Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's Official: Five-Team AHL Pacific Division Will Begin Play in 2015-16

Dave Andrews makes the announcement. (Credit: AHL/Oilers TV)
As expected, the American Hockey League announced today the formation of the Pacific Division. The division will host five teams, which are all relocating from east coast cities, all in California.

Here are the moves:
  • Adirondack Flames (Calgary) will move to Stockton, CA.
  • Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton) will move to Bakersfield, CA.
  • Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim) will move to San Diego, CA.
  • Worcester Sharks (San Jose) will move to San Jose, CA.
  • Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles) will move to Ontario, CA.
The press conference was much as expected. GMs called out the big points: higher focus on player development, ability to monitor prospects, and ability to grow the brand of hockey in California. The Oilers' Kevin Lowe said that they expect to add 20-25 days of practice to the schedule thanks to the proximity of all the teams in the division.

Some things to keep an eye on:
  • Brad Treliving alluded to schedule tweaks in favor of development that this California-based division will see. It is unclear what those will be right now. It is assumed fewer games for this division is on the table. It remains to be seen.
  • No comments were made regarding schedule makeup. It is assumed these teams will play each other a lot, but how often will Texas play them? It also remains to be seen.
  • No comments were explicitly made regarding backfilling those relocated teams with ECHL teams. Luc Robataiile said that Manchester would get another team.
The ECHL expects to make its announcements regarding team movement on Friday.

AHL Pacific Division Announcement: Where to Watch

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
As announced yesterday, the American Hockey League will be making a major announcement about the 2015-16 season today at 2:30 PM Central from San Jose's SAP Center. It is expected to be the announcement of the AHL's Pacific Division, which will feature five California based teams that will relocate from the East Coast.

It's a big deal, so the league will be streaming the press conference across multiple different places.
A YouTube stream has also been added by the Oilers.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
18-15-9-0, 45 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
23-14-4-0, 50 pts
#5 Western Conference
January 29th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Welcome to the other half of the season. We're post All-Star break in central Texas and the two teams based in the Lone Star State will face off four times in the coming six games. San Antonio has had a pretty good season up until now and is battling for home ice advantage. They currently sit in fifth place by standings and points percentage. The Stars are battling for a spot in the playoffs themselves. These games against their closest geographic rival are all four-points games, as they say.

Is it too melodramatic to say this homestand is the key to the season? If not, certainly the month of February will decide the Stars playoff fate. If you peek ahead on the schedule, the Stars play five of the next six at home. Then they hit the road for a six game set that spans Iowa, the Northeast and OKC. They will play at home on February 10th and not again until the 27th. That game on the 27th will kickoff a season-long seven game homestand.

If Texas can't keep up a better than .500 points percentage through February, that homestand might not matter. If they can though, the homestand in March will be the chance to 'snap it off' and finish the fight strong. Granted, there will be plenty of hockey to play after March 17th, but Texas has a chance to make their playoff fate a foregone conclusion (in either direction) between now and then.

You have to win home games to have success in the league. The road is a toss-up and the Stars need to bank point here tonight and over the coming two weeks to save up for the harsh 'winter' that will be mid-February. One saving grace on the roadie is the opponent mix, which features four games against teams that should be at or below the Stars in the standings.

So, long story short: win tonight and make February easier on yourself.

Stars injury/call up report:
Ritchie (call up)
Morin (questionable)
Henderson (injury, upper body)
Faksa (injury, out for season)

Website: sarampage.com
Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

AHL Expected to Announce 'Pacific' Division Thursday

Dave Andrews hands the AHL MVP award to Travis Morin at the final game
of the 2013-14 season. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
This appears to be the big one. The AHL has announced a press conference for tomorrow at 2:30 PM Central to make a 'major announcement' regarding the 2015-16 season. The press conference will take place at SAP Center in San Jose and will feature representatives from five NHL clubs all looking to move their AHL affiliates closer to the West coast. It is expected that this announcement will be the formation of the AHL's long-rumoured Pacific Division, which will relocate several franchises and move them to California locations that will place them closer to their NHL parents.

Representatives from the LA Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks will be on hand for the press conference.

San Jose has already announced they will relocate their affiliate, currently in Worcester, to San Jose for 2015-16. Adirondack (Calgary) and Manchester (LA) scheduled press conferences as well to make similar announcements. Adirondack is expected to move to Stockton, California, and Manchester to Ontario, California. Anaheim is set to purchase the Norfolk Admirals and move them to San Diego. The Oilers are heading to Bakersfield as well.

