CEDAR PARK – Brett Ritchie’s empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation capped off a hat trick performance and locked up a 4-2 win for the Texas Stars over the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday night in front of 5,357 at Cedar Park Center.
It was the third hat trick performance of the season by a Stars player, joining Derek Hulak and Travis Morin. Greg Rallo also scored for the Stars, and Jussi Rynnas stopped 28-of-30 shots to improve his record to 6-1-5 on the year. Seven different players for the Stars registered points in the win.
Texas (12-10-8-0) will host San Antonio on Sunday at 5 p.m. to close out their three-game weekend.
Rallo opened up a flurry of scoring at 5:44 of the first on an unassisted goal finding a deflected puck loose at the left side of the crease for his ninth of the season. Just over a minute later, Ritchie buried his first of the night from Brendan Ranford and Matt Mangene on an odd-man rush. The Checkers (11-16-2-1) answered back on a goal by Jared Staal at 7:48 to end a sequence of three goals scored in just 2:04. The offense cooled off until 13:46 of the frame when Ritchie tallied his second of the night, stealing the puck behind the net from Checkers goaltender John Muse and slipping it home on a backhand shot.
Charlotte’s Phil Di Giuseppe capped off the first period’s scoring with a rebound goal at 18:21.
Neither team would score again until Ritchie added his hat trick goal with 35 seconds left in the game to cement the final score.
Muse took the loss, stopping 20-of-23 shots for Charlotte.
Texas was held scoreless on three power play chances, and their penalty kill unit continued their stifling play as the Checkers finished 0-for-5. Texas has now killed off 47 of their last 50 penalties over the last 13 games, and jumped from 19th in the AHL to sixth over that span.
The Stars remain strong at home picking up their eight win at Cedar Park Center this season.