Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Texas Stars Find Success in Overtime Against Barons, 5-4

Justin Dowling scored the game-winner early in OT to secure two points
Justin Dowling (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Another overtime game against the Barons saw a different result for the home team Texas Stars as they triumphed in the extra session by a 5-4 mark tonight in Cedar Park. In the back-and-forth game, the Stars did not hold a lead until the final goal of the game in overtime, coming back from three separate deficits to match the Barons and tie the game.

"You can't take anything away from OKC," said Coach Laxdal. "They are a great team and have great team speed. They can strike pretty quick."

In the end, it was Justin Dowling with a quick strike to end things in the overtime period. Texas found itself on the power play to start overtime and cashed in for their third PPG on six opportunities in the contest.

"Obviously there was a lot of room out there," said Dowling. "We were trying to keep the puck moving and try to get it on net. Klingberg probably could have shot that. He had the whole lane, but he made a great pass."

Despite the win, Coach Laxdal definitely indicated he was not happy with the goals against numbers for Texas so far this season.

"You've gotta look at goaltending," said Laxdal. "I don't think it was Jack [Campbell]'s best game. We're giving up under 25 [shots]. We shouldn't give up more than 2 goals at home."

Laxdal further pointed out that his team's defensive zone coverage has "a lot of work to do." The club is giving up 3.17 goals against per game so far this season.

This short series against OKC has proven that they are a team to contend with this season.

"Their goalies are stepping in and doing a great job," concluded Dowling. "We put up 45 shots today. When you're putting up lots of shots, you expect them to go in. Their goalies have played well, and their power play is unbelievable."

OKC struck early in the first period twice to take a 2-0 lead by the ten minute mark of the opening frame. Jordan Oesterle and Iiro Pakarinen each collected a goal, Pakarinen's on the power play. Needing to break the momentum, Texas got a lucky goal off a shot that Brett Ritchie didn't even claim was a shot. It was his first of the season.

"I've had a lot of shots and chances, but I knew if I stuck to it one would go in," said Ritchie.

The Stars tied it on the power play with Maxime Fortunus' bomb from the top of the circle. It was his first of the season as well. Ryan Hamilton answered right back on the power play for OKC, taking the score to 3-2. The goal was called on review after it actually broke through the netting of the goal. The Stars took a few more penalties just after the Barons PP goal, and it really took the energy out of the building.

Brendan Ranford would score surely one of the prettiest goals of his short career to get things to even after forty. A spin around shot that he roofed on Tuohimaa was greeted with mouths agape by many in the crowd. It wouldn't last long as Anton Lander took the wind out of Texas' sails just 14 seconds into the third, walking in on the Stars' defense and beating Campbell to go ahead 4-3.

"We lost our momentum in the second with all those penalties and came in flat in the third," said Ritchie. "There's no excuse to lay back. We had a few good shifts from a few lines in a row and it changed the tide."

Recent assignee Curtis McKenzie had been fighting the puck all night, it seemed, but won the battle when it mattered late in the third.

"I didn't think I had my best game to start," he said. "Getting back in the lineup, I was expecting too much out of myself early. It was nice to find it at the end of the game."

His power play goal from Travis Morin on a very nice tip took the game to OT. As Texas pushed late in the third, they drew a penalty against Jason Williams. With Williams in the box to start OT, the 4-on-3 unit beat Tuohimaa for the 5-4 final score.

Texas will not play OKC again until Thanksgiving. Now they head to Cleveland for a back-to-back set against the Lake Erie Monsters.

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

Fortunus-Wrenn
Meech-Klingberg
Gaunce-Honka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka (callup)
Troock, Peters, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 3,694.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - October 29 2014

Curtis McKenzie Back Tonight Against OKC

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have received Curtis McKenzie back from Dallas on assignment. The second-year forward played in just two games, which is actually more games than he's played for Texas. He will surely drop in on the top line with Travis Morin.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-1-1-0, 7 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
2-2-1-0, 5 pts
#11 Western Conference
October 29th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars clawed their way to a point last weekend against this Barons squad. Neither team has played since. Tonight's contest will end the mini-series between the two teams that saw them play four games against each other in the first three weeks of the season. The teams will not play again until they match up for two games bracketing Thanksgiving next month.

