Saturday, October 21, 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
3-1-0-1, 7 pts, 0.700
#2 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
3-1-0-0, 4 pts, 0.750
#1 Pacific Division
October 21st at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

It's a #1 vs #2 matchup tonight in Cedar Park. Texas earned a point last night, but San Antonio nabbed two to push past the Stars for the top of the table. Texas head coach Derek Laxdal thought last night was a solid game from his club and noted that a copy-paste effort from last night to tonight should get the job done. "I liked the game. I can't fault the guys. The effort was there for 60 minutes."

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Stars came up against hot goaltending and an unfortunate cold streak on the power play. Those two items are things Texas hopes to shed tonight in the rematch. Texas would love to keep collecting power plays as the malfeasance of the Rampage mounts. One key is to not get goaded into doing anything stupid to retaliate. Texas did a good job with that last night.

One thing to note will be who goes in net for both clubs. Landon Bow doesn't have a start on the season and Ville Husso has just one, a 5 goal-against performance.

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

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Unconverted Power Plays Doom Stars in 3-2 Shootout Loss

Rocco Grimaldi scores the winner. (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In the first of 14 games against the San Antonio Rampage in the '17-'18 season, the Texas Stars fell in the shootout 3-2. The tension of the the rivalry was already evident with a pretty chippy game including several post-whistle scuffles. The game would end with 75 penalty minutes total.

"It always seems to be chippy with this rivalry," said Justin Dowling, who has played in many of these rivalry games. "We've played these guys for so long now, and there are several guys there from last year. You build these rivalries not only with the team, but mini rivalries with players on the ice and guys you line up against all the time."

Texas wasn't able to capitalize on their two power play opportunities in the first period, but they outshot San Antonio 12-4 and won 60% of their face-offs. The Stars were only able to post a 15.6% power play percentage against the Rampage last season, and that trend continued in this game as they were unable to cash in on the man advantage. In the end, they went 0-for-5, including a major power play.

Coach Laxdal said as much after the game. "The difference was not scoring on the power play. We generated a lot of shots, but we didn't make them pay when they were in the box."

In the first period, Curtis McKenzie scored from an awkward angle on the left circle after Denis Gurianov bobbled the puck to him to give Texas the first goal of the game. San Antonio forward Tage Thompson immediately answered with a goal of his own to take the energy out of the building on their first recorded shot.

The Stars drew another penalty early in the second period, and Jason Dickinson tipped in a point shot from Denis Gurianov after several seconds of beautiful passing with extended zone time. Impressively, it was Dickinson's sixth point in the last four games.

The Rampage goaltender Spencer Martin had to face several quality shots and made critical saves to keep San Antonio in the game, particularly in the second frame.

Stars center and locker room leader Justin Dowling had high praise for the netminder: "I thought we got lots of good looks tonight. We were moving the puck around well. It was just one of those things--the puck not going in the net and their goalie playing really well. He's been in the NHL, and he's been an all-star in this league. So he's a great goalie. I think we've got to get more bodies to the net, create more second chances off of rebounds, and I think when we get get the opportunity we've got to bear down."

The Stars would end up out-shooting the Rampage 28-7 through two periods, but San Antonio took advantage of their opportunities. On their fifth shot of the game late in the second period defenseman Mason Geertsen beat Mike McKenna high stick side from the left circle after a pretty cross ice pass for his first goal in the AHL.

Jason Dickinson drew a five minute major penalty by getting leveled hard into the boards to which the Stars took issue. It resulted in Andrew Bodnarchuk dropping the gloves with Nicolas Meloche and decisively taking him to the ground.

The second period ended with a 2-2 tie and a total of 62 penalty minutes distributed across both teams. Texas wasn't short-handed until the third period and nearly scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

San Antonio amassed most of their shot total in the third period. They had a golden opportunity to win the game on the power play with 2:40 to go and would fire a shot from the slot which bounced off the pipe. Unable to clear the zone, the Stars' first PK unit had to stay on the ice for the duration of the penalty and were visibly exhausted by the end.

Laxdal noted, "In the third period, we knew we were going to get some penalty kills. [San Antonio] took over the game a little bit, but we managed back the last ten."

Both teams earned equal zone time in the overtime period, which featured several impressive defensive plays that ultimately took the game to a shootout. San Antonio scored two out of three of their opportunities to put it away.

Texas plays San Antonio again tomorrow night in Cedar Park, the second game of their three-in-three weekend.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-Gurianov
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Dries-Dowling-Flynn
French-Markison-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 4,442.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - October 20 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
3-1-0-0, 6 pts, 0.750
#1 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
2-1-0-0, 4 pts, 0.667
#3 Pacific Division
October 20th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

I can't believe I'm going to jinx it by saying this, but... is this the year Texas and San Antonio are good at the same time? Not just make the playoffs good, but really good?

In eight years, the Texas Stars have made the playoffs six times. In that same time frame, San Antonio has only made it twice, with one of those years being the year Texas missed in 11-12. The Rampage also made it in 14-15, but Texas and San Antonio were both lower seeds and bounced in the first round.

