Monday, September 26, 2016

Ottawa Senators Moving AHL Club to Canada, Leaving Binghamton Without a Team

As was expected this morning, the Ottawa Senators announced their plans to move their AHL affiliate to Belleville, Ontario.

Binghamton, home to the Senators' AHL club since 2002, is working to secure an AHL franchise for the city. However, with all the movement and consolidation that has happened recently and other cities, such as St. Johns and Portland, Maine, currently without teams for the 2017-18 season, it's going to be a tough road.

Belleville is about two hours east of Toronto city center and 2.5 hours from Ottawa. The city, with a metro population just shy of 100,000, previously hosted the Belleville Bulls of the OHL. The Bulls left town in 2015 for Hamilton, replacing the AHL's Bulldogs there with an OHL team of the same name. The club played in Yardmen Arena, which has a capacity of 3,257. The city council has pledged CDN$18.5 million (USD$14 million) for arena upgrades, including capacity improvements. The smallest arena in the AHL currently is the Utica Comets' home rink, Utica Memorial Auditorium (or the Aud), at 3,860.

For many northeastern AHL fans, this is the continuation of a sad trend. Cities such as Binghamton face the potential of no AHL hockey in the near future as teams move their AAA clubs closer to home. The Texas Stars are an example of how well this model works and surely NHL GMs are taking notice.

In case you missed it, the fine people of St. John's will also be losing their AHL team this coming summer as the team relocates to Laval. Just 16 minutes of city driving will separate the home arenas of the Canadiens' NHL and AHL teams.

As a final note, here's Binghamton's response.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Offensive Defensemen Shine in Dallas Stars Scrimmage

Nick Ebert defends a pass (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The now-annual Victory Green and White scrimmage was light on super stars with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both held out of the lineup. In addition, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, Radek Faksa, Jason Dickinson, Devin Shore and Travis Morin all missed the game with various maladies. As such, it was an opportunity for some of those other players to make impressions. Nick Ebert, the return from Los Angeles in the Jack Campbell trade this summer, was foremost among them with a hat trick for team White. Of the eleven goals on the day, five were scored by defensemen.

"It was a really good day on the offensive side for our defensemen," said Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff. "[Ebert] shot the puck really well. We emphasize getting up in the rush and the way we play fits his game."

Among defensemen, Mattias Backman and Julius Honka also scored.

Forward Denis Gurianov didn't score but made a decent impression with speed and some handy moves. "His game at Traverse got better as the games went on. What I've noticed is that he has a quick step and creates some of his own opportunities."

Goalies in the game were less than sparkling, which can't be a settling feeling for those who remember last season's Dallas Stars playoff exit. Each team split their goalie time evenly between an expected NHL and AHL netminder. For the Green team, Antti Niemi had five saves on six shots. Kari Lehtonen stopped nine of twelve for White. After the swap, Maxime Lagace stopped 7 of 8 shots against for White while Philippe Desrosiers smothered 8 of 13 shots for Green. Give it time as the team implements more defensive structure and put a more solidly NHL caliber defensive corps in front of the goalie before making a final judgement though.

Instead of power plays, penalties were resolved via penalty shot in the scrimmage. Patrick Eaves, Mattias Backman, Brendan Ranford and Cole Ully scored on the penalty shot. Other goal scorers included Remi Elie, on a nice tip from Johnny Oduya's point shot; Julius Honka, who slid down from the point and powered one past Kari Lehtonen; Patrick Sharp, off a nice pass from Connor Chatham; and Jiri Hudler, at a severe angle top shelf.

As far as injury updates, Devin Shore tweaked his ankle and will be out no more than a couple week according to Ruff.

Lines (in collaboration with Sean Shapiro)
Victory Green

Matt Mangene-Jason Spezza-Patrick Sharp
Brandon DeFazio-Gemel Smith-Connor Chatham
Remi Elie-Justin Dowling-Matej Stransky
Antoine Roussel-Patrick Eaves-Brett Ritchie

Johnny Oduya-Julius Honka
Ludwig Bystrom-Stephen Johns
Jordie Benn-Jamie Oleksiak
Dustin Stevenson

Philippe Desrosiers
Antti Niemi

White

Samuel Laberge-Mattias Janmark-Jiri Hudler
Curtis McKenzie—Adam Cracknell-Brendan Ranford
Brandon Anselmini-MIchael McMurtry-Branden Troock
Cole Ully-Denis Gurianov

Dan Hamhuis-John Klingberg
Patrick Nemeth-Andrew Bodnarchuck
Mattias Backman-Nick Ebert
Chris Martenet

Kari Lehtonen
Maxime Lagace

Note: White rolled 3 centers.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Texas Stars Looking to Surprise, Force Big Decisions at Dallas Camp

Philippe Desrosiers (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
As far as the Texas Stars are concerned, the Dallas Stars training camp is a chance to impress and maybe change some minds. Jim Nill and the Dallas brass clearly have some idea of what their team will look like on opening night. However, training camp is a chance for players potential originally destined for the Texas Stars or even Idaho Steelheads to make Nill, Scott White and their crew think twice.

