Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
30-31-1-4, 65 pts, 0.492
#6 Pacific Division
v.Stockton Heat
28-25-4-2, 62 pts, 0.525
#5 Pacific Division
March 28th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

It's basically do or die for the Texas Stars now. Needing a perfect 10-0 record in their final ten games in order to match the pace set by fourth place Bakersfield, they'll have to give it all they've got in the final game of the season against the Heat. This game also serves as the rubber match of a three-game set between the two teams all played in Cedar Park over the past four days.

Calling all cliches in this one. Texas will need a good start, something they've not often gotten but have done well with when they've had it. They are also going to need to stay disciplined. They're the worst in the league on the PK (75.2%) and can't afford to give up goals to a team that can score in bunches (3.05/gm for 10th in league).

One interesting and random wrinkle is the addition of Cam Braes to the Heat roster. Braes was very briefly a Texas Star. He decided to leave professional hockey after the 2015 preseason in order to pursue a master's degree. Having finished that, he has now decided pro hockey might be for him again and has joined the Heat on an ATO.

Stars injury/call up report:
Dickinson, Elie (call up)
Fyten (questionable)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Stars Still Alive with Shootout Win over Stockton

Texas found a way to stay alive in the playoff hunt this evening with a 5-4 shootout win over the visiting Stockton Heat. Staying alive is all relative though, as Bakersfield increased its point total this evening. Texas will need to make it to 85 points, or 20 points in 10 games, to beat them. That is a perfect record.

The Stars never trailed in the game but also were never ahead by more than just one goal. The Heat and Stars alternated goals all night with Gemel Smith's sixth round shootout goal being the ultimate winner. Smith also tallied three assists.

Mike McMurtry returned from a very brief stint in the ECHL to score a goal and an assist in the contest. His recall was necessary after Dallas called for Jason Dickinson earlier today. Texas changed up the lineup a bit otherwise after last night's loss. Ludwig Bystrom, Matt Mangene and Dustin Stevenson all checked in after being scratched for several games running. Austin Fyten, Darren Dietz and Caleb Herbert were healthy scratches in their places.

Justin Peters stopped 22 of 26 shots in the win and 4 of 6 in the shootout.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie, Dickinson (call up)
Fyten, Dietz, Herbert (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 6,453.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Stockton - March 25 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stockton's Comeback Makes Texas Playoff Chances Slimmer

Up 4-1 with five minutes left in the second, Texas was in great shape tonight. The Heat had other plans and came back with a four goal effort to finish with a regulation victory in Cedar Park tonight. Texas has had major challenges holding onto leads recently, including seeing a 3-0 lead in Cleveland become a 6-3 loss. Tonight's loss came even as Texas was relatively disciplined on the penalty sheet, not allowing a single power play opportunity in the third period, which they entered leading 4-3.

Justin Peters took the loss for the Stars, allowing 5 goals on 29 shots. Ethan Werek scored a pair of goals.

Following tonight, Texas needs to go 10-0-1 from here on out to make the playoffs.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie (call up)
Bystrom, Stevenson, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,612.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Stockton - March 24 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
29-30-1-4, 63 pts, 0.492
#6 Pacific Division
v.Stockton Heat
27-25-4-1, 59 pts, 0.518
#5 Pacific Division
March 24th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Stockton was on a cool streak last time the Stars played them but their fortunes have turned around since. Their two wins against Texas in late February kicked off a 6-3 run that has put them in tight with Bakersfield for the final playoff spot in the Pacific. If you include the Texas games and the intervening Bako game, it's 8-4.

Key to the turnaround has been the return of their offense. Each of their wins since they played Texas has come when they've scored at least three goals. In fact, they've scored 4 goals of more seven times during the run, including the two games against Texas.

So the key is clearly to limit the goals. I mean, isn't that the case every night? If the Stars can do what they did against Cleveland last Friday or in the first two periods of Saturday's game, they'll have a chance here.

I'll also add that the start is important. With Wednesday's win, Texas climbed to 23-7-0-2 when scoring first.

Texas needs every point now. The number of wins they need drops if San Diego can beat up on Bakersfield this weekend, but they still need to win their own games. If everything holds, they'll need a 10-2 mark in their last 12 games.

Stars injury/call up report:
Elie (call up)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Texas Stars Pull Off 4-3 OT Win to Stay on Track

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Stars came close to giving up another game late. Tucson earned a point with a third-period comeback, but Texas scored in the overtime period to make it a 4-3 final for the home team.

"We've got to battle every night to keep this thing going," said Coach Laxdal. "We need all the points we can get to keep this thing alive."

'This thing' is the Texas Stars' playoff chances, which gained a bit of momentum with tonight's win. Brandon DeFazio noted, "You win tonight and you're happy about that, but it's just one game at a time. It's a daunting task and we're not oblivious to that. Focus on what you can control, a good effort and a good start."

