Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Case for More AHL Cross-Conference Play

Jordie Benn works to control Syracuse's Patrick Maroon behind the net on March 11th. Syracuse is the only East Conference team that Texas played this season. (Credit: Syracuse Crunch)
Today the AHL will start announcing year-end individual awards, beginning with the all-rookie team and ending with the MVP award on Friday, April 8th. Texas Stars fans are probably going to see a lot of names that they don't recognize in the award winner and nominee lists. To be fair though, it isn't your fault, and you aren't alone.

Take, for example, the Norfolk Admirals. They play no games against Western Conference opponents. What chance does the average Norfolk fan have to recognize excellent West Conference goaltenders like Richard Bachman, Mark Dekanich or Eddie Lack? Can the average Stars fan name a single player on the Norfolk Admirals roster? The Connecticut Whale? The Manchester Monarchs?

It's not just the fans. In putting together my awards ballot as the Texas Stars media representative, it was difficult to give all of the players a fair shake. How can I judge a player's season based on a stat line alone? I have heard many of these names all season, but I haven't seen those players play the game. I feel that perverts the system.

The same cuts both ways here as well. Tim Leone, who does a great job covering the Hershey Bears for The Patriot-News, said as much in his recent post handicapping the awards races:
"Admittedly, there is some voodoo and stat-sheet reading involved in the process because we don’t get to personally see every team in the league."
He then went on to give his selections for the winners of each award. All of the winners, with the exception of Bryan Helmer from Oklahoma City but formerly of Hershey, were from the East Conference.

The obvious solution to this issue is to take the NHL's methodology and have every team play each other every year, alternating home and away. There has been a lot of electronic ink spilled on the topic by AHL writers on both sides. Personally, I feel the onus is on the East Conference to begin travelling more.

If you just look at a map, the spread-out nature of the West Conference geographically gives them a harder season. The Binghamton Senators, for example, have nine teams within four hours driving distance to their home arena. They play 27 of their forty away games against these teams. Another three teams are under five hours away. Texas, by contrast, has only 11 games within a five hour drive. Manitoba's nearest opponent is Milwaukee, 13 hours away, so every road trip is by plane.

It is a situation that likely has no solution until the league mandates the schedule make-up for teams. Right now, there is no evenness. Texas plays Houston 12 times a season but has yet to play against Rochester, a West Conference team, in the history of the franchise. Given that Texas and other Western Conference teams travel to nearby teams like Toronto and Hamilton already, it surely doesn't seem like West Conference teams are the ones holding up cross-conference play.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lukowich Named Stars' AHL Man of the Year Finalist

Stars' captain Brad Lukowich (Credit: Ron Byrd)
The Texas Stars announced yesterday that Brad Lukowich is the team's finalist for the AHL Man of the Year award. The press release below details all of the good work he has done in the community. Last year's winner was Landon Wilson, for reference.

Here is the release:
The Texas Stars are proud to announce that Brad Lukowich has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Central Texas community during the 2010-11 season.

On and off of the ice, Texas Stars Captain Brad Lukowich is a leader. Over the course of the 2010-2011 season, Brad has demonstrated an infallible dedication to his team and his community through the Texas Stars Foundation.

Even before the season began, Lukowich was active in the formation of the Texas Stars Foundation, the registered charity of the Texas Stars. Making it a family affair, his wife Cara has also lent a hand as a board member for the organization.

With the season underway, Brad and his teammates participated in Pink in the Rink, raising awareness and funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure ® while celebrating breast cancer survivors. Even the jerseys off of the players’ backs went to the cause, and under Brad’s lead, the players stuck around after the game for photos with survivors, auction winners, and fans of all ages. All told, over $10,500 was raised for breast cancer treatment, research, and prevention in the Central Texas community.

Almost immediately after Pink in the Rink, Brad switched gears toward men’s health, encouraging his teammates to participate in the international “Movember” fundraiser, where throughout the month of November men grow moustaches to support prostate cancer prevention and treatment. The Stars were one of the leading fundraisers in Central Texas for the Movember Foundation, and Brad’s moustache was one of the most recognizable in the area.

Over the holidays, Lukowich’s charity efforts heightened both personally and with the team. Together, Brad and Cara privately organized an effort to sponsor women and children in a domestic abuse shelter to ensure a bright and cheery Christmas. Brad and Cara led a group (composed of players, staff, wives and girlfriends), who participated in helping the selected families have an unexpectedly happy holiday. The group donated more than 28 gift baskets and provided Christmas gifts for members of three large families. In addition to supporting the shelter, the Lukowich family led a fundraiser to hand-paint Christmas ornaments to raise funds for the foundation.

Throughout the entirety of the season, Brad has mentored the team, encouraging them to visit fans, enhance their on-ice skills, and reach out to their community. This season, Brad has visited children in all sectors of Austin and Cedar Park, from the local hospitals to numerous elementary schools. This year, Brad made a special effort at the hospital to visit patients and families alike, going room by room in the long-term care units, making instant fans out of the patients. At elementary schools, Brad and his teammates read aloud to students, played floor hockey, and even sang with the children.

Throughout the month of January, Brad was instrumental in the preparation for the Foundation’s largest fundraising event, Casino Night, which brought in over $25,000 for the Texas Stars Foundation. His expertise also proved vital in prepping for the team’s charity golf tournament and coordinating community service events.

Over the course of the 2010-2011 season, the Texas Stars donated more than 1,700 tickets to military service members and veterans. Brad and the Texas Stars embraced the military community, honoring them through military salutes, ceremonial puck drops, and through the fundraising of more than $25,000 for the construction of a Veterans Memorial in Cedar Park.

Lukowich is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2010-11 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League in the coming weeks.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Texas Stars Report: Going Streaking!

The Texas Stars Report on Defending Big D...
While the Dallas Stars have been struggling in their crowded playoff race, the Texas Stars (39-24-4-6, 88 pts, #3 West) have pulled away from the pack thanks to a four game winning streak. The winning streak is accompanied by some fantastic statistics on both ends of the ice. Over the last four, Texas has outscored its opponents 18-5 including four goals from Colton Sceviour and five from Greg Rallo, including his first AHL hat trick.

Goalie Richard Bachman started all four games and has stopped 97 of 102 shots against in the streak. Bachman was not expected to make as many starts this year as he did but has been spectacular anyways. With every win, he sets a new franchise record for wins in a season by a goaltender, surpassing Matt Climie's 22 last year with 26 after Saturday's victory.
Read more at Defending Big D...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stars Pound Griffins 5-1 To Set Win Streak at Four

For the second straight night, the Texas Stars put up a five-spot on the Grand Rapids Griffins, although tonight's was decidedly less dramatic. Instead of fighting back from down three, the Stars scored the first five goals of the game and never trailed. With the win, Texas has achieved a season-long four game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 18-5 over that span.

"When you're playing well, you get bounces. When you're struggling, you don't," said Stars' forward Colton Sceviour. "We create our own luck." Sceviour had two goals and an assist for the second straight night.

Texas started off the scoring in the first with Greg Rallo scoring between his legs to mark his 26th of the year, an unassisted goal, just 3:37 in. The goal came off the Stars' first shot of the game. Ondrej Roman extended the lead with his 8th of the year at 15:33 of the first on a deft pass from behind the net by Francis Wathier.

Jordan Pearce's night was done to start the second as one-time Stars emergency backup David Brown entered the game for the second period. Brown would fair no better than Pearce. Colton Sceviour victimized Brown on the power play to make it 3-0 before the end of the second and would add another to start the third. Sceviour's first of the night was assisted by Greg Rallo, who wound up for a point blank slap shot, but instead bunted a pass to Sceviour for the tap-in. Sceviour's two goals on the night earned him first star honors, as he has now tallied 4 goals and 6 points in the past two games.

Ray Sawada would add a power play tally with eleven and a half left in the game to set the score at 5-0. Amadio and Sawada dropped the gloves after the goal was scored, giving Ray a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, and fighting major) in the game.

The shutout bid would be broken up by newcomer Gustav Nyquist with 8:21 left in the game. Richard Bachman let a puck slip through five-hole on a screened shot to make it 5-1. Despite the one goal, Bachman is in exceptional form right now for Texas. "Bachman is going to be our go-to guy [for the rest of the season]," said forward Greg Rallo. "He's filled the #1 role and put us in the position we're in right now."

Speaking of that positioning, with tonight's win the Stars put five points between themselves and the pack of three at 83 points. Texas knows that it is in control of its own destiny at this point. Rallo intoned, "We don't want help from anybody else."

Tonight's lines:
Morin-Rallo-Backman
Sawada-Sceviour-Tousignant
Wathier-Roman-Gagnon
Gazdic-Chupp-Embach

Spang-Stephenson
Dillon-Fortunus
Monast-Benn

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Larsen (hip pointer, day-to-day)
Ludwig (unspecified)
McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour, Segal, Lukowich (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 6,040.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 26 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
38-24-4-6, 86 pts
#3 West Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
35-28-2-8, 80 pts
#5 North Division
March 26th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

It's the same team, same place for the Texas Stars tonight, but now the Griffins have a chip on their shoulder. Grand Rapids blew a three goal lead in last night's contest to give the Stars two hard earned points. The lack of points for the Griffins dropped them into a three way tie for 3rd place in the North division.

