Monday, September 30, 2013

Texas Stars Release Six Tryout Players

Spencer Bennett and William Rapuzzi (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
In an expected move, the Stars have announced today that they released six players from their professional tryouts after the close of the preseason schedule. Defensemen Tyler Elbrecht and Ryan Hegarty and forwards Spencer Bennett, Justin Mercier, Anthony Nigro and William Rapuzzi were the release players.

Notably, Taylor Vause is the only tryout player remaining with the Stars. Anthony Nigro, William Rapuzzi and Tyler Elbrecht will report to Idaho for training camp. Spencer Bennett will report to Alaska, and Ryan Hegarty will head to Greenville. Justin Mercier does not have a contract elsewhere.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has released six players from their training camp roster.

The Texas Stars have released the following six players from their training camp tryout contracts: defensemen Tyler Elbrecht and Ryan Hegarty and forwards Spencer Bennett, Justin Mercier, Anthony Nigro and William Rapuzzi.

Texas' training camp roster now stands at 27 players, including four goaltenders, nine defensemen and 14 forwards.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Young Texas Stars Lineup Shuts Out Rampage 3-0

Pat Nagle (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Icing a mostly young lineup, the Stars defeated the San Antonio Rampage by a score of 3-0 in the final preseason game of their schedule. Youngsters Josh Robinson and Pat Nagle split time in net and put together a combined 30 shot shutout effort.

"It was a close game tonight, and the score didn't indicate the play," said Texas Stars head coach Willie Desjardins. "Training camp is to evaluate, and we have to see where these guys are at. It was a great time for younger guys to play and us to evaluate."

Despite goals from Austin Smith and Justin Mercier, Brock Montgomery was probably the star of the night among skaters. The young winger had two fights and scored an empty netter. In between, he hit everything that moved, perhaps sensing an opening with the loss of physical winger Luke Gazdic earlier in the day.

"We'll miss Luke in a lot of ways," said Desjardins postgame. "He was a really good player for the organization. Not just physicality, but his character as well."

Josh Robinson started the night and only saw nine shots before giving way to Pat Nagle halfway through the game. Nagle stopped all 21 against him after coming in cold midgame.

"It was great to get in the game and get some shots," said Nagle. "Josh set a high standard for me coming in. Fortunately, I got hit with a shot in the chest right when I came in, and it got rid of the jitters."

San Antonio and Texas played to a scoreless tie in the first period with the Stars outshooting the Rampage 7-6. The tight shooting game saw Vincent Trocheck lead all shooters with two as last year's OHL MVP and top point scorer. Brock Montgomery got into the fighting game a bit, squaring off with Zach Miskovic.

The second period was a little bit more open. Austin Smith potted the first goal of the night at the 6:31 mark, tapping the puck in as it had settled behind Houser in the San Antonio crease. Ranford's initial shot off the right wing side behind the goal line squeaked through Michael Houser where Austin Smith found it. Jyrki Jokipakka picked up the second assist.

"Smith's play has improved over last year," noted Desjardins. "He's stronger and skating harder."

The night's starter, Josh Robinson, stopped all nine shots against in the 28 minutes and change that he played. Pat Nagle got into the game thereafter and near immediately faced some intense challenges from the Rampage. A shorthanded 2-on-0 was one of the shots among the nine he faced in the second period.

In the third, Texas extended its lead with Justin Mercier's first preseason goal. Jyrki Jokipakka again generated the goal with a solid shot from the left point that Mercier tipped past Houser. Curtis McKenzie collected the second assist.

The rest of the period was rather physical as Brock Montgomery stepped up his game, stapling Greg Zanon and Zach Miskovic on the same forecheck. Vincent Trocheck stepped up to challenge Montgomery and the result was a bloody hand and face for Trocheck.

Montgomery was rewarded for his pugilism late in the game as the Rampage pulled their tender for the extra man. Finding the empty net, he polished off the Stars 3-0 win with seven seconds left.

Tonight's lines:
Stransky-Ranford-Smith
Mercier-Vause-McKenzie
Bennett-Petersen-Rapuzzi
Montgomery-Nigro-Peters

Gaunce-Button
Labrie-Boutet
Jokipakka-Wrenn

Robinson
Nagle

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jack Campbell, Cristopher Nilstorp, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour, Justin Dowling, Patrik Nemeth, Maxime Fortunus, Brett Ritchie, Travis Morin, Mike Hedden, Tyler Elbrecht, Francis Wathier, Ryan Hegarty (scratch)

The Texas Stars had Toby Petersen with the captain's "C" and William Wrenn and Cameron Gaunce with alternate "A"s.

Tonight's attendance was 2,543.

Edmonton Claims Luke Gazdic on Waivers

The Texas Stars fifth season will be missing a key component as Luke Gazdic has been claimed off waivers by the Edmonton Oilers.  Gazdic will report to the NHL and could be playing against the Dallas Stars very soon.

The Oilers had a chance to see Gazdic up close on Friday, as he scored a goal in the Stars' 4-0 victory over Edmonton in OKC.

Everyone else placed on waivers yesterday for Dallas cleared. More information as we know it.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, — pts
#— Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, — pts
#— Western Conference
September 29th at 5:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

It's the preseason, so how much can you say about the games in a preview format. Texas will likely ice a different lineup than Friday, owing to a number of assignments from Dallas. Look to see Coach Desjardins trying out power play units, penalty kill pairings and other 'tweak' type items ahead of the start of the season here. Things looked good the other night on the penalty kill with a 6/6 effort, but the power play needed work, going 1/9.

