Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dallas Stars Sign 2015 Top Pick Gurianov, Expect to See Him in Texas Next Year

The Dallas Stars have signed Russian forward Denis Gurianov to an entry-level deal and he is widely expected to play for the Texas Stars next season. The 2015 first round pick played this season in the KHL and MHL in Russia but terminated his contract last week. This led to speculation he would make the jump to North American, which was borne out by this signing.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed forward Denis Gurianov to a three-year entry-level contract beginning in the 2016-17 season. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gurianov (guhr-ee-AHN-awv), 18, appeared in 47 games with Lada Togliatti of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the highest division of hockey in Russia. The forward registered five points (4-1=5) and six penalty minutes in his rookie season in the KHL. Gurianov also skated in seven games for the club at the Junior Hockey League (MHL) level, recording six points (4-2=6) and four penalty minutes.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound native of Togliatti, Russia was selected by Dallas in the first round (12th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

AHL Announces Conditional Approval of Falcons' Move to Tucson

The American Hockey League announced today that it has granted unanimous conditional approval of the ownership transfer and relocation of the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons were purchased by the Arizona Coyotes and will be moving to Tucson, Arizona, in the fall.

Further, the league is reviewing a request to relocate the Portland Pirates from Portland, Maine, to Springfield, Massachusetts. This was previously reported as being a done deal. It is fair to consider that usually when such votes come to the Board of Governors and are publicly announced like this, they are foregone conclusions.

Here's the release:
Convening today in Chicago for its Spring Meeting, the American Hockey League’s Board of Governors unanimously granted conditional approval of the transfer of ownership of the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise to the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes, as well as the relocation of that franchise from Springfield, Mass., to Tucson, Ariz., beginning with the 2016-17 season.

Should all conditions of the transaction be met, the Coyotes’ AHL franchise will begin play this fall at the Tucson Convention Center Arena.

The Board of Governors is also currently reviewing an application for the transfer of ownership and relocation of the Portland Pirates AHL franchise from Portland, Maine, to Springfield, Mass., for 2016-17. It is expected the Board will reconvene to vote on that request within two weeks.

Founded in 1936 and now with franchises in 30 cities across North America, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 15th year in a row, more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games in 2015-16.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Esa Lindell Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

Esa Lindell (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Each week, we name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille offers happy hour weekdays from 4-7 PM just minutes from the Cedar Park Center. The new Higher Ground Bar at the Grille is a smoke-free bar open 6 PM to 2 AM Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Redeem your game ticket for reverse happy hour from 10-12 PM with $2 off specialty cocktails, $4.00 house wine and $2.50 domestic longnecks.

Esa Lindell may have picked up an All-Star Game nod this season, but his overall impact to the Texas Stars blue line has probably been under-appreciated by most fans. In last week's game, Lindell was plus-2 with a goal despite the combined score in those games being 12-3 against Texas.

In all likelihood, Lindell won't play more than a dozen games in the AHL next season (if any). He looked serviceable in his first NHL stint earlier this season. Dallas has some decisions to make on the blue line as they are currently scratching three former Texas Stars who could all be contributing in the NHL. The question is whether that is in Dallas or not. Lindell is still on his entry level contract and could be a bargain for Jim Nill and the crew in Big D next season.

Of course, there are a lot of decisions to be made there. Dallas has four D on expiring UFA deals and another on an RFA expiration. Lindell's play this season gives Nill room to play in case negotiations with any of those UFAs gets too rich for his blood.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Texas Stars End Season With 6-2 Loss in San Diego

Texas lived and died by special teams this season. One of the best teams on the power play in the regular season, they were dogged by a brutally inefficient penalty kill all year. Tonight's contest was no exception to that general theme. The Stars fell 6-2 to end their season in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Gulls and Stars traded goals in the first period, but the special teams battle was in full effect in the second. Late in the first, two unnecessary penalties put Texas at a 5-on-3 disadvantage to start the second. Chris Mueller scored the second-fastest goal against the Stars in franchise history. Seven seconds into the second period, the final dagger was already in the body. San Diego would add another on the 5-on-4 that ensued.

Finally, as Texas got some luck with a power play at the midpoint of the frame, Julius Honka turned over a puck at the center line and gave up a shorthanded rush and eventual goal.

Texas had its best chance to score all night with a five minute major late in the second. Mattias Backman was boarded hard by Corey Tropp to earn the penalty. They would come up empty on the power play. Brett Ritchie would score an ultimately meaningless goal at the end of the third and the Gulls notched an empty netter to set the final score.

Jack Campbell got the start but was pulled after the fourth goal. Maxime Lagace finished the game.