The dream, of course, is that Texas and San Antonio both knock out their first round opponents and get to play a seven-game series in the second round to win the division.

That, however, is months away. But we can dream.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
As far as tonight's matchup, the game starts a 3-in-3 set for the two teams. The Stars didn't play a single one of these last year, but have the good fortune to get this one out of the way early and on their home turf for 2/3.

For San Antonio, the partnership with Colorado and St. Louis has yielded early fruit. In addition to expected players like Andrew Agozzino (2-4=6, 3 GP) and Rocco Grimaldi (1-1=2, 3 GP), Blues skaters like D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-=4, 3 GP) have been added. Samuel Blais, another player who can make a difference in the AHL, was recalled to St. Louis after opening this season with three goals in two games. Another name to watch out for is Brendan Ranford. The former Star was signed to an AHL deal by San Antonio in the offseason.

This weekend, Texas will surely see all four goaltenders between the two teams. Spencer Martin (2-0, 1.50, .919) is the undoubted #1 for San Antonio just as Mike Mckenna is for Texas. Ville Husso, Martin's backup, has seen game action, allowing five goals in San Antonio's lone loss on the season. Landon Bow, Texas's backup, has not seen action yet. This weekend will surely bring his debut.

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

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Texas Stars' Streak Halted with 5-1 Loss in San Diego

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
A three-goal second period for the home team downed the Texas Stars this evening in San Diego. From start to finish, it was San Diego's game overall though. The Gulls opened the scoring early in the first and never trailed. Jason Dickinson got the Stars' only goal of the game late in the first period to tie things at one.

Early in the second, Steve Oleksy, former Steelhead defenseman, netted the eventual game winner. The Stars would also be pierced by a shorthanded marker and a power play goal in the contest.

Mike McKenna took his first loss of the season, stopping just 24 of 29 shots against him. San Diego's defense tightened up as Texas only managed 20 shots on Kevin Boyle, who stopped 19 of those for the win.

Of note, Sheldon Dries took the Stars' first faceoff violation penalty of the season, a more strictly enforced penalty this year at the NHL level, which has caused some level of consternation.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Bystrom, Rallo, Fyten, Dowling (scratch)
Elie (call up)

Max French played his first game of the year tonight.

Tonight's attendance was 7,109.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - October 14 2017

Texas Stars Recall Max French from Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have recalled forward Max French from the Idaho Steelheads. French was one of the last cuts from training camp and made his pro debut last night in Idaho's 4-2 in over Norfolk.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Saturday the team has recalled rookie forward Max French from their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

French, 25, began the year in training camp with the Stars before making his pro debut Friday night with the Steelheads in their 4-2 win over the Norfolk Admirals. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward signed an AHL contract with Texas on July 12, 2017 after wrapping up a four-year career at Bentley University.

Texas closes out their weekend set against the San Diego Gulls tonight at 9 p.m. CST.

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Diego Gulls

Texas Stars
3-0-0-0, 6 pts, 1.000
#1 Pacific Division
atSan Diego Gulls
1-1-0-0, 2 pts, 0.500
#2 Pacific Division
October 14th at 9:00 PM
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego, CA

With last night's win, Texas now sits in rarefied air. At 3-0, the Stars are one of only five remaining undefeated teams in the AHL after a week of play. The others are all in other divisions: Providence, Laval, Rockford and Milwaukee. Among those, only Laval has played three games like the Stars.

So what's working?

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
While the team has definitely had issues prevented power play goals, it's very clear they can score them. Well, it's clear that they can score, full stop. Among teams with more than one game played, only Laval has scored more than the Stars this season so far (5.67 G/GP vs. 5.00).

Texas has a good shooting percentage at the moment (17%) and a poorer than desired save percentage. The team has to assume that the shooting percentage will dip, so the save percentage needs to increase to compensate for not scoring as many goals. Look for whether Texas can get another one-goal-against performance tonight.

Also, watch out for who starts in net. Mike McKenna has started all three games so far and Landon Bow has to figure in at some point. Is tonight that point?

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Texas Extends Season-Opening Win Streak to Three with 3-1 Win at San Diego

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
In the first of many games that finished after this author's bedtime, the Stars defeated the San Diego Gulls Friday night to roll their season-opening streak to three games. They are in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with the win. The game was also San Diego's home opener, a sellout of 12,920.

The Stars opened the scoring with Roope Hintz collecting his second of the season off a loose puck scramble between the circles. On the power play later in the first, Travis Morin fed Curtis McKenzie for his first of the year to make it 2-0. That would be all the scoring Texas would need in the contest.

Mike McKenna locked things down with a 27 save performance. Following last week's five-goal outings, Texas and McKenna alike have to be feeling more confident in the team's defense.

Austin Ortega would net a power play goal in the third to make it close, but Matt Mangene found the empty net with eight seconds left to ice the game at 3-1.

These two teams face off again tomorrow night in San Diego.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Regner, McNeill, Markison (scratch)
Elie (call up)

Austin Fyten and Greg Rallo both played their first game of the year tonight.

Tonight's attendance was 12,920.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - October 13 2017