05/22/2018 10:19 PM
Article By: Peter Dewar
ROCKFORD, Ill. – Cody Franson tied the game with 50.7 seconds remaining on a shot from distance to force overtime, but Curtis McKenzie scored the game-winner for the second consecutive game to lift the Texas Stars to a 6-5 overtime victory over the Rockford IceHogs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday night. The Stars now hold a 3-0 stranglehold on the series and need just a single win to advance to the Calder Cup Finals.
McKenzie collected the puck outside the blue line and carried it into the zone before wiring a pass across the zone that deflected off of Rockford defenseman Adam Clendening and past Collin Delia to seal the Stars’ win at 5:12 of the frame. McKenzie also netted the game-winning tally in overtime of Game 2 back in Cedar Park.
Both teams came out firing on all cylinders early in the contest, combining for five goals in the opening period. The IceHogs struck first under five minutes into proceedings, as Tyler Sikura tallied a highlight-reel effort to give Rockford an early lead. Sikura split two Stars defenders, deftly working the puck through the legs of Matt Mangene before snapping a shot past the skate of Mike McKenna. Chris DiDomenico earned a helper on the play, setting a new IceHogs AHL playoff record with 15 points (passes Martin St. Pierre’s mark of 14 in 2008).
McKenzie then leveled the scores with his first strike of the contest three minutes later, but the goal trading continued as John Hayden returned Rockford’s advantage with a top-shelf shot from the slot. Within another two minutes, however, Texas tied the game and then regained its lead with goals from Justin Dowling and Sheldon Dries.
The middle frame then belonged to Rockford, as Gustav Forsling and Luke Johnson found twine six minutes apart to push the Hogs ahead 4-3 heading into the second intermission, but a pair of third-period Texas goals had the visitors seemingly on the way to victory until Franson’s late tying effort.
Texas’ McKenna stopped 34 of 39 shots to earn his seventh consecutive win, while Collin Delia turned aside 21 of 27 pucks for Rockford.
Next Home Game: Thursday, May 24 vs. Texas Stars (Western Conference Finals | Game 4/Ticket J)*