Saturday, November 29, 2014

Curtis McKenzie Headlines Tight 4-3 Texas Stars Win

Home win breaks eight-game losing streak, puts Texas above .500 on the season

Curtis McKenzie is a huge difference maker at the AHL level, and he proved it tonight. The winger was on the ice for every one of the Stars' goals and scored the game winner in Texas' win against Iowa tonight in Cedar Park. After losing eight straight, the Stars beat the Iowa Wild 4-3 and never trailed in the game. The Stars last collected a full two points on November 8th.

"It shows how tough it is to win in this league," said Coach Laxdal. "When you're at the bottom of that curve trying to get a win, teams feast on you a bit. Give our guys credit for getting that fourth goal and defending to win."

After starting on a line with Justin Dowling and Scott Glennie, McKenzie switched over to the Travis Morin and Brendan Ranford line. He was a sprak plug on both lines and scored the game winner in the third period despite starting the day in Dallas.

"I got back just in time for pregame meal. I got to fly this time though," said McKenzie, who is racking up the frequent flyer miles this season.

It's a interesting adjustment for McKenzie, who has a very different role in Dallas than here in Cedar Park, where he says he takes "more offensive risks."

With the win, Texas collected four of six points in their three-game Thanksgiving stretch. They also get a little bit more confidence and swagger into the locker room.

"If you saw Jussi [Rynnas] there after the game, I thought we won the Calder Cup again," said McKenzie. "You gotta love guys that compete that hard."

Coach Laxdal added, "That winning feeling in the dressing room is outstanding. That passion brings confidence. Confidence is huge and hopefully this can breed confidence in the team."

The Stars' power play struck first in the contest. Three shots in rapid succession came as Greg Rallo drove the net hard. Rallo was the one who finished the play, roofing the puck over Jonas Gustafsson for the 1-0 lead. Julius Honka went next, slamming one home from the point off the pass from newly-arrived Curtis McKenzie.

"We try to play the puck to the net and shoot as much as we can," said Honka, who claimed he didn't have a spot picked out on the goal. "Hopefully it went in."

Iowa would cut the lead later in the period though. Christian Folin would beat Rynnas up high to set the score at 2-1. The Wild appeared to have another goal as the first period ended, but time expired before the puck entered the net. It wouldn't matter that much as Iowa would get their goal back as the second period opened. Zack Mitchell was the benefactor of a poor play by Jussi Rynnas. The Finn netminder went to play a dump-in at the right wing circle and left the puck Jordan Schroeder, who easily fed the puck right to Mitchell. He buried the shot for the 2-2 tie.

Just as quickly, Travis Morin charged in off the faceoff to beat Gustafsson high on the far side, picking a corner from a shallow angle. There were just ten seconds between the two goals.

Michael Keranen evened things up later in the period with a rebound on a loose puck in Rynnas' crease. The score was tied at three heading into the final period of play.

Curtis McKenzie's big goal pushed the Stars ahead for good in the final period. Off the beautiful pass from Brendan Ranford in the corner, a streaking McKenzie on bent knee wired the puck past Gustafsson on a one-timer.

"It was a pass to me," said McKenzie. "I was screaming the whole way down the ice that it was for me."

Texas locked down the defense in the final ten minutes allowing just seven Iowa shots in the entire third period. The Stars were perfect on special teams to boot. They scored on their only power play and shut down the Iowa power play on two tries.

The Stars will next play Utica at home on Wednesday.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Valentine-Wrenn

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka (call up)
Smith, Dalhuisen (scratched)
Ritchie (lower body)

Tonight's attendance was 4,186.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - November 29 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
6-6-6-0, 18 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Iowa Wild
5-13-1-0, 11 pts
#15 Western Conference
November 29th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

How many ways can you say win? The Iowa Wild are literally the worst team in the league. They have a points percentage of 0.289, earning just five wins on the season. They've already had a coach fired owing to their poor performance. Texas absolutely has to beat this team. If they don't, they will stretch their losing streak to nine. I don't know what happens after that. How much rope does Coach Laxdal have here?

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Ritchie (questionable, lower body)

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Texas Stars Make OT But Lose Eighth Straight Game

Texas breaks power play drought but can't get the win
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas broke an 0-for-24 power play drought with Maxime Fortunu's second period goal. That wasn't enough to break their winless streak though, which stretched the eight games with the loss. The Stars have earned four points during the skid thanks to four overtime losses but are still without a win since November 8th.

Derek Meech said, "Frustrating is an understatement," after the game when referring to both the loss and the streak.

Here's the release:
Richard Bachman’s 34 saves were the difference on Friday night as the Oklahoma City Barons slipped past the Texas Stars in overtime for the second straight game, 2-1, at Cedar Park Center.

Brandon Davidson’s first goal of the season, a rocket from the slot at the 3:02 mark of the extra session, clinched the contest for the Barons (10-4-2-2). This was the fourth consecutive meeting between Texas and Oklahoma City that needed overtime to determine a winner.

Texas (6-6-6-0) will host the Iowa Wild on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Park Center.

A Barons counter-attack rush late in the first set up trailer Dylan Simpson for a wrist shot from the slot past Stars goaltender Jussi Rynnas, and opened up the scoring to give Oklahoma City the early lead with 5:31 left in the frame.

In period two, Stars captain Maxime Fortunus capitalized on a Texas man-advantage notching his third goal of the season from the left circle at the 16:40 mark to even the contest.

Outside of the offense Rynnas and the former Star, Bachman, traded saves back and forth throughout the night in the goaltending duel.

The Stars went 1-for-5 on the power play. The Texas defense stopped the league’s second-best power play, killing off all five penalties faced on the night.

Rynnas stopped 21-of-23 shots faced between the pipes for the Stars. Richard Bachman was 34-for-35 in net for the Barons.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Valentine-Wrenn

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Dalhuisen (scratched)
Ritchie (lower body)

Tonight's attendance was 3,957.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - November 28 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
6-6-5-0, 17 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
9-4-2-2, 22 pts
#7 Western Conference
November 28th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

With the Stars' win, loss and overtime loss numbers all nearly equal, it's not time to try and smooth over the rough spots. If you go by the raw numbers of it, the Stars have lost almost twice as many games as they've won now. The team that hit the ice this season was never going to be the same one that won the Calder Cup last year. However, with the players that were expected, it looked like things would end up with a playoff berth and a chance to defend their Cup. The Stars even had the look of a team that could grab home ice advantage in the first round, at least, by winning the division. Now with challengers to the crown in OKC and San Antonio. That looks less likely. In fact, with resurgent Rockford and Utica squads and many playoff regulars also showing up for the party, the Stars are outside the playoff picture.

That wasn't the case as the month began. Despite only playing seven games due to a light November, Texas owned the West Division's best record. Their current seven game freefall has put them outside the playoffs and has riled up their head coach, Derek Laxdal. After Wednesday night's OT loss against OKC, Laxdal called out both his power play and his depth forwards for not contributed when it matters. He also pointed out that Texas is not an offensive team, which is a very interesting statement given the firepower at their disposal.

It remains to be seen if Brett Ritchie will jump into the lineup tonight after being sidelined with a lower body injury since the Grand Rapids trip. That could be some added firepower in the top six.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Ritchie (lower body, questionable)

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Barons Hand Texas Stars Seventh Straight Loss

Overtime contest sets new record for franchise losing streak

Mike Dalhuisen squares off with Kale Kessy (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly with just ten minutes left in the Texas Stars contest against the Barons tonight. Texas was looking to break up a six game losing skid and was in good position to do so, leading 2-0 on the Barons with nine minutes left.