ECHL teams in many of those cities already are expected to head east and, in several cases, serve as drop-in replacements for the departing AHL teams.

Here's the release:
The American Hockey League will be making a major announcement related to the 2015-16 season on Thursday, January 29, at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

WHO:
David Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer – American Hockey League
Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner – National Hockey League
Michael Schulman, Chief Executive Officer – Anaheim Ducks
Bob Murray, Executive Vice President and General Manager – Anaheim Ducks
Brad Treliving, General Manager – Calgary Flames
Kevin Lowe, Vice Chair, Oilers Entertainment Group – Edmonton Oilers
Luc Robitaille, President, Business Operations – Los Angeles Kings
John Tortora, Chief Operating Officer – San Jose Sharks
Doug Wilson, General Manager – San Jose Sharks

WHEN:
Thursday, January 29, 2015 – 12:30 p.m. PT

WHERE:
Rinkside Room – SAP Center

Media wishing to attend the event should contact San Jose Sharks director of media relations Scott Emmert (semmert@sharkssports.net) for credentials. Lunch will be served following the press conference.

The press conference will be streamed live on theahl.com as well as on the websites of the participating teams.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Maxime Fortunus and West Prevail in Record-Setting 14-12 All-Star Game

Fortunus did not tally a point in the game. He had an amazing between-the-legs breakaway chance that was stopped though. Maybe he should be up for the shootout if Texas ever plays one of those games.

Here's the release:
Charles Hudon of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Brendan Leipsic of the Milwaukee Admirals and Mark McNeill of the Rockford IceHogs all recorded hat tricks to pace the Western Conference to a 14-12 victory over the Eastern Conference in the 2015 AHL All-Star Game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Monday evening.

The Western Conference earned a split of the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino following the East’s 15-11 win in Sunday’s Skills Competition.

Hudon, a 2012 draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s leading rookie scorer so far this season, added an assist for a four-point night and was named the co-winner of the Turning Stone Resort Casino Most Valuable Player award, sharing the honor with Western Conference goaltender Jacob Markstrom of the hometown Utica Comets. Markstrom, currently second in the AHL in goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.934), had the top performance by a goaltender in the game, stopping 16 of 18 shots in the first period.

The highest scoring game in All-Star history saw 26 goals scored by 17 different players. Rockford’s T.J. Brennan notched a goal and four assists, Chicago’s Ty Rattie picked up a goal and three assists, and Adirondack forwards Drew Shore and Emile Poirier added a goal and two assists apiece for the Western Conference.

Binghamton’s Shane Prince led the Eastern Conference offense with three goals and an assist; Norfolk’s Chris Wagner tallied a penalty-shot goal and added three assists; and Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin scored twice, notched an assist and recorded 10 of the East’s 59 shots on goal in the contest.

Goals were also scored by Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkkinen, Syracuse’s Jonathan Marchessault, Manchester’s Jordan Weal, Albany’s Joe Whitney, Springfield’s Austin Madaisky, Hartford’s Chris Bourque and Providence’s Alexander Khokhlachev.

The road to the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs continues when the American Hockey League’s 79th season resumes on Thursday.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fortunus Wins All-Star Accuracy Award, West Falls to East in Skills Competition

Texas' lone All-Star representative took home some hardware on Sunday night after tying wtih Chris Bourque in the Accuracy Competition. Maxime Fortunus, the captain of the West All-Stars, shot four targets in six shots to earn a point for the West in that competition.

Overall, the West lost 15-11. Fortunus also had a nice swooping backhander in the breakaway relay, which is embedded above.

Tomorrow's AHL All-Star Game is at 6 PM Central time and is on FOX Sports Southwest as well.

Travis Morin Will Not Participate In AHL All-Star Game

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
According to Coach Derek Laxdal, Travis Morin will not participate in the AHL All-Star skills competition and game today and tomorrow, respectively. The Stars' leading scorer sustained a lower body injury on Friday night and managed through the injury Saturday.

Maxime Fortunus will be the Stars' only representative at the All-Star game. It is unclear if any replacement would be named for Morin.

Fortunus and his family had a long day of travel today. He will participate in the skills competition tonight, which will be on FOX Sports Southwest this evening.