Tornado fall to North Stars in regular season opener, 4-1
The Tornado won a pair of exhibition games easily last week, but the regular season did not start as smoothly as Texas fell to the Traverse City North Stars on Wednesday, 4-1. Defenseman Chris Leibinger scored two goals while North Stars goaltender Kyle Laslo turned aside 28 of 29 shots en route to the victory in the first regular season game for both teams.
Texas did not trail at any point during its two exhibition games last week, but the North Stars got on the board first in this one thanks to a first-period goal from Leibinger. Leibinger controlled a pass by Josh Nardella at the point and sent it towards net, where a screen shielded the view of Jake Stafford and allowed the puck to get past him for the goal.
Already trailing by a goal, the Tornado also went down a player later in the period after a post-whistle scrum led to a major penalty and game misconduct to Joe Mottiqua. Mottiqua got tangled up with Leibinger--who declined to engage with the Cecil, Penn. native-- while Mottiqua was assessed a five-minute roughing penalty along with a game misconduct for grasping Leibinger’s face mask. The Tornado were able to keep the defecit at one, however, after killing of all five minutes of Mottiqua’s penalty.
In the second period, the Tornado had an opportunity to even the score after going on a 5-on-3 advantage, but were unable to beat Laslo. Later in the period, Traverse City extended its lead to two instead. Alec Shields won a faceoff in his own zone and skated all the way up the right wing, headed towards the goal and centered it to Mitchell Snider, who slipped it past Stafford at the 14:23 mark.
In danger of going into the dressing room down by a pair, the Tornado cut the lead in half thanks to Drew Allen. Marc Biggs sent a pass through the slot for Jack Prince. Prince was unable to corral it, but it sat up in the right-wing circle for Allen, who fired it past Laslo to make it a 2-1 game headed into the second intermission.
Texas failed to seize the momentum in the third, however, as the North Stars regained a two-goal advantage early in the final period. In a play almost identical to his first goal, Leibinger toed the blue line along the far side, wound up and fired through a screen to beat Stafford just 41 seconds into the period. Two minutes later, Traverse City extended its lead further when Kyle Loridon’s shot from the high slot beat Stafford for the North Stars’ fourth and final goal.
The Tornado return to action on Thursday when they will take on the Alexandria Blizzard. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:45.