been thrust into a top-line role and has had an instant impact on the offense.
“They have taken care of me both here and in Dallas. There are great guys around this team,” Studenic said.
Furthermore, Studenic had not been playing much prior to being claimed off waivers.
“I’ve really missed playing. I’m really happy to have these opportunities,” he said.
Studenic’s addition has certainly felt like a seamless fit for both player and organization.
Prior to the arrival of Studenic, there was mounting concern over the development of Dellandrea and much of the problem has been where he fits in the lineup and who pairs well with him. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from the 2018 first-rounder, but the consistency has been lacking. Those concerns have been kicked to the wayside for now as the Stars now have their one-two punch upfront.
There has also been the growing presence of the young Swedes. Oskar Back and Fredrik Karlstrom, both rookies, are starting to put things together late in the season. While it may be too little too late for this year, this is something the Stars can hang their hat on as they finish the season and look forward to the next.
Should all these players be in the AHL lineup next season, the Stars should be looking at being in the playoffs as soon as next spring. Regardless, the Stars are riding high right now and will look to continue their three-game win streak as they hit the road this week.
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