HERSHEY, Pa. … Rookie Scott McCulloch broke a 1-1 tie with an unassisted goal 2:10 into the third period, and Texas held on to stun Hershey by a 2-1 count on Thursday before 10,505 fans at a sold-out Giant Center in Game 1 of the 2010 Calder Cup Finals.
It marked the 10th time in the last 11 years that the Calder Cup Finals opener was decided by a one-goal margin. Game 2 is set for Saturday night in Hershey.
On the eventual game-winner, McCulloch came with a burst of speed down the left wall, cut toward the middle, and faked around the Hershey defense before sliding a backhand shot from the slot between the legs of Bears goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
It marked McCulloch’s third goal of the playoffs after the 23-year-old registered five goals and 17 points in 50 regular-season contests for the Stars.
The Bears and Stars, who did not meet during the 2009-10 regular season, played a scoreless first period despite the fact that Texas held a 12-2 advantage in shots during the opening frame.
Hershey, the AHL’s regular-season champions with 60 wins and 123 points, would strike first at 4:25 of the middle stanza when Francois Bouchard notched his third of the postseason, with assists going to Mathieu Perreault and defenseman Patrick McNeill.
Texas, which surrendered the first goal for an 11th consecutive game, battled back to a draw five and a half minutes later when Greg Rallo found the back of the net. Aaron Gagnon picked up the lone helper on Rallo’s second goal of the playoffs.
Stars goaltender Matt Climie stood tall all night and especially over the final 40 minutes, finishing with 26 saves on 27 shots to move to 6-3 in the playoffs. Climie turned aside all 12 Hershey shots in the third period as the Bears pressed for the equalizer.
Texas collected its third consecutive road victory while handing the Bears their first loss on Giant Center ice since a 4-3 setback to Adirondack on Mar. 21. Hershey had been 8-0 at home during the Calder Cup Playoffs and entered the night with 37 wins in its last 38 home tilts.
Neuvirth wound up with 24 saves for the Bears, who now trail in a series for the first time this postseason.
2010 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. W2-Texas Stars
Game 1 – Thu., June 3 – Texas 2, HERSHEY 1
Game 2 – Sat., June 5 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Mon., June 7 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
Game 4 – Wed., June 9 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
*Game 5 – Fri., June 11 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
*Game 6 – Mon., June 14 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 16 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00