Patrik Nemeth leans towards the defensive side of things, but he showed some offensive flair Tuesday night. The defenseman’s slick goal off the rush at 14:30 of overtime lifted the Texas Stars to their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history.
“It was a highlight reel [goal],” Texas captain Maxime Fortunus told Leafs TV after the game. “It was a great effort.”
Nemeth picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated into the offensive zone, slipped by a St. John’s defender and then roofed a backhand shot over IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson to give the Stars a 4-3 victory in Game 5 and 4-1 win in the Calder Cup Final series.
“After that goal we grabbed each other and said, ‘We did it,’” said Texas Stars center Travis Morin. “We finally did. We had a chance our first year (2009-10), we came up short but we finally got it done.”
Morin, who led the Calder Cup Playoffs in scoring with 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) took home the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Morin and Fortunus were part of the 2009-10 Texas team that made it to the Calder Cup Finals in the club’s inaugural season, but lost in six games to the Hershey Bears.
“All those years of hard work, it’s finally paid off,” said Fortunus. “All those guys over there, the coaching staff, it’s been a great process. We stuck to it until the end. Even when we got down in a series or a game, we found a way to get it done. I am so proud of those guys.”
In Tuesday’s game, the Stars built a 2-0 lead on goals by Mike Hedden and Brett Ritchie, fell behind 3-2 and then got a late goal by Hedden to tie the game and force overtime. The last three games of the series went to extra playing time, each won by the Stars who were 6-0 in playoff overtime in their march to the Calder Cup.
“These guys are an unbelievable bunch,” said Hedden. “No matter what happens in a game we never get too low. We know in the locker room that we have four lines that can play all game and we feel that no matter what we can come back in any situation.”
Texas, which had the best regular season record in the AHL, defeated Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Toronto and St. John’s in winning the Calder Cup in their fifth year in the league.
“I am proud of the guys here,” said defenseman Derek Meech. “It was an unbelievable regular season and we just carried it over into the playoffs.”
There weren’t a lot of chances in the first period or shots – six shots for each team – but the Stars struck late to take a 1-0 lead. Cameron Gaunce sent a long pass to Brett Ritchie to spring the Stars on the rush and Ritchie tapped the puck to Hedden, who roofed a shot from close range with 1:08 left in the period.
Ritchie extended the Stars lead to 2-0 at the 4:59 mark of the second, beating IceCaps goaltender Michael Hutchinson with a shot from the high slot off the rush.
But the IceCaps pushed back over the second half of the period to draw even. Defenseman Jordan Hill gave St. John’s life at 11:06 of the second when he scored off a shot from the point to make it a 2-1 game.
The ice tilted St. John’s way after that and the IceCaps tied the game just seconds after their second power play of the night expired. Josh Lunden redirected a Zach Redmond pass into the net to make it a 2-2 game at the 16:58 mark.
The Stars had a power play late in the second, but Hutchinson came up with some big stops, including a redirection by Curtis McKenzie and a shot from the left circle by Ritchie.
St. John’s took a 3-2 lead at 6:33 of the third period after Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak turned over the puck in his own end and Blair Riley scored from close range.
The Stars tied it with 6:34 remaining when a Justin Dowling centering pass bounced off a St. John’s defender, then hit Hedden and went over Hutchinson and into the net. The play was reviewed to see if Hedden batted it in with his hand, but it was ruled a good goal and the game headed to overtime for the third straight game in the series. And this time Nemeth played the hero for the Texas Stars.
Quotable: Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill on Texas winning Calder Cup
Here is a statement from Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill on the Texas Stars winning the Calder Cup.
"One of the trademarks of an elite organization is their ability to train and develop players in a winning environment. The Texas Stars have done a great job with all of these facets this season and I know firsthand that the rewards from winning the Calder Cup will have a profoundly positive impact for each of our prospects and our team in Dallas as we move forward. We congratulate [Texas GM] Scott White, as well as [head coach] Willie Desjardins, the players and the rest of the Texas Stars staff for an outstanding season."
*The Stars finished with a 15-6 record in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
*Patrik Nemeth’s goal was his 5th in 102 AHL games, including both regular season and playoffs.
*Texas had three of the top four scorers in the playoffs. Travis Morin ranked first with 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists). Mike Hedden tied for second with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists). Brendan Ranford tied for fourth with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists).
*Morin led the playoffs with four-game winning goals.
*Jamie Oleksiak was tops in the playoffs with a plus-13 rating.
*Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who made 33 saves Tuesday, finished the playoffs with a 13-5 record, 2.17 goals against average and .919 save percentage.
Texas Stars lineup
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