Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Texas Stars Earn Wild, Penalty-Filled 7-4 Win Over Adirondack

Maxime Fortunus's second AHL fight (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Despite being a Western Conference team, the Adirondack Flames brought a taste of Eastern Conference hockey to the Cedar Park Center this evening. In a wild 7-4 win that saw a total of 84 penalty minutes between the two teams, the most atypical moment had to be a fight by Stars captain Maxime Fortunus, just his second in his professional career.

"It was a bad hit," said Fortunus, who was responding to a hit on Gemel Smith. "Sometimes you have to step up for your teammates. I know everyone in that room would have done the same for me."

In his Texas Stars farewell, Valeri Nichushkin had a banner night. The Dallas forward down in Cedar Park for conditioning collected three assists on the night. It was the first time the Stars had earned a win with Nichushkin in the lineup all year, and he was a big part of it and frustrated the Flames to boot.

"I can't say it was my best game," said Nichushkin. "I think I played better in the last two games. Sometimes you touch puck and it's goal."

Coach Laxdal added, "He made some plays at the right time. He made a great play on Dowling's goal and Valentine's goal. He's trying to find his legs a little bit and get up to speed going back to Dallas."

It was a good night for the Stars to have an offensive explosion because it was not the best game that their starting goalie, Jack Campbell, has had this season. Campbell looked like he was having a lot of the same issues that plagued him in the early season, allowing a short side goal shorthanded in the first, having a lot of trouble holding onto rebounds and playing the puck. With the Stars goal total on the night, it didn't matter. That's what Texas needed this past weekend.

"Jack made some timely saves in the second," said Coach Laxdal. "But it was one of those nights where the last team that scored was going to win the game. You're not going to have your best night every night."

Despite a 7-0 shot advantage nine minutes into the game, it was Texas that allowed the first goal. Adirondack's Bill Arnold sniped one past Campbell off the right wing side for the 1-0 lead. The Stars would answer back quickly though with a Travis Morin goal. Jamie Oleksiak found Morin all alone on the right wing side, allowing him time and space to navigate the puck into the yawning cage.

A late first period Texas power play did not yield the desired result for the home side. Max Reinhart beat Jack Campbell clean high on the blocker side for a 2-1 lead after the first period. It was the kind of goal that Campbell had allowed a lot in the early season and which got him benched in favor of Jussi Rynnas.

The Stars came back in the second period with three goals in the frame. The twelfth minute of the period was a big one for the home team, as they scored two just twenty seconds apart to go up 3-2. Scott Valentine tallied his 3rd of the year off a booming point shot. The play came as a result of a nice passing play setup by Valeri Nichushkin and Ludwig Bystrom.

"Valentine provided some offense with a great assist and a goal," said Laxdal. "I liked his physicality too. One thing about Valentine is that he's vocal on the bench and brings up our energy."

Greg Rallo scored the third goal on the scoresheet, but the awkward bounce actually rainbowed into the net off the stick of former Star Taylor Vause. Thiessen certainly wasn't expecting the shot, and it was untouched for the lead.

The fourth Stars goal came off another Nichushkin setup, this time a rebound off the chest of Thiessen that bounced to Justin Dowling on the doorstep for the easy roof. Adirondack got one back as the period closed with Garnet Hathaway scoring on a play in tight with both he and Vause within a foot of Jack Campbell.

Texas extended its lead in the third period with three more goals. Brett Ritchie started things with a very patient play in the crease to go around Thiessen and roof it for a 5-3 score.

David Wolf checked Gemel Smith hard a few minutes later, and Maxime Fortunus had just his second professional fight stepping up for the rookie forward. Despite the size mismatch, it was a easily scored as a win for Fortunus, who went to the box with a raucous home crowd of 4,731 cheering him on.

"You like the fact that he stood up for his teammate. We didn't like the hit. You don't have to fight every night, but when you're called upon, you need to stick up for your teammates."

Adirondack would put in one final goal, but Texas would tally two extras themselves. Scott Glennie had a bullet of a far side goal to end Thiessen's night, and Justin Dowling drained one into an empty net for the 7-4 final.

Val Nichushkin ended his time in Cedar Park with a ten minute misconduct after getting into it with Acolaste. Asked about the chippiness toward him, he commented, "I think it's that everybody tries to play better with a player whose played in the NHL before."