Texas has been high-flying on offense, scoring 3.2 goals per game. Part of the problem in that is the other side of the coin. Last year, Texas paired a 3.6 goals per game offense with a 2.6 goals per game defense. It's early, but the Stars are allowing 3 goals per game on average. If you take out the shutout against Utica, those nummbers bounce to an even 3.75 both ways. Granted its early in the season, but it's a troubling trend. A defense that can score is great, but it also needs to defend. It's unclear if the Stars have a shutdown pair that they can really roll out with any regularity. Nemeth was that shutdown guy last year and now he's in Dallas (and on the IR). In his place, Texas has Julius Honka, who is gifted offensively but doesn't have the size to be a nasty defenseman like Nemeth.

One thing that isn't helping that overall goals against number is the penalty kill, which is not having success and getting a lot of chances to practice. The raw numbers are not great, an 80% kill rate. While the number of 25 times shorthanded doesn't seem bad when you look at the whole league, if you take that on a 'per game' basis, Texas is #6 in the league in penalty kills per game. Also they're allowing a PPG per game. That's not a winning formula in the slightest. Is it possible that the aforementioned lack of a shutdown pairing is making the team take more penalties because they are getting beat? It's something to watch tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog: Tend the Farm
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Did the Texas Stars Black Aces Get on the Ice for the Calder Cup Celebration?

This was a fun story that got missed in the shuffle of all the end of year stuff last season. Goalie Josh Robinson tells the story of how the Texas Stars' black aces made it onto the ice (in full gear) for the Calder Cup celebration.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Frenetic Stars Comeback Cut Short By OKC in OT

Travis Morin hat trick spoiled in overtime by visitors
Travis Morin celebrates a goal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars mini-series against the Barons is not turning out as well as last year's playoff matchup. Through three games, OKC has taken two of the contests and lit up the Stars offensively in the process. Despite a four point night from their leading scorer, Travis Morin, including a hat trick, the Stars ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 OT score after trailing by three in the third period.

"It's tough to lose it when you expend a lot of energy in the third period to get back from a 5-2 deficit," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "You have to give the guys credit. That's a big point you didn't have going into the third period."

By the end of the first period, the Stars were down by two. At the end of the second, it was a three goal margin. Yet still the club found itself in overtime thanks to the efforts of vets Travis Morin and Greg Rallo.

"We obviously weren't happy with the first two periods," said Morin. "We wanted to push the pace and the tempo and throw everything at them."

A shift at forward to put Derek Hulak on a line with Morin and Brendan Ranford immediately bore fruit. Hulak had the primary assist on two goals in the first five minutes to set the difference at just one.

"When it gets down to one goal there in the last few minutes, that's the time to send everything really. We were doing whatever we could to try to get two points."

Greg Rallo tucked it under the crossbar from the left wing side with just 1.9 seconds left in regulation.

After the dry scrape, the Stars and Barons made it to 3-on-3 OT for the first time this season. It was Matt Ford of OKC scoring there on a 2-on-1 play for the win.

Coach Laxdal summarized the game saying that his club needed to tighten up defensively and get better on special teams.

While Texas had the opening goal of the game, they gave it back almost immediately. Travis Morin scored through the screen of Brendan Ranford for the 1-0 mark. Just as quickly, Dillon Simpson slapped one through traffic for his fist goal of the season.

OKC continued their march on the power play with a slick strike from the left wing circle by Andrew Miller. An odd man rush a few minutes later would make it 3-1 for the visitors. A tough defensive shift out of Julius Honka led to the Barons' fourth goal. He was unable to navigate a clear which out Texas on its heels.

The Stars got a power play at the midpoint of the period, a spot where they pretty much had to have a goal to stay in it. From the right point, Derek Meech did that just as the advantage expired. Unfortunately, Anton Lander scored on the backhand on a breakaway to kill the momentum for Texas and put OKC back at their three goal lead.

"You have to have a huge bump shift there," said Laxdal. "You have to have big saves at the right time in the game and the line that goes out there has to know this is a big shift to gain some energy."

Travis Morin's aforementioned heroics brought down the hats at the five minute mark of the third and set up a frenetic final fifteen minutes of regulation.