"They're going to come in hard off the bat," said Texas forward Colton Sceviour. "I think it's going to be a lot lower scoring affair, but some of the bad blood [from last night] might carry over."

With last night's win, the Stars put four point between themselves and the fourth place Oklahoma City Barons. While Texas seems unlikely to catch Houston or Milwaukee at this point to gain home-ice advantage, the Stars have been able to control their own destiny in the playoff race over the last month.

With other teams doing a lot of scoreboard watching, Texas decided that they needed to get in on their own merits. Coach Gulutzan had this to say: "We decided that we don't want or need anyone's help. We don't want to wake up in the morning and look [at the other scores]. We just want to wake up and worry about what we're going to do."

Tonight's game is another massive chance to score two more points. If the Stars can win tomorrow night, the Sports Club Stats site puts the Stars' shot at the playoffs at 97.7%. Coach Gulutzan knows though that the games are played on the ice: "They're hungry for points; we're hungry for points." Puck drops at 7.

Stars injury/call up report:
Larsen (hip pointer, day-to-day)
Vincour, Segal, Lukowich (call up)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stars Spot Griffins Three, Rally For 5-3 Win

After tonight's game, the first question to Texas forward Colton Sceviour, who scored two goals and had an assist, was, "So, what happened there?" Sceviour made a confused face and said, "Can you put that into words?" Surely, the evening was difficult to put into words for the Grand Rapids Griffins much more than the Texas Stars. After spotting Grand Rapids a three goal lead in the first 33 minutes, Texas roared back to score the last five goals of the game and win by a final of 5-3.

The game started out at a rather plodding pace with just one shot between the two teams in the first five minutes. The Griffins struck first with Cory Emmerton picking up his 11th of the year halfway through the period. The first ended at an 8-8 tie in shot count.

In the second, Grand Rapids picked up the pace. Andersson and Tardif each scored against Richard Bachman on the five hole to set the score at 3-0 with 7 minutes left in the second. The third goal was particularly deflating, as it was scored shorthanded. "[Grand Rapids] played real well early," said Stars Coach Glen Gulutzan. "They are a really pacey team."

This, however, was when Texas decided to turn it around. "Unfortunately, we tend to play a lot better when we're down," said Sceviour.

Just one second after a power play expired, Sceviour broke the scoring open for Texas to make it 3-1. Assists on the "powe rplay" goal went to Benn and Fortunus. Greg Rallo scored his 25th ofthe year just two minutes later to make it 3-2, roofing the puck to beat Pearce. "[Those two goals] put a lot of confidence in our locker room," said Sceviour. "We're one goal away with 20 minutes left."

The third period was all Stars as they outshot the Griffins 15-3 in the frame. Aaron Gagnon opened the scoring with a smooth goal off a home run pass from Sean Backman. Mathieu Tousignant was up next just past the halfway point of the period, collecting his 10th of the year on a backhand as he toppled over in front of the net. The crowd was back in it as the score was set at 4-3.

Sceviour salted it away with his second of the night, deflecting in a rebound from a Greg Rallo shot for a power play goal. Sceviour was named the first star of the game with two goals and an assist and a plus-2. Texas faces Grand Rapids again tomorrow night in what will surely be a chippy game between the two teams.

Tonight's lines:
Morin-Rallo-Backman
Sawada-Sceviour-Tousignant
Wathier-Roman-Gagnon
Gazdic-Chupp

Spang-Stephenson
Dillon-Fortunus
Monast-Ludwig
Benn

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Larsen (hip pointer, day-to-day)
McCulloch, Embach (scratched)
Vincour, Segal, Lukowich (callup)

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan confirmed that Larsen is day-to-day with a hip pointer. He will not play tomorrow but could see action next weekend.

Tonight's attendance was 6,094.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 25 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
37-24-4-6, 84 pts
#3 West Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
35-27-2-8, 80 pts
#3 North Division
March 25th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

While the Stars have been battling it out among the West Division teams to make the playoffs, the Griffins have been embroiled in a similar battle in the North. Grand Rapids is sporting a 7-2-1-0 record in their last ten games. With Abbotsford and Lake Erie making similar turnarounds, there are suddenly several more teams in playoff contention with Hamilton and Manitoba. The Griffins only have eight more games to make their case and must surpass Abbotsford and Hamilton in points percentage to be guaranteed a spot. Two games in Texas are definitely circled on their calendar.

For Texas, they are coming off a huge character win on Tuesday against Houston. The power play, which has struggled all year, chipped in two goals. Richard Bachman got his sixth shutout of the year, placing him 3rd in the league in shutouts behind Brad Thiessen and Barry Brust. With the combination of San Antonio and Oklahoma City's recent struggles, two wins this weekend against Grand Rapids could salt away the playoffs for the Stars.

Top goaltender, Joey MacDonald, is in Detroit with the Red Wings leaving Jordan Pearce to be the main man in nets for GR. Pearce, in fact, has started the past 18 games and 24 of the last 26. Pearce's last game off was February 13th against Rochester. Pearce has a win and a shootout loss to Texas this year among a 19-9-5 overall record.

The backup for Grand Rapids is one-time Stars emergency backup, Dave Brown from the QC Mallards. Brown has played 40 minutes of AHL hockey on the year, allowing two goals on 17 shots in relief of Pearce on Wednesday.

For Texas, Bachman and Beskorowany have split the starts against the Griffins this year, with each collecting a win and a loss. The two netminders have split the load much more evenly than the crew in Grand Rapids, Bachman with eleven and Beskorowany with six of the last 17 games since Krahn's season-ending injury.

Stars injury/call up report:
Larsen, Gazdic (unspecified injuries)
Vincour, Segal, Lukowich (call up)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bachman, Stars Shutout Houston 3-0

Whether it was the new bodies in the lineup or the Dallas brass watching from on high, something got into the Texas Stars tonight as they pushed through the Houston Aeros for a 3-0 victory at the Cedar Park Center. "It was a great sixty minutes out of us tonight right from the start to finish," said center Aaron Gagnon, who had three assists on the night.

Special teams and solid goaltending were the order of the night with all goals coming from the PP or PK units. Richard Bachman stopped all 20 shots against for his sixth shutout of the year and 24th win. Bachman pointed to the full sixty minute effort as well, "You could tell the difference with us being prepared for the full game tonight."

As the score indicated, it was all Stars throughout. Greg Rallo started the scoring in the first where the Stars outshot Houston 17-8. Rallo scored his 25th of the year from his standard power play spot, the left wing circle, to set the score at 1-0. Gagnon and Spang assisted on the tally.

At the end of the second again, it was Francis Wathier finishing off a tape-to-tape pass from Aaron Gagnon on a 2-on-1 breakaway shorthanded. Wathier's 17th of the year made it 2-0 Texas and was a punch in the gut to the Houston power play, which went 0/4 on the night. The Stars added a third goal in the final period to salt it away. Travis Morin's 18th of the year came on the power play, assisted by Sawada and Gagnon.

While the Stars know that this was a big confidence building game, they've already moved on. "We'll take the two points and look forward to the weekend," said Gagnon. Two games against Grand Rapids this weekend could move Texas further up the West Division standings and further from the melee developing for the last few spots.

Tonight's lines:
Sawada-Sceviour-Tousignant
Wathier-Roman-Gagnon
Morin-Rallo-Backman
Embach-Chupp

Spang-Stephenson
Dillon-Fortunus
Monast-Ludwig
Benn

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic, Larsen (undisclosed injury)
McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour, Segal, Lukowich (callup)

Brenden Dillon played his first game tonight, taking 4 minutes of penalties and recording no shots in the game. Mike Embach played his first home game as well. "It's good to have new energy around," said Bachman, who played with Embach on the USHL's Chicago Steel in 2006-07.

Tonight's attendance was 6,863.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Houston - March 22 2011

Texas Stars Report: Half and Half in Winnipeg

The Texas Stars Report on Defending Big D...
The Texas Stars (36-24-4-6, 82 pts, #3 West) finished out their Canadian road trip with two game against the Winnipeg Jets Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canucks). Texas played two one-sided games against Manitoba and luckily one went the Stars' way. Texas lost 4-3 on Friday against the Moose but bombed them out 5-1 on Sunday afternoon. Stars forward Greg Rallo scored Texas's first hat trick of the season in Sunday's game.

With the win, Texas grasped the firmest hold they've had on a playoff spot for a while. Currently third overall in both points and points percentage, the Stars are just one point ahead of three teams in the West but have one game in hand over all of them. Peoria, Oklahoma City, and Chicago all have 81 points through 71 games, considerably clogging up the playoff picture. At this point, it looks like the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) are going to the post season. Texas is the next one in, if they can keep winning.

