Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Texas Stars Add Dallas Pick Branden Troock on ATO

(Credit: Dallas Stars)
The Texas Stars have signed Dallas draft pick Branden Troock to an amateur tryout agreement this afternoon. The fifth round pick in the 2012 draft just completed his major junior career with the Seattle Thunderbirds after they fell in the second round of the WHL playoffs to the Kelowna Rockets. Earlier today, the right winger signed a three-year entry level contract with the Dallas Stars.

Troock really busted out of his shell this season for Seattle, scoring a point per game in the regular season (24+34=58). He added four goals and three assists in nine playoff games. He was limited in prior seasons due to serious hand and neck injuries that cut his games played to just 19 in the 2012-13 season.

Troock will join the team in Oklahoma City. I do not expect he will play, however. Texas has a chance to hold OKC out of the playoffs with a win, so they are likely to bring their best squad.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has signed right wing Branden Troock to an amateur tryout contract.

Troock, 20, recently completed his fourth season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, finishing third on the team with 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists) and 69 penalty minutes in 58 games played. The Edmonton, Alberta was tied for the team lead in goals (4) and tied for second in points (7) during the 2014 WHL Playoffs, as he helped Seattle reach the Western Conference Semifinals before being swept by the Kelowna Rockets. Troock played in 144 career WHL games and registered 101 career points (45 goals, 56 assists) and 175 penalty minutes. The six-foot-three, 195-pound right wing was drafted by Dallas in the fifth round (134th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Stars earlier today. Troock represented Canada at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 World Championships in the Czech Republic, helping Canada win a bronze medal, beating Finland 5-4 in the bronze medal game.

AHL's Heat Leaving Abbotsford Amid Financial Losses, Attendance Issues

(Credit: Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat)
In a press conference this morning, the city of Abbotsford, the NHL's Calgary Flames and the Abbotsford Heat announced that the Heat would no longer play in Abbotsford. Following the conclusion of the AHL playoffs this season, the Heat will relocate to a destination still to be determined.

The general consensus is that the destination will be Glens Falls, New York, the current home of the Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms will be relocating to Allentown, Pennsylvania, next year, leaving a vacancy at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Officials from the Calgary Flames, the Heat's parent club, had meetings in Glens Falls in the last two weeks. All signs point to the team moving much further east and another definite realignment for the league this summer.

The Heat lasted five years in the league at their far western outpost. They entered the league the same year as the Texas Stars. The main contributing factor to their demise was a badly structured deal with the city. Essentially, the city agreed to keep the team in the black financially, making up any losses that they felt each year. With the Heat in the bottom five of attendance league-wide for four of their five seasons in BC, the city was estimated to have paid CDN $5.24 million (USD $4.77 million) to the team to keep them afloat. The city will pay a buyout fee of CDN $5.5 million, which is half of their estimated CDN $11 million losses for the remaining five years on the contract.

Ryan Pinder, former play-by-play broadcaster for the Heat, also points out that attendance was probably hurt by having the team branded so heavily to match the Flames while placing them inside the geographic fanbase of a traditional rival, the Vancouver Canucks. If the Heat were affiliated with the Canucks, this might have been a different story. Maybe that comes to pass sometime in the future but not this year.

Travel costs certainly did not help the team, whose closest matchup was over a thousand miles away. There was a chance at a reprieve last year as the Peoria Rivermen considered a move to Seattle, but that did not materialize. The arena was deemed to be 'unavailable' for an AHL tenant at the time. They were holding out for a deal that never came in the form of the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes.

All this puts an interesting spin on a story that continues to bubble to the surface every few months, the possibility of an AHL Pacific or Western Division. At one point, it appeared Abbotsford was a foothold into the start of that strategy. Now it appears those plans will have to wait. Cities in mix could include new markets Seattle, Sacramento, and San Diego, and existing ECHL markets Ontario, Bakersfield and Salt Lake City. The Abbotsford Heat prove that such a move cannot happen piecemeal. In order to do it within the next few years, several teams will have to be uprooted from the East and hauled out West all at once. That's going to be painful.