Also, it's likely that Josh Robinson gets into his first AHL game, preseason or otherwise, tonight as Jack Campbell played all of the OKC game. Pat Nagle could get a period, but that's still uncertain.

San Antonio played in front of many Texas Stars fans last night against the Barons. The Rampage won that game 2-1 in the shootout off the stick of Jared Gomes alone; he scored both the only regulation goal and the only shootout goal. Rampage play-by-play voice commented on Twitter that "Gomes, Vincent Trocheck, and Alex Petrovic really stood out". Watch for those players tonight in Cedar Park.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick Hits with Cameron Gaunce: Settling in Austin, Systems Differences and Consistency

Cameron Gaunce (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Defenseman Cameron Gaunce was acquired last season in an almost-forgotten trade deadline deal, which saw forward Tomas Vincour depart for Colorado. Gaunce made an impact at the end of last season on a pairing with Kevin Connauton, also a trade deadline acquisition. I got a chance to talk with him after Thursday's practice.

On his eye injury, which he sustained in the last 90 seconds of last Friday's game at San Antonio:
"It's healed up pretty well. I'll get the stitches out today [Thursday]. I knew there was only a minute left. I could tell with the amount of blood I wasn't going to skate to the bench or stay down so I just skated right off."
On what he thought of his time in Dallas:
"I thought it went well. I would have liked to have more time, but they have a lot of players there and they want to see the players that they believe are going to start there. I thought I did well and left a good impression. I don't have any regrets from camp. I thought I did well in the games."
On what he wants to work on to make it to the next level:
"The biggest thing for me is consistency. If I'm going to play there, I need to keep it simple: be a defensive defenseman and show them night in and night out that's the role I can play and can thrive at it. When I go up, I want to continue that game."
On how he's settling in and if it's any less stressful than last year when he joined the team after a trade:
"Actually no. At the start of the year, you've got to find an apartment. It's a new area for me so I'm leaning on the guys who've been here a lot for their recommendations. You go into a leasing office and you only know so much by what they say. You can read reviews online but even those you don't know how much to trust because you don't know who's writing them. This time of year is hectic, and you like to get it over to settle and worry about hockey."
On differences he sees in Texas's systems rolling down from Lindy Ruff's systems in Dallas:
"There are a couple things here and there. There's a couple different ways we play rushes, forecheck, and things like that. It's nothing drastic. We had a similar system last year but there are a few small differences. It's high tempo and hard work. When you narrow it down to its core features, it's the same."

Seven Headed to Texas Stars Camp from Dallas

Austin Smith (Credit: Steven Christy)
Dallas has announced today that defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak and forwards Brett Ritchie, Austin Smith and Matej Stransky have been assigned to the Texas Stars following this conclusion of the NHL preseason. Texas Stars captain Maxime Fortunus was also released from his tryout contract with Dallas and will report to Texas.

Expect these players in camp tomorrow and that some of them could figure into the lineup for the second preseason game.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that Dallas has reduced its training camp roster by seven players, all of whom will report to Texas.

Dallas assigned six players to Texas: defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak and forwards Brett Ritchie, Austin Smith and Matej Stransky.

Dallas also released defenseman Maxime Fortunus from his professional tryout contract.

Texas’ training camp roster now stands at 30 players, including three goaltenders, 11 defensemen and 16 forwards. Dallas’ training camp roster now stands at 29 players, including three goaltenders, eight defensemen and 18 forwards.

Hedden's OT Game-Winner Puts Texas Past OKC

Mike Hedden scores the GWG and takes a cross check. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Some of the Stars' core contributors from last season came through for Texas in their first preseason game as Justin Dowling, Taylor Vause, and Mike Hedden figured into the scoring in a 3-2 overtime win. Hedden's extra-time goal was the ultimate game winner in a come-from-behind victory for the Stars.

"It's always nice to come back in the third. It doesn't matter when you're playing," said Coach Desjardins. "We want to be able to play good third periods."

That come-from-behind effort shows resilience and perseverance early in the season. Taylor Peters and Taylor Vause scored the Stars other two goals. Jack Campbell played the entire evening and stopped 26 of 28.

Oklahoma City drew first blood off the stick of Joel Broda, scoring glove side on a wrister of the right post. Texas evened things up in the second period with Taylor Peters' first goal as a pro. The goal went in over the blocker of Olivier Roy and was assisted by Spencer Bennett and Anthony Nigro. The Barons regained their lead with the extra man on a delayed penalty as Martin Gernat rocketed a slapshot to the net, which went in off a deflection.

Texas rallied in the third with a beautiful play by Justin Dowling that was finished off by Taylor Vause. Mike Hedden boxed out the defender at the net and Dowling's backhand spin pass found Vause unguarded with six minutes left in the third period.

"I was at the end of a shift there," said Vause. "I had contemplated changing but I had a pretty good feeling I was wide open on the back door. With Justin Dowling and his passes and skill level, you are bound to expect one of those once and game and I was lucky to put it in."

Vause is on a tryout to Texas and looking to make the team again. "It was nice for Vause to get a few there at the end," added Desjardins. "It was good for him. Lots of guys are in the spot where they need good camps."

Texas went to the overtime period on the power play courtesy of C.J. Stretch.

Mike Hedden polished off the scoring less than a minute into OT, assisted by Vause and William Wrenn, scoring a rebound goal.

Notes

Hedden and Dowling wore "A"s; Francis Wathier wore the "C".

