BRITISH COLUMBIA

Cameron Gaunce surprising overtime hero for Stars in 4-3 win over Heat

03/06/2014 12:41 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - On a team stacked with offensive talent, it was Cameron Gaunce that won the game in overtime for the Texas Stars.

Gaunce scored in the extra period to lift the Stars to a 4-3 win over the Abbotsford Heat in American Hockey League action Wednesday.

It was just the defenceman's third goal of the year, and his first winner in almost exactly two years, when he lifted the Lake Erie Monsters to a victory March 4, 2012.

"Any chance I get to get to chip in offensively is great, but that's not part of my game," said Gaunce, Colorado's second round pick in 2008. "I'm not a power-play guy, I'm not a guy that's leaned on to score goals, but any chance I help the team I'll take it."

Gaunce scored at 2:04 of overtime from the slot, after goalie Olivier Roy kicked Justin Dowling's original shot right to Gaunce.

"Dowling just came in and was patient with the puck," said the Stars' Travis Morin, the AHL's leading scorer. "He put a puck on net, far pad, and that's tough for goalies to handle. He kicked it out and the rebound came right to Gaunce and he buried it."

Texas scored twice in the final two minutes of the second period, though the Heat scored twice in the third to force the extra period.

"We didn't have the start we wanted today," said Gaunce. "We were a bit too focused on other things today. So we were kind of lucky to get out of the first period tied until we started to play well at the end of the second period. The third we weren't bad but a couple of breaks here and there for them got them tying it up. But the fact we showed some resiliency and won in overtime shows a lot about our character."

Jamie Oleksiak, Scott Glennie, and Morin also scored for first-place Texas (35-16-8), who are now 5-0-1 in their last six. Cristopher Nilstorp made 33 saves in the win. Nilstorp got to rest the past two games after starting 10 of the Stars` past 12.

"Nilstorp was good again tonight," said Gaunce. "To get Jack (Campbell) back (from injury) gives Nily a bit of rest which will help him because he's been playing a ton for us. He's really been a workhorse. That he was able to take a day off and come back fresh was huge and it showed in his play today."

Sven Baertschi, Blair Jones and Brett Olson scored for Abbotsford (33-19-7), while Roy made 27 stops in the loss. The Heat are now 0-4-2 in their past six, while falling five points behind the Stars for first in the Western Conference.

The club is in a state of flux due to injuries and call ups, so that single point for the overtime loss was well received.

"It's huge," said Heat head coach Troy Ward. "It's the kind of point we might look back on in April and think 'wow, that was big.' We have a different group it seems every game so we have to learn how to win with this team."

The Stars opened the scoring at 6:53. Derek Meech found Morin in the low slot for a one-timer, giving him 29 goals on the year and his 10th power play marker.

"I haven't scored a goal in a few games so it was good to get one into the back of the net," said Morin. "It was a nice play all around, and a nice pass by Meech to set me up for a little tap in."

That goal snapped an eight-game drought for Morin, in which he recorded just three assists.

The Heat tied the game not long after when Baertschi scored his eighth on the power play. Corey Locke fed Josh Jooris for a one-timer and Baertschi roofed the rebound past Nilstorp at 8:07.

The Stars then regained the lead with two goals in the final 90 seconds. After taking a feed from Dustin Jeffrey, Oleksiak's one-timer deflected off a Heat defenceman, bar down, for his fifth of the season.

Glennie picked up his 10th of the year, taking a pass from Brendan Ranford and firing a shot just over the glove of Roy with 18 seconds to play.

Jones got the Heat back within one at 9:13 of the third. He redirected Evan Trupp's shot from the top of the face-off circle, giving him 14 on the year.

Olson tied the game at 16:16 from the lost, chipping in a perfect feed from Carter Bancks, for his 10th of the year.