Friday, February 28, 2014

Dallas Extends Colton Sceviour for Two More Years

Colton Sceviour (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
UPDATE: Mike Heika reports both years being one-way. $600,000 in the first year, 700,000 in the second.

Pending free agent Colton Sceviour has been signed today to a two-year contract, making him a Dallas Star through the 2015-16 season. Sceviour leads the AHL in goals at 31. Dallas GM Jim Nill called Sceviour an "elite player" at the AHL level, further saying that he was looking forward to his continued growth with Dallas.

Smart money would be on never seeing Colton Sceviour play another AHL regular season home game. After the trade deadline, he is likely to be headed to the NHL for good. Dallas is likely to ship out at least one veteran forward for a good return, opening a slot for Sceviour.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that Dallas has signed right wing Colton Sceivour to a two-year contract through the 2015-16 season. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sceviour is in his fifth season with the Stars organization, having spent the majority of his professional career with Texas. The Red Deer, Alta., native leads the AHL with 31 goals this season, ranks third in the League with 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) and is Texas' all-time leader in games played (344), goals (98), shorthanded goals (9), game-winning goals (22) and shots (946). The 6-foot, 200-pound forward has recorded 238 points (98 goals, 140 assists) in 344 career games in the AHL.

"Colton has been a very reliable and effective player for our organization during his professional hockey career," said Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill. "He has become an elite player at the American Hockey League level and we look forward to his continued growth with the Dallas Stars."

The 24-year-old made his NHL debut with Dallas on Feb. 5, 2011 at Philadelphia and scored his first career NHL goal on Dec. 14, 2013 at Winnipeg. He has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 10 career NHL contests, including two game-winning goals. Sceviour was Dallas' fourth-round selection (112th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shootout Unkind to Texas as Monsters Skate to 3-2 Win Over Stars

Calvin Pickard stopped 34 of 36 Texas shots (Credit: John Saraya/Lake Erie Monsters)
The Texas Stars went to shootout with the Lake Erie Monsters, falling by a 3-2 final after failing to score in the skills competition. Curtis McKenzie and Chris Mueller tallied for Texas in regulation among 36 shots that the Stars belted toward Calvin Pickard. Lake Erie volleyed 33 at Cristopher Nilstorp, who stopped 31 of those. The single point moves Texas to 74 points on the season, putting them three points up on the Heat for first place.

The Monsters opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. Michael Schumacher put in his third goal of the season just under nine minutes into the period, a quick one-timer. It was one of just seven shots in the period for Lake Erie.

Texas evened things up in the second period with an even-strength tally off the stick of Curtis McKenzie. The goal was initially awarded to Colton Sceviour with an assist to McKenzie, but further review revealed that McKenzie tipped the puck at the net off the slick shot by Sceviour. Jamie Oleksiak got the second assist either way. With Maxime Fortunus scratched to get all eight D-men into the lineup, Derek Meech manned the point on the first unit.

The third period saw the two clubs trade power play goals. Texas's league best power play was cued up by a pair of minor penalties by the Monsters that set up a 5-on-3. Chris Mueller scored off the back door feed from Travis Morin. Morin and Sceviour both collected their 61st point on the goal.

Morin would give it back with a penalty of his own for elbowing. Stefan Elliot tallied his eighth of the season. The Texas Stars would need overtime, guaranteeing a point and one-goal margin against the worst team in the Western Conference.

Texas would head to a shootout for the second time in three games. The Stars would fail to score while Lake Erie stuck two past Cristopher Nilstorp for the 3-2 win.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Wathier-Stransky

Nemeth-Jokipakka
Oleksiak-Meech
Wrenn-Gaunce

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Fortunus, Labrie, Peters (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,935.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Lake Erie - February 26 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
33-16-3-4, 73 pts
#1 Western Conference
atLake Erie Monsters
22-25-0-5, 49 pts
#15 Western Conference
February 26th at 6:00 PM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

Standard fare here for the second game of a back-to-back. You heard about the players in this space yesterday and they haven't changed that much in 36 hours since the last game. Texas shook off their issues with matinee games yesterday for a tight 2-1 win at the "Q". They'll need to shake off another one to have success in tonight's game: their issues with back-to-backs. This season, they are a fine 11-8-1-1. Since January 1st, they are 3-5-1-0. Four of those six losses came on the road.

There's no doubt that it's difficult to play on back-to-back nights. Dallas has struggled mightily with it for a few years now. Something just isn't going right for Texas in that second game. Their average margin of defeat in them is three goals, which is pretty astounding for a team that manages north of 3.5 nightly themselves.

Cameron Gaunce is back into the lineup for Texas. Cristopher Nilstorp is likely to go again in net.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Vause, Petersen (injured)

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Texas Stars Take Tight Game in Cleveland 2-1

Despite it being a matchup between the first and last place teams in the Western Conference, the Lake Erie Monster gave Texas a run for its money at Quicken Loans Arena this morning with the Stars coming out on the right side of a tight 2-1 score. The league's leading power play did the job, getting two on the day. Both units scored with the tallies coming from Mike Hedden and Curtis McKenzie.

Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 32 of 33. The Stars had a perfect 6-for-6 performance on the penalty kill. The Stars improved their record in matinee games to 5-6-1-1 on the season.

Mike Hedden opened the scoring in the first period with a slick shot off the right wing circle on the power play. With Garrett Meurs in the box for tripping, Hedden scored his 20th goal of the season, setting a new AHL career high tally. Quietly, he is having a career year behind the 'headline grabbing' top line players.

Meurs made up for his trip a few minutes later with an even-strength goal to tie the score at one after the first period.

Curtis McKenzie provided all the offense the Stars would need the rest of the way with his 19th of the season in the second period. One of just nine shots in the frame and an abnormally low 21 overall for Texas, the goal came on the power play. Colton Sceviour's initial shot rebounded hard off Calvin Pickard to a waiting McKenzie, who potted the 2-1 marker. Travis Morin had the second assist.

Lake Erie kept the pressure on until late, when two consecutive slashing calls in the final five minutes of regulation shut down any chance of a comeback.

The win pushes Texas two points ahead of idle Abbotsford for first place. The Stars stay in town to play Lake Erie again tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Peters-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Oleksiak-Meech
Fortunus-Labrie

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Wathier (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)
Gaunce (suspension)

Today's attendance was 5,283.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Lake Erie - February 25 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
32-16-3-4, 71 pts
#1 Western Conference
atLake Erie Monsters
22-24-0-5, 49 pts
#15 Western Conference
February 25th at 9:45 AM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

Get your coffee and settle in for this early contest. It is certainly the earliest game of the season for Texas and I believe is the earliest in the team's history.

It's not been a rosy season in Lake Erie. The Monsters traded wins and losses, staying around the .500 mark, until mid-December. A stretch of five wins in seven games vaulted them to a 17-13-0-3 record at the start of January. They promptly went on a seven games losing streak that saw them allow six goals in a contest a total of four times. In the eleven games since then, they are back to their .500 ways at 4-5-0-2. However, that seven game losing streak has probably put a significant dent in their chances for the playoffs. They find themselves in last place as Texas visits for a kids' day game Tuesday morning.

Calvin Pickard continues his development with the Monsters this season as he again splits time with Sami Aittokallio. Both are one loss shy of even on the season. Aittokallio is 10-11-2; Pickard is 12-13-3. They have similarr save percentages as well at .909 and .900, respectively.

As with last season, undrafted Andrew Agozzino is leading the way for the Monsters. The former teammate of Jamie Oleksiak is at 12-23-35 this season after putting up 20-32-52 in his rookie campaign. Other notables include Mark Olver (12-21-33) and defenseman Matt Hunwick (9-15-24). Bryan Lerg is also among the top scorers with 27 points, but has a team-worst minus-22 rating.

Texas will be without the services of former Monster Cameron Gaunce. He played a total of 197 games with Lake Erie across three seasons before being traded to Dallas by Colorado.

The Stars have a pretty bad record in games before seven o'clock local time. They are 4-6-1-1 on the season and 1-4-1-0 since January 1st. That includes losses of 4-1, 7-4 and 6-1.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Vause, Petersen (injured)
Gaunce (suspended)

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

Cameron Gaunce Suspended One Game for Slew Foot

Cameron Gaunce (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas Stars defenseman Cameron Gaunce has been suspended by the league for the match penalty he received in Saturday's game for slew footing. He will miss tomorrow morning's game against his former team, the Lake Erie Monsters, in Cleveland.