Texas hits the road now for a Midwest trip, their last true roadie of the season, which will start Friday in Milwaukee.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Nichushkin
Hulak-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Shore-Rallo
Glennie-Smith-Henderson

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Gaunce-Honka
Valentine-Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Stransky, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa, Meech (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,731.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Adirondack - April 1 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Adirondack Flames

Texas Stars
32-21-13-1, 78 pts
#6 Western Conference
v.Adirondack Flames
32-26-6-2, 72 pts
#11 Western Conference
April 1st at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Texas Stars will welcome the Flames to the Cedar Park Center for the first and final time this evening. Adirondack and Texas play just two games against each other this season. The last game, on December 5th, was a 3-2 Texas loss. This is the return contest. The Flames are part of the western movement of the AHL and will be heading to Stockton, California, this summer. Adirondack will get a team in the ECHL.

Youth leads the way in Adirondack. The top four scorer on their active roster are all playing their first year of AHL hockey. Wingers David Wolf, Emile Poirier, Ken Agostino and Garnet Hathaway have about thirty points each on the season.

The Flames are a little more spread out on the scoring than Texas with 12 players above the 20-point mark to Texas' 10. Some of the players you might recognize just outside that mark are former Stars Taylor Vause and Mathieu Tousignant. The two paired up in December to down the Stars with Vause scoring two goals, each assisted by Tousignant, in the 3-2 ADK win.

Adirondack now comes to down desperate for wins. They are 10th in the conference by points and 11th by points percentage. They need every bit down the stretch to make the postseason.

Texas will be rolling a slightly tweaked lineup tonight. Derek Meech missed most of the third period on Saturday after suffering a lower body injury. He'll be out and replaced by either Matt Mangene or Scott Valentine. Texas also has the option to bring either in as a forward and roll with 7 defensemen.

Valeri Nichushkin will play his final game of this conditioning stint and will start the game on the top line with Greg Rallo and Travis Morin. Laxdal tried him there in the third period and he had a spark. This will be his last tune-up before presumably re-joining Dallas for their Friday home game against the St. Louis Blues.

With Nichushkin in and Ritchie and McKenzie now back, two forwards will have to shuffle out at the bottom of the lineup. It looks like that would be two of the four including Troock, Henderson, Smith and Stransky.

Stars injury/call up report:
Rynnas, Faksa, Meech (injury)

Website: adirondackflames.com
Newspaper: Post Star
Twitter: @AHLFlames
Team play by play Twitter: Cameron Close (@cclose19)
Beat writer: Diana Nearhos (@dianacnearhos)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie Return to Texas Stars

Two big time forwards return from Dallas as Texas looks to put themselves in pole playoff position
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced this afternoon that Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie have both been reassigned to the Texas Stars. Ritchie and McKenzie have spent much of the season with the NHL club with 31 and 36 games played at the NHL level this season.

The additions will present some interesting questions for tomorrow night's lineup. With Devin Shore now in the fold and Nichushkin still on assignment, Texas will have to scratch two players who've been lineup staples all year. Not sure who that will be yet.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has reassigned left wing Curtis McKenzie and right wing Brett Ritchie to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

McKenzie, 24, has appeared in 36 games for Dallas this season posting five points (4-1=5) and 48 penalty minutes. In 25 games with Texas this season, he has posted 17 points (6-11=17) and 64 shots on net.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Golden, British Columbia was selected by Dallas in the sixth round (159th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

Ritchie, 21, has posted nine points (6-3=9) in 31 NHL games with Dallas this season. He scored his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game on his first shot on Dec. 31, 2014 vs. the Arizona Coyotes. In 25 games with Texas in 2014-15, he has posted 18 points (11-7=18) and a +10 plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Orangeville, Ontario was selected by Dallas in the second round (44th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Texas Stars Fan Pops the Question on the Ice with Help from Jack Campbell

Video included at the end of the story...
(Credit: Michael Connell)
Popping the question is undoubtedly one of the most nerve-wracking moments in a guy’s life. Getting the words out, making sure you have the ring, and hoping she’ll say yes are all weighing on your mind.

Now imagine doing it in goalie gear on the ice at the Cedar Park Center with Texas Stars goalie Jack Campbell feet away and a handful of Texas players and friends watching from behind the glass.

Joe Brehm is the man with the nerves of steel.

“My heart was racing knowing that I was going to skate on the ice with Jack Campbell for what my girlfriend thought was a ‘practice session’ and then pop the question. Walking down the player tunnel and taking the ice was a surreal experience.”

At a season ticket holder autograph session earlier in the season, Brehm had quietly asked Campbell if he would assist on the proposal.

