In an enthralling display of MASL’s scheduling abilities, the Tacoma Stars went on a road trip to face the Dallas Sidekicks and the St. Louis Ambush consecutive nights on November 18th and 19th.
The Stars defeated the Dallas Sidekicks on Friday by a score of 6-5 after an overtime shootout. Despite falling behind by three goals early on, Tacoma found their bearings and fired back with three strikes of their own.
Goalkeeper Danny Waltman shut down a Dallas side that should never be underestimated, allowing zero goals in the second and third quarters. At the start of the fourth quarter the Stars held a 4-3 advantage thanks to a goal by forward Alex Megson. They knew that Dallas would come out attacking, and did they ever. After facing four Dallas power plays and a flurry of goals, the score would be 5-5 at the end of regulation.
Since joining the MASL in 2014, the Stars have never found themselves in a shootout scenario. After a scoreless overtime period, the Stars found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
The MASL shootout rules are as follows: each team provides three shooters to go 1v1 with the opposing keeper, the offensive player advances the ball from the offsides line to take a shot before a five second timer runs out. The shooter is allowed to play one rebound attempt if the first shot misses or is stoped by the keeper.
Stars Captain Joey Gjertsen and midfielder Mike Ramos converted their attempts against the keeper, while forward Dan Antoniuk put his attempt just wide of the post.
On Dallas’ first attempt Danny Waltman initially blocked the shot, but an unfortunate bounce allowed the Dallas shooter to score on the rebound. Facing an uphill battle, Waltman once again stepped up big for the Stars, playing the ball beautifully on Dallas’ second and third attempts, and securing the first road win for the Stars’ of this young campaign.
The Stars couldn’t celebrate long, though, as they were forced to make a night run north to face a tough St. Louis side the following night.
For the first time this season the Stars scored first in a MASL match. It took nearly thirteen minutes, but Ramos found the back of the net. Unfortunately the lead would be short-lived, as St. Louis tied it up a mere seven seconds later. Alex Megsen bagged a second for the Stars and his third of the road trip, putting the Stars in the lead going into halftime.
Sawatzky fired up an obviously jet-lagged Stars side with an inspiring halftime pep-talk. Gjertsen continued what his coach started, contributing a beautiful goal early in the third, and Derek “El Tigre” Johnson stamped his mark on the match minutes later with another.
Megsen proved the MVP of the trip with his second goal of the night (fifth on the season) to put the team up 5-1. Despite two late goals by St. Louis to bring the score to 5-3 the Stars held strong, securing their second win in as many days.
After the whirlwind tour, the Stars were able to rest up and enjoy time with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. The MASL got in the giving spirit by honoring keeper Danny Waltman and defender Cory Keitz with membership in the MASL Team of the Week. Waltman and Keitz used every part of their bodies (including Waltman’s face) to block a plethora of shots against Dallas and St. Louis. Alex Megson and Mike Ramos both received honorable mentions.
Off the pitch the Stars’ efforts have been just as fruitful, acquiring veteran forward Ty Hall thanks to a deal with the Harrisburg Heat. Hall played in 16 matches last season for the Stars, chipping in 5 goal and 4 assists.
In a statement released on November 28th, Head coach and General manager Darren Sawatzky said that “We are looking forward to having Ty Hall back in a Stars uniform, he was an important member of the 2015-16 team, and we are lucky to have him return to work with the guys that have started the year strong.”
Hall played one match for Harrisburg this season, contributing a goal. As the Stars take the field against the San Diego Sockers on December 2nd, fans will be sure to notice the newest edition to the club, sporting lucky number 21.
(Updates will follow regarding Hall’s transfer from Harrisburg as more information becomes available.)
With five games now in the books, a few trends have developed for the Stars this season. Most notably, they seemingly thrive under the pressure of trailing early in games, choosing to stick to their game plan and slowly wear down opposing defenses. Despite causing stress (and hair loss) for their fans, the Stars always seem to make a valiant second half push. So far this strategy has worked out for the Stars, but slow starts may end up being their Achilles heel when facing higher scoring veteran offenses.
The Stars will have to be vigilant against the constant barrage that is the San Diego Sockers on December 2nd, and upstart side Atletico Baja on December 3rd. Stars supporters will have to wait until December 10th to return to the ShoWare Center in Kent for a heated match-up with the Ontario Fury, which starts a run of five home matches through late January.