The incident, which came off a scrum at the net started between Chris Mueller and Justin Peters, was reviewed by the league president as is the case with all match penalties. On the play, Gaunce appeared to grab Jordan Staal by the waist and tackle him down to the ice backwards.

It didn't seem like a match penalty at the time and I honestly was not expecting any league discipline. This is surprising. Gaunce is the first Texas player suspended by the league in nearly three years. Brad Lukowich was suspended one game on March 8, 2011.

Here's the short release from the league:
Texas Stars defenseman Cameron Gaunce has been suspended for one (1) game as a consequence of a match penalty for slew-footing assessed in a game vs. Charlotte on Feb. 22.

Gaunce will miss Texas’s game Tuesday (Feb. 25) at Lake Erie.

Defenseman Russ Sinkewich Reassigned to Idaho

Russ Sinkewich (Credit: Steven Christy)
The Texas Stars and Idaho Steelheads announced a pair of moves today that put AHL-contracted Russ Sinkewich in Idaho and sent ECHL-contracted Tyler Elbrecht in Toledo.

Sinkewich was signed to a PTO by Texas out of Toledo and then signed an AHL contract at the end of the last calendar year. He was sent back to the Walleye of the ECHL afterwards. This transaction puts Sinkewich with the Idaho Steelheads. Tyler Elbrecht just scored his first pro goal the other night against Utah and was in training camp with the Stars this year.

Toledo is currently outside the playoff picture at 16-31-3-1, ranking last in the ECHL's Eastern Conference. Idaho is ranked 5th in the West at 27-18-3-4.

Here's the release from Idaho:
Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Brad Ralph announced Monday that the Idaho Steelheads have traded defenseman Tyler Elbrecht to the Toledo Walleye in exchange for the ECHL rights to defenseman Russ Sinkewich.

In a separate transaction, the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League have reassigned Sinkewich from Toledo to Idaho.

The 28-year-old defenseman has split this season between Toledo and Texas, who owns his AHL rights. In 33 games at the ECHL level, Sinkewich has 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) and 39 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in eight games with Texas, where he scored his first AHL goal earlier this season.In all, the Ohio native has skated in 209 ECHL games and 71 AHL games after playing his college hockey at Bowling Green.

Elbrecht, 25, is in his first professional season out of Minnesota State. He scored his first professional goal on Saturday night against Utah and led the team with ten fighting majors in 45 games at the time of the deal.

Playoff Predictor Now Live for 2014

Travis Morin at the Stars' bench (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
You may have noticed a new link at the top of the page this weekend. Once again, I've taken a run at the playoff picture using some maths.

The methods used to calculate these data were originally presented in a Spring 2010 blog post linked from the page, which does a pretty decent job of explaining how I did this. There is more information, a key for all the abbreviations, and an FAQ below the table.

Check out the predictor here.

There aren't any super huge surprises in the table. Some of the more interesting items include:
  • The Comets, Bulldogs and Barons are unlikely to catch the Stars or Heat for first or second place.
  • The Rampage have been on a winning streak recently but still need a .659 points percentage to make the playoffs. That's at least a record of 14-7-1-0 in their final 22 games. Four of those are against the Stars.
  • The top five clubs in the West are very tight, all predicted to finish within two points of each other.
  • In the East, things are more spread out. The predicted gulf between one and two is twice as large as the gap between one and five in the West.
  • There are nine teams slotted to potentially make the playoffs in the East. There is a massive gap between ninth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and tenth place Bridgeport: a predicted twelve points.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Despite Idle Day, Texas Now In First Place Thanks to Heat Loss

Matej Stransky and Brendan Ranford (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Despite not playing a game today, the Texas Stars managed to slip into first place in the Western Conference this Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to last night's win against Charlotte, Texas pulled into a tie with the then conference leading Abbotsford Heat at 71 points. Abbotsford held the top spot though as they had played fewer games to get to that total. The Heat played the Wolves this afternoon and lost in regulation, keeping them at 71 points with the Stars and evening the games played to 55 for both clubs.

The first tie breaker in head-to-head is ROW, or regulation plus overtime wins. This works out pretty well for Texas, which has gone to a shootout far less than the Heat, only tallying two shootout wins among their 32 wins. Abbotsford has five shootout wins though. Texas's ROW is 30 while Abbotsford's is 28.

This is a big week for the Stars now. Abbotsford doesn't play again until Friday when they start an eight-game homestand with two games against the Griffins. Texas has games on Tuesday and Wednesday at Lake Erie, potentially allowing them to gain a four point advantage on the Heat for first place in the conference.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Texas Delights Sellout Crowd With 3-2 Shootout Win Thriller

Colton Sceviour's goal in the second (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas polished off their weekend with a tight shootout win over the Charlotte Checkers, needing a comeback effort to get that far after a major power play yielded a goal for the visitors.

"That was probably one of our best games of the year," said Coach Desjardins. "It was close all the way through."

The Stars played their best game of the year in front of a capacity crowd of 6,863, the team's second sellout of the season.

After trading goals in the second period, the contest turned on a scrum at the Charlotte net with 15 seconds left in the middle frame.

"It was just an intense shift with both teams battling," said Colton Sceviour, who scored his 31st of the year in the game. "It boiled over into pushing and shoving and the refs saw something that we did that warranted that call."

That call, a slew foot on Cameron Gaunce, put Texas on a five minute major penalty kill and endede Gaunce's night. The veteran defenseman will also be suspended pending review of the play by the League office.

"As much as we may have disagreed with it, all we could do was try and kill it."

Charlotte was able to score their second goal of the game with just 24 seconds left in the penalty. The Stars needed a comeback and found it on the power play themselves off the stick of Chris Mueller.

The game continued tied until overtime, where rookies Brendan Ranford and Matej Stransky scored in the sixth and seventh round to ensure the Texas win.

"We're not a team that's done well in shootouts this year. Our goaltending is superb and our goal scoring is lacking shootouts. To have Ranford score a big one to keep it going and Stransky up next to score and win it was huge for our team."

Cristopher Nilstorp was bombarded all game and came up solid, stopping 34 of 36 in regulation and overtime and four of seven in the shootout.

The only action of the first period saw Texas have a goal waved off due to goaltender interference. What would have been Brett Ritchie's third of the weekend was negated by referee Peter Tarnaris, who ruled Mike Hedden had interefered with Checkers goalie Justin Peters.

Texas would score to make up for it on the power play in the second. Birthday boy Curtis McKenzie put the puck in front of the Charlotte net for Chris Mueller, who dished to Colton Sceviour for the 1-0 lead. The goal extended Sceviour's league goal scoring lead to 31. He had been high sticked on the previous play, but it went uncalled.

"Anytime you get whacked in the face or something like that, it's nice to go out and score on the power play right after. It kinda made the pain go away temporarily."

At the other end of the ice, Philippe Cornet would finish a two-on-one with Ryan Murphy to make it one all just a minute later.

Late in the period, Chris Mueller got into a shoving match with Justin Peters and found himself surrounded by white jerseys. The Texas defense even got involved, which is where Cameron Gaunce picked up his match penalty. Gaunce appeared to get his feet tangled with Jared Staal and took him down.

"I didn't see it because I was at the bottom of the pile," said Mueller. "I started it so I have to thank Gaunce for stepping in because they had all their guys coming at me. He was sticking up for a teammate and that's all we ask."

Coach Desjardins was very political regarding the call, saying that it was probably the right one.

Texas mounted a five minute major penalty kill, which nearly came up perfect. With 24 seconds left, Mark Flood floated one in on Nilstorp for the 2-1 lead.

"[The penalty kill] was huge because it was so tight," said Desjardins. "We knew they might get one on that power play. They were a bit lucky. They had gone through their units, and they were a bit tired. They got a wrist shot from the point."

Texas battled through and earned a power play when Sean Dolan tripped up a Stars skater.

