TEXAS STARS

Payne, Mersch score milestone goals, Stars split weekend series

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Sometime in the second period of Friday night's game between the Stars and Tucson Roadrunners, the first half of the annual Pink in the Rink weekend turned into an impromptu milestone night.

Behind the first professional goal by Texas forward Robbie Payne, the 100th goal by Michael Mersch, and a 29-save shutout by starting goaltender Philippe Desrosiers, the Stars took home a 2-0 victory at HEB Center at Cedar Park.

"It's just a great feeling to finally get that off your back," Payne said. "[That goal] is something I've really been working for. It's exciting."

Texas couldn't keep up the momentum in the second game of the weekend on Saturday night, falling to Tucson 4-1, with Justin Dowling tallying the only goal for the Stars. 

Payne and Mersch's goals came roughly eight minutes apart in the second period on Saturday, and from then, the Stars tightened up on defense to hold on late and secure the win. Desrosiers' 29 saves - including 12 saves in the third period - gave the 23-year-old his second career shutout.

"It's always good to win, but when you get a shutout, it's even better," Desrosiers said.

Texas won its second consecutive game and jumped over Central Division rivals Rockford and Milwaukee for the fourth and final postseason spot in the eight-team division.

"Our guys were selling out and doing what it takes to win a game," Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said. "Any time you can get two points, it's huge."

Desrosiers, who was making his fourth consecutive start in place of recently recalled Landon Bow, made eight first-period stops in the process of killing off two early penalties committed by Stars skaters. 

The middle frame was a different story than the first, as the two Stars forwards gave Texas the lead. 

"We're fast, we're gonna get pucks to the net, and it's just easy to play with them," Payne said of the makeshift third line wingers Adam Mascherin and Brad McClure. "We probably had seven or eight chances...it was a great game for us all."

Texas is on the road until the end of the month, facing off with the Chicago Wolves Thursday night at 11 a.m. The Stars return home on Feb. 27 when the Milwaukee Admirals and former assistant coach Karl Taylor comes to town. 

"It was a full team effort. And at this time of the year, every shift counts, every shot counts, and it's good to see our guys respond," Laxdal said Saturday night. "Every game is a playoff game for us, it doesn't matter who we're playing."

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