Despite being out-shot by the IceCaps, the Stars used their speed and transition game to outrace the IceCaps to a 6-3 victory.
The IceCaps seemed to gain momentum with an early goal in the second period. Will O`Neil scored on a flurry of activity by the IceCaps around the Texas net.
But then Chris Mueller put the Stars ahead again, soon afterward. Dustin Jeffrey gathered up the puck on a pinch play by the IceCaps at the Texas blue line. Jeffrey chipped it off the boards to Mueller, past the IceCaps' defenseman, Jordan Hill. Redmond, the far point D-man for St. John's, seemed to underestimate Mueller's speed. Mueller took the chip pass from Jeffrey in full stride, burst up the right wing, and beat Hutchinson with a quick release.
That quick response by the Stars seemed to seize the momentum back for Texas. Although the IceCaps would battle back to scores of 4-2 and 5-3, the Stars seemed to control the game after the goal by Mueller, despite being outshot but the IceCaps.
The key to the Stars' game was lighting quick transitions, like a fast break in basketball. The goal by Scott Glennie in the third period was the classic culmination of a three-way passing play, at lightning speed, after a shot attempt by Morrissey in the Stars' zone. Actually, there's no comparison to the basketball fast break - the Stars completed the break with the puck in the net at a speed that defied physics.
Give credit to the IceCaps - they did not give up. They battled back to a 5-3 score, and pulled their goalie. But it was not to be, as Mike Hedden scored into the empty net, putting the game out of reach.
My own view is that Michael Hutchinson is not the reason why the IceCaps lost game 1. He made some big saves in the game. But he, like many IceCaps in game 1, seemed to be mesmerized by the speed of the Texas Stars' attack.
The IceCaps won't have long to ponder this. The teams will meet in the Cedar Park Center in Austin Texas at the same time on Monday night, 24 hours later.
The quality of play was spectacular at times. This series will showcase some terrific hockey between these Calder Cup finalists.
I'm looking for an improved game from the IceCaps in game 2, with a close score.
- Despite a low save percentage for Hutchinson, he looked good to me, especially early in the game. The shots on goal were often great scoring chances - one-timers and breakaways.
- Not to start an argument about advanced stats, but the second period was an example of one team (Texas) making the most of its chances. The IceCaps will need to make sure that they have strong defensive coverage on the Texas forwards.
- If the IceCaps are going to take chances with offensive zone pinches, they're going to have to have the other D-man cheating back to centre ice. Texas is too quick for the other defenseman to be playing near the offensive zone blue line, when there is a threat of a breakout.
- On the goal by Mueller, the pinching defenseman, Jordan Hill, was in that "no man's land" - not quite close enough to Jeffrey to take the puck away, and not far away to prevent the chip pass. The IceCaps D-men will need to work on their "gap control".
- Cameron Gaunce looked strong on defense for the Texas Stars, making some nice hits.
- Christopher Nilstorp was very sharp in goal for Texas, especially in the second period when the IceCaps outshot the Stars 13-4.
- Josh Lunden looked effective for the IceCaps, controlling the puck around the Texas Stars' net.
- Adam Lowry worked hard, but looked a little frustrated with his game. He dominated a fight with Scott Glennie at the end of the game.
- Scott Glennie was the right choice as first star of the hockey game. He was deadly with his scoring chances. He had 2 goals and an assist.
- Josh Morrissey looks very impressive. He's a terrific skater, but like so many IceCaps in game 1, he needs to work harder to keep tabs on the Stars' forwards.