Chris Mueller dictates the play, "It was scrambling in the beginning and then [Fortunus] got it to the net. It bounced off one of their guys and McKenzie made a great pass to me and I had an open net. Both power play goals were because of McKenzie."

Despite a frenetic final minute of regulation and overtime, the Stars needed a shootout to decide the game. Dustin Jeffrey scored five hole and Colton Sceviour potted one on his usual forehand-backhand move, but the score was tied after five rounds. Brody Sutter scored in round 6, putting Texas in a must-score scenario. Coach Desjardins called on Brendan Ranford, who had not played the entire overtime, to shoot. Ranford deposited the disc behind Peters to continue to contest.

After Nilstorp denied Charlotte's Brett Sutter, Desjardins again called a rookie to finish the game.

"They're both good around the net," he said. "They've been good at different times and scored in other shootouts. They'll find a way. They're young, but I wasn't worried about that."

Stransky looked like an old hand, outwaiting Peters on a deke and slipping the puck in easy on the right side for the win.

"Great moves," said Chris Mueller. "Especially guys on the fourth line so they probably didn't get a shift in overtime and probably didn't get a shift after the five minute mark in the third. For them to come off the bench cold and be clutch like that is unbelievable."

The Stars improved to 71 points with the win, tying Abbotsford at the top of the league in points. They stay in fourth though as the Heat have played fewer games to reach that total. The Heat play tomorrow at Chicago and could drop to fourth, slipping Texas into first, if they lose in regulation.

Texas plays again early on Tuesday in Cleveland against the Monsters.


Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Peters-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Oleksiak-Meech
Fortunus-Gaunce

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Labrie, Wathier (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863. It was Texas' second sellout of the season.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - February 22 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
31-16-3-4, 69 pts
#4 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
24-25-1-1, 50 pts
#12 Western Conference
February 22nd at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas will finish off their weekend with a second contest against the same Charlotte Checkers as last night. The past few times the Stars have played back-to-backs, they've put up disappointing results. Notably, they dropped a 6-1 game in Charlotte just hours after beating the same club 7-1. Overall on the calendar year, Texas is 2-5-1-0 in second or third game of consecutive sets.

The team obviously knows about their struggles there. Coach Desjardins talked about it after last night's game:
"We've brought it up. We have a memory that it happened and we can't take anything for granted. it wasn't that we outplayed them tonight. Our goaltending was good and the chances were even. We can't walk away thinking we dominated. They could have won the game and we know that."
He also added that Nilstorp was the likely starter.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Vause, Petersen (injury)

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rookies Ritchie, McKenzie Spark 4-1 Win Over Checkers

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Rookie goal scoring led the way tonight for the Texas Stars as Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie both tallied in a 4-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers. Ritchie potted two while McKenzie added a single. Mike Hedden rounded out the Stars' scoring with his 19th of the year.

"They don't seem like rookies anymore," said Coach Desjardins of McKenzie and Ritchie. "They've been with us for a long time. They both go to the net well and that's how we scored. They were at the net and the pucks were at the net. They may not be the prettiest but they count."

Both rookie goal scorers started their AHL careers on amateur tryouts last season in Cedar Park, a valuable experience according to Brett Ritchie.

"At the start of the season, if I hadn't done that there would have been more of a feeling out process. That experience helped to start."

Coach Desjardins added, "It makes a big difference because you know what the league is about. They both stepped in right away to be regular players."

Dressed in specialty black and pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness, Texas jumped out to a three goal lead in the first period and made that lead stick with solid goaltending throughout the contest. Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and stopped 36 of 37.

"We kept them to the outside," Nilstorp added. "They were good shots to get as a goalie."

The Stars first goal came on a bit of a scramble play at the net. A fallen Jokipakka threw the puck up the ice to Justin Dowling and eventually Patrik Nemeth. After the initial shot, Brett Ritchie tapped in the idle puck on the backdoor for the 1-0 lead.

Less than 30 seconds later, an odd bounce off the endboards sent the puck careening through Murphy's crease behind him. Curtis McKenzie was Johnny-on-the-spot to pop the puck in for the 2-0 lead. Sceviour and Fortunus assisted.

Late in the period, Taylor Peters and Brendan Woods got tangled in the Checkers' zone. Peters was coming in for a check and Woods slipped and moved suddenly to place his head and upper body directly in the path of the check against the glass. There was no call ont he play but Woods was slow to othe bench. He did return for the second.

The play came back up ice after leaving briefly and Ritchie picked a corner on Mike Murphy for the 3-0 advantage. Mike Hedden had the only assist.

Ritchie's goal was his sixth in his last eight games.

"Sometimes it's luck," he said. "I've been getting shots and chances all year. SOmetimes you're hot and sometimes you're not. I've got to ride with the flows."

Early in the second, Peters was called to the carpet for the hit in the first and fought with Corrente. There was no scoring in the middle frame despite a power play for each club.

No doubt Charlotte got exactly what they wanted to start the third period. Chris Terry slipped behind the defense and picked a corner of his own on Nilstorp to end the shutout bid and set the score at 3-1 Texas.

With less than six minutes left in the period, Travis Morin had the stick hacked out of his hands on a breakaway, leading to a power play. The Checkers were pressing hard, putting pressure on the Stars' net. Cristopher Nilstorp had an acrobatic, yet awkward, jump to swat away a puck that had popped up high on him after the initial shot. Justin Dowling collected it and found Mike Hedden all alone on the opposing blue line. He skated in easy and polished off the scoring with a PPG to make it 4-1.

Nilstorp was a little embarrassed by the jumping effort but confided, "It was a good apple, at least."

Texas and Charlotte play again tomorrow night to end the Pink in the Rink weekend set.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Peters-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Oleksiak-Meech
Fortunus-Gaunce

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Labrie, Wathier (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Coach Desjardins on the fourth line and its effort: "All three played really well. It's nice when I can play them in any situation. I was able to play them against the other team's top lines and late in games. When I'm able to do that, it makes our team better."

Tonight's attendance was 5,249.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - February 21 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
30-16-3-4, 67 pts
#4 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
24-24-1-1, 50 pts
#12 Western Conference
February 21st at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The big game is here. The one you've been waiting for. No, not that one. The Texas Stars and Charlotte Checkers. The Pink in the Rink game should be a nice postscript to today's Olympic semifinal games, whichever way they go.

The Stars come in on a two game losing streak, dropping contests in Rochester and Toronto after having a lead in each. The one in Rochester was more disheartening as they had a three goal lead in the first and lost in OT 5-4. Charlotte is coming in on a two-game winning streak. A gut-it-out win against Abbotsford at home in overtime was a solid two points for the club. A 4-3 effort against Norfolk followed. Those two broke up a five-game losing skid that included 7-1 and 8-5 throttlings at the hands of Abbotsford and OKC.

Texas holds the edge in the overall matchup at 9-6-1-0. This year they are 2-2. Each team has won and lost home and away. In both cases, Texas won first in the back-to-back and then Charlotte won.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Vause, Petersen (injury)

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Defenseman (and Sometimes Forward) Ryan Button Heads To Idaho

Ryan Button is on his way to the Idaho Steelheads this morning as the Stars continue to get healthier. Button is listed as a defenseman but hasn't played in that role very much in the past two weeks. He made himself useful at forward and found it was a solid way to stay in the lineup. He did not play in any of the Stars games this past weekend in either role though.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that defenseman Ryan Button has been reassigned to the Idaho Steelheads, the club's ECHL affiliate.

Button, 22, has played in 26 games this season for Texas, scoring three goals and recording 32 penalty minutes. The Edmonton, Alberta native, who is normally a defenseman, had been converted to forward recently, skating as a left wing for the Stars. Button has also played in 13 ECHL games for Idaho this season and has 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists), a +1 rating and nine penalty minutes. Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in the third round (86th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Button was acquired by Dallas on July 4, 2013 in a seven-player trade with Boston, along with Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Joe Morrow and Reilly Smith.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Texas Allows Four-Goal Third Period, Loses 4-1 to Toronto

Up 1-0 after forty, Texas allowed three goals in the final period to fall 4-1 to the Toronto Marlies at the Air Canada Centre this afternoon. Two of those goals were empty netters, but it was still not the result Texas was hoping for in Ontario. The Stars' only goal came in the second period off the stick of Brett Ritchie.

