Monday, December 31, 2012

Eberle's Natural Hat Trick Ends Stars' 2012 with 5-2 Loss

Jordan Eberle (Credit: Steven Christy)

The difference in the Stars game tonight was all in 2:43 of the first period. After the Stars led the shots in the early going, NHL All-Star Jordan Eberle potted three straight against the Stars to mark a natural hat trick in just 2:43 and set the score at 3-0. While Texas would score two in the game themselves, the damage was done in the first period with the exact thing that the Stars didn't want to happen: an OKC scoring outburst.

Jordan Eberle's four-point game started in the fifteenth minute of the first as Taylor Hall assisted on two goals by the winger just nine seconds apart. Texas actually controlled the early action, but the Barons took over all the momentum with the two goals.

Later in the first, Antoine Roussel took a slashing call and went to the box. The number one power play in the AHL wasted no time as Eberle scored six seconds into the penalty with assists from Justin Schultz and Mark Arcobello.

Cristopher Nilstorp would return to the net for the second period despite allowing three goals on seven shots in the first. Colton Sceviour scored his ninth of the year in the period off a rebound from a Fortunus shot. Travis Morin collected the second assist.

Justin Schultz regained the Barons' three goal lead with his seventeenth of the year on the power play just two minutes later. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall assisted on the goal, their fourth and third points of the night, respectively. Texas put 21 shots on Yann Danis in the middle frame, tying a season high.

Texas carried over some power play time to the third where Matt Fraser did some damage. A one-timer off the pass of Morin gave Fraser his 12th of the season. In the end, it wasn't enough as the Stars ceded an empty net goal in the fying seconds of the game to fall by a 5-2 final. Barons captain Josh Green had the tally.

With the loss, the Stars are passed by the Barons and drop to seventh in the conference.

Texas will play again on Friday at Houston. The game will start a three-in-three weekend for the Stars that will see them play Peoria on Saturday and welcome Houston on Sunday.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Gazdic-Petersen-Vause
Hedden-Roussel-A. Smith

Baldwin-Fortunus
Nemeth-Dillon
Benn-Oleksiak

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wathier, Labrie (scratch)
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injured)
Vincour (head)

Tonight's attendance was 4,976.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - December 31 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
16-10-3-2, 37 pts
#6 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
16-10-1-3, 36 pts
#7 Western Conference
December 31st at 6:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

How many different ways can it be said? The Oklahoma City Barons can score goals. The key to winning games against them is stopping that from happening.

Three of the top eleven scorers in the league are from the Barons side, including Taylor Hall, who had a hat trick against Texas in the last game between these two. Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle co-lead the league in points at 43 each.

In the Stars arsenal, they are glad to have Cody Eakin back in the fold. The first line centerman was unavailable for the last game against OKC. He currently leads the Stars in both points (10-11-21) and plus-minus (plus-10). He has three points in four games against OKC this season. Colton Sceviour leads all scorers (3-3-6) followed by Maxime Fortunus with five assists.

In the only game that Texas has won against OKC this year, they were firing on all cylinders. Nilstorp pitched a shutout, and the Stars had three goals. YOu don't have ot be perfect to beat the Barons; OKC lost to San Antonio on Saturday in a shootout. However, this year, it seems like Texas nearly does.

The Stars are 9-15-0-1 all time against OKC and 5-8-0-0 all time at Cox Convention Center.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (questionable)
Vincour (head)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stars Earn Convincing 3-1 Win Over West's Top Team

Cody Eakin scores the Stars' insurance goal on Dan Ellis tonight in Cedar Park. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

Something about those Charlotte Checkers brings out the best in the Texas Stars. In three games, Texas has beaten the conference-leaders, all in relatively tight games.

"Charlotte's got a real good team," said Coach Desjardins postgame. "Every game's been close and could have gone either way."

After allowing the first goal, Texas stormed back with three straight to seal up a 3-1 win and break a three game losing streak.

"We're both speedy teams and, for whatever reason, they bring out the best in us."

Speed was on display tonight as Taylor Vause beat out a few icing calls and got a primary assist on Texas's first tally by Petersen thanks to his skating.

"Our speed [matches well with Charlotte]," said Alex Chiasson, who scored a power play goal in the game. "We have four lines and defensemen that can skate. That's what we think is our biggest strength."

The Stars got behind early in the first with Zac Dalpe completing a tic-tac-toe play to find twine behind Nilstorp. While not technically a power play goal, the score came just as Reilly Smith stepped onto the ice.

"Those are tough," said Vause. "You work hard and get chances and then they get a power play and score one right at the end. It shows our character that we can come back."

Speedsters Toby Petersen and Taylor Vause combined for the tying marker eight minutes later as Vause tracked down a puck in the corner and centered it to Petersen, who tucked it in high on the left side for the 1-1 score. The Stars would go to the room tied at one but up 13-6 on shots after twenty.

The Stars added a goal each in the next two periods as they rolled four solid lines against the Checkers. Alex Chiasson scored a power play goal on a tip play in front off the initial shot of Reilly Smith. With a goal and an assist on the night, Chiasson is on a four game point streak.

Texas killed a Brenden Dillon roughing minor as the second period wore on to hold their one goal lead. They ended the period with a 25-18 shots advantage.

Charlotte swung the balance the other way in the third period, outshooting Texas 13-6 as they worked to even the score. Instead, it was Cody Eakin creating problems for goaltender Dan Ellis. Eakin scored his tenth of the year, despite his full face shield, off a nice dish from Alex Chiasson, who was glad to have his centerman back on the ice.

"Eakin is a great leader. He doesn't talk much, but he leads by example on the ice and makes a difference."

The insurance goal ended up being all the Stars needed to grab the two points from the conference leaders. Texas is now 10-0-0-0 when leading after two periods. The win moves the Stars up to 37 points and sixth place in the West, tied with Houston.

Texas will face Oklahoma City in Oklahoma on New Year's Eve.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Gazdic-Petersen-Vause
Hedden-Roussel-A. Smith

Nemeth-Dillon
Benn-Oleksiak
Labrie-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wathier (scratch, maintenance day)
Baldwin (scratch)
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injured)
Vincour (head)

Coach on various player injuries:
Glennie: "be able to play [next week]"
Vincour: "tough hit, he'll be out for a little while"
Sloan: "at least another week away, hasn't come along as quickly as we hoped"

Tonight's attendance was 5,561.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - December 29 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
15-10-3-2, 35 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
18-9-1-3, 21 pts
#1 Western Conference
December 29th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas welcomes the first place team in the Western Conference to the Cedar Park Center this evening as the Stars are on a three game losing streak. Texas has actually had excellent luck against the Charlotte Checkers so far this season. Both games were won in extended shootouts at the CPC, nine rounds each.

Dan Ellis started both of those games against Texas but cooled off his hot start and currently has a 7-5-2 record. After not allowing either tender to start more than two straight until December 14th, Charlotte has started Justin Peters in five straight starting on December 15th against Houston. The Checkers have a 3-0-1-1 record in those five games. Overall, the Hurricanes farm club hasn't lost in regulation since December 9th, a point streak of seven games.

The Stars, of course, will be looking to break up that streak tonight but will have to do so without some of their top talent. Cody Eakin is questionable for the evening after missing the Stars game against Oklahoma City after a stick to the mouth in the Stars game against Houston. Tomas Vincour suffered a head injury and is likely to be held out of the game for a little while. In addition, vet Tyler Sloan and second-year forward Scott Glennie continue to be out with injuries.

As a result, Texas went to the farm and signed Gord Baldwin, a defenseman with AHL experience most recently in Abbotsford. They also called up Austin Smith, who played on the second line with Morin and Fraser on Thursday. The young forward recorded two shots but no other statistics. The Stars want him in a top six role, given his goal scoring prowess in college and at the ECHL level.

Reilly Smith's recent surge has to give Austin confidence. Reilly and Austin are roommates when in Cedar Park and seem to have developed a good relationship. All Reilly needed was the first goal to turn on the spigot full-force (10 goals and 5 assists in 14 games). Austin is still searching for his first AHL goal but has 16 in Idaho, which is tops on the team and ties him for first among all ECHL rookies. (Sidenote: Reilly is 13th among rookies in scoring.)