Coach Laxdal did not mince words postgame after the Stars allowed three unanswered goals, lost 3-2 in overtime, and stretched their losing streak to a franchise-worst seven games.

"We get up 2-0 in our building we have to be able to seal the game."

Laxdal was happy with the effort from his veteran netminder and the two forwards who scored but had no problem calling out some of the players who are not finding the scoresheet early on in this season. Bottom six scoring continues to be a problem as the top five scorers have more than half the club's goals.

"Let's be honest," said Laxdal. "We aren't a high offense team. When we get a high quality scoring chance, we have to make sure they count."

Though Texas should never have gotten to overtime after leading by two, Laxdal did note that the game-winning goal by Jordan Oesterle was a "distinct kicking motion" after he reviewed it on video. He added, "It should have been a disallowed goal. Obviously they didn't review it, and we can't do anything about it now."

Captain Maxime Fortunus, who played his 650th AHL game tonight, commented, "It's one of those plays where when you're in a slump things will happen in a game. Playing good in a game is not good enough. We have to be sharp for 60 minutes. It's being mentally ready. A lot of times in a slump you play to avoid making mistakes."

Texas had chances to open the scoring in the first period but could not capitalize on multiple power plays. Coach laxdal called out his power play unit after the game for being unwilling to adapt to his systems:

"[I'm] happy with the penalty killing and disappointed with the power play. We have a group of players that want to stick to the same system, and they don't want to be willing to try anything else. We have to be open to have a different look on the power play. We had some shots tonight, but teams are going to pre-scout you and we have to be willing to make the adjustment."

The Stars appeared ready in the second period as they outshot the Barons 17-9 in the frame and opened the scoring on a beautiful goal by Justin Dowling. The center swooped in left to right across a crowded slot and did a toe-drag backhand against the grain on Brossoit for the 1-0 lead.

In the third, Travis Morin scored his team-leading eighth off a brilliant pass from Brendan Ranford. The young winger was crushed on the boards but still managed to get the puck away to Morin, who beat Brossoit glove-side high.

Within a few minutes, the score was tied. Andrew Miller scored on a cram play at the net to make it 2-1. Then Iiro Pakrinen beat Rynnas on a far post shot that chipped the paint and made it 2-2.

The overtime goal was a fluky one as Jordan Oesterle got credit for the shot that slipped by the left pad of Rynnas with just under three minutes left in the OT frame.

Texas drops below .500 for the first time this season and will face this same Barons squad on Friday.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Wrenn-Valentine
Honka-Meech

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Root, Troock, Karlsson (scratched)
Ritchie (lower body)

Coach Laxdal on using Mike Dalhuisen, a defenseman, at forward: "You have to earn your ice time, and we feel Dalhuisen has. He brings a physical presence and spark there."

Tonight's attendance was 5,187.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - November 26 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
6-6-4-0, 16 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
8-4-2-2, 20 pts
#7 Western Conference
November 26th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Break the streak. That's what the Stars must do tonight. To avoid setting a new franchise record for worst losing streak in team history, they must win. Get the "W" however it may come. Desperation time is here, and this group will need to dig deep to put itself back where it belongs in the playoff picture.

The good news for Texas is that reinforcements are here. Jussi Rynnas and Kevin Henderson both practiced yesterday after missing this weekend's games. Brett Ritchie is close on a lower body injury he suffered in Grand Rapids. And finally, Curtis McKenzie has been assigned from Dallas.

On the other side of the puck, Oklahoma City has had a great November. After starting the month at 2-2-2-0, they've gone 6-2-0-2, picking up points in 8 of 10 and maintaining a .700 points percentage. Texas has a .389 points percentage over the same span.

While former Star Richard Bachman has been the workhorse in net, Laurent Brossoit is also performing well, if not better. He has a higher save percentage and a lower goal against than Bachman but just hasn't gotten the run support. Brossoit is 2-3-0 while Bachman is 4-1-3.

This could be a dangerous game for the Stars or the Barons on special teams. Both teams sport top power plays and bottom penalty kills. The Barons are ranked second on the PP overall and top on the road at 32.1%.

Players to watch for the Barons include Brad Hunt. The defenseman has only played eight games this season but has a point in every one. He ranks third in defenseman scoring in the league, putting up 4-11=15. That's nearly two points per game.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka (call up)
Ritchie (lower body, questionable)

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taylor Peters, Maxime Lagace Head to the ECHL

The Texas Stars have assigned Taylor Peters and Maxime Lagace to the ECHL. Peters will head to Idaho. Lagace will mind the net in Missouri, which joined the ECHL after the CHL folded this summer.

The Peters assignment is a little puzzling. He was a solid bottom six forward last year but seems to have been jumped by several forwards in Derek Laxdal's list. The Stars have been searching for a home for Lagace for at least a month. He finds that home in Missouri.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have assigned two players to the ECHL as forward Taylor Peters will be joining the team’s affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, and goaltender Maxime Lagace will be joining the Missouri Mavericks.

Peters, 22, has posted one assist in 11 games with Texas this year. Last season, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound center tallied 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 70 games for the Stars. Prior to his pro career, Peters played parts of five seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Portland Winter Hawks.

Lagace, 21, dressed in his first two career AHL games this past weekend and made his AHL debut on Nov. 21, in the third period against the San Antonio Rampage. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound goaltender began the season in training camp with the Stars, and has been with club since being called up from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads on Oct. 17.

Do the Texas Stars Have a Penalty Problem?

It seems like the Stars are taking more penalties this season, but is that true?
(Credit: Steven Christy)
There are definitely a number of things to look at when a team hits a six-game losing streak. One thing that has felt off this season has been penalties for this Texas Stars squad. Usually a quieter team in terms of PIMs, the Stars seem to be racking up minutes with abandon this season. Is that just perception though?

First, let's look at the raw numbers. The Stars have taken 88 penalties this season totaling 196 minutes across 16 games. They are third from the bottom in the league in this regard with only Worcester (12.12) and Providence (10.67) earning fewer PIMs per game than Texas at 12.25.

It's all a little clearer if you put it in a table. In the table below, TSH is 'times shorthanded'. This helps to account for matching minors and fights that do not affect the manpower on the ice.

SeasonGPPIMPIM/GPRankTSHTSH/GPPK%PK RankPPGAPPGA/GP
2009-1080111313.9128th3083.850.8642nd420.53
2010-1180102612.8330th2993.740.80923rd570.71
2011-127698312.9329th2843.740.83511th470.62
2012-137692312.1429th2693.540.81822nd490.64
2013-147692312.1430th2953.880.8643rd400.53
2014-151619612.2528th734.560.80823rd140.88

As you can see from the table, the Stars are not really gooning it up out there. They are within 1% of the penalty minute per game average for the prior two seasons. The league average is 18.08 and some of the goonier teams out East average over ten minutes more per game. Texas has never been a rough team, even when players like Luke Gazdic and Francis Wathier were in their employ.

Another factor that might affect the eyeball test is the playoff comparison. The Stars are coming off a deep playoff run, where referees are known to swallow their whistles in favor of letting teams play. If you look at the numbers below and compare them to the regular season for 2013-14, you'll see that the Stars were shorthanded on average 0.4 times fewer per game in the playoffs than in the regular season. Overall, their PIMs per game went down by nearly two minutes as well.

SeasonGPPIMPIM/GPRank*TSHTSH/GPPK%PK Rank*PPGAPPGA/GP
2014 Playoffs2121710.3315th733.480.8497th110.52

* - Remember on the ranks just above that they are out of 16 and may be of dubious value since not every team played as many games as Texas did. For example, Manchester averaged 6.25 PIMs per game but didn't make it out of the first round. That's a pretty limited sample set.

