Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Few Exclusive Extra ATO Details That Didn't Make the Story on TheAHL.com

Derek Hulak (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
I hope you got a chance to read my AHL On the Beat article today about the Texas Stars amateur tryout players. There were a few snippets that didn't make the cut in the article for whatever reason that I wanted to share with blog readers exclusively:

  • I've mentioned a few times now that Devin Shore and Branden Troock were roommates during Development Camp. One other connection that Shore shared with me was that he stayed at Matt Mangene's apartment when he went on his official visit to the University of Maine three years ago.

  • One of the big advocates for bringing Derek Hulak to Texas was Willie Desjardins, who also attended the University of Saskatchewan. Hulak shared that when he arrived at practice his first day, Coach Desjardins told him that he'd streamed the whole CIS championship tournament from Texas, rooting for Hulak and the Huskies.

  • Hulak mentioned that Coach Desjardins won a lot of the same team awards that Hulak did to end his season at Saskatchewan. That set up a bit of a rivalry-in-jest between the two.

Branden Troock Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

Branden Troock celebrates a goal with Gemel Smith.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Every Thursday, 100 Degree Hockey will name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille features classic comfort food and Southern dishes less than five minutes from the Cedar Park Center. If you mention the Player of the Week or 100 Degree Hockey on your next visit to Lone Star Grille, your server will take $5 off your order of any two entrees.

Rookie Branden Troock has had quite a week. Quietly, Troock has been one of the best players on the Stars' squad. This week, he potted two goals and an assist, including the game winner in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Iowa. He's been defensively responsible, going plus-3 on the week, one for each point.

He's found a quick chemistry with Devin Shore, who also garnered strong consideration for the Player of the Week honor. Shore and Troock were roommates at the past three Dallas Stars development camps and seem to have carried that connection with them onto the ice.

Troock began the year as a fourth liner and even spent some time in the ECHL in early November. Since then, he's found a groove and parlayed that into solid third line time. There is a lot to like in his game. He's a big physical winger, but he clearly also has a knack for scoring goals when called upon. Going out on a limb, I could see him acting as a net front guy next year for the Stars' power play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Texas Finishes Strong Road Trip with 4-3 Win in Iowa

Texas closed their four-game road trip strong with a 4-3 victory in Iowa this evening. The game was the only action in the AHL this evening, allowing Texas to collect two points and put themselves just three points behind the IceHogs for fifth place.

Derek Hulak had an excellent night with a goal and an assist, and Devin Shore collected his second pro goal. The power play scored, and the PK held the Wild scoreless on the man advantage. Texas finishes their road trip with six of a possible eight points.

Texas appeared to have the opening goal in the game off a wrist shot by Cameron Gaunce that was tipped in front. The tip was a high stick and was instantly waved off by the officiating crew. A few minutes later, Iowa collected the actual first goal of the night. Zack Mitchell potted his 16th of the year on a cram play at the net. He collected the puck off Jack Campbell's left pad and backhanded it home.

Joel Chouinard put Iowa up 2-0 in the second with a shot through traffic that beat the Stars' defenses. Less than a minute later, Scott Glennie generated a turnover and pass the puck to an on-rushing Derek Hulak. The rookie snapped the puck to the top-left corner with three Wild players closing in for the 2-1 score.

ATO Devin Shore scored his second professional goal just past the thirteen minute mark of the second period. The goal, which came off a slick pass by Julius Honka, was his first pro point not assisted or scored by Branden Troock.

On the power play late in the frame, Texas completed their demonstrative period with a goal from the captain. Maxime Fortunus got his ninth of the year with twenty seconds left before the intermission. The 'helmet violation' penalty, a new rule this season, was the first Texas has had for or against.

The Stars got an insurance goal late in the third to put the game away. Justin Dowling's initial shot came to the stick of Branden Troock on the rebound for the 4-2 mark. The Wild made it interesting late with a 6-on-5 goal to make it 4-3. Texas managed to keep Gustafsson in the net for much of the remainder of the game to ensure the win.

Texas returns home to play Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Valentine-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell
Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Meech, Henderson, Mangene, Root (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,650.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - March 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
31-19-13-1, 76 pts
#6 Western Conference
atIowa Wild
21-40-1-2, 45 pts
#15 Western Conference
March 24th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

The Stars will close out their road trip against the first club to be eliminated from the postseason this year. The Iowa Wild have just had a season to forget in all ways, shapes and forms. They fired their coach early on to try and spur the team, but there was no spark there. Case in point, since these two teams last played, Iowa has earned just one of a possible eight points. Texas has earned 12 of 14.

And that 12 of 14 mark was due entirely to a winning streak that started after the Stars' last game against the Wild. Texas would like to kick off another win streak with tonight's game as they look ahead to playing the #2 Grand Rapids Griffins for the first time at Cedar Park Center since last year's playoffs.

Games this year against Iowa have been weird for the Stars. It has felt like the team plays down to Iowa's level on occasion with a lot of one-goal games or two-goal games with an empty netter. It looks like Texas has its swagger back now and might be able to enforce its will on the weaker Wild. It would certainly be encouraging to see a big game from the Stars to close out the road trip against meager competition to say the least.

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

Wild Web Resources:
Website: iowawild.com
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild
Twitter: @IowaWildFish (former Stars PBP Josh Fisher)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Late Flurry Falls Short in 4-3 Texas Stars Loss in Rockford

The Stars seemed to have everything in hand early against the IceHogs in Illinois this afternoon. Up 2-0, their six game winning streak looked like it would be extended to seven. However, four quick goals by Rockford threw those plans into chaos.

