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Texas two-steps into Calder Cup Finals

The Texas Stars have won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the American Hockey League’s Western Conference champions for 2017-18, claiming the title with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Rockford IceHogs in Game 6 of their best-of-seven series at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Monday night.

The Stars are heading to the Calder Cup Finals for the third time in the franchise’s nine-year history. They will take on the Eastern Conference champion Toronto Marlies in the best-of-seven Finals beginning Saturday afternoon.

Rookie Roope Hintz scored with 8.5 seconds left in the first overtime period to send the Stars to the Finals for the first time since they won the championship in 2014.

With time winding down in the extra frame, Texas lost an offensive-zone draw but was able to take the puck behind behind the net, where Colin Markison centered a feed to Hintz. Dallas’s second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Hintz wired a shot from between the hash marks that beat Jeff Glass.

Texas improved to a remarkable 7-2 in OT games this postseason, but nearly pulled out the Game 6 win in regulation.

The IceHogs’ attempt to come all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit seemed to be running out of steam with the Stars nursing a 1-0 lead. But with 1:34 left in regulation, Chris DiDomenico scored with Glass pulled for an extra attacker, tying the score and sending the teams to the fourth overtime game of the series.

Texas outshot Rockford by a count of 11-4 during the overtime period and 40-39 for the game.

Sheldon Dries broke a scoreless tie with 9:54 left in the second period when his centering pass from behind the Rockford net hit Glass in the back and trickled in. Dries’ goal was his seventh of the playoffs, tied for the AHL lead.

Mike McKenna (11-4) made 38 saves on the night, and will return to the Calder Cup Finals after backstopping Syracuse to the championship series last spring.

Glass (2-1) finished with 38 saves as well and wound up stopping 106 of the 111 shots he faced in the final three games of the series (1.48, .955).

No penalties were called in Game 6, the first penalty-free game in the AHL since Dec. 26, 2016.

Guided by head coach Derek Laxdal, the Stars – the top development affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars – will enter the Calder Cup Finals on an eight-game winning streak. Texas finished second in the AHL’s Pacific Division with a record of 38-24-8-6 (90 points, .592) before defeating the Ontario Reign (3-1) in the division semifinals, the Tucson Roadrunners (4-1) in the division finals and the IceHogs (4-2) in the conference finals. The Stars reached the Calder Cup Finals in their inaugural season in 2009-10, and won the championship in 2013-14.

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.

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) | Recap/Highlights
Game 4 – Thu., May 24 – ROCKFORD 3, Texas 2 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 5 – Fri., May 25 – ROCKFORD 3, Texas 1 | Recap/Highlights
Game 6 – Mon., May 28 – TEXAS 2, Rockford 1 (OT)