Houston comes to town on Tuesday and then the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday and Saturday. Texas has struggled with the Aeros this year but the Griffins are a good chance for four solid points.
Read more at Defending Big D...

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
36-24-4-6, 82 pts
#3 West Division
v.Houston Aeros
41-25-1-5, 88 pts
#1 West Division
March 22nd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The streaking Houston Aeros bring their high-flying squad to the Cedar Park Center for the last time in the regular season series between the two teams. The Aeros are winners of four straight games coming into the game tonight and have likely locked up a playoff spot thanks to their strong play over the last week. They have moved past Milwaukee into the top spot in the West and look to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

Texas is coming off a strong showing in Manitoba with Greg Rallo scoring his first AHL hat trick. Rallo has nine points in his nine games in March, and he is the only Texas Star to play all seventy games to this point. He is a key cog for the Stars and his role as a veteran will be that much more important with captain Brad Lukowich in Dallas. Colton Sceviour leads the season series in scoring between the two teams with eight points but Rallo isn't far behind with five.

From Houston, it's been the Matt Hackett show recently. Hackett has started the Aeros' last five games, in which they've collected nine points. On the offensive side, the Stars have been snakebitten by Jon DiSalvatore, who has scored 15 points against Texas this year. That would be just under 30% of his point total on the year. Patrick O'Sullivan and Maxim Noreau have also collected 10 points each in the season series.

Houston is a possible first round matchup for Texas. Tonight's game will be a good opportunity to shake the "can't beat 'em" feelings that the Stars might have developed around the squad. Their last game between the two was a Texas victory. The Stars will be looking to start a trend tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
Gazdic (undisclosed injury)
Segal, Lukowich, Vincour (call up)

Luke Gazdic has now missed the Stars' last four games. Philip Larsen did not return to the Stars last game versus the Moose after a first period hit. Larsen is day-to-day and will likely go tonight.

Brenden Dillon could be joined the Stars for tonight's game as well after signing an ATO with the club, as reported this morning by his WHL squad.

Website: aeros.com
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros

Report: Brenden Dillon Joins Texas Stars

The WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds report this morning that their captain, Brenden Dillon, has joined the Texas Stars on an amateur tryout contract.

As the release mentions, it is unclear if Dillon will be available for tonight's game against Houston. I will have an update from morning skate to see if Dillon was on the ice. James Mitchell wrote a bit about Dillon yesterday.

Here is the release from Seattle:
Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Brenden Dillon has joined the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. Dillon was signed by the Dallas Stars, the parent club of the Texas Stars, to a three year entry level contract on March 1.

“We are happy that Brenden is joining the Stars organization,” said T-Birds general manager Russ Farwell. “We look forward to watching him continuing his development into a NHL defenseman.”

Dillon was the T-Birds team captain this past season. He played all 72 games and had eight goals and 51 assists for 59 points with 139 penalty minutes. Dillon finished fifth in the league in scoring among defenseman.

Dillon played in 280 games over a four-year career with the T-Birds. He had 94 career points on 11 goals and 83 assists with 362 penalty minutes.

The Texas Stars take on the Houston Aeros on Tuesday. It is not know at this point if Dillon will play in this game.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Texas Recalls Monast from Idaho

With Brad Lukowich on re-entry waivers and likely to clear tomorrow, Texas recalled Guillaume Monast from the ECHL today. Lukowich will be with Dallas for the time being. The Stars captain is a solid addition for Dallas who lost Karlis Skrastins and Nicklas Grossman in their game Saturday against Philadelphia

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced on Monday that defenseman Guillaume Monast has been reassigned to the Texas Stars (AHL) from the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) by the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL).

Guillaume Monast (pronounced Gee-yohm, Moe-Nah) has one assist in nine games for Texas over three separate recalls from Idaho. He registered his first AHL point with the Stars this season at Lake Erie on Feb. 16. In 48 games for Idaho this year, Monast has one goal and seven assists while adding 38 penalty minutes. The Quebec native spent his rookie season with Idaho, setting up six goals in 68 games played, helping the Steelheads reach the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals. Monast attended training camp in Dallas and in Texas each of the last two years.

The Past, Present and Future of the Texas Defense

Goalie Matt Climie is flanked by Andrew Hutchinson and Maxime Fortunus in last year's Calder Cup Finals. (Credit: JustSports Photography)
I have been playing with the idea of publishing contributed pieces for a while, and I am hoping this is the first of many. Frequent commenter and Texas Stars season ticket holder James Mitchell takes some time this morning to discuss the Texas Stars defense, including future prospects Brenden Dillon and Jace Coyle.

As Texas makes the push for a spot in the 2011 AHL playoffs, we take a look back to the epic 2009-10 campaign, some struggles in the current campaign, and forward at defensive prospects Brenden Dillon and Jace Coyle. Texas has been on a bumpy ride of late but can hardly be considered to be limping into the playoffs. One of the reasons for this struggle comes in to focus when looking at the stat lines of the Stars' defensive corps compared to last year.

Through the 80 games of the 2009-10 AHL regular season, the Stars' blue liners put up 45 goals and 129 assists for 174 points, averaging 2.17 points per game, and a plus-27 rating. Through 68 games of the 10-11 campaign, the Stars' defensemen have put up 24 goals and 113 assists for 137 points, averaging 1.96 points per game, and a minus-8 rating.

If it weren't for the stats from Dan Spang (10g, 25a, +8), who has struggled in the last few weeks, the comparison to last year would be even more striking. While plus/minus isn't the definitive stat some people would like it to be, a big swing in plus/minus cannot be ignored. Overall, the D corps is scoring less and on the ice for more goals than last year.

With those stats in mind we take a look at defensive prospects Brenden Dillon and Jace Coyle.

Brenden Dillon is in his fourth year of juniors with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. He's a 20 year old 6'3" 209 pound left shooting powerhouse. Through 72 games for the Thunderbirds, Dillon has put put up impressive numbers for a D man; 8 goals and 51 assists for 59 points. In addition he has 139 penalty minutes. This is good enough for second on the team in both points and penalty minutes.

A quick search of Dillon's name on YouTube shows a long list of fights through his career, and he wins more than he loses. One mildly concerning spot on his stat sheet is a minus-25. There are many reasons that Dillon's plus/minus isn't particularly impressive. A team leader is expected to be on the ice in a lot of different situations, and the Thunderbirds are last in the Western Conference of the WHL and have given up 264 goals while only scoring 195. Anyone with significant ice time on a team with numbers like that is likely to have a poor plus/minus. Dillon looks to be a big physical defenseman with strong playmaking ability and a player that isn't afraid to send a message when its needed.

With the Thunderbirds out of of the playoffs this year, and the injury bug hitting the blue line in Dallas, Dillon is a possible call up for Texas in the near future.

Jace Coyle is also in his forth year of juniors, but with the playoff bound Medicine Hat Tigers also of the WHL. Coyle is a 20 year old 6' 188 pound defenseman with a right handed shot. In 49 games for the Tigers this season, Coyle has potted 6 goals and 22 assists for 28 points. 3 of his 6 goals have come on the power play. More impressively, Coyle is a plus-18 and only has 42 penalty minutes. This is good enough for 2nd in points and plus/minus among Tigers D men. Stats like this show a defenseman that is making smart decisions with the puck in his own end, but with an ability to contribute in the offensive zone as well without making stupid mistakes to do it. In a interview posted to YouTube by the Tigers, Coyle says he considers almost certain NHL Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer to be his inspiration.

With the Tigers playoff spot locked up, there is no way to know when Coyle's season will end, but once it does he will be eligible to play in Cedar Park.

Brenden Dillon and Jace Coyle are both solid defensive prospects. Both are big in stature, though the Stars would probably like Coyle to add a little more muscle to his frame. Dillon looks to be a gritty player that likes to mix it up as well as contribute on the rush. This is likely to endear him to Texas Stars fans. With a WHL captaincy on his resume, Dillon will also be a calming voice in the locker room. Coyle is more of a stay at home defenseman with solid decision making in his own end but has an offensive upside that the Stars can use.

It safe to say that both will be invited to Stars Rookie Camp next season.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rallo, Stars Power Past Moose 5-1

Stars forward Greg Rallo had a career night against his former team, scoring his first AHL hat trick. (Credit: Manitoba Moose)
It was Greg Rallo night in Manitoba as the one-time Moose lit up his former team for three goals. Rallo's hat trick was the first of the season for the Stars and only the fourth in their history, with the others coming from Beaudoin, Gagnon and Jamie Benn. Richard Bachman stopped 31 of 32 shots against in leading the Stars to his franchise record 23rd win on the season.

Texas scored early and often in the 5-1 rout of Manitoba this afternoon. Greg Rallo got the first goal on the night at 6:50, scoring from behind the net off the back of goalie Eddie Lack's leg. Sean Backman got the second of the game off a rebound from Travis Morin's shot just six minutes later. Shots were set at 12-7 after the first 20 minutes.

