Friday, October 31, 2014

Texas Falls in Early Hole, Can't Recover Against Monsters

I was unable to watch the game tonight due to Halloweening. Here's a limited recap...

The Stars got behind early tonight, allowing a 5-on-3 power play goal just two minutes into the contest, and never really recovered. Lake Erie was up 4-0 by the five minute mark of the second period and that was really all they needed. Maxime Fortunus and Derek Meech scored from the backend for Texas, but an empty net goal for Lake Erie made it a 5-2 final. Jussi Rynnas stopped 16 of 20 shots before getting replaced by Jack Campbell, who stopped all 12 he faced.

Here's the release:
The Lake Erie Monsters opened up a two-goal lead in the first period and never looked back in a 5-2 loss for the Texas Stars on Halloween night at Quicken Loans Arena in front of 6,072 in attendance.

Five different players scored for Lake Erie (3-4-0-1) in the contest. Travis Morin (five games) and Curtis McKenzie (three games) each tallied assists for the Stars (4-2-1-0) to extend their respective point streaks.

Paul Carey opened up the game’s scoring at 2:15 of the first with a power play goal for the Monsters. Trevor Cheek then followed up with his first of the season to make it a 2-0 score with just 18 seconds left in the period.

Lake Erie extended their lead to 3-0 at 1:25 of the second with a shorthanded goal from Stefan Elliot. It was the first shorthanded goal given up by the Stars this season. Karl Stollery added a fourth for the Monsters at 5:23.

Maxime Fortunus put the Stars on the board with a power play goal of his own at 7:40 of the middle frame. Scott Glennie and John Klingberg assisted on Fortunus’ second of the season on the power play.

In the third, Derek Meech tallied his third of the season at 13:07 to help the Stars chip away at the deficit, but an empty-net goal with 1:47 left in the game cemented the final score.

Jack Campbell stopped all 13 shots he faced for Texas after relieving starter Jussi Rynnas early in the second period.

Both team’s finished 1-for-4 on the power play.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka (callup)
Peters, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 6,072.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Lake Erie - October 31 2014

Texas Assigns Branden Troock to Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the addition of Valeri Nichushkin and the return of Greg Rallo to health, Branden Troock has become the odd man out and is heading to Idaho for some time with the Steelheads.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have assigned forward Branden Troock to their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Troock, 20, has appeared in four games this season for the Stars with an assist. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward made his debut last season for the Stars appearing in one regular season and one playoff game for the club.

The Stars are currently on the road to face Lake Erie in a pair of games this weekend tonight and Saturday.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
4-1-1-0, 9 pts
#6 Western Conference
atLake Erie Monsters
2-4-0-1, 5 pts
#13 Western Conference
October 31st at 6:30 PM
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

The Texas Stars hit the road for their first true road trip of the season, a jaunt to northern Ohio to face the Lake Erie Monsters. Back-to-back contests starting tonight against the Monsters will be the only visit to Cleveland for the Stars this year.

The Stars come in having won a game in overtime against the Barons after dropping two in a row against the same squad. Their four wins are not good enough for tops in the division, but most of that is due to the number of games played. The Stars have the best win percentage in the division right now at .750. Travis Morin leads the entire league in points with five goals and seven assists.

Lake Erie is having a rough start to the season. After winning their opening game against Grand Rapids by a 4-0 score, they dropped their next three by a combined score of 14-4. Part of that floundering was due to the recall of top goalie Calvin Pickard to Colorado. Roman Will took two losses in his absence, allowing 11 goals on 58 shots against. The Monsters got another win against Grand Rapids but come into tonight's game on a two-game skid. They lost in Milwaukee and Rockford last weekend. The team finished a five game road trip with those losses and will play just their second home game of the year against Texas today.

Returning vet Mike Sgarbossa leads the team in points with six assists. Undrafted forward Andrew Agozzino is chief among five players tied at four points. No Monster has more than two goals on the season so far.

One interesting note for longtime Texas Stars fans is the inclusion of Maxim Noreau on the roster. Noreau, of course, played in Houston for four years, including two overlapping with the Stars franchise in Cedar Park. He was not re-signed by the Wild and headed to Europe for several years. Rather oddly, the Avalanche signed the defenseman to a one-way, two-year deal this summer. He is making $625,000 a year in Lake Erie or Colorado and currently has three points in five games for the Monsters.

Last point to note is that this could be the AHL debut of Valeri Nichushkin, who was assigned on conditioning yesterday. We will have to wait for morning skate to learn more.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka (callup)

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dallas Assigns Valeri Nichushkin to Texas Stars For Conditioning Stint

Dallas' 2013 first round pick Valeri Nichushkin has been assigned to the Texas Stars on a conditioning stint. The young Russian, who is in his second professional year in North America, went on the injured reserve early in the NHL season and has not played since October 11th.

It was a possibility that Nichushkin would be assigned for last year's playoffs, but after a long year of more than 100 games, he needed a summer off. This year, he injured his groin and is coming to Texas for a few games to get back up to speed.

With the assignment, Texas now has five Dallas first-round picks on the roster. It is unclear if Nichushkin will still be on the roster when the Stars return home on Wednesday for their game against Toronto. It's most likely he will play against Lake Erie this weekend and then head back to help the NHL squad.

This is certainly the highest profile conditioning assignment for Texas in franchise history. Other prior assignees include Mark Fistric, Toby Petersen, Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today forward Valeri Nichushkin has been assigned to the team for a conditioning assignment.

Texas is currently on the road to face the Lake Erie Monsters in a pair of games this weekend.

The 19-year-old Nichushkin (nih-CHOOSH-kihn) has appeared in two games this season with the Stars. Last season as a rookie, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound forward tallied 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games for Dallas.

Nichushkin was selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas (10th overall).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Texas Stars Find Success in Overtime Against Barons, 5-4

Justin Dowling scored the game-winner early in OT to secure two points
Justin Dowling (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Another overtime game against the Barons saw a different result for the home team Texas Stars as they triumphed in the extra session by a 5-4 mark tonight in Cedar Park. In the back-and-forth game, the Stars did not hold a lead until the final goal of the game in overtime, coming back from three separate deficits to match the Barons and tie the game.

"You can't take anything away from OKC," said Coach Laxdal. "They are a great team and have great team speed. They can strike pretty quick."

In the end, it was Justin Dowling with a quick strike to end things in the overtime period. Texas found itself on the power play to start overtime and cashed in for their third PPG on six opportunities in the contest.

"Obviously there was a lot of room out there," said Dowling. "We were trying to keep the puck moving and try to get it on net. Klingberg probably could have shot that. He had the whole lane, but he made a great pass."

Despite the win, Coach Laxdal definitely indicated he was not happy with the goals against numbers for Texas so far this season.

"You've gotta look at goaltending," said Laxdal. "I don't think it was Jack [Campbell]'s best game. We're giving up under 25 [shots]. We shouldn't give up more than 2 goals at home."

Laxdal further pointed out that his team's defensive zone coverage has "a lot of work to do." The club is giving up 3.17 goals against per game so far this season.

This short series against OKC has proven that they are a team to contend with this season.

"Their goalies are stepping in and doing a great job," concluded Dowling. "We put up 45 shots today. When you're putting up lots of shots, you expect them to go in. Their goalies have played well, and their power play is unbelievable."

OKC struck early in the first period twice to take a 2-0 lead by the ten minute mark of the opening frame. Jordan Oesterle and Iiro Pakarinen each collected a goal, Pakarinen's on the power play. Needing to break the momentum, Texas got a lucky goal off a shot that Brett Ritchie didn't even claim was a shot. It was his first of the season.

"I've had a lot of shots and chances, but I knew if I stuck to it one would go in," said Ritchie.

The Stars tied it on the power play with Maxime Fortunus' bomb from the top of the circle. It was his first of the season as well. Ryan Hamilton answered right back on the power play for OKC, taking the score to 3-2. The goal was called on review after it actually broke through the netting of the goal. The Stars took a few more penalties just after the Barons PP goal, and it really took the energy out of the building.

Brendan Ranford would score surely one of the prettiest goals of his short career to get things to even after forty. A spin around shot that he roofed on Tuohimaa was greeted with mouths agape by many in the crowd. It wouldn't last long as Anton Lander took the wind out of Texas' sails just 14 seconds into the third, walking in on the Stars' defense and beating Campbell to go ahead 4-3.

"We lost our momentum in the second with all those penalties and came in flat in the third," said Ritchie. "There's no excuse to lay back. We had a few good shifts from a few lines in a row and it changed the tide."

Recent assignee Curtis McKenzie had been fighting the puck all night, it seemed, but won the battle when it mattered late in the third.

"I didn't think I had my best game to start," he said. "Getting back in the lineup, I was expecting too much out of myself early. It was nice to find it at the end of the game."

His power play goal from Travis Morin on a very nice tip took the game to OT. As Texas pushed late in the third, they drew a penalty against Jason Williams. With Williams in the box to start OT, the 4-on-3 unit beat Tuohimaa for the 5-4 final score.

Texas will not play OKC again until Thanksgiving. Now they head to Cleveland for a back-to-back set against the Lake Erie Monsters.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Dowling-Ritchie
McKenzie-Morin-Glennie
Rallo-Faksa-Henderson
Stransky-Smith-Hulak

Fortunus-Wrenn
Meech-Klingberg
Gaunce-Honka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka (callup)
Troock, Peters, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 3,694.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - October 29 2014

Curtis McKenzie Back Tonight Against OKC

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have received Curtis McKenzie back from Dallas on assignment. The second-year forward played in just two games, which is actually more games than he's played for Texas. He will surely drop in on the top line with Travis Morin.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-1-1-0, 7 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
2-2-1-0, 5 pts
#11 Western Conference
October 29th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars clawed their way to a point last weekend against this Barons squad. Neither team has played since. Tonight's contest will end the mini-series between the two teams that saw them play four games against each other in the first three weeks of the season. The teams will not play again until they match up for two games bracketing Thanksgiving next month.

Texas has been high-flying on offense, scoring 3.2 goals per game. Part of the problem in that is the other side of the coin. Last year, Texas paired a 3.6 goals per game offense with a 2.6 goals per game defense. It's early, but the Stars are allowing 3 goals per game on average. If you take out the shutout against Utica, those nummbers bounce to an even 3.75 both ways. Granted its early in the season, but it's a troubling trend. A defense that can score is great, but it also needs to defend. It's unclear if the Stars have a shutdown pair that they can really roll out with any regularity. Nemeth was that shutdown guy last year and now he's in Dallas (and on the IR). In his place, Texas has Julius Honka, who is gifted offensively but doesn't have the size to be a nasty defenseman like Nemeth.

One thing that isn't helping that overall goals against number is the penalty kill, which is not having success and getting a lot of chances to practice. The raw numbers are not great, an 80% kill rate. While the number of 25 times shorthanded doesn't seem bad when you look at the whole league, if you take that on a 'per game' basis, Texas is #6 in the league in penalty kills per game. Also they're allowing a PPG per game. That's not a winning formula in the slightest. Is it possible that the aforementioned lack of a shutdown pairing is making the team take more penalties because they are getting beat? It's something to watch tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Did the Texas Stars Black Aces Get on the Ice for the Calder Cup Celebration?

This was a fun story that got missed in the shuffle of all the end of year stuff last season. Goalie Josh Robinson tells the story of how the Texas Stars' black aces made it onto the ice (in full gear) for the Calder Cup celebration.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Frenetic Stars Comeback Cut Short By OKC in OT

Travis Morin hat trick spoiled in overtime by visitors
Travis Morin celebrates a goal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars mini-series against the Barons is not turning out as well as last year's playoff matchup. Through three games, OKC has taken two of the contests and lit up the Stars offensively in the process. Despite a four point night from their leading scorer, Travis Morin, including a hat trick, the Stars ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 OT score after trailing by three in the third period.

"It's tough to lose it when you expend a lot of energy in the third period to get back from a 5-2 deficit," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "You have to give the guys credit. That's a big point you didn't have going into the third period."

By the end of the first period, the Stars were down by two. At the end of the second, it was a three goal margin. Yet still the club found itself in overtime thanks to the efforts of vets Travis Morin and Greg Rallo.

"We obviously weren't happy with the first two periods," said Morin. "We wanted to push the pace and the tempo and throw everything at them."

A shift at forward to put Derek Hulak on a line with Morin and Brendan Ranford immediately bore fruit. Hulak had the primary assist on two goals in the first five minutes to set the difference at just one.

"When it gets down to one goal there in the last few minutes, that's the time to send everything really. We were doing whatever we could to try to get two points."

Greg Rallo tucked it under the crossbar from the left wing side with just 1.9 seconds left in regulation.

After the dry scrape, the Stars and Barons made it to 3-on-3 OT for the first time this season. It was Matt Ford of OKC scoring there on a 2-on-1 play for the win.

Coach Laxdal summarized the game saying that his club needed to tighten up defensively and get better on special teams.

While Texas had the opening goal of the game, they gave it back almost immediately. Travis Morin scored through the screen of Brendan Ranford for the 1-0 mark. Just as quickly, Dillon Simpson slapped one through traffic for his fist goal of the season.

OKC continued their march on the power play with a slick strike from the left wing circle by Andrew Miller. An odd man rush a few minutes later would make it 3-1 for the visitors. A tough defensive shift out of Julius Honka led to the Barons' fourth goal. He was unable to navigate a clear which out Texas on its heels.

The Stars got a power play at the midpoint of the period, a spot where they pretty much had to have a goal to stay in it. From the right point, Derek Meech did that just as the advantage expired. Unfortunately, Anton Lander scored on the backhand on a breakaway to kill the momentum for Texas and put OKC back at their three goal lead.

"You have to have a huge bump shift there," said Laxdal. "You have to have big saves at the right time in the game and the line that goes out there has to know this is a big shift to gain some energy."

Travis Morin's aforementioned heroics brought down the hats at the five minute mark of the third and set up a frenetic final fifteen minutes of regulation.

Going 6-on-5 for 99 seconds, the Texas Stars found the game tying goal off the assist of Travis Morin. It was a nice cross-ice pass by Morin that found Rallo and gave him a shot at the net with just a few seconds remaining.

The Stars went to OT and then 3-on-3 OT. Laxdal chose a two forward look.

"Our forwards were creating a lot of energy and we taxed our defenseman in the third."

Ford got the best of Texas for the 6-5 final.

Texas plays OKC again on Wednesday.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Glennie
Ritchie-Dowling-Henderson
Rallo-Faksa-Stransky
Smith-Peters-Hulak

Klingberg-Meech
Wrenn-Fortunus
Gaunce-Honka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Troock, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 6,080.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - October 25 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-1-0-0, 6 pts
#3 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
1-2-1-0, 3 pts
#13 Western Conference
October 25th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Same teams, but Texas hoping for not the same result. Texas needs to look out for Jason Williams and Iiro Pakarinen. The two newcomers to the squad combined for 5 points last night. Old hand Tyler Pitlick had 3 as well.

One would assume Jussi Rynnas gets the start for Texas while Laurent Brossoit laces them up in net for OKC. No morning skate today for either team because of the long travel (by bus) to get here today. Last weekend, Texas arrived into Cedar Park at 4:30 AM after their Friday night game in Bricktown. At least this time both teams will have the same plight.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Barons' Three Goal Second Period Too Much for Texas Stars

The Texas Stars could not overcome a three-goal second period from the Oklahoma City Barons and suffered their first loss on the young season. The final score was 5-3 for the home team Oklahoma City.

Texas was plagued by ill-timed penalties that broke up momentum and gave the Barons two power play goals. Jack Campbell took his first loss of the season, giving up five goals on 26 shots. Goal scorers for the Stars in the contest included defensemen Cameron Gaunce and John Klingberg. Travis Morin picked up his 200th AHL assist and 300th AHL point in the loss.

The game showed that Jason Williams and Iiro Pakarinen are going to be tough competitors for the Barons this season. OKC will play Texas a total of twelve times this season.

The Texas Stars appeared to be ready to continue their undefeated ways in the first period, putting 16 shots on net. The period ended tied at one anyways. A slap pass by Keith Aulie was redirected by Jason Williams for his team-leading fourth goal of the year by the Barons. As the period was ending, Cameron Gaunce's shot from the point blew by Frans Tuohimaa with Brendan Ranford in close to cause havoc. Morin was the only assist on the goal, his 200th AHL assist and 300th AHL point.

The second period collapse for Texas began on the penalty kill. With Gemel Smith serving a too many men penalty, Iiro Pakarinen got a one-timer off the pass from Jason Williams and went up 2-1. Just 28 seconds later, Curtis Hamilton's goal off a 3-on-2 rush by the Barons made it 3-1.

William Wrenn, in his first game of the season, attempted to rally the troops with a spirited fight against Travis Ewanyk. It wouldn't work as Tyler Pitlick snapped in a rebound for his first goal of the year at 11:20. Williams had another assist on the play.

The Stars would break up the run on Jack Campbell with a goal of their own in the last two minutes of the second. John Klingberg found twine down low with assists to Justin Dowling and Brett Ritchie.

The third period would bring another power play goal for OKC's Pakarinen. Straight off the faceoff win by Anton Lander, the rookie found his fourth on the young season.

Things got a little wild late as Steve Pinizzotto went to fight Taylor Peters after a stoppage of play. He picked up a five minute major for cross-checking in the kerfuffle and gave the Stars a huge chance to even things up. Travis Morin took advantage of the opportunity, snapping one past Tuohimaa to make it 5-3. Derek Laxdal pulled Jack Campbell to make it 6-on-3. It wouldn't yield rewards as Texas ended the game with the same two goal deficit.

These same two teams will hit the road and play in Cedar Park tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Ritchie
Smith-Dowling-Glennie
Henderson-Faksa-Stransky
Rallo-Peters-Troock

Klingberg-Meech
Wrenn-Fortunus
Gaunce-Honka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Hulak, Dalhuisen, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 2,582.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - October 24 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-0-0-0, 6 pts
#3 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
0-2-1-0, 1 pt
#14 Western Conference
October 24th at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Somehow through the first month of the season, the Barons and Stars will play more games against each other than they played last spring in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The next three games for both teams are against each other. Add that to last week's battle in OKC and you've got 4 of the team's first six against the same team.

The Barons are still in search of their first win. Since playing Texas last weekend, San Antonio got the better of the Edmonton affiliate to the tune of a 5-4 loss on Saturday night. It was a tough loss as they led 4-2 at home in the second period. They gave up a goal with 2 seconds left in the second period and then gave up two more in the third. This is the last game of their homestand, so they will be extra motivated to win tonight.

Second-year man Andrew Miller is leading the Barons in scoring with four assists. Vet add and former Dallas Stars Jason Williams is leading on goals with three. Some injuries in Edmonton have pulled Richard Bachman up to the Oilers so Laurent Brossoit or Frans Tuohimaa will be the choices in net for Todd Nelson.

On Texas' side of things, injuries in Dallas will make the lineup different than last week for sure. Jyrki Jokipakka will not be featured, making way for the likely debut of Mike Dalhuisen. Dalhuisen will jump Wrenn in the lineup as the Alaska native Wrenn is out with a lower body injury.

With Texas sending Jesse Root down to Idaho, the Stars seem more confident in the condition of Greg Rallo. He may not play this weekend after being out last weekend with an upper body injury, but he could take a spot over Derek Hulak or Gemel Smith if he's healthy.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Rallo, Wrenn (questionable)

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jesse Root Assigned to Idaho; Good News for Rallo?

Forward Jesse Root has been reassigned to the Idhao Steelheads. He did not play in any games during his one week stint in the AHL. That is probably good news for the health of Greg Rallo, who has been out with an upper body injury.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have reassigned forward Jesse Root to their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Root, 24, began the season in training camp with the Texas Stars before being sent to Idaho at the start of the season. He was called up to the Stars on Oct. 15.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Return of Willie Desjardins and Doug Lidster Makes for Special Game in Dallas

Vancouver and Dallas have a unique connection through a trifecta of former Texas Stars coaches
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Regardless of the outcome of last night's game in Dallas, it was going to be a special and meaningful one thanks to the connection forged this summer between Vancouver and the Stars.

After leading the Texas Stars to the Calder Cup, head coach Willie Desjardins and assistant coach Doug Lidster were scooped up by the Canucks to lead the squad after a disappointing year. Last night's contest at the American Airlines Center was the first time Desjardins and Lidster coached against their former organization.

"It's a special game for me," said Coach Desjardins yesterday before the game, a 6-3 Dallas victory. "This is a good organization. I know a lot of guys in the organization, so it is a special place. Right from the start, I knew when this game was going to be."

Desjardins was plucked out of the WHL by Dallas for an associate coaching job behind Marc Crawford in 2010-11. The Crawford era gave way to the Glen Gulutzan era in 2011-12 and Desjardins stayed behind the bench in Big D. He had been in the conversation for the Dallas job but needed that head coaching professional experience according to many.

He got that experience when he took the helm in Cedar Park for the 2012-13 season. It was a peculiar season thanks to the NHL lockout but one that ended in Texas clinching the first seed in the West. An unceremonious exit in Game 5 of the second round gave the team's returning core fuel for a 2013-14 that ended in a Calder Cup.

Coincidentally, one of those who hoisted the Cup in June for Texas played just his second NHL game against the Canucks last night. Curtis McKenzie grew up a Canucks' fan; even at more than eight hours by car, Vancouver was the closest NHL team to his hometown of Golden, BC. He now has an added connection with the coaching staff.

Coach Desjardins is keeping track of his players all over the world, including McKenzie, even with his new responsibilities. He was fully aware of McKenzie's callup and was very proud to hear the news.

"He worked so hard. At one point I didn't even know if he was going to make it into the American League, if he could be a 4th line guy."

McKenzie proved he belonged of course, winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year crown in the AHL.

Coach Lidster extended Desjardins' point, agreeing that he wanted to see his players do well everywhere. He added with a smile, "Except when they play against us."

Joking aside, Lidster is also actively keeping tabs on his former players in Texas and elsewhere.

"I know [Texas] has had some good games to start. I've had some texts with Max, Toby and Morin. You try to keep in touch as much as you can. That's the nature of the hockey world. Sometimes you don't talk to someone for six years and then you end up texting them. It's nice to keep track of them."

Lidster even noted he had reached out to Francis Wathier to congratulate him on the contract in Portland. It's all about keeping connections in the small world of hockey.

Systems clicking in BC

Desjardins and Lidster are bringing the same uptempo game that they are known for to British Columbia. Even in morning skate, Desjardins had the Canucks doing drills with a heavy focus on competition and games to keep things light and engaging. With one coach timing the drills, the white and blue teams competed against each other in a 3-on-0 passing and shooting drill on Eddie Lack. The white team lost and had to put in a few pushups on the ice, but it was all in good fun as everyone skated away with smiles.

"We're getting complete buy-in," said Lidster. "They're trying real hard. It's not rocket science. After a season like last year, a lot of them are struggling with confidence. That's the key thing for me. If you're confident in your game, you can play any system."

Among the holdovers from last season's struggling Canucks was another familiar face to the Texas Stars faithful: Glen Gulutzan.

"It's been an easy transition," said Gulutzan after morning skate yesterday. "It's good for me to see some of the things that they do that I didn't and vice versa. Usually it's not the systems that win but the execution. Every team in the league is playing a little bit differently but 80% of it is the same."

Gulutzan credited Desjardins with being an inclusive coach who is really good at bringing people together.

"He's done a remarkable job of that with this group: what he's implemented and done off-ice. Those are the things that bind teams together."

Desjardins and crew are 3-2-0 after last night's game and will stay in Dallas before heading to St. Louis and beyond on Thursday. The Stars will make two visits to Vancouver, one in December and one in March, but the Canucks will not return to American Airlines Center this year. Well, that is, barring playoffs. And knowing Coach Desjardins' teams, playoffs are probably a decent bet.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Patrik Nemeth Out for Season; "Severe is an Understatement"

Former Texas Star Jamie Oleksiak appears to have cemented his roster spot with news of Nemeth injury
Jamie Oleksiak (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
When asked about Patrik Nemeth's injury, Lindy Ruff replied that "severe is an understatement." With that assessment, it is no surprise that Nemeth will be missing the rest of the 2014-15 regular season for the Dallas Stars.

Jamie Oleksiak appears to have truly won his roster spot for good, although under less than ideal circumstances. For now, Jyrki Jokipakka will also stay in Dallas until Sergei Gonchar is healthy. That could be another several weeks. Estimates at the start of the season put him at 3-5 weeks away, but he hasn't started skating yet after fracturing his ankle in the preseason.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jyrki Jokipakka Recalled to Dallas Stars

As expected, the Dallas Stars have recalled Jyrki Jokipakka this afternoon. Jokipakka will be hte seventh D for Tuesday's game against Vancouver and possibly beyond.

Release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the NHL club has recalled defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Jokipakka, 23, has appeared in three games for Texas this season recording one point (1-0=1), which was a power play goal, and a +1 plus/minus rating. During the 2013-14 season, he appeared in 68 regular season games posting 21 points (5-16=21). In helping Texas to their first Calder Cup championship in 2014, Jokipakka (YIHR-kee YOH-kee-pah-kuh) posted five assists (0-5=5) and a +8 plus/minus rating in 21 postseason games played.

Texas Stars Will Lose a Defenseman to Callup; Who Will It Be?

Patrik Nemeth (Credit: Steven Christy)
In case you missed it, last night's Dallas Stars game was unkind to Patrik Nemeth. Early in the game, R.J. Umberger's skate caught Nemeth on the wrist in the gap between the glove and jersey. He immediately went off the ice and did not return. After the game, Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff told the media Jamie Oleksiak would pull into the lineup and they would be calling someone up from Texas to fill the spot as 7th man.

Now the question is who will go. Texas defensemen on Dallas contract include Jyrki Jokipakka, John Klingberg, Cameron Gaunce and Julius Honka. The rookie Honka is obviously not going. Jokipakka impressed in the preseason. Klingberg was solid but was coming off hip surgery in the summer. Cameron Gaunce has the most NHL experience of the group and could serve as a stabilizing force there. However, he also has a lot of value with this group in Cedar Park as a veteran.

Personally, I think it's Jyrki Jokipakka. If he is the callup, it's quite an accomplishment for both the player and the organization. Jokipakka was a 7th round pick in 2011, a round where there are more misses than hits to be sure.

In Texas, we know that William Wrenn is hurt and the Stars have Mike Dalhuisen on the roster from Idaho. Dalhuisen could get his first AHL action of the season on Friday if Sergei Gonchar, Patrik Nemeth and William Wrenn are all injured at that point.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Rynnas Shutout, Morin Record Tally Vault Texas Stars Past Utica 1-0

Travis Morin sets franchise record with 100th career goal
Travis Morin (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
A tight goalie duel was finished off in the third period with Travis Morin's 100th career AHL goal, all as a Texas Star, for a 1-0 victory over the visiting Utica Comets.

Morin, ever-deflecting of praise, summed it up simply, "It's nice to do it with the same team. Other than that, it's just another goal."

Texas' Jussi Rynnas and Utica's Joacim Eriksson each faced 29 shots on the evening, but Rynnas was just one better for his first shutout as a Texas Star.

"It was an entertaining game from start to finish for back-to-back games," said Coach Laxdal. "It was a good rebound game because we didn't think we were that great last night in Oklahoma City."

Cameron Gaunce added to the level critique of the game, "We knew they weren't a very high scoring team coming in. We gave them more chances than we should have."

The game had a very physical feel to it, despite the fact that the two teams only combined for sixteen penalty minutes. Utica is a team that will finish checks and get physical more often than Texas.

"We've got a tough group of guys," said Gaunce. "We might not have the guys that will drop the gloves at every opportunity but we're a team with a lot of character. If they want to play a strong physical game, we'll use our skill, talent and speed to our advantage."

The Stars and Comets traded power play chances throughout the game until late in the second period when Cameron Gaunce took a tripping call on the penalty kill and moved the advantage to 5-on-3 for Utica.

Veterans Maxime Fortunus and Derek Meech manned the defense for the entire advantage with Travis Morin and Radek Faksa rotating at forward.

"You want guys who are going to be smart on a 5-on-3 and aren't going to be running around," said Morin. "You know you're going to give things up on a 5-on-3 but it's knowing what you're willing to give up. We don't want passes through the crease or back doors."

Laxdal praised the 2-man kill as well, "It's a tough job description. You look at Radek Faksa, blocking shots. It's important to your hockey club and it's not a pretty job. You've got to have that."

The success on the kill vaulted Texas to the only goal of the night early in the third period. Travis Morin describes the play:

"We had a 3-on-2 rush. Ritchie moved it wide to Ranford and I pulled up and went to the back side. Ranford put a nice pass off the pad. The goalie doesn't have a lot of choice but to kick it out to the side. I was lucky enough to be in the right spot and put it back toward the net. Luckily, it went in."

Late in the period, Utica would attempt to get the equalizer but a penalty on former Star Dustin Jeffrey would all but salt it away with 2:18 left. The Comets were unable to pull the goaltender for even a second at the end and Texas set a 3-0 season mark.

Texas is next in action at Oklahoma City on Friday.

Tonight's lines:
Henderson-Faksa-Stransky
Ranford-Morin-Ritchie
Smith-Dowling-Glennie
Hulak-Peters-Troock

Honka-Meech
Jokipakka-Fortunus
Gaunce-Klingberg

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Dalhuisen, Root, Lagace (scratched)
Wrenn, Rallo (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,248.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Utica - October 18 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Utica Comets

Texas Stars
2-0-0-0, 4 pts
#3 Western Conference
v.Utica Comets
2-0-1-0, 5 pts
#2 Western Conference
October 18th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The days of the Utica Comets being a Western Conference doormat could be behind them. Thanks to strong goaltending and building off the momentum of last season's final few months, they have started the season well.

Jacob Markstrom, formerly of San Antonio, was assigned to the Comets this season and he's already 2-0 for the club. It's certainly not where he wanted to be. Last year it looked like Vancouver would go with Markstrom and Eddie Lack in net as a young tandem. That changed when the team picked up veteran goalie Ryan Miller in free agency. Now Markstrom plies his trade in upstate New York.

Former Texas Star Dustin Jeffrey is the leading scorer for the visitors. After the Calder Cup win, he followed Coach Desjardins to British Columbia, signing a one-year deal with the Canucks. He was assigned to Utica and has two goals and an assist in three games.

Another player new to the Comets (but very familiar to at least one Texas Star) is Brendan Gaunce. The younger brother of the Stars' Cameron Gaunce was a first round pick of the Canucks in 2012. In just three games of action with Utica, he has a goal and two assists. Gaunce also leads the team in plus-minus.

Another rookie to watch for is Hunter Shinkaruk. The Alberta native was Vancouver's 2013 first round draft pick. He already has two assist in three games.

The Comets blanked the Rampage last night in San Antonio, surely a nice win for Markstrom, who was last seen in the AHL at the AT&T Center. That means it's likely the Stars will see Joacim Eriksson in net. Eriksson has one game played on the season, a 3-2 OT loss to Toronto. Last season he was 24-24-2 for Utica

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie (callup)

Website: uticacomets.com
Blog (official): Comet Tales
Newspaper: Utica Observer-Dispatch
Twitter: @UticaComets

Friday, October 17, 2014

Campbell Posts First Win in 3-2 Victory Over OKC

Despite giving up an early lead in the second, Texas got their second win of the season off a power play goal by Jyrki Jokipakka for a 3-2 final score. Jack Campbell started his first game of the season and stopped 37 of 39, including 12 in the final period.

Derek Meech scored the first goal of the game very early on. Just 1:45 in, Kevin Henderson's cross-ice pass to Meech ended up in the net behind Laurent Brossoit for the 1-0 lead. Julius Honka picked up his second pro point with an assist on the play.

Derek Hulak, playing in his first game of the season, scored a tap-in off the rebound just 27 seconds later and it looked like Texas was off to the races.

In the second, Texas gave up two goals almost as quickly in the middle of the frame. Jordan Oesterle got his first of the season on the power play at 9:00 and vet Jason Williams evened things just under two minutes later.

Before the end of the period, Jokipakka's power play tally would put the Stars ahead for good. Gemel Smith, who almost didn't make the roster after being in a battle for the final forward spot with Ludwig Karlsson, had the setup pass to Jokipakka for the game-winner. Smith was on a power play unit with Dowling, Glennie, Jokipakka and Honka. That's quite the vote of confidence for the rookie winger from Coach Laxdal.

OKC poured it on in the third period, but Campbell stood tall. Texas went 1/4 on the power play and stopped 4/5 powre plays against. That's a much more typical penalty number for this team this year.

Texas plays Saturday against Utica at home.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Lagace, Rallo, Wrenn, Dalhuisen, Root (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 4,561.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - October 17 2014

Texas Stars Recall G Maxime Lagace, No One Is Hurt Though

Maxime Lagace (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Rookie goalie Maxime Lagace has been recalled from the Idaho Steelheads this morning ahead of Texas's game this evening in Oklahoma City. It is not expected that he will play in tonight's game. Based on their preseason performances, if someone were hurt, I would have expected to see Henrik Kiviaho recalled. That means something else is going on here.

More information on the transaction and its reasons as they become available.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
1-0-0-0, 2 pts
#5 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
0-0-1-0, 1 pt
#12 Western Conference
October 17th at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Admittedly, there isn't a lot of data on either side of this matchup right now. The Barons and Stars have each only played one game on the season. Already though, issues at the NHL level for both clubs have affected the lineups.

In Texas, Curtis McKenzie will miss this weekend's slate of games after being called up to fill a hole vacated by Valeri Nichushkin's injury. In Oklahoma City, stalwart crease crusader Richard Bachman has already been recalled to the Oilers after injury to Viktor Fasth this week. Bachman started the Barons' only game of the season so far, an overtime loss in which he allowed three goals in 63 minutes of work. It will now fall to either Laurent Brossoit or Frans Tuohimaa to take on Texas tonight. The guess would be Brossoit from me.

Following Coach Laxdal's decision from last game to start Jussi Rynnas, that means Jack Campbell will start tonight. Laxdal said that the Stars would start each goalie once in the first two games. Campbell's most recent action in OKC was an OT win in Game 2 of the first round of last year's playoffs.

On the Barons side, their leading scoring is someone Texas fans are already at least a little familiar with. Iiro Pakarinen is a rookie who joined the Oilers this summer on a free agent deal. He was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft by Florida but never signed a contract and was free to go anywhere this year. He chose the Oil and is currently the leading scorer on their AHL team with a goal and an assist. Texas fans will also remember him as the one who scored the OT game winner in the Stars' first preseason game this year. According to Elite Prospects, that wrist shot is one of his strengths and he will be using it against the Stars 12 games this season.

Elsewhere on the Barons roster, there have been some changes too. Former Dallas Star Jason Williams was signed as a veteran forward. His best AHL year was 2011-12 with WBS, where he scored 13 goals and 29 assists in 59 games. Mark Arcobello is centering the third line in Edmonton, so Texas will not see him this go-around. You never know though in the future. Former Stars Austin Fyten and Philip Larsen have both moved on. Trusty blue liner Taylor Fedun has also moved on, now playing in the Sharks org.

If you want the full 411 on all of this stuff, you really ought to read Tend the Farm. I especially recommend their 2014-15 season preview.

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jesse Root and Mike Dalhuisen Recalled from Idaho

Forward Jesse Root and defenseman Mike Dalhuisen have been recalled to Texas from the Idaho Steelheads. The two were both in camp with Texas and signed standard AHL player contracts. This comes on the heels of last night's news that Valeri Nichushkin is expected to be out for Dallas at least a week. That necessitated the callup of Curtis McKenzie and so go the dominoes at forward.

The defensive move is more of a question mark right now. We'll learn more as time goes here.

Texas Stars Report: Raising Four Banners to the Rafters

New acquisitions Julius Honka, Jussi Rynnas and John Klingberg shine in opener while returning players commemorate the Cup win one last time
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The 'Texas Stars Report' on Defending Big D...
ile the Dallas Stars have already played three games on the season, the defending Calder Cup champion Texas Stars (1-0-0-0, 2 pts, T-5th West Conf.) have only laced them up once so far. It was a sellout as the Stars raised a total of four banners to celebrate last year's success.

The team dropped three smaller banners for the West Division crown, the AHL's regular season championship and the Western Conference playoff champs. With all eyes on center ice, Texas unveiled a large green banner declaring their Calder Cup championship.
Read more at Defending Big D...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Curtis McKenzie Back in Dallas with News Nichushkin Not on Trip

Curtis McKenzie in his ATO season (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
It appears the Dallas Stars will need Curtis McKenzie this week. The left winger is on his way to Columbus, where the Dallas Stars will play tonight at 6 PM Central against the Blue Jackets. This comes as news breaks that Valeri Nichushkin is not on the trip with Dallas. That combination of facts now makes the recall make sense.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today forward Curtis McKenzie has been recalled to Dallas.

McKenzie, 23, posted a goal in Texas' season-opening win against Iowa on Saturday. In 2013-14, he won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award, given to the AHL's most outstanding rookie, and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team leading all AHL rookies with 65 points (27 goals, 38 assists) in 75 games played. He added 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 21 postseason contests helping Texas win their first Calder Cup.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Golden, British Columbia was selected by Dallas in the sixth round (159th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

What Kind of Stories Do You Want To Hear About This Year?

Last season's Calder Cup rally (Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)
Over the past several years, I've written a lot of feature length stories about the Texas Stars. Some of them have been here on 100 Degree Hockey. Many others have been published on TheAHL.com, DallasStars.com, and NHL.com.

I want to make sure that I'm using the credentials that I have to tell the types of stories that you want to hear about. Over my six years as a member of the Texas Stars media corps, I've written about the unexpected connection between Colton Sceviour and coach Jeff Pyle. In a two-parter at the start of the 2013-14 season, I interviewed Scott White at length about his path to Cedar Park and the things he's done here to make Texas so successful (Part 1, Part 2).

Two years ago, I wrote for TheAHL.com's AHL On the Beat about Toby Petersen, Taylor Vause and their shared battle with Type I diabetes. That same story was published to NHL.com.

Last year's historic season gave me a chance to chronicle each of the original Stars still with the team, all for TheAHL.com again. First, I chatted with Travis Morin about the amazing season he was having to that point. Amazingly, it got even better for the eventual MVP.

On the eve of the All-Star game, I spoke to Colton Sceviour very long distance to learn more about his five years with the Texas Stars. Sceviour, of course, was in St. John's, Newfoundland.

And finally, as the playoffs got started, I talked to Maxime Fortunus for another AHL On the Beat feature on the Stars' captain getting ready for a playoff run that, unbeknownst to us at the time, would end in a Calder Cup, Fortunus's first.

All this to say, I'm getting ready for another season of great in-depth player, coach and staff interviews. I want to know: What types of stories do you want to see here? Who deserves a feature that you've been wondering about? Are there any hidden stories that you've always wanted to know more about? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to cover this team for you just the way you want.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Curtis McKenzie Reassigned to Texas Stars Less than 24 Hours Later

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars have reassigned Curtis McKenzie to the Texas Stars. The second-year forward spent less than 24 hours on the NHL roster. Texas is next in action on Friday in Oklahoma City. Dallas plays in Columbus Tuesday night.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Curtis McKenzie Earns First NHL Callup to Dallas Stars

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Second-year forward Curtis McKenzie will be the first callup of the 2014-15 season for the NHL's Dallas Stars. The winner of last year's Rookie of the Year honors had the Texas Stars first goal of the season in last night's win.

There was no indication that anyone among the forward ranks was injured in last night's game, so it will remain to be seen where McKenzie fits in. Dallas has been riding with just one scratch so far this season. Last night it was Patrick Eaves. On Thursday, it was Erik Cole. This could also be the case of Dallas heading on a road trip and wanting an extra body on short notice. It can't hurt to go all the way to 23 on the roster with games in Columbus and Pittsburgh this week.

Texas already has two forwards scratched so one of either Derek Hulak or Gemel Smith will jump into the lineup if McKenzie is not back by Friday's game against OKC.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Texas Stars Raise Calder Cup Banners, Beat Iowa 4-2

John Klingberg and rookie Julius Honka each score first AHL goals in win
Justin Dowling had a goal and an assist. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
In front of a sellout crowd, the home team got its last glory from their championship year and managed to overcome penalties and a sluggish first period to win 4-2 over the Iowa Wild on opening night. In a pregame ceremony, the Stars raised four banners to commemorate their 2013-14 season, which culminated in a Calder Cup championship last June.

"It was obviously a special moment," said Justin Dowling, who had a goal and an assist tonight. "I've never been a part of something like that. I know it was special for the other guys too. It was good for the organization and the fans too."

Coach Laxdal was satisfied with the effort on opening night, "The guys had a great effort tonight. You're always going to be a little unclear what you'll see [on opening night]. I thought our guys came out and picked up where they left off last year."

Jussi Rynnas got the start and picked up his first win in green and gold. Julius Honka and John Klingberg both scored their first AHL goals on the power play as the home side outshot Iowa 36-22. On the negative side, the Stars gave up eight power play opportunities.

Laxdal wasn't worried about the number of penalties for his squad. The Wild drew the exact same number of minors. "It's early in the season so the referees want to try to establish a standard."

Brendan Ranford added, "We're so used to playing in the playoffs. Some of those plays aren't penalties; they're just hard plays."

The Texas Stars started their title defense with a less than stellar first period, perhaps a hangover from the banner raising ceremony. The only goal of the period came off the stick of Tyler Graovac, who split the defense and went five hole on Jussi Rynnas at the halfway point of the frame. It was a power play goal with Matej Stransky in the box for goalie interference.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Coach Laxdal indicated it was a bit of a feeling-out period, "It's the first game of the season, and guys have to find their way a bit. Iowa played last night, so they know exactly where they're coming off."

The home-side offense got started in the second period. Reigning Rookie of the Year Curtis McKenzie found twine on a greasy play at the net seven minutes in to tie things. Curtis celebrated the goal on his back after cramming it in on the left post and falling over in the scrum. It wasn't a power play goal on the board but came 12 seconds after a power play had ended for Texas.

Justin Dowling scored a pretty goal just a few minutes later off some nice work by Jyrki Jokipakka to keep the play onside and by Brendan Ranford to get the puck to the right spot. Neither of them got assist though as Ranford's pass to Glennie went on to Maxime Fortunus at the right wing half wall. Dowling deflected Fortunus's incoming pass behind John Curry for the go-ahead goal.

"It was a great play by Jokipakka to start it all off," said Ranford. "Even though he didn't get an assist, he kept it in on the wall. I just tried to make a play to the middle."

The period scoring was capped by a Texas Stars power play goal. That's rather notable since the Stars had spent most of the second period on the penalty kill.

Julius Honka got his first professional goal with under a minute left in the middle stanza. From the point with Brendan Ranford screening in front, the Stars took a 3-1 lead off the stick of the rookie 18-year old.

Honka had a few moments where the speed of play seemed to overwhelm him, but overall he was solid. Honka said, "I got used to how you have to move your feet and how fast they are coming at you, so it wasn't that bad."

The Stars continued the march to the penalty box in the third period, taking one early and one late. Iowa did score to cut the lead to 3-2 for Texas early in the frame. However, on the power play late, John Klingberg scored his first AHL goal on a powerful one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Travis Morin.

Texas held on through an Iowa 6-on-4 and moved to 1-0 with five days' rest ahead.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ritchie
Glennie-Dowling-Ranford
Stransky-Faksa-Henderson
Troock-Peters-Rallo

Gaunce-Klingberg
Meech-Honka
Fortunus-Jokipakka

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Hulak, Smith, Wrenn (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - October 11 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
v.Iowa Wild
0-1-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
October 11th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Finally, meaningful hockey returns to the Cedar Park Center as the Texas Stars open the defense of the franchise's first Calder Cup championship against the Iowa Wild tonight.

The first matter at hand for all those in attendance will be the banner raising for the championship and the other assorted accolades of last year's team. In total, Texas will raise four banners in a pregame ceremony: West Division champs, Western Conference champs for regular season, Western Conference playoff champs and the biggest banner, the Calder Cup championship. According to the team, the game is very close to selling out. Be sure to plan ahead for any traffic that may ensue and remember that there may be some new and unexpected traffic patterns with the parking fees removed. Be in your seat by 7:00 to ensure you will see the entire ceremony.

With all the pomp and circumstance at the start, Texas will have to make sure it does not fall flat against a team that will surely be motivated by having to wait through a banner raising ceremony.

The Iowa Wild finished in last place in the Western Conference last year and are picked by various sources, including The Hockey News, to miss the playoffs yet again. The Wild don't return a lot of banner players. Top scorer from a year ago, Zack Phillips, had only 33 points among all 76 games. He was also a team-worst (and possibly league-worst) minus-30. If there is anywhere the Wild could look to improve, it should be on offense. Last year's squad finished worst in the league with just 169 goals, 13 behind the next closest teams. By comparison, league leader Binghamton scored over a hundred more, totaling 276 over 76 games.

In net for Iowa, there are two returning players. Johan Gustafsson, a sixth round pick by Minnesota, played his first North American season last year after several years in Sweden. John Curry, an undrafted 30 year old journeyman netminder, appears to be his backup. Curry split time between the ECHL and AHL last year but also got into two NHL games with all the netminding injury woes in the Twin Cities. Gustafsson started last night in San Antonio.

For Texas's part, you can read my season preview here on Defending Big D. Tonight it's about just getting into a groove with this crew and making sure that there is no hangover from the ceremony. You want to have a good start in this game and win it because there are five days to stew on it if you don't.

Stars injury/call up report:
Rallo, Glennie (questionable)

Wild Web Resources:
Website: iowawild.com
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild
Twitter: @IowaWildFish (former Stars PBP Josh Fisher)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Texas Stars Report: The Calder Cup Defense Begins

Can the Texas Stars avoid the championship hangover and repeat as AHL champs?
Credit: Colin Peddle/AHL
The 'Texas Stars Report' on Defending Big D...
The Texas Stars know they've got a big target on their back this season as they start the defense of their first Calder Cup championship this Saturday against the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild).

"You go from being the hunters to the hunted," said new head coach Derek Laxdal. "We have to have that mindset as a group."

The challenge with a team coming off a championship season is that every team will give you their best effort. Another challenge is managing the sense of entitlement that could creep into a group that wants to rest on its laurels. Coach Laxdal is not worried about that with the veteran leadership group that he has in Texas, which includes captain Maxime Fortunus, Travis Morin, Derek Meech, Cameron Gaunce and others.
Read more at Defending Big D...

Texas Stars Set Opening Night Roster

Not many surprises among the group of 23
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced their final 23 man roster for opening night on Saturday. The final position battle was for the 14th forward spot between Ludwig Karlsson and Gemel Smith. The rookie Smith won the matchup and will stay in Cedar Park for the time being. Karlsson was assigned to Idaho yesterday.

Don't read too much into the alternate captains listed on this roster. The team will likely rotate As among several players. These are just the two they chose for the opening night.

Here's the roster by position in alphabetical order:
Forwards:
#10 Justin Dowling
#29 Radek Faksa
#15 Scott Glennie
#8 Kevin Henderson
#39 Derek Hulak
#16 Curtis McKenzie
#23 Travis Morin “A”
#25 Taylor Peters
#27 Greg Rallo
#19 Brendan Ranford
#20 Brett Ritchie
#28 Matej Stransky
#11 Branden Troock
#14 Gemel Smith

Defensemen:
#18 Maxime Fortunus “C”
#24 Cameron Gaunce
#7 Julius Honka
#3 Jyrki Jokipakka
#4 John Klingberg
#9 Derek Meech “A”
#2 William Wrenn

Goalies:
#1 Jack Campbell
#40 Jussi Rynnas

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flames' New Mascot is Frightening, Knocked Out a Fireman

(Credit: Megan Famer/Glens Falls Post-Star)
UPDATE: The Flames have issued a statement apologizing for their "thoughtlessness" in producing this skit. More here.

For any Texas Stars fans hoping for the addition of a mascot to the game entertainment, be careful what you wish for. The picture above is the Adirondack Flames' "Scorch", the newest mascot in the AHL. This story comes to us courtesy of the Glens Falls Post-Star from Diana C. Nearhos.

The picture, as you can see, shows Scorch overpowering a fireman, who lies lifelessly on the ground in front of him. I'm no PR master but I think that a mascot who is shown lording over a fireman is a bad move. Firemen are consistently placed in the top three if not directly at the top of the rankings in terms of most admired professions in America.

The video is even worse:



Twitter agreed:



Media Day Notes: Avoiding the Hangover, Improving on Award-Winning Season

Coach Derek Laxdal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Getting ready for the season, the Texas Stars held media day on Wednesday. New coach Derek Laxdal and several players talked with the assembled media from the area, including 100 Degree Hockey.

Avoiding the championship hangover

Obviously a lot of questions to the group in general about making sure that there is no sense of entitlement among the group and asking how to manage this season's expectations after last year's successes.

Coach Laxdal has the team in the right mindset to excel again.

"I've been pretty fortunate the past few years to be in a situation where I have a championship team coming back the next season. You go from being the hunters to the hunted. We have to have that mindset as a group."

Curtis McKenzie added, "We're going to get the best effort from teams. You look at Grand Rapids last year. They were going to get every team's best effort."

With so many individual high-performers in the group, Laxdal is having to balance that just the same as any AHL coach. Having Dallas sure to pick up one or two of these players during the season and seeing what many of them did last year, it's going to be a balancing act between team and individual success.

"There's individual expectations for players trying to improve their game and get called up to the Dallas Stars. There's expectations for the organization that we want to be a strong group day by day.

"We break down the season into eight game segments, so we have small goals in place [for those]. We want to win the Calder Cup, but we have a lot of work."

Laxdal called out a strong veteran group that includes captain Maxime Fortunus, reigning MVP Travis Morin, Derek Meech, Cameron Gaunce and others as a huge reason why he believes they will contend for another cup.

"Our group of veterans has been outstanding. Usually coming back from a championship season, you get the hangover effect. Guys theink they're better than they are. Our group has been outstanding in practice and that sets the tone."

Morin, McKenzie on improving on award-winning season

How do you improve on a year where you won the AHL's MVP trophy for both the regular season and the playoffs and led the league in points? Do you have to approach the game any differently now that every other team in the league has you circled in red on their lineup chart before the game?

For Travis Morin, he's just taking it in stride. It's basically what you'd expect for the sixth-year Texas Star. Never one to make a big scene or be too outspoken, Morin is just going to focus on playing his game the same way he did last year. The big change there of course was the advice Coach Desjardins gave him in training camp to attack the play more. It made a big difference as he tacked on 32 goals and 56 points.

"It's all going to come down to team-wise how we gel and same with my linemates and the power play unit," said Morin, deflecting to his teammates. "I have the expectation of myself to go play my game and let the chips fall where they may. I will obviously be getting covered a little bit more by top lines, checking lines and top D pairs. If coaches want to play it that way, it's fine. It opens up for other lines to contribute."

Reigning AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie is laser focused, it seems, after a strong Dallas camp. He's looking ot get that first NHL callup this season and knows what Lindy Ruff is expecting from him in order to get it.

"They said to make sure I come back here working really hard, making quick decisions and treat the games here as if I were at the NHL level: moving the puck quickly and working hard around the net."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Karlsson, Root and Dalhuisen Assigned To Idaho Steelheads

Mike Dalhuisen, Jesse Root and Ludwig Karlsson have been assigned to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this afternoon. Dalhuisen and Root both signed AHL deals before heading down. Karlsson is on contract to Dallas. Karlsson and Gemel Smith were locked in a battle for the last roster spot. Smith appears to have won.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have assigned forwards Ludwig Karlsson, Jesse Root, and defensemen Mike Dalhuisen to their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

The move reduces the Stars training camp roster to 23 players overall.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CHL Folds; Seven Teams, Including Allen, Join ECHL

A fresh faced Jordie Benn in his first season with Texas.
Benn played for the Allen Americans in 2009-10. (Credit: Syracuse Crunch)
Well, it finally happened. The CHL has folded and its seven member teams have been accepted into the ECHL for the 2014-15 season. This solidifies the AA level in North American hockey and is great news for a lot of surely-worried hockey front office staff member across the CHL.

Brad Ralph, GM and head coach of the Steelheads, said last week when rumors of the absorbtion were swirling: "I believe it would be a good thing if we can absorb the Central League teams as long as those are solid markets. You want stable franchises you can rely on for jobs, the fans, and the players. You want to build a strong league with great franchises."

The Allen Americans, who were affilaited with Dallas and Texas from 2009-11, were one of the seven teams. They were also the most recent champion of the now-defunct CHL.

Two important things to note for the Texas Stars here are...

  1. The Allen Americans were not the Stars CHL affilaite and have not been since 2011.
  2. The Idaho Steelheads are the Stars' ECHL affiliate.

Surely more to come over the next few days.

Here's the release:
The ECHL announced on Tuesday that the League’s Board of Governors has approved the Membership applications of the Allen Americans, Brampton Beast, Missouri Mavericks, Quad City Mallards, Rapid City Rush, Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder for admission to the ECHL.

The seven expansion teams will begin play in the ECHL this season, giving the League 28 teams in 20 states and one Canadian province for its 27th season of operation, which begins on Friday, Oct. 17 and runs through Saturday, April 11.

The applicants were approved at a special meeting of the ECHL Board of Governors in Chicago on Tuesday.

“The ECHL is very pleased to welcome these new Members to the League,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “These additions strengthen our base in the center of the country and give the ECHL, for the first time, a true national presence. It expands our ability to act as a development league and more closely aligns our number of teams with both the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.

“There will be logistical challenges in the short term, however, in the long term, it is certainly in the best interest of the ECHL, the new Members and minor-league hockey in general,” McKenna added.

Updates to the 2014-15 ECHL playing schedule, divisional alignment and the format for the 2015 Kelly Cup Playoffs will be released at a later date.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Texas Stars Send Troy Vance, Henrik Kiviaho and Maxime Lagace to Idaho

Troy Vance (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Three quick and expected assignments today as the Texas Stars trimmed their roster further. Rookie defenseman Troy Vance and rookie goalies Henrik Kiviaho and Maxime Lagace are all headed to Idaho this afternoon. All three played in Friday's game against OKC.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Texas Stars Cut Seven From Training Camp

James Livingston (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have cut seven players from their training camp roster following this weekend's preseason games. They are forwards Jason Bast, Colton Beck, James Livingston, Wade MacLeod and Steve Quailer, along with defensemen Randy Cure and Charlie Dodero.

This leave 29 players on the roster. Some of the players still remaining in Texas who could be assigned to Idaho include goaltenders Henrik Kiviaho and Maxime Lagace. At defense, Mike Dalhuisen and Troy Vance are still on roster. Dalhuisen played big minutes with Julius Honka on Friday. Forward Jesse Root is also still in camp. Coach Laxdal indicated there is a battle going on for a roster spot between Gemel Smith and Ludwig Karlsson. The loser will head to Idaho.

Texas Stars End Preseason With 6-1 Throttling of Rampage

Three goals from defenseman point to potential strong suit on the team...
Maxime Fortunus had two goals. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars defense showed off what should be a strength of the team this season, scoring in bunches from distance. John Klingberg opened the scoring and Maxime Fortunus added two of his own from the point to defeat the San Antonio Rampage in both team's final preseason action.

"We have some good [new] guys like Honka and Klingberg," said captain Fortunus, who scored two goals and earned first star honors. "They're new blood that's going to help our offense a lot. They are good defensively at the same time. We've always been a team that's good in our own end, and that's how we generate offense."

The Stars iced a lineup very close to what they expect to put out against Iowa in this Saturday's season opener. The Rampage put a lot of tryout players into the contest as they worked to determine who would make their 2014-15 squad.

"It was a chance to bump some lines around," said Coach Laxdal. "There are a few spots being fought for here, Karlsson and Smith trying to establish themselves in the lineup. We had some good situations. We have a good core group of players who can bring it every night."

The power play, which was the best in the AHL last season, was hot today with two goals to their credit.

"Teams are going to look to stop it for sure," said Fortunus, reflecting on last year's success. "We're just going to do our thing. We are going to go out there and outwork the other team. It's about our power play."

Goaltending looked solid again as Jussi Rynnas started and Jack Campbell finished. The tandem only allowed one goal on 29 shots.

John Klingberg opened the scoring in the first period. The only goal of the frame was assisted by Brendan Ranford as he slid the puck up to Klingberg at the point off a faceoff scrum. His shot beat Houser for the 1-0 lead after twenty. Shots were 11 to 6 for Texas.

In the second, penalties started to affect the game. Many of those Rampage skaters trying to break into the lineup were finishing their checks with frequency. Even some who aren't fighting for a spot, like Vincent Trocheck, were dropping the shoulder.

Curtis McKenzie scored a pretty one on a defensive breakdown by the Rampage in the second. Derek Meech left a drop pass for Justin Dowling at the top of the left wing circle. He quickly rifled it over to an uncovered Curtis McKenzie, who scored on the one-timer for a 2-0 lead.

Late in the period, the captain, Maxime Fortunus, dropped two from distance to set the score at 4-0. His first was a power play goal, assisted by the same Justin Dowling and Brett Ritchie. Two minutes later he scored off a deft play by Radek Faksa to slip a pass back to the right point. A ready Fortunus beat Houser farside on a Howitzer of a shot for the 4-0 lead.

Texas got into penalty trouble itself in the final frame. Taylor Peters and Curtis McKenzie found themselves in the box for a San Antonio 5-on-3. AHL vet Mark Mancari scored from the point as well to break up the shutout and cut the lead to 4-1 for Texas.

The Stars would engage their special teams once again late in the period. On the power play, Justin Dowling would score for his third point of the night off a brutal turnover in the slot by San Antonio. The Stars ended up practicing their penalty kill late in the game, ceding another 5-on-3 but not breaking.

Radek Faksa added an empty netter to make the final 6-1.

Texas will take a day off tomorrow and hit the ice for practice again on Tuesday. They will open their regular season schedule on Saturday against Iowa.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dowling-Ritchie
Ranford-Hulak-Troock
Henderson-Faksa-Stransky
Peters-Karlsson-Smith

Gaunce-Fortunus
Klingberg-Jokipakka
Honka-Meech

Rynnas
Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Full scratches and injuries will return for the regular season.

Scott Glennie and Greg Rallo are day-to-day and were held out this weekend to get them rest. They could practice this Tuesday. Monday is a day off for the team.

Travis Morin was given a maintenance day after playing in so many preseason games for Dallas.

Today's attendance was 2,640 .

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-1-0 preseeason
v.San Antonio Rampage
1-0-0-0 preseason
Ocotber 5th at 3:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The final preseason tuneup for Texas will be as close to the opening roster as Coach Laxdal can manage. That will be a little easier with the final announcement yesterday that Brenden Dillon and Cody Eakin would not play in this game against the Rampage this afternoon. Coach Ruff had suggested that the pair of recent signees could get into the game for a shot at more preseason action, but it seems as though there was no technical way to make the transfer work at the NHL level. They both headed back to Dallas with the team last night.

The game will be a good opportunity for Coach Laxdal to show us his interpretation of lines and combinations. Coach Desjardins had his style and Laxdal will no doubt want to impress his own on the team. Regardless of that, there is undeniable chemistry in certain pairings that we are likely to see again. I'd put money on AHL MVP Travis Morin and ROY Curtis McKenzie sticking together. Brendan Ranford will probably take the third spot on that line as he did in the playoffs. Similarly, Justin Dowling will probably center Brett Ritchie. The 'Czeching' line will likely stay together, a powerful third line with Matej Stransky, Radek Faksa and Kevin Henderson. Finally, Brenden Troock and Taylor Peters had good chemistry in the preseason, so that would make a fine pairing on the last line.

Put it all together, and this is my educated guess:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Glennie-Dowling-Ritchie
Stransky-Faksa-Henderson
Rallo-Peters-Troock
On defense, you've got seven guys who could play for right now. With Sergei Gonchar injured in Dallas, Jamie Oleksiak stays put with the NHL club. William Wrenn will probably be on his way to Boise once the dominoes fall and Gonchar is healthy.

For now though...
Gaunce-Jokipakka
Meech-Honka
Fortunus-Klingberg
Wrenn
It's unclear what sort of lineup the Rampage will bring. Dan Ellis played the entire game last night against OKC, a 4-3 win. Michael Houser will probably factor into the game at some point.

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Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)