Pierre-Cedric Labrie's overtime winner is the difference in 4-3 Rockford victory in Texas
Cedar Park, Texas - After watching three separate leads vanish over regulation time, the Rockford IceHogs (31-18-4-2) used sudden-death overtime to throw their knockout punch in an exhilarating 4-3 win over the Texas Stars (25-17-12-1) at Cedar Park Center on Friday night.
Texas had a response for each and every IceHogs goal through the first three periods, but there would be no answer for Pierre-Cedric Labrie's game-winning goal with 22 seconds remaining in overtime. The dramatic finish awarded Rockford the second point from the first half of a weekend doubleheader against the Stars, propelling the IceHogs into fourth place in the AHL's Western Conference.
Labrie started the final rush in his own end, picking up a loose puck and executing a precise give-and-go with Mark McNeill in the neutral zone. With a full head of steam, Labrie regained the puck and drove to the net, beating goaltender Jack Campbell with a beautiful backhand deke for his eighth goal of the season. The assist gave McNeill a three-point evening (1g-2a), his second such performance this season.
Both sides saw their share of prime scoring chances in overtime, before and after the play transitioned to 3-on-3, as Campbell and IceHogs netminder Michael Leighton had to fend off a series of odd-man rushes for the period to reach into the final minute.
Leighton picked up the win - his 14th of the campaign - by turning aside 22 of 25 Stars shots, including four in overtime. Campbell took the overtime loss after making 24 saves.
The frenzied extra frame was a fitting ending to what was a back-and-forth affair, as the IceHogs were able to grab 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads but could not keep an irrepressible Texas squad down.
The Stars eked a point from the game when they tied the game at three with exactly three minutes remaining with a goal by Jamie Oleksiak. After a dazzling display of puck control, Texas leading scorer Travis Morin found a waiting Oleksiak on the right face-off dot, who hammered a one-timer past Leighton.
While the home team was able to find equalizers, they never took the lead, thanks to timely goals by Rockford's most reliable offensive players. Each of the IceHogs' three top goal-scorers found the net in regulation to help the visitors keep the upper hand in the game.
The IceHogs found the only goal in a quick-paced opening period when Brandon Mashinter cashed in on the game's first power play. With Cameron Gaunce detained for hooking, Garret Ross corralled a Ville Pokka point shot chipped it toward the net. Mashinter used his size to find a soft spot behind the Stars defense, and knocked home a two-footer from the goal crease for his 11th of the season at the 8:39 mark.
After the Stars tied the game with a power play goal of their own from Greg Rallo to start the second, McNeill put the IceHogs back on front after a stunning end-to-end rush. Picking up the puck behind the net, the All-Star forward weaved his way 180 feet up the ice, finishing the play with a strong move on Campbell at 10:42. The goal was McNeill's 15th of the season, which at the time put him at a tie for the team lead with Ross.
Just under six minutes later, Texas knotted it up again when Steve Glennie picked up a rebound in the slot. Defenseman Patrik Nemeth gained the zone and threw a wrist shot that ricocheted off Leighton's leg pad. After a second whack from Eric Faille, Glennie walked in unmarked and stuffed home his eighth of the year to make it a 2-2 game at 16:13 of the middle frame.
Ross regained his spot atop the IceHogs goal-scoring perch when he gave his team a 3-2 lead five minutes into the third period. The second-year forward picked up a carom off the end boards from a McNeill offering and scooped the puck under the crossbar on Campbell's short side. Dillon Fournier picked up a secondary assist on the play, his second helper of the night. The two assists were the first career AHL points for the rookie defenseman.
The IceHogs and Stars will meet again tomorrow night to conclude their weekend set at Cedar Park Center.
Next Home Game: Friday, Mar. 6 vs. Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. The IceHogs complete their season series with the Barons as Oklahoma City returns to the BMO for Rockford Hockey Club Night. Rockford will be recognizing youth hockey in the community by wearing specialty Rockford Hockey Club sweaters during the game.