The second period saw two more from the Stars. Rallo collected his second of the night on the power play, picking the puck up in the slot and slipping it past Lack for the 3-0 lead. Just seconds later, Mathieu Tousignant beat Lack with a wrister from the high slot and chased the goalie from the game.

Lack's replacement, Tyler Weiman, was perfect on the night as Texas slowed down its attack to preserve the win and two points. Manitoba did get one goal in the third period from former San Antonio Rampage Joel Perrault. The Stars countered with an empty net short handed goal on the 6-on-4 to end the game. Of course, it was off the stick of Rallo. The goal was his third of the night and team-leading 24th of the year. The hat trick was his first in the AHL.

The Stars now come home to face the Houston Aeros on Tuesday night. Houston has started to slip away from the pack in the West Division race. Currently the Aeros lead the division in points, but the Admirals have three games in hand and are just one point behind.

Tonight's lines:
Wathier-Roman-Gagnon
Sawada-Sceviour-Tousignant
Embach-Chupp-Backman
Morin-Rallo-Spang

Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Stephenson
Benn-Fortunus

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic, McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour, Segal (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 11,889.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Manitoba - March 20 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars at Manitoba Moose

Texas Stars
35-24-4-6, 80 pts
#5 West Division
atManitoba Moose
38-26-1-5, 82 pts
#1 North Division
March 20th at 2:00 PM
MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB

The Stars and Moose close out their season series this afternoon in Winnipeg. For Texas, being idle was as bad as it could have been. The Stars actually managed to move up in points percentage ranking from 4th to 3rd despite losing an actual ranking spot, dropping from 4th to 5th. San Antonio's loss to Houston did the trick.

The Stars need to be looking for losses from San Antonio, Peoria, Oklahoma City and Chicago, as those are their most likely competitors for the last few playoff spots. Houston has pulled away from the rest of the division and is likely uncatchable at this point. Milwaukee, Houston and Rockford regulation wins over their remaining divisional opponents are what the Stars need to hope for.

Since the last game, Manitoba has called up Victor Oreskovich. There is no word from dallas right now on if a defenseman will be recalled. Nicklas Grossman and Karlis Skrastins both left the Stars' shooutout loss to Philadelphia early. Who is the first call? It depends what they need. Larsen would be the obvious choice, since he is the top defensive prospect in the system. Fortunus would be another possibility. With the departure of Blindenbacher, that is the practical end of the list. Trevor Ludwig could see a callup potentially as well. He was called up earlier in the season but did not play.

Stars injury/call up report:
Segal, Vincour (call up)

Website: moosehockey.com
Twitter: @ManitobaMoose
Newspaper: Winnipeg Free Press

Photo credot: Manitoba Moose

Friday, March 18, 2011

Texas Can't Battle Back, Fall to Moose 4-3

The Stars couldn't build on a character win in Toronto tonight in Manitoba, falling 4-3 in Winnipeg. After garnering an early lead thanks to Aaron Gagnon, the Stars gave up three straight goals and would not regain the lead in the game. Tyler Beskorowany was pulled and replaced by Richard Bachman in the second after the third goal. Texas could drop as low as six in the division before they get the chance to take the ice again, with Chicago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City all in action on Saturday.

After Gagnon's tally twenty-three seconds into the game, Texas allowed two special teams goals from the Moose. The first was a power play goal in the slot from Cody Hodgson. Next, Desbiens went "Jamie Benn" on Texas, scoring a shorthanded goal for the 2-1 lead. Texas has now allowed seven shorthanded goals on the season, which is in the middle of the league.

Manitoba's third goal ended Tyler Beskorowany's night, bringing Richard Bachman into the game. Perhaps fueled by the change, Dan Spang got the game to 3-2 with an individual effort. Almost as quickly, Sergei Shirokov scored his 20th goal of the year and setting the score at 4-2.

Travis Morin would get one more back with a power play goal with 4:26 to go in the 3rd period. Aaron Gagnon and Dan Spang each picked up assists for the second point of the night for each.

Texas takes on the Moose again on Sunday in a matinee game in Winnipeg.

Tonight's lines:
Wathier-Roman-Gagnon
Sawadal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Embach-Chupp-Backman
Morin-Rallo

Lukowich-Larsen
Benn-Spang
Ludwig-Fortunus
Stephenson

Beskorowany

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic, McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour, Segal (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 9,129.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Manitoba - March 18 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars at Manitoba Moose

Texas Stars
35-23-4-6, 80 pts
#4 West Division
atManitoba Moose
37-26-1-5, 80 pts
#1 North Division
March 18th at 7:30 PM
MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB

Last month, the Stars went on an eight game road trip and we all thought that was bad. The Manitoba Moose are on their third game of a homestand after going on an eleven game road trip. Going 7-4, the Moose pushed to the top of the North Division with 80 points, the same as the Stars. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the best team in the league, came in and beat up the Moose Wednesday and Thursday to set them on a three game losing streak. The Moose are 1-5 in their last six games at home.

Texas meanwhile won their last game after going on a three game winless streak. With the division moving around them this week, Texas has slipped to 4th in the West in both points and points percentage. Including tonight's game, the Stars will have 12 games remaining in the season. The current target to make it into the playoffs is 94 points, which leaves Texas with 14 more points needed.

The season series between the two teams is tied at one a piece as the Stars will finish things out with the Moose this weekend. Leading scorers for the Stars in the season series include Greg Rallo, Sean Backman, Cody Chupp and Francis Wathier. Their roles will be all that much more important with Brandon Segal being recalled to Dallas yesterday. Segal had 7 goals and 10 assists in 30 games for Texas. He had a solid February with 11 points in 14 games but cooled off in March with no points and a minus-2 in his last four games.

Also joining Texas in Manitoba is new signee Mike Embach. The forward may not see ice time as readily as last year's ATO signees, Tyler Ludwig and Cody Chupp, with the Stars' playoff spot not being as secure.

Stars injury/call up report:
Segal, Vincour (call up)

Website: moosehockey.com
Twitter: @ManitobaMoose
Newspaper: Winnipeg Free Press

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stars, Beskorowany Take Time Out For Youth Hockey Players

Texas Stars goalie Tyler Beskorowany takes time after practice to talk to youth hockey players at the rink. (Credit: Bill Harris)
Currently in a layoff of four days between away games, the Stars came home and needed to get in some practices before heading out to Manitoba. With Cirque du Soleil's Dralion in town, the Texas Stars don't have an ice surface to practice on in Cedar Park. The only other ice rink in town is the Chaparral Ice.

The Stars practice backed up to a regularly scheduled stick and puck. Stick and puck is a free form practice session for hockey players to come to the rink and work on their skills alone or in small groups outside the context of a game. Local hockey dad Bill Harris brought his son, Eli, who is on Spring Break this week, to the rink during the day. Eli plays goal for his youth team. Bill picks up the story from there:
For some reason, the Texas Stars were practicing at our local ice rink yesterday and today, so Eli got to watch two practices. And the players were unbelievably generous with their time--after they finished practice, every single player signed anything and everything the kids had for them. Eli had his goalie mask signed by at least a dozen different players.

Then there was Tyler Beskorowany.

He was one of the last players to come off the ice, and since Eli is a goalie, he really wanted to talk to him. Which he did, for a few moments, and then Tyler handed Eli his backup stick.

That made Eli's month. Or year. Mine, too.
You can read the full story at Bill's blog, Dubious Quality. Stick tap to Kurt Y. for bringing this story to my attention.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stars Reassign Neal, Sign First ATO Embach

The Stars announced today that they have sent Michael Neal to Idaho. Neal was up with injuries and callups forcing the Stars to grab another player in reserve.

Additionally, the Stars signed their first ATO following Clear Day. Mike Embach joins Greg Rallo and Cody Chupp as Stars forwards from Ferris State University. Finally, Brandon Segal has been recalled to Dallas and is currently on re-entry waivers. I will update here when he clears.

Full press release below:
The Texas Stars announced on Wednesday that the club has assigned forward Michael Neal to the Idaho Steelheads, Texas’ ECHL affiliate. The team also announced it has signed Mike Embach to an ATO (amateur tryout agreement).

Neal is in his second pro season after spending the bulk of his rookie season with Idaho. Neal has played in 16 games for Texas this year, scoring three goals and totaling 12 penalty minutes. This season, the Whitby, ON native has played in 37 games for the Steelheads, scoring six goals and totaling 13 points. Last season, Neal played in 57 games for the Steelheads, posting 15 points on five goals and ten assists. The 21-year old also skated in six games for the Texas Stars without registering a point. Neal was drafted in the fifth round (#149 overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and he is the younger brother of Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal.