After a sleepy first period, the first scoring action came in the second. The Stars' 'third' line generated some chaos in front of the Marlies' net. Mike Hedden and Justin Dowling had assists on the eventual goal by Brett Ritchie, his twelfth of the season. Texas would take that lead to the break after going 0-for-1 on the power play in the frame.

The Stars looked to kill a power play of their own in the third as Scott Glennie was called for tripping at 5:55. Josh Leivo netted his eleventh of the year on that man-advantage. The puck dribbled in behind Nilstorp. Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott picked up assists on the goal. Three minutes later, Toronto would extend that lead with Jerry D'Amigo collecting his twelfth of the year. Abbott got his second assist of the night as he sprang D'Amigo on a semi-breakaway behind the Texas defense. The puck slid in five-hole off the wrister from the left winger.

Leivo polished things off with an empty net goal in the final two minutes. Texas seemed to have solid possession in the Marlies' zone but Toronto managed to collect the puck and send it up the ice to Josh Leivo. Leivo gained center and found the empty net for the 3-1 final. Jerry D'Amigo added his second of the night as well with another empty netter in the final few seconds.

Texas now takes a few days off before playing the Checkers on Friday at home.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Wathier-Peters-Stransky

Oleksiak-Meech
Jokipakka-Gaunce
Wrenn-Nemeth

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ranford, Fortunus, Labrie, Button (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 10,835.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - February 17 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies

Texas Stars
30-15-3-4, 67 pts
#4 Western Conference
atToronto Marlies
28-17-2-2, 60 pts
#3 Western Conference
February 17th at 2:00 PM
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON

Another day game to finish the three-in-three. Toronto is the opponent this go-around. Despite what the raw numbers might say, Texas is actually behind the Marlies in the standings thanks to the division seeding rules. Toronto is third in the conference despite trailing Texas by seven points. Despite recent struggles, the Stars are third in the fourth in the league in points and second only behind Abbotsford in the Western Conference.

Toronto comes in also on the third game of a three-game set. They beat Farjestad BK on Saturday and lost to Utica last night, both at home. They, of course, will look to change their fortunes against Texas. This season, Toronto and Texas have faced off three times already. Each team has won its home games with the only other game in Toronto going to a shootout. This is the first season that Texas will play more than two games against the Marlies in the season series.

As always this season, T.J. Brennan and Spencer Abbott are two big players to watch for, tallying 52 and 51 points on the season respectively. Drew McIntyre has taken most of the load in net for the Marlies this season with 37 games against Sparks' 11. Sparks started against Farjestad and McIntyre against Utica. It's likely McIntyre goes against Texas and Cris Nilstorp.

Stars injury/call up report:
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stars Give Up Three Goal Lead In 5-4 OT Loss in Rochester

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Micheline Veluvolu)
The Stars needed overtime to decide another contest but tonight ended up on the wrong side of the final score with a 5-4 loss in Rochester. Texas earned a 3-0 lead in the first period only to relinquish that lead and a 4-3 lead en route to the eventual one-goal OT loss. Cameron Gaunce and Matej Stransky each had a goal and an assist. Josh Robinson stopped 28 of 33.

The Texas Stars got off to a quick and significant start in the first period. Just 29 seconds in, Cameron Gaunce scored his second of the season witih a point shot straight down the middle of the ice off the faceoff win by Travis Morin. Seven minutes later, Matej Stransky put in his sixth of the year. Surrounded by three Amerks, the rookie Czech found the top corner against Nathan Lieuwen, just about the only spot where he had an opening. The period scoring was finished off with Colton Sceviour's 30th goal of the season. His swipe at the puck with just one hand on his stick put the rubber five hole on Lieuwen for the 3-0 lead.

The second period was nearly all Amerks. In the first 8:14 of the period, Rochester erased the Stars' lead completely. Texas started the period killing a full two-minute 5-on-3. They managed to kill it off but Phil Varone scored less than a minute later. The tip play in front came off the shot from AHL All-Star Luke Adam. It was a Teddy Bear Toss goal but didn't stop the momentum for Rochester. Another extended 5-on-3 for the Amerks set up their second goal. Just as the first penalty expired, Kevin Porter scored from the slot off the pass from Johan Larsson. The comeback was complete when Dan Catenacci walked around Derek Meech and scored his seventh of the year.

Luckily for the Stars, the newly combined rookie line of Brendan Ranford, Matej Stransky and Taylor Peters activated to send the club to the second intermission with a lead. Matej Stransky got obliterated on the right wing boards but chipped the puck ahead to setup a 2-on-1. Ranford passed to Peters, who got his fifth goal of the year and second point of the game.

Rochester evened things up in the third period as Colton Gillies got a stick on Joel Armia's initial shot from the right wing circle.

The Stars would need overtime again to settle things on the weekend. Texas gave up the game-winner off a bad line change that setup a four on two for the Amerks. Phil Varone got his second of the contest against Texas off the assist from former Aero Drew Bagnall.

Texas finishes the road trip tomorrow with another matinee against Toronto.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Peters-Stransky

Oleksiak-Meech
Jokipakka-Gaunce
Labrie-Fortunus

Robinson

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wrenn, Nemeth, Wathier, Button (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,657.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rochester - February 16 2014

AHL On The Beat: Sceviour sets sights on Calder Cup

Colton Sceviour (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
If you're looking for some lazy afternoon reading, perhaps in an intermission today, check out my article for TheAHL.com's AHL On The Beat feature. I got a chance to catch up with the league's leading goal scorer, Colton Sceviour, for an extended interview last week. We chat about his season so far and also the common drive for team success.

If you would, give it a read: Sceviour sets sights on Calder Cup.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rochester Americans

Texas Stars
30-15-2-4, 66 pts
#4 Western Conference
atRochester Americans
24-18-3-3, 54 pts
#8 Western Conference
February 16th at 2:05 PM
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY

Rochester is on the playoff bubble. There's a little bit of separation between them and #9 Iowa, but it's just three points. They played last night in Utica, which is nearly as far away from Rochester as Hamilton is. Perhaps that will even things up a bit. The Amerks lost last night to the Comets though.

It's still relevant so I am going to quote the stats from yesterday regarding back-to-backs and matinee games for Texas:
In games starting before 7:00 local time this season, the Stars are 4-5-0-1. The weekend also combines two "back-to-back" games, if you will, which Texas has also had trouble with. Texas has a 10-7-0-1 record in the second game of a back to back, but has struggled this calendar year, going 2-4. When you combine the two factors, matinee games that are the second game of a back-to-back, Texas is a detestable 2-5-0-1.
Time to reverse that curse. It's pretty unlikely that Texas plays Nilstorp in all three games this weekend. Perhaps Robinson gets this one.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Petersen, Vause (injury)

Website: amerks.com
Americans Social Media: Social Media
Blog (beat): Democrat and Chronicle
Blog (amateur): Let's Go Amerks
Twitter: @AmerksHockey
Twitter (beat): @kevinoDandC
Twitter (amateur): @LetsGoAmerks

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Texas Comes Back to Defeat Dogs 3-2 in OT

Through five seasons, the Stars had a losing record at the Copps Coliseum. In their first game in Hamilton with the arena bearing the new name of FirstOntario Centre, they got the win but needed overtime for Chris Mueller to blast the puck past Dustin Tokarski for the 3-2 win. It was Mueller's third point of the game after he had the primary assist on Texas's other two goals in the game, both second period power play tallies. Texas ended the first period down 2-0 and then roared back to score three unanswered and win.

Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and stopped 25 of 27. The Stars put 43 on Hamilton's Tokarski.

The Texas Stars didn't have a bad first period; they did have two bad sequences though and both led to Bulldogs goals. Nick Tarnasky was the first goal scorer, beating Cristopher Nilstorp on a slow dribbler. Patrik Nemeth worked to get to the puck before it crossed the line to no avail. Francis Wathier and Colton Sceviour each dropped the gloves in the middle of the first period. A neutral zone turnover late in the first gave Hamilton a 2-0 lead. Louis LeBlanc picked a corner against Nilstorp for his tenth of the season.

