As many forecast, myself included, the Texas Stars beat the St. John’s IceCaps in the Calder Cup final, though the score line was perhaps unjust on how hard the team from Newfoundland battled.
Game One was no indication of the tight game to follow as Texas romped to a 6-3 victory in St. Johns.
Texas would only take 23 shots, with 11 of those coming in the first period, and they opened the scoring just three minutes in on the power play.
St. Johns would tie it up early in the second but Texas responded with a three goal blast including a shorthanded effort from Morin.
St. John’s would once more score early in the following period but would never get closer than a two goal deficit as Nilstorp shut the door in the Texas net.
Scott Glennie would achieve the Gordie Howe hat trick with a fight late in the game with Adam Lowry.
Game Two would see the Texas Stars fire off 50 shots without one chance on the power play, but Hutchinson was the hero for St. John’s as he turned aside all bar one of those efforts in a 2-1 IceCaps victory.
With their first chance of the game St. Johns took the lead four minutes in as Mouillierat tapped in the rebound from O’Dell’s effort. Texas would tie the game up a mere 29 seconds into the second frame but remarkably allowed St. John’s to re-take the lead inside a minute as Riley scored when left wide open in front. Hutchinson then shut the door the rest of the way, including in the third period as Texas sent 20 shots his way.
Game Three would see the first overtime finish, the first of three straight games to be decided that way.
Perhaps the most controversial moment of the series as St. Johns thought they had the game won three minutes into the extra period.
Josh Lunden put the puck in the net for the IceCaps but the play had been whistled down as the officials though Nilstorp had it covered. In my opinion it should have been a good goal but on such fine margins are games and series decided.
It would take Texas just another four minutes to take advantage of their good fortune as Morin finished off a beautiful feed from Ranford.
There was just a single goal between the two teams after 40 minutes as Texas lead 1-0 through Ritchie’s late second period marker.
St. Johns really pushed back in the third period as they out shot the Stars 17-6 and finally made it count with eight minutes to play as Kael Mouillierat once more found the net against his former team.
Both goaltenders were outstanding as eight power play’s failed to produce and we headed to overtime drama.
When they look back, St. John’s may rue the game four defeat the most as they blew a three goal lead built inside 30 minutes and once more lost in overtime.
A shorthanded goal from Chariot in the first period, was doubled up 57 seconds into the middle frame by Klingberg and added to by Mouillierat.
It was a season where you could never discount Texas whatever the scoreboard said and Morin’s 8th goal of the post season with 4:27 remaining in the second got the ball rolling. A further goal before the intermission put the Stars within one goal of St John’s to set-up a tense third period.
It would be dominated by Texas who fired 15 shots but had to wait until two minutes from the end of regulation to tie the game up, and it was a goal of sheer brilliance.
Jamie Oleksiak performing a minor miracle to keep the puck in the offensive zone, before evading two IceCaps and making a nice pass to Dowling who immediately sent a one touch pass to Ritchie who blasted the tying goal home.
Fortunus would come close to winning the game for Texas in regulation but his shot with just seconds left on clock could only find the crossbar .
It’d only take 2:24 of overtime to hand Texas a 3-1 series lead as Morin crushed his one-time effort past Hutchinson
Texas would clinch the Calder Cup in game five, with perhaps the unlikeliest hero scoring the championship winning goal.
It was another encounter of fluctuating fortunes as both sides gave up the lead.
Texas built a 2-0 advantage with goals late in the first and early in the second
To St. John’s credit they bounced back with a goal at the half-way marker and it was the first of a three unanswered markers, as they took a 3-2 lead with just over 13 minutes left to play
Mike Hedden had opened the scoring with his 8th of the playoffs and after a lengthy video review his second of the game tied things up.
It would take exactly 14 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime to break the deadlock, with Texas defenseman Patrik Nemeth making a move around his man before releasing a backhand effort past the glove of Hutchinson. It was the Swede’s first goal of the post-season and it’s not likely he’ll ever score a bigger one.
Although he failed to register a point in the final game, Travis Morin was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs with a league-leading 22 points, seven of those coming in the Calder Cup final series including three game winning goals.
He also became the first player since 2008 to win the regular season and playoff MVP award in the same season.
Ranford (six points) McKenzie (five points) ably assisted Morin while Mouillierat was far and away the best skater for St. John’s with four goals and an assist to his name.
There were only two power play goals scored in the entire series between Texas and St. Johns which actually hurt the IceCaps more as they went 1-16 after previously scoring 14 goals through their playoff campaign.
As I previously mentioned, Texas won Games 3, 4 and 5 in overtime, meaning they finished the postseason with a perfect 6-for-6 record in overtime games on the road, beating the AHL record of 4-0 held by four teams.
The nature of the playoffs means that not always the “best team” wins the championship, not on this occasion however as the Texas Stars thoroughly deserved this Calder Cup success and perhaps one of the closest teams in talent to the dominant Norfolk Admirals in terms of sheer talent.