Embach turns pro after a four-year career at Ferris State University from 2007-2011. The 22-year old forward scored eight goals and totaled 18 points in 39 games with the Bulldogs. As a junior, Embach set collegiate highs with nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 34 games played. Over his CCHA career, 5-foot-10, 190-pounder scored 27 times and set up 31 others for a total of 58 points in 132 games. The Orland Park, IL native played with current Texas Stars forward Cody Chupp at FSU from 2007-10. Stars right wing Greg Rallo attended Ferris State University from 2002-06.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Texas Gets Two Points Off Toronto in SO

These were two points that the Stars really needed. Coming in with a three game losing streak and losing ground in the West Division, Texas needed two points anyway they could today in Toronto. The Stars took the game all the way to the shootout to earn them but ultimately did on shootout goals from Greg Rallo and Francis Wathier.

Six of the seven other teams in the West Division are in action this afternoon; OKC is the lone team idle. All of the West teams are playing each other, so Texas will surely keep an eye on the scoreboard as they board the plane to come back to Texas.

Toronto took the early lead in the game with Nazem Kadri beating rookie Tyler Beskorowany for his 17th of the year. Kadri is a highly touted prospect for the Maple Leafs. Texas and Toronto then skated through 40 minutes of scoreless hockey until the third period.

The Stars came back in the middle of the third with Travis Morin scoring his third goal in two games to tie things at one a piece. Greg Rallo and Sean Backman assisted on the rebound goal.

Tyler Beskorowany stopped 22 of 23 shots in the regulation and overtime to take the game to the skills competition, where he was flawless. Beskorowany stopped all four shooters, including Kadri, to seal the victory for Texas.

Tonight's lines:
Wathier-Roman-Sawada
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Chupp-Gagnon-Rallo
Morin-Backman

Benn-Spang
Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Fortunus
Stephenson

Beskorowany

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Neal, Gazdic, McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 4,517.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - March 13 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies

Texas Stars
34-23-4-6, 78 pts
#4 West Division
atToronto Marlies
34-26-1-8, 77 pts
#3 North Division
March 13th at 2:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

The Stars are in a funk. In the last ten games, Texas is 2-4-1-3, and they are on a three game losing streak coming into tonight's game. The last time Texas played Toronto, the Stars were also on a three game losing streak. James Reimer, now starting for the Maple Leafs, backstopped the Marlies to a 3-0 victory, setting the losing streak at a franchise record four (since surpasses in February at five).

After the game, team captain Brad Lukowich called a closed-door, players only meeting. The postgame interview sounds like it could have just happened. The same themes that were true on November 6th are true today: more offense, shoot more, better power play. The Stars have scored three goals in their last three games. Texas is two for sixteen on the power play in those games. Something has to change.

Toronto comes in after losing to Lake Erie last night. However, they are 5-3-1-1 in their last ten. The Marlies are in a heated battle with Abbotsford for the third spot in the North, the last guaranteed spot for the postseason. Former Texas Star Fabian Brunnstrom has 10 points in 27 games with the Marlies since being traded.

Stars injury/call up report:
Vincour (call up)

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Bart's Bytes
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Stars Let Game Slip Away in Third, Lose 3-2

Cody Chupp skates to gather a puck as Drew MacIntyre looks on in this afternoon's game in Hamilton. (Credit: Pellerin Photography)

The Stars had a shot at earning at least one point in this afternoon's game with five minutes left in the third period. Richard Bachman earned the third star in the game, making 30 saves on 33 shots against. While Texas lost, luckily so did every other team in the West Division in action today. No wins mean no movement in the standings.

Hamilton had staked itself to an early lead, but only for a short while. Ian Schultz's first of the year was followed very quickly by Travis Morin's 14th, and first since returning from injury. The game continued, tied at one, until five minutes left in the third period.

Andrew Conboy broke open the scoring in the third period with 4:54 left, jumping on a loose puck and putting it past Bachman to set it at 2-1. Hunter Bishop scored off the rebound with under two minutes left to ultimately put the game out of hand. Travis Morin scored a power play goal with just five seconds left, but the game was all but over at that point.

Tonight's lines:
Wathier-Roman-Sawada
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Chupp-Gagnon-Rallo
Morin-Backman

Benn-Spang
Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Fortunus
Stephenson

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic, McCulloch (scratched)
Vincour (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 3,056.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Hamilton - March 12 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars at Hamilton Bulldogs

Texas Stars
34-22-4-6, 78 pts
#4 West Division
atHamilton Bulldogs
34-23-1-6, 75 pts
#3 North Division
March 12th at 3:00 PM
COpps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON

Texas has a quick turnaround for a day game in Ontario. After last night's grinding game, the Stars will try to gain the full two points in regulation to avoid extra time in a 3-in-3, where energy will be at a premium.

For Hamilton, their leading scorer is a recent addition. Nigel Dawes, who recently came over from the Atlanta Thrashers (Chicago Wolves) in a deadline day trade, has ten points in just eight games with the Dogs. Also coming over from Chicago was goaltender Drew MacIntyre. MacIntyre is 2-2-1 with a 2.31 GAA and .921 SV%. He's paired with Curtis Sanford, who is 22-13-2 with a 1.93 GAA and .930 SV%.

The Bulldogs are locked in a tight battle with Manitoba, Toronto and Lake Erie for one of the top three spots in the North. Given the current point projections, it looks like the crossover rule will come into effect and only three teams in the North will make it to the postseason. They have games in hand over Toronto and Manitoba, the two teams ahead of them.

For Texas, it is going to be the mission of the day to stay at their .600 win percentage. The Stars can crawl above that number with two points today. It doesn't really matter how they get them either. Because Hamilton is not in the division, an extra time win is fine but could affect the Stars' energy tomorrow.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wathier (lower body)
Vincour (call up)

Wathier was supposed to be ready for yesterday's game. I would expect him to join the lineup sometime this weekend.

Website: hamiltonbulldogs.com
Twitter: @dogsplaybyplay

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bachman Near Perfect as Texas Falls 1-0 in SO

Jordie Benn in tonight's game at Syracuse. (Credit: Syracuse Crunch)

After 65 minutes of no scoring, the Crunch and Stars combined for seven goals in the shootout with Syracuse coming out on top. Texas managed to earn a point but could not gain the second this evening.

The Stars managed 15 shots in the first to the Crunch's 3. A total of 12 power plays between the two teams ultimately came up fruitless for both. Through the AHL's stats rules, both J-P Levasseur and Richard Bachman will get a shutout on their record.

In the shootout, Gagnon, Rallo and Seceviour bested Levasseur. However, four of five Syracuse shooters beat out Bachman, who made 25 saves in regulation and OT.

Tonight's lines:
Neal-Roman-Sawada
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Chupp-Gagnon-Rallo
Gazdic-Morin-Backman

Benn-Spang
Stephenson-Larsen
Ludwig-Fortunus

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McCulloch (scratched)
Wathier (lower body)
Vincour (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 5,089.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Syracuse - March 11 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars at Syracuse Crunch

Texas Stars
34-22-4-5, 77 pts
#3 West Division
atSyracuse Crunch
22-33-3-4, 51 pts
#7 East Division
March 11th at 6:00 PM
Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter, Syracuse, NY

Neither the Texas Stars nor the Syracuse Crunch have played since the debacle in Cedar Park on Monday. The Stars and Crunch close out their season series tonight with Texas's second ever game at War Memorial. The last time Texas visited was February 17th of last year. Richard Bachman got the win, making 23 saves on 24 shots against. Mathieu Beaudoin, Aaron Gagnon and Greg Rallo scored for the Stars.

The Stars' only goal on Monday was scored by Brad Lukowich, who will be out of the lineup after a one game suspension was handed down by the league. The goalie he scored it on, Ray Emery, will also be out of the lineup. Anaheim called up the goaltender to back up Dan Ellis with Jonas Hiller out with vertigo. Replacing Emery is J-P Levasseur. He is 8-20-3 and has yet to have a winning record in four seasons in the AHL.

The importance of the Stars five game road stand cannot be overstated. With all five games coming against non-divisional opponents, it doesn't matter how the Stars get points, it just matters that they stay at their current points pace, approximately 60%. It's a tall order, but it's necessary to stay in the race.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wathier (day-to-day lower body)
Lukowich (suspension)
Vincour (call up)

The Stars have re-added Michael Neal to the active roster due to injuries. While Francis Wathier was expected to be ready, he is still day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Since Brent Krahn did not make it onto the Clear Day roster, I have removed him from the active list of injuries.

Website: syracusecrunch.com
Twitter: @SyracuseCrunch
Newspaper: Syracuse.com Crunch Hockey Blog

Thursday, March 10, 2011

West Division Playoff Race Update

Chicago Wolves defenseman Arturs Kulda says 'Thinking about the West Division playoff race makes me tired.' (Credit: Courtney Mahoney)

With only one game on the AHL schedule this evening, it's a good time to take a look at the playoff race as it affects the Texas Stars. Oklahoma City and San Antonio face off tonight in a pivotal game for both teams. The two are currently tied for 6th place at 73 points.