The power play activated in second period to bring the score even. With a 5-on-3 power play, Travis Morin put in his 28th of the season, a one timer off the assists from Chris Mueller and Curtis McKenzie. It was just 13 seconds into the second period and was the first of 14 shots the Stars had in the frame. McKenzie got one of his own off the dish from Mueller and Colton Sceviour. With each point, Sceviour and Morin each continue to set new personal season records for points.

Texas would fail to convert on an early third period power play to earn the lead. Travis Morin nicked the post early in the frame but there was no scoring for either club in the final 20. Nilstorp was tested down the stretch as the Bulldogs had a few strong plays at the end to challenge the tender.

The Stars only needed 90 seconds of overtime to end up with the win. Chris Mueller found twine behind Tokarski for the 3-2 win. Patrik Nemeth picked up the second assist in his first game back from injury.

Texas faces Rochester tomorrow in New York.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Wathier-Peters-Stransky

Oleksiak-Wrenn
Jokipakka-Gaunce
Nemeth-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ranford, Labrie, Meech, Button (scratch)
Petersen, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Patrik Nemeth returned from injury tonight. He missed 24 games.

Tonight's attendance was 4,396.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Hamilton - February 15 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Hamilton Bulldogs

Texas Stars
29-15-2-4, 64 pts
#4 Western Conference
atHamilton Bulldogs
22-22-0-4, 48 pts
#10 Western Conference
February 15th at 6:00 PM
FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton, ON

Welcome back to the real world. Hockey is back on tap tonight for the Texas Stars as they visit the Hamilton Bulldogs for the second and final time this season. Hamilton will visit the Cedar Park Center twice in one week at the end of March to close out the season schedule.

Saturday's game starts a grueling weekend three-in-three that sees Texas hit three different road cities, bouncing across the US-Canada border twice to do it. Two of those games are afternoon affairs, which Texas has not faired well in so far this season. In games starting before 7:00 local time this season, the Stars are 4-5-0-1. It also combines two "back-to-back" games, if you will, which Texas has also had trouble with. Texas has a 10-7-0-1 record in the second game of a back to back, but has struggled this calendar year, going 2-4. When you combine the two factors, matinee games that are the second game of a back-to-back, Texas is a detestable 2-5-0-1. This weekend, will feature two such games.

Hamilton comes into the game with a two game winning streak, both by a single goal. The Bulldogs broke up a five game skid with those wins. They are 3-7 in their last ten. Sven Andrighetto has been a big star for the club. Last time Texas played in Hamilton, Andrighetto was out of the lineup. This time he is in and was just named the AHL's Player of the Week for the week before the All-Star Break. Two of Texas's skaters just played a game in front of one of the goalies they could face tonight, Dustin Tokarski. His play earned him an All-Star nod and that makes Hamilton a formidable foe.

We should continue to be on Patrik Nemeth watch as the Stars defenseman underwent surgery at Christmas and had a 4-6 week recovery window. That's right about now.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, Nemeth, Vause, Petersen (injury)

Website: hamiltonbulldogs.com
Twitter: @dogsplaybyplay

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Morin Scores, Sceviour Assists as AHL All-Stars Beat Färjestad 7-2

Colton Sceviour in the skills competition (Credit: Jeff Parsons/AHL)
Colton Sceviour and Travis Morin came out on the winning side of tonight's AHL All-Star Game in St. John's. The AHL All-Stars defeated the visiting SHL club, Färjestad BK, by a score of 7-2.

Morin scored the AHL's fourth goal of the night on an excellent tip play in front of the net. Colton Sceviour picked up the second assist on that goal. It was the only scoresheet action for either on the night.

Mike Hoffamn, who is chasing Morin for the top spot in the league scoring race, took home the MVP honors with two goals and an assist. Brandon Pirri of the IceHogs also had two goals.

Dallas draft pick and likely future Texas Star Ludwig Byström tallied an assist. His point shot in the third period was tipped at the net by Rickard Wallin for Färjestad's second goal of the game.

The Stars resume action on Saturday in Hamilton. Morin and Sceviour will head directly to Ontario without returning to the Austin area, meeting the team for Saturday's game.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Former Star Brad Lukowich "Terminated for Cause" By WHL Lethbridge

Brad Lukowich (Credit: Ron Byrd/Texas Stars)
Former Texas Stars defenseman and two-year captain Brad Lukowich has been 'terminated for cause' from his assistant coaching job with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes. Lukowich played four seasons with the Texas Stars and served as captain for his last two. After the lockout last season, he did not play again in the AHL or elsewhere. The veteran of 658 NHL games joined the Lethbridge Hurricanes as an assistant coach in the summer. Lethbridge is the former team of Texas Stars leading goal scorer Colton Sceviour.

According to the Lethbridge Herald, Lukowich "walked out" on the team after a game last Wednesday. He was not present for games or practices in the ensuing weekend and was fired yesterday.

"It’s been going on for a couple of weeks, of course you know Brad left the team last week and I’ve been dealing with it, speaking with him and we’ve decided this is the course of action,” Hurricanes general manager Brad Robson told the Herald. “For Brad’s future and for the Hurricanes’ future.

“Brad’s goal is still to be a coach, to eventually become a head coach and he’ll continue to work toward that just not with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.”

The Hurricanes are currently tied for last place in the WHL at 11-41-2-3.

I spoke with Colton Sceviour this morning for an unrelated story and asked him about the situation in Lethbridge.

Sceviour said, "It's unfortunate, but it sort of shows the situation the team is in right now on and off the ice. It's a great place to play with unreal fans. Hopefully something can change to get them back to where they were."

Read more at the Lethbridge Herald.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Texas Stars Crush Heat With Seven Goal Night

Cameron Gaunce (Credit: Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat)
Colton Sceviour and Scott Glennie headlined a seven goal outburst for Texas, setting them back on their winning ways as the AHL takes a five day respite for the All-Star festivities in St. John's, Newfoundland. Each forward potted two goals on the night while Sceviour added an assist as well for good measure. Jamie Oleksiak, Justin Dowling, Curtis McKenzie and Chris Mueller all had two assist games. Other Texas goal scorers included Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Ritchie and Mike Hedden. Among other notable stats, AHL All-Star Ben Street of Abbotsford was minus-4 on the night registering zero shots.

The win pushes Texas to two points behind Abbotsford in the division race. Cristopher Nilstorp got the start for the second night in a row. He stopped 33 of 35. Abbotsford started Roy again but he was chased by Texas after allowing four goals on 24 shots. Ortio stopped 14 of 17 in relief.

The Stars opened the scoring early with Colton Sceviour getting his 28th of the year less than a minute in, breaking a six game goalless drought. The tip came off the centering feed from Jeffrey, who replaced McKenzie on the wing for the first period. Abbotsford scored the next two. The cram play by Reinhart ended the period at a one all score. The Heat jumped ahead in the second with a shorthanded goal by Shane O'Brien.

The rest of the second period was all Texas. Brett Ritchie broke up the Stars skid on the power play with his eleventh of the year up high on Roy. Scott Glennie put in his pair next. Texas avvenged the previous shorthanded tally with one of their own. With Derek Smith stickless on the defense, Glennie shoveled one in off the two-on-one rush. Smith was again on the wrong side of a score as Glennie banked the 4-2 goal off of him for his eighth of the year. That goal would end Roy's night in net.

Less than thirty seconds later, Jyrki Jokipakka put in his fourth of the year. Colton Sceviour threw the puck back to the point where Jokipakka fired it home to make it 5-2. It was Joni Ortio's first shot against of the night.

Within the span of twenty seconds in the second, Hedden and Sceviour put in consecutive power play goals on two- and one-man advantages. The third period blew by uneventfully, putting the Stars in the win column for the first time in over a week, ending a three game skid.

Texas is in action against on Saturday after the break against the Bulldogs in Hamilton.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Peters-Stransky

Oleksiak-Meech
Jokipakka-Gaunce
Labrie-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wathier, Button, Wrenn (scratch)
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 2,569.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Abbotsford - February 9 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Abbotsford Heat

Texas Stars
28-15-2-4, 62 pts
#4 Western Conference
atAbbotsford Heat
31-14-3-1, 66 pts
#1 Western Conference
February 8th at 6:00 PM
Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre, Abbotsford, BC

Texas is ahead of the pack in the Western Conference but not where they want to be for sure. Unfortunately, many of the clubs that trail them have games in hand. Only the Rockford IceHogs have played more games than Texas this season so far.

