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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lack of discipline doesn't matter; Iowa drops 2nd game to Wolves

The Iowa Stars dropped a key game in their Western Division playoff series against the Chicago Wolves, failing to make a go in the third period, when the Chicago Wolves gave the Stars an extended 5-3 power play and three other unconverted power plays. The Stars lost the first home game of the playoffs 5-3, putting the Wolves ahead 2-1 in the best of seven series.

Although the Stars put 15 shots on the Chicago goal in the third period of play, in one power play the team had only one shot on goal. In total this would be a game with only 20 Chicago shots on goal, including just two shots on goal in the first period of play, compared to just 27 shots on goal for the Stars during the game, just three in the first period.

In the last two games special teams have played a prominent role, with the power play goal responsible for six of the nine goals scored by both teams at the Allstate Arena on Friday. In the Sunday game four of the eight goals were power play goals while two were scored on an empty net.

With the Stars trailing in the third period, it was a man advantage goal by Junior Lessard with just 1.03 remaining in the period that seemed to suck the air out of the Wolves. But a poke check by Cory Larose and a pass to Niko Dimitrakos ended the Iowa hopes with just seven seconds to go.

The first period of play was a physical affair for each of the lines, but an easy one for the goalies, who combined for five saves. Iowa had four power play opportunities in the period, compared to three for the Wolves, but failed to convert any to goals and didn’t even put enough shots on goal to equal the number of power plays.

In the second period the two teams came out looking for scoring chances with greater determination, which they traded back and forth. Boris Valabik took the first of three penalty calls at 4.55 into the period. With just seconds remaining on the penalty, the Stars and the Wolves were engaged in a battle for control along the far boards. Lessard came up with the puck and passed it to Mark Ardelan at the point. Ardelan brought the puck to center and passed it back to the Dallas Star call-down, Loui Eriksson at the far point. Bringing it along the boards he passed it forward to Lessard who was in deep. He one-timed it cross ice to Matt DeMarchi who was standing open between the near circle and the crease who popped it over Michael Garnett’s glove to give Iowa the lead, 1-0.

At 10.01 into the period, Chicago was on its own power play when Niko Dimitrakos crossed the blue line and headed deep through the far circle. He passed the puck back and cross ice to Jordan LaVallee who was skating across the blue line between the circles. His shot over Dan Ellis’ shoulder made the score 1-1. Blanking on their next power play opportunity, the Stars watched as Darren Haydar toyed with Nicklas Grossman in the corner, doing stop and go and stop and go until he finally lost it to Grossman. However, Grossman could not keep it and it was pushed behind the Iowa net where Trevor Byrne came up with the puck in the corner. He centered it to Haydar, a short distance outside the crease, who redirected it in for a 2-1 Wolves lead.

Late in the period Iowa received its third power play opportunity of the frame when Valabik was sent back to the sin bin again. Iowa Captain Marty Wilford picked the puck up at the point and centered it to DeMarchi who one-timed it. Dallas Star Joel Lundqvist redirected the shot in beautifully for the goal, tying the game at the end of the frame.

In the final frame the Wolves received penalties on Brett Sterling, Brian Fahey, Byrne and Jason Krog. It was clear that each of the penalties was legitimate. This resulted in an extended Iowa five on three as well as extended man advantages. But the team was only able to place one shot on goal during the five on three. Instead of taking a lead by a goal or more, it was Chicago that tickled the twine next when Mark Fistric was sent to the bin. Chicago’s first line found Brett Sterling alone in front of the net. With a one goal lead, Chicago tried to buckle down into a more defensive style of play. Iowa coach Dave Allison pulled his goalie with about two minutes remaining, hoping to get the tying goal and force the game into overtime. Instead a face-off deep in the Wolves zone poked the puck back towards Iowa’s line. Instead of a Star getting the puck, Haydar came up with it and he raced across the blue line where he fired into the empty net for a 4-2 Wolves lead.

Allison kept his goalie riding the pony. An icing call on the Wolves set-up a face-off in the Wolves near-circle which Iowa won. The puck slipped deep and rolled around the back of the net as the two teams battled for control. Lundqvist came up with it in the near circle. He centered the pass to his Dallas team-mate Eriksson who one-timed it to Lessard on the front door. Lessard spun through the rear of Garnett to bring the score to 4-3 with 1.03 remaining on the clock.

Ellis continued riding the bench as Iowa tried to convert a man advantage into a final goal. However, Cory Larose poked the puck loose in front of the Chicago goal and passed it to Dimitrakos who floated up to the empty Iowa net for the final goal.

It was a game that saw terrible power plays by both teams. Chicago went two for six on the power play. However, Iowa, missing the third period extended five on three power play and also only two for twelve on the power play in this game, and four for 17 in the series, must be looking hard at what is going wrong. The Dallas line-up of Lundqvist, Lessard and Eriksson has had nine goals in the playoffs, but notched its first two goals against Chicago in this game. In total, the line has had 20 points in the playoffs, but just six, all on Sunday, against Chicago.

In addition, the line had nine shots on goal against the Wolves this game. It has had only 18 shots on goal for the series against the Wolves.

Valabik, a big tough defenseman who has stood up for his teammates throughout the season, had a serious lack of discipline in this game. However, his team followed his lead, taking their own penalties in an undisciplined display that somehow never materialized into Stars goals.

Michael Garnett received the win, stopping 24 on 27 shots. Ellis received the loss. The Wolves put only 20 shots on goal, Ellis saved 17. It was the first home loss for the Stars in the playoffs. It was also only the third time Iowa has outshot the opposition. The Stars will host the Wolves again at home on Tuesday.

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