Tonight's attendance was 2,730.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Taylor Vause Looking to Make An Impression With Texas Stars Again This Season

Taylor Vause (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Last year was a bit of a strange one in a lot of respects for the hockey world courtesy of the NHL lockout. The Texas Stars were the first training camp for most players and there was a bounty of talent all over the AHL.

"Last year we had the lockout, and we had so many guys it was like a minicamp," said second-year forward Taylor Vause. "Now it's short because of Dallas camp and we only have 19-21 guys. It changes the dynamic."

Vause was one of those in the 'minicamp' on a professional tryout and now he's back again, trying to make the Texas Stars for a second season. Last year's camp was a little different for Vause from most professional players; curiously, he never signed with an agent.

"I had been setup through my head coach in Swift Current. [Texas] was the best offer I had on the table, and I was fortunate to have that option last year. I didn't have an agent, and so I just went in with that relationship with [Texas Stars GM] Scott White."

Through the entire season, which saw Vause sign two PTOs and finally an AHL contract, Vause didn't sign with an agent. That tenacity caught the eye of Idaho Steelheads head coach and GM Brad Ralph after last season.

"Last year, he worked himself into the lineup and knowing Willie that says a lot about his work ethic and character," said Ralph. "For me, there weren't any questions. I liked the fact that he is in the right state of mind. If he has to start in Idaho, he is willing to do that to make it back to the AHL."

The centerman did sign an agent in the summer and signed a contract with Idaho but has a chance to make Texas again with a PTO.

Vause continued, "In coming back to Texas, I know that there are some spots, but it's going to be tough to make it. I want to do what I did last year and stick around."

If the numbers game isn't favorable though, Vause knows that the situation in Boise couldn't be better from his perspective.

"I drove down to Boise and saw the rink and the city and the staff. If I don't make it here, which is the end goal, I know I'm in a good spot with Brad. I feel really comfortable going down there if that's the situation. Go down and play a lot in Idaho and get the callups when the situation arises."

He hopes to use the opportunity in the ECHL to 'resdiscover his offensive side'. Vause collected 37 goals and 46 assists in 72 games his final year in the major junior with Swift Current. Last year, he played bottom six minutes and only tallied four goals and 13 assists in 55 games with Texas.

"From the sounds of it, I would be a big piece of the team [in Idaho]. It's a situation with 10 forwards and you're going to see a lot of time: even strength, power play and penalty kill."

Vause finished up, "Either way, you just have to come in and do your best to show you can be here."

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, — pts
#— Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
0-0-0-0, — pts
#— Western Conference
September 27th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The team that ended the Texas Stars' season last May is the first to visit the Cedar Park Center this fall for a preseason contest. Four months ago, Texas's last game at the Cedar Park Center sent them off to the Cox Convention Center with a tied series at one all. Up to that point, Texas had two one goal games in the series. The Stars would be outscored by a 16-4 margin in three games in Oklahoma and come home defeated.

Of course, this is the preseason and many of the players who were on the ice for those two clubs last year are not yet assigned to the AHL by their clubs. Still more are no longer with those teams. Gone are Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith, and Joe Morrow on the Texas side. OKC has lost their top tender Yann Danis, who really held them in some of those tight games.

But again, this is the preseason. Look for both clubs to ice mostly rosters of ECHL tryout and AHL-ECHL bubble type players. The Barons have a lot of guys in camp, 44 to be precise. Texas only has a few more than a typical regular season roster at 24.

Jack Campbell is expected to get at least one game this weekend while Pat Nagle and Josh Robinson could figure into the second. My bet would be that Robinson starts one of the two games, as Texas has never seen him play a minute in the AHL. When they signed him as the fifth tender for the organization, they showed that they were confident in his ability to perform at this level if needed. Preseason is a good time to test out that trust.

Lines should be similar to the Stars practice lines over the past few days with the exception of Toby Petersen at defense:
Hedden-Dowling-Rapuzzi
Ranford-Nigro-Bennett
Montgomery-Wathier-Vause
McKenzie-Peters-Mercier

Button-Wrenn
Elbrecht-Hegarty
Gaunce-Labrie
Petersen-Boutet

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day Two Texas Stars Training Camp Notes

For whatever reason, assistant coach Doug Lidster has been wearing a batting helmet for all of the Stars' practices. He's even branded it with the Stars' five year logo on the back and crest on the front. (Credit: John Snyder Jr/Texas Stars)
Texas had a simple one practice day today but moved locations to the Chaparral Ice facility on Anderson. The hour long session consisted of mostly drills such as line rushes and zone work. The practice ended with an intense 2-on-2 session in the corner with the goals set no more than 20 feet apart.

Jack Campbell was the star in that drill, not only showing off some flashy glove saves but also scoring two goals. I think he tried the first one on a lark and then really tried for the second, which he went top cheddar for. After that, Campbell had his stick on the ice for the rest of the drill, waiting to complete the hat trick. No one obliged by passing him the puck, but the over tenor of the drill showed once again that Campbell is a fierce competitor in practice. That has been a common theme for the young American tender.

Yesterday, I commented that William Rapuzzi looked good, but I also wrote it off a bit as being part of being on a line with Justin Dowling and Mike Hedden. Today, Rapuzzi continued to stand out for me, with a few solid shots on net and some good follow-ups on rebound, both individual efforts. He's signed to Idaho so I wouldn't be surprised if he got a PTO look later in the season depending on depth and injuries.