Going 6-on-5 for 99 seconds, the Texas Stars found the game tying goal off the assist of Travis Morin. It was a nice cross-ice pass by Morin that found Rallo and gave him a shot at the net with just a few seconds remaining.

The Stars went to OT and then 3-on-3 OT. Laxdal chose a two forward look.

"Our forwards were creating a lot of energy and we taxed our defenseman in the third."

Ford got the best of Texas for the 6-5 final.

Texas plays OKC again on Wednesday.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Glennie
Ritchie-Dowling-Henderson
Rallo-Faksa-Stransky
Smith-Peters-Hulak

Klingberg-Meech
Wrenn-Fortunus
Gaunce-Honka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Troock, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 6,080.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - October 25 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-1-0-0, 6 pts
#3 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
1-2-1-0, 3 pts
#13 Western Conference
October 25th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Same teams, but Texas hoping for not the same result. Texas needs to look out for Jason Williams and Iiro Pakarinen. The two newcomers to the squad combined for 5 points last night. Old hand Tyler Pitlick had 3 as well.

One would assume Jussi Rynnas gets the start for Texas while Laurent Brossoit laces them up in net for OKC. No morning skate today for either team because of the long travel (by bus) to get here today. Last weekend, Texas arrived into Cedar Park at 4:30 AM after their Friday night game in Bricktown. At least this time both teams will have the same plight.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog: Tend the Farm
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Friday, October 24, 2014

Barons' Three Goal Second Period Too Much for Texas Stars

The Texas Stars could not overcome a three-goal second period from the Oklahoma City Barons and suffered their first loss on the young season. The final score was 5-3 for the home team Oklahoma City.

Texas was plagued by ill-timed penalties that broke up momentum and gave the Barons two power play goals. Jack Campbell took his first loss of the season, giving up five goals on 26 shots. Goal scorers for the Stars in the contest included defensemen Cameron Gaunce and John Klingberg. Travis Morin picked up his 200th AHL assist and 300th AHL point in the loss.

The game showed that Jason Williams and Iiro Pakarinen are going to be tough competitors for the Barons this season. OKC will play Texas a total of twelve times this season.

The Texas Stars appeared to be ready to continue their undefeated ways in the first period, putting 16 shots on net. The period ended tied at one anyways. A slap pass by Keith Aulie was redirected by Jason Williams for his team-leading fourth goal of the year by the Barons. As the period was ending, Cameron Gaunce's shot from the point blew by Frans Tuohimaa with Brendan Ranford in close to cause havoc. Morin was the only assist on the goal, his 200th AHL assist and 300th AHL point.

The second period collapse for Texas began on the penalty kill. With Gemel Smith serving a too many men penalty, Iiro Pakarinen got a one-timer off the pass from Jason Williams and went up 2-1. Just 28 seconds later, Curtis Hamilton's goal off a 3-on-2 rush by the Barons made it 3-1.

William Wrenn, in his first game of the season, attempted to rally the troops with a spirited fight against Travis Ewanyk. It wouldn't work as Tyler Pitlick snapped in a rebound for his first goal of the year at 11:20. Williams had another assist on the play.

The Stars would break up the run on Jack Campbell with a goal of their own in the last two minutes of the second. John Klingberg found twine down low with assists to Justin Dowling and Brett Ritchie.

The third period would bring another power play goal for OKC's Pakarinen. Straight off the faceoff win by Anton Lander, the rookie found his fourth on the young season.

Things got a little wild late as Steve Pinizzotto went to fight Taylor Peters after a stoppage of play. He picked up a five minute major for cross-checking in the kerfuffle and gave the Stars a huge chance to even things up. Travis Morin took advantage of the opportunity, snapping one past Tuohimaa to make it 5-3. Derek Laxdal pulled Jack Campbell to make it 6-on-3. It wouldn't yield rewards as Texas ended the game with the same two goal deficit.

These same two teams will hit the road and play in Cedar Park tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Ritchie
Smith-Dowling-Glennie
Henderson-Faksa-Stransky
Rallo-Peters-Troock

Klingberg-Meech
Wrenn-Fortunus
Gaunce-Honka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Hulak, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 2,582.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - October 24 2014