So it's pretty clear that the Stars aren't taking more penalties overall. However, they do appear to be ending up shorthanded way more often than they have in the past. On average, Texas is ending up on penalty kill 0.68 more times per game this year or approximately two more PKs per three games. This may be a result of the Stars' more physical style that several players have mentioned. Coach Laxdal likes to have players finish checks and take the body much more than previous coaches did and that can lead to the occasional overzealous check. Another factor could be defensive lapses. When you end up on the wrong side of a rush up the ice, you're more likely to hook, trip or otherwise interfere with the puck carrier.

All that leads to the equalizing factor. You'll notice in the numbers that the Stars were at their franchise worst last season in terms of times shorthanded per game. It didn't really matter that much though because they were also the third best team in the league on the penalty kill. That same team that had the highest TSH in team history also had the franchise's best penalty kill percentage and allowed the fewest power play goals per game and in the aggregate.

So this points to the larger issue. While the Stars are certainly not happy with the number of TSH they have per game, the Stars really have a penalty killing problem.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Curtis McKenzie Returned from the NHL

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Winger Curtis McKenzie has been returned to the Texas Stars after a lengthy stint in the NHL. It will be a welcome arrival for Texas Stars fans as the team is mired in a six game losing streak. McKenzie's scoring touch, which earned him last year's AHL Rookie of the Year honors, will help to ignite the offense that has only scored once in its last two games.

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

McKenzie, 23, was most recently called up to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 8 and scored his first career NHL goal on Nov. 16, against the Chicago Blackhawks. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward has appeared in nine games overall for Dallas this season, and has tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in five AHL games for Texas.

The Golden, British Columbia native was a sixth-round selection (159th overall) for Dallas in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Texas Shutout in San Antonio as Winless Skid Hits Franchise-Record Six

Looking to get back into the win column, the Texas Stars were unsuccessful against division-leading San Antonio, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Rampage in the Alamo City. With the loss, Texas dropped to 6-6-4 on the season, 10th in the conference, and tied a franchise-record for worst losing streak at six. The Stars set the unsavory previous record at six from March 10th to 23rd of 2012. That season was the only one so far where the Stars did not make it to the postseason.

Coaches hate it when goals against come in the first or last few minutes of a period. They either put you on your heels at the start of a period, after just going over your gameplan in the locker room, or they put you in a bad situation going into the intermission. The Stars gave up one of each against San Antonio tonight.

Longtime AHL veteran, Mark Mancari, tapped in a beauty of a pass from Connor Brickley with 65 seconds left in the first period. There was nothing standing between Mancari and the net as Brickley feathered it perfectly to the right winger on the backdoor. San Antonio outshot Texas 13-9 in the frame.

To open the second period, Connor Brickley got one of his own. Greg Rallo found himself in the box on a questionable call, a minor for a broken stick. The stick broke as Rallo played the puck. He dropped the stick once he realized it was broken, but clearly didn't know it until it snapped in his hand on a poke check. The referee couldn't have known either, but he made the call nonetheless. Brickley scored his seventh of the year on that power play with just four seconds left in the advantage.

Texas would get buzzing in the late second period, but it would come to no avail. Late in the third, Drew Shore would pot an impressive empty net goal to put the Stars down 3-0. Shore could have reached out to touch the glass behind his own net but lifted it past the Stars skaters to find the net 200 feet away.

The Stars will play Oklahoma City on Wednesday to start a stretch of three games in four nights bracketing Thanksgiving.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Dalhuisen-Valentine
Honka-Meech

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (call up)
Root, Wrenn (scratched)
Rynnas, Ritchie, Henderson (illness)

Tonight's attendance was 4,375.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - November 23 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
6-5-4-0, 16 pts
#9 Western Conference
atSan Antonio Rampage
11-6-0-0, 20 pts
#3 Western Conference
November 23rd at 4:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

With the winless skid at five for the Texas Stars, it's time for a gut check. Sunday matinee games in San Antonio have been common over the past five years, but this one might be the most important in team history. It's high time for the Stars to show their championship attitude and right the ship with a W in the Alamo City today.

If the Stars cannot emerge victorious from the game, there's a chance they will drop to 10th in the conference by the end of the day. Hamilton, which is tied with Texas for 9th, plays #13 Toronto earlier in the day. With a point for Hamilton and none for Texas, the Bulldogs would pass the Stars. Texas would also drop to .500 on the season with a loss.

San Antonio will not give it up easily though. The team is seeking its franchise-record seventh straight win. It's a club that looks completely different than Rampage teams past. They bring quick skating, tape-to-tape passing, wicked scoring ability and solid netminding together to lead the West Division.

The flu bug will continue to keep Kevin Henderson, Brett Ritchie and Jussi Rynnas out of the lineup today, according to postgame from Friday. That means the lineup should stay basically the same as the one the Stars iced in the 7-1 drubbing the team took from San Antonio on home ice two days ago. To be fair, the appearance of the team didn't say 100% healthy on Friday night, did it? Think about how you feel when you've got a little touch of a cold. Head congestion, maybe some nausea, feeling tired all the time, etc. Now imagine that all the other people at work already called in sick and you've got to show up otherwise they can't keep the lights on. Well, that's the situation a lot of the Texas Stars lineup was in on Friday night. Now of course, imagine that instead of sitting at a desk for 8 hours, you had to compete in a professional hockey game for two and a half hours. That's not a super great recipe for success.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Jokipakka (callup)
Ritchie, Henderson, Rynnas (illness)

After last night's performance in Dallas, I'm going to remove John Klingberg from the callup report. He's never coming back.

Website: sarampage.com
Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Friday, November 21, 2014

San Antonio Embarrasses Texas on Home Ice, 7-1

Five-game winless skid drops Texas Stars to ninth place in the Conference
San Antonio was a step ahead of Texas all night (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Stars fans were waiting patiently for the first Texas goal of the night to drown the ice with teddy bears for Operation Blue Santa. Unfortunately, that tally would be the only one of the night for the home side. In franchise history, the San Antonio Rampage had only won in regulation at Cedar Park Center four times before tonight. Icing a depleted lineup due to illness, the Texas Stars allowed the fifth regulation win for the Rampage tonight by a 7-1 final score. The loss stretched Texas' winless skid to five games and pushed them out of the top eight in the Conference.

Jack Campbell got his second straight start with Jussi Rynnas under the weather again. He wouldn't last the full game, getting pulled in the third period for Maxime Lagace. Campbell stopped 27 of 33 on the night. Especially with Rynnas out sick, this was not the type of performance that the Stars needed out of their starting goaltender.

It is unclear if the Stars were too beleaguered by the illness that is affecting the locker room or if this is the new normal. The Rampage seemed faster, hungrier and overall better than the Stars tonight. After so many years of giving the Rampage fits, is this the comeuppance year for Texas?

The Rampage struck early in each of the first two periods and scored on their first scoring chance of the night to boot. Connor Brickley got things started just 79 seconds into the game. His rebound goal, the third in a shot series against Campbell, put Texas on its heels immediately. It took seven minutes for the Stars to register their first shot on net. Texas would recover in the back half of the frame, assisted by some power play time to get the shot count up, but still trailed 1-0 at the first intermission.

Bobby Butler continued the scoring for San Antonio as he beat defenseman Maxime Fortunus off the opening faceoff and broke in on Campbell alone for the 2-0 lead. The Rampage continued to pile it on with a power play goal at the midpoint of the frame, a shot by Drew Shore off the skate of Connor Brickley for the 3-0 lead.

With the fans getting antsy for the teddy bear toss goal, Justin Dowling delivered. The Stars crashed Dan Ellis's net and put home a loose puck over the sprawled-out Ellis for their first goal of the night. It was a good answer goal, coming just 31 seconds after the power play tally for San Antonio.