In the end, those goals would be all the IceHogs needed. A late rally by the Stars fell short. Branden Troock and Devin Shore stayed hot, hooking up for another goal on the season in the third period.

The usually stout PK allowed two, one of which was a 5-on-3 goal. The power play was also held scoreless for the first time in three games.

Jack Campbell finished the game with 33 saves and his first loss of March.

Here's the release:
It was a photo finish at the end, but the Texas Stars saw their season-high six-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday evening in a 4-3 loss to the Rockford IceHogs at BMO Harris Bank Center in front of 5,571 in attendance to close out the season series between both clubs.

Brandon Troock scored at 3:32 of the third period to pull Texas (31-19-13-1) within one. The Stars opted for the extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, but could not score the equalizer past Rockford’s Michael Leighton, who finished with 28 saves in the win for the IceHogs (37-19-5-2).

Texas closes out their four-game road trip on Tuesday against the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m.

It was an offensive first period as both teams combined for five goals, beginning with Texas scoring a pair just over a minute apart. Justin Dowling tapped home a crossing feed from Brendan Ranford at 7:07 for his 17th of the season and Greg Rallo snapped home his team-leading 22nd of the year from the slot at 8:11 off an assist by Jamie Oleksiak.

After that, Rockford responded with three unanswered to close out the opening frame. Brandon Mashinter put the Hogs on the board at 9:27 on the power play. Dennis Rasmussen knotted the game at 12:05, and Mark McNeill made it a 3-2 lead for the Hogs with two minutes remaining.

In the second, Rockford took control on a 5-on-3 power play with an easy tap-in goal for Spencer Abbott at 10:16 to make it a 4-2 lead and that was all the offense the Hogs would need.

Jack Campbell saw his personal four-game win streak come to a close despite a 33-save effort in net for Texas.

The Stars finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play while Rockford went 2-for-7. It was the first time in three contests the Stars failed to score a power play goal.

Despite the loss, Texas maintains their hold on sixth place in the AHL’s Western Conference by three points over the Milwaukee Admirals.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

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

Tonight's attendance was 5,571.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - March 22 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
31-18-13-1, 76 pts
#6 Western Conference
atRockford IceHogs
36-19-5-2, 79 pts
#5 Western Conference
March 22nd at 4:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

Can Texas continue their improbable streak this afternoon in Rockford with their seventh straight win? Jack Campbell will be key to the chances of that as Texas looks for his fifth straight win since returning from the ECHL.

The IceHogs have a different look since the last time these two clubs faced off. Some moves by the Blackhawks moved TJ Brennan and Klas Dahlbeck out of the lineup. That hasn't changed much for their winning ways. Since these two last played, Texas is 6-0-1 and the Hogs are 4-1-1. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, it is entirely possible this is a first round playoff matchup in the 4v5 match.

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

Website: icehogs.com
Blog (unofficial): Rockford IceHogs Fan Blog
Twitter: @goicehogs

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jack Campbell Huge Again in Stars' Sixth Straight Win

The buzzsaw that is the Texas Stars continued its devastation in Milwaukee Saturday night. The Stars earned their sixth straight win to push themselves to 76 points on the season and further entrench themselves among the postseason-bound clubs. The Admirals made a late-game push to come close but an empty net goal ended up being the difference in the 4-3 final score.

Jack Campbell was a huge part of the victory, sustaining 41 shots against and stopping 38 of them for his fourth win in March. His monthly stats now stand at an absurd 1.57 GAA and 0.958 SV%. The most significant part of the stretch of wins has been the competition. Milwaukee and Chicago are both teams in the playoff hunt and the wins have been convincing. This team is finally clicking on all cylinders, and it's dangerous for other clubs.

Also of note, Devin Shore scored his first professional goal.

Here's the release:
Jack Campbell stopped 38 shots on the night and the Texas Stars withstood a final push at the end to hold on for a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in front of 13,088 in attendance, and extend their winning streak to six games.

It was a chaotic finish to the game as Milwaukee closed the gap to 3-2 with just under two minutes to play off a goal by Austin Watson. Scott Glennie added an empty-net, power play goal for the Stars with a minute to play, but Milwaukee made it a one-goal game again with a goal in front by Mark Van Guilder just 16 seconds later. Texas (31-18-13-1) held on during one final push from the Admirals (32-34-5-4) for Campbell to earn his fourth consecutive win and seventh of the season.

The Stars continue their road trip on Sunday when they visit the Rockford IceHogs at 4 p.m.

Campbell saved his best for last, stopping 17 shots in the third period alone and 34 through the final forty minutes of play. Texas opened up a 3-1 lead on the Admirals through the first two periods as Greg Rallo connected on a one-timer from the left circle at 10:27 of the first to make it 1-0, Stars. Kevin Fiala quickly responded for Milwaukee just over four minutes later on his ninth of the season, but Devin Shore answered right back for Texas at 15:17 of the frame from the slot for his first career goal.

Derek Meech tallied assists on both Texas goals in the first, and now sits on 199 points in his pro career.

In the second, Max Fortunus pushed the Texas lead to two off a wrist shot from the point at 2:59 unassisted. As both teams were skating through a scoreless third period, the drama was set up for the final two minutes of regulation where both teams traded goals in the frantic finish.

Texas stayed hot on the power play going 2-for-4. Milwaukee's offensive struggles continued finishing 0-for-6 on the man-advantage, and now 0-for-35 over their past nine games.

Milwaukee's Magnus Hellberg suffered the loss going 19 of 22 in net.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

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

Tonight's attendance was 13,088.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Milwaukee - March 21 2015