Texas is still with no extra forwards. Barring no more injuries tonight, Texas will probably be able to ride into next week on what they have. Leading scorer Cody Eakin can't get back in the lineup fast enough. However, you have to hand it to Colton Sceviour, who scored two goals on Thursday in that top-line center spot.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (unspecified)
Eakin (mouth)
Vincour (head)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Blog (unofficial): Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @mikelappan (PR)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stars Sign D Gord Baldwin; AHL Suspends VandeVelde for Headshot

The Stars announced the signing of defenseman Gord Baldwin from the Idaho Steelheads today. The signing indicates that the team was not comfortable with their current position, only having six healthy defenseman. It also indicates that Tyler Sloan's injury could be more serious or long-term than previously thought.

Baldwin previously played for the Stars head coach, Willie Desjardins, in WHL Medicine Hat. Jace Coyle, one of the other Stars-contracted defenseman in Idaho, is currently suffering a foot injury.

Further, the AHL announced today that Chris VandeVelde was suspended today for three games as a result of his illegal check to the head of Tomas Vincour. Vincour did not return to the game. VandeVelde will miss a game against Texas on New Year's Eve in OKC.

Here's the release on Baldwin:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has signed defenseman Gord Baldwin to a professional tryout contract, calling him up from the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL.

Baldwin, 25, is currently in his sixth professional season and has 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists), 39 penalty minutes and a +11 plus-minus rating in 26 games for Idaho this year. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the third round (69th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and spent parts of four seasons with the club’s AHL affiliate in Quad City and Abbotsford, appearing in 234 career AHL games and recording 48 points (8 goals, 48 assists) and 207 penalty minutes. Baldwin (6’5”, 225 lbs) played three seasons of junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, where he played for Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins. He was a member of the Medicine Hat squad that won the 2007 WHL Championship and went to the 2007 Memorial Cup Tournament.

Idaho Steelheads Report: Steelheads Drop Two, Look Forward to Weekend Matches

Josh Robinson suffered his first regulation loss this past week (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
Guest blogger John Mulhern covers the Idaho Steelheads. Follow John on Twitter @Mulhern4

The Idaho Steelheads went into the Christmas break a little more humbled as after losing 6-2 to the Ontario Reign on Dec 15th they would fall 4-2 to the Utah Grizzlies and 2-1 (SO) to the Las Vegas Wranglers.

On Wednesday Dec 19th, Josh Robinson would suffer his first regulation loss to the Grizzlies. It wasn’t for lack of effort on the goaltender or the team’s part. It was just a case of missed opportunities and unfortunate bounces. The travel schedule hasn’t been kind at the moment either as the Steelheads played their 4th game in 5 nights in 4 different cities. It didn’t stop the Steelheads from firing from all angles, as they did out-shoot the Grizzlies by 15 shots for the game. Ultimately the final piece of the puzzle was Utah’s power play goal to extend the lead to two that ended any change of a comeback.

12/19 Game Notes: Steelheads only had 5 healthy defensemen with Hubert Labrie (Texas) & Patrick Cullity (Springfield) in the AHL and Jace Coyle suffering from an injury. Other than Robinson taking the loss, the only notable stat line from the game was Austin Smith being -2 for the game. Steelheads were 0 for 9 on the power play.

Against the Las Vegas Wranglers, and in front of a sold out Century Link Arena, Tyler Beskorowany got his shot at redemption coming off the 6 goals allowed against Ontario the week prior. “Besko” looked solid and the only blemish was a short-handed breakaway goal by Eric Lampe. Lampe picked up a terrible dump in attempt that turned into a tape-to-tape pass that sprung him loose for the goal. Despite his numbers, Lampe is a top 15 point man in the ECHL, but as the Wranglers have struggled so has he. Austin Smith, was able to get the only Steelheads goal on the night was on a line rush, he let a “nasty” wrist shot go from just inside the blue line that beat Wranglers goaltender Joe Fallon high glove and exploded the water bottle off the top of the net and into the corner towards the end of the second period. That was all the scoring until the shootout, which the Wranglers took 1-0 for the 2-1 win.

To be honest, the Steelheads are lucky to have even gotten a point out of this game. Despite the sold out crowd, it looked like the team was looking forward to the weeklong break that they just had. Maybe they were just happy to be home, maybe Las Vegas just had so much energy it made the Steelheads look bad. But it might be time to keep an eye on the “nasty factor” of these Steelheads as they tend to play better when they are physical vs. when they sit back and try to make the pretty plays. One positive is that despite only having 5 D-Men again, the Steelheads are doing a good job of keeping he puck out of the back of the net.

12/22 Game Notes: Still only 5 defensemen for this game. Beskorowany, 28 svs on 29 shots in the loss. Austin Smith 1g 3 shots +1 and Tristan King 4 shots Steelheads Power Play continued to struggle going 0 for 5 with a SHGA

Previewing the Weekend

The Idaho Steelheads continue on the road this week with two games. Once again, the schedule maker does no favors to the team as they are in Bakersfield, Saturday night for an 8p MT start and they in Las Vegas, Sunday for a 3:05p MT start. The Steelheads are currently riding a 0-2-0-1 streak in which they have only scored a total of 5 goals.

They are also going to be without forward and leading goal scorer Austin Smith (16g) as he has been reassigned to the Texas Stars. The Steelheads have picked up defenseman James Isaacs (Mississippi; SPHL). Isaacs was in training camp with the Steelheads prior to the season. Isaacs has 2g & 8a in 17 games this year.

Saturday Dec 29 @ Bakersfield Condors 8:00p MT
Bakersfield is 7-20-1-2 for 17 pts, good for 9th place in the Western Conference. Steelheads are 3-0-0-1 against the Condors this year. (PP: IDH 23.3% BAK 15.6%; PK: IDH 84.4% BAK 75.7%)

Sunday Dec 30 @ Las Vegas Wranglers 3:05p MT
Las Vegas is 12-11-1-3 for 28 pts, good for 6th place in the Western Conference. Steelheads are 2-1-0-1 against the Wrangler this year. (Las Vegas PP: 14.9%; Las Vegas PK: 85%)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Penalties Plague Stars in 5-4 Loss to Barons

Jamie Oleksiak scores his second of the year in the second period. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

The Stars fell to the Barons 5-4 tonight in Cedar Park in a game dominated by power play scoring for both clubs. Taylor Hall had two power play goals among his three total goals to earn the first star. The Barons had three power play goals overall to the Stars two, scored by Sceviour and Roussel. Texas simply allowed too many power play opportunities to the top-ranked power play in the league, eight in total.

Jack Campbell stopped 21 of 26 shots against in the game. Colton Sceviour collected two goals and Jamie Oleksiak had a goal and an assist.

Oklahoma City struck first in tonight's game. The power play goal came courtesy of Jordan Eberle, who wired a wrist shot over Jack Campbell's right shoulder for the 1-0 lead. The tally was assisted by Justin Schultz and Mark Arcobello. The Barons capitalized again on the power play in the last minute of the period with Taylor Hall one-timing the puck to the net with 18.9 seconds remaining. Arcobello and Schultz again assisted on the power play tally. Texas led on shots 11-6 despite the 2-0 deficit on the scoreboard.

The middle frame would see Texas surge back with two goals of their own. The Stars went on a 3-on-1 rush in the fifth minute of the period and Jamie Oleksiak foudn twine with his second goal of the year. The slick wrister from the right-wing circle was unassisted and put the crowd back into it.

The Texas power play activated in the second period to tie the game in the 14th minute. Colton Sceviour sent the puck to the net from the left wing half-wall and then charged the net. Sceviour collected a rebound and shot the puck in between Reilly Smith's legs for the 2-2 tie.

OKC would quickly regain their lead, however. On the next play, Teemu Hartikainen picked up his ninth of the year on a fluky play. Jack Campbell appeared to have collected the puck but it actually tipped off his glove and into the net for the 3-2 Barons lead to end the second period.

The power play once again cashed in for Texas as the third period opened. With Nathan Deck in the box for interference, Antoine Roussel continued his record setting season with his sixth of the year. A Brenden Dillon blast from the point rebounded perfectly to Roussel at the left of the net where he tapped it in for the three-all tie.

The wheels came off in the remainder of the third period as Taylor Hall showed why he is an NHL first round pick. Hall had a carbon copy of his first power play goal from the right wing circle to make it 4-3. Then shortly thereafter, Hall scored on a breakaway to secure a hat trick.

Colton Scveiour would add another tally at even-strength low ont he left-wing side off a nice pass from Jamie Oleksiak. Ultimately, it would not be enough.

Texas will be in action again at home on Saturday against the division-leading Checkers.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Sceviour-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-A. Smith
Gazdic-Wathier-Vause
Vincour-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Labrie-Fortunus
Nemeth-Dillon

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Petersen (scratch)
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injured)
Eakin (mouth)

The Stars called up Austin Smith prior to the game to replace Cody Eakin in the lineup. Eakin took a stick to the mouth in the game against Houston last night.

