By Sean Shapiro
THE CANADIAN PRESS
CEDAR PARK, Texas — With a two-goal lead early in the second period, Toronto Marlies coach Steve Spott knew the Texas Stars would make a surge in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Unfortunately for Toronto, that surge was too much to handle as the Stars scored six straight goals and ended the Marlies season with a 6-2 victory on Tuesday.
Toronto had built a 2-0 lead on goals by Frazer McLaren and Peter Holland, but Texas charged back with a wild rally late in the second period to spark its trip to the Calder Cup final.
“Two mistakes, first we made a bad line change then we took a bad penalty 200-feet from Drew (MacIntyre), and all of sudden it’s 2-2,” Spott said. “They’re a good team, give them credit, but we made some bad mistakes.”
After killing off a hooking penalty by Patrik Nemeth, Texas scored on its 26th shot of the game when Mike Hedden tipped home a pass from Ritchie with 2:38 left in the period.
Less than a minute later Texas tied the game when Jeffrey scored on the power play. It gave Texas goals on back-to-back shots after Drew MacIntyre had stopped the first 25.
Tied 2-2 after the second period, Brett Ritchie and Matej Stransky scored 17 seconds apart to give the Stars a 4-2 lead.
Justin Dowling gave the Stars another insurance goal with 5:28 remaining, while Dustin Jeffrey scored his second goal of the night into an empty net.
It was Dowling’s first game of the series after suffering an arm injury against the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 5 of the second round. Reunited on a line with Hedden and Ritchie, he was on the ice for four of the Stars goals.
“I wasn’t expecting to play tonight,” Dowling said. “Things kind of just unfolded how they did. I benefited a lot from going to Dallas and getting their treatment from their guys up there a I’m very grateful to be back.”
MacIntyre stopped 44-of-49 shots for Toronto and was under siege for most of the night.
Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 24-of-26 shots for Texas. His biggest stop came midway through the second period when he stopped Brandon Kozun with the left pad, turning away a flurry by the Marlies and allowed Texas to tie the game later in the frame.
“Oh, that was a big save,” Stars coach Willie Desjardins. “I thought that was going (in). He made some real good saves a Nilstorp was real solid throughout the series and there were a couple games where he stopped it from getting away on us.”
Before jostling with the Stars for seven games, the Marlies had rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs. After the loss on Tuesday, Spott took a moment to look at the future for his young team.
“Next year our plan is to take this another step farther,” Spott said. “The frustrating thing is we were in a good spot here tonight up 2-0. We just had a couple mental mistakes that cost us.”
Texas will play the St. John’s IceCaps in the Calder Cup final. Game 1 will be Sunday night in Texas.