Tonight's lines:
Stransky-Morin-Ranford
McKenzie-Dowling-Ritchie
Hulak-Dickinson-Mangene
Elie-McMurtry-Army

Backman-Honka
Hansson-Lindell
Blacker-Bystrom

Campbell
Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Shore, Ully, Troock, Rallo (injury)
Ruusu, Evans, Kane, Smith (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was not available.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - April 29 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Diego Gulls, Game 4

Texas Stars
40-25-8-3, 91 pts, 0.599
#3 Pacific Division
atSan Diego Gulls
39-23-4-2, 84 pts, 0.618
#2 Pacific Division
Gulls lead 2-1

April 29th at 9:05 PM
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego, CA

Well, this is it. Win or it's over.

Tonight's game needs to be the complete opposite of last night's debacle. Texas didn't get timely saves. They gave away too many power play chances. They didn't take advantage of their own power play chances.

Essentially everything they did in Game 2. If tonight's game can be a carbon copy of Game 2, who knows what happens in Game 5? If it's like Game 1 and Game 3, we'll see you in October.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
We'll find out at some point in the morning, but one obviously huge question is who starts in net. Campbell had a great game in Game 2 but didn't give Texas the saves it needed in Game 3. Do you go back to Lagace, who faired poorly in Game 1, or stick with the only goalie who's won this postseason?

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore, Ully, Troock (injury, out for season)
Rallo (injury, lower body)

Gulls Web Resources:
Website: sandiegogulls.com
Twitter: @SDGullsAHL
Twitter: @619sports (PBP)
Twitter: @danarelAHL

Thursday, April 28, 2016

San Diego Gulls Crush Stars 6-1 to Claim Series Lead

San Diego learned from Game 2 and used their learnings to hand Texas a 6-1 defeat tonight in Southern California. The Gulls shifted their lineup smaller and quicker to take that advantage away from the Stars, and it worked. The game was a man-handling of the Texas Stars by the home side Gulls.

As was true in Game 2, the story of the game hinged on special teams. The Gulls opened the scoring on the power play and had a total of two goals on six chances, gifted to them by Texas.

Brandon Montour, who was quiet in the season series, got the opening goal as the Gulls scored the first four goals of the contest. Perhaps aided by a friendly home shot count, the Gulls vaulted 35 shots on Jack Campbell through the first two periods.

Esa Lindell would break up the shutout bid early in the third period, but Texas-native Stefan Noesen answered back to make it 5-1 in short order.

Texas has little time to digest this one as they sit on the precipice of the end of their season with Game 4 on Friday night.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Ritchie
Dickinson-Smith-Stransky
Elie-McMurtry-Kane

Backman-Honka
Mangene-Lindell
Hansson-Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Shore, Ully, Troock, Rallo (injury)
Blacker, Army, Ruusu, Evans (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was not available.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - April 28 2016

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Diego Gulls, Game 3

Texas Stars
40-25-8-3, 91 pts, 0.599
#3 Pacific Division
atSan Diego Gulls
39-23-4-2, 84 pts, 0.618
#2 Pacific Division
Series tied 1-1

April 28th at 9:05 PM
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego, CA

Tonight, Texas takes the series to San Diego with a split of their home games in hand. It's now a best of three, but every game is a road game.

That might not be a bad challenge for the Stars, who swept their three games in San Diego in the season series. While coaches and players discount the season series in interviews, it certainly matters somewhat to know you can win in a building. The Stars outscored the Gulls 16-9 across those three wins, allowing three goals each time.

Speaking of stopping pucks, one big question is already answered for Texas. Jack Campbell will start in Game 3. His performance in Game 2 didn't have to be perfect, given the five goal outburst by the Stars, but it was pretty good, stopping 25 of 26.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars learned pretty quickly in the series that the power play is going to be a huge factor. Of the 10 goals scored in the series, three have been on special teams. Additionally, the undsiciplined Gulls killed any chance they had at a comeback with a parade to the penalty box in Game 2. In the opposite way, Texas' impotence on the power play in Game 1 put them on the back foot throughout the contest. The power play, which was supposed to push their momentum forward, became a stumbling block.

At this point, don't expect these teams to change their styles. The series reminds me a lot of the Toronto-Texas battle in 2014. That series took seven games, and my prediction for this series before it started was a full slate of five. Nothing I've seen so far changes that expectation.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore, Ully, Troock (injury, out for season)
Rallo (injury, lower body)

Gulls Web Resources:
Website: sandiegogulls.com
Twitter: @SDGullsAHL
Twitter: @619sports (PBP)
Twitter: @danarelAHL