Chaparral Ice Announces Temporary Closure to Replace Ice Surface

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Chaparral Ice, the home of Austin's only public full-sized sheet of ice, announced today in an email to their customers that they will be closed for all on-ice activities for two weeks in late May to completely remove and replace their ice surface. The closure will run from May 23rd until June 5th.

The ice surface at Chaparral Ice has not been completely re-done in several years and is far overdue for a replacement. Years of skating and resurfacing have made the red lines, blue lines and faceoff dots difficult to see for players. Further, the ice that sees the most public skating traffic, the edges of the rink, have been scraped up repeatedly, leading to rough conditions in those spots.

Austin previously had three full-sized sheets before the closure of the Chaparral Ice facility on I-35. The Pond Hockey facility on United Ave, which has a smaller 'pond-sized' rink of 150 feet by 70 feet, will be open during this closure. A full-sized rink is 200 by 85 feet. Cedar Park Center is also used for some amateur adult league games when it is available.

This could present some issues if the Stars make it to the third or final round of the playoffs. The Cedar park Center calendar is pretty crowded around then with Disney on Ice May 21-25 and high school graduations May 30-31. The Stars use Chaparral to practice when the Cedar Park Center is unavailable. When you combine that with when the Stars will play the actual games during those stretches, there is an incoming logistical nightmare here if Texas makes it that far into the playoffs.

Here is the email:
Chaparral Ice will be closed for all on-ice activities from Friday, May 23, through Thursday, June 5, for a planned major maintenance project.

It is standard procedure for all rinks to completely remove and replace their ice surface every few years. As we have been the only year-round provider of ice in Austin for several years, we have hesitated to take this necessary break so as not to disrupt your individual skating and training needs. However, the time has come when this simply must be done.

The decision for when to perform this project was difficult and was not arrived at lightly. There is no time during the year when some who depend on our ice would not be affected by a closure. We regret any inconvenience this hiatus may cause you.

During the time our ice is down, staff will be in the rink to attend to as many of your needs as possible, and our Chaparral Gear pro shop will be open for business. In-Person and Online Registration for all our programs, including summer camps, will continue as usual.

Check the website frequently for updates during the closure. If the project goes smoothly and quickly, we may be able to reopen before June 5. We look forward to continuing to serve your ice skating needs and will be ready to hit the ground running for an amazing summer!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Texas Star Curtis McKenzie Named AHL Rookie of the Year

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The AHL announced today that Curtis McKenzie has been named the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award winner, awarded to the league's top rookie. McKenzie stormed the league with a 26 goal, 38 assist campaign that isn't over yet. He has resided in the top ten of scoring for most of the season despite his rookie status and has anchored the wing of the league's top power play and top line all year.

"That wasn't the role I thought I was going to play, certainly not to this extent," McKenzie said this weekend after scoring his first professional hat trick in San Antonio. "I had confidence in myself that I could come in and be an impact player for the team, but I definitely didn't think about anything like All-Rookie teams or anything like that coming into this year."

After a four year college career where he scored a total of 80 points in 158 games, McKenzie has 64 points in just 73 AHL games this season.

McKenzie deflected praise to his linemates, also fellow All-Stars, "A lot of it was the opportunity playing with Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour and on the first power play unit. We had a lot of success there. That gave me confidence in adjusting to this level."

(Credit: Darren Abate/AHL)
The sixth-round pick played just five games last season on an amateur tryout. He picked up an assist but was more noted for his fights. That led many to believe that would continue to be his role in the 2013-14 season. Coach Desjardins is frank in admitting he didn't know that McKenzie would turn into this sort of player when given the opportunity.

"It's not the kind of player I expected him to be when we started the year," said Desjardins. "We knew we'd get a good, hardworking player, maybe a guy who would grind a little and finish some checks for Morin and Sceviour. He's proved to have more skill than we thought he would early, and it's great for him. He's battled hard."

