CEDAR PARK, Texas — The Texas Stars opened their 2021-22 campaign at home tonight against the Iowa Wild. Texas hockey was back with fans back in attendance and a team largely resembling last year’s squad.
The first period saw a feeling out process and some jitters on both sides. As to be expected, with this being the first game of the season for most of these players. Iowa came out with more energy from the jump, which translated to more offensive possession, shots, and scoring opportunities. All this to no avail, however, as Jake Oettinger was sharp early. Iowa took two penalties late in the period, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 opportunity for over a minute. The Stars failed to convert and soon found themselves on the penalty kill with Harley going off for hooking.
After one period, there were no goals despite power play opportunities for both sides. Early in the second, a shot by Turner Ottenbreit squeaked through Oettinger’s arm and was tapped in by Kyle Rau. Almost immediately after the Rau goal, the Stars got another 5-on-3 opportunity. This time the Stars appeared to threaten with four shots on goal. This was the first sustained offensive possession all game for the Stars, but they still couldn’t convert on the power play. As the period wore on, Iowa’s forecheck and defensive zone pressure really became apparent. With what felt like a stranglehold on the neutral zone, it felt like Texas would be lucky to get one tonight. Despite another power play opportunity, the Stars were outshined by the penalty killing of the Iowa forwards.
Two periods down, and the game is still within reach. The Stars got another power-play opportunity, but it was cut short by a Ty Dellandrea penalty. Iowa would not score on their abbreviated power play, and the game returned to 5-on-5. With time winding down, the Stars were still having a difficult time setting up in the offensive zone and were not generating any scoring chances. Things got chippy late after Iowa goalie Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond froze a Thomas Harley shot. Alexander Petrovic and Iowa defenseman Calen Addison exchanged pleasantries and drew a crowd leading to coincidental minors. Immediately after the coincidental minors, Nick Caamano and Mason Shaw were sent to the sin bin. On the impending faceoff, Marco Rossi was called for a high stick. Now the Stars have a 4-on-3 power play for about a minute. Oettinger was pulled with a minute remaining in the third period, but again, the power play failed to generate any high danger chances, and the Iowa penalty kill remained flawless. As Addison was exiting the box, the puck was stolen and thrown into the empty net by Connor Dewar, sealing the game.
The power play did not look good tonight, going 0-for-7. There didn’t seem to be any clear strategy minus looking for one-timers by wingers. The special teams will be the primary focus of the coaching staff between now and their next game.
Oettinger looked great tonight, but his only mistake was the difference in this game. We likely won’t see him in net until next week, but tonight’sSaturday’s performance is a good sign of things to come. I’m not going to overreact and tank my expectations of this team over an opening night loss. Losing 2-0 on a squeaker and an empty-net goal is not cause for concern, and they will get the opportunity to correct their mistakes tomorrow when they square off with Iowa again.
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