CEDAR PARK — Maxime Lagace was put in a tough spot in the Texas Stars 5-4 overtime preseason victory against the San Antonio Rampage.
The 22-year-old goalie entered in the third period with Texas trailing 4-3, and didn’t face a shot for nearly eight minutes — which can feel like an eternity for a goaltender when you’ve been sitting on a bench for two periods.
“It’s just thinking about the next shot, and what I need to do to make the next stop,” Lagace said. “I was just trying to focus on that and keep my head in the game.”
His approach was enough for Texas to tie the game with a minute remaining, on a goal by Justin Dowling, and then win in overtime when Julius Honka scored with 1.9 seconds remaining.
“Awesome,” Lagace said. “I probably jumped if you saw me. I was really, really happy. A shootout is not a thing you want. To end it up in the 3-on-3 was awesome.”
Honka wouldn’t have been able to win it overtime if Lagace didn’t make a couple crucial saves.
First he stopped Colin Smith on a breakaway early in overtime, then he stopped a flurry of shots with 30 seconds remaining — with a little bit of help from Brendan Ranford — before Dowling set up Honka for the game-winner.
“He’s been great, I mean, he was good last year when he was here,” Dowling said of Lagace. “I always thought he was a really good goalie. He’s got a lot of poise for his age, he makes the big saves.”
And Lagace had the best performance of the Stars three goalies during a pair of preseason games against San Antonio.
He stopped 19 of 21 shots in just under a game of work and he’s making a push to not only dress on opening night, but also start next Saturday against the Rampage.
“He’s been solid,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “He had a real solid main camp, and his game has really grown. He’s got a calming type of style — you saw the overtime save — and it was great for him.”
Laxdal did admit that John Muse, who stopped nine of 13 shots Sunday, was brought in to be the starter if “something went sidewise” with Jack Campbell — which it did with his hand injury — but he’ll be watching all three goalies closely this week.
“We have to find out what we’re going to do this week and the next couple weeks with Jack out,” Laxdal said. “And we’ll have to find a starter for Saturday.”
While the starting goalie is still up for grabs, the rest of Texas lineup was close to the opening night group.
“Pretty close, we got a couple guys here and there,” Laxdal said. “Probably 95 percent of the group you’ll see on opening night next week.”
Laxdal said Greg Rallo is one player who will likely be in the lineup next Saturday, and the veteran is about “99.9 percent” recovered from his lower-body injury.
San Antonio’s lineup was more of a hybrid between the ECHL and AHL roster.
Rampage coach Dean Chynoweth said he’s missing roughly seven players that will play on opening night, including four centers.
Stephen Johns gave Texas an early lead 3:21 into the game on a blast from the point, which was deflected by a San Antonio player battling with Travis Morin in front of the net.
Smith countered for San Antonio when he swatted a rebound out of mid air on the power play midway through the perdiod.
Mason Geertsen then gave San Antonio it’s first lead when he beat Muse with a wrist shot from the slot three minutes later.
Texas tied the game on a crisp passing play by the first power play unit, which consisted of Jason Dickinson, Morin, Ranford, Ludwig Bystrom, and Johns.
After a face-off win, Morin controlled the puck along the half wall and fired a cross-ice pass to Bystrom, who one-touched a pass to Ranford who easily scored near the right post.
Chris Bigras scored on a similar play for San Antonio with 49 seconds remaining in the period on a cross-crease pass by Smith.
Texas dominated the second period and outshot San Antonio 13-7, but trailed 4-3 after 40 minutes.
The Stars spent the majority of the period in the offensive zone and put consistent pressure on Calvin Pickard, but Devin Shore’s wrist shot was the only chance to hit the back of the net.
It didn’t help that San Antonio’s goal came after a Texas turnover that Brett Perlini deposited behind Muse.
Lagace only faced three shots and stopped all of them in an uneventful third period, before Dowling forced overtime.