This marks the first individual end of season award for the Texas Stars franchise. McKenzie is one of several rookie of the month winners for Texas. McKenzie won the award in December 2013. Previous Texas winners include Reilly Smith and Jamie Oleksiak last season.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that left wing Curtis McKenzie has been voted the winner of the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL's outstanding rookie for the 2013-14 season. The award is voted on by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the league's 30 member cities.

McKenzie, a 2009 draft pick by the Dallas Stars, has recorded 26 goals and 38 assists for 64 points in 73 games for the league-leading Stars this season. McKenzie is currently tied for ninth overall in league scoring, and among AHL rookies he ranks first in points, assists, power-play points (33) and power-play assists (23); second in shots on goal (210) and tied for third in power-play goals (10). A 23-year-old native of Golden, B.C., McKenzie was the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for December, and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team last week. He made his pro debut with Texas at the end of the 2012-13 season following four seasons at Miami University.

Here is a link to a highlight package of McKenzie from this season, courtesy of SendtoNews.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1947, honors the late Dudley (Red) Garrett, a promising young player who lost his life during World War II while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy. Garrett split his only pro season, 1942-43, between the AHL's Providence Reds and the NHL's New York Rangers.

Previous winners of the Garrett Award include Terry Sawchuk (1949), Wally Hergesheimer (1951), Jimmy Anderson (1955), Bill Sweeney (1958), Roger Crozier (1964), Gerry Desjardins (1968), Rick Middleton (1974), Darryl Sutter (1980), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Steve Thomas (1985), Ron Hextall (1986), Brett Hull (1987), Felix Potvin (1992), Darcy Tucker (1996), Daniel Briere (1998), Rene Bourque (2005), Teddy Purcell (2008), Nathan Gerbe (2009), Tyler Ennis (2010), Luke Adam (2011), Cory Conacher (2012) and Tyler Toffoli (2013).

This is the first time in franchise history that a Texas Stars player has been selected as the AHL's Rookie of the Year and the fifth time a Texas Stars player has received a year-end AHL award. All previous selections have been for the AHL All-Star or All-Rookie teams. The first came last season when left wing Matt Fraser was selected to the 2012-13 AHL Second All-Star Team. Last week, McKenzie was selected to the 2013-14 AHL All-Rookie Team and Travis Morin and Colton Sceivour were both named to the 2013-14 AHL First All-Star Team.

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2013-14 regular season ends on Saturday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league's coveted championship trophy when the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stars End Busy Weekend With 1-0 Shootout Loss in San Antonio

Logan Shaw and Jack Campbell (Credit: Darren Abate/AHL)
After two games where they got a quick start and a win on the Rampage, the Stars fell in the shootout on the third game in three nights. It was the first time Texas has been shutout since December 20th, a 2-0 loss to the Barons in Oklahoma City. The game concluded a 'mini-playoff' series for the Stars and Rampage that saw them play three games in three nights all against each other.

"It was a tough series," said Coach Desjardins. "They've had a tough year and I have a lot of respect for them and the way they handled themselves. It would be easy for them to get frustrated and take that out on us. I thought they showed a lot of class and played hard. They deserved everything they got tonight."

Texas got two full minutes of 5-on-3 power play time in the overtime period followed by 1:37 of 4-on-3 time and could not score. The choppy ice was a factor, as the team had pucks bounce on them a lot as the third period and OT rolled on.

"The ice started to get choppy after the third," said Justin Dowling. "You don't want to blame it on the ice though. Passes have to be crisper and more deliberate."

Thanks to the 0-0 score after 65 minutes, both Scott Clemmensen and Jack Campbell collected shutouts. It was Campbell's 4th shutout of the year and just his third loss of the year of any kind.

The loss broke up the Stars franchise-record eleven game winning streak. The shootout kept their point streak alive at twelve, tying a franchise-record. Justin Dowling and Mike Hedden had point streaks of seven and eight games, respectively, broken as well.

