Stars fall to IceHogs for the second time in one week

Mark Skol

The Stars (12-10-1-1) returned to Cedar Park Center after a defeat against the Admirals in Milwaukee and took on the Rockford IceHogs (16-5-1-2) on Tuesday in a rematch of last week’s 6-5 overtime loss. Like last week, Rockford got the 5-3 win against the Stars, but this time it was behind goaltender Michael Leighton’s 49-save performance.

With a 3-2 deficit late in the third period, Stars head coach Derek Laxdal pulled goaltender John Muse for a 6-on-5 man-advantage. Rockford Chris DeSoussa scored on an empty net, erasing all hope for the Stars. Texas would come back to score on a goal from center Justin Dowling, but it didn’t stop Leighton and the IceHogs from securing the victory.

The Stars have now lost three in a row, but Laxdal said they still showed promise on the ice.

“I thought our guys played outstanding,” Laxdal said. “I thought it was a great 60-minute effort. We make three mistakes, and it ends up in our net. I thought our guys played hard. They battled right until the end. Obviously we didn’t get the win, but I like the way our guys played.”

Stars left wing Derek Hulak, who recorded a goal and an assist on the night, said the team’s goal is always to win, but he was pleased with the performance against Rockford.

“You always want to win the game – that’s our main focus, and we came up a little short tonight,” Hulak said. “We out-worked them, we out-chanced them, and we just have to find the way to put the puck in the net. There’s nothing we can do except look at the positives of the game, and I thought we played well as a team.”

The biggest positive for the Stars was right wing Brett Ritchie’s return to the rotation after missing four months because of a wrist injury. Ritchie recorded an assist on Dowling’s goal in the third period.

“I thought I settled in. I felt okay,” Ritchie said. “Obviously a little of the timing was off. I thought my legs felt pretty good, and the wrist held up so I like every game I feel more comfortable, and it shouldn’t take long until I’m back into full swing.”

Defender Jesse Blacker sent in his first goal of the season on a one-timer equalizer from the right circle on a pass from center Devin Shore in the second period. Shore’s assist on the Blacker goal extends his point streak to 10 games.

The Stars finish their season series 2-1-1-0 against the IceHogs and will host the Charlotte Checkers on Friday at 7:30 p.m.