TEXAS 4, HAMILTON 2
The Texas Stars have won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the American Hockey League’s Western Conference champions for 2009-10, advancing to the Calder Cup Finals with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ont., on Wednesday night.
The Stars become the first team since the Chicago Wolves and Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2002 to reach the Calder Cup Finals in their first AHL season. In doing so, Texas won a pair of Game 7’s on the road – just the fifth time in AHL history that feat has been accomplished. The Stars, who initially fell into a 2-0 series hole, also became the 21st AHL team to win a best-of-7 series after dropping the first two games.
Texas will face the Eastern Conference champion Hershey Bears in the AHL’s championship series, beginning on June 3 in Hershey (full schedule).
Wednesday’s contest started ominously for the Stars, as they surrendered the first goal for the seventh time in as many games this round and for an eighth straight game overall.
Bulldogs forward David Desharnais extended his points streak to nine games with his 10th tally of the playoffs at 19:51 of the opening period. Max Pacioretty put the ‘Dogs up 2-0 five and a half minutes into the second frame when he tucked his own rebound past Stars goaltender Matt Climie.
Texas began its comeback courtesy of a fluke goal. At 14:38 of the second frame, defenseman Ethan Graham sent a harmless-looking wrist shot from the left point in on goaltender Curtis Sanford, but the veteran Hamilton netminder misplayed the puck and it sailed over his shoulder and into the net.
The Stars, who only found themselves down 2-1 after 40 minutes despite getting outshot 34-11, took control of the game with three goals on nine shots in the third period.
Mathieu Beaudoin rifled home a shot from the right circle at 9:15 to make it a 2-2 contest, Perttu Lindgren gave the Stars a 3-2 lead when he redirected a Beaudoin feed in the slot at 14:00, and rookie standout Jamie Benn provided insurance with 1:27 to play, scoring his league-leading 14th goal of the playoffs.
Climie finished with 41 saves on 43 shots for the Stars, who advanced despite holding a lead for only 24:19 of the 446:11 worth of hockey played during this conference finals series.
Hamilton, which fell to 2-3 all-time in Game 7’s, closed its season by losing consecutive home games for the first time since falling to Abbotsford and Texas on Feb. 13 and 16.
The top affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, Texas was 46-27-3-4 for 99 points during the regular season, finishing second in the West Division and sixth overall. Led by rookie AHL head coach Glen Gulutzan, the Stars defeated the Rockford IceHogs in the division semifinals (4-0), the Chicago Wolves in the division finals (4-3) and the Bulldogs in the conference finals (4-3).
Established in 1990, the AHL’s Western Conference championship trophy honors the late Robert W. Clarke. Mr. Clarke served as the Chairman of the AHL’s Board of Governors from 1967-94, and in 1956, he played an instrumental role in the formation of the Rochester Americans, one of the most successful franchises in AHL history and themselves a seven-time recipient of the Clarke Trophy.
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. W2-Texas Stars
Game 1 – Fri., May 14 – HAMILTON 3, Texas 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Sun., May 16 – HAMILTON 3, Texas 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 19 – TEXAS 5, Hamilton 4 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 21 – TEXAS 2, Hamilton 1 (OT)
Game 5 – Sat., May 22 – Hamilton 3, TEXAS 0
Game 6 – Mon., May 24 – Texas 3, HAMILTON 2 (OT)
Game 7 – Wed., May 26 – Texas 4, HAMILTON 2