The single point ties them with Manchester on points. They have the games played tiebreaker to keep them ahead overall.

After the quick starts of the last two nights, tonight's first period was downright lethargic. Texas had two great chances in the period though. Derek Meech clinked one off the crossbar early on. The play went to a review to make sure it hadn't gone in and the original no-goal call was confirmed. A few minutes later Matej Stransky beat Clemmensen blocker side but found the post on the far side. Texas outshot San Antonio eight to seven in the first.

The Stars poured on the shots in the second period to no avail. Their best chance was a two-on-one by Brendan Ranford and Travis Morin. Morin dished to Ranford on the right wing side. Scott Clemmensen showed his NHL stop with a sprawling double pad stack to take away the low options and a glove hand grab to stop the opportunity cold. Things amped up in the third period as the Rampage outshot the Stars 13-8 in the frame. Jyrki Jokipakka, of all people, picked up two for roughing as the physicality and intensity picked up. Jack Campbell had a glorious save late in a penalty kill.

Curtis McKenzie had a goal waved off in the frame as the referee indicated he had played it into the net with his hand.

"McKenzie says he didn't punch it in and obviously we're siding with him, but who knows?" said Dowling.

The overtime period brought some man-advantage oddities. Mike Mottau took a slash 70 seconds into the overtime. After the play was called dead, Ryan Whitney slapped away the fallen stick in frustration and got an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

"I wasn't expecting that," said Dowling. "I didn't think they were going to call anything. It was just the heat of the moment."

That gave Texas a strange 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes with the game on the line. The Stars stayed in the zone with the first power play unit the entire two minutes but could not find the net past Scott Clemmensen. As that penalty ended, the Stars got another power play with Zanon off for cross-checking. The second power play unit loaded up and could not score on the 4-on-3.

"We just have to find a way to score," said Desjardins. "But it happens sometimes. It's a big opportunity for us, and we just missed it."

Texas outshot the Rampage 4-0 in the OT frame, but the game went to the shootout. San Antonio shot first and got goals from Bobby Butler and Logan Shaw. Brendan Ranford went forehand to his backhand for the only Stars goal of the entire game. Shaw's five-hole bid was the ultimate winner.

The Stars face OKC on the road on Wednesday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Sceviour, Jeffrey, Nemeth, Mueller (callup)
Guptill, Hulak, Vause, Gaunce (scratch)
Klingberg (injury)

Today's attendance was 6,796.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 13 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
47-17-3-6, 103 pts
#1 Western Conference
atSan Antonio Rampage
29-35-3-6, 67 pts
#14 Western Conference
April 13th at 4:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

What is there left to say at the finale of this mini-playoff series? The Stars are looking for their twelfth straight win and have the chance to seal the league's best record with a win and a Manchester loss.

Jack Campbell looks to be the starter today. John Klingberg is out today after getting injured in the first period last night. Toby Petersen is probably going to play as well.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour, Nemeth, Jeffrey, Mueller (call up)
Petersen (questionable)

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, April 12, 2014

Texas Clinches Top Seed With 8-4 Dismantling of Rampage

Texas needed two points to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference. They got them in the most vociferous of fashions with an eight-goal outburst in San Antonio tonight. Five of them were in the first ten minutes of the game. The win also extended the current win streak to eleven. Curtis McKenzie had his first professional hat trick. Travis Morin had a goal and three assists. Radek Faksa put in his first pro goal and added two assists to boot.

"Coming in tonight, we had first place on the line, so it was a big game for us," said McKenzie. "We wanted to have a good start. Tonight, we wanted to get the big lead and keep it going."

Coach Desjardins continued, "You always like to have a good start. It's great when they go in because they don't always. We're not playing as great throughout the game, but we're certainly having great starts.""

San Antonio didn't let up and put in four of their own as the night wore on. Coach Desjardins expanded, "San Antonio plays hard, and they just had bad breaks in the first. In the third, they didn't have the bad breaks and they were right there."

