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

Matt Mangene Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

Matt Mangene (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.

Matt Mangene absolutely does not get the credit he deserves for the role he plays with the Texas Stars. I guess that's as much on me as anyone else.

Last week, Mangene scored a power play goal in Game 2 and jumped into a slot on the third D pairing. The game before he was at forward but still on the power play. The center has only played 41 games this season but has been a critical piece of the puzzle.

Coach Laxdal mentioned last week that sometimes he has had to call the defenseman at 3:30 PM on game day to tell him he was in the lineup. Mangene shows up and plays the same game he would play if he'd known since last week he was playing. There's no 'warmup' period or rust.

Mangene says that's the type of game that he wants to play. He came down to Texas because he believe it's a team that can win the Calder Cup, despite other offers. His inclusion in the lineup will help Texas take advantage of a truculent San Diego team that might give away too many PP chances in SoCal.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Idaho Steelheads Report: Convincing Idaho Win Pushes Allen to the Brink

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
John Mulhern reports on Game 5 of the Steelheads opening round playoff series against Allen...

In a critical game five, the Idaho Steelheads would get goals from seven different players to skate away with a dominant 7-1 victory over the Allen Americans, to take a 3-2 series lead in the best of seven Western Conference Quarterfinals.

At no point during Saturday night’s game did it feel like Idaho was going to let their foot off the gas and give the Americans any chance to get themselves back into the game. From the first goal just 2:31 in, all the way through the final horn six goals later, Idaho played a stifling style of hockey that kept a lot of the chances to the outside.

If we are going to be honest (and why not, right?), Allen did have some pretty good looks. They hit a post early in the second and had a few other chances where Philippe Desrosiers had to be sharp moving around in his crease. They also had a couple of shots and deflections that just snuck past the posts. If some of those chances go in, does it change the game? Sure, but this was one of those nights were one team was just missing chances and the other was finishing just about every chance they had.

At the end of the day, Idaho would skate away with a 7-1 win and a 3-2 series lead as both teams get ready to travel down to Allen for game six on Tuesday.

Three Thoughts


  1. Depth scoring. Idaho got goals from seven different players tonight and for four of them, it was their first of the post-season. Kruise Reddick, Taylor Peters, Radoslav Illo and Carson McMillan led the change tonight. Idaho now has 10 different players that have scored one goal in the series, and 10 players with two points or more, which over a small sample size of five games, I think is fairly impressive. Just for contrast, Allen has six players with a goal and eight players with two points or more.
  2. Solid 60 minute defensive effort. How many times do you see in hockey games where a team jumps out to a quick lead, only to eventually see the other team work their way back and either get back to a tie, or at least make the game more nerve wracking than it needed to be? More than you’d probably like it to be I’m sure. However, on this night, Idaho got a quick 2-0 lead and Allen started to push back a bit. But Idaho was able to maintain composure and actually would end up 4-0 after the first period. Allen, may have even had better possession in the second period, but Philippe Desrosiers and the entire Idaho bench kept composed and didn’t lose the defensive zone discipline that a team needs against the offensive fire power of the Americans. Full marks to Head Coach Neil Graham and Assistant Gord Baldwin for continuing to stress that message all game.
  3. Gill or Hildebrand? Allen head coach Steve Martinson has a crucial decision to make for game six. Does he go back to Riley Gill who got pulled 4:15 into game five? But played well in games two, three and four? Or does he go back to Jake Hildebrand who started and played effectively in game one, but allowed five goals in game five after coming on in relief? In all honesty, there could even be a third option, if he wanted to bring Joel Rumpel off of the reserve list and give him, his first start in the playoffs for game six. The other question that is hanging out there is what happens to Vincent Arseneau after getting his match penalty tonight. The league will go through their process of review and we’ll find out what happens in the next day or so, but if he is unavailable for even a game, that would be a big physical and scoring threat, out of the Americans line-up.