Wednesday, January 28, 2015

AHL Expected to Announce 'Pacific' Division Thursday

Dave Andrews hands the AHL MVP award to Travis Morin at the final game
of the 2013-14 season. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
This appears to be the big one. The AHL has announced a press conference for tomorrow at 2:30 PM Central to make a 'major announcement' regarding the 2015-16 season. The press conference will take place at SAP Center in San Jose and will feature representatives from five NHL clubs all looking to move their AHL affiliates closer to the West coast. It is expected that this announcement will be the formation of the AHL's long-rumoured Pacific Division, which will relocate several franchises and move them to California locations that will place them closer to their NHL parents.

Representatives from the LA Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks will be on hand for the press conference.

San Jose has already announced they will relocate their affiliate, currently in Worcester, to San Jose for 2015-16. Adirondack (Calgary) and Manchester (LA) scheduled press conferences as well to make similar announcements. Adirondack is expected to move to Stockton, California, and Manchester to Ontario, California. Anaheim is set to purchase the Norfolk Admirals and move them to San Diego. The Oilers are heading to Bakersfield as well.

ECHL teams in many of those cities already are expected to head east and, in several cases, serve as drop-in replacements for the departing AHL teams.

Here's the release:
The American Hockey League will be making a major announcement related to the 2015-16 season on Thursday, January 29, at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

WHO:
David Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer – American Hockey League
Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner – National Hockey League
Michael Schulman, Chief Executive Officer – Anaheim Ducks
Bob Murray, Executive Vice President and General Manager – Anaheim Ducks
Brad Treliving, General Manager – Calgary Flames
Kevin Lowe, Vice Chair, Oilers Entertainment Group – Edmonton Oilers
Luc Robitaille, President, Business Operations – Los Angeles Kings
John Tortora, Chief Operating Officer – San Jose Sharks
Doug Wilson, General Manager – San Jose Sharks

WHEN:
Thursday, January 29, 2015 – 12:30 p.m. PT

WHERE:
Rinkside Room – SAP Center

Media wishing to attend the event should contact San Jose Sharks director of media relations Scott Emmert (semmert@sharkssports.net) for credentials. Lunch will be served following the press conference.

The press conference will be streamed live on theahl.com as well as on the websites of the participating teams.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Maxime Fortunus and West Prevail in Record-Setting 14-12 All-Star Game

Fortunus did not tally a point in the game. He had an amazing between-the-legs breakaway chance that was stopped though. Maybe he should be up for the shootout if Texas ever plays one of those games.

Here's the release:
Charles Hudon of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Brendan Leipsic of the Milwaukee Admirals and Mark McNeill of the Rockford IceHogs all recorded hat tricks to pace the Western Conference to a 14-12 victory over the Eastern Conference in the 2015 AHL All-Star Game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Monday evening.

The Western Conference earned a split of the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino following the East’s 15-11 win in Sunday’s Skills Competition.

Hudon, a 2012 draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s leading rookie scorer so far this season, added an assist for a four-point night and was named the co-winner of the Turning Stone Resort Casino Most Valuable Player award, sharing the honor with Western Conference goaltender Jacob Markstrom of the hometown Utica Comets. Markstrom, currently second in the AHL in goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.934), had the top performance by a goaltender in the game, stopping 16 of 18 shots in the first period.

The highest scoring game in All-Star history saw 26 goals scored by 17 different players. Rockford’s T.J. Brennan notched a goal and four assists, Chicago’s Ty Rattie picked up a goal and three assists, and Adirondack forwards Drew Shore and Emile Poirier added a goal and two assists apiece for the Western Conference.

Binghamton’s Shane Prince led the Eastern Conference offense with three goals and an assist; Norfolk’s Chris Wagner tallied a penalty-shot goal and added three assists; and Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin scored twice, notched an assist and recorded 10 of the East’s 59 shots on goal in the contest.