Here's the break down of probable points at the end of the season based on current points percentage:

# TM GP CP PP
1 MIL 63 81 103
3 TEX 65 77 95
6 SAN 62 73 94
2 HOU 67 79 94
4 PEO 66 77 93
7 OKC 63 73 93
5 CHI 67 76 91
8 RFD 64 61 76
# - Current ranking, TM - Team, GP - Games played, CP - Current points, PP - Projected points
Here are some points to note:

  • Milwaukee is a little too far ahead of the pack to be caught at this point. They have likely locked up first place thanks to a high points percentage.

  • Note that while Houston is in 2nd place today, they fall to fourth in this ranking. That is due to their high number of games played and tiebreakers. Every team in the division has at least two games in hand on Houston except Chicago, and San Antonio is projected to have more wins at the end of the year.

  • San Antonio jumps from 6th to 3rd in this ranking. They are aided by having only 62 games played. If they continue to win at their current rate or better, they will shoot up the standings.

  • While Chicago has come on strong lately, they are still an outside shot for the playoffs. They have 13 games left to climb into 5th place and would have to pass Peoria and Oklahoma City to do so. They have four total games against those two teams to try to gain ground.

  • Speaking of division games, Texas has 8 divisional games and 7 non-divisional games left. Their non-divisional games over the next week match them up against the best of the North Division in Hamilton, Toronto and Manitoba.

  • The top five teams in the West Division are slated to make the playoffs as of right now. The fourth place team in the North Division, Lake Erie, is currently set to finish with 89 points. Every team in the West but Rockford is on pace to finish with more points that 89.

  • Looking at the numbers, tiebreakers might be a factor this season. Tiebreakers for the playoffs are, in the following order: wins (excluding shootouts), points in season series between teams, goal differential, goals scored in season series between teams, and intra-conference points percentage.

  • Finally, the current playoff matchup has Texas playing San Antonio. For Texas, this is a very favorable matchup as they would have home ice advantage and hold a 6-1-0-2 record on the season against the Rampage. Additionally, travel would not be a big issue for Stars fans, who travel already in droves for regular season games in San Antonio.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hockey People: Meet Joe and Susie, the "Kiss Cam Couple"

Joe and Susie Agosta in their usual spot in section 116.

There are a lot of interesting people around the Cedar Park Center. "Hockey People" will be a series to highlight some of the great people that we have at the CPC.

If you've been at the Cedar Park Center during the second intermission and happened to see the Kiss Cam, you've probably seen Joe and Susie Agosta. The season ticket holders, seated in section 116, have become famous for their on-screen smooching.

"I go to the bank and people say, 'Oh, I know you! You were on the kiss cam!'" says Susie, a retired preschool special needs teacher. "We're at Sam's, and people stop us," adds Joe, who just retired last week himself.

Perhaps what makes their performance so memorable is Joe's theatrics. "Oh, it's all him," says Susie. The video board operators have even censored their performance on more than one occassion. "Our kids can't take it," says Susie. "They say, 'Gosh, Mom! That's sickening. Get a room!'"

Scott Hill, who selects the shots for the Kiss Cam video board, knows that he has at least one guaranteed couple every time. “When the crowds are a little sparse or you can’t find a couple, they’re an automatic shot. The camera people know where they’re going to be, and they play it up well.”

Joe and Susie first met when they were set up on a blind date. The couple, originally both from Michigan, moved from Miami, Florida, to Austin 20 years ago. Joe, usually decked out in bright Florida State yellow, is an avid Red Wings fan and used to travel to San Antonio to see the Griffins play. When Texas announced their franchise, he was one of the first in line for season tickets.

The Agostas, who just celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary, won the Kiss Cam five times last year and have already won twice this season. For Joe though, it's not about the prize. "I've got a beautiful wife, and I love kissing her. Anytime I get a chance, I'm all for it!"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Neal, Monast Assigned to Idaho

Now that the Clear Day rosters are out, Michael Neal and Guillaume Monast both travel back to Idaho; neither was included on the Stars Clear Day roster. I think we’ll see both of them next year for Texas. Remember that this time last year the Stars also parted ways with Mathieu Tousignant, who went on to play in 13 Steelheads playoff games.

Here’s the release:
The Texas Stars announced on Tuesday that defenseman Guillaume Monast and forward Michael Neal have been assigned to the Idaho Steelheads, Texas’ ECHL affiliate.

Monast has one assist in nine games for Texas over three separate recalls from Idaho. He registered his first AHL point with the Stars this season at Lake Erie on Feb. 16. In 41 games for Idaho this year, Monast has one goal and seven assists while adding 22 penalty minutes. The Quebec native spent his rookie season with Idaho, setting up six goals in 68 games played, helping the Steelheads reach the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals. Monast attended training camp in Dallas and in Texas each of the last two years.

Neal is in his second pro season after spending the bulk of his rookie season with Idaho. Neal has played in 15 games for Texas this year, scoring three goals and totaling 12 penalty minutes. This season, the Whitby, ON native has played in 36 games for the Steelheads, scoring six goals and totaling 13 points. Last season, Neal played in 57 games for the Steelheads, posting 15 points on five goals and ten assists. The 21-year old also skated in six games for the Texas Stars without registering a point. Neal was drafted in the fifth round (#149 overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and he is the younger brother of Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal.
Image credit: Texas Stars

Lukowich Suspended One Game By AHL

Credit: Texas Stars
The AHL announced today that Stars captain Brad Lukowich has been suspended for one game due to his actions in the Friday night game against San Antonio. The only item I can see on the game sheet that points to a suspension was a minor penalty Lukowich took for boarding. It is also possible that the “play” was not a play at all and involved verbal abuse of an official at ice level, something that Lukowich has done in prior games as we've all seen on the video board.

Release:
San Antonio Rampage defenseman Maxim Goncharov and Texas Stars defenseman Brad Lukowich have been suspended for one (1) game each as a result of their actions in a game between the teams on Mar. 4. Both players were suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline).

Goncharov will miss San Antonio’s game on Thursday (Mar. 10) vs. Oklahoma City. Lukowich will miss Texas’s game on Friday (Mar. 11) at Syracuse.

Stars Release Clear Day Roster

The Texas Stars released their Clear Day roster today. For the most part, the roster was as expected. There were two notable exclusions. First, in the goaltender category, Texas did not name Brent Krahn to the Clear Day. This likely spells the end of his career with the Dallas organization. Tyler Beskorowany looks like he will spend the remainder of the year in Texas.

Also, Scott McCulloch was left off the roster at the forward position. After starting the year on fire, he suffered a series of lower body injuries that forced him to miss over half the season. Barring callups, which Texas currently has one of in Tomas Vincour, McCulloch will not be eligible to play for the rest of the year.

UPDATE: "No comment" from Texas Stars GM Scott White on either players' absence from the Clear Day roster.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars of the American Hockey League announced on Tuesday the 2010-11 Clear Day Roster, which consists of 20 skaters and two goaltenders.

According to AHL by-laws, only the players listed on a team’s Clear Day Roster are eligible to compete in the remainder of the AHL regular season and in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs, unless emergency conditions arise as a result of injury, recall or suspension. Teams may also add signed junior players or players on amateur tryout contracts after Clear Day, but only once their respective junior or college seasons are complete.

The Stars Clear Day Roster consists of 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders.

Goaltenders: Richard Bachman, Tyler Beskorowany

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Maxime Fortunus, Philip Larsen, Trevor Ludwig, Brad Lukowich, Dan Spang, Matt Stephenson

Forwards: Sean Backman, Cody Chupp, Aaron Gagnon, Luke Gazdic, Travis Morin, Greg Rallo, Ondrej Roman, Raymond Sawada, Colton Sceviour, Brandon Segal, Mathieu Tousignant, Tomas Vincour, Francis Wathier

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stars Outworked By Crunch 3-1

Colton Sceviour and Greg Rallo push in on Crunch goalie Ray Emery in today's game. (Credit: Texas Stars)
In their first home day game, Texas fell flat and didn't execute right out of the gate. A sluggish first period against the Crunch doomed the Stars prospects at two points on the day. "We weren't prepared," said Coach Gulutzan postgame. "I guess I have to take that on the coaching side."

"We weren't ready and there's no excuse for it," added Stars center Travis Morin.

On the first shift, Dan Spang had no breakout options and rimmed the puck around the boards from behind his own net. John Mitchell caught the 'pass' and scored his 7th of the year unassisted just 19 seconds in.

The Crunch's second came three and a half minutes later on a penalty shot. Brad Lukowich was called for hooking, and Matt Kennedy took the shot, scoring five hole on Beskorowany. "We really lost the game in the first five minutes," said Gulutzan.

In the second period, Syracuse' third goal came on the rebound with Brian McGrattan cramming a puck past Beskorowany on the left side. Richard Bachman replaced Beskorowany, who stopped three of six shots against. Brad Lukowich got Texas on the board on the power play just past the game's halfway point. His shot from the point made its way through all the traffic in front and into the net for his 4th of the year.

Through the third period, Texas continually got beat on foot races to the puck and couldn't put together a consistent offensive effort, despite seven power play opportunities in the game. "If we bury those [power play] chances, it's a different game," said Morin. Texas had 28 shots in the game to Syracuse's 19.