The Stars lost Tomas Vincour in the first period, and he did not return. Depending on Cody Eakin's health, Texas may need to call up another forward. Candidates include Mathieu Tousignant and Tristan King from the Steelheads.

Tonight's attendance was 5,354.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - December 27 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
15-9-3-2, 35 pts
#5 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
14-10-1-3, 32 pts
#8 Western Conference
December 27th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars will attempt to vindicate their 6-2 loss to the Barons with a home game against OKC tonight in Cedar Park. The Barons have not played since that win over the Stars, a break of four days.

Barons' blogger Neal Livingston opines, "I fully expect the OKC Barons to stumble out of the gate against the Stars tomorrow evening. Even short breaks kill mojo."

OKC had the same length break between their December 16th game and their 3-0 shutout loss to Texas, if that counts for anything.

The Stars will not be experiencing many breaks themselves in the near future. Starting last night, they are currently in the midst of four games in the coming six days. The Stars had a similar stretch from October 19th to October 24th; they lost three of the four. They will be sure to be riding their number one goaltender, Nilstorp, during this streak, however.

Remember that Oklahoma City will be without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as they have been for a month now. This time he will be playing, but playing elsewhere. The World Junior Championships are underway in Ufa, Russia. Coverage is on the NHL Network, if you're curious. Players likely to feature in Texas over the next few years include Radek Faska, Brett Ritchie and Emil Molin.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (questionable)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stars Earn Point in Houston But Fall In OT 4-3

Nilstorp freezes a shot in tonight's game. (Credit: Morris Molina/Houston Aeros)

Texas played tight with the Houston Aeros tonight at the Toyota Center but ultimately came up short in the overtime period. The Stars came back from three one-goal deficits to earn one point for the tie after sixty minutes. Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 25 of 29 shots against, and Texas got goals from Fraser, Eakin and Roussel.

Despite the loss, Texas's single point will keep them in sole possession of second place in the South Division and fifth in the Conference.

Mikael Granlund opened the scoring for Houston, scoring off the rush on the second shot of the night in the seventh minute. Matt Fraser tied it up at one with a third-effort goal just six minutes later. The Stars outshot Houston 8-4 in the period.

The second period played out much the same. Houston went first on the scoring sheet with Justin Fontaine centering a pass to Nick Palmieri for his ninth of the year and a 2-1 lead. Cody Eakin got it right back on the power play with a severely bad angled shot in the eighth minute. Houston's Charlie Coyle notched his eleventh of the year before the end of the middle frame. The power play goal was assisted by Granlund and Zucker and set the score at 3-2.

'Fourth-liner' Antoine Roussel scored in the final frame to tie the score at three once again. Roussel's goal was initially not called and play continued with an Aeros' rush up the ice. The Stars got their goal at the next stoppage as a review was called and the puck was deemed to have crossed the goal line fully. Texas would need overtime for the second straight contest against Houston.

Again, however, it was Houston getting the third point in the game as Kyle Medvec potted his first of the year off a rebound of a Mick Palmieri shot for the 4-3 OT win.

Texas will return home to face a waiting Oklahoma City Barons squad at home tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Gazdic-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Labrie-Fortunus
Nemeth-Dillon

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause (scratch)
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injured)

Tonight's attendance was 10,779.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Houston - December 26 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
15-9-2-2, 34 pts
#5 Western Conference
atHouston Aeros
14-10-1-3, 32 pts
#7 Western Conference
December 26th at 7:05 PM
Toyota Center, Houston, TX

Texas laid an egg in their last outing before Christmas and is hoping that the Aeros are still a little heavy on the eggnog as they go to visit Houston tonight. For the first time this season, the Stars will face the Aeros ahead of them in the standings

The Stars would really like to forget their last outing. Texas did not play their game and lost 6-2 after a four-goal Barons first period. The loss broke up an eight game point streak for Texas. The Stars changed goaltenders for the first time since Nilstorp's food poisoning incident on November 25th. With three games in four nights, Texas is likely to use both Campbell and Nilstorp over the next few days.

After winning six straight, including the sixth against the Stars at home in overtime, the Aeros have lost five of seven. That includes a shutout loss at Charlotte and two at Lake Erie to finish off just before the break.

Matt Hackett has taken the lionshare of the starts for the Aeros with 23 games played. He's getting a lot of help from the offense, as his GAA is 2.64 this season but he still has an 11-8-3 record. Hackett, who led the Aeros to the Calder Cup Finals in his rookie season, had a 2.37 and 2.38 GAA in his first two seasons.

Rookie Jason Zucker continues to lead the Aeros on offense with 13-10-23. He is the same Zucker that got behind the Stars defense in the last game that they played and won the game for Houston in overtime.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injury)

Website: aeros.com
Blog (official): Pilot to Gunner
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros
Twitter: @aero_joe (play-by-play)
Twitter: @TheJoshFisher (PR)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Stars Lose 6-2 After Four Goal Barons First

(Credit: Steven Christy)

The Stars play a certain type of game when they are successful. They limit quality shots and don't allow more than one or two goals. They have yet to be successful this season in a 'track meet' type scenario. Oklahoma City proved that last night. The Barons scored four first period goals and chased Cristopher Nilstorp from the cage after twenty. Jack Campbell allowed two more. Hot hand Reilly Smith scored two more on the year to bring his total to ten and tie him with Matt Fraser for team-lead. However, it wasn't enough.

I was unable to watch the game due to other engagements. Here is the Stars' release:
Reilly Smith scored two goals, but the Oklahoma City Barons tallied four first period goals on their way to a 6-2 win over the Texas Stars on Saturday night at Cox Convention Center.

The Barons exploded in the first period, unleashing a lot of pent up frustration from Friday’s shutout win by Texas. Justin Schultz opened the scoring at 3:34 and was quickly followed with a power play goal by Taylor Hall 88 seconds later as Oklahoma City rushed out to a 2-0 lead. Schultz continued the onslaught at 12:03 with a backhander over Cristopher Nilstorp for his second goal of the night and 16th of the season. Tanner House completed the Barons’ blitzkrieg at 19:11, snapping a wrist shot under the blocker of Nilstorp to give Oklahoma City a 4-0 lead.

Jack Campbell replaced Nilstorp in the Stars net to start the second period. Tyler Pitlick gave the Barons a five-goal lead at 9:42 as he capitalized on a rebound off Campbell’s glove and fired it home for his first goal of the season. Reilly Smith continued his hot streak by scoring his ninth goal of the season at 15:20, assisted by Patrik Nemeth and Colton Sceviour, to put Texas on the scoreboard.

Smith then scored his second of the game, and tenth of the year, 37 seconds into the third period when his shot redirected off a Barons defenseman and into the net for a power play goal. Mark Arcobello extinguished any hopes of a Stars comeback at 11:30, beating Campbell with a one-timer from the blue line to cap off the scoring in a 6-2 Oklahoma City win.

Yann Danis stopped 39-of-41 shots faces to record his 11th win of the season in goal for the Barons, while Cristopher Nilstorp took the loss, making 10 saves on 14 shots in 20 minutes of action. Jack Campbell had 20 saves on 22 shots in 40 minutes of relief for Texas. The Stars out-shot Oklahoma City 41-36 in the game and went 1-for-3 on the power play. The Barons were 1-for-2 with the man-advantage.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Gazdic-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Labrie-Fortunus
Nemeth-Dillon

Nilstorp
Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause (scratch)
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (injured)

Tonight's attendance was 3,179.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - December 21 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
15-8-2-2, 34 pts
#5 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
13-10-1-3, 30 pts
#7 Western Conference
December 22nd at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Shorter preview, as usual, for the back-to-back against the same club...

The Stars walked into Cox Convention Center last night and blanked the Barons. They did it with team defense and they did it with a 5/5 penalty kill.

With the win, Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp stretched his shutout streak to 146:31 including the shutout win at home against San Antonio. The win also pushed Nilstorp into the top three goalies in the league by GAA. His 1.94 average is third behind the tandem of Brust and Taylor in Abbotsford, the same club Texas stole 3 points from last weekend.

How did Texas win last night? They did exactly the things that Oklahoma City is not good at, according to Neal Livingston, one of the blog writers for OKC. They played defense and they played it their way. Last night on Twitter he remarked on it as such in three tweets:
Defensive games rarely favor the #OKCBarons. Tonight, we are seeing this fact yet again.