Lines were the same as yesterday. Preseason games are typically a little bit looser in terms of lineup restrictions. Last year, for example, Houston and Texas agreed to dress 19 skaters so that both teams could rotate a seventh defenseman. I'd expect something similar for Texas tomorrow. Also, based on rumblings from Dallas, I would expect Saturday to be a day for many assignments to Texas. Notables still in Dallas are expected in Texas include Travis Morin, Austin Smith and Jyrki Jokipakka.

Quick Hits with Justin Dowling: Possible Linemates, Dallas Stars Camp and NHL Chances

Justin Dowling (Credit: Steven Christy)
Justin Dowling is a big part of the core returning player group for the Texas Stars this season. He got a chance to head to Dallas Stars training camp this preseason and is looking to improve on his performance from last year when he collected sixteen goals and fourteen points in 38 AHL games. I got a chance to chat with him after practice on Wednesday.

Calgary was affected by massive flooding in the summer. Was your family impacted at all?
"We were just on voluntary evacuation for a few days. We were up on a hill, so everything was safe."
On getting to head to Dallas Stars training camp for the first time:
"It was good and a lot of fun. It is good to see where you stand up against the NHL guys like Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney. It's good to see where you need to improve."
On what he wants to work on to get to that NHL level:
"I want to make sure I have a good start to the season. I want to work on some little things like the defensive zone and tweaking a few things here and there. I want to work on having a harder shot with [Doug Lidster]. I just want to get off to a good start."
On who might fill the void as the third on his line with Mike Hedden:
"It doesn't matter who is the third player. We have so many good players here and coming from Dallas still. There isn't a guy who wouldn't fit with all the talent in Dallas."
On getting a chance to play again with Brett Ritchie, who was that third player at times in the playoffs:
"We didn't do too much with Ritchie in Dallas but we expect a lot from him. He's a big body and a great hockey player. If he plays [on our line], we are going to do our best to make him the best player he can be on the ice."
On his relationship with Idaho Steelheads head coach and GM Brad Ralph, who he is seeing again for the first time after his callup to Texas last season:
"Brad called me once a month or so [after the callup] just to check in and see how I was doing. Ralph and I had a great relationship, and it was always great when he would call me to see how I was doing. We just talked about life in general, not necessarily about hockey all the time. I always appreciated those calls."
On Brad Ralph's advice to him for advancing his career to the NHL level:
"He's said that he likes me as a player and he knows that somewhere along the line I'll get an opportunity so I should keep plugging away. Don't let my head get down or too down on myself. Stay positive. He was a great player back in the day and he knows what he's talking about."
Texas Stars camp continues today with practice at 9:30 AM.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Thoughts on Texas Stars' Opening Practices

Cameron Gaunce in a game last season. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars opened training camp Wednesday in Cedar Park with a double practice day. Players reported last night and had practice sessions on the ice today at 10 AM and 2 PM. Texas had a total of 23 players in camp by the end of the day, including three goalies, seven defensemen and thirteen forwards. Defenseman Cameron Gaunce was in Cedar Park in the morning but not in morning practice as he had yet to clear waivers. He cleared waivers at 11 AM and was in the afternoon practice.

Training camp roster
(click to enlarge)
I was unable to make it out to morning practice, but both were run in a similar fashion. It's tough to judge a lot when you are watching drills. The competitive aspect of the scrimmage definitely gave more clarity.

"You can't totally judge a player in practice," added Coach Desjardins. "You find out where guys are in games."

The second practice had an extended scrimmage at the end, which ended in a 1-0 score in a sudden-death 3-on-3 OT. Brendan Ranford was the goal scorer for the white team. Justin Dowling went to Philadelphia's NHL camp with Ranford several years ago and described him as 'shifty' and having a great shot. Doug Lidster had his winning team pose for a fake 'championship pose' photo while Desjardins' team did a 'punishment' lap of the ice.

Among names you might know, William Wrenn had a lot of physical play, knocking the net off its moorings twice by shoving a player into it. Taylor Vause showed he hadn't lost any of his trademark speed over the summer, but he couldn't get his breakaways to sit flat on the ice. Jack Campbell got a break in the afternoon session while Pat Nagle and Josh Robinson manned the pipes.

Figuring out tryout players

Among tryout players, Justin Mercier (That's 'mur-seer'; it's not French) had a few shots that made me take notice. He isn't on contract anywhere and played in Germany last year. William Rapuzzi looked good, but that's partly because he was lined up with Mike Hedden and Justin Dowling, who had a good chemistry last year.

"We always look for the same things," said Desjardins. "Guys who play with tempo and are hungry and ready to come to the rink. We don't want guys who are comfortable or satisfied."

Idaho Steelheads head coach Brad Ralph added that he liked what he saw out of the tryout players in camp signed to Idaho. "Based on what I saw, they can all play at this level. If they do come down to Idaho, I am going to be very excited to have them."

Lineups

Lines looked like this:
Hedden-Dowling-Rapuzzi
Ranford-Nigro-Bennett
Montgomery-Wathier-Vause
McKenzie-Peters-Mercier

Button-Wrenn
Elbrecht-Hegarty
Gaunce-Labrie
Petersen-Boutet
You'll notice that Toby Petersen is on defense. Coach Desjardins says he tends to do that with centers when the defensive numbers are odd. "We use guys on the point in the power play sometimes and sometimes you get caught or maybe we want to go with a forward on 4 on 4," said Desjardins. "It's something I've always done with an extra D. Most of the time I throw a centerman back there. It gives them extra work low in the zone."