“Of course, I’m going to do it,” said Campbell. “It’s a pretty big honor and privilege when someone zones in on you as a player. It was fun to be a part of.”

(Credit: Michael Connell)
Brehm, who grew up in Arizona, never played much hockey as a kid. His girlfriend, Samantha, introduced him to the game, and they first attended a Texas game for her birthday. They bought season tickets and then something else happened. Joe decided to try his hand at playing goal in the local men’s leagues.

Brehm explained, “Despite having never played hockey before or even knew how to skate, I donned the pads to learn the game of hockey and play as a goalie, inspired by Jack Campbell. Learning the position gave me a huge respect for the talent and ability of professional net-minders.”

So a plan was hatched. Brehm would come on the ice after a home game and do a little shoot around with Campbell. All the while, the end game was the proposal. Campbell started the March 15th home game and collected his first AHL win in three months in a masterful performance.

“Samantha and I enjoyed watching the Angry Swede (Cristopher Nilstorp), but Jack Campbell became our favorite player. When it came time for me to propose, I had to involve our favorite activity: the Texas Stars.”

With Travis Morin, Justin Dowling, many Stars’ front office staff members and a huge number of section 103 season ticket holders looking on, Brehm took the ice.

“I was doing warmups and stretches when I see a green pair of green Vaughn pads skate over to me. I look up to see Jack's smiling face. I was pretty nervous to be asking the big question in just a few minutes, but he reassured me that I was going to do great. ”

(Credit: Michael Connell)
Campbell took some practice shots on Brehm, all of which he snagged, stopped or had some help from the post on. Joe joked Campbell was making an effort “not make me look too bad in front of everyone.” After getting some pointers on his game from Campbell, it was time for the big moment. Samantha came onto the ice for some quick pictures with Campbell and Joe.

Campbell explained, “The only thing he asked me to do was make a joke about how they’ve been dating for five years, and he hadn’t proposed yet. I made that joke, and she took the bait and started chirping him.”

Brehm took that opportunity to get down on one knee and propose. It went off without a hitch.



“I am very appreciative of everything the Texas Stars did for us,” said Brehm. “I look forward to being a lifetime fan.”

After the proposal, Joe and Samantha might need to plan for an extra attendee or two at their wedding though.

“I’ve barely been to a wedding in general,” said Campbell. “I’ve been to two, my cousin’s and Dustin Jeffrey’s last summer. The whole marriage thing is new to me.

“But if I’m in town, I’ll definitely go!”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Strong Texas Effort Stymied by Griffins Keeper, McCollum

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars had two very good games this weekend, but their opponents, the Grand Rapids Griffins, were just a step better each time. Texas fell tonight by a 4-3 final.

"If you play like that every night, you're going to win a lot of hockey games," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal. "[Griffins' goalie] Tom McCollum was probably the difference in both games."

Texas poured on the shots tonight after not getting enough quality chances on Friday, peppering McCollum with 48 total shots this evening.

"Tom was great in both games," commented Griffins' coach Jeff Blashill. "He didn't give up any easy ones. The puck stuck to him, and he was big at big moments."

Despite the two losses, Blashill went on to praise the Stars' effort this weekend, "This is a really good team. They are a team that is going to be good down the stretch. It was readily apparent this weekend."

Texas answered two Grand Rapids one-goal leads but could not come back after the Griffins went up 4-2 in the third period.

Louis-Marc Aubry's goal off a scramble in the first period was answered by Gemel Smith, who scored from behind the goal line off the glove of McCollum.

"I saw the puck go off [to the corner], and I knew no one knew where it was," said Smith. "I waited and knew I was going to try to bank it off the goalie."

In the second, the fourth line answered again for Texas. Landon Ferraro scored a pretty goal in tight, elevating the puck over Campbell blocker side. Gemel Smith found Kevin Henderson in the slot mid-frame for the 2-2 score.

"I'm not sure how the puck came to me, but I just passed it to [Henderson], and he buried it."

Coach Laxdal called the Stars' start in the third 'unsure' and that led to two Grand Rapids goals that would ultimately be the difference. Andy Miele scored on a tip in front of Campbell after a defensive zone miscue by the Stars that led to a tic-tac-toe by the Griffins. Jeff Hoggan scored streaking down the right wing side to make it 4-2 by the nine minute mark.

"I'm sure Jack would like ot have the fourth one back," added Laxdal.