Shutting out the #OKCBarons is difficult. But the Stars & Nilstorp look laser focused. This isn't the same Stars team of October.

First it was Larsen who proved he was NHL ready on defense. Now it's Oleksiak. Continually impressed by the big lefty. #OKCBarons
It remains to be seen if Tyler Sloan will be able to go tonight. He left last night's game with an injury in the second and did not return. Hubert Labrie will slide in if so. Labrie played his only other game of the season against OKC as well.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)
Sloan (questionable)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Blog (unofficial): Oil Field Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nilstorp Posts Second Straight Shutout, Stars Win 3-0

(Credit: Steven Christy)

When you're the road team, it's important to stick to your game plan and play within youself until the home club gives you opportunities. Texas did exactly that this evening in Oklahoma City, playing to a scoreless first and then putting in a goal in the second and two in the third to take the 3-0 win against the high-powered OKC Barons.

Cristopher Nilstorp continued his phenomenal play with the blank sheet for the second straight game. Nilstorp now has a 146:31 shutout streak going and has posted four shutouts on the year. He stopped 21 OKC shots on the night. Finally, Texas stopped five power plays from the #1 overall power play in the league.

Texas skated to a scoreless first period despite outshooting the Barons 15-6 in the frame. The Stars killed two Dillon minor penalties in the first twenty as well.

Reilly Smith continued his hot streak in the second on a controversial score. The rookie's eighth of the year was scored under much protest from the home club as it was very close to a high stick. Referee Geno Binda did not review the play and called the goal good for the 1-0 Texas lead. Cody Eakin and Maxime Fortunus assisted on the play. Texas and OKC were even on shots in the period at six all.

In the final period, Luke Gazdic collected his first of the year on a nice sniper shot. The fourth-year forward popped his shot to the top-right corner. Fellow linemate Antoine Roussel had the primary assist and the captain, Fortunus, added his second of the night with the secondary assist.

OKC pulled goalie Yann Danis with 2:15 left in the third period. Texas would manage an empty net goal with 44 seconds left in the game to seal the deal. Brenden Dillon picked up his third of the year on the play.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Gazdic-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Sloan-Fortunus
Nemeth-Dillon

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause, Labrie (scratch)
Glennie (hand)

Texas defenseman Tyler Sloan left in the second period with athletic trainer DJ Amadio. Sloan did not return for the third period.

Tonight's attendance was 2,784.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - December 21 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
14-8-2-2, 32 pts
#5 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
13-9-1-3, 30 pts
#7 Western Conference
December 21st at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Texas travels to Oklahoma City tonight for a two game set against the Barons tonight and tomorrow. The Stars are 0-2 against OKC this season, losing both games by two goals.

After all the fanfare surrounding the Barons and their NHL level players, it turns out that playing defense is kind of important. This year's iteration of the OKC club doesn't do that quite as well as the last. 2011-12 Goalie of the year, Yann Danis, has a 2.63 GAA this season with a .916 SV%. He has a winning record, 10-6-3, but mostly thanks to the offensive firepower.

OKC has averaged five goals against Texas in each of the two games. However the Stars, who were struggling more on offense the last times they played, only managed three on average.

"[Game plan is] to try to keep them off the sheet," said Coach Desjardins. "Last time we played them we had a good first period and then they got four in the second. We have to make sure we stay to our gameplan."

Since that last game at home before Thanksgiving, Texas has really been on a tear. They have failed to get points in only one of the twelve games since that night.

Yes, last weekend's games in Abbotsford were huge because of where the Heat are in the standings. This weekend's games are just as big from a morale and self-belief stand point. OKC is the big, bad team that was supposed to steamroll everyone. If Texas can do what they did to Abbotsford in OKC as well, Christmas break will be much sweeter for the Texas Stars.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Blog (unofficial): Oil Field Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stars Get Puck Luck as Nilstorp Shuts the Door for 2-0 Win

Alex Chiasson celebrates the Stars first goal in the first period. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

The Stars scored two goals off turnovers as Cristopher Nilstorp shut the door on 27 Rampage shots for a 2-0 win tonight in Cedar Park. Reilly Smith was key in generating both Texas goals, collecting San Antonio turnovers deep in their end and generating the two Texas goals.

"At the start of the year, we were missing those [opportunities]," said Coach Desjardins. "When you're on a roll, things seem to go your way."

In the first period, both teams seemed to have trouble getting things started and all on the same page.

"We have played well [on the road]. It's tough to travel," said Coach Desjardins. "I didn't think we were quite as good tonight as we did on the road. San Antonio didn't give us a lot tonight."

"We probably didn't play our best game tonight, but we got two points," added Reilly Smith.

Texas scored the only goal of the first period in the fifth minute. After a dump-in, Alex Chiasson pressured Nolan Yonkman, forcing the Rampage captain to rim the puck around the boards. Waiting on the half-wall was Reilly Smith. Smith drove the crease and backhanded the puck cleanly over Jacob Markstrom's left shoulder for the 1-0 lead.

"I was fortunate to get one on net there," said Smith. "It might have tipped off Chiasson, but who knows?"

The Stars had a power play in the first but came up short. Tomas Vincour had the best chance of the man advantage, ringing one off the crossbar. Shots were a low 7-6, favoring Texas.

San Antonio took a turn on the power play themselves in the second period, also coming up zeroes. The Rampage had more quality chances on Nilstorp as the period wore on, but nothing got through.

As the third period began, Markstrom laid a ill-advised pass along the right half-wall. Reilly Smith was there again to pick up the turnover and dish it to Alex Chiasson in the slot. Chiasson got Markstrom five hold before the goalie got set for the 2-0 lead.

"The ice was kind of bad tonight and they were trying to work a quick transition game. They had a lot of success with it in the third period."

Shortly thereafter, Texas found itself on a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes after Antoine Roussel tapped the puck to the net after the play was already called dead for the original penalty to Wathier. "Nilstorp stood on his head and we had a couple of great clears from Eakin. That really changes the momentum," said Smith. Texas killed all 120 seconds to the great glee of the home crowd.

The Stars capped off the night with 6'7" Jamie Oleksiak's first professional fight. Oleksiak bodychecked San Antonio's leading scorer, Jon Rheault. Alex Petrovic took exception and dropped the gloves, which ended up being a big mistake. Petrovic barely got a word in edgewise as Oleksiak worked the body and the head in equal measure, scoring a knockout punch with the right as Petrovic went down.

After the game, Oleksiak was complimentary to his opponent, "Petrovic stepped up for his teammate and kudos to Petro for that. It takes a lot of courage."

Coach Desjardins added, "It's going to give [Oleksiak] some confidence and I know all the players on our bench appreciated it."

Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 16 Rampage shots in the final period to seal the win and his third shutout of the year. The Stars have points in seven straight games and are now six games above .500. Texas stays in sixth place, however, despite the win.

Texas will face off against the Oklahoma City Barons in Oklahoma on Friday and Saturday.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Gazdic-Roussel-Hedden

Sloan-Fortunus
Benn-Oleksiak
Nemeth-Dillon

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause, Labrie (scratch)
Glennie (hand)

Tonight's attendance was 3,955.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - December 19 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
13-8-2-2, 30 pts
#6 Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
10-15-0-3, 23 pts
#15 Western Conference
December 18th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The San Antonio Rampage visit the Stars as Texas comes home for a brief home engagement tonight. Texas will head out for two in OKC this weekend after returning from two in Abbotsford last weekend.

The Rampage are still mired in 15th place in the West. The last time these two clubs met Texas was right with them in 14th. That was just November 25th. Including that game, since that point Texas is on a 7-2-1-1 run. San Antonio has gone 6-6-0-0. That's a fine record if you start from a position of strength, but the Rampage struggled out of the gate and need to play catch up.

The Rampage surprised Abbotsford and Oklahoma City in early December, taking all eight possible points in four games against those two teams. Then, they turned around and dropped four straight to Houston, OKC (twice) and Charlotte. San Antonio will come to the Cedar Park Center on a four-game losing streak.

San Antonio was expected to be one of the teams most negatively affected by the lockout. It was through no fault of their own, however, as the rest of the league improved around them but the Panthers didn't have any prospects at the right point in their career to spend time in the AHL (a la Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Eakin, Granlund, Zucker).

Seeing that, the Rampage signed two NHL calibre talents: forward Jon Sim and defenseman Mike Mottau. Sim, a former Dallas Star and veteran of 469 NHL games, has scored four goals in six games for the Rampage. Mottau, a vet of 313 NHL games, has two assists and is minus-2 in six games.