Dowling and McKenzie impress the coach

It was just one practice in Texas, but Justin Dowling and Curtis McKenzie were both in Dallas camp with Willie Desjardins over the past week. Desjardins felt that both of them had put in significant work over the summer to improve their game and really "stepped it up" in camp.

Practice tomorrow

Texas will have only one practice tomorrow, a morning skate. It will be their last full practice before their first preseason game on Friday against Oklahoma City.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Texas Stars Announce Training Camp Roster, William Wrenn Signing

William Wrenn (Credit: Steven Christy)
UPDATE: Goalie Jack Campbell has been assigned to the Texas Stars as well late Monday.

Texas officially announced their training camp schedule and roster this morning. Camp is expected to start tomorrow night with physicals and will commence on-ice activities on Wednesday at the Cedar Park Center. Thursday's practice will be at Chaparral Ice.

The roster consists of a mixture of tryouts and AHL- and NHL-contracted players. To be honest, it seems a bit light at this point. It would seem to me that Texas expects more players to be assigned before Wednesday from Dallas. At this point, you'll note that Texas essentially has one roster's worth of players, which is not how a training camp is usually run. Usually you have 1.5 to 2 times as many players in training camp.

Here's the list of players in camp:
Forwards: Spencer Bennett, Justin Dowling, Mike Hedden, Curtis McKenzie, Justin Mercier, Brock Montgomery, Anthony Nigro, Taylor Peters, Toby Petersen, Brendan Ranford, William Rapuzzi, Taylor Vause, Francis Wathier.

Defensemen: Etienne Boutet, Ryan Button, Tyler Elbrecht, Ryan Hegarty, Hubert Labrie, William Wrenn.

Goaltenders: Pat Nagle, Josh Robinson.

Players in italics indicate being on a tryout contract.
Running down the tryout players we have quite a few signed to Idaho that were already announced, including Anthony Nigro, Taylor Vause, William Rapuzzi and Tyler Elbrecht. Spencer Bennett is under contract with the Alaska Aces this season after finishing up last year with that club. Justin Mercier played with Lake Erie two seasons ago but spent last year in Europe. He does not have a contract for 2013-14. Ryan Hegarty is under contract with the Greenville Road Warriors after playing last season with the Fort Wayne Komets.

A notable omission would be Carl Sneep, who signed with Idaho in the offseason and was expected to be able to provide depth to Texas. I wouldn't be surprised to see him appear on an AHL training camp roster elsewhere. Given that he was clearly not in the plans in Texas this year, why come to Texas camp when others might offer a legitimate chance at playing in the AHL all season?

Wrenn signed to AHL deal

One interesting note is that William Wrenn is not a tryout on this list. For whatever reason, the Texas Stars did not release his signing at the time it occurred, around the same time as the Pat Nagle signing. Wrenn was on an AHL contract to Texas to end last season and had his rights retained by Alaska in the ECHL. He played 19 games for Texas last year as injuries challenged their defensive depth, collecting two goals and five assists.

Quick Hits with Colton Sceviour

Colton Sceviour in Friday's preseason game (Credit: Michael Connell/Dallas Stars)
After Friday's preseason game in San Antonio, there were a few quick minutes before the team boarded the plane to chat with fifth-year forward Colton Sceviour. Sceviour is back with the Dallas organization on another one year contract and looking to make an impression and crack the NHL lineup for the Stars. He had just scored a power play goal in the game and survived this weekend's first big round of cuts, playing in the Saturday night game as well.

On getting back into the groove of things in the preseason game:
"I felt good. It took a while in the first period to get our legs under us, I think. Once we started going in the first, the second and third everyone looked good and was skating well."
On the skill of the younger lineup that played on Friday:
"Tonight you definitely got to see some of the younger guys that are expected to be assigned to Texas. They're learning more about each other and working on the power play together. That's definitely bodes well and gives confidence that they can jump right into the regular season."
On the excitement around the Dallas Stars franchise and some of the changes made:
"If you look at it, you can see they started in the past to rebuild it and they have a great guy like Jamie Benn to build it around, the trade for Tyler Seguin and the pickup of Valeri Nichushkin, who's a really great player at just 18 years old. With these guys coming up, you can definitely see the foundation of what they're going to build around. It looks like it's going to be an exciting and powerful team once these guys get to play together. It looks like it's going to be a good organization for years to come."
On seeing Jamie Benn, who Sceviour played with in the 2010 Calder Cup, become the captain of the Dallas Stars:
"He absolutely deserves it. He made that team as a twenty-year old and has been a really good player for them. He's done everything they've asked of him. When he came down to Austin, he didn't have to do that; he was asked. He came down and didn't just go through the motions. He came down and carried us that playoffs and was one of the main reasons that we did what we did that year. A guy like that has the attitude you want in a leader, a guy that works hard on and off the ice. He's definitely not the most vocal guy, but you'll watch him on the ice and see what he does and you'll want to match that."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Eleven Players to Texas Stars Camp After Dallas Assignments, Releases

Mike Hedden (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Before last night's 3-2 OT loss to St. Louis, the Dallas Stars reduced their training camp roster by ten overall. Nine of those ten will be in Cedar Park this week for training camp with the Texas Stars. Further, Dallas placed Francis Wathier and Toby Petersen on waivers. They cleared this morning and were assigned to Texas this afternoon.

Those on Dallas contracts assigned yesterday were forwards Curtis McKenzie and Taylor Peters and defensemen Ryan Button and Hubert Labrie. Five players were also released from their tryout contracts, all bound for the Texas Stars or Idaho this season. Those players were Justin Dowling, Mike Hedden, Brock Montgomery, Etienne Boutet and Brendan Ranford. None of those on tryout contracts had figured into any of Dallas's preseason games.