Goals were also scored by Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkkinen, Syracuse’s Jonathan Marchessault, Manchester’s Jordan Weal, Albany’s Joe Whitney, Springfield’s Austin Madaisky, Hartford’s Chris Bourque and Providence’s Alexander Khokhlachev.

The road to the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs continues when the American Hockey League’s 79th season resumes on Thursday.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fortunus Wins All-Star Accuracy Award, West Falls to East in Skills Competition

Texas' lone All-Star representative took home some hardware on Sunday night after tying wtih Chris Bourque in the Accuracy Competition. Maxime Fortunus, the captain of the West All-Stars, shot four targets in six shots to earn a point for the West in that competition.

Overall, the West lost 15-11. Fortunus also had a nice swooping backhander in the breakaway relay, which is embedded above.

Tomorrow's AHL All-Star Game is at 6 PM Central time and is on FOX Sports Southwest as well.

Travis Morin Will Not Participate In AHL All-Star Game

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
According to Coach Derek Laxdal, Travis Morin will not participate in the AHL All-Star skills competition and game today and tomorrow, respectively. The Stars' leading scorer sustained a lower body injury on Friday night and managed through the injury Saturday.

Maxime Fortunus will be the Stars' only representative at the All-Star game. It is unclear if any replacement would be named for Morin.

Fortunus and his family had a long day of travel today. He will participate in the skills competition tonight, which will be on FOX Sports Southwest this evening.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Texas Heads into All-Star Break with Big 5-4 Win Over Chicago

All-rookie third line makes huge contribution to Texas win
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas got back-to-back wins in a two game set at home for the first time all season with a big win against the Chicago Wolves tonight. The high-scoring 5-4 victory was powered in large part by the all-rookie third line of Jesse Root, Branden Troock and Eric Faille.

"Coach wanted our line to cause havoc on the ice, so we were high energy out there tonight," said Troock. "It's pretty easy to play with them, we roll really well. We've been drawing up some plays that have been working for us."

The biggest play for the trio came eleven seconds after Brendan Ranford tied the game for Texas in the second period. Jesse Root got his fourth of the year to put the Stars ahead for good.

"It was a big goal," said Root. "That's what you have to do in these games. Chicago is a great team, and they were making a push. That swung the momentum in our favor."

Coach Laxdal had asked for more from his third line and he said they "did exactly what we asked of them" in both games this weekend.

The Stars got on the board twice in the first, both thanks to their defensemen and traffic at the net. Cameron Gaunce struck first, an unlikely blast from the veteran blue liner. Justin Dowling set up the goal, which sailed in clear from the point.

On the power play, Julius Honka scored from the blue line as well. A nice pass from the low right wing side by Morin changed the angle enough for Honka to slip the puck in five hole on Binnington.

Honka gave it back later in the period of a giveaway that turned into a Chicago 2-on-1. Ty Rattie passed to Phil McRae, who beat Rynnas for the Wolves opening goal.

Pat Cannone finished off a quick play with a one-timer shot on bent knee from the wing side. The Wolves quickly changed the angle of attack from right wing to left and Cannone had an empty net.

Chicago went up 3-2 on a pinball play that saw Rynnas make the first and second saves but put the puck on the stick of McRae again. His unassisted tally came in the dying seconds of a penalty kill for the Stars. Julius Honka was in the box for a questionable boarding call.

The Stars comeback came quickly thereafter. On a power play of their own, Brendan Ranford competed the pass from Justin Dowling to the things. Just 11 seconds later, Jesse Root and the third line got the 4-3 tally as Root rushed in and put a shot on Binnington despite being draped by a Wolves defender.

The clubs traded goals in a high-flying third period. Curtis McKenzie opened the scoring with the net presence that the Stars had established all weekend. It was an easy tap-in for the forward after Jamie Oleksiak bombed a shot on net. Brendan Ranford passed the puck to the crease where McKenzie collected his fifth of the year.

Petteri Lindbohm made it interesting with 9 minutes left, taking the lead down to one for Texas. The Stars would persevere.