Jamie Benn is your prototypical example. If you happen to still possess a Texas Stars inaugural season, opening night program, you'll notice Jamie Benn listed among the players for the AHL squad. Benn came into camp as a rookie and turned heads, leading him to the NHL as a first-year pro. Players like Mattias Janmark have done similar things in recent seasons.

Who is going to change minds this season?

The players in the forward ranks have given Dallas an embarrassment of riches for depth call-ups. That's probably a good thing because Tyler Seguin, Jason Dickinson and Radek Faksa's injuries/surgeries have put a kink in the works. Another bright spot, Devin Shore, is coming off a season that started with a spark but ended with shoulder surgery mid-season. He had been a full participant in training camp on a line with Brendan Ranford and Curtis McKenzie until he left the ice with an apparent injury in the second session today.

On another new player note, Denis Gurianov was impressive. He's a big kid with hands. It was unclear what Dallas was going to see out of him this season coming in. He's in the plans for the Texas Stars this year.

In net, the AHL battle lines are clearly drawn. Maxime Lagace would seem to be the incumbent, but it's unclear if he has the starter role in Texas locked in. At the end of the playoffs last year, Jack Campbell took the starting role away despite the clear notion that he did not have a future in Dallas. Philippe Desrosiers is hungry for a chance at the AHL level after spending most of last season in Boise.

And now, Landon Bow is the newest challenger. Part of the decision boils down to how many games each one is expected to play. If you're alright splitting time between Desrosiers and Lagace evenly in Cedar Park, then you send Bow and Henrik Kiviaho to the ECHL. If not, you bring Bow to the AHL and let Desrosiers get a ton of starts in the ECHL. Of course, what is the additional value of getting him starts there against AA competition as opposed to AAA competition?

Tomorrow's scrimmage should see these players a little bit closer to game speed and give everyone in attendance a better chance to evaluate the talent.

Injury updates:

  • Cody Eakin is out 6 weeks with a knee injury sustained yesterday.
  • Devin Shore is out for "some time" with a lower body injury sustained today in practice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stars Play for 5th Place in Traverse City Tournament

Cole Ully (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The annual pre-season prospects tournament in Traverse City is closing out with the Dallas Stars playing for fifth place later today. Dallas will play St. Louis at 3:30 PM. Their 6-3 loss in Carolina dropped them from title contention to the fifth place game.

Many of the prospects playing this weekend will put their skates to the ice in Cedar Park this season. Remi Elie, Cole Ully, Mike McMurtry, Devin Shore, Philippe Desrosiers and Ludwig Bystrom are among the players who have already seen time in the AHL.

Cole Ully has had 3 goals in the tournament. He will be looking to convert his scoring prowess in the tournament to the regular season with Texas. Devin Shore collected a pair in two games, which is a great sign for his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Don't read too much into the results of this tournament. The teams are made up of a combination of draft picks, free agent signings and other players who may never see an NHL training camp, let alone AHL.

The next activity on the calendar is Friday, when training camp opens in Cedar Park.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pond Hockey Club Excited to Open New Ice Sheet This Weekend

The upstairs warm room at the Barn. Tables still on order.
If you happen to catch CJ Demmons in an idle moment, that's pretty rare this summer. The general manager of the Pond Hockey Club in Austin has been working feverishly with his team and a collection of contractors to finalize the newest sheet of ice in Austin, which will open this weekend to great fanfare.

The success of their 4-on-4 sheet has led the Pond to open the new sheet, dubbed 'The Barn', next door. It's a USA Hockey regulation sheet, measuring 185 by 84 feet.

Demmons says that the new facility, and really the entire Pond Hockey experience, is aimed at making the players happy. With that in mind, they've brought a ton of new improvements to the larger sheet.

For players, a highlight of the space will be new towel service for the showers on both rinks along with provided ice buckets for cooling down your post-game beverages. Speaking of those beverages, the entire facility is still BYOB. Rumours of connections to next door's Austin Beerworks didn't pan out over the TABC's rules on alcohol sales.

"We're working together with Austin Beerworks," said Demmons. "We're not opposed to doing a bar, but we want to give Beerworks as much business as we can."

In addition to the expansion at Beerworks, the brewery is expanding its hours to cover almost every game at the Pond.

Many of the questions about alcohol at the Pond are generated by the upstairs space, a warm viewing room that perfectly resembles a neighborhood bar. Just without the alcohol. Televisions around the space get every hockey channel you can name and the kids can be occupied for hours at the bubble hockey table or vintage Galaga machine.

"We already have a group wanting to use the space for the USA versus Canada World Cup game," added Demmons.

Opposite the warm room, there is room for warmups next to the ice plant. Over time, this is where shooting lanes and practice areas will be added. Future expansion will see the addition of 'cold' viewing area on the mezzanine level.