This is the last game for both teams before the AHL All-Star Break. The Heat and Texas All-Stars will board a plane this evening after the game to head all the way to St. John's. It's a time difference of 4.5 hours, and the flight could reasonably be called a red-eye.

Texas can't change their conference standing for the moment with a particular result in this game thanks to last night's shootout loss to the same club. The best they can do is 64 points, two behind the Heat with both at the same number of games played.

Stars injury/call up report:
Nemeth, Campbell, Petersen, Vause (injury)

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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Morin Sets Franchise Record, But Stars Fall to Heat in Shootout

Travis Morin (Credit: Clint Trahan/Abbotsford Heat)
Unable to watch this one live due to a variety of factors. Thoughts and the Stars' official release follow.

The Stars opened the scoring and then overcame a one-goal Heat lead only to fall in the shootout by a final of 3-2. Travis Morin had a second assist on Hubert Labrie's first goal of the season, setting a new franchise record for points at 67. That broke his own previous record of 66 set in 2011-12.

The Stars' power outage with the man advantage continued. Combined with an 0-for-5 effort tonight, Texas is on an 0-for-14 skid but still leads the league on the power play by four percentage points. Abbotsford at 23% is in second.

The shootout was unkind to the Stars again. They are 1-for-5 so far on the season.

Neither team was likely satisfied with this being a three-point game, as the two are chasing each other in the division and conference standings.

Here's the Stars' release:
Hubert Labrie scored his first AHL goal in over two years and Travis Morin broke his own single-season franchise point record as the Texas Stars earned a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Abbotsford Heat Saturday night at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

Play was fairly balanced early on, as both teams earned a power play during the first ten minutes of the game, but neither was able to capitalize. Texas opened the scoring right after the mid-period medial timeout. Justin Dowling won the center-ice faceoff back to Jamie Oleskiak, who sent a pass up the right side to Brett Ritchie and the rookie forward raced into the Heat zone and snapped a wrist shot over the blocker of Abbotsford goalie Olivier Roy at 10:22. It was Ritchie’s 10th goal of the season and it was the 32nd time in 49 games this year that Texas had scored first.

The Heat got their offense going early in the second period. Just three seconds after Texas was assess a bench minor for too-many men on the ice, Ben Street won the draw and defenseman Derek Smith ripped a one-timer into the Stars net to tie the game with a power play goal at 4:33. A mere 57 seconds later Abbotsford took the lead 2-1 when Corey Locke found Josh Jooris for a far post one-timer at 5:30. Texas rallied to tie the game three minutes later as Hubert Labrie tipped-in a shot by Maxime Fortunus at 8:25; it was Labrie’s third career AHL goal, his first since December 21, 2011 at Houston. With the second assist on the goal, Travis Morin broke his own Stars’ single-season franchise record with his 67th point of the year.

After a scoreless third period, the Stars received a power play to start overtime, but were unable to win the game with the four-on-three advantage. The game progressed to a shootout and Dustin Jeffrey and Chris Mueller each scored to give Texas a 2-1 lead after two rounds. Blair Jones tied the shootout in the fifth round, Sven Baertschi put Abbotsford ahead 3-2 in the seventh round and then Roy stopped Ritchie’s attempt to close out the win for the Heat.

Olivier Roy won his third straight start in goal for Abbotsford, making 36 saves on 38 shots over 65 minutes of action and then turning aside 5-of-7 shootout attempts. Cristopher Nilstorp had a strong showing the Texas net, stopping 27-of-29 shots in regulation and overtime and then denying 4-of-7 in the shootout to help the Stars earn a point. The Stars out-shot the Heat 38-30 in the game and went 0-for-5 on the power play, while Abbotsford was 1-for-6 with the man-advantage.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wathier, Stransky, Wrenn (scratch)
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,273.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Abbotsford - February 8 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Abbotsford Heat

Texas Stars
28-15-2-3, 61 pts
#4 Western Conference
atAbbotsford Heat
30-14-3-1, 64 pts
#1 Western Conference
February 8th at 9:00 PM
Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Center, Abbotsford, BC

The Heat have continued their yo-yo ways as they now claim title to the spot in the Western Conference. Abbotsford started the season hot and built a pretty significant lead. The Stars caught up to and passed them with their game head-to-head on January 10th at the Cedar Park Center. Texas jumped ahead quite a bit themselves but then put themselves in a hole with a poor homestand and a middling road record.

Now the Heat are three points ahead of the Stars as the All-Star Break looms. If Texas hopes to hold the top spot as the break begins, they can do so if they are able to defeat Abbotsford in their two games this weekend in British Columbia.

The Heat are closing out an eight-game homestand with these two contests against Texas. They are on a four-game winning streak and a seven-game point streak. The two losses were in overtime to Utica, which Abbotsford has had a lot of trouble against this season. Overall they are a somewhat inexplicable 2-3-3 against the worst team in the conference. It might have something to do with the hometown support that the Canucks' affiliate Comets enjoy at the AESC.

One of the big drivers of their success this season has been the play in net from rookie Joni Ortio. The Finn has put up a 19-5-0 record with a 2.08 GAA and .930 SV%. That excellent play has gotten him noticed at the NHL level and, for this weekend, he is with the Flames. Joey MacDonald and Olivier Roy are the remaining tenders on the roster.

Special teams lost the Stars' a few games last week and they could be a trouble point this weekend too. The Heat have the best home penalty killing and third-best home power play in the league. Only Texas and Charlotte are better on home ice.

Stars injury/call up report:
Nemeth, Campbell, Petersen, Vause (injury)

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

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dallas Assigns Dustin Jeffrey to Texas for Olympic Break

Dustin Jeffrey (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Dustin Jeffrey will be with the Texas Stars through the Olympic break after being assigned in the late afternoon on Thursday. Jeffrey has been a point per game scorer in the AHL in his career but appeared uninterested and lackadaisical in his last visit to the Cedar Park Center.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that Dallas has returned center Dustin Jeffrey on loan to Texas.

Jeffrey, 25, has skated in 22 games for the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins this season, posting two assists and 18 shots for both clubs. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward has played 112 career NHL contests registering 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists). The Sarnia, Ont., native has played two games for Texas, posting seven shots and a plus-1 rating this season. Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth-round (171st overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft, Jeffrey was claimed off waivers by Dallas on Nov. 17, 2013.

The Dallas Stars will host the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday, February 8th at 7:00 p.m. at American Airlines Center, their last game before the 2014 Winter Olympic Break.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Idaho Steelheads Report: The Case for a Championship Run

Ryan Button and Austin Fyten, two former Steelheads, dropped the gloves last night.
(Credit: Jennifer Ramos/Texas Stars)
John Mulhern ponders the chances the Steelheads have at a championship in this week's Idaho Steelheads Report...

In this world, there are two sides to every coin. Last week I talked about how I felt the Idaho Steelheads could be viewed as an underperforming team so far this season. This week, I’m going to look at the reason why this Steelheads team could still be playing hockey in late May to early June with a chance to get their hands on the Kelly Cup.

Scoring Depth
With their current roster, the Steelheads have two solid lines that can score. The way the ECHL is stacked with talent right now, teams need to have two solid lines. Here are the top 6 forwards in terms of points on the Steelheads: Mitch Wahl (39pts), Anthony Nigro (38pts), Tommy Grant (31pts), William Rapuzzi (27pts), Brett Robinson (25pts), and David de Kastrozza (18pts). I would take those top 6 any night against any team in the ECHL right now, and I would like those odds on any given night.

You can also look at who is currently in the AHL and add them to that list: Justin Mercier (18pts), Austin Fyten (15pts) and Brock Montgomery (15pts) [Ed. Note: Assigned to Idaho earlier today]. Now you have three outstanding scoring lines and you would be able to arrange them in such a way that each line has a little bit of skill, speed and physicality. For any team to be able to trot out those 9 forwards for their 3 lines at this level, more games will be won than lost.