The Stars really poured it on late including a power play set that had Grand Rapids swimming and a 6-on-5 set that lasted over two minutes. Jamie Oleksiak got the Stars within one with a shot from the point that beat McCollum low to the ice on the far side. That would be all Texas would get though.

The power play had four chances in the game, but the Griffins stymied that group all weekend.

"This is a really good power play," said Blashill. "Any time you have Travis Morin, who I think is one of the best in the league. They had their chances. Our penalty kill was good, and at times it wasn't. That's when Tom McCollum was our best penalty killer."

Valeri Nichushkin started on a line with Branden Troock and Devin Shore but moved to the first line with Greg Rallo and Travis Morin in the third, earning some power play time as well. He will start there against Adirondack on Wednesday, which is the Stars' next game action.

Tonight's lines:
Rallo-Morin-Hulak
Ranford-Dowling-Glennie
Nichushkin-Shore-Troock
Stransky-Smith-Henderson

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Gaunce-Honka
Meech-Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Valentine, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Texas lost Derek Meech to a lower body injury in the third period. He is projected to miss at least the next game, if not more.

Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 28 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
32-20-13-1, 78 pts
#6 Western Conference
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
39-19-6-2, 86 pts
#3 Western Conference
March 28th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

One thing needs to change for the Texas Stars to have a winning night tonight. Tom McCollum was the difference for the Griffins last night. Coach Laxdal intoned that Texas did everything right and gave themselves a chance to win. Copy paste the effort and hope for McCollum's luck to change (or a start from backup Jared Coreau).

The Stars will get a second look at Valeri Nichushkin, who played his first game in five months last night. Laxdal expects him to play even better than last night, which was still pretty good. Esa Lindell will leave the lineup as he heads back to Finland to go through tryouts for the Finnish World Championship team. Ludwig Bystrom probably comes in for him.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Friday, March 27, 2015

Griffins' McCollum Robs Stars with 2-0 Shutout

Valeri Nichushkin and Xavier Oullet battle in front of Tom McCollum.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The matchup between the two most recent winners of the AHL's top prize looked to be just that tonight in Cedar Park. Unfortunately for the home side, the Griffins walked away with a 2-0 margin on the final score.

"I thought it was a great game with a lot of speed and intensity," said Grand Rapids goalie Tom McCollum. "I told our equipment manager after the first period that it felt like we were playing ourselves. We have very similar systems and play at a high tempo."

Grand Rapids owed much of its success on the night to McCollum, who pitched a 34-save shutout.

"I felt like I was seeing the puck well early. My defensemen and forwards were giving me clear lanes and making it an easy night."

Jack Campbell was good at the other end, giving Texas a chance to win with 36 saves on 38 shots. In the end, the Stars couldn't penetrate McCollum with enough quality chances to break his shutout.

Coach Laxdal expanded, "We've got to manufacture more shots, funnel more pucks to the net. We need more traffic. We're getting boxed out. We've got to do a better job getting pucks to the net through that second layer."

Texas had its chances to get on the board with three power plays in the game. McCollum and the Griffins were aware of the Stars' prowess on the PP and "paid a lot of attention to it" in pre-scouting.

Grand Rapids executed when they had chances. Their first goal came directly off a defensive zone faceoff where Coach Laxdal noted they took advantage of young centerman Devin Shore. Andreas Atahansiou won the puck forward toward the net to Mark Zengerle, who scored uncontested by a skater.

The Stars and Griffins combined for 36 shots in the second period with Texas trailing 1-0 after 40.

The visitors added another early in the third to set the final score at 2-0, a quick shot that the referee didn't even register as a goal at first.

Texas was unable to convert anything with the extra attacker. Many of their best chances came in the high-shooting second, but McCollum smothered them all.

Coach Laxdal concluded, "Could we ask for more in certain areas? Maybe. But it was a good game."

Finally, the night was notable for Dallas Stars fans as it marked the first game action for Valeri Nichushkin in five months. The left winger had no points and was minus-1 on the scoresheet. However, those stats didn't tell the whole story. He was the best player on the ice for Texas most of the night, making strong plays look simple and effortless.

"For a player that hasn't played in five months, he's a special player. You can see how strong he is on the puck. For him to get through a game and feel good about himself, I think he'll be better tomorrow night."

Tomorrow's game will feature these two teams back at it again.

Tonight's lines:
Rallo-Morin-Hulak
Ranford-Dowling-Glennie
Nichushkin-Shore-Stransky
Troock-Smith-Henderson

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Bystrom, Valentine, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,079.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 27 2015