Texas announces training camp start dates

It was a bit of a hidden note, but the Texas Stars announced their training camp start dates. Players are expected to report Tuesday with on-ice activities beginning on Wednesday. The full roster for the Stars will be released tomorrow. It should include many familiar faces from the Idaho Steelheads, including Taylor Vause and Carl Sneep.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Antoine Roussel's Two Goals Push Dallas Stars Past Florida Panthers in San Antonio

Roussel exchanges pleasantries with an official in a file photo from the 2012-13 season. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Antoine Roussel drove the Dallas Stars to victory tonight in San Antonio with two goals and a primary assist to power a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

"The energy was really good today and we competed hard," said Roussel. "Our line was on the puck and all over them. We had our legs going pretty quick."

Coach Ruff agreed with the assessment: "We were a little sloppy in the first period; I didn't think we played well in our defensive zone. After that, it was a great compete game and we did a lot of great things."

In addition to the solid night from Roussel, Ruff heaped praise on his young defenseman for the win, saying they had a "strong night."

Chris Mueller also drew accolades from Ruff and got noticed by fans for some slick play in the offensive zone. He was rewarded with a goal late in the third to cap the scoring. Colton Sceviour also scored on the power play, his second of the preseason. Dan Ellis stopped 28 of 29 Florida shots in the win.

The lineup was dominated by players expected to play in both Texas and San Antonio, giving it a more AHL feel than NHL despite the jerseys and the coaches. Also, even thought the game was billed as a Panthers home game, the crowd was definitely tilted toward the Dallas/Texas side.

"It's fun to be back here and to see our fans coming out to the game," said Roussel. "Some fans can come out to the game because it's closer and that's good."

The pace of the game throughout seemed quick but it was a relatively quiet game overall. Antoine Roussel got things started early in the first period with a deflection off the shot of Trevor Daley. The puck bounced off a few players in front, including Florida's Dmitri Kulikov, and found twine behind Michael Houser. Jyrki Jokipakka picked up the second assist, as he was paired with Daley and got the play started out of the zone.

Dallas polished off the period with a Luke Gazdic-Eric Selleck bout, probably the 5th or 6th time these two have fought either in this building or at the Cedar Park Center. Gazdic handled Selleck easily as the referees allowed both players to fall to their knees and then continue fighting.

The second period started even more quickly for the Stars as Antoine Roussel was the recipient of a nice pass from Chris Mueller to make it 2-0. Mueller streaked down the left wing side and, as he crossed the goal line, slid the puck back to Roussel in the slot. Patrik Nemeth picked up the second assist.

Dallas and Florida traded penalties in the second period with the penalty kill units looking very familiar to anyone who followed Texas last year. Pairings included Wathier-Petersen, Eakin-Roussel, and on defense Nemeth-Oleksiak.

"Our penalty kill was rock solid," said Ruff. "We averaged maybe half a chance per power play, which is really good."

Gazdic wanted to go again in the final minutes of the period but instead picked up an unsportsmanlike as he threw off his gloves and his dance partner, Alex Petrovic, did not.

Colton Sceviour added another in the third period on the power play, finishing off a shot from Roussel, which trickled behind Michael Houser.

The Stars capitulated quickly though as Luke Gazdic went to the box on a delay of game penalty. Florida scored almost immediately on Tom Gilbert's shot from the left point. Gilbert's goal broke up the shutout bid and set the score at 3-1. Chris Mueller padded things out a bit with thanks to the Panther's defense late in the third. Travis Morin generated a turnover behind the net and found a patient Mueller in the slot, where he dusted off the puck and beat Houser clean for the 4-1 final.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Mueller
Roussel-Eakin-Nichushkin
Wathier-Faksa-Stransky
Gazdic-Petersen-Sceviour

Nemeth-Gaunce
Goligoski-Oleksiak
Daley-Jokipakka

Ellis

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Glennie (injured)

Tonight's attendance was 7,762.

Dallas Expects to Ice Texas-Heavy Lineup Tonight in San Antonio

Travis Morin will center the second line tonight in San Antonio. (Credit: Texas Stars)
After going with a more experienced lineup the past few games, the Stars are expecting to go with a younger 'Texas Stars' looking lineup tonight in San Antonio.

Mark Stepneski fills us in on the lines:
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Valeri Nichushkin
Curtis McKenzie-Travis Morin-Chris Mueller
Francis Wathier-Radek Faksa-Matej Stransky
Luke Gazdic-Toby Petersen-Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski-Jamie Oleksiak
Trevor Daley-Jyrki Jokipakka
Patrik Nemeth-Cameron Gaunce
Aside from the first line, the forward group should look very Texas-heavy.

Scott Glennie is not in the lineup after suffering a knee injury. He is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks. It's not great news for the young forward, who has been dogged by injuries in his career. He is coming into his final season of his entry level contract and was thought to be on the verge of NHL time.

Finally, Dan Ellis is expected to play the entire game tonight with Jack Campbell backing up.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2013-14 NHL-AHL Affiliation List

Texas Stars forward Mike Hedden scores on Houston late last season. The Aeros will return to the AHL but in Iowa this year. (Credit: Morris Molina/Houston Aeros)
With all the changes that happened over the summer, I figured it would be a good time to recap the affiliations. Gone from this list, of course, are the Houston Aeros and Peoria Rivermen, now the Iowa Wild and Utica Comets. AHL teams in italics have changed cities. NHL team in italics have changed their affiliation.