Finally, since most teams will dress a tenth forward, you can have your pick between Rob Linsmayer (11pts) and Gaelan Patterson (10pts). [Note: ECHL teams only dress 16 skaters.] Both of these guys have been playing outstanding as of late and really earning their ice time. For my money Linsmayer has been one of the best players on the ice for the past couple of weeks, and Patterson is finding out what works best for him and is starting to execute as well.

Power Play
First of all, see 'Scoring Depth' as to why the power play has been working so well this year and can continue to do so. Those top six forwards are split up over your two power play units so immediately with good puck control in the offensive zone you are going to be putting pressure on the opponents’ first and second penalty kill units. The Steelheads are currently operating at 19.0% on the power play this year, which is down from an unmaintainable high number of well north of 22% earlier this season. But they are still clicking along and appear to be working on a couple of different “plays” to get things moving in a more positive direction. Let me be the first to point out that it is better to tinker with things in the middle of the season and possibly have two options come playoff time, than only having one option that doesn’t work come playoff time.

Now you take the scoring depth of the forwards and add to that Patrick Cullity and Damon Kipp on defense you are putting out two 5-man units that now can not only score with a pinpoint shot from the wings but also with a blast from the point. Once again, more options for teams to be aware of. This would also be a good time to point out that Cullity is having a career year in point production with his four goals and 16 assists through 42 games this season. Kipp has also been a fine addition chipping in with six points since his addition to the Steelheads. The only bugaboo that could hurt the Steelheads on the power play right now is they have allowed five short-handed goals against this season with most of them coming in the last month and a half, but I’m confident that will be cleaned up come playoff time.

Penalty Kill
Why not just have a special teams section? Because each of these deserve their own time and space and both units are worthy of that. The Steelheads penalty kill got off to a rough start at the beginning of the season. They were killing off penalties, but only in the mid 70 percent range. As the season has progressed they have battled their way back up into the mid 80s and currently sit at 85.3% on the kill this year. It’s good enough to put them into the top ten in the league.

So what has changed? That’s a good question. I’m not privy to locker room game strategies or if there were any big adjustments to the coverage on the penalty kill, but it appears that since the injuries and early season call-ups have settled down head coach Brad Ralph has been able to go with the same eight guys on a consistent basis. When any team can do that, the communication gets better, the anticipation gets better and as a unit you do a better job of taking away passing and shooting lanes. Any shots that are going towards the net are, for the most part, shots from the outside and bad angles that Pat Nagle and the other Steelheads net minders have been able to take care of without much issue.

The Steelheads look comfortable on the kill right now and because of that they have been able to get aggressive and take chances which have led to six shorthanded goals for, including three from David de Kastrozza.

Growth
Each year teams have rookies. That’s a given at just about any level but especially in the ECHL. This season most of the rookies for the Steelheads were in the defensive zone. You have Tyler Elbrecht, Dalton Reum, and Charlie Dodero, just to name a few. Over the course of the season, defenseman have come and gone. Tyler Elbrecht has played his way into top four minutes, Dalton Reum earned his ice time by being smart with the puck all over the ice, and Charlie Dodero is making a name for himself with his physical play. As the team continues to get closer to the playoff this group will continue to get stronger and learn more and become a solid group of defensive rookies that will be able to compliment Patrick Cullity on the blue line and because of that, they will continue to limit high percentage scoring chances.

For those keeping track at home, the Steelheads finished their series with Alaska last week with a 3-2 SOL and a 4-2 win to bring their record to 6-3-1 over their last 10 in Anchorage. There aren’t too many teams that can make that claim. It is possible that those two games which saw 125 minutes of great effort from Idaho, could very well be the springboard into these last thirty games and a long run to a Kelly Cup Championship.

Until next time…

Texas Stars Assign Brock Montgomery Back To Idaho Steelheads

Brock Montgomery (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars are getting healthier day-by-day. They made a move today reinforcing that fact, sending Brock Montgomery to the Idaho Steelheads. He played in just three games during his stint in Cedar Park this time. He had a minus-1 rating, four shots and two PIMs.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has returned right wing Brock Montgomery on loan to the Idaho Steelheads, the team’s ECHL affiliate.

Montgomery, 21, made his professional debut with Texas on October 5th against the Chicago Wolves and has played in six AHL games with the Stars this season, notching no points and nine penalty minutes. The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native was originally loaned to Idaho on October 25th and has appeared in 23 ECHL games for the Steelheads, recording 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists), 11 penalty minutes and a +3 rating. Montgomery signed an AHL contract with Texas on March 30, 2013 after completing his fourth season of major junior hockey with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League. In 243 career WHL games he had 119 points (65 goals, 54 assists) and 328 penalty minutes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Texas Finishes Disappointing Homestand with 5-2 Loss to OKC

Mark Arcobello (Credit: Jennifer Ramos/Texas Stars)
Looking to close out their homestand on an up note, the Texas Stars fell tonight to the OKC Barons by a score of 5-2. The loss put their homestand record at 3-4 with wins against some of the best in the conference and losses against some of the worst.

Jamie Oleksiak and Travis Morin were the Stars' goal scorers in the contest. Morin's 27th tally of the season tied his own franchise record for points in a season at 66. It was one of only a few bright spots in the game.

"I don't think we played well enough," said Coach Desjardins. "OKC played well, they didn't give us a lot. Our special teams weren't good enough the past few games and that's the difference between winning and losing."

Barons head coach Todd Nelson was impressed by his teams' effort on the PK and PP in the two games.

"Special teams were huge. The power play created a few goals. We did a good job on the PK against the best power play in the league."

The Stars had a chance to move into first place in the conference with a win but will instead fall to fourth in the conference as Abbotsford passes them for first in the West Division.

"It's a tough loss to swallow," said Jamie Oleksiak. "The work ethic was there, but we couldn't execute. We have to bury those chances and get out of this funk."

Reflecting on the homestand, he continued, "You cant take any game lightly . We had a really good first half of the year and got a little bit too confident."

Coach Desjardins summed it up, "If you're going to be a playoff team, there's a lot of things we have to do better."

Josh Robinson took the loss, stopping 27 of 32 shots against. Richard Bachman got the win, stopping 35 of 37.

The night started inauspiciously with OKC opening the scoring off the stick of recent assignee Mark Arcobello. Coming into the game tonight, the center had seven goals and nineteen assists in 26 career games against Texas. He added to that total as Steve Pinizzotto dished out front to Arcobello who backhanded the puck past the Josh Robinson along the ice far side.

"[Arcobello]'s an exceptional hockey player at this level," said Nelson. "It's good on him to make the Oilers but to get him back gives us more depth. It gives us more offensive productivity. He's also good defensively."

Two minutes later, the Barons were awarded a penalty shot as he was hooked heading into the net alone. Eager's attempt was gloved down by Robinson and the score stayed at 1-0.

A few minutes later on the power play, the Barons struck again with Taylor Fedun finding twine. The shot from the left point was one that Robinson really should have had. He had a bead on it and it just fluttered past his glove and in for the 2-0 OKC lead. The Stars were outshot 10-8 in the frame.

The two clubs traded goals in the second period. Texas was on the offensive, working to even up the score with a mess of shots on Richard Bachman. They finally got lucky when Jamie Oleksiak's point shot from the right side got through traffic to cut the Barons' lead to 2-1.

"It felt good [to score]," said Oleksiak. "But it's not the result you want."

Possible future Idaho Steelheads teammates Ryan Button and Austin Fyten threw down a few minutes later. Button threw quite a few solid punches and each picked up an extra two for taking off their helmets before the fight.

It would be OKC getting the last laugh in the middle frame though. With less than a minute to go in the period, Texas failed to convert on a 3-on-1 breakaway. The main reason was a well-timed poke check by Bachman on the crossing pass. The counterpunch for the Barons went straight up the ice, similarly 3-on-1, as Jack Combs passed to Martin Gernat and he dished it back to Combs for the 3-1 lead. It was Combs' third goal of the season, all scored in the last seven games since he was traded to OKC. He was scoreless in 19 games with San Antonio this season.

After giving up the goal in the last minute, Texas responded exactly how you would want. They scored one of their own just 29 seconds into the final period. It was Travis Morin's tally, his 27th of the year, and tied his own franchise points record at 66, previously set in 2011-12.