Five minutes later though, Alex Petrovic would regain the three goal lead for the Rampage with his first of the year. The wrister from the slot put the Stars down by three heading to the third.

The Stars would have to kill off a major penalty to Matej Stransky in the third period and would not hold. Garrett Wilson and Brett Olsen would score to set the mark at 6-1 and end Jack Campbell's night. Maxime Lagace would fair no better, allowing a goal just a few minutes into his AHL career to Garrett Wilson again.

San Antonio would lay back at that point and keep the score at 7-1. The Stars will visit San Antonio on Sunday trying to regroup from this loss.

Tonight's lines:
Stransky-Dowling-Smith
Glennie-Morin-Ranford
Rallo-Faksa-Hulak
Troock-Root-Karlsson

Gaunce-Fortunus
Wrenn-Valentine
Honka-Meech

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Klingberg, Jokipakka (call up)
Peters, Dalhuisen (scratched)
Rynnas, Ritchie, Henderson (illness)

Tonight's attendance was 5,754.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - November 21 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
6-4-4-0, 16 pts
#8 Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
10-6-0-0, 20 pts
#3 Western Conference
November 21st at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Stars return home after dropping their last four straight games to face the division-leading San Antonio Rampage. No, that can't be right. Let me check the standings. No, OK, I guess so. The usually woebegone Rampage are tops in the West Division right now with no sign of stopping. It is beginning to look like the division crown is going to be a dogfight. By the end of the weekend, Texas could be tied with San Antonio on points if they are able to claim both games in this home-and-home set.

For San Antonio, it's well documented that the Cedar Park Center is a house of horrors. In five years of regular season games, the Rampage have just seven wins. Of course, there are some other factors at play here tonight. While Texas is on a four game losing skid, the Rampage are on a five game winning streak that has seen them pick up important points against division rivals OKC and Charlotte.

Michael Houser and Dan Ellis had been alternating starts for San Antonio until Ellis caught fire in the last streak. Ellis has six of the team's ten wins and a 2.45 GAA. Some of the top young talent for San Antonio is in Florida now, including Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi. AHL vet Bobby Butler has 17 points on the season and leads the team in scoring.

On the Texas side, Derek Laxdal has just 12 forwards at his disposal right now. With Kevin Henderson and Brett Ritchie under the weather with the flu bug going through the room, Ludwig Karlsson looks all but certain to play his first AHL game with Texas tonight. In net, it figures to be Jack Campbell. Jussi Rynnas is among the flu-affected and probably wouldn't start if he even dresses.

On defense, it seems likely that Scott Valentine will play his first AHL game not in a Milwaukee uniform. The vet blue liner signed a deal with the Stars this week after Kevin Connauton was claimed on waivers. It seems he will slide ahead of Mike Dalhuisen and be in the lineup for the foreseeable future.



Website: sarampage.com
Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Amid Flu Bug, Ludwig Karlsson Gets the Call from Idaho

With Jussi Rynnas, Kevin Henderson and Brett Ritchie all battling illness, Texas had to make a move today to bolster their forward group ahead of tomorrow's game against San Antonio. Ludwig Karlsson gets his first call to the AHL in the Dallas organization.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have called up forward Ludwig Karlsson from their ECHL’s affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Karlsson, 23, began the season in training camp with the Texas Stars before being assigned to the ECHL, where he has appeared in 12 games with five points (three goals, two assists). The 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward appeared in eight AHL games last season for the Binghamton Senators, and was acquired over the summer as part of the Jason Spezza trade for the Dallas Stars.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Texas Stars Sign Scott Valentine to Answer 7th D Issues

The Texas Stars have signed defenseman Scott Valentine to an AHL standard player contract for the remainder of the season. Valentine is a veteran of the AHL and is familiar to Stars fans from his time in Milwaukee. The vet blue liner has been performing well for the Idaho Steelheads so far this season.

As mentioned yesterday, Scott White has looking for a 7th defenseman. Valentine is his man. I would expect him to play mostly in the AHL from here on out this season.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have signed defenseman Scott Valentine to a contract for the season.

Valentine, 23, has appeared in 192 career AHL games over the previous three years, all with the Milwaukee Admirals, where he skated alongside current Stars forward Kevin Henderson.

The 6-foot, 215-pound defenseman began the season with the Stars ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, tallying six assists in 12 games. The Ottawa, Ontario native was a sixth-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks (166th overall) in the 2009 NHL draft.

Valentine competed for four years in the Ontario Hockey League prior to turning pro, appearing in 171 games.

Texas Stars Report: What's the Point of an AHL Team?

The American Hockey League is a business where you have to compete to succeed, but it's also the top development league for the NHL. How do you balance those two divergent goals on a nightly basis?
Julius Honka (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Normally I don't publish the entire Defending Big D Texas Stars Report on 100 Degree Hockey, but this one is a little different. I think it's a big topic, and everyone should read it.

Last week's post about the struggles of Jack Campbell brought to light a lot of questions about the structure and purpose of the top development league for the NHL. So the question is, "What's the point of an AHL team?"

The first thing to understand is that the AHL is a business. It is a business that is separate from the NHL. While many AHL teams are owned by NHL affiliates, the American Hockey League is its own entity from the NHL.

So, at the end of the day, the league needs to make money on its own to stay in business, and they do that by selling their product, the teams and the games those teams play in. The teams also individually need to make money to succeed too. Of course, there's merchandise and all those other things, but at the end of the day, the teams playing games is what drives the whole thing. Without the games, you can't have all the other things surrounding them.

You can't have games without the teams. As a fan, you want your team to win. You want to cheer for a team that wins regularly, if possible. If not, you definitely want a team has a skill level that is able to compete with the league on a nightly basis. If you don't have that, you don't generally get attendance (especially in non-traditional markets), and you find your city on the list of defunct AHL teams Wikipedia page.

So all you need is a quality product with guys that will be able to skate with the rest of the teams in the league. Got it.

But you also need to play the kids. The AHL is the top development league of the NHL. As Dallas fans are very familiar, players who aren't quite ready for the NHL but have aged out of their junior or college programs go to the AHL.

OK, so now we have a conflict. We need to have a quality product that wins games and puts butts in seats while also serving the purpose of taking raw talent from juniors and college and molding it into NHL quality stuff. Raw talent, as you may know, is a mercurial thing: amazing one night and horrid the next. That up-and-down swing is not conducive to consistently winning hockey games.

What came to light in last week's discussion that I think is illuminating is this conflict and the fan understanding of it. Many advocated that Jack Campbell, crowned by many as Dallas' next great goaltender, should play 60 games this season for the Texas Stars regardless of how many games he wins. Those fans might be more familiar with the baseball minor league system, where a guy with a .124 batting average gets the start ahead of someone else who is objectively better and gives the team a better chance to win. The .124 guy gets the start because he has a major league deal.

The AHL does not work like that.

On any given night, Derek Laxdal and the 29 other coaches of the AHL are tasked with the dual roles of winning the game in front of them tonight and making that raw rookie blue liner ready to take on the next Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby in five years.

Kurt Kleinendorst, who won a Calder Cup with Binghamton in 2011 but was fired this month from his coaching role with the Iowa Wild, said it best in his interview with Michael Russo.
"... the hardest league to coach is the AHL in my opinion. No. 1 you've got a bunch of guys that don't want to be here and a bunch of them who don't think they should be here. That's an interesting dynamic in itself.

"You've got guys at all different developmental levels. You've got your veteran guys that get it, you've got your middle of the road guys that some get it and some don't but think they do, and you've got your young, developing guys that are just happy to be in the locker room. I mean, it's a tough, tough league to coach, and that's what makes it such a great challenge."
So this is why Jussi Rynnas is playing in net with Jack Campbell. It's part of why Cristopher Nilstorp against St. John's instead of Campbell coming right off injury into the Finals. It's why Curtis McKenzie and Colton Sceviour were centered by Travis Morin instead of Radek Faksa. It's why Maxime Fortunus was paired with Jokipakka for much of last year. The old guys help the young guys learn how to be pros and also help them win. (Remember, of course, that those 'old guys' are 30 years old. Perspective.)

There is also the maxim that winning is the best development. According to Jim Lites, the Dallas Stars organization views the Calder Cup run for the Texas Stars as the equivalent of half of season of regular season games. In the best case scenario, you win it all by playing the kids and everything works out in your favor. That's what Texas got last year. However, when things aren't going so great in the NHL or the AHL for an organization, that's when tough questions start to pop up about the purpose of an AHL team.

I think you'd have to agree; it's a split personality league.

Read the full report at Defending Big D...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Texas GM Scott White on Search for 7th Defenseman, Sunday's Short Bench

Jyrki Jokipakka (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
I managed to catch Scott White for a few minutes this afternoon after a busy morning on the transaction wire for Dallas. I'll drop some bullet points to color in the conversation.

  • The plan with Kevin Connauton was to assign him to the Texas Stars, and it seemed like that would have been immediate. Obviously a claim was a possibility, as it always is.
  • While White did clarify that it's obviously up to the coaching staff to decide who plays in Dallas, Jyrki Jokipakka wouldn't be getting the callup if they didn't think he could handle NHL minutes. White believes Jokipakka showed his readiness earlier this year.
  • White sees Mike Dalhuisen as a third pair guy with "a cannon of a shot". He did indicate that if someone can come in and jump ahead of him, that is a possibility.
  • The Texas Stars are actively looking for a 7th defenseman and not just in Idaho. It will have to be a new signing as Troy Vance is going to stay in Idaho to get valuable minutes there and will not be the callup.
  • White isn't making excuses but does realize that the recent road stretch was tough. Texas went 1-2-2 on their five game trip and has now played seven of their last eight on the road. He also added that the locker room has been affected heavily by some illness which caused the short bench on Sunday.
  • According to White, Radek Faksa probably should not have played on Sunday after taking a puck to the leg in Saturday's game. However, the illness issues forced their hand. He said Faksa will be fine after the four days off this week, but they would have preferred if he hadn't had to play.
  • Finally, Texas is actively looking for a long term home for goalie Maxime Lagace, who has been the third man in Texas for several weeks. White called it a "tough scenario" because there aren't a lot of open jobs right now at the ECHL level. They want to send him somewhere he will be able to stay for a while, not just get one or two games.

Kevin Connauton Claimed by Columbus; Texas In a Bind on Defense

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
UPDATE: Per Mark Stepneski, Dallas is expected to recall Jyrki Jokipakka.

It's a calculated risk to put a player on waivers. Dallas defenseman Kevin Connauton was placed on waivers yesterday and was claimed today by the Columbus Blue Jackets. That leaves Dallas with just six defensemen on the roster.

The claim has big implications for the Texas Stars. When Dallas hits the road again, they will certainly want a seventh defenseman. That defenseman will likely come from the Texas Stars. Odds on favorite is Jyrki Jokipakka, who has already played several games in the NHL this year. There could be some chance that Dallas calls Cameron Gaunce becuase they would rather have Jokipakka playing in Cedar Park than scratched in the NHL. (Note: Jokipakka was recalled shortly after this story was first published.)

This is obviously a developing and rapidly changing situation. Dallas has a game tonight at home, which starts a five-game homestand. The team doesn't need a 7th man for now, but they will soon. If we assume it's Jokipakka, that means Texas will be down to Fortunus, Meech, Wrenn, Honka, Gaunce, and Dalhuisen. The Stars will likely want to sign another defenseman as the 5-6 role. I don't think Troy Vance is ready to be pressed into service quite yet at this level.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kevin Connauton on Waivers, Could Be Texas-Bound

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
One-time Texas Star Kevin Connauton has been placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars this morning. With the emergence of John Klingberg in Dallas, Connauton has been a healthy scratch in four straight games. He last played against San Jose on November 8th. Minus Connauton, the Dallas defense is currently riding at six men: Goligoski, Klingberg, Daley, Dillon, Benn and Oleksiak.

Connauton is the seventh man right now, but with a string of five home games and low chances of Connauton getting into the lineup soon in Dallas, this gives Dallas options. He can be assigned to Texas for a period and come back when the team hits the road again.

The real trouble situation would be a waiver claim. Without a seventh defenseman, Dallas would likely call Jyrki Jokipakka into service as the seventh man when needed. That would certainly negatively impact the Texas Stars.

We will know if he clears waivers or has been claimed on Tuesday at 11 AM Central.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Texas Winless on Weekend with 3-2 Loss to IceHogs

Campbell phenomenal against shot-heavy Rockford squad

Feeling the effects of a long 3-in-3 set and a bug that is ravaging the locker room, the Stars dropped the final game of the weekend set to drop to winless in four straight. Rockford controlled the play, absolutely carpet bombing netminder Jack Campbell with a total of 45 shots on net, including 21 in just the first period. Additionally, Texas only dressed 17 skaters, losing Greg Rallo and Kevin Henderson and only having Jesse Root on hand to replace them.

Matej Stransky scored his first of the year in the loss. Derek Hulak potted his fifth of the year as well. The Stars are now idle until Friday when they will face the current division leaders, the San Antonio Rampage, at the Cedar Park Center.

Jack Campbell kept things even in the first period with a massive number of high quality saves. The IceHogs bombed 21 shots on net in the first period alone. Campbell even got an old school two-pad stack in to deny the IceHogs their game-opening goal.

The barrage continued in the second period, but Texas would not weather the storm unscathed. Brandon Mashinter scored on the power play off a slick centering pass from highly-touted prospect Teuvo Teravainen.

Texas would answer with the first goal of the year for Czech-born Matej Stransky. It was a rebound goal effort by that line. Goalie Antii Raanta, who was just sent down by Chicago yesterday, got the first few shots but not the fourth and final one. Gemel Smith and Jesse Root assisted. It was Root's first career AHL point.

Teravainen worked his magic again just three minutes later as he found Garret Ross in the slot. Ross's shot beat Campbell for the 2-1 lead.

TJ Brennan, who assisted on the second Hogs goal, got one of his own in the third. At exactly the halfway point of the final frame, he crushed a pass from Mashinter put the lead at two.

With just over two minutes remaining in the third period, Jack Campbell headed to the bench for the extra attacker. Derek Hulak tipped home a Travis Morin shot almost immediately thereafter.

Texas would get a 6-on-4 chance with just under 7 seconds left but could not convert. They will return home to face San Antonio on Friday.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Dalhuisen-Wrenn
Honka-Jokipakka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Klingberg (call up)
Meech, Ritchie, Henderson, Rallo, Rynnas (scratched)

Radek Faksa was in tonight, which is good sign after he was unable to finish last night's game following a shot block in the first period on Saturday. The Stars only dressed 17 skaters in tonight's game (typical number is 18). Rallo and Henderson, who played last night, both rotated out of the lineup. Only Jesse Root came in, leaving the team at 17.

Tonight's attendance was 6,390.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - November 16 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
6-3-4-0, 16 pts
#7 Western Conference
atRockford IceHogs
10-4-0-1, 21 pts
#4 Western Conference
November 16th at 4:00 PM
BMO Harris Arena, Rockford, IL

The last game of this three in three stand is probably the toughest of all of them. One of the hottest teams in the AHL, the Rockford IceHogs, are the final opponent of the five-game road trip today in Illinois. Before this weekend, the Rockford IceHogs were enjoying an eight game winning streak. A home and home against Magnus Hellberg and the Milwaukee Admirals yielded two losses. In the contests combined, the Hogs only scored two goals.

Rockford is usually having no trouble scoring, ranking in the top ten of all teams in offense. However, they are pairing that with phenomenal goaltending and defense. The Hogs rank 4th in the league in goals against at 2.27 per game. A big reason for that has been the emergence of Scott Darling, who has a 1.83 GAA and .935 SV% this year. He won't be playing today though after getting the last two starts and then a callup to Chicago for their game against Dallas today.

The Stars were slated to be a team that used its defense as an offensive weapon this year. For Rockford, that is also true. T.J. Brennan, formerly of the Marlies and the reigning Defenseman of the Year, leads all D-men in scoring on the club with 2-7=9 and a plus-11. Adam Clendening is also a terribly tricky d-man to watch for as well. Others to watch for include top pick center Teuvo Teravainen, who is a rookie many are anxiously awaiting in the NHL.

For Texas, the storylines are simple. Can they get out of their weekend funk against one of the best teams in the league? They had two chances for two points slip through their fingers this weekend against arguably easier competition. Can they get two in Illinois?

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa (questionable)
Ritchie (questionable)

As reported by Brien Rea on last night's broadcast, Faksa took a puck to the left knee in the first period. He returned briefly in the second but did not play in the third period. It remains to be seen if he can play today.

Brett Ritchie missed Saturday's game. As also reported by Rea last night on the Stars' broadcast, there is some illness going around the room. Ritchie could be one of those under the weather.

Website: icehogs.com
Blog (unofficial): Rockford IceHogs Fan Blog
Twitter: @goicehogs

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Texas Stars Drop Another in 3-on-3 OT

After needing overtime last night, the Stars would take it to the 3-on-3 segment once again but would fall ultimately with less than a minute remaining again. While it wasn't quite the same as last night's goal with 0.8 seconds remaining, Kevin Porter's game winner came on a breakaway thanks to a homerun pass with just seconds remaining before the shootout.

Jussi Rynnas got the start and stopped 33 of 35 shots against. Mike Dalhuisen scored his first AHL goal in the contest.

A rather unremarkable first period for both sides led to a scoreless mark on the big board after twenty minutes. Grand Rapids outshot Texas 9-6 in the frame.

The offensively dangerous Anthony Mantha collected his first of what will surely be many professional goals on a 2-on-0 chance with Teemu Pulkkinen. Andy Miele got the play started and sent the two in against an empty Texas defensive set for the first goal of the night. The Stars were badly outshot in the middle stanza, their 13-4 mark in the frame combined for a 22-10 deficit after two.

In the third, the Stars would respond with Mike Dalhuisen's first goal of the year and first in the AHL. The defensive defenseman blasted the puck from the blue line. William Wrenn and Gemel Smith assisted.

Texas plays again tomorrow in Rockford to end the weekend set.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Dalhuisen-Wrenn
Honka-Jokipakka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Klingberg (call up)
Meech, Ritchie, Root, Lagace (scratched)

Texas lost Radek Faksa in the first period when he blocked a shot off his left knee. He came back briefly in the second but did not return thereafter.

Tonight's attendance was 8,009.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - November 15 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
6-3-3-0, 15 pts
#6 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
5-6-1-0, 11 pts
#11 Western Conference
November 15th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

Last night, all 30 teams were in action in the AHL. That included the San Antonio Rampage, who won and pushed their mark to 16 points to cruise past the Stars for first in the division. It's the first time Texas hasn't been 1st in the division this calendar year (if not longer). OKC is in action tonight against the Wild and could pull into a tie for second with the Stars. That would be bad news. Two points tonight is crucial.

The Stars will trot our Jussi Rynnas, likely, for tonight's game against the Griffins. Texas didn't have the finish they needed in OT. For the most part, they played a solid game through 60 minutes and just couldn't seal the deal at the end.

Stars injury/call up report:
Klingberg, McKenzie (callup)

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Final Second Griffins' Goal Drops Stars 3-2 in OT

After having led for most of the game, the Texas Stars fell in overtime on a Teemu Pulkkinen goal with just 0.8 seconds remaining in the extra period. Jack Campbell got the start and stopped 34 of 37 shots in 66:59 of work. Travis Morin continued his points streak, carrying it to four games with a shorthanded goal in the first period.

The Stars got started early in the first with a shorthanded goal that really took the momentum out of the 8000 plus Griffins fans in the building tonight. With Branden Troock in the box, Justin Dowling and Travis Morin broke in 2-on-1 shorthanded. Dowling's pass to Morin found the back of the net for the reigning AHL MVP's 7th goal of the year and the first shorthanded goal of the year for Texas.

The goal came on one of only five shots in the period for Texas. Despite two Stars' power play opportunities, the Griffins outshot Texas 11-5.

Early in the first, free agent signing Andy Miele scored a power play goal on a wrist shot from the right wing circle to tie the score at one. Miele comes to the Griffins after being better than a point per game player in Portland last season. He never caught on in Phoenix and now plies his trade in the Detroit system.

Miele's tying goal did not stand for long as Texas got a power play of their own three minutes later. Brendan Ranford tapped home a Greg Rallo effort for the 2-1 score. Scott Glennie picked up the second assist, his tenth points of the season and sixth in the last four games.

With time winding down, the Griffins pulled Petr Mrazek for the extra attacker and made it work. Mitch Callahan scored through traffic to tie the game at two all and send the contest to overtime, guaranteeing a point for each team.

Campbell and Mrazek traded phenomenal saves in the 4-on-4 portion of the overtime, leading to another 3-on-3 segment for the Stars. Once again, they were not successful. With just 0.8 seconds left, Teemu Pulkkinen ripped one past Campbell for the 3-2 win.

These two teams will face off again tomorrow night in Grand Rapids.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Dalhuisen-Wrenn
Honka-Jokipakka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Klingberg (call up)
Meech, Root, Peters, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 8,183.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - November 14 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Grand Rapids

Texas Stars
6-3-2-0, 14 pts
#3 Western Conference
atGrand Rapids Griffins
4-6-1-0, 9 pts
#13 Western Conference
November 14th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

The Stars hit the road for their first three-in-three weekend of the season. It is a light year in terms of the grueling three-in-three; Texas will only play three this season. Two of those three are exclusively on the road, starting with this weekend's bouts in Grand Rapids and Rockford.

Grand Rapids, of course, is very familiar to Stars' fans and players alike. The Stars ended the Griffins' chances at a Calder Cup repeat in six games last May on the way to their own Calder Cup championship. The game pits the last two Calder Cup champions against each other for the first time this season. The last meeting between the two was a raucous affair at the Cedar Park Center. Petr Mrazek guaranteed a win and then allowed four goals and got the hook just 22 minutes into the game. Texas advanced with a final score of 7-1.

The same Mrazek is back in Grand Rapids for a stint. Jonas Gustavsson sustained an injury in Detroit and Mrazek got the call. He hasn't gotten as many starts as the Red Wings want to keep him fresh, so they've sent him to Grand Rapids for some ice time. Tom McCollum takes his spot in Detroit for now.

It's been a weird and atypical year so far for the Griffins. They are 13th in the conference and just snapped a six-game losing streak with a 5-3 win in their last game. A lot of big names from last year's playoffs and the Cup run the year before are in Detroit now, including Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan. The Griffins are getting pedestrian netminding so far. They are tied with Texas at 34 goals against in 11 games (3.09 per game). The save percentages for both tenders are not great. Grand Rapids is allowing just 25 shots per game, 4th in the league. Where they are really hurting is goal scoring. They rank 27th in the league with just 2.36 per game. Only Iowa, Charlotte and Toronto rank lower.

One bright spot for the Griffins in tonight's game will be the anticipated arrival of Anthony Mantha. The right wing was Detroit's top pick in 2013. He went on to score 120 points in his final season with Val d'Or. His club went on to win the QMJHL championship, where he scored 38 points in 24 games. He was a point a game in the ensuing Memorial Cup. Those are video game numbers.

Mantha was injured in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, fracturing his tibia. He has been practicing with the team for several weeks, but tonight will be his first pro game action.

“I plan on playing him a good amount,” Coach Blashill told mlive.com. “I plan on playing him on one of our top lines and on the power play and so he’ll play lots of minutes."

Stars injury/call up report:
Klingberg, McKenzie (callup)
Smith (injury)

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Checkers Win Rematch With Stars By 3-1 Mark

Danny Biega breaks in shorthanded on Jack Campbell.
(Credit: Dan Nied/Charlotte Checkers)
After the other night's offensive fireworks, the Checkers and Stars combined for just three goals in the rematch tonight in Charlotte. It was the home team Checkers ending up on the winning side of this battle, beating Jack Campbell twice. Drew MacIntyre, who started tonight's game after being pulled in Saturday's contest, only allowed a single marker in the game, stopping 27 of 28.

The Stars got off to an inauspicious start on the power play. Texas allowed their second shorthanded goal against of the season off the stick of Brendan Woods. Jack Campbell handled the initial bid by Danny Biega but gave up a large rebound to Woods for the goal.

Texas knotted things at one in the second period with Travis Morin's one-time goal, his sixth of the season. Derek Meech, paired tonight with William Wrenn, got the primary assist. Matej Stranksy got his first point of the season with a second assist on the play.

Five minutes later, the Stars would give up a goal to Greg Nemisz, who moved out of the corner to beat the goalie and regain the Checkers' lead.

The Stars got a lot of power play time but could not make it count. Brett Sutter scored into the empty net with under a minute left and the Stars dropped to 6-3-2-0 on the season. They will play again on Friday in Grand Rapids.

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

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Wrenn
Honka-Jokipakka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Klingberg (call up)
Smith (injury)
Dalhuisen, Peters, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 3,809.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Charlotte - November 10 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
6-2-2-0, 14 pts
#3 Western Conference
atCharlotte Checkers
3-7-0-0, 6 pts
#14 Western Conference
November 10th at 5:00 PM
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

Morning skate note: Drew MacIntyre will get the start for Charlotte.

While the Stars had an off-day for the most part yesterday, some of those who will be in the lineup tonight had a busy Sunday with travel. Mike Dalhuisen, Jesse Root and Branden Troock will all join the team in Charlotte for tonight's game and may even play. The Steelheads played a trio of games in Loveland, Colorado against the Eagles this week. Troock or Root is the most likely to figure into the lineup. With the possible injury to Gemel Smith, the Stars need another forward to play today.

Last time the Stars played a big blowout game in Charlotte, they followed it up with a blowout for the Checkers. After beating Charlotte 7-1 on Friday January 17th, the Stars laid an egg and lost 6-1 the next day against the same squad. Texas gets a day off between these two games and it's actually an evening game. The second game of the set last year started at 11 AM Central. With the loss of Klingberg, this isn't the same roster that the Checkers faced Saturday. Klingberg had 3 points in that game and was ranked 12th in the league in points and second among rookies.

One thing to watch for will be the decision on Jussi Rynnas or Jack Campbell. Coach Laxdal called on Rynnas for back-to-back games against Charlotte and Toronto. It's the first time that's happened for either tender all season. If Rynnas gets the call again, that's not a good sign for Campbell, who is still below .900 on his save percentage (.884).

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Klingberg (call up)
Smith (quesetionable)

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

John Klingberg to Dallas Highlights Busy Sunday on Transaction Wire

John Klingberg (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
As Mike Heika intimated earlier this afternoon, John Klingberg is on his way to Dallas now officially. After last night's collapse in Big D at the hands of the Sharks, Dallas is looking to shake things up on defense. One way to do that is introducing new blood. Klingberg is 12th in league scoring with 4 goals and 8 assists in ten games. Many had suggested prior to the season that Klingberg could start the year in Dallas outright. Hip surgery in the offseason led to his start in the AHL. Now is his chance to place himself in the NHL.

I'm not sure that the callup of Klingberg is a one-to-one fix for what ails Dallas. Klingberg is more a scoring threat than a hard-nosed defenseman. The Stars appear to have no trouble scoring but need help keeping it out of their own net at both the NHL and AHL level.

As a result and in combination with some other activity on the ice yesterday, three players are coming up from Idaho. Mike Dalhuisen will make the trip to Charlotte to act as the seventh defenseman for the club. Jesse Root and Branden Troock will both come up as forward options for Derek Laxdal following the likely loss of Gemel Smith to injury. Smith was sucker punched last night by Carter Sandlak in the game in Charlotte. Sandlak earned a match penalty, and Smith was able to skate off under his own power. He did not return to the game.

Either Troock or Root will get a chance at the lineup with Texas at just 11 forwards now. It is possible more moves could be coming though. Antoine Roussel has a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety after his actions in the San Jose game on Saturday. If he is suspended, the NHL side will need another forward. Odds are that's Travis Morin, but it remains to be seen what happens with the hearing.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rookie Derek Hulak Scores Hat Trick as Texas Pastes Charlotte, 8-2

Defenseman John Klingberg, forward Scott Glennie finish with three points each as well
Derek Hulak scores one of his three goals. (Credit: Gregg Forwerck/Charlotte Checkers)
The Stars blew up the offense in Charlotte this evening thanks to a six minute span in the first period that saw them pot five goals. With Curtis McKenzie in Dallas, rookie Derek Hulak got a chance on the first line and made the most of it. The rookie scored his first professional hat trick, including two power play goals. To add to the good feeling, Jussi Rynnas got the start and allowed a two goals on 32 shots against. That was a welcome result as the goalie got the first back-to-back start of either tender so far this season.

Texas is looking like it will need another forward before Monday's rematch though. Gemel Smith was sucker punched in the first period by Carter Sandlak and did not finish the game. I would expect Branden Troock to make the trip from Denver to Charlotte to play with Texas on Monday.

Hulak started his hat trick earlier in the first period. A cross-ice pass by Travis Morin was finished off by Hulak to beat Drew MacIntyre for the 1-0 lead. Just 36 seconds later, Justin Dowling would beat MacIntyre over the shoulder off the pass from Scott Glennie. Less than two minutes after that, John Klingberg snapped a wrister on net for his fourth of the season and the 3-0 lead.

Radek Faksa's second of the year just past the halfway mark of the first ended Drew MacIntyre's night. It was a rather unceremonious end for what was a rematch of the epic Western Conference Final goalie battle. John Muse took over and did not fair much better. MacIntyre finished at five saves on nine shots.

Muse allowed his first of the night just over two minutes into his stay in the Charlotte net. Brendan Ranford tapped in an effort by Justin Dowling at the net, and it was 5-0.

As the period ended, Carter Sandlak got into it with Gemel Smith, dropping the gloves and sucker punching the young forward. Smith was able to leave the ice under his own power but did not play the rest of the night. Sandlak was given a match penalty, which is automatically reviewed by the league.

In all, the Stars bombed the net with a 20-7 shots margin in the first.

A relatively quiet second period followed with only three combined goals. Derek Hulak got his second of the night and third of the season on the power play, again off the assist of Travis Morin. Less than a minute later, Jared Stall would scored to break up the shutout bid for Rynnas.

