Defensive struggles doom Stars in weekend sweep

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If defense wins championships, the Stars performance this weekend showed they have a lot of work to do if they want to push for the playoffs.

Texas gave up a season-high in goals in its 9-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night. They were swept in the two-game series after falling 4-3 to Milwaukee in a back-and-forth game on Friday night.

“It’s one of those games where you take the video and data drive and throw it out the window and get ready for Wednesday,” Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said. “We have practice on Monday morning and we’ll go from there.”

Remi Elie, Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford scored for Texas in the loss on Friday night while Travis Morin scored the only goal for the Stars on Saturday. Stars goalie Landon Bow lost his first career AHL Game Friday despite being replaced in the third period. The rookie replaced Maxime Legace 10 minutes in on Saturday.

On the defensive side, this weekend seemed a far cry from last weekend, where Bow stopped 72 of the 74 shots he faced and the Stars won two games. It’s the third time this season Texas has given up more than 10 goals in two straight games.

“We worked on (being better in the defensive zone) all week,” forward Brandon DiFazio said. “It’s disappointing because you work hard at something and you want to get better and you know it’s a problem and you do that. You go back and work on it and come back and that’s all we can do.”

The Western Conference-leading Admirals aren’t the most potent offensive team, ranking near the middle of the league with 78 goals scored this season. Laxdal said there were times in the first two periods where Texas could’ve grabbed the momentum, but it wasn’t enough.

“Our defense had a disastrous night tonight,” Laxdal said. “There isn’t one guy that I can pick out that had a decent game.”

Mike Liambas scored less than four minutes into the game. Trevor Murphy and Reid Boucher gave Milwaukee a 3-0 lead with two power-play goals in the first period against the Stars’ league-worst penalty killing unit (72.8 percent). Harry Zolnierczyk scored the fourth just before the first horn.

Boucher scored his second of the night and Cody Bass for the Admirals in the second. Morin scored his team-leading 10th goal on a pass from Jason Dickinson with 25 seconds left in the period.

Milwaukee continued to pound the net in the third and Zolnierczyk added his second goal and third power-play goal with two minutes left. The final period also saw a trio of fights and a combined 40 minutes of penalties.

“Guys aren’t going to forget when we’re down 8-1 and they’re putting their first power-play unit on the ice,” Laxdal said. “They don’t want to be shown up in their own building and there were some emotions out there. Guys stepped up for their teammates and you like to see that.”

Texas (13-10-1, 28 pts.) has lost three of its last five games and sits six points behind Stockton Heat (16-6-1, 34 pts.) in the Western Conference Pacific Division and nine points behind the Admirals (17-5-2, 37 pts.) in the Western Conference.

The Stars wrap up a five-game homestand Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the San Antonio Rampage. They head to San Antonio for 7 p.m. games against San Antonio on Thursday and Dec. 27.

“It’s one of those things that we all have to look in the mirror and find a way to get better,” DiFazio said. “A lot has been said about how our goalies have played and we have to do better in front of them. I believe in the group and the leadership group that we have.

“We’ll let it go and get better this week.”

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