The Stars will travel to Syracuse to face the Crunch again on Friday. Ray Emery will not be in net for Syracuse in the return game, however.

Tonight's lines:
Neal-Roman-Sawada
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
McCulloch-Gagnon-Rallo
Gazdic-Morin-Backman

Benn-Spang
Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Fortunus

Beskorowany

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Monast, Chupp, Stephenson (scratched)
Krahn, Wathier (lower body)
Vincour (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 3,637.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Syracuse - March 7 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Syracuse Crunch

Texas Stars
34-21-4-5, 77 pts
#3 West Division
v.Syracuse Crunch
21-33-3-4, 49 pts
#6 East Division
March 7th at 11:00 AM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Syracuse Crunch are one of the few East Conference teams brave enough to travel to Texas with regularity. The Crunch are finishing a road trip that saw them lose to Houston on Friday night and beat San Antonio on Saturday. The Stars will play a return game in Syracuse on Friday, starting and ending the season series between the two teams in the same week.

For the Syracuse Crunch, it has been another tough season. After last year's disappointing finish, the Crunch ended their affiliation agreement with the Columbus Blue Jackets in hopes of finding a more committed affiliate. The Anaheim Ducks stepped up. Fans in Syracuse have again been disappointed, as have been the Crunch's owners, in the affiliate's commitment to the team. Syracuse has lamented their lack of quality goaltending and prospects from the NHL team.

Adding salt to the wound was last week's trade deadline. Joel Perrault was traded to the Ducks, but Anaheim decided to keep him in Manitoba, where he had played all season, because he would have a greater chance at the post-season there. It is a fair assessment of Syrcause's playoff potential, but the snub rubbed season ticket holders the wrong way understandably.

NHL quality help is going to be on display in net for Syracuse on Monday with Ray Emery minding the cage. Emery, who spent much of the past year rehabbing a hip injury due to something called avascular necrosis, was picked up to give Anaheim veteran help in net with Jonas Hiller suffering from vertigo. It is a guarantee that Emery will play Monday, as the stated reason for the send down was for him to play Saturday and Monday. Emery is a superbly talented netminder, who backstopped the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Texas will look to continue its winning streak at home in front of an audience of elementary school kids. Nothing changes for the Stars in terms of preparation for an 11 AM game, according to goalie Tyler Beskorowany. Texas has played their last several games without a morning skate thanks to Toros basketball, so this will be no different.

Greg Rallo has a two game goal streak going despite missing some teeth thanks to Friday night's game. The Crunch are led in scoring by Nicolas Deschamps (12-22-34), Josh Green (11-23-34), and Patrick Maroon (18-15-33). Texas just needs to play its game and get a lot of shots on Ray Emery to win out the day.

Stars injury/call up report:
Krahn, Morin, Wathier (lower body)
Vincour (call up)

Travis Morin could return today for Texas. Sources inside the organization indicated he is "very close" to a return.

Website: syracusecrunch.com
Twitter: @SyracuseCrunch
Newspaper: Syracuse.com Crunch Hockey Blog

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Texas Cruises By Houston 3-1

The playoffs don't start for another month, but the Texas Stars are already in that mindset. Tonight, they made a big statement and got two points closer to sealing a playoff berth for themselves. "It's a playoff atmosphere [in the room]," said goalie Tyler Beskorowany, who got the win, stopping 29 of 30 shots. "This win just gives us that much more of a boost." The victory against the Houston Aeros, who have given the Stars fits this year, was as important on the standings as it was in the Stars' heads, if not more.

Texas got off to the right start with Maxime Fortunus scoring his 4th of the year on a slapper from the point. The goal, assisted by Brandon Segal and Aaron Gagnon, came at 8:14 of the first.

Just over two minutes later, Texas allowed the only goal against of the night. Coming off a faceoff, two of the highest volume point-getters against the Stars this year combined to tie it at 1. Patrick O'Sullivan assisted Jon DiSalvatore's 18th of the year and 8th goal against Texas.

Despite a 13-5 shot deficit, Texas was tied at the first intermission. It was no problem for Beskorowany: "I've grown accustomed to facing a lot of shots."

On the power play in the second, Brandon Segal collected his 7th goal of the year and second point of the night on a nice goal line tip-in. From there on out, it was about keeping it simple. Texas kept high quality scoring chances to a minimum and stayed out of penalty trouble for the rest of the night, until the last two minutes.

Ray Sawada took a boarding call with under two minutes left in the game, creating a 6-on-4 advantage for Houston. A faceoff win for Texas in their own zone set the break out as Greg Rallo scored his team-leading 21st of the year into the empty net.

The Stars finish the weekend with four of a total of four available points. "It was good to have that day off on Wednesday," said Beskorowany. The Stars will look to continue their luck in their first home day game in history on Monday.

Tonight's lines:
McCulloch-Roman-Sawada
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Neal-Gagnon-Rallo
Gazdic-Chupp-Backman

Benn-Spang
Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Fortunus

Beskorowany

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Monast, Stephenson (scratched)
Morin, Krahn, Wathier (lower body)
Vincour (callup)

Tonight's attendance was 6,544.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Houston - March 5 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
33-21-4-5, 75 pts
#3 West Division
v.Houston Aeros
37-23-1-4, 79 pts
#2 West Division
March 5th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

If you put together the Stars last two games, they played one complete game altogether. The last half of the Abbotsford game and the first half of the San Antonio game put together would be one heck of a hockey game for the Stars. The Stars are concentrated on playing a solid 60 minute game on Saturday night, according to center Aaron Gagnon.

Tonight's game is the 11th and second to last on the season between the Stars and the Houston Aeros. Overall, Texas is 1-6-2-1 against Houston. After falling 3-2 against Rockford on Sunday, the Aeros have outscored the IceHogs and Crunch 11-2 in their last two games.

Houston has been devastated by the Wild's injury woes but continues to find ways to win. From our friends at The Third Intermission:
The Aeros are either dropping like flies or picking up the OnePass miles to Minnesota, so you have to be impressed with how they have responded with all the player movement this week.

Jamie Fraser, Jeff Penner, Cody Almond, Drew Bagnall, Matt Kassian and Tyler Cuma are hurt. Warren Peters and Casey Wellman are in the NHL, and the Aeros win another game with guys like Jamie Fritsch, Pascal Morency and Joel Broda filling in.
Stars killers Jon DiSalvatore (14 points in 10 games), Maxim Noreau (10 points in 10 games) and Patrick O'Sullivan (9 points in just 4 games) will still be in the lineup.

One player who will surely not be in the lineup is Anton Khudobin, who had previously stoned the Stars on the year, winning all 7 decisions against Texas. Khudobin was traded to the Bruins organization and is now the #1 in Providence. Matt Hackett is no slouch though, as he has picked up two wins against Texas and has a 2.28 GAA overall this year.

Houston has pulled away from Texas this week with a 4-1 record. Leading Texas by four point, Houston can use this game to extend their lead and further cement the playoffs. These points are more important for Texas with several teams right on their heels for third place.

Stars injury/call up report:
Wathier (day-to-day)
Krahn, Morin (lower body)
Vincour (call up)

Website: aeros.com
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stars Win Heart-Stopping Game 6-5 in OT

Texas Stars' Luke Gazdic, Cody Chupp and Jordie Benn celebrate Chupp's 5th of the year in the first period. (Credit: Texas Stars)

All told, it was two points. It was probably the most gut-wrenching, heart stopping two points the Stars have earned this season, but it was two points that broke a five game losing streak. Texas gave up a 4-0 lead in the third period, allowing five unanswered goals, but came back to win 6-5 in overtime on Greg Rallo's 20th of the season. "It's nice to get the two points, but gaining two points on a team is a big thing," said center Aaron Gagnon. "We were lucky just to scramble back and get the two points."

Before most fans had found their seats, Texas was already on the board. Mathieu Tousignant shot a puck from the left wing circle that was tipped in front by Brandon Segal to make it 1-0 just 17 seconds in. Ray Sawada scored in a similar fashion just 150 seconds later on a tip from a Maxime Fortunus shot. A carbon copy of that play made it 3-0 and chased Matt Climie from the net after allowing three goals on nine shots. Maxime Fortunus assisted on the first three goals for Texas.

The Stars got one more in the period off an odd man rush. Joe Fallon had his corner picked by Cody Chupp, his 5th of the year. "We couldn't have gotten any more bounces to go our way in the first," said Gagnon. Texas ended the period ahead 17-13 on shots.

The second period was filled with pugilism as San Antonio found the game out of reach and decided to use their fists and elbows instead of their sticks. Forty-three penalty minutes were doled out in the period but no power play goals resulted for either team.

It was the power play though that got San Antonio back in the game in the 3rd. Texas' Brandon Segal took an ill-advised charging major penalty, giving the Rampage five minutes of power play time. They used all of it.

"We got in a bit of penalty trouble [in the third]," said Gagnon. "And all the sudden we're on our heels."