Jacob Markstrom has taken the lionshare of work in net since the last time these teams played. He has taken the decision in nine games since compared to Grumet-Morris at two.

The Stars are 3-0 this season against the Rampage, 22-11-1-3 all-time, and 14-3-0-1 all-time in Cedar Park. Drew Shore and Jon Rheault are tied as the leading scorer against Texas this season with 3-1-4 and 1-3-4, respectively. Matt Fraser has 3-1-4 against San Antonio this season and Francis Wathier is tied with 0-4-4.

Tonight's game will be on FOX Sports Southwest, brought to you by Dan Weiss and the San Antonio side of things. The game may be on FSSW+ depending on your carrier and location.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)

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)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Idaho Steelheads Report: Almost Halfway Home

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)

I am very pleased and excited to be introducing a new guest contributor to the readers this morning. John Mulhern IV will be writing weekly reports on the Idaho Steelheads for Hundred Degree Hockey starting this week. John is an unabashedly proud Flyers fan but just so happens to live in Boise, Idaho. He spent four years as the Steelheads film assistant and, before that, five years doing color analysis for the Penn State men's hockey team. John will bring both general information on the direction of the team and the league overall and also specific information on Stars prospects spending time in the Treasure Valley.

You can follow John on Twitter @Mulhern4


Almost halfway home.

That’s right. Almost halfway through the season, the Idaho Steelheads are just one point out of the Conference and ECHL League best records. They had a tough end to their latest road trip, but a team that is 18-6-1-2 for the first 27 games of an interesting season (to say the least) is allowed to lose a game here and there throughout the season. But other than the 6-2 loss to the Ontario Reign (Manchester Monarchs)* on Saturday, the season has been a success.

With new head coach Brad Ralph and a host of what should mostly be considered AHL talent, the Steelheads didn’t get off to the best start, losing their first two games in a back-to-back/home & home scenario to the Utah Grizzlies (Abbotsford Heat). However, they then went on an 11 game unbeaten in regulation streak to alleviate any doubts that 1) Brad Ralph was the right hire and 2) players were starting to buy in to his system.

Over that stretch of time different players would put their stamp on things, including Tristan King. King would put up 4 goals in the Steelheads first win of the streak which was a 7-6 win over the Colorado Eagles (St. John's IceCaps). Former NHLer Adrian Foster had 4 assists, one on each of the goals.

Austin Smith would get his first professional goal a few games later in a 7-2 blowout of the Ontario Reign. Of course not to be outdone he scored two the following night in a 6-2 win over the same Reign team.

Tyler Beskorowany, who lost the first two games of the season, yielded to Josh Robinson who started the 11 game streak. What ended up happening was a goaltender rotation where Ralph would just switch between the two of them. Towards the end of the streak, the Texas Stars would call up Austin Smith and Josh Robinson for a quick look to see what they had in their prospects. Neither would see any game action, and they were sent back within a week, but the Stars were able to get a closer look at two prospects that they didn’t get a great look at the end of last season. Also Hubert Labrie got a brief look up with the Texas Stars during the streak.

The Steelheads would split the next handful of games, before going on an 8 game unbeaten streak that ended with Saturday’s loss to the Reign. During the streak Austin Smith had an 11 game point streak. He finally seems to be getting his legs underneath him and figuring out what he has to do to be productive at the next level. Personally, for him I think the 'next level' is the NHL. If he keeps developing and continues to work hard in his own end, I believe we are going to see him at the ultimate level.

Here is a quick look at other Texas Stars prospects:

Tristan King (19GP, 10G, 7A, 17pts)
Was kept out of the lineup for a few games. I believe it was because he had to buy in a little more to Brad Ralph’s system. But recently has fit into the system better.

Matt Case (27GP, 2G, 13A, 15pts)
Not a “contract guy” but spent time up in the AHL last season. Having a career year offensively for a very responsible defenseman.

Mathieu Tousignant (18GP, 2G, 11A, 13pts)
Playing his role very effectively. Still willing to go into the corners and do the work in the offensive zone and be the “Pest”.

Jace Coyle (16GP, 1G, 10A, 11pts)
Steady Eddy. Nothing flashy and never really notice when he is on the ice, exactly what you want out of a defenseman. Currently sitting at plus-3.

Hubert Labrie (22GP, 2G, 3A, 5pts)
Plays a bit more with the top lines and also looks for transition opportunities. Currently has a plus-10 rating.

Josh Robinson (13GP, 11-0-1-1, 2.65 GAA, .920SV%)
Has yet to lose a game in regulation. What started as a pleasant surprise has turned into what is expected every night. Only real question left is how he will handle a regulation loss.

Tyler Beskorowany (14GP, 7-6-0-1, 2.90 GAA, .903SV%, 1 SO)
In what can best be described as an up and down season Tyler has posted the teams only shutout, but has struggled to regain & maintain his form from two years ago which could have earned him Goaltender of the year, if he would have stayed in Idaho for the entire year.

Here is your season recap to this point. Obviously painted this picture with some broad strokes, however, as we move toward the halfway point of the season and into the second half, stayed tuned to this spot as I’ll continue to track the progress of the Steelheads and the Texas Stars prospects.

* — Similar to the Texas Stars Report on Defending Big D, we are adding the parent club of the ECHL clubs mentioned here for context.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stars Release Cam Barker, Recall Hubert Labrie

Cam Barker in OKC (Credit: Steven Christy)

Missing from the Stars lineup on Saturday was defenseman Cam Barker, who was released by the club after Friday night's game. Barker was on a 25-game professional tryout, which would have ended after Saturday's game. His departure left Texas with only six defensemen. The Stars announced today that Hubert Labrie has been called up from the Idaho Steelheads to be the seventh defenseman.

The former first round pick Barker had 23 games of work for the Stars, scoring three goals and five helpers and earning a minus-5 rating. He got a lot of work on the powerplay and shot the puck a lot for Texas. He is second in shots on the team at 66, just three behind leading goal scorer Matt Fraser.

With the NHL lockout facing an impending do-or-die moment, Barker may have felt that he should make himself ready to start up an NHL contract. However, it seems odd that he would not consider playing in the AHL to be an excellent conditioning stint and something that would show he is ready to play at the highest level in the world.

Hubert Labrie has been effective for the Steelheads this season. He has two goals and three assists matched with a plus-10 rating. He's also been racking up PIMs with 46 so far in 22 games. He may see his ice time drop to near zero as Tyler Sloan will shift into the lineup. It seems unlikely that Texas will scratch Sloan or Nemeth on a regular basis to get Labrie in, unless he shows something big.

For those wondering about Jace Coyle, he has not played for the Steelheads since December 7th as he is recovering from an injury.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stars Take 3 of 4 Points on Weekend with 2-1 SO Loss

Despite falling in the shootout, Texas had an overall fantastic showing in Western Canada this weekend. After earning a win on Friday, Texas followed it up with a point in a shootout loss tonight. The Stars got a power play goal from leading goal-scorer Matt Fraser in the first but Krys Kolanos evened things up shortly thereafter. In a five round shootout, Abbotsford bested the Stars and Jack Campbell with three goals to the Stars' two.

Another scoreless first for Texas, despite outshooting the Heat 16-9, pointed to the end results of a three-point game. Fraser's tenth of the season broke the deadlock at the five minute mark of the second. Assisted by Benn and Eakin, Fraser one-timed the puck, not even getting all of the shot, and beat Barry Brust for the 1-0 lead. Also on the power play, Kolanos tied things up just two minutes later. Texas outshot the Heat 13-5 in the period.

After a scoreless third period and OT, Texas went to the shootout for the extra point. The Stars have had quite a few shootouts this season go extra long thanks to the brick-wall status of Cristopher Nilstorp. Jack Campbell was in net for this one and heat tender Barry Brust was simply one save better. Texas got goals from Tomas Vincour and Jordie Benn. Tied at two with only Kolanos left to go, the former first round pick beat Campbell in the final round to win 2-1.

Overall, despite how close the team was to earning all four points, it's a result that the Stars have to be happy with. Texas went to the home arena of the best team in the conference and earned three of four in back-to-back nights. Also, Texas has to be very pleased with the performance of Jack Campbell, who only allowed one goal in the game.