AHL Team NHL Team
Abbotsford Heat Calgary Flames
Adirondack Phantoms Philadelphia Flyers
Albany Devils New Jersey Devils
Binghamton Senators Ottawa Senators
Bridgeport Sound Tigers New York Islanders
Charlotte Checkers Carolina Hurricanes
Chicago Wolves St. Louis Blues
Grand Rapids Griffins Detroit Red Wings
Hamilton Bulldogs Montreal Canadiens
Hartford Wolfpack New York Rangers
Hershey Bears Washington Capitals
Iowa Wild Minnesota Wild
Lake Erie Monsters Colorado Avalanche
Manchester Monarchs LA Kings
Milwaukee Admirals Nashville Predators
Norfolk Admirals Anaheim Ducks
Oklahoma City Barons Edmonton Oilers
Portland Pirates Arizona Coyotes
Providence Bruins Boston Bruins
Rochester Americans Buffalo Sabres
Rockford IceHogs Chicago Blackhawks
San Antonio Rampage Florida Panthers
Springfield Falcons Columbus Blue Jackets
St. John's IceCaps Winnipeg Jets
Syracuse Crunch Tampa Bay Lightning
Texas Stars Dallas Stars
Toronto Marlies Toronto Maple Leafs
Utica Comets Vancouver Canucks
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Pittsburgh Penguins
Worcester Sharks San Jose Sharks

Monday, September 16, 2013

Potential Texas Stars See Important Minutes in Dallas Preseason Opener

Jack Campbell (Credit: Steven Christy)
The St. Louis Blues had the last laugh, winning in the shootout, but Dallas's first preseason game was a showcase for the younger talent expected to play in NHL and AHL this season. Valeri Nichushkin was the Star of the show, scoring two goals and putting nine shots on net.

Kevin Connauton collected a goal on a snapshot from the blue line to make it 2-0 early. Later on, Dan Ellis gave way to Jack Campbell in net. Campbell stopped 14 of 17 shots against. Jamie Oleksiak and Luke Gazdic picked up assists on a gritty goal by Nichushkin to push the Stars to a 4-3 lead in the second.

Recap is here from NHL.com, and stats are here from the Dallas Morning News. Mike Heika expounds on the game for DMN here.

Here's the lineup from Mark Stepneski at Stars Inside Edge. I bolded some of the guys you could potentially see in Texas this season:
Benn-Seguin-Cole
Horcoff-Eakin-Nichushkin
Roussel-Fiddler-Chiasson
Gazdic-Mueller-Ritchie

Goligoski-Klingberg
Dillon-Oleksiak
Connauton-Benn

Ellis
Campbell
Dallas now welcomes the Panthers for a game Wednesday night before heading down I-35 to San Antonio, where they will face Florida again at the AT&T Center on Friday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

St. John's to Host 2014 AHL All-Star Game Against Sweden's Färjestad BK

Cristopher Nilstorp won an SHL championship with Färjestad. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League has announced that the league's All-Star festivities will have a new twist in 2014, as the league will pit their top players against the Swedish Hockey League's Färjestad BK in St. John's, Newfoundland. The league's All-Star festivities will occur February 11-12, 2014, directly competing with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, running February 7-23.

Färjestad is one of the oldest SHL teams and one of the most successful, playing in 19 league finals and winning nine Swedish league championships, including four since 2002. Texas Stars goalie Cristopher Nilstorp backstopped the club to one of those championships in 2011. Färjestad will be the first SHL team to ever play in North America.

The 2013-14 Färjestad roster features a former Texas Star as inaugural year player Garrett Stafford will be one of their blueliners this season. Additionally, Ludwig Byström, a Dallas draft pick and potential future Texas Star, is on the roster.

The league last played in a one team against a team of all-stars format in 1959 when the AHL All-Stars lost to the Springfield Indians 8-3. The NHL has twice tried their All-Star game as a contest against a foreign team, in 1987 with the Rendez-vous '87 and in 1979 with the Challenge Cup.

For the record, Karlstad, Sweden, and Cedar Park, Texas, are both approximately 2,700 miles from the All-Star Game location of St. John's, NL.

Dallas Earns 3rd Place With 7-1 Victory Over Blue Jackets

Alex Chiasson celebrates a goal in a file photo. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Alex Chiasson's two-goal effort headlined a 7-1 Dallas prospects victory in the third place game of the Traverse City tournament last night. The Stars had a plethora of power play opportunities and managed to capitalize on them this game, scoring two on six opportunities. Jamie Oleksiak added a Gordie Howe hat trick with a third period goal, second period fight and first period assist.

Several players anticipated to play with Texas this season also factored into scoring. Brett Ritchie, Matej Stransky, and Taylor Peters added goals. Curtis McKenzie continued a strong tournament with an assist on the first goal of the night. Valeri Nichushkin scored yet again, but he is not expected to play with Texas.

Jack Campbell started his second game of the tournament and had a stellar performance, stopping 24 of 25 shots against him.

You can find the box score here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stars Prospects Push Past Wild on Chiasson Shootout Goal

Alex Chiasson (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Alex Chiasson had the game-winner in the shootout and assisted on the game-tying tally in regulation to push the Stars past the Minnesota Wild prospects by a 2-1 score this afternoon in Traverse City. Top draft pick Valeri Nichushkin scored the Stars' lone goal of regulation time, assisted by Chiasson and Patrik Nemeth. Maxime Lagace got the start in net and stopped 27 of 28.

