Ducks give their emergency backup goalie a standing ovation in season finale
Jason Robertson scored on a power play against an emergency replacement goalie midway through the third period and the Dallas Stars beat the Ducks 4-2 on Friday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Robertson gave Dallas a 3-2 lead with his 41st goal of the season, with the puck going off an Anaheim stick and Thomas Hodges, making his first appearance in an NHL game after goalies John Gibson (upper body) and Anthony Stolarz (lower body) were injured.
Defensemen Thomas Harley and Joel Hanley scored second-period goals for Dallas, and Vladislav Namestikov scored into an empty net with a minute left.
Max Comtois scored for Anaheim 7:33 into the game, and Troy Terry tied it in the second period.
Gibson made five saves, Stolarz eight and Hodges two. Hodges has been an emergency goalie for the Stars for three seasons. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, he rarely has practiced with the team. His previous pro hockey experience was one minute in one game for the ECHL’s Allen Americans in 2016-17. He stopped the only shot he faced that night.
After life-insurance salesman Hodges learned he would be going into the game, he had to put down a hot dog and go to his car to get his gear and re-emerge as No. 68.
“That’s probably about as nervous as I’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful for the opportunity..”
Dallas fans cheered saves by Hodges. He was given a loss, but awarded a game puck and its third star.
The 28-year-old Hodges, born in England, could have given up the sport after losing the sight in his left eye after being hit by a puck at age 12. Instead, as an adult, “I got with a goalie coach, who happened to be the Allen Americans’ goalie coach.”
Harley indicated that scoring wasn’t easy against Hodges. “He made a nice save on Roope [Hintz], sliding across, and [Robertson’s] goal was an unlucky bounce for him. We just needed to get one.”
Stars coach Rick Bowness was surprised to see a new goalie in the third period. “I had no idea who he was. That’s a great story. I’m very happy for him.”
Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger made 19 saves.
Radek Faksa assisted on both second-period goals — the first in rookie Harley’s 34 NHL games, and the second for Hanley in 125 career games.
“It’s so cool to see, especially Thomas Harley’s first goal in the NHL,” Faksa said. “We’re always so happy for those guys. It’s really good for us and to see them be a part of it.”
“It’s definitely a lot of ups and downs this season,” Hanley said. “A win will go a long way, just feeling good about ourselves.”
When Harley was asked about what his family and friends in Syracuse, New York were thinking, he said, “It’s about time.”
Kings’ Dustin Brown, Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf put SoCal on NHL map. They began their careers together, both were captains, and both are retiring.
The Stars finished 46-30-6 for 98 points. Anaheim missed the playoffs with a 31-37-14 record.
Dallas will be shifting gears in the playoffs.
“Tuesday night, it takes a whole other end of the spectrum,” Bowness said. “The intensity and everything else you’ve got to ramp up.
“We got 98 points; it’s a hell of a year. At some point, you go through Colorado, whether it’s first or second round. That’s a great team; we know it. Calgary’s a great team.. There’s no easy solution here.“
Notes: Anaheim’s second goal was a collaboration by their leading scorers, Terry with 37 goals and 67 points, and Trevor Zegras with his 38th assist. The Stars were 5-0-2 in their final seven home games.
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