Texas will face San Antonio at home on Wednesday.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Vause-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Nemeth-Dillon
Sloan-Fortunus

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic (scratch)
Glennie (hand)

Tonight's attendance was 2,912.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Abbotsford - December 15 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Abbotsford Heat

Texas Stars
13-8-2-1, 29 pts
#5 Western Conference
atAbbotsford Heat
14-5-3-3, 34 pts
#1 Western Conference
December 15th at 9:00 PM
Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC

Can Texas turn two points into four against the best team in the West? That will be their aim as they gear up again tonight for a battle against the Abbotsford Heat in British Columbia.

Last night's contest had all the looks of a tight defense battle early with the teams managing four and five shots each in the first period. Texas exploded in the second period with 17 shots thanks to quite a few power plays. Of the Stars six power plays, five were in the middle frame. The Stars only cashed in on one of those, but when the score is tight, not scoring on the power play isn't always completely wasted time. The power play kept the pressure on Danny Taylor in the Heat net and kept the puck off the stick of the Heat skaters. Hence, Abbotsford only managed five shots in the period.

Abbotsford also got six cracks at the man-advantage including a 5-on-3 late that was turned into a 6-on-3 when Danny Taylor was pulled for the extra attacker. In what was likely some of the best defensive hockey the Stars have played since the inaugural season, Texas and their goalie, Cristopher Nilstorp, kept the score at 3-1 to extend a five game point streak. Texas is now 7-1-2-0 in their last ten, the most points of any Western Conference team over their last ten games.

Texas is in a good spot scoring wise. While, yes, there is no Star above #61 in league scoring (Cody Eakin with 17 points), Texas is getting it done with both top-six talent and bottom-six talent. Last night's game was a great example. Texas got goals from highly touted Reilly Smith and Cody Eakin but also one from newly-extended PTO Taylor Vause. That's a good combination. Also, if Smith continues his current torrid scoring pace (nine points in last nine games), he could slip in close to the team lead for points soon enough.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)

Website: abbotsfordheat.com
Blog (unofficial): BC Local News: Abby News
Newspaper: Abbotsford Times
Twitter: @abbotsfordheat
Twitter (play-by-play): @RyanPinder

Friday, December 14, 2012

Texas Stars Defeat League-Leading Heat in BC 3-1

The Stars defeated the league-leading Abbotsford Heat 3-1 in British Columbia tonight to open a weekend set with the Calgary farm team. Texas scored first in this one off the stick of Reilly Smith. After the Heat evened it up, Taylor Vause scored his first of the year and Cody Eakin his eighth to set the score at 3-1. Cristopher Nilstorp and the Texas defense endured a harrowing final four minutes, including a brief 6-on-3 advantage for the home club. Over that period, Texas played possibly the best team defense since its inaugural season.

With the win, the Stars extended their record to 5-0 in games where they score first. The Stars are 7-1-1-0 in their last nine games and on a five game point streak.

Texas and Abbotsford skated to a scoreless first period, only managing nine shots between the two clubs.

The Stars opened the scoring in the second period on their third power play of the period. The goal came straight off the faceoff from the stick of Reilly Smith, who jammed it home in a net mouth scramble. The rookie's sixth of the year was assisted by Tomas Vincour and pivot man Cody Eakin.

Brady Lamb answered back seven minutes later. T.J. Brodie made some nice moves down low to avoid Texas defenders and then kicked the puck out to the point. Lamb scored his first professional goal to tie things at one all.

Not to be outdone, Texas's rookie Vause popped in his first of the year just four minutes later. Vause tucked the puck just under the crossbar behind a sprawled Danny Taylor. His fourth line compatriots, Antoine Roussel and Mike Hedden, assisted on the tally.

The Stars capped off a solid second period with another excellent goal from their top line. Alex Chiasson swooped around the Heat net clockwise and backhanded the puck at the cage. Cody Eakin tipped the shot past the tender for the 3-1 lead.

The Stars needed a gargantuan effort to keep that 3-1 score as the final. Already down a man, Dillon went to the box as well. Abbotsford pulled goalie Danny Taylor and held a 6-on-3 advantage for 30 seconds. Taylor would not play another second for the rest of the game. The Heat could not get through the brick wall of the Texas defense and Cristopher Nilstorp.

The Heat and Stars faceoff again tomorrow at 9:00 PM Central time.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Vause-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Nemeth-Dillon
Barker-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gazdic, Sloan (scratch)
Glennie (hand)

Tonight's attendance was 3,700.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Abbotsford - December 14 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Abbotsford Heat

Texas Stars
12-8-2-1, 27 pts
#6 Western Conference
atAbbotsford Heat
14-4-3-3, 34 pts
#1 Western Conference
December 14th at 9:00 PM
Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC

The Stars take their only trip to British Columbia this weekend for a two-game set against former division rivals, the Abbotsford Heat. Texas and the Heat have only played once this season, a 1-0 OT loss for Texas on November 23rd. Currently Abbotsford is #1 in the American Hockey League on the whole. Given the way Texas has played of late, if they can keep it up, the Stars have a chance for two big statement games.

The big story for the Heat continues to be their fantastic goaltending trio. Barry Brust had his AHL-record shutout streak broken up the night after Texas played the Heat in San Antonio on the 24th. Since then, he's 1-1-1. Overall he has a 7-1-1 record with a filthy 1.20 GAA and .949 SV%. Danny Taylor, who saved the Heat's season last year, has gotten into 11 games this season. He is 5-4-1 with a 1.69 GAA and .933 SV%. Finally, Leland Irving, who is supposed to be the undisputed #1 for the Heat and could have ended up in Calgary this season, has a pedestrian 3.33 GAA and .884 SV% while managing a 2-2-1 record.

Texas, on the other hand, is a one-man shop in net. Cristopher Nilstorp has emerged as the undisputed #1 in net. He is 8-7 overall, but more importantly, is 7-4 in his last 11. His play has been a key part of the Texas turnaround. Once he grabbed the reins, he hasn't let go. Texas went back to Jack Campbell just twice over that span (minus the 20 minutes he played due to Nilstorp's food poisoning). Goaltending coach Mike Valley is OK with taking that slower approach with Campbell though.

Due to some nicely timed losses by other clubs, Texas retains their #6 spot in the standings. It is pretty remarkable to think that the Stars were in last place on the 11th of November. The 5-1 roadtrip was a solidifying moment for this club. Perhaps Texas should lobby for a long, out-of-state road trip earlier on in the 2013-14 season. It really seemed to bring the group together and make them play with and for each other better.

Abbotsford is 4-3-2-1 in their last ten and lost their last game in overtime on Tuesday at Rochester.

Stars injury/call up report:
Glennie (hand)

Website: abbotsfordheat.com
Blog (unofficial): BC Local News: Abby News
Newspaper: Abbotsford Times
Twitter: @abbotsfordheat
Twitter (play-by-play): @RyanPinder

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Texas Signs Taylor Vause to Second PTO


The Texas Stars announced today that they have officially re-signed Taylor Vause to a second PTO. His first tryout was set to expire after Satuday's game in Abbotsford. The rookie center has played in nine games for Texas but has yet to tally a point for the club. The second 25-game tryout will extend him until the February 15th game at Oklahoma City. At that point, Texas must sign Vause to a standard contract or release him.

This was an expected re-signing based on comments from Scott White yesterday posted to the blog.

Here's the full release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has re-signed forward Taylor Vause to a professional tryout contract.

Vause, 21, originally signed a 25-game PTO with Texas at the end of training camp and has appeared in nine games so far this year. The Calgary, Alberta native made his professional and AHL debut with the Stars last season on March 19, 2012 at home against the Abbotsford Heat, while on an amateur tryout (ATO). Vause has played in 14 career AHL games for Texas and has two points (1 goal, 1 assist) and two penalty minutes. During 2011-12, his final junior season, he was the captain of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, where he led the team in goals (37), assists (46), and points (83).

(Image credit: Steven Christy)

Austin Smith Learning the Ropes, Scoring in Bunches in ECHL

Austin Smith asks the crowd for some noise after scoring a goal in Idaho's Pink in the Rink game (Credit: Steve Conner)

In case you hadn't noticed, Austin Smith is on a tear recently for the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. He is on a nine game scoring streak, during which he has compiled eleven goals and four assists. Three of those goals have been game-winners.

Austin Smith was put in a tough situation to start the year. With the NHL lockout creating a forward depth logjam, Smith was looking at the prospect of spending his rookie season mostly in the press box, cycling into the lineup only occasionally.

"Austin took it on himself that he had to go if he wanted to play," said Texas GM Scott White. "He didn't want to sit and wait his turn; he wanted to play."

So instead of being a healthy scratch for Texas, Smith asked to be sent to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.

