Friday, October 31, 2014

Texas Assigns Branden Troock to Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the addition of Valeri Nichushkin and the return of Greg Rallo to health, Branden Troock has become the odd man out and is heading to Idaho for some time with the Steelheads.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have assigned forward Branden Troock to their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Troock, 20, has appeared in four games this season for the Stars with an assist. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward made his debut last season for the Stars appearing in one regular season and one playoff game for the club.

The Stars are currently on the road to face Lake Erie in a pair of games this weekend tonight and Saturday.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
4-1-1-0, 9 pts
#6 Western Conference
atLake Erie Monsters
2-4-0-1, 5 pts
#13 Western Conference
October 31st at 6:30 PM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

The Texas Stars hit the road for their first true road trip of the season, a jaunt to northern Ohio to face the Lake Erie Monsters. Back-to-back contests starting tonight against the Monsters will be the only visit to Cleveland for the Stars this year.

The Stars come in having won a game in overtime against the Barons after dropping two in a row against the same squad. Their four wins are not good enough for tops in the division, but most of that is due to the number of games played. The Stars have the best win percentage in the division right now at .750. Travis Morin leads the entire league in points with five goals and seven assists.

Lake Erie is having a rough start to the season. After winning their opening game against Grand Rapids by a 4-0 score, they dropped their next three by a combined score of 14-4. Part of that floundering was due to the recall of top goalie Calvin Pickard to Colorado. Roman Will took two losses in his absence, allowing 11 goals on 58 shots against. The Monsters got another win against Grand Rapids but come into tonight's game on a two-game skid. They lost in Milwaukee and Rockford last weekend. The team finished a five game road trip with those losses and will play just their second home game of the year against Texas today.

Returning vet Mike Sgarbossa leads the team in points with six assists. Undrafted forward Andrew Agozzino is chief among five players tied at four points. No Monster has more than two goals on the season so far.

One interesting note for longtime Texas Stars fans is the inclusion of Maxim Noreau on the roster. Noreau, of course, played in Houston for four years, including two overlapping with the Stars franchise in Cedar Park. He was not re-signed by the Wild and headed to Europe for several years. Rather oddly, the Avalanche signed the defenseman to a one-way, two-year deal this summer. He is making $625,000 a year in Lake Erie or Colorado and currently has three points in five games for the Monsters.

Last point to note is that this could be the AHL debut of Valeri Nichushkin, who was assigned on conditioning yesterday. We will have to wait for morning skate to learn more.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka (callup)

Website: lakeeriemonsters.com
Blog (unofficial): Cleveland Plain Dealer
Twitter: @monstershockey

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dallas Assigns Valeri Nichushkin to Texas Stars For Conditioning Stint

Dallas' 2013 first round pick Valeri Nichushkin has been assigned to the Texas Stars on a conditioning stint. The young Russian, who is in his second professional year in North America, went on the injured reserve early in the NHL season and has not played since October 11th.

It was a possibility that Nichushkin would be assigned for last year's playoffs, but after a long year of more than 100 games, he needed a summer off. This year, he injured his groin and is coming to Texas for a few games to get back up to speed.

With the assignment, Texas now has five Dallas first-round picks on the roster. It is unclear if Nichushkin will still be on the roster when the Stars return home on Wednesday for their game against Toronto. It's most likely he will play against Lake Erie this weekend and then head back to help the NHL squad.

This is certainly the highest profile conditioning assignment for Texas in franchise history. Other prior assignees include Mark Fistric, Toby Petersen, Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today forward Valeri Nichushkin has been assigned to the team for a conditioning assignment.

Texas is currently on the road to face the Lake Erie Monsters in a pair of games this weekend.

The 19-year-old Nichushkin (nih-CHOOSH-kihn) has appeared in two games this season with the Stars. Last season as a rookie, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound forward tallied 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games for Dallas.

Nichushkin was selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas (10th overall).

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.