Before the game, Texas talked about the importance of their first periods. They have a 22-7-0-2 record when scoring first and a 15-1-0-1 record when leading after the first period. The first goal tonight didn't come in the first period, but Texas did notch that goal.

A quiet first period gave way to a noisy second and third. Within 44 seconds, Texas went from scoreless to up 2-0. Ethan Werek scored from the slot then Texas earned a power play to set up Julius Honka's seventh of the year. Tucson got back in it with a goal from Tyler Gaudet to close the second at 2-1 Texas.

Denis Gurianov extended the lead to 3-1 with a masterful tip that really demonstated one of the main skills that will make him a successful NHLer someday: his speed. The tip play at the net off the pass from Morin and DeFazio came because Gurianov got in behind the defender lightning quick.

"He's learned to use his speed at all times and get to the areas where he'll score goals," said DeFazio. "As he matures, he'll learn to use that speed and the more often he gets to the house, the more often he scores."

Texas 'made it exciting' for the fans though, according to Laxdal, with two goals allowed in the third period to set up the tie game at the end of regulation. Joe Whitney's goal came as a defensive breakdown left him all alone on the backside for his 13th of the year. Just after the Roadrunners pulled Adin Hill for the extra attacker, Laurent Dauphin scored on a tight play at the net for the tie.

The Stars had seen this before in Cleveland last Saturday and didn't want to take the loss. "We figured it out quicker than last time in Cleveland. You want to find a way to shut that down, but it's better coming out with a win."

Matej Stransky ensured that win with 2:36 left in OT. A tight play at the net put the puck on his stick for the game-winner. Adin Hill was hot under the collar claiming interference, but it was deemed a good goal.

The Stars play again on Friday at home against Stockton.

Tonight's lines:
Dickinson-Dowling-McNeill
Gurianov-Morin-Stransky
DeFazio-Smith-Werek
Ully-Fyten-Herbert

Bayreuther-Honka
Heatherington-Ebert
Bodnarchuk-Dietz

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Elie (call up)
Bystrom, Stevenson, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,877.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - March 22 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Tucson Roadrunners

Texas Stars
28-30-1-4, 61 pts, 0.484
#6 Pacific Division
v.Tucson Roadrunners
24-27-6-0, 54 pts, 0.474
#7 Pacific Division
March 22nd at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: The Texas Stars have assigned Landon Bow, Justin Hache and Mike McMurtry to the Idaho Steelheads.

The Roadrunners were the hot team to start the season. With weapons like Chris Mueller at hand and some sterling rookie adds, they were a hot hand.

That has cooled.

Tucson has dropped to 7th in the division, well out of the playoff race. Texas laid a hurt on them in two games back in early February, winning 3-2 and 6-2 in back-to-back nights. Since then, it's been a death spiral. Tucson has managed just a 3-11-1-0 record since leaving Texas on February 11th. It has not been an easy path for sure with regular matchups against San Diego, Bako, San Jose and Ontario. However, even last night they fell to the lowly San Antonio Rampage.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas, of course, as I have mentioned before, is in a precarious spot. They need all of the points they can get to make it to the playoffs right now. Their mark of 11-2 still stands as what they need in the final 13 games to make it in.

Tonight will mark the home debut of defenseman Gavin Bayreuther, who has already scored his first pro goal.

Stars injury/call up report:
Elie (call up)
Smith (injury, expected to play)

Website: tucsonroadrunners.com
Twitter: @RoadrunnersAHL
Coverage: @CallahanOnAir (Tucson PBP)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Texas Stars Need Near Perfect Hockey Now to Make Playoffs

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The first playoff berth of the 2017 Calder Cup playoffs was clinched on Saturday as San Jose punched its ticket to the postseason. For the Stars, with 13 games left in the season, they are in dire straits at 6th place in the division. The Bakersfield Condors currently hold the final playoff spot, and Texas has a mountain to climb to match their pace of .544. At two games below .500, Texas needs to go 11-2 down the stretch to have a shot at the playoffs.

Without Bakersfield on their schedule for the rest of the season, they'll have to hope that the Condors go cold to get anything done in terms of knocking down the .544 mark. Bako is 7-3 in their last ten while Texas is 4-4-0-2.

This week's game are all must win. Facing Stockton and Tucson, in 5th and 7th places respectively, the Stars cannot afford to give away points, even overtime points, to these teams now. The margins are too thin for that.

If the Stars make it into the playoffs, this week will have to be a turning point for them. Once that happens, they can worry about what will likely be a grueling late March and early April, culminating in a 3-game set with San Antonio to potential decide the playoff fate of the Cedar Park crew.