"Sometimes it's not easy for players to go down to the Coast and play, but Austin's done that."

All reports from Idaho indicate that his attitude and work ethic have been top-notch as well. That's not always the case when players, especially drafted players, get assigned to the ECHL.

"I'm pleased with how it's been going with Coach [Brad] Ralph helping the adjustment of [Austin] and putting him in situations that can help him. Brad's job is to have Austin work on the details of his game, board play and things like that. We know he can score, so it's a matter of tweaking the rest of his game and getting him experiences in situations that will help him at the next level."

Smith spoke last year about the adjustment of college to the professional game. In college, he had more free reign to do whatever he wanted because he was 'the guy'. In the pro ranks, there is a more disciplined game plan, especially on defense. In Smith's fifteen games with Idaho, he is plus-14, second-best on the team behind Adrian Foster.

"It's been a good opportunity for Austin," said White. "He's just waiting for his turn for me to call him, and I think that'll come pretty soon."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Healthy Alex Chiasson and Derek Roy Practice With Texas Stars

Dallas Stars center Derek Roy practices with Texas today. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

Today in practice Alex Chiasson showed no ill signs of a blocked shot that took him out of Saturday's game late in the third period. The rookie forward appeared to be a full participant in today's practice. Injury to Chiasson would have likely necessitated a callup from ECHL, either Austin Smith or Mathieu Tousignant. Scott White indicated that any potential callup would obviously hinge on the type of player needed to fill the gap.

Also, in Dallas Stars news, Derek Roy is practicing with Texas this week while rehabbing his shoulder. Roy played much of last season in Buffalo with a loose shoulder socket, which often popped out during games. Roy would simply pop the shoulder back in and continue playing. Dallas insisted on off-season surgery to get the center to 100%.

Texas, according to the players, has been holding very intense practices all season.

"I’m looking forward to [joining Texas for practice],” Roy told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. "I think it’s a great opportunity for me on a lot of levels. First, I get to test the shoulder and get to push my workouts. Second, I get to see some of the guys who I might be playing with up here and get to know them a little better."

Roy is not eligible to play for the Texas Stars during the lockout. Along with Roy, goalie coach Mike Valley and assistant coach Curt Fraser are visiting the team this week.

Tryouts Ending for Barker, Vause; Will They Be Extended?

Cam Barker slaps one from the point in Texas's November 9th game against Toronto. (Credit: Tim Lauzon/Texas Stars)

A standard AHL professional tryout (PTO) is twenty-five games long. Surprising as it may be, Texas will hit that 25 game mark this Saturday at Abbotsford. The Stars have two players on PTOs currently: NHL vet defenseman Cam Barker and AHL rookie forward Taylor Vause. Each is in a different place in their career, but I think both will be re-signed this coming weekend.

I reached Texas Stars GM Scott White this morning to talk about his expectations of the contracts and how the two players have performed for him this season.

Cam Barker had an early adjustment period to the AHL game. He was coming off injury and immediately began logging top-pairing minutes along with significant power play time.

"I think Cam's adjustment early on wasn't as good as he would have liked or I would have liked," said White. "I don't know if he was completely ready to take that on with injury last year. Recently, I think he showed some experience and played better and more consistently."

The ice time has been divvied up a bit more in recent games, which White feels has benefited all the defensemen. Barker has three goals and five assists over twenty-two games of work.

Taylor Vause against Milwaukee (Credit: Tim Lauzon/Texas Stars)

Taylor Vause is in a bit of a different situation, having only played in nine games so far this season. White commented, "It's not an easy scenario. [Limited playing time] is something Taylor and I discussed in the summer and something that he knew was a possibility."

However, the GM sees some elements in Taylor's game that lead me to believe he will stick around for another PTO.

"He has elements of his game that I like: good character, good teammate. Also, he's a center. When the timing is right, he'll get more of an opportunity. I commend the player. He's been a good pro, practicing hard. He's certainly got to get in more games here."

Ultimately, Texas will have to make a decision this week on the two players. White has been in conversations with both about the upcoming PTO completion and possible extensions.

White added, "We could have something prior to this weekend depending on how the week goes."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Idle Thoughts: Streaking Stars, Sceviour Heats Up, and Chiasson Injury

(Credit: Tim Lauzon/Texas Stars)

With the long layoff, here are some things that are bouncing around my head.
  • The Stars are really on a tear. That much is obvious. Just one month ago on November 10th, Texas was #15 in the West. Now they stand at #6. Texas is 9-3-2-1 in that span, a .700 points percentage.
  • Number six is great, but it might not last. The Stars don't play this week until Friday. Lake Erie and OKC have games during that layoff (and not against each other). Wins by those clubs could push Texas to eighth by Friday.
  • In conversations about who would be lost if the lockout ended tomorrow, a few names always pop up. Cody Eakin is at the top of the list, followed shortly by Tomas Vincour and Brenden Dillon. Why not Colton Sceviour? In just sixteen games, he has 6-7-13 for a .81 Pts/Gm rating. That's the best on the team. Tomas Vincour has been in something of a funk recently, moving down to the fourth line over the past few games. Could Sceviour potentially usurp "Vincour's" spot in the NHL upon the resumption of NHL hockey?
  • No word today from practice on Alex Chiasson. The Stars will travel to Seattle on Thursday. Chiasson will have time to recover, if he can, before that next game. Austin Smith is likely to join the team in Abbotsford if Chiasson can't go. Without Smith, the Stars would have no healthy scratches. Other Stars forwards in Idaho include Mathieu Tousignant.
  • Don't look now, but San Antonio is hot on the heels of the Texas Stars. Thanks to a 4-0 week by their goaltender, Jacob Markstrom, the Rampage are just four points behind Texas and two behind OKC.
  • Also, Texas is ahead of OKC, who are out of the playoffs as of today. Scoring goals is fun, but defense is important, too. OKC allows three per game on average, 13th worst in the league.
  • I've mentioned it before in a gameday preview, but Charlotte is really having a time. After jumping out of the gate, they are 3-6-0-1 in their last ten. They still lead the South Division, but they only have a one point lead over both Texas and Houston. With the right combination of losses, Texas would hold the #3 spot in the Western Conference by the end of the night Friday.

Finally, here's something fun. Reilly Smith talks to me about his bet with Mike Hedden on who would be the first to score this season:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Two Goals Nights from Fraser, Smith Power 4-1 Texas Win

Matt Fraser, Maxime Fortunus, and Cam Barker celebrate Texas's second goal of the night (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

The Stars have figured out a winning formula, it seems: allow the first goal and then shut the door. After allowing a shorthanded goal seven minutes into the first, Texas shutout Peoria the rest of the way while scoring four of their own. Rookie Reilly Smith added his fourth and fifth of the year and Matt Fraser had his eighth and ninth. Cristopher Nilstorp had another dominant performance, stopping 23 of 24 and showing strong resilience after getting a stick to the neck in the second period.

The game started out on a pugilistic note. In the first six minutes, Texas forwards Mike Hedden, Antoine Roussel and Francis Wathier all dropped the gloves with Peoria.

"They tried to take over by playing a physical game," said Reilly Smith. "There's a lot of guys on our team that really stood up and turned the game around for us. I think that was the big catalyst."

Coach Desjardins was surprised by the physicality of the Rivermen after their play in Peoria. "We played physical back and made it a wash," he added.

The Stars allowed the first one shorthanded to first-round pick Jaden Schwartz. The backhand over a sprawled Nilstorp was the first shorthanded goal against for the Stars this season.

"The first one was tough," said Smith. "I was upset because we should never do that on a power play."

The Stars answered right back at even strength with Reilly Smith collecting a rebound and tucking it just inside the left post from behind the goal line. Cody Eakin and Maxime Fortunus assisted on the play. The Stars carried that lead to the first intermission, leading in shots 13-9.

Texas dominated the rest of the way in shots and goal. Matt Fraser scored back-to-back goals in the second period, both at even strength. Fraser entombed a one-timer into a yawning net off the pass from Travis Morin to make it 2-1 at the four minute mark.

Four minute later, Fraser roofed a rebound puck off the initial shot of the same Morin. It was his ninth goal of the year and made for his third multigoal game of the season.

Antoine Roussel and Chris Bruton engage in fisticuffs in the first period (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

The Stars outshot the Rivs 17-7 in the period and kept pouring it on.

"[Lots of shots] is the plan every night. No shot's a bad shot," said Smith.

Toward the end of the period, Anthony Peluso got his stick up under the cage of Cristopher Nilstorp, jabbing him in the neck. Nilstorp went down for an extended period but no penalty was called.

