Captain clutch again as Stars take command

Photo: Greg Hamil

The Texas Stars are one win away from the Calder Cup Finals after a wild 6-5 overtime victory over the Rockford IceHogs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night.

The Stars have a commanding 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday night.

Curtis McKenzie‘s centering attempt deflected off the stick of a backchecking Rockford defender and over the blocker of Collin Delia at 5:12 of overtime to put the Stars on the verge of their third Western Conference championship in nine seasons.

It was the second goal of the night and second straight OT winner for McKenzie, as well as the sixth overtime victory of this postseason for Texas.

The teams scored five goals in a back-and-forth opening period that began with Rockford’s Chris DiDomenico springing Tyler Sikura, who split the Texas defenders and beat Mike McKenna at 4:43 of the first.

The Stars responded during a 5-on-3 power play at 7:13 as McKenzie gathered a loose puck in front and beat Delia for his third goal of the series and fifth of the playoffs.

John Hayden put Rockford back on top during a delayed penalty at 12:10, but Justin Dowling (13:24) and Sheldon Dries (14:32) swung the scoreboard in the Stars’ favor with goals 68 seconds apart.

The IceHogs controlled the second period, outshooting Texas by a 16-6 margin and getting the only two goals of the frame. Gustav Forsling tied the contest at 3-3 just as a Rockford power play expired at 6:17, and Luke Johnson finished a slick passing play at 12:21 to give the home team a 4-3 lead.

Texas pulled even again with 9:06 remaining in regulation when Dries slipped home his second goal of the night. And Austin Fyten, in the lineup for the first time this postseason, gave the Stars the lead again at 5-4 with 5:30 to go.

There were still more dramatics to come as Cody Franson tied the game with a long-distance shot from the center point with just 50.7 seconds to play, sending Game 3 to overtime.

McKenna (10-2) made 34 saves for his seventh consecutive win for Texas, becoming the 13th goaltender in AHL history with 30 career postseason victories.

Delia (7-3) allowed six goals on 27 shots in the loss; the rookie netminder has a 4.09 GAA and an .852 save percentage in the series.

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
P2-Texas Stars vs. C4-Rockford IceHogs
Game 1 – Fri., May 18 – TEXAS 4, Rockford 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sun., May 20 – TEXAS 3, Rockford 2 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Tue., May 22 – Texas 6, ROCKFORD 5 (OT)
Game 4 – Thu., May 24 – Texas at Rockford, 8:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 25 – Texas at Rockford, 8:00
*Game 6 – Mon., May 28 – Rockford at Texas, 8:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 29 – Rockford at Texas, 8:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern