Saturday, May 31, 2014

Taylor Peters Goal Pushes Texas Stars to 3-2 Series Lead

Texas win gives them a chance to close out series in Monday's Game 6

Kevin Henderson celebrates Scott Glennie's goal
(Credit: Graig Abel)
The fourth line continued to be a huge difference maker for the Texas Stars this afternoon in Toronto. Tied at one after forty minutes, Taylor Peters scored his first professional playoff goal to push the Stars past the Marlies in a tight 2-1 contest. After splitting their home games, Texas went to Ontario and took two of three from the Maple Leafs' affiliate. That earned them a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close out the series with a Game 6 win back in Cedar Park on Monday.

Cristopher Nilstorp got the start and stopped 17 of 18 shots in the game. Derek Meech had two assists, his first two points in the series, and earned first star honors. Spencer Abbott had the only Toronto goal. Texas outshot the home side 33-18.

It was absolutely not the start that Texas wanted but the first period had promise. The Marlies opened the scoring for the twelfth time in the postseason off a fluke goal. Spencer Abbott passed the puck toward an on-rushing Josh Leivo from the right wing corner below the goal line. The pass never made it to Leivo as it deflected off the stick of Patrik Nemeth and past Cristopher Nilstorp for the 1-0 score. Nilstorp had no chance as he had already been tracking the pass and was squaring himself to Leivo on the left wing. It was the Marlies first shot of the game, even though it really wasn't much of a shot.

Texas torched the Marlies' net the rest of the frame, outshooting Toronto 17-5. That included three Stars power plays that came up empty.

Texas got into penalty trouble themselves in the second period on some questionable calls. Maxime Fortunus got the puck stuck in his gear and was called for closing his hand on the puck as he tried to free it. A few second later, Jyrki Jokipakka was called for tripping. It was a 95 second long two-man advantage for the deadly Toronto power play.

The Stars got the kill and swung the momentum all in one shift. Just after Jokipakka stepped back onto the ice, Texas rushed up the ice on a 4-on-2 against a tired power play crew. That setup an extended visit in the Marlies zone. An initial shot by Derek Meech deflected perfectly to Scott Glennie, who ripped it blocker side high on MacIntyre from the left wing hashmarks to tie it at one.

Shots were 26-11 in favor of the visitors after forty minutes.

Texas just needed that one shot, one rebound, one chance in the third period with things all tied at one. The fourth line continued to show why they are difference makers for the Stars as they got that chance and finished. Matej Stransky rushed in with the initial shot and Taylor Peters followed the rebound.

Peters, who has only played six games in the playoff run, beat out Kevin Marshall for the puck and backhanded it past MacIntyre's glove for the 2-1 lead. With 11 minutes left, Peters' first professional power play goal had put the Stars ahead in Game 5.

With 1:16 left in the third, Drew MacIntyre found his way to the bench for the extra attacker. A Marlies icing infraction and a deflection out of the rink in the Toronto zone put two faceoffs in their defensive zone late in the contest. The home club didn't have a chance to mount much of an offensive on Nilstorp and the Stars sealed up a 2-1 victory.

Game 6 will be Monday night in Cedar Park. A Texas victory would close out the series and send the Stars to the Calder Cup Finals.

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

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Hulak, Vause, Wrenn, Byström, Desrosiers (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was 5,671.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - May 31 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies, Game 5

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atToronto Marlies
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Series tied 2-2

May 31st at 2:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

Hope you're not faint of heart because it's time for a pivotal Game 5 for the Texas Stars. It will be their last game in Toronto before heading back to Cedar Park for a guaranteed Game 6 on Monday night. The winner of tonight's game will have a chance to clinch Monday. Statistically, the winner of Game 5 in an AHL best of seven series tied at two has gone on to win more than 80$ of the time. It's incredibly important that the Stars come home with two chances to close instead of facing elimination.

Today's game is a matinee with puck drop at 2 PM Central time. The Stars have had mixed results in matinee games this season. They were 4-5-1-1 in 11 games before going on a run over final portion of the season. From February 25 on, the Stars were 4-0-0-1 in matinee contests, putting their final tally at 8-5-0-2. Team can swear up and down that early games don't affect them but often it does. Texas clearly learned how to manage it better as the season went on.

The power play was deadly for the Marlies in Game 4. There were certainly some questionable calls in the game, including the roughing call on Mike Hedden that led to the 5-on-3 goal. Texas needs to fight through those calls. Bad teams complain about officiating. Good teams win anyways.

Toronto has had aa lot of contributions from their league-recognized players, TJ Brennan and Spencer Abbott. The Stars have gotten important goals from their league MVP, Travis Morin, as well. Texas could use a big game from Rookie of the Year Curtis McKenzie. The Golden, BC native has just one assist in the series, a secondary on the Stars' lone goal in Game 1. In the regular season, he had 27 goals and 38 assists in 75 games. It is possible that the physicality of the series is taking McKenzie out of the action?

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

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Leafs TV correspondent: @HockeyAbbs
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Toronto Marlies Tie Series With Texas Thanks to Spencer Abbott Hat Trick

Spencer Abbott scores his second of the game. (Credit: Graig Abel)
It was only a matter of time before Spencer Abbott broke out for the Toronto Marlies. The AHL All-Star had yet to score a goal through ten games in the postseason. Texas was the victim of his scoring outbreak tonight as the second year pro scored a natural hat trick, all power play goals, to lead the Marlies to a 4-1 victory. The win evened the Western Conference Finals at two games each with Game 5 set for Saturday afternoon.

Texas gave up too many penalties and then wasn't clean enough on the kill to negate their truculence. To add insult to injury, the Stars were held scoreless on the power play despite five opportunities.

Drew MacIntyre stopped 26 of 27 shots he saw on the night. Eddie Shore Award winner TJ Brennan collected three assists on the night.

Abbott's first came early in the game. Jamie Oleksiak was called fro cross-checking just 37 seconds into the first, sending Toronto to the power play. Josh Leivo put up the screen for the Abbott shot, and the Marlies beat Nilstorp glove side for the 1-0 lead.

Just under four minutes later, Texas put Toronto on the power play again. As the penalty was coming to an end, TJ Brennan got his second primary assist of the night, making the initial shot on Nilstorp. The puck bounced out to Spencer Abbott, who was completely open in the right wing circle. He lofted it over a sprawled Texas tender for the 2-0 lead.

After twenty minutes, the Stars were being outshot 11-6, an atypical occurrence.

Abbott finished off his natural hat trick on the power play in the second period. Mike Hedden picked up a questionable roughing call. After being ridden into the board by Kevin Marshall after a shot, Hedden shoved back and got called by the crew of Terry Koharski and Dave Lewis. As the kill commenced, Travis Morin lifted the puck out of bounds from inside his zone. That set up a 1:56 long two-man advantage for the Marlies.

Spencer Abbott would not be denied. From the slot, he went stick side on Nilstorp for the 3-0 lead. Texas would put the pressure on late in the period, outshooting Toronto 8-4 over the back half of the middle frame. It was to no avail as the Stars ended 40 down 3-0.

Texas gave it their best effort in the final twenty minutes. At the halfway point of the period, they were outshooting Toronto 7-1 and earned their first shots lead of the game at 25-24.

A late power play gave Texas a further shot advantage but it wasn't enough to mount a comeback. Radek Faksa collected a late moral victory goal with an assist to Matej Stransky, breaking up the shutout bid for MacIntyre with less than two minutes left.

The Stars and Marlies will head to an all-important Game 5 on Saturday afternoon in downtown Toronto. With the Toronto win, Game 6 back in Cedar Park on Monday will be necessary to decide the series.

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

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Hulak, Vause, Wrenn, Byström, Desrosiers (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was not available at publish time.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - May 28 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies, Game 4

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atToronto Marlies
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Texas leads 2-1

May 29th at 6:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

It didn't take 50 shots. It didn't take six goals. It didn't take an otherwordly effort, but it was just enough to get past the Marlies. The Stars ended Toronto's home win streak going back almost two months with the win last night.

Travis Morin was at just the right place at just the right time to score the game winner. Jamie Oleksiak should get a big piece of the credit for the goal, creating the rush that generated the shot. Brendan Ranford got back in the action with the primary assist. Ranford hasn't scored since Game 5 against Grand Rapids but has two assists in the last two games. It would be exceedingly nice if Curtis McKenzie could also find the scoresheet for the Texas Stars as well. McKenzie has only one goal in the playoffs.

Back to back games are always difficult. They become doubly so in the playoffs, when the intensity ramps up. During the postseason, Texas has had just one back-to-back game so far. After losing Game 4 in Grand Rapids, the Stars won Game 5 in overtime. All year the team has practiced and played hard for the full term. That has allowed them to wear teams out in the second and third and especially overtime. Texas will look to use that advantage tonight on limited rest.

Don't forget the Cedar Park Center will be hosting a watch party for tonight's game in the bowl. There was good attendance last night, and the goal horn was charged up and ready to go as well.

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

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Leafs TV correspondent: @HockeyAbbs
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texas Claims Game 3 Victory in Toronto 3-2

Curtis McKenzie works the puck on Drew MacIntyre (Credit: Graig Abel)
Having split the first two games at home, Texas was able to come into Ricoh Coliseum and end the Marlies home-ice dominance with a 3-2 win to set the series score at 2-1. League award winners TJ Brennan from Toronto and Travis Morin from Texas figured heavily in the scoring, totaling three goals between them. Cristopher Nilstorp weathered a third period barrage, stopping 20 of 22 on the night and 10 of 11 in the last frame. Texas did not need 50 shots to win this one, putting 'only' 30 shots on Marlies tender Drew MacIntyre and finding twine three times. With the win, Texas reclaims home ice advantage and leads the series 2-1.

As has become tradition, the Toronto Marlies were the first team on the board in the contest tonight. Halfway through the first and following a media timeout, the Marlies won a faceoff back to the defenseman of the year, TJ Brennan. The blue liner sent the puck in on Nilstorp, who caught a piece of it but not all.

The frame ended with a relatively low shot total between the two teams at 8-6 for Texas. Referees T.J. Luxmore and Terry Koharski called quite a few penalties, many coincidental, as the period wore on to make sure the aggressiveness of the two teams did not get out of hand.

Texas evened things up early in the second. The answer was generated unexpectedly off the stick of Patrik Nemeth. Nemeth started the play in the Texas zone, passing to Taylor Peters and then collecting Peters' pass back. Radek Faksa got the tip of Nemeth's shot from the slot, putting it five-hole on MacIntyre. It was a solid goal for the Stars' fourth line, which has been a consistent contributor for Willie Desjardins' club this postseason.

The visitors got back to their shooting ways as the second period reached the midway point. After having a tie on shots at 11 each, Texas had 12 straight shots to none by the Marlies, a streak that extended into the early third period.

In the third, gritty winger Kevin Henderson stepped up next for his first goal of the postseason. A give and go with Chris Mueller put the puck on the stick of Brett Ritchie. Henderson tipped Ritchie's initial shot, and the puck dribbled down the back of Drew MacIntyre to put the Stars up 2-1.

The Marlies' TJ Brennan didn't wait long for his second of the game. With most of the Stars pulled in too close to Nilstorp's net, TJ Brennan was gifted a beauty of a pass by Peter Holland. Brennan blasted the puck past Nilstorp from the ladies' tees to tie things at two all.

Needing a response, Texas got one from their own league award winner, Travis Morin. Jamie Oleksiak skated down the left side and found Brendan Ranford trailing the play on the opposite side of the ice. His initial shot bounded off MacIntyre and rolled toward the goal line. Travis Morin finished off the play just as two Marlies defenders crashed the net and their own goaltender. Morin's goal came just 59 seconds after the Brennan goal.

That would end up being the game winning goal for Texas. The series continues tomorrow night with Game 4 in Toronto.

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

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Hulak, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was 4,043.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - May 28 2014

Texas Adds G Philippe Desrosiers Back on ATO

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced today that they have signed Philippe Desrosiers to an amateur tryout. The Dallas-drafted goalie was on an ATO with Texas earlier this postseason following the end of the QMJHL season. When the Idaho Steelheads season ended and Josh Robinson was recalled, Desrosiers was released. With Jack Campbell not making the trip to Toronto, Texas is looking for a reliable third goaltender who can work with other black ace players. Desrosiers fits the bill.

Desrosiers has not dressed for any games in his pro career.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars, announced today that the club has signed goaltender Philippe Desrosiers to an amateur tryout contract (ATO).

Desrosiers, 18, originally signed an ATO with Texas on April 22nd, but did not appear in any action and was released on May 14th. He recently concluded his third season with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). During the 2013-14 season, he posted the fourth-lowest goals against average in the QMJHL (2.65), was tied for the sixth-highest save percentage (.907) ranked fifth in overall wins with a 31-14-7 record and was one of only six goalies in the league to post at least five shutouts (5). The native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec also earned a 7-2-1 record with a 2.34 GAA and a .917 SV% in 11 playoff contests in 2014. Desrosiers was drafted by Dallas in the second round (54th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies, Game 3

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atToronto Marlies
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Series tied 1-1

May 28th at 6:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

Texas had to have Game 2. The Stars pelted Drew MacIntyre with 102 shots over just two regulation games. That is an average of 17 shots per period, five more than the Stars' season average of 12 in each frame. Getting 50 shots is a pretty good way to win most nights, and Texas can probably do well if they can keep that up. But they can't count on it.

Coach Desjardins agreed, "We're not going to get fifty every night. We've got to find a way to win with fewer shots."

The Stars managed to get MacIntyre off his game with an early power play goal, eventually putting five goals past the PEI native netminder. MacIntyre has allowed five or more goals just three times this season before Monday night. In each case, he returned with a win in the next game, averaging a 1.67 GAA and .935 SV%. Granted, the quality of competition was lower. Two of those wins came against non-playoff teams Lake Erie and Hamilton. Eastern Conference finalist contender St. John's was the third.

Toronto had a few streaks snapped at the Cedar Park Center, including their playoff win streak and streak of not trailing in the playoffs. Texas still needs to break up their home dominance. The Marlies have not lost at Ricoh Coliseum since April 5th, a 4-3 defeat against the Rochester Americans. In the playoffs, they are a perfect 3-0 at home. They went to overtime once against Chicago but otherwise shutout opponents. They are outscoring visitors 10-3 in the postseason and have two clean sheets to boot.

The Stars need to focus on their start in Toronto. Texas has a win in the series but they still haven't scored the first goal of a game. The Marlies are a very good team when playing with the lead so one key has to be not allowing them to attain one.

It seems the Taylor Peters fourth line experiment went well for Coach Desjardins, so it would be likely he will stay in the lineup. Having a physical 6'3" 212 lbs player against this heavy Marlies team as opposed to the 5'11" 175 Hulak is a benefit. That's no knock against Hulak; it's just that he isn't suited for the fourth line role against a team like Toronto.

Don't forget the Cedar Park Center will be hosting a watch party for tonight's game in the bowl. Attendance was great for watch parties in the inaugural year, and Texas is surely hoping for a good showing.

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

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Leafs TV correspondent: @HockeyAbbs
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Monday, May 26, 2014

Glennie, Ritchie Headline 6-3 Texas Win To Even Series

Another 50+ shot effort puts Texas back in the series with Game 2 victory
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Two goals each from Scott Glennie and Brett Ritchie among 52 total Texas shots gave the Stars a 6-3 win at the Cedar Park Center to even their series with Toronto at a game a piece. Over two games, the Stars have put 102 shots on the Marlies netminder, Drew MacIntyre.

"We knew coming into the game that if we did what we did the game before, we'd have some success," said Ritchie. "We turned [MacIntyre] into a .900 save percentage goalie this game. I think if we can do that we'll have a pretty good chance of winning."

Coach Desjardins expanded, "It was tight the whole way. It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you get the win."

The win stopped several streaks for the Marlies, including an undefeated playoffs record and a streak of over a month in which the club has not trailed at any point.

"It's huge to break their streak," said Ritchie. "They might have some doubt in their mind but it's just one game."

Texas started the game with the first six shots but yielded the first goal to Toronto on their first shot. Jyrki Jokipakka tried to execute a drop pass to Derek Meech at the offensive blue line. Jerry D'Amigo picked up the errant pass and took it in for the 1-0 lead.

The Stars continued their usual program of rifling shots on MacIntyre to no avail until a late period power play. Chris Mueller had the vision to cross the ice with his pass to an open Brett Ritchie. He buried it for the 1-1 tie.

"We needed [Ritchie] back," said Coach Desjardins. Ritchie missed most of the playoffs to now with a lower body injury. "It's good to have him back now. He makes a difference for us. He's suited for playoff hockey and he's been a good addition. We need him."

In the second, Texas would claim the first lead any team has had against the Marlies all year. Glennie netted a tap-in goal after a mad initial rush by Mike Hedden.

"[Glennie] made the good play to get it off the boards to me," said Hedden. "I just skated hard and took it to the net."

The tally ended 512:05 of hockey in which Toronto had not trailed, a streak going back over a month to April 19.

The Marlies tied it up again on a power play of their own. On what had to be the 4th or 5th rebound, Josh Leivo knocked the puck past Cristopher Nilstorp. The goal kicked off a six minute stretch that saw the teams combine for four goals.

Ritchie went again with his 3rd of the playoffs, popping it in off the pass from behind the net by Kevin Henderson. Peter Holland answered right back after the Stars failed to breakout of their own zone and were the victims of a poorly-timed broken stick.

Chris Mueller put Texas ahead going to the third period, jamming home a puck after a patient play by Ranford to wait out MacIntyre moving right to left across the net on the initial shot. The tally earned Texas the 4-3 lead after 40.

"It says good things about both teams," said Coach Desjardins of the back and forth responsiveness of the two teams in the sequence. "It says something about a team how they respond. When something doesn't go right, you want to see how they respond. It shows the character of the group."

It was punctuated by a stellar save by Cristopher Nilstorp with a Marlies forward on his lap. Hedden agreed that the save gave Texas energy heading into the third period.
Glennie's second goal
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The third period saw Texas increase its lead with a frantic goal by Glennie after initial strong efforts by Dustin Jeffrey and Hedden to create confusion and get the puck in the crease. Glennie simply had to elevate over a down-and-out MacIntyre for the 5-3 lead, as pictured.

Travis Morin got back on the scoresheet to polish off the scoring in this one, draining an empty net goal to make it 6-3 with ten seconds left.

The Stars look to steal at least one on the road in Toronto, if not more. Getting this game was a key to making sure Texas is on track for the ultimate goal of the Calder Cup.

Hedden agreed, "We've been good at home and we knew we needed a win tonight or it would be rough going there for three."

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

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Hulak, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was 3,767.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - May 26 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Toronto Marlies, Game 2

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
v.Toronto Marlies
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Toronto leads 1-0

May 26th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Taylor Peters in for Derek Hulak on the fourth line. Brad Ross in for the Marlies.

OK, rerack.

How often would you expect to watch a team lob 50 shots on an opposing goaltender at home and only get one past him? MacIntyre was the story of Game 1. There is no question about that. The real question is whether his performance is sustainable. Coming into the series, his save percentage was .949. That suggests he would have saved just 47 or 48 of those 50 shots from Game 1.

It wasn't the way Texas wanted to come out in their first game, but the truth of it is that they don't need to change all that much. After two flatulent mental mistakes in the middle frame, it was 3-0. if you take those mistakes away, mistakes that Texas hasn't been prone to all year, it's 1-0. If MacIntyre has an average game for him coming into the series, it's 2-1 Texas final. Even if you give Toronto the power play goal, it's 2-2 and the Stars have a shot at overtime.

That's a few ifs, no doubt, but it shows how close Texas was in the game. When would you rather see Texas have a 'bad' game and lose 5-1? Would you rather it Game 1 of a seven game series at home or in a deciding Game 6? Maybe the score might be 7-1 in that latter case?

Morning skate will tell more about the lineups and any potential changes the game could bring.

It goes without saying that the Stars have to win tonight's contest. They cannot go to Ontario down 2-0 after what the Marlies did to the Wolves there. If Texas can't win tonight, this might be the last time the home fans get to see their Texas Stars this season.

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

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Friday, May 23, 2014

MacIntyre, Marlies Stymie Texas in 5-1 Win

Toronto goalie stops 49 of 50 Texas shots in first game of Western Finals
MacIntyre stops Mueller's bid (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas volleyed 50 shots on Toronto Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre and he had the answer for all but one in the opening contest of the Western Conference Finals tonight in Cedar Park.

"He played good," said Chris Mueller, who had Texas' lone goal in the loss. "We need to penetrate more. We had a lot of shots from the outside. We gave them grade A chances and a lot of our chances weren't. When you give them those, they're going to score."

In the game, the Marlies were outshot 50-19 overall and 21-4 in the final frame as the Stars tried to dig themselves out of a 3-0 hole to start the period.

The game hinged on a 13 second sequence in the middle frame. Toronto scored twice in quick succession to put the game out of reach for the Stars.

Mueller continued, "We had huge mistakes end up in the back of our net."

"They had good structure," agreed Coach Desjardins. "We turned it over twice. You have to give them credit on their structure. That's why we turned it over and you have to give them credit."

The Stars would get a late power play goal from Mueller but it wasn't enough as two empty netters made a close game look like a blowout with a 5-1 final.

With the win, Toronto moves to a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. They have yet to trail in any game in that stretch either. Texas suffered its first home loss of the postseason as well.

Texas and Toronto opened the game with quick back and forth action. The Marlies went up 1-0 early off an individual effort. Following a 2-on-1 rush that Texas fended off, Toronto held the zone. As the Stars tried to clear, they coughed it up to Brandon Kozun, who picked the top left corner on Nilstorp.

Texas had a shorthanded chance that almost went just a few minute later. Brendan Ranford just missed on completing the 2-on-1 with Travis Morin. Often-frantic sequences in front of MacIntyre came up empty for Texas. Rebounds were there, but the defense was clearing the out with facility.

It was clear throughout the period that physical play was going to be a much bigger part of this series than any prior. Mueller posited it was "like any other playoff game." However, the action certainly seemed amped up from the Griffins series.

An ill-advised offensive zone penalty for inteference put Texas on the power play. Just as it began, it ended with T.J. Brennan blasting a shot through Cristopher Nilstorp. Dustin Jeffrey appeared to have a stick on the shot but his twig snapped in his hand, betraying him and the team as Toronto took the 2-0 lead.

Just 13 seconds later, a pass from the corner across the slot by a Texas defenseman ended up on the stick of Peter Holland, who scored to make it 3-0.

The Stars put up a good showing through the final 33 minutes, but it was all Drew MacIntyre. The vet goalie put on a show. Despite his sometimes haphazard style, it would require a two-man advantage before Texas could penetrate the PEI native's defenses.

Down 3-0 in the third, Texas pulled Cristopher Nilstorp with over eight minutes remaining. Texas played with six men for over four minutes before it yielded a goal. Mueller scored on the power play to break up the shutout. The Stars continued with an empty net with the score now at 3-1. Two empty net goals, including one shorthanded empty netter, set the final score at 5-1.

Coach Desjardins summarized the night, "Some nights it just doesn't go, and that's the way it is. It's not like we weren't ready. We were. You have to give them credit. We'll be ready the next game."

That next game is Monday in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Glennie-Jeffrey-Hedden
Henderson-Mueller-Ritchie
Hulak-Faksa-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Oleksiak

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was 4,693.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - May 23 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Toronto Marlies, Game 1

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
v.Toronto Marlies
45-25-2-4, 96 pts
#3 Western Conference
Series tied 0-0

May 23rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

For just the second time in franchise history, the Stars will play on into the third round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Interestingly, both times that the Stars have made it to this round they have played a club from Ontario. The inaugural year opponent was the Hamilton Bulldogs. Texas won that series in seven games.

Thanks to the relocation of the Utica Comets, Texas had a few extra open dates on its calendar. As a result, the Stars played the Marlies four times this season. In previous seasons the two only faced off twice. The Stars had a 2-1-0-1 record against the Marlies this season. Toronto was one of only two teams in the league to post an even or better record against Texas at 2-2. Grand Rapids was the other (3-1).

For some history, you can read through the prior postgame reports for these two teams this year (Nov 17, Nov 24, Feb 1, Feb 17).

Todd Crocker, play-by-play voice of the Marlies, argues that those games and their outcomes are ancient history for these two teams on the Marlies blog this week:

"You can do all sorts of tricks to find some sort of connection but truthfully the two teams have grown too much since February to read anything into the season series. It’s best to look at their recent success to get a read on what is about to occur in the Western Conference Final."

He goes on to point out that the Marlies have outscored opponents on the road 20-8 in the postseason en route to their undefeated record. Texas, for its part, has yet to lose a home game through two rounds. Toronto has yet to lose a game at all, sweeping Milwaukee in three and Chicago in four to get here.

Coach Desjardins agrees the matchup is a tough one, "It will be our toughest test so far. Whenever you get down to the final four, you know you're going to play a good team. They have good structure to their game and [Toronto goalie Drew] MacIntyre has played well so far. I think it will be hard to score but you can never tell what will happen."

"Lots of concerns when you look at their team. They do lots of things well. They are balanced through their four lines and have defense that can jump up and score."

One big X factor for Toronto this year was the play of their AHL defenseman of the year, T.J. Brennan, one of those defensmen who can jump up and score as Desjardins noted. In the postseason, he has three goals and four assist in seven games. German blueliner Korbinian Holzer also jumps into the play often and has five points in seven games.

Their biggest contributor has been the AHL's active leader in postseason scoring, left wing Jerry D'Amigo, who has four goals and eight assists. Marlies captain Trevor Smith is second on the team in points with 2+6=8. He won the Cup in 2012 with Norfolk and brings that veteran leadership to the group.

Goaltending

MacIntyre (Credit:
Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Drew MacIntyre has been a difference maker for the Marlies this season. After starting last year in Europe, MacIntyre returned to the states on a deal with the ECHL's Reading Royals. The Marlies signed him to a PTO in February. He ended up playing much of the rest of the season and starting all nine games in last year's playoff run for Toronto. The Maple Leafs added him on a two-way contract before the season was out and extended him for this season as well. This post season he has a 1.56 GAA and a .949 SV% with a perfect 7-0 record.

Texas will look to Cristopher Nilstorp in Game 1. It will be the first back-to-back start for either Stars' goaltender in the postseason. Jack Campbell was not ruled out for this series but is unlikely to be ready for Game 1. Josh Robinson will back up.

Penalties and special teams

In the regular season, Toronto was a downright uncivil bunch on the penalty front. The Marlies racked up an average of 21.63 minutes per game, ranking fourth in the league. The Stars were the choir boys of the AHL with a league-low 12.14 per game. Texas is down to 10.44 in the postseason. However, the Marlies are only taking 8.86 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Coach Lidster noticed this trend as well, "They're showing their experience. They know they can't take a lot of penalties. It's going to be a physical game. They like to be in your face."

Dustin Jeffrey added, "The Marlies are a little more physical that the teams we have played. We aren't going to change though."

Texas and Toronto have both had success on special teams in the Calder Cup playoffs. Toronto is actually beating out Texas on both accounts. Toronto's power play is ranked 4th at 25%, penalty kill is 2nd at 89.7%. Texas is at 6th at 22% and 5th at 86.7%.

Peculiar surroundings

A confluence of events in and around the hockey community in Austin combined to create an interesting setup for Game 1. Disney on Ice, previously scheduled for tonight, was cancelled. However, shows on Thursday and Saturday remained in place. The Stars will not be able to use the jumbotron for tonight's game as a result of all the rigging that the ice show requires in the rafters. Score, shots and penalties will be tracked on the LED ribbons that are above the suite level at CPC.

In addition, the local alternate practice facility, Chaparral Ice, is melting their ice down for the first time in five years to rebuild the sheet. This maintenance, originally announced in April, will take a few weeks with the facility re-opening on June 5th.

The ice rebuilding forces the Stars and Marlies to the team's alternate alternate location, the Pond, as documented below by Todd Crocker.


Coach Desjardins said, regarding the change in venue and feel of the game, "You just have to be ready because there are a lot of things that can go against you or go different. If that sort of thing throws you off, you're in trouble."

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

Website: torontomarlies.com
Blog (official): Marlies Blog
Play by play voice: @HockeyCrock
Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Idaho Steelheads Extend Head Coach Brad Ralph Another Three Years

Brad Ralph (Credit: Steve Conner/Idaho Steelheads)
In affiliate news today, the Idaho Steelheads announced this morning that Brad Ralph has been extended for another three years in his role as head coach and GM of the ECHL club.

“This is a fabulous town with great fans and I’m grateful to continue coaching for a first-class organization,” Ralph said in a team press release. “I’ve already started working on next year’s team and my sights, as always, are on bringing the Kelly Cup home to Boise.”

Ralph came to the Steelheads in the 2012-13 season after two season as the head coach of the SPHL's Augusta RiverHawks. In his two seasons as Steelheads coach, the team has continued a strong tradition of postseason excellence, making the playoffs in both seasons.

He has had a knack for picking up players and developing them into top performers at the ECHL level. The team's MVP, Brett Robinson, was played second line minutes in the CHL last season. This year he had 37 points in 47 regular season games and eight points in 11 playoff contests.

David deKastrozza was another gem pickup. At the start of the 2012-13 season, deKastrozza was cut by the Trenton Titans before the season began. Ralph signed deKastrozza and the right winger has had the two best seasons of his career in Boise since then, totaling 78 regular season points in 134 games and 17 playoffs points in 27 postseason games. Of course, that's not to mention Justin Dowling, who Ralph brought in to start the 2012-13 season and is now on an NHL contract.

Ralph's signing is good news for the Texas Stars. With uncertainty around the future of Coach Willie Desjardins in the Stars organization, having a coach like Ralph in the system could provide a good choice for the Stars assistant coach position, as he is already familiar with the team's systems and many of the players. It's not for certain that he would be interested, but it's better to have a coach like Ralph staying in the system than leaving to go elsewhere.

Texas Stars Relishing Hard-Earned Home Ice Advantage

Between the ice surface, the fans and last change, Texas is using home ice to its fullest benefit this postseason
Cristopher Nilstorp (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After earning home ice throughout the playoffs, the Texas Stars have taken full advantage of it in the postseason. Texas is 4-0 at the Cedar Park Center in the postseason, outscoring their opponents 20-5. That's just a continuation of the league's best home record during the regular season as well. The Stars set a 29-8-0-1 mark, outscoring opponents 154-89 at home.

"Teams coming into this building know it's going to be a tough night," said forward Dustin Jeffrey, who has scored four of his five postseason goals at home.

Mike Hedden expanded, "We're a much better team at home. I don't know if it's the ice or the crowd or just that we're more comfortable."

With extra time to sell tickets for this weekend's games and a marquee matchup against a Canadian team, the Stars will look to pack the building for Games 1 and 2 before sending the team off to Ontario.

As Texas gets closer and closer to potential true 100 degree hockey, players praised the ice conditions at the CPC despite the heat.

"I've always been surprised how good the ice is here because it's 90 degrees outside," said Hedden. "I love playing in our rink. Our ice is always in top shape, probably the best in the league."

Having solid ice helps when your team is based so heavily on speed, skill and transition. Being able to have the puck handle the same in the first minute of the period as the final minute of the period is important to skill players like Morin, Ranford and Dowling. Players like Dowling have commented before that you can tell when ice conditions aren't right in other rinks. The puck bounces and is unpredictable, the last thing a skill player wants when they're trying to finish a scoring play at the net.

The other advantage of home ice that is not as clear to casual fans is the last change and faceoff benefits. As the home team, Texas gets the final change in Game 1 and 2 against Toronto. This means that Toronto has to put their five players out on the ice for the next faceoff before Texas does. That gives Coach Desjardins a distinct upper-hand. He, or any coach at home, can analyze the players heading out and choose the best players available on his side to matchup against them.

When the faceoff does start, the home team is awarded another boost. The road team must get 'set' before the puck will drop. The away center must place his stick on the ice before the puck drops. The home center does not have to put his stick on the ice and can attack the puck in motion if he can anticipate the drop.

With Texas basing much of its game on transition and possession, these two advantages are huge for this Stars team.

When you add in the often compressed schedule of the playoffs, winning your home games is paramount.

Jeffrey agreed, "The way we've played at home makes it a huge benefit. It's a lot of games in a short amount of time. For us to make the most of our opportunities at home, it has to be that way."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Listen to Stars Coach Desjardins on SiriusXM



Coach Desjardins was interviewed this afternoon on SiriusXM NHL Network. Lots of familiar topics for Texas fans and readers of this site, including the postseason explosion of Brendan Ranford, the goalie rotation and the success this franchise has had over the past five years.

After easing into it a bit, the host finally did ask Desjardins about rumours surrounding his potential NHL head coaching future. Check it out.

Media Day Notes: Earning Days Off, Playing Their Game, Comparing to the First Year

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Lots of audio from the Texas Stars third round media day. The Stars did not have practice on Monday or Tuesday as a reward for finishing up the series in six games. Coach Desjardins emphasized that the team had "earned it."

Mike Hedden continued, "Our coaches have been good with giving us days off. The way we play, we need it. We go hard in practice, and it carries to the ice. We know we have to play the same way."

Uptempo practices have been a staple of the Stars regimen all year. It has helped them wear out teams in second and third periods.

"One of the key things Willie strives for in practice is tempo. If you're not moving your feet, even for two seconds, you're going to hear about it because he yells at you. But it helps because that carries over to the game. Our transition relies on our fast pace, and it all comes from our practices."

Those practices helped generate quite a few quick transition plays in the series against Grand Rapids, including two breakaways in Game 1.

"We've always been a team that's based on transition and speed and we're not going to change that. That's what we want to be known as," said Coach Lidster.

Looking ahead to the way that will matchup against the Marlies, Lidster continued, "They play a strong 1-3-1, and they don't get caught often. We have to find a way to generate speed through the neutral zone. We don't want to get into a thing where we are trading chances, but we want to play a high tempo game."

Travis Morin is one of two remaining original Texas Stars.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Comparing to Texas' inaugural season

With the advancement to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history, the comparisons to the inaugural year were inevitable. Captain Maxime Fortunus and Travis Morin are the only remaining players from that season.

"Every team is different," said Fortunus. "Sometimes you try to compare. You have different players and a different feel. It's all up here in the mind. It's how you get ready mentally for those games. Little details. We're trying to focus on those."

Asked what this team needs to do to continue their success into the Calder Cup Finals, he added.

"I think the main thing that we have to do and that we've done in the past when I've gone to the Finals is that we've stuck with it. We were the best team in the season for a reason, and I think that's how we're going to get to the end. We're just going to keep playing hard and I think that's our strong suit."

Marketing the team and managing a crowded building

Team president Rick McLaughlin was available and put a lot of praise on the tough job that the ice operations and building crews are doing this week with multiple change-overs between Disney on Ice and Texas Stars hockey.

"We are a busy building with Disney on Ice, Texas Stars hockey and then we roll into high school graduations," said McLaughlin. "I am very proud of our staff, and they are very excited to have this success at this point in our calendar."

NHL parent club Dallas had a big emphasis this year on their "New Star Rising" campaign, which centered around a host of rebirths including new jerseys, new ownership, new coaches and GM and many new faces on the ice too.

"With the new ownership, it's pumped a lot of new energy into the program. All that energy and enthusiasm comes to us too. Seeing Nill and Ruff in the playoff games here, it's all looked at as one big family. We're excited to be part of this thing."

The NHL success of many players who once skated at the CPC is a marketable point for the team, but not always the first and foremost for McLaughlin.

"Marketing a minor league hockey team is a little different than in the NHL. We have to market good family entertainment and day of the week to get fans here. Having a proven track record of moving players up to the NHL is something that we do state. Our fans understand that they aren't just coming to see a minor league player, they are coming to see prospects that will eventually go to the NHL."

Other notes

More to come tomorrow and Friday with the series starting this weekend. For now here are a few other tidbits.

  • Desjardins did not rule out the return of Jack Campbell for the series. The second-year netminder was injured in Game 5 against Grand Rapids and did not dress for Game 6. More will be known today after morning practice.
  • Desjardins intimated that Toby Petersen was injured blocking a shot in Game 4 but still finished the game with an injury.
  • Disney on Ice is putting the Stars' practices this week at the Chaparral Ice. Coach Desjardins intoned that "it shouldn't matter" where the team practices. "You just have to be ready because there are a lot of things that can go against or you or go different. If that sort of thing throws you off, you're in trouble."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Expect the Next Desjardins, Blashill Face Off to Be in the NHL

Willie Desjardins and Jeff Blashill (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After some time to digest the Stars 4-2 series win, Texas fans should be finding themselves incredibly lucky. Not lucky that they won the series or that they were able to see it happen at home. They should feel lucky that they were witness to a pretty wicked chess match of a series between the two most recent AHL Coach of the Year winners. You should expect that the next time these two matchup, it will be in an NHL arena.

Just for fun, you should do a Google News search for Willie Desjardins or Jeff Blashill. About every third story is trying to connect one or the other to some open NHL coaching job. Desjardins in particular is being paired off with the Vancouver Canucks with alarming regularity.

Both coaches were AHL rookie coaches last year, coming off assistant coaching stints with their new teams respective NHL clubs. Going 43-22-5-6, it was Coach Desjardins winning the Pieri award for coach of the year last season. Blashill was just a few points behind him at 42-26-4-4. This year, Texas claimed the top spot again with a record of 48-18-3-7. Blashill's Griffins went 46-23-2-5 and earned him the Coach of the Year, persevering through a season marred by injuries and callups. Over the past two seasons, Desjardins has a .668 points percentage. Blashill is at .628.

Coach Desjardins had a lot of good things to say about Blashill.

"He had a long year and a lot of injures this year. He's smart and classy and his team is ready every time we play them. He made some adjustments after the first two games, and he's a good coach. I knew that and expected it from him. Not just systems wise, he coaches the right way."

Coach Desjardins was certainly confident in his club rolling into Game 6 but didn't expect the seven goal outburst that ended Blashill's season.

"It's tough for him to lose because he puts so much into the game, but I'd rather have it that way right now."

One memory that strikes me from the second season was from one of the Stars' last games of the regular season. After being beaten by Texas, Rockford's Bill Peters came up to coach Glen Gulutzan and wished him good luck the rest of the way and told him that the Stars were a good team. It was both easy and hard to do, I'm sure, as his club was not destined for the postseason. It was a classy thing to do though, and obviously made an impression on me as I still remember it three years later.

Coaching is such a small fraternity. Everyone runs into each other at some point or another along the path. I'm sure these two coaches will do so again soon. And I'm pretty sure it'll be in the National Hockey League.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stars Announce Schedule for Round 3 Against Toronto

Brett Ritchie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After Sunday's 7-1 win, the Texas Stars have advanced to play the Toronto Marlies in the conference finals. Toronto is the winner of the North Division and a #3 seed in the West. Texas, having won the league points trophy, has home ice advantage. Game 1 will be on Friday.

Here is the full schedule:
2014 Western Conference Finals – Texas vs. Toronto

Game 1 – Friday, May 23rd – 7:30 p.m. vs. Toronto
Game 2 – Monday, May 26th – 7:30 p.m. vs. Toronto
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 28th – 6:00 p.m. at Toronto
Game 4 – Thursday, May 29th – 6:00 p.m. at Toronto
Game 5 ** – Saturday, May 31st – 2:00 p.m. at Toronto
Game 6 ** – Monday, June 2nd – 7:30 p.m. vs. Toronto
Game 7 ** – Tuesday, June 3rd – 7:30 p.m. vs. Toronto

** If necessary
Note that Game 1 was originally supposed to be a night for Disney on Ice. It is unclear if Texas will be able to use the jumbotron for the game due to setup conflicts with the Disney On Ice event, which will still be happening Thursday and Saturday.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Texas Stars had to buy out Friday's performance of Disney on Ice. This was incorrect, and 100 Degree Hockey regrets the error.

Stars Advance to Conference Finals With 7-1 Annihilation of Defending Champs


Derek Meech in the handshake line
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Expecting a hard battle in Game 6, the Texas Stars knocked out the defending champions, the Grand Rapids Griffins, by an unexpected 7-1 score in Cedar Park Center tonight.

"You have to prepare for seven and want to win it in six," said Coach Desjardins. "We didn't expect this. They started out so quick, and it looked like it would be a long hard night. And then we just got a couple. It's funny how they go in."

The Griffins scored on the first shot of the game after a giveaway in the neutral zone came back to bite the Stars. Texas beared down and scored the next seven. The total set a record for Texas Stars goals in a single playoff game.

Desjardins continued, "To get better you have to be pushed. This series pushed us. We're a better team now than we were at the start of the series. What we had to go through in this series helped us."

Dustin Jeffrey had two goals and an assist, Derek Meech had one goal and one assist. Radek Faksa collected his first and second goals of the playoffs. Ten Texas players recorded a point in the game, including Cristopher Nilstorp. In addition to stopping 23 of 24 shots, he picked up the second assist on Dustin Jeffrey's first goal of the night.

Texas will play the Toronto Marlies starting on Friday night at the Cedar Park Center. Full game schedule will be posted shortly.

Before many had found their seats for the game, Grand Rapids was already on the board. A turnover by rookie Jyrki Jokipakka came back down at Nilstorp for the opening goal in the first shot of the game. Teemu Pulkkinen got the tally just 36 seconds into the frame.

"It's never easy when the first shot of the game goes in, but we just ignored it and responded well," said Derek Meech.

The Stars roared back with two quick goals. A solid forecheck by Kevin Henderson sent the puck on net. Petr Mrazek directed it into the slot, and Chris Mueller collected it for the tying goal.

Just over a minute later, Dustin Jeffrey broke in in a two on one and decided to take the shot himself. He poked it in after waiting out Mrazek for the 2-1 lead. The crowd blew up.

Derek Meech called the play, "These guys like to trap, so I got skating there. Jeffrey has good instincts and he saw the hole there. I waited just enough time and he was able to get in on the net and saw the goalie was cheating."

For good measure, Meech would extend the lead against his former team with a blast from the right wing point to make it 3-1. Several layers of traffic prevented Mrazek from seeing the puck.

"It was a bit of a cluster down there... of hockey players. I got a great pass from Hedden, a great heads-up play. I just tried to put it in the right spot."

Texas out shot the Griffins 13-7 in the period.

The Stars continued their offensive in the second period. Radek Faksa picked his first professional playoff goal on a bit of a broken play. Some confusion in the slot generated the chance for Faksa, which set the score at 4-1. The goal also ended the night for Petr Mrazek.

"[The fourth line] was so good the whole series," said Desjardins. "I was able to play them against the top line. They did a great job and were as big as any part of the game."

Brett Ritchie added, "Faksa just keeps getting better every game."

Tom McCollum came in and had to weather 10 Texas shots in the remainder of the period, including a Stars 5-on-3 power play. If it weren't for McCollum, the score could have been much worse after forty. Shots were 14-5 for Texas in the middle stanza.

Heading into the final period, Ritchie said, "We just said that we're going to play it like a 0-0 game. We're going to play hard. We stay pretty even keel."

The Stars weren't done yet. Radek Faksa scored his second of the playoffs and the game off the pass from Matej Stransky for the 5-1 lead less than three minutes in.

Jeff Blashill pulled McCollum for the extra skater with 13 minutes left in the third. Andrej Nestrasil's slashing penalty ended that gambit and gave Texas a power play, the first in a series. Brett Ritchie potted his first goal of the playoffs on the power play, a minor to Emmerton. Ritchie was playing in his first game in over a month after sustaining a lower body injury.

"I didn't feel comfortable around the net at the start of the game, but for that one to go in, it bounced me back to where I was before I got hurt"

Desjardins commented, "Ritchie looked fresh. I was worried and I didn't know where he would be at."

Dustin Jeffrey polished it all off with a shorthanded, empty net goal with six minutes still left to play. The rest was all formalities as the two teams awaited the final horn.

Game 1 against Toronto is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 PM.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Glennie-Jeffrey-Hedden
Henderson-Mueller-Ritchie
Hulak-Faksa-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Oleksiak

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Robinson, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Dowling, Campbell, Petersen (injury)

Today's attendance was 4,010.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - May 18 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins, Game 6

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
46-23-2-5, 99 pts
#4 Western Conference
Texas leads 3-2

May 18th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATES: Brett Ritchie practiced today and could play tonight. Justin Dowling did not practice and will not play. Jack Campbell also did not practice. Josh Robinson will back up Cristopher Nilstorp.

Since they last played in Cedar Park, the injury list has grown for the Texas Stars. However, luckily, so has their win count in the series against Grand Rapids. Either way, one team has a chance to clinch in a Game 6. Given the strength that the Griffins showed in Michigan, Texas is pretty fortunate that that team is them and not the visitors.

We will know more about possible lineup changes this morning at/after morning skate and I will update this post with that information once it is clearer (see above). Until then, all we can say is that Jack Campbell and Justin Dowling both left Game 5. Campbell appeared to have a soft tissue issue, as he was ont he ice with Brad Jellis stretching in an attempt to get back into the game right after his injury. Dowling's appears to be a head injury. He was hit late behind the play by Jordin Tootoo in the first period.

Toby Petersen did not play in Game 5 at all. He was injured in Game 4 and was in a walking cast on Friday night. Derek Hulak figured into his first playoff game in his place. That's good news for the ATO forward, who had been injured at the end of the season.

Kevin Henderson
(Credit: Mark Newman)
If that set of players cannot play, you would have to figure that Taylor Peters or Taylor Vause jumps into the lineup at center. Josh Robinson, recently recalled from Idaho, will backup Cristopher Nilstorp in his regularly scheduled start. The Stars will worry about what comes next, whether that's Game 7 of this series or Game 1 against Toronto, after the final whistle blows tonight.

The Stars outscored Grand Rapids 9-2 in two games here prior. Part of that advantage was Texas' strong transition game, aided by last change giving them solid matchups against the Griffins' forward sets. The Stars believe that they have the team speed to get behind the Griffins' defense at times and keep them on their heels.

Stars injury/call up report:
Petersen, Dowling, Campbell, Ritchie, Klingberg (injury)

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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Campbell, Dowling Injuries Will Challenge Stars in Game 6

Jack Campbell (Credit: Mark Newman)
Adversity was the watch word coming into Game 5 last night. The Stars persevered in the end, but the game itself generated even more potential adversity for Texas. Two of their top playoff performers, goaltender Jack Campbell and center Justin Dowling, were both injured in the game.

Dowling has three goals and five assists for eight points in eight games this postseason. He left last night's contest in the first period and did not return. Campbell was injured with 1:59 left in the third period. After a solid save, he went down on all fours in pain and was relieved by Cristopher Nilstorp.

To call Dowling a steady playoff performer would be an understatement. He's tied with Brendan Ranford for second place on the team in point scoring with both averaging a point per game. Only Travis Morin's 10 points in eight games is better. He has also formed a steady pairing with Mike Hedden throughout the past two years. Hedden's time with Texas in 2011-12 proved that he could be placed anywhere and have success. However, already without Brett Ritchie on the wing, the 'Dowling' line is now down to a single orphaned winger. Where do you put a lone Mike Hedden?

Does this make sense?
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Henderson-Peters-Hedden
Hulak-Faksa-Stransky
On the goalie front, it was Nilstorp's turn next in the rotation for Game 6. Josh Robinson is in town to backup the Swede if Campbell cannot. If it comes to Game 7 though, what happens? Does Texas go back to Nilstorp or go with Campbell, if healthy?

Lots to be thinking about on this idle Saturday as the Stars make their way back to central Texas. We'll know more tomorrow at morning skate.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chris Mueller's OT Blast Gives Texas 3-2 Series Lead

Calm cool and collected Chris Mueller had the GWG in OT.
(Credit: Mark Newman)
They would need overtime to do it, but the Texas Stars emerged with a 3-2 win in tonight's game and will take a 3-2 series lead into Sunday's Game 6 back in Cedar Park. Chris Mueller scored his second of the playoffs off a nice drop pass from Kevin Henderson just 3:18 into OT for the huge win by Texas.

The game wasn't without adversity. The Stars led 2-0 early but then gave up two in the middle frame for a tie game after forty. Over the final two periods, Texas was atypically outshot 32-18. In the third period, starting goaltender Jack Campbell was injured on a routine save. He had to leave the ice, and Cristopher Nilstorp took over with the game in the balance.

Campbell stopped 34 of 36 on the night before leaving the game, including a penalty shot. Nilstorp stopped all five he faced in the relief appearance. Texas also lost Justin Dowling in the game to an unknown injury. He didn't not play after the first period.

Needing to get a good start, Texas led the way in a tight first period as far as chances. The first power play chance of the game for either team drew blood for the Texas Stars. Derek Meech slid the puck over the Jyrki Jokipakka on the right wing. Jokipakka blasted the puck just wide of the net on the right side, and it was tipped in by Mike Hedden.

Just under a minute later, Brendan Ranford picked up his seventh of the playoffs at even strength. With an offensive zone faceoff, Curtis McKenzie won a puck battle below the goal line. He dished the puck between the legs of the Griffin's defender to a waiting Ranford in the low slot. He beat Mrazek high on the blocker side for the 2-0 lead.

The Stars lost Justin Dowling in the first period to an undisclosed injury. It was unclear when he was injured, and he would not return in the game.

Texas capitulated in the second period. Thanks to three power plays in the frame for Grand Rapids, the Griffins outshot Texas 16-7 in the period. They scored on two of those shots, including a power play goal.

Tomas Jurco, who did make it into the game after being a gametime decision, got the shot on the first goal. It was tipped in front by Mitch Callahan to open the Griffins' scoring on the power play.

Xavier Ouellet picked up a penalty of his own late in the third period. After the successful penalty kill, he broke in on Jack Campbell with a breakaway pass. Patrik Nemeth caught up but hooked Ouellet in the process. Grand Rapids was awarded a penalty shot. Jack Campbell stood tall on the play, a huge save on the first penalty shot for or against the Texas Stars in playoff franchise history.

The Griffins would get their goal anyways a few minutes later. At even strength, rookie Teemu Pulkkinen blasted one by Campbell on the far side. It was a smart play by Cory Emmerton, who broke in on the far left wing side and passed through a few Stars to Pulkkinen on the far right wing. The quick change of angle got Campbell moving and opened a hole for the Finnish rookie on the blocker side. Campbell got a piece, but not all of it.

Neither club would score in the third period, but there would be a huge game-changing injury late in the period. On what appeared to be a routine save, Jack Campbell doubled over in pain and had to leave the ice. With less than two minutes left, Cristopher Nilstorp had to come in cold. He had one sparkling save in those final two minutes before heading to overtime.

Some early back and forth in the overtime led to some tense moments. Jamie Oleksiak broke up a 3-on-1 against Texas in the first few minutes.

Derek Meech's quick outlet pass led to the eventual game-winner. Henderson up the right side dropped the puck to Chris Mueller, who had room to get an excellent shot off. He beat Mrazek far-side past the blocker, sending his teammates flooding onto the ice to dogpile him.

The Texas Stars will have a chance to close out the series in Game 6 at Cedar Park Center on Sunday night.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hedden-Dowling-Glennie
Jeffrey-Mueller-Henderson
Hulak-Faksa-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Oleksiak-Meech
Labrie-Fortunus

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gaunce, Guptill, Robinson, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Ritchie, Petersen (injury)

Toby Petersen was out tonight with an injury from Game 4. He was in a walking cast today.

Justin Dowling left the game in the first period with an unknown injury. He did not return.

Today's attendance was 8,057.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - May 16 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins, Game 5

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
46-23-2-5, 99 pts
#4 Western Conference
Series tied 2-2

May 16th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

Regardless of the outcome of the game tonight, it will be discussed by Stars' fans for many years to come. This could be the pivot point of this Texas squad's season. Tied up at two, Game 5 is a big one. You can't overstate it.

In a series where the lower seed gets three straight, it becomes extremely important for the higher seed to win one on the road. Otherwise, the Stars will face elimination on Sunday night instead of having a chance at knocking out Grand Rapids.

This feels about right.
(Credit: Mark Newman)
The Stars were on information lockdown regarding Brett Ritchie's presence on the trip. It is possible that the scoring winger traveled with the team to Michigan in case of a chance at playing in Game 5. We won't know until morning skate. Given the nature of Ritchie's injury (lower body), he hasn't been on skates in a while and will be at a significant conditioning and general ability disadvantage. Is a marginally healthy Ritchie better than the other options? Who do you scratch to get him into the lineup? There's no question you put him with Hedden and Dowling if you can get him in the lineup. That bumps Henderson elsewhere. After excellent play in the late season, Henderson has been pretty invisible in this series. Do you scratch the Nashville assignee in favor of Ritchie? Perhaps.

Other important things to watch:
  • If the rotation holds, this is Jack Campbell's first start since letting up four on 16 shots. He looked good in the third period of Game 3, when he re-relieved Cristopher Nilstorp. That's the Campbell that Texas needs.
  • Tomas Jurco left Game 4 with an upper body injury and did not return. No word on his status, but it's early. More as the day goes on.
  • Matchups continue to be key. Late in the game, Texas swapped Scott Glennie on to the line with Hedden and Dowling looking for a spark. Glennie's line with Mueller and Jeffrey continues to have a tough matchup with Nestrasil and Emmerton. Jeffrey's goal in Game 4 was on the power play, so it was not that matchup that they overcame. That's a big challenge for the squad.
Stars injury/call up report:
Ritchie, Hulak, Klingberg (injury)

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Texas Stars Learning to Deal with Adversity

It turns out that it isn't all sunshine and roses on the path to a Calder Cup.
(Credit: Mark Newman)
These are the series that test whether you've got enough in the tank to win a championship. Up against the defending champs, Texas looked to be flying high with a 2-0 lead in the series. After four, it's all tied.

Game 3 was a disaster. Game 4 was better. Game 5 has to be even better still.

But this is where you test the mettle of a club that claims to be the best. Only a fool would assume Texas could go 15-0 en route to the Calder Cup. At some point, the bubble had to burst. Now that it has, what happens in Game 5 is the real challenge of the playoffs.

Texas has not lost back-to-back games since March 1st. They lost three in a row just once this season and two of those were in the shootout. In fact, the last time Texas lost three in a row in regulation was in the second round of last year's playoffs. Those three were among the final four games for the 2012-13 squad, all losses, which ended the series in Oklahoma City.

Despite holding the best record in the league, these Stars are pretty green when it comes to Calder Cup experience. They are even greener in relative terms when you compare them to the Griffins. Veteran stalwarts like Derek Meech, Maxime Fortunus and Toby Petersen certainly have the miles on the tires in the playoffs to prove they've been there before. However, Texas is icing a lot of rookies and low-mileage guys too. Brendan Ranford, Curtis McKenzie, Radek Faksa, Jack Campbell and Matej Stransky have never played in professional playoff series before. Second year players like Brett Ritchie and Jamie Oleksiak only went two rounds deep last year. Others like Nemeth and Jokipakka played in the postseason in Europe, but never in the States before this season.

Compare that to the Griffins, who have 12 skaters and a goalie who won it all last year still on their squad.

If the Stars make it out of this round, Game 5 will have to be the turning point. There are no moral victories here. You can claim up and down that Game 4 should have been 2-2 going to overtime after the controversial high-stick goal from Grand Rapids. That doesn't matter. Good teams find a way to charge right through adversity and win anyway.

Texas needs to walk out of Van Andel Arena on Friday night with a chance to take the series on Sunday in Game 6. A win is what is required. Nothing less will do.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Controversial Call Assists Griffins to Series Tie With Texas

Looking to rebound from last night's three-goal loss, Texas scored first tonight but couldn't hold on to win. The final was a tight 3-2 tally. David McIntyre's second period goal was a huge momentum shifter, and it was initially waved off by the referees. After further consideration, the officials called it a good goal, putting Grand Rapids up 2-1. The replay showed that the puck had been played with a high stick and the initial no-goal call appeared correct.

Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 22 of 25 shots in the game, suffering his first loss of the playoffs.

Neither club found the net in the first period. Shots were pretty even at 10-8 in favor of the Stars. Texas found the net early in the second period though. On a power play carried over from the first, Dustin Jeffrey got behind the defense again off the pass from Travis Morin. Thirteen seconds in and it was 1-0 Texas.

Grand Rapids' captain, Jeff Hoggan, tied things up just under four minutes later also on the power play. He was the recipient of a nice pass from Cory Emmerton in the slot, which he tapped past the right pad of Nilstorp.

As the period's midpoint passed, controversy ensued. David McIntyre whacked the puck down from above the crossbar and into the net. Initially it was called no goal and waved off by referee Geno Binda. After discussing with the goalies and linesmen, the call was overturned, giving Grand Rapids a 2-1 lead.

Insult was added to injury as Andrej Nestrasil beat Nilstorp to the post after an initial great save by the Swedish netminder.

Late in the frame, the former Griffin, Derek Meech, found the net against his old team. Swooping in low, he went behind the net and wrapped around on Mrazek. The late period goal gave Texas life looking to head into the third period.

Cristopher Nilstorp had the save of the game to start the third. On the penalty kill, Grand Rapids broke in 2-on-1. Nilstorp robbed the Griffins glovehand after a perfect 2-on-1 pass.

Down to their final minute, Texas pulled Nilstorp and got a few chances with the extra skater. Ultimately, they could not find the net.

Texas will look to re-rack and take Game 5 on Friday. Either way, Game 6 will be necessary back in Cedar Park on Sunday evening.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hedden-Dowling-Henderson
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Petersen-Faksa-Stransky

Jokipakka-Nemeth
Oleksiak-Meech
Labrie-Fortunus

Nilstorp

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Gaunce, Guptill, Robinson, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Hulak, Ritchie (injury)

Today's attendance was 5,089.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - May 14 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins, Game 4

Texas Stars
48-18-3-7, 106 pts
#1 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
46-23-2-5, 99 pts
#4 Western Conference
Texas leads 2-1

May 14th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

In some ways, it's best to forget about last night's game. There are surely nuggets from Game 3 that can be teachable moments for Coach Willie Desjardins' crew.

Bottom line is that nothing is out of place quite yet. The Stars won all of their home games so far. Grand Rapids has done the same. It's not a series until someone loses a home game.

It was definitely not good to see the Stars line of Mueller, Jeffrey, and Glennie go minus-10 in the contest. It was not good to see Jack Campbell get pulled after allowing four on sixteen shots. The defense was porous at times. Gaunce and Oleksiak were a combined minus-4.

Texas' third period was good. With the game pretty much decided, the Stars outshot the Griffins by a 4:1 margin. They earned two goals and showed a lot of fight with Campbell on the bench for the extra attacker. Dowling, McKenzie, Ranford, Hedden and Stransky were each plus-1.

Nilstorp should start tonight after Texas put Campbell back into the net for the third period last night.

Texas has to think that getting just one of three in Michigan is big, allowing them to come home with two chances to close it out.

Stars injury/call up report:
Ritchie, Hulak, Klingberg (injury)

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Texas Takes First Loss of Postseason in Lopsided Game 3

Tomas Jurco (second from left) had three goals. (Credit: Mark Newman)
If the home team in this series always has this dominant of a performance, the Stars are fine in the long run. That is little solace to Texas this evening after they dropped a one-sided contest to the Grand Rapids Griffins in their first game in Michigan. Starting goaltender Jack Campbell let up four goals in the contest and gave way to Cristopher Nilstorp in the second period. Tomas Jurco added a hat trick, but it didn't feel like all his offense was needed in the 5-2 contest. Ultimately, the game was decided by the man in net for Grand Rapids. Petr Mrazek had his best game of the series, stopping 35 of 37 shots against him.

The Stars had chances in the game. Matej Stransky beat Mrazek in the first but caught the post. Captain Maxime Fortunus did the same in the second. Then Toby Petersen was robbed by Mrazek with a penalty coming against the Griffins, and Scott Glennie had one waved off due to goaltender interference. The Stars faced some adversity in the OKC series but not like this. The largest deficit Texas had to overcome was two goals.

Showing the importance of getting the last chance, the line of Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Mueller and Scott Glennie was victimized by the lineup of Emmerton-Nestrasil-Pulkkinen. They were a combined minus-10 on the night.

Texas came back to life a bit in the third period, but it was too little too late. Mike Hedden scored his fourth of the postseason and Brendan Ranford extended his goal streak with a tally in his fifth straight.

Tomas Jurco got things started in the first period with a pair. On his first, he won a battle behind the net and emerged with the puck for a wrap-around goal to open the scoring. Six minutes later, Jurco received a beauty of a cross-ice pass from Riley Sheahan on the power play to put the Griffs up 2-0. Texas was expecially miffed that the power play happened at all. Cameron Gaunce was high sticked on the play that drew the penalty for Texas and it was not called. Instead, Maxime Fortunus went to the box with his first penalty since February.

Grand Rapids got the start they wanted in the second, scoring on the opening shift just 25 seconds into the frame. Andrej Nestrasil collected his third of the postseason and Pulkkinen got into the action with his third as well. That would end Jack Campbell's night after he stopped just 12 of 16 shots against.

His reliever, Cristopher Nilstorp, gave one more up before the end of the period. Tomas Jurco finished the hat trick on a cram play. In the frame, Grand Rapids scored three goals on just eight shots.

Jack Campbell started the third period, suggesting that Cristopher Nilstorp will get the start Wednesday night as planned. Mike Hedden helped Texas avoid the shutout with his fourth of the playoffs. Breaking on Mrazek, he went blocker side for the first goal of the night by Texas.

Brendan Ranford extended his playoff point streak to a franchise-record six games with a quick play in front of the net a few minutes later to make it 5-2.

Texas gave it a good fight in the third period, scoring the two goals and outshooting the Griffins by a wide margin. That's something positive to take into tomorrow night's Game 4.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hedden-Dowling-Henderson
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Petersen-Faksa-Stransky

Oleksiak-Gaunce
Meeche-Fortunus
Jokipakka-Nemeth

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Labrie, Guptill, Desrosiers, Troock, Peters, Vause, Wrenn, Byström (scratched)
Klingberg, Hulak, Ritchie (injury)

Today's attendance was 4,293.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - May 13 2014