The Stars will finish out the tournament as either the 2nd or 3rd seed from the Howe Division, depending on tonight's results in the St. Louis/Detroit game. They will play on Monday against an opponent still to be determined at either 3 PM or 6 PM Central time.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Paulovic, Oleksiak Each Tally as Stars Prospects Fall to Detroit 4-2

Jamie Oleksiak in game action last season (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
The Stars were not as successful Friday night as they were on Thursday in Traverse City, falling by a 4-2 mark to the host Detroit Red Wings. The Stars were ultimately outshot in every period. The Detroit prospects roster was rather stacked, featuring several players who just won a Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Brendan Ranford and Brett Ritchie continued their strong play as each picked up a power play assist on Jamie Oleksiak's PPG in the third period. The other Stars' goal came at even strength in the second as free agent pickup and expected Texas Star for the coming season, Taylor Peters, found 2013 draft pick Matej Paulovic after forcing a turnover on the forecheck.

“That’s a lot of my game, getting in on the forecheck and making sure the defenders don’t have an easy time getting the puck out,” Peters told Stars Inside Edge after the game. “I was able to strip the puck and Pauly made a good call at the front of the net, I was able to make the pass and he made a good shot.”

All teams are off today. Detroit moves to 2-0 and the top of the division with their win. Dallas is at 1-1 but ahead of St. Louis, who is also 1-1 but got their win in extra time against the Wild. The tournament uses a three point scoring system where in winners of overtime or shootout games only get two points while the loser gets one. Winners of regulation games get all three points and the loser gets zero.

Dallas will play Minnesota tomorrow at 2 PM Central. If the math is right on my end, the best Dallas can do is 2nd place in the division. Even with a Detroit regulation loss and a Dallas regulation win, the two would be tied at six points and the tiebreaker would likely be head-to-head, which Detroit won. (Apparently the tiebreaker may be total goals scored; we'll see.) Regardless of ranking, everyone plays a final 'playoff' game against the other division on Monday.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Curtis McKenzie Hat Trick Fuels 5-2 Dallas Win in Traverse City

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars prospects beat out the Blues last night 5-2 in Traverse City in their first game of the tournament. Curtis McKenzie was the big storyline in the game. He scored his first hat trick since juniors, getting one at even-strength, one on the power play and one shorthanded.

“It was a really good showing for the team,” McKenzie told Mark Stepneski of Stars Inside Edge, deflecting praise to his teammates. “It was the first time we got to play together as a whole group. It was a really strong performance by us.”

First round picks Radek Faksa and Valeri Nichushkin added the other tallies while Jack Campbell stopped 21 of 23 shots against him. Assists in the game went to Brett Ritchie, Brendan Ranford and John Klingberg. Jamie Oleksiak picked up a major for fighting and got ejected for an equipment violation. Apparently he threw off his elbow pad during the fight.

You can read Mark's full breakdown of the game on Stars Inside Edge.

Dallas is in action again tonight versus the host Red Wings. Detroit's prospects beat the Wild last night 3-1. The game starts at 6:30 PM Central. The tournament has an off day on Saturday and will resume on Sunday. Monday's game will be a 'playoff' format where each division plays the same seeded team in the opposite division. Dallas and Detroit lead the Gordie Howe division with 1-0 records.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Organized Hockey of the Season Starts Today in Traverse City

Traverse City prospects from 2011 (Credit: Judy True)
After a lockout shuttered year, the Traverse City Prospects Tournament returns in all its glory today in Michigan. The Dallas Stars prospects will face off against prospects from Detroit, Carolina, the New York Rangers, St. Louis, Minnesota, Buffalo and Columbus.

Dallas's roster features many familiar and soon-to-be familiar names for Texas Stars fans, including Brett Ritchie, Alex Chiasson, Matej Stransky, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jack Campbell. It will also be the first time that many Dallas prospects will be wearing Stars sweaters against another club, including Valeri Nichushkin, Cole Ully, Cody Payne, Jason Dickinson and Philippe Desrosiers.

The first games start this afternoon at 2:30 PM Central with the Rangers and Hurricanes lacing them up for the opening game. Dallas plays its first game against the Blues at 6:00 PM Central. It's just a small prospect tourney, so no, it won't be on radio or TV anywhere. However, thanks to the magic of Twitter, you can at least keep up with scoring by following Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge), who will be at the Tournament.

Once the Tournament finishes on Monday, September 9th, the Stars will shuttle back to Texas with a final destination of Fort Worth, where they will open Dallas Stars training camp on Thursday the 12th.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Texas Stars Announce Promotional Calendar with Many Familiar Events

Last year's Teddy Bear Toss, a shootout victory over Charlotte. (Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced their promotional calendar late in the day today. The calendar features a lot of familiar events, such as Teddy Bear Toss, Family Four Packs, and Winning Wednesdays. Players getting the bobblehead treatment this year include Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour and Toby Petersen.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today their complete promotional schedule for the 2013-14 season. The team also announced that individual game tickets for the 2013-14 season will go on sale on Monday, September 16th at 10:00 a.m.

This season's Stars promotional calendar is jam-packed with giveaways, popular fan specials and numerous theme nights, starting with a fifth season commemorative hat on Opening Night. The mini-bobblehead giveaways are back, beginning with the Travis Morin mini-bobblehead giveaway on January 11th against the newest AHL team, the Utica Comets. The Colton Sceviour mini-bobblehead night is on February 1st against the Toronto Marlies and the Toby Petersen mini-bobblehead night will be on April 4th as the Stars host the Lake Erie Monsters.