"They were really resilient," McKenzie elaborated. "They have a lot of good players on the team, and they play with a lot of pride. We know they weren't happy with their start."

Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and stopped 26 of 30 shots against. The Stars put their season point total at 103 and lowered their magic number for clinching the league's best record at three.

It didn't take long for the Stars to get on the board. Pressure down low by the fourth line put in the first tally of the night just 1:50 into the game. Kevin Henderson scored his eleventh of the season off the assist of Matej Stransky. On the right wing side, Henderson backhanded it gloveside on Michael Houser, beating him below the catcher. Radek Faksa had the second assist.

Texas got on the power play within the next minute as Mike Mottau took a slashing call and found himself confined from the herd. Maxime Fortunus blasted the puck from the point and got a nice tip from Curtis McKenzie in the high slot to make it 2-0. The Rampage wanted it waved off, insisting McKenzie had touched it above the crossbar. There is, of course, no review for that sort of play in the American League, so it was a fruitless.

Just over a minute after that, a strange play gave Texas the three goal lead and ended Michael Houser's night. Hubert Labrie had the hard shot from the red line in on the Rampage zone. It hit Ryan Whitney in the back of the leg, felling the veteran defenseman and allowing Radek Faksa to break in all alone. He beat Houser and scored his first professional goal on the play.

"We got some lucky breaks like Faksa's goal," said Desjardins. "He played hard and was smart defensively. He's made a big improvement over last year."

With Rob Madore in net, things kept steaming ahead for the visitors. With a delayed call coming against Bobby Butler for a slash, Travis Morin scored his 32nd of the year and tied Colton Sceviour's team lead. Two minutes later, Maxime Fortunus picked up his second point of the night with a goal from the point. This time, he needed no tip from the forwards as this one beat Madore five hole clean. Radek Faksa picked up his third point of the night on the play, Stranky his second. It was 5-0 Texas with 9:26 still left in the first period.

San Antonio began to battle back with a late period goal on the power play. After initially missing on the shot, Wade Megan sent it in on Nilstorp where it was hacked and slashed home by Joey Crabb. As the period ended, San Antonio coach Tom Rowe and Texas coach Willie Desjardins exchanged words. Rowe approached Desjardins and had to be separated by the refs. Rowe came to Desjardins as the second started and they appeared to end things amicably.

The Rampage continued the comeback bid in the second period with Bobby Butler finding a puck that had settled behind Cristopher Nilstorp in the crease after the initial shot from John Lee. The Stars got it back a few minutes later as Travis Morin banked the puck off a crashing Curtis McKenzie's skates.

McKenzie commented, "I think Morin was aiming for my stick there, and it was just a little behind. With Morin, you just have to go to the net hard. He knows how to make those plays and get the puck to the net."

Morin, McKenzie and Fortunus all registered their third points of the night on the 6-2 goal.

Justin Dowling added to the lead in the third period with his twelfth of the year. The goal extended Dowling's point streak to seven and Hedden's to eight. Brett Ritchie had the second assist.

The Stars let San Antonio back into the game as the period progressed. Cameron Gaunce attempted a pass out from behind the net that he missed on. Forechecking Garrett Wilson scored his second of the game easy with Nilstorp unready for the shot. Five minutes later, the Rampage scored shortside on Nilstorp after Texas thought San Antonio had been guilty of a hand pass. It was Wilson's third of the game.

With four minutes left, Rowe pulled Rob Madore to make it 6-on-5 for the rest of the game. Texas' Curtis McKenzie would score into the empty net with 17 seconds left to seal up his first professional hat trick on his 26th goal of the year.

The Stars play the Rampage in San Antonio again tomorrow in an afternoon game.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Sceviour, Jeffrey, Nemeth, Mueller (callup)
Meech, Hulak, Glennie, Wrenn, Petersen (scratch)

John Klingberg left the game in the first period with the trainer and did not return. Coach does not expect he will play tomorrow. Toby Petersen is expected in the lineup, however.

Today's attendance was 8,252.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 12 2014