Texas had a shot ring off the post from the stick of Maxime Fortunus in the 12th minute of the third. The Stars followed that with a power play that could not score, ultimately going 0-for-4 on the night.

With time winding down, Taylor Peters took an ill-advised tripping penalty and OKC made Texas pay. This time it was Anton Lander, who ripped a shot from the top of the left wing circle. The goal put the game out of reach for Texas after they had been showing all the right signs. Ben Eager added an empty netter with time winding down to set the score at 5-2.


Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Stransky-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Button-Peters-Wathier

Oleksiak-Meech
Jokipakka-Gaunce
Labrie-Fortunus

Robinson

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ranford, Wrenn, Montgomery (scratch)
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Josh Robinson got the start as Cristopher Nilstorp was "sick", according to Coach Desjardins.

Tonight's attendance was 4,256.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - February 4 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
28-14-2-3, 61 pts
#2 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
18-22-1-5, 40 pts
#13 Western Conference
February 4th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Remember when I said that the last game against OKC was a trap? That turned out to be unfortunately true.

The game on Sunday was a nasty end to the weekend and overall not a great way to continue on a homestand that should have vaulted Texas into first place in the West. The Stars probably could have taken both games against the Griffins and the Toronto game was a tossup. But games against West Division rivals San Antonio and OKC should have been 'no-brainer' wins. Unfortunately, that may have been the downfall of the Stars in those two contests. Not thinking that they had anything to worry about, they let the Barons and Rampage dominate each game, winning by multiple goals in both games. Teams that do things like that with regularity do not make it far in the playoffs. Coach Desjardins knows that; the players know that. Time to put up or shut up and win tonight to get the train back on the tracks.

The Stars do have a chance, with a win tonight, to jump an idle Grand Rapids and hold first place for at least a day. The Griffins do not play against until tomorrow, so the Stars' one point lead would be tenuous. However, heading out on their longest road trip of the year and finishing their longest home stretch of the year with the number one next to their names in the standings would be a big victory given all the injuries and roster turmoil this club has endured.

Nilstorp and Bachman are your likely starters tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog: Tend the Farm
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Monday, February 3, 2014

Travis Morin Named AHL Player of the Month

Travis Morin (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Despite a rough few games for the team overall at the end of the month, Travis Morin had a fantastic January and was named as the CCM/AHL Player of the Month for January for his effort. Morin had ten goals and 21 points in just eleven games in the month. He had five games with at least three points.

Morin is on the verge of breaking his AHL career record for points in a season. That record of 66 is also a Texas Stars franchise record and was set during the 2011-12 season. Morin needs just two points to set the new record at 67. He has already shattered his previous goal total of 21 with 26 this season. The franchise record for goals is owned by Matt Fraser at 37. Morin has competition from Colton Sceviour to break that record though; Sceviour has 27.

This is the third monthly award that the Stars have received this season, matching their total for all previous seasons. Morin and Curtis McKenzie were the other honorees this season.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that center Travis Morin has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Month for January.

In 11 games, Morin led all AHL skaters in goals (10) and points (21), including five games of at least three points each.

Morin, who also won this award in October, scored twice in a 5-3 win at Charlotte on Jan. 2 and picked up a goal and two assists in a 4-3 loss to the Checkers the next night. His first career AHL hat trick helped the Stars to a 5-3 win over Utica on Jan. 11, and he established personal bests with four assists and five points in a 7-1 win at Charlotte on Jan. 17. Morin dished out three assists as Texas edged Iowa, 4-3, in a shootout on Jan. 22, and registered a goal and two assists in a 6-4 win over Grand Rapids on Jan. 24. Morin's 21 points came on half of Texas's 42 goals during January.

Morin ranks second in the AHL with 26 goals and leads the league with 39 assists and 65 points in 41 games with Texas this season. The seventh-year pro from Brooklyn Park, Minn., has also appeared in three NHL contests with Dallas in 2013-14, and will represent the Stars at next week's 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management. Morin, who was originally drafted by Washington in 2004, has skated in 325 career AHL contests with Texas and Hershey, totaling 93 goals and 180 assists for 273 points. He signed as a free agent with Dallas on July 12, 2010.

In recognition of his achievement, Morin will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Stars home game.

This is the sixth time in club history, and third this season, that a Texas player has received an AHL monthly award. Brent Krahn was chosen as the league's Goalie of the Month for November 2009, Reilly Smith was Rookie of the Month for December 2012, Jamie Oleksiak was Rookie of the Month for January 2013, Morin was Player of the Month for October 2013 and Curtis McKenzie was Rookie of the Month for December 2013.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Barons Score Touchdown Against Texas in Super Bowl Sunday Game

Richard Bachman (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
It was a game to forget for the Texas Stars today in Cedar Park as the Oklahoma City Barons came to town and put up seven on the home club. The 7-4 loss came less than 24 hours after the Stars put up a 6-0 rout of the third place Toronto Marlies.

"That seems to be a common trend with us right now," said Ryan Button, who had a goal in the game. "It happened in Charlotte; we got spanked pretty good the night after playing a good game. Same thing tonight. For whatever reason we didn't have it tonight. That's unacceptable."

The Stars never had the lead and tied the game several times only to give up a Barons' goal less than a minute later. Former Texas goalie and tonight's starter for OKC, Richard Bachman, was encouraged to see that response from his skaters.

"That's huge for me and the group right now. At the beginning of the year, we would get back on our heels after a goal. It's good to see us respond after a goal."

The Stars had trouble stringing together more than one pass and getting out of their own zone on the breakout. Ryan Button agreed and extended the point.

"We didn't play Texas Stars hockey for sixty minutes. We played it in spurts, and we were really good in those spurts. When we were just slapping the puck around, that's not Texas Stars hockey. We won't succeed if we play that way."

Coach Desjardins had a more blunt assessment of the night, "They just beat us tonight. They were the better team, and they beat us. We have to find ways to be better."

OKC opened the scoring on the power play after Texas had failed to convert on two early chances of their own. Ryan Hamilton scored his seventh of the year, assisted by Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello, off a pretty tic-tac-toe play just after the power play began.

Ryan Button's goal came late in the period. It was his first as a forward in the AHL. It was a grinding shift for the fourth line, tonight comprised of Button, Taylor Peters and Francis Wathier.

"It's been a long time coming up front," said Button. "I owe a lot to my linemates."

OKC jumped right back into the lead with former Star Austin Fyten's first goal of the season. The puck angled in off the post and Nilstorp for the 2-1 lead just 25 seconds after Button's goal.

Texas got back to even again to open the second as Mike Hedden got pasted along the boards and popped right back up to score from the right wing circle. Again, Matt Ford this time would score for the Barons just 58 seconds later to make it 3-2 OKC. It was a dribbler five-hole and one that Nilstorp should have had.

"The whole game they were a step ahead of us. The shift where you get the goal is huge, but the shift after that is even bigger. It's unacceptable."

Brett Ritchie potted his ninth of the season just over a minute later to tie the game against at three. The glove-side high shot actually stuck on the scoreboard for a while. This time it took the Barons an entire seven minutes to regain the lead.

OKC would close the door with two quick goals in less than a minute in the middle of the second frame. Roman Horak put one off the post and past Nilstorp to be followed by Will Acton scoring off a Texas turnover to make it 5-3.

"It went through my mind a couple of times [to pull Nilstorp] but I think we were giving them good chances," said Desjardins. "If you take the goaltender, that's blaming him. Our guys have to bail themselves out."

Brad Hunt added one more late in the third on the power play to set the score after forty at 6-3. Each club would add another goal in the third period, McKenzie for Texas and Arcobello for OKC.

In total, Texas volleyed 45 shots on Bachman to 32 against Nilstorp.

"I noticed they had a lot of shots last night," said Bachman. "I was expecting it and just expecting to stay calm and control some rebounds and the pace of the game out there."

The Stars will face OKC again on Tuesday with a chance still to get to first place with a win.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Sceviour
Ranford-Mueller-Glennie
Hedden-Dowling-Ritchie
Button-Peters-Wathier

Oleksiak-Meech
Wrenn-Gaunce
Jokipakka-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Stransky, Labrie, Montgomery (scratch)
Petersen, Nemeth, Campbell, Vause (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,916.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - February 2 2014