12/08/2015 10:15 PM
Cedar Park, Tex. – Michael Leighton turned in a 49 save performance to win his sixth game in a row and help the Central Division-leading Rockford IceHogs (16-5-1-2) to their fourth-straight win, taking a 5-3 victory over the Texas Stars (12-10-1-1).
Texas got out to a dominant start in the first frame, and were rewarded six minutes into the contest. Esa Lindell recoved the puck in the right corner and fed a pass into the slot where Derek Hulak fired a shot into the top corner of the net to give Texas a 1-0 lead.
The IceHogs settled down as the period wore on, an responded just over four minutes later when Daniel Ciampini scored his first of the year. Viktor Svedberg collected a pass from Daniel Paille at the left point and Ciampini deflected his shot into the top left corner to even the score at 1-1.
Michael Leighton turned aside 18 of the 19 shots he faced in the first to keep the game tied heading into the second period.
Rockford grabbed their first lead of the night on a goal by Jake Dowell early in the third. P.C. Labrie helped force a turnover to Chris DeSousa, who found Dowell in front of the net. The veteran forward quickly settled the puck and snapped a shot through the pads of John Muse to puck Rockford up 2-1.
Jesse Blacker tied the game 2:13 later when he skated to the top of the right circle and unleashed a slap shot into the bottom of the net, evening the game at 2-2.
Before the end of the second, the IceHogs restored their lead. Labrie took the puck into the zone, worked his way to the bottom of the right circle, and found Garret Ross open near the right post. Ross one-timed a pass from Labrie past Muse at 14:07, and the IceHogs took the 3-2 lead into the third.
Texas nearly tied the game in the final stanza, but a shot rang off the crossbar with Texas on the power play to keep Rockford in front.
Leighton continued to shine in the final period, keeping the Stars off the board heading into the final minutes of play. The IceHogs took then took advantage of an empty-net as a clearing attempt from Jake Dowell bounced off the back of Chris DeSousa and soared down ice into the open cage, granting Rockford a 4-2 lead at 18:23.
DeSousa's second goal of the year turned out to be an important one, as Texas drew back within one when Justin Dowling scored with the extra attacker on for the Stars, banging home a rebound with 29 seconds remaining.
Dowell made sure he got a second goal in the game as he put home Rockford's second empty-net goal of the night with 3.4 seconds remaining to close out the Texas trip with a 5-3 win. The IceHogs went 4-0-0-0 during their time in Texas.