The Rochester Americans and Texas Stars faced off in the first-ever meeting between the teams on Saturday night at Cedar Park Center, where the Stars skated to a 6-2 win over the Amerks.
Rochester jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by T.J. Brennan and Evan Rankin, but Texas would score six unanswered goals en route to the victory. Brennan and Rankin each finished with a goal and an assist on the night. Rankin, who signed a pro tryout with the Amerks on Nov. 25, now has 10 points (6+4) in 10 games with the team, including six in the last five. Brennan, meanwhile, extended his point streak to three games, collecting four points (1+3) in that span. Goaltender Drew MacIntyre started in goal and finished with 21 saves.
The Amerks got off to a quick start and took a 2-0 lead before the game was even four minutes old with back-to-back goals 30 seconds apart, starting with Brennan’s fourth goal of the year just 3:11 into the opening frame. After Phil Varone won the draw cleanly to the left of Stars netminder Jimmy Spratt, Rankin swept in from the right hash marks and fed Alex Biega at the left point. Biega then slid a cross-ice pass to Brennan at the high slot and the third-year blueliner boomed a one-timer over the left shoulder of Spratt to put the Amerks up 1-0.
The trio struck again just a half-minute later as Rankin converted on a pass from Varone from the left corner to give Rochester a two-goal cushion at 3:41. A turnover in the neutral zone led to the Amerks gaining possession of the puck, and Brennan, nearing the end of his shift, shoveled it in the corner to Varone, who managed to outhustle a Texas defender from the opposite side. With little time to spare, Varone found an unmarked Rankin at the net-front and Rankin finished the play with a one-touch redirect past Spratt for his sixth goal of the season and second in as many nights. Varone has now recorded five points (1+4) over his last five games.
Texas would climb back within one, however, as Brenden Dillon capitalized on a goal-mouth rebound to put the Stars on the board at 14:21 of the first period. With Texas’ Maxime Fortunus serving the latter part of a high-sticking penalty, the Stars used offensive zone pressure to their advantage on the penalty kill as a nifty give-and-go between Travis Morin and Ryan Garbutt created a prime scoring chance. But immediately after MacIntyre denied Morin’s initial shot, the rebound caromed out to the left faceoff dot and Dillon sent a high slapper over a sprawled MacIntyre to cut the Stars’ deficit in half and make it a 2-1 game.
The Stars evened the game at two apiece 3:58 into the second period as Brad Lukowich found the top left corner from the top of the circle for his first of the season. Texas’ Matt Fraser led the rush up the ice from his own blueline and gave a no-look pass to Garbutt streaking up the right wing boards. As Garbutt gained entrance into the offensive zone, he found Lukowich sliding in from the left side and the Stars’ captain ripped a shot over MacIntyre’s right shoulder for the tally.
Garbutt gave Texas its first lead of the game under five minutes later, this time beating MacIntyre high glove-side with a shot from the slot that put the Stars on top 3-2. The goal at 8:43 was Garbutt’s third of the season and his third point on the night, with the assists going to Luke Gazdic and Mathieu Tousignant.
Francis Wathier and former Amerk Mike Hedden continued the surge for Texas with goals 90 seconds apart, including another shorthanded tally, to give the Stars a 5-2 lead that would complete a four-goal second period for the home team. Wathier, with his team down a man, first converted on a 2-on-1 fast break with a low shot that trickled through the legs of MacIntyre and Hedden became the recipient of a fortunate bounce as he exited the penalty box, finding himself alone against the Rochester goaltender and putting one in under the crossbar with a quick snapshot.
Garbutt earned his second goal of the game fourth point of the night as he found himself behind the Rochester defense and scored on a partial breakaway to extend Texas’ lead to 6-2. Morin and Dan Spang earned the assists on the goal.
Rochester concludes its Texas road trip on Sunday, as it travels to Houston to face the Aeros for the second and final time this season at 6:05 EST. Houston came away victorious in the first game between the teams back on Dec. 2 in Rochester. Sunday’s meeting at the Toyota Center will be carried live on 107.3 FM and 1280 AM, Rochester’s Sports Talk.