San Antonio scored power play goals from Tikhonov, Picard and Beaudoin to get it to 4-3. Bracken Kearns got it to even with half a period left, and Texas was tied up without any of the momentum. San Antonio scored their fifth unanswered goal with 3:34 left in the third period to go ahead 5-4.

With Richard Bachman on the bench and the 6th man on for Texas, it was Aaron Gagnon who sniped the corner from the low left wing side to make it 5-5 and take the game into overtime.

In the end, it was Greg Rallo taking the stick to the face and then scoring the game winner in OT. With a 4 minute power play on the board for high sticking, Greg Rallo went to work from "his office", the left wing circle. The slapper was his 7th game winning goal of the season and 20th goal overall.

Tonight's lines:
Segal-Sceviour-Tousignant
Wathier-Gagnon-Rallo
McCulloch-Roman-Sawada
Gazdic-Backman-Chupp

Benn-Fortunus
Lukowich-Larsen
Ludwig-Spang

Bachman

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Monast, Neal, Stephenson (scratched)
Morin, Krahn (lower body)
Vincour (callup)

Francis Wathier came off the ice favoring a leg in the second period and did not return to the bench in the third.

Tonight's attendance was 5,036.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - March 4 2011

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
32-21-4-5, 73 pts
#4 West Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
35-23-2-0, 72 pts
#5 West Division
March 4th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The last time the Texas Stars notched a "W" was 12 days ago in Milwaukee. Since then, Texas is 0-2-1-2 and barely keeping themselves afloat via loser points in the West Division. Coach Gulutzan and GM Scott White both publicly called out player effort in postgame and radio interviews since the debacle Tuesday night against Abbotsford. While Texas lost 5-3 with the fifth being an ENG, the score was no indication of the Stars being flat outplayed for long stretches of the game, including the first half of the first period.

The Stars got Wednesday off, their first true day off in some time, and practiced on Thursday. With undertones of player movement from Scott White, players should come out motivated if they want to prove why they deserve a spot on the playoff roster come Monday.

San Antonio comes into Cedar Park Center winners in their last two games, against Texas and Abbotsford. Overall, the Stars have performed well against the Rampage this year at 5-1-0-2. However, the Rampage are finally getting healthy and starting to build a rhythm towards the playoffs. Despite their 5th place standing, their points percentage puts them in 3rd place and a guaranteed playoff spot. Texas, meanwhile, is tied with Peoria for 5th place, and Peoria has the tie breaker with a 3-2 record on the season.

The Stars will hope for the return of Travis Morin and Philip Larsen to the lineup to help them power through to the playoffs. Larsen was expecting to be ready for Tuesday's game against Abbotsford but did not play. No word on Morin's progress though both players have been skating since last week separately from morning skate.

Not to look ahead too much, but Houston is tomorrow night's dance partner. Texas is 1-6-1-2 against the Aeros this year so two points are not a given against them. The Stars need to win tonight to make sure they continue to gain ground in the West. From the two games, you'd expect two points total, and this is the game you'd expect them from.

Stars injury/call up report:
Krahn, Morin, Larsen (lower body)
Vincour (call up)

Website: sarampage.com
Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @SARampage_Voice (play-by-play for SA)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glennie, Dillon Headline List of Stars' Possible ATO Signees

Cody Chupp was brought in on an amateur tryout contract at the end of last season and signed a standard player contract for the 2010-11 season. (Credit: Byrd/Texas Stars)
The NHL trade deadline is behind us and that means the AHL Clear Day is coming fast. The AHL has announced Clear Day as Monday, March 7th at 3 PM EST. For those of you who don't know or don't remember, here is the rundown from the league on what Clear Day is:
Each Clear Day roster consists of a maximum of 22 players. According to AHL by-laws, only those players listed on a team’s Clear Day roster are eligible to compete in the remainder of the AHL regular season and in the Calder Cup Playoffs, unless emergency conditions arise as a result of recall, injury or suspension.

Teams may also add signed junior players or players on amateur tryout contracts, only after their respective junior or college seasons are complete.
This brings up the very valid question of possible amateur tryout (ATO) signings and “Jamie Benn” style assignments around the league.

For Texas, this year there will be no Jamie Benn type players, as the Stars had no outstanding rookies in their roster and will, more than likely, be playing for the Stanley Cup. The most troubling possible assignee for the Stars is Edmonton’s Taylor Hall. However, Hall is too young for an assignment to the AHL; players must be at least 20 years old for assignment. This also saves the AHL West from a possible assignment by Atlanta of rookie phenom Alex Burmistrov, to the Chicago Wolves.

This transitions us to ATOs. Any player who has yet to play a professional game is eligible the playoffs through an ATO. Last year’s ATO signees include Cody Chupp and Tyler Ludwig, both of whom were signed on for this year over the summer on standard player contracts. Neither of those signings had an external tea leaves to read, but this year, the Stars have a few obvious possibilities in the ATO role.

First, there is the recent Dallas signee, Brenden Dillon. Dillon is an offensive defenseman with a penchant for pugilism. This year alone he has 6 goals and 46 assists to go with 128 PIMs in 64 games. His Seattle Thunderbirds are in last place in the WHL’s West Conference and unlikely to make the playoffs. The last regular season game for the team is March 20th, after which he would be eligible for an ATO.

Another possible signee is Dallas’ 2009 first round draft pick, Scott Glennie. Glennie, who has lit it up for the Brandon Wheat Kings this season with 32-49-81 in 63 games, is likely to be in the playoffs in the WHL. The Wheat Kings are currently in 7th place in the East with seven points separating them from 8th; the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. Therefore, Glennie may not be available to be signed until later, but his scoring touch could be a valuable addition to the Stars lineup.

Of course, Scott White certainly has his eye on other prospects that we haven’t even heard of yet. Keep watch on the transaction log, and I will let you know of what I hear as we move closer to Monday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stars Release Dave Bonk

Texas announced today that it has released Dave Bonk from his PTO. Hopes are that this release presages the return of Travis Morin back to the lineup. Bonk will return to the CHL's Allen Americans.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced on Wednesday that the club has released center Dave Bonk from a PTO (professional tryout agreement).

Bonk played in 11 games with Texas, scoring twice and setting up one other for three points with the Stars. The 28-year old center had played the majority of the season with the CHL’s Allen Americans. In 33 games with the Americans, Bonk scored 15 goals and added 29 assists for 44 points. The 188-pound center also appeared in six games with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons earlier this year, posting one assist and four penalty minutes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Heat Melt Stars 5-3 in Cedar Park

Dan Spang mans the point in tonight's game (Credit: Texas Stars)
Texas fell victims to rough scheduling and some players acting as "passengers", according to Coach Gulutzan, in tonight's 5-3 loss to Abbotsford Heat. The Stars were playing their 5th game in 7 days and came out flat for the first period. "Tuesday games after 3-in-3s are always tough," said Gulutzan. "The schedule really stunk." However, Coach Gulutzan didn't believe it was the schedule that was to blame for the slow start.

"I thought we had some guys who didn't show up and they're guys who haven't played heavy minutes," said Gulutzan. "If I had a do-over here, I'd probably insert a couple new guys in the lineup."

Texas's evening got off to a less than great start with the Stars allowing the first three goals of the game in just over five minutes. Stefan Meyer, Cam Cunning and Ales Kotalik made it 3-0 by the 14 minute mark of the first.

Greg Rallo got the comeback started with a laser beam from the high slot on a drop pass from Brandon Segal. Texas' Luke Gazdic then took a nasty hit to the head from Ryan MacMurchy, generating a five minute major power play for the Stars. Gazdic returned to his skates and played the rest of the game. Texas scored on the major penalty with Brad Lukowich sneaking down from the left point to poke in a cross-crease pass from Aaron Gagnon. Texas would close the period at 3-2 but with a shot deficit of 19-8.

Logan MacMillan continued the scoring for Abbotsford in the second period, opening up a 4-2 lead for the Heat. After killing a Heat power play, Texas's Aaron Gagnon had a break away chance with Francis Wathier trailing. Gagnon was hooked and lost the puck but Francis Wathier followed up on the chance, potting his 16th of the year.

Pugilism picked up in the last few minutes of the second with Dan Spang on the receiving end of a high hit from Ryan Stone. Scott McCulloch dropped the gloves with Stone, taking an instigator minor and misconduct. The Stars outshot the Heat 15-7 in the middle frame.

The third period was a valiant effort for the Stars, who kept the shots down and close. The only scoring in the period was an empty netter for Alex Kotalik with 23 seconds left in the game. Texas is now on a five game losing streak, going 0-2-1-2 in their last five.

Tonight's lines:
Wathier-Sceviour-Sawada
McCulloch-Gagnon-Rallo
Segal-Bonk-Tousignant
Gazdic-Roman-Chupp

Benn-Fortunus
Lukowich-Stephenson
Ludwig-Spang

Beskorowany

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Backman, Neal, Monast (scratched)
Larsen, Morin, Krahn (lower body)
Vincour (callup)

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Abbotsford - March 1 2011