KENT, WA - On Friday, January 20th the Tacoma Stars (8-3) faced the Turlock Express (5-8) in front of a crowd of 4,064 people, the largest in the current era of the franchise.
The game started slow as neither team scored on just three shots on goal in the first quarter of play.
However, that would all change just 1:21 into the second frame as Stars midfielder Raphael Cox scored--his fourth of the season--off a nifty assist from forward Alex Megson.
Minutes later, Stars captain Joey Gjertsen aired a beautiful ball to forward Dan Antoniuk who snapped the header into the back of the net.
With just 3:02 remaining in the first half, midfielder Derek ‘El Tigre’ Johnson made it a three goal lead with his team leading eleventh goal of the year.
Turlock would score moments later bringing the score to 3-1. Turlock looked to carry the momentum of their first goal into the half, but an unfortunate blue card was issued to the Express with just 0:02 left on the clock.
With time winding down, the teams headed into the locker rooms with the Stars looking like the more inspired side. Fans will recall that in their previous match-up on November 4th, the Stars held just a 4-3 lead going into halftime. Turlock would rally in the second half and hand the Stars their first defeat of the young season.
As second-half play commenced the Stars continued to blast away at the Turlock goalkeeper, peppering the frantic defense with shots before Cox bagged an unassisted powerplay goal, his second tally of the night.
Stars forward Mike Ramos struck gold thanks to Megson’s second assist of the contest. Turlock responded with a goal of their own making the 5-2 in favor of the hometown Stars.
With third quarter action coming to a close, the Stars defenders showed their offensive prowess as Antoniuk found defender Corey Keitz for a rocketed shot past the outstretched arms of one disgruntled Turlock goalkeeper.
‘El Tigre’ had himself a second goal in final stanza thanks to an assist from defender Trevor Jensen. Turlock would score one more in garbage time, but the result was clearly Tacoma’s as they notched a very impressive 7-3 victory of their I-5 rivals.
Facing an impending four game road trip, the Stars (9-3) will head to Mexico as they face Soles de Sonora (10-2) and Atletico Baja (6-7).
The Stars and Soles last faced in their season opener with Tacoma taking the 8-4 victory at home.
However, if last seasons visit to Hermosillo, Mexico is any indication, this match will be electric. Back on February 13th, 2016, the Stars scored ten goals off of eight different scorers, but it was still not enough to stop Soles who scored fifteen on the day thanks in large part to forward Franck Tayou’s five goal performance.
Speaking of Tayou, he is sitting pretty as the league leader in goals (38) and points (47). He has been on fire all year, but it is notable that back on January 21st the San Diego Sockers became the first team all season to hold Tayou to zero points. Here’s hoping that the Stars can keep that momentum going.
After facing Soles on Saturday, January 28th they will travel to Tijuana for their Sunday match-up against Atletico Baja.
Their first meeting of the season ended with a 9-4 decision at the Unidad Deportiva Tijuana. The field has substantially smaller dimensions, which allows shots to be taken from just about anywhere in the offensive half of the field.
The second meeting was held sixteen days ago in Kent and saw the Stars jump all over Atletico in the first half to the tune of 6-1, securing a 6-4 victory in the end.
With the series sitting at 1-1 this third contest of the season will be hard fought and garner bragging rights for the next year.
The Stars may be rolling at the moment, but with their current first place standing every team in the league is going to be gunning for them. This roadtrip will be make or break for their playoff run. The MASL doesn’t hold back, demanding consistency and big road wins. Here’s hoping the Stars have what it takes.