"It's a tough call if the ref didn't see it," said Desjardins. "I don't want a ref to make a call he didn't see."

Nilstorp was really giving it to the Peoria bench after getting back on his feet. He rode that competitive fire into the third period to continue shutting down Peoria shooters.

Texas added one more in the final period, off the stick of Reilly Smith again. Up two men on the ice, Texas scored on the rebound just before the first penalty expired.

"We felt if we could get one there it would put the game out of reach."

Texas has some time to rest up their legs now with a five-day layoff before facing Abbotsford for back-to-back games next Friday and Saturday in BC.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Vincour-Petersen-Wathier
Gazdic-Roussel-Hedden

Benn-Oleksiak
Nemeth-Dillon
Barker-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause, Sloan (scratch)
Glennie (hand)

Glennie out "for a little bit" with a hand injury.

Alex Chiasson blocked a shot in the third period and had to be helped off the ice. He was not putting weight on his right leg. The puck may have hit just above the shin pads and just below the breezers, which is a vulnerable spot.

Tonight's attendance was 5,484.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Peoria - December 8 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Peoria Rivermen

Texas Stars
11-8-2-1, 25 pts
#9 Western Conference
v.Peoria Rivermen
7-10-2-2, 18 pts
#14 Western Conference
December 8th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Peoria Rivermen visit the Cedar Park Center for the first time this season just six days after these two teams met for the first time this year in Peoria. Texas emerged from the Carver Arena with a 4-3 shootout victory courtesy of a tenth-round goal by Alex Chiasson. Since that loss, Peoria has only played once, winning at Grand Rapids on Wednesday 2-1.

The Stars and Rivs have a pretty healthy rivalry, albeit muted now due to division changes. The all-time record for the clubs is at 9-9-1-0 for Texas. Both games in Texas last year ended in victories for Texas with six goals scored in each. The first was a 6-5 OT victory on Pink in the Rink night and the second was a 6-2 January victory.

Across the four games in the season series, Matt Fraser had a knack for scoring against the Rivermen. In just those four games, Fraser had ten points: five goals and five assists. Perhaps that has something to do with the ATO they signed him to in 2010. After two games, the Blues passed up a chance to sign Fraser and just perhaps there's some extra motivation when he sees the blue, red and yellow due to that.

Coach Desjardins sounded pretty confident in going again with Cristopher Nilstorp in net. He has been winning big recently, now at 7-7-0 on the season after starting 1-4. Texas does not face another 3-in-3 weekend until the first weekend of January. If Nilstorp continues winning, will Jack Campbell stay on the bench until that weekend?

In other trend news, the stock of Reilly Smith is sky high with his recent play. Despite no points last night, Smith made some very bright plays in the offensive zone to keep the puck on his stick and the play in the offensive end. There were brief flashes out there where it was a little tough to believe you were watching a rookie.

Meanwhile, the stock of Tomas Vincour has clearly fallen. After shifting with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith in the early season, he has been replaced by Alex Chiasson and moved to a line with Antoine Roussel and Scott Glennie. Vincour has not reacted well to the change. Reading his body language, his play doesn't seem to rise to the same level as it did when he was on the top line. This may be a bit of a chicken and egg problem though. However, one thing is clear. If he wants to go to the NHL when it resumes, he should be on that top line.

Stars injury/call up report:
None.

Website: rivermen.net
Blog (beat writer): Cleve's World
Blog (unofficial): The Peoria Rivermen Blog
Twitter: @peoria_rivermen
Twitter (beat writer): @icetimecleve
Twitter (blog writer): @LetsGoRivs

Stars Earn Point in 2-1 OT Loss to Houston

Matt Fraser in tonight's game (Credit: Tim Lauzon/Texas Stars)

Something had to give tonight between the Houston Aeros and Texas Stars. Houston came into the Cedar Park Center with a five game winning streak and Texas had won five of its last six. In the end, the Aeros walked away with a razor thin 2-1 overtime victory over the Stars.

The Stars barraged the Houston net early, outshooting the Aeros 11-0 before Houston got its first shot. Unfortunately, that shot foudn twine behind Cristopher Nilstorp. Kris Freidheim's point shot deflected off a Texas defender and set the score at 1-0.

"A goal for them doesn't change our mentality or structure. We try to go shift after shift," said Francis Wathier. "It shows our confidence and how much we believe in our team."

Texas kept their even-keel throughout the first, outshooting the Aeros 16-5 overall but still heading to the locker room down 1-0.

Road legs hit in the second period for Texas, but goalie Cristopher Nilstorp kept them in it.

"In the second period, you could see we were tired," said Coach Willie Desjardins. "Nilstorp's played well. He's really solid all the time."

Houston outshot Texas 9-8 in the middle frame.

Texas shifted their offensive philosphy as they moved to the third period, opting to crash the net more and look for the pass less. It paid off.

Creating traffic in front, Francis Wathier blocked out vision for Matt Hackett while Brenden Dillon blasted the puck from the point, scoring his second of the year and tying the game at one.

"Morin made a nice play to the D," said Wathier. "It was a great shot by Dillon. I'm in front of the net and if the goalie can see through me, he's got eyes everywhere."

The Stars would play through a mostly quiet remainder of the third period to earn a point by tying after sixty minutes.

It was Houston getting the bounce in OT to win it. Jason Zucker snuck behind the Texas defense to go one-on-one with Nilstorp.

"He came in at high speed and roofed it," said Nilstorp. "It was a good goal."

Overall, Texas outshot Houston 36-20. Matt Hackett looked fully dialed-in all night though, riding a five game winning streak into a sixth with the victory over the Stars.

The Stars showed good character in the game, as they have recently, by coming back in the third period despite having given up the first goal. They are now 7-8-2-1 in games where they allow the first goal.

Texas will stay in town to face Peoria on Saturday.

Tonight's lines:
Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
R. Smith-Eakin-Chiasson
Gazdic-Petersen-Wathier
Glennie-Roussel-Vincour

Benn-Oleksiak
Nemeth-Dillon
Barker-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Vause, Hedden, Sloan (scratch)



Tonight's attendance was 5,914.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Houston - December 7 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
11-8-1-1, 24 pts
#9 Western Conference
v.Houston Aeros
11-6-1-2, 25 pts
#6 Western Conference
December 7th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

With the way the Stars have performed on the road over the last six games, maybe fans at the Cedar Park Center tonight should cheer for the Aeros to see if it helps.

Including their 5-1 mark over the last six days, Texas is 7-3 on the road this season. Compare that to a 4-5-1-1 record at home. Most typical teams hope to win most of their games at home and go about even on the road. For Texas, it's the opposite so far this season.

This may be a factor of the Stars figuring out their team dynamic as they were about to embark on a six game road trip. Before the last home stand, Texas was 2-4-0-1 at home. their 2-1-1 record on the last stand improved that mark and they will look to further improve with two at home against Houston and Peoria.

Houston comes to the Cedar Park Center on a five game win streak. Matt Hackett has been just one save better than the opposing tender in those five contests, the win margin at one for each. These were not pushover games either. The last three games were against Abbotsford and OKC. Since losing to Texas on November 11th, Houston is 6-1. Texas is 7-2-1.

Due to all this winning at the 'bottom' and some losing at the top (Charlotte is on an 0-5 streak), the standings are very compressed. Just two points separate the #2 Checkers and #9 Texas. Two points may not guarantee Texas a spot in the top eight with so many games tonight among the other teams, but it certainly won't hurt.

In other news for Houston, Mikael Granlund looks to be ready to return to the lineup this evening. He has not played since November 2nd. He has an active seven game point streak reaching back to October 14th.

The Stars will do well to limit penalties this evening as Houston ranks #4 in the league on the power play and number one on the road power play.

Stars injury/call up report:
None.

Website: aeros.com
Blog (official): Pilot to Gunner
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros
Twitter: @aero_joe (play-by-play)
Twitter: @TheJoshFisher (PR)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

AHL On The Beat: Diabetes Can’t Stop Texas Stars Duo


I've had a lot of proud moments as a hockey writer. This is a big one. For the first time, I've had my content published on TheAHL.com. The article that I wrote last week on Taylor Vause, Toby Petersen and their experiences with diabetes was featured today on AHL On The Beat. You should really check it out here because I doubled the article length with new interviews and research.

It really means a lot to have my work recognized by the league. I hope that I will be able to continue that broad-appeal feature work and be published on the AHL's site again soon.

(Image credit: Texas Stars)