PLAYOFF BOUND! 4-3 Win Clinches Playoff Spot for StarsApr 7, 2018
CEDAR PARK, Texas - Joel L'Esperance tallied his first career goal with just under three minutes to play and the Texas Stars held on in the end as they used a third-period comeback to overtake the Rockford IceHogs, 4-3, and qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs on Saturday night at H-E-B Center in front of a sellout crowd.
L'Esperance buried an odd-man rush goal set up by Travis Morin for the game-winner. Texas (36-24-8-5) used a three-goal third period to snap the IceHogs' six-game win streak and hand the visitors their first loss in regulation when leading after forty minutes of play (22-1-1-0).
The Stars host the Grand Rapids Griffins Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. CST.
Trailing 3-1 entering the third, Brian Flynn started the comeback with a slap shot goal across the blue line 2:40 into the third to beat Rockford's Matt Tomkins. On a power play late in the frame, Roope Hintz tallied his 20th goal on a rush through the left circle by lifting a backhand shot just under the crossbar to tie the game.
Morin fed L'Esperance down the left side of the slot with 2:54 to play for the rookie's first career goal after joined Texas two weeks ago out of Michigan Tech University.
Landon Bow locked down the remainder of the game for his 20th win of the season and a 22-save finish. Tomkins suffered the loss stopping 30 of 34 for the Hogs.
Texas returns to the postseason for the seventh time in their nine-year history and a year after missing the playoffs in 2016-17.
Brent Regner opened the scoring for the second straight night with a power-play strike from the point 5:51 into the game. Tyler Sikura responded for the IceHogs with 90 seonds left in the first on a loose puck in the slot for his 21st of the season.
Things took a turn against Texas in the second as the Hogs capitalized on two awkward bounces to take a 3-1 lead. Sikura tallied his second of the night on a harmless wrist shot from the left wing boards that bounced off the far post and in at 4:29. Midway through the frame, Anthony Louis whiffed on a shot in the left circle that set the puck up in the slot for Alexandre Fortin to bury for his fourth of the season.
Texas finished 2-for-5 on the power play. Rockford was 0-for-2.
Where Texas will finish in the Pacific remains to be seen. The Stars are still in striking distance of third-place San Diego with three games left in the regular season.
Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars