ST. JOHN’S, NFLD – Patrik Nemeth scored the game-winning goal at 14:30 of the first overtime to lift the Texas Stars to a 4-3 win over the St. John’s IceCaps in Game 5 to capture the 2014 Calder Cup Championship on Tuesday night at Mile One Centre. Travis Morin, the AHL’s regular season most-valuable player, was named the 2014 Calder Cup Playoff MVP.
The two teams battled to a near-stalemate through much of the first period as both goaltenders handled the limited shots thrown their way. However, the Stars struck the first blow with just 68 seconds left in the frame. Cameron Gaunce sent a long pass up the right side to Brett Ritchie, who gained the line and laid the puck off to Mike Hedden, who slashed through the IceCaps defense and then made a sensational backhand-to-forehand more and snapped the puck over the glove of Michael Hutchinson and into the top left corner of the net. The goal was Hedden’s eighth of the playoffs.
Things continued to go the Stars’ way early in the second period. Ritchie doubled the Texas lead at 4:59 of the middle frame when he took a shot from the high slot and the puck eluded the blocker of Hutchinson and found the net. It was Ritchie’s seventh goal of the playoffs, scoring for the third straight game, and was assisted by Gaunce, his second point of the night. The IceCaps turned the momentum in their favor at 11:06 as defenseman Jordan Hill threw a wrist shot towards the net and the puck found an opening with heavy screens in front of Cristopher Nilstorp and went it. Six minutes later Josh Lunden redirected a cross-ice pass from Zach Redmond into the net to tie the game at two, leveling the score with 3:02 left in the period.
At 6:33 of the third period, Blair Riley intercepted a cross-ice pass by Jamie Oleksiak in the Texas zone and quickly snapped a shot over the blocker of Nilstorp to give St. John’s a 3-2 lead, the team’s first of the game. However, the Stars fought back and tied the game at 13:26 as Justin Dowling’s centering feed was deflected off the glove of Hedden and into the net. It was Hedden’s second goal of the night, his ninth of the playoffs, and was assisted by Dowling and Gaunce, who picked up his third helper of the night.
The overtime session featured wild back-and-forth action as both teams searched for the winning goal. Oleksiak nearly atoned for his third period giveaway when he rang a wrist shot from the right circle off the near post. Both Nilstorp and Hutchinson came up with dazzling saves, keeping the fans clinging to the end of their seats. Then, with 5:30 left in the first overtime, Morin sent a pass up the middle for defenseman Patrik Nemeth. The blueliner made a skillful toe-drag around one defender and the ripped a backhand shot into the top left corner of the net, winning the game and the Calder Cup Trophy for the Texas Stars.
Cristopher Nilstorp (13-5) finished the game with 33 saves on 36 shots to earn his Calder Cup Playoff-leading 13th victory in goal for Texas. Michael Hutchinson (12-9) had 41 saves on 45 shots and suffered the hard-luck loss in goal for St. John’s. The Stars out-shot the IceCaps 45-36 and both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.
Texas Stars will now enjoy a very well deserved, although abbreviated, off-season and will prepare to defend their 2014 Calder Cup championship. Texas Stars season ticket packages for the 2014-15 season are on sale now. For more information, call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit http://www.TexasStarsHockey.com.