The technology at the rink is also improving as the scoreboards are connected to the Internet. Through an app, players at and away from the rink can check scores and time remaining in games. Next time you're stuck in traffic or just having a beer next door, you'll be able to keep track of how long until it's time to suit up on your smartphone.

Warm room above locker rooms
To celebrate all of this, the Pond is throwing a grand opening party this weekend. While the adult tournament is already full, there will be plenty of opportunity to check out the space and watch the tourney. Texas Stars captain and frequent Pond Hockey drop-in player Travis Morin will do a ceremonial puck drop.

For more information on Saturday's free event, check out PondHockeyClub.com.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Texas Stars Add Matt Mangene to Already Crowded Blueline

Mangene (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Between Dallas and Texas, the Stars are certainly stocked up on defense. They added to that today with an AHL contract for defenseman Matt Mangene. The 27-year old New York native is re-joining Texas for his second full season. He was a utility man at times for Texas last year but managed to pick up 41 games in a Texas sweater.

Now, Texas features a mess of defensemen including Esa Lindell (who could easily be in Dallas as well), Julius Honka, Niklas Hansson (Hansson is headed back to Europe), Mattias Backman, Ludwig Bystrom, Nick Ebert, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Dustin Stevenson and Brandon Anselmini. That's nine plus Mangene for an even 10. Fierce battles are sure to ensue to see who gets on the plane to Boise.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday they have signed defenseman Matt Mangene to an AHL contract for the 2016-17 season.

Mangene, 27, returns for a third season in a Stars uniform. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound utility man has competed both on the blue line and as a forward with 27 points (5-22=27) in 77 career games for Texas. Overall, Mangene (MAN-jeen) has recorded 44 points (13-31=44) in 179 career AHL contests with the Adirondack Phantoms, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Stars.

The Manorville, New York native originally signed a professional tryout agreement with the Stars on December 20, 2014. He played three years at the University of Maine from 2009-2012.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Texas Stars, AHL Announce 2016-17 Schedule

(Credit: Christina Shapiro)
The long summer is over. The Texas Stars have delivered their 2016-17 schedule along with the rest of the American Hockey League. The club has a 76-game slate, playing in the Pacific Division once again. They will have a new division rival, the Tucson Roadrunners, this year. The Roadrunners won't come to the HEB Center until February 19th, however.

The AHL schedule takes more time than the NHL schedule because several teams are the secondary tenant in their buildings. That creates a waterfall effect for the AHL schedule with dependencies on the NBA schedule.

You can view the full schedule on TheAHL.com or TexasStars.com.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL's Dallas Stars, announced Monday their full 76-game schedule for the 2016-17 regular season. The team will kick off their eighth season at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Friday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. against the Charlotte Checkers.

Single-game tickets go on sale Thursday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. for all 38 home games. The full 76-game schedule and more information are available online at http://www.texasstars.com. The Stars also play a home preseason game against their in-state rival, the San Antonio Rampage, on Oct. 8, at 3 p.m.

The 2016-17 campaign will conclude on Saturday, April 15, against San Antonio on Fan Appreciation Night.

Coke Zero Family Four Packs are returning this season for all Saturday home games. Fans can enjoy four tickets, four hot dogs, four soft drinks and parking starting at just $16 a person. Texas Lottery Lucky Row Nights also return on Saturdays, where the first Stars player to score a goal will win scratch-off tickets for one lucky row of seats.

The Stars will continue to compete in the AHL's Pacific Division against the Rampage, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, Stockton Heat and the newest member of the league, the Tucson Roadrunners. The Stars first home games against their divisional opponents are Oct. 25 against the Rampage, Oct. 28 against Ontario, Nov. 11 against San Jose, Dec. 29 against San Diego, Jan. 27 against Bakersfield, Feb. 10 against Tucson and March 24 against Stockton.

H-E-B Nights return for all Monday-Thursday home games where fans can donate any H-E-B branded, non-perishable food item at the box office for $5 off their ticket purchase.

A full promotional schedule for home games this season will be announced at a later date.

Other notable dates include a New Year's Eve matchup with San Diego for the second straight season, and on Jan. 6 and 7, the defending Calder Cup Champion Cleveland Monsters come to town. All weeknight home games (Monday-Friday) will continue to start at 7:30 p.m. and all Saturday night puck drops are at 7 p.m.

In total, the Stars play 27 of their 38 home games on Friday or Saturday. 15 different teams will visit H-E-B Center this season. The team's most common opponent is San Antonio with 14 total meetings between the two rivals. Texas will play 44 of their 76 total games within the Pacific Division. The other 32 will be played against the eight teams of the AHL's Central Division.

The beginning and ending portion of the Stars' schedule involves a lot of time away from home. Texas will play 11 of its first 19 games, and nine of the final 16 games, on the road this season. March will be the busiest month for the team with 15 scheduled games. The longest road trip of the season is a six-game, 12-day stretch on the West Coast in late February. The Stars will enjoy a pair of five-game homestands for their longest of the season, one in December and the other in February.