Texas now gets a required four days off. They will reconvene on Thursday for morning skate.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Mangene-Smith-Valentine
Troock-Faille-Root

Oleksiak-Fortunus
Honka-Meech
Gaunce-Jokipakka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ritchie (call up)
Stransky, Wrenn, Glennie, Peters (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,309.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - January 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
17-15-9-0, 43 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Chicago Wolves
21-16-4-1, 47 pts
#7 Western Conference
January 24th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Lather, rinse, repeat would be a nice formula for Texas against tonight. The Stars are looking to hit the All-Star break on a winning streak and can do that with a W against Chicago this evening. The Stars are in tenth place but are just four points behind the Wolves in seventh. Last night's victory put Texas in striking distance of the playoffs at the break. They could reach 8th with the win tonight.

Last night was a physical game for Texas. There's no reason to expect anything different this evening. Chicago has a lot of size, and they use it. When you combine that with the let-them-play style of officiating, it can get pretty intense out there pretty quickly.

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

Website: chicagowolves.com
Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves
Twitter: @theshaves (Wolves PxP)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Two Goals From Fortunus Power 3-2 Texas Victory Over Wolves

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars' two All-Star representatives had banner nights to help lead their team to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Wolves tonight in Cedar Park. Captain Maxime Fortunus scored two, and Travis Morin had two assists.

"We really needed to come out strong today," said Fortunus. "They're ahead of us in the standings and that's motivation enough to come out strong."

The game had a physical edge to it as referee David Banfield let the teams play a little more than normal. The Stars matched up well against the physicality of a big Wolves roster.

"Chicago has a couple lines with guys who play hard," said Coach Laxdal. "Our guys did a good job responding. It was a good game, a good game to watch."

Fortunus expanded, "They're a team that comes strong. They've got a coaching staff that likes to put the pressure on other teams. That shows through their play. That's one aspect of the game we want to get on to."

The game had an inauspicious start as Derek Hulak was dinged for four minutes on a high stick. The early power play is often more a negative than a positive for a club, and Texas took advantage of that.

Morin, a huge part of the Stars power play, hinted at the Wolves' mindset in the situation, "I personally don't like it when I get a power play before I've really touched the puck or taken a stride. When you come off the anthem and immediately go to the power play, it can be a little difficult, I think."

Texas held Chicago to a single shot in four minutes, an effort that Fortunus called "a big momentum builder."

The Stars cashed in first in the second period. Brendan Ranford had an electrifying finish to a pass from Morin right on the doorstep. He deked Binnington to tap it in backhand for the 1-0 lead. Curtis McKenzie got the second assist as Laxdal reunited the Stars top line from the Calder Cup playoffs last year.

Fortunus got his first of the night at even strength late in the second. With no one in the vicinity, he had plenty of time to wind up for a blistering slapshot from the right point. The net-front presence helped Texas get the goal.

"Net front presence was better," said Laxdal. "It wasn't great but better. It was something we talked about after the San Antonio game. You've got to go to the front of the net."

Chicago pulled to within one with a goal late in the second on the power play, a point shot of their own.

Texas regained their two-goal lead in the third period with the seventh goal of the year and second of the night for Fortunus. This time it was Curtis McKenzie on the net front presence, tying up two Wolves to screen out Jordan Binnington.

The best 'almost' chance of the period came as Binnington robbed Branden Troock on a two-on-one. The rookie forward got the shot off but found the glove of Binnington off the pass from Eric Faille. It was a well-executed play by Troock, Faille and Jesse Root, and Coach Laxdal praised the group for the effort.

The Stars had a chance at the empty net late but couldn't convert thanks to a strong Wolves backcheck. Shane Harper got a late goal to make the final 17 seconds interesting, but Texas held on for the win.

The same Wolves stay in town to play Texas again tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Mangene-Smith-Stransky
TroockFaille-Root

Oleksiak-Fortunus
Honka-Meech
Gaunce-Jokipakka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ritchie (call up)
Valentine, Wrenn, Glennie, Peters (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,443.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - January 23 2015