As the period wound down, Brett Sutter would take an elbowing call to load up the Texas power play. Hulak completed his hat trick there. Hulak is shaping up as a really good find for the Stars in the early season. The former University of Saskatchewan Husky is shaping up like Brendan Ranford did last year. Not sure what to expect at first but has a wicked nose for the net and can play top line minutes with alacrity.

In the third period, Texas concentrated on limiting Checkers' chances and keeping Rynnas' goals against down for the night. By the halfway point of the period, Texas was getting outshot 6-1. The Stars' third shot of the period was another tally for the visitors. Scott Glennie got his third point of the night with the goal, his first of the season. AJ Jenks would score for Charlotte just over a minute later on a very lucky shot, threading the needle between Rynnas and the post from a bad angle to cut the margin to 8-2.

These two teams will play each other again on Monday in Charlotte.

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

Meech-Klingberg
Gaunce-Fortunus
Honka-Jokipakka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie (call up)
Wrenn, Lagace (scratched)

Tonight's attendance was 7,656.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Charlotte - November 8 2014

Gameday Preview: Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
5-2-2-0, 12 pts
#3 Western Conference
atCharlotte Checkers
3-6-0-0, 6 pts
#14 Western Conference
November 8th at 6:00 PM
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

UPDATE: As expected, Curtis McKenzie has been recalled to Dallas.

The playoff reunion tour continues for Texas as they will faceoff against Drew MacIntyre either tonight or Monday in Charlotte. The former Marlie who stoned the Stars repeatedly in the Western Conference Finals signed a free agent contract with Carolina this summer. He's having a rough start to the season record-wise, going 3-4, but his numbers are decent overall, 2.29 GAA and .928 SV%. MacIntyre is not getting the run support he's had in prior seasons. The Checkers are the second-worst scoring offense in the league, just 1.89 goals per game.

The Stars are doing better in net after Jussi Rynnas' solid performance on Wednesday. Coach Laxdal was looking to continue rotating the goalies but indicated he's not against the idea of giving back-to-back starts to one of the two if they get hot. The Stars are at 3.22 goals against on the season and that number has to come down to stay at the top of the pile in the West.

By the time the puck drops tonight, the Stars will probably have one fewer forward at their disposal. Dallas is expecting both Valeri Nichushkin and Cody Eakin to be out against the Sharks tonight. Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin or both could be lacing them up in the NHL this evening.

Carolina is hurting at the NHL level and have pulled a lot of AHLers from prior seasons up. They may even win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes at this rate. That means the Checkers are also lacking AHL talent. Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash, Chris Terry, and Brett Bellemore are all names getting regular ice-time in Raleigh this season. Greg Nemisz, who joined the team via trade last year, leads them on offense with six points. Phil Di Giuseppe leads them from the rookie ranks with five points and a healthy plus-6.

The Checkers haven't played since Sunday, a 2-1 win against Hamilton. Their two game set against the Bulldogs was actually the first time that the two teams had played each other in franchise history.

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Texas Stars Grind Out Tight Game Against Marlies, 3-1

Brendan Ranford, Scott Glennie each with two assists against Toronto
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars were proud to grind out a win against the Toronto Marlies tonight in front of a sellout crowd in Cedar Park. The high-powered offense of Texas took a back seat to a solid defensive and goaltending effort.

"It had a bit of a playoff atmosphere, having to protect a one goal lead," said coach Derek Laxdal. "They make you earn every inch on the ice. It was a good test to see if we could grind out a hockey game."

The last time these two clubs met was in the playoffs, and while the rosters have turned over some, the character of the Marlies was the same.

"Toronto is always big and mean," said Brendan Ranford, who had two assists. "Last time we played them, it was more aggressive of a series because it was the playoffs. They are still more aggressive. They played hard and well."

Coach Laxdal's more aggressive style matched up well with the Marlies throughout the game.

"He likes finishing the body more and letting the guy know you're there," added Ranford.

Similar to Game 7, Texas scored two goals within 90 seconds of each other. This time they were late in the first period. Greg Rallo potted a very nice tip-in goal off the pass from Scott Glennie from the far side of the net.

Ninety-two seconds later, Glennie cut off a pass out of the Marlies zone and sent Texas in on the attack. Glennie's pass to Ranford, led to a pass to Radek Faksa. The Czech broke into the zone on a partial breakaway and beat Gibson five hole cutting across the net right to left.

"Scott Glennie played his best game of the season," said Laxdal. "A lot of jump in his step."

The Stars worked together over the ensuing forty minute to protect that lead. There were a number of solid chances, but they never connected. Spencer Abbott scored his third of the season in the second period to cut the lead to one. From the left wing circle, he beat Rynnas to the far side with the goalie deep in his net.

Despite the goal, Rynnas had a very good game, stopping 25 of 26 shots, including a great chance in the final few minutes of the third.

"We really needed that win," said Rynnas. "We have given up too many goals in the last games. We played better in our zone so I'm really happy. Today I felt like I played a relaxed game. When you do that, things tend to go your way."

Texas drew two power plays in the final three minutes of the game, pretty much sealing the Marlies' fate. For good measure, the Stars scored an empty net power play goal off the stick of Brett Ritchie. It was the unselfish pass of Travis Morin that completed the play as they were breaking in 2-on-0 on an empty net.

The Stars will head to Charlotte to face the Checkers on Saturday and Monday.

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

Meech-Klingberg
Gaunce-Fortunus
Honka-Jokipakka

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Dowling (injury)
Wrenn, Lagace (scratched)

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

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - November 5 2014

Idaho Steelheads Report: Steelheads Out to a Fast Start

Jason Bast is top 4 in league scoring.
(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern is back for another year of Idaho Steelheads Reports. This week he talks about the very hot start the Steelheads have had to their 2014-15 campaign.

The month of October was pretty good for the Idaho Steelheads this year and they have sprinted out of the gates to a 6-1 record to start the season. It started inauspiciously enough as Idaho split their first two games against the Utah Grizzlies (Norfolk Admirals), but after the first two games, the Steelheads have yet to taste defeat a second time.

When looking back at the schedule for the first seven games and the way the schedule was set up from a travel perspective, it would not have been odd to have seen this team with at least a second loss and perhaps a third just based on how difficult it is for teams to sweep 3-game sets in the ECHL.

The first two games were a home and home on back-to-back nights against the Grizzlies which ended with a 1-1 record. Then the following weekend there was travel to take on the Bakersfield Condors (Oklahoma City Barons) before having to overnight a bus ride to play the Ontario Reign (Manchester Monarchs/St. John’s Ice Caps) the next night. Again I don’t think a split in this scenario would have been unexpected considering how well the Condors and Reign finished last season and started this season.

To complete the first seven games of the season, the Steelheads had three tough games against the Stockton Thunder (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), where not only did the Steelheads allow four goals in the second period on Friday night and have to win it late in the 3rd period, but they trailed to start a game for the first time all season after giving up the first two goals on Saturday and managed to bounce back for the win and a sweep.

The schedule won’t get any easier as the Steelheads will now have to play seven games in the next 11 days as they travel to take on the Colorado Eagles (Adirondack Flames) for three games next week, followed by two games against the Alaska Aces (Iowa Wild) and the Condors the next week. The depth on the Steelheads team will be tested.

Now how about that depth? The first thing to point out is that through seven games of the season only seven players have dressed for all of the games. On top of that only four players have dressed for less than four games; David deKastrozza (3 games) was injured to start season. Brett Robinson (3 games) has a few nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup. Branden Troock (2 games) was just assigned by the Stars organization in the middle of last week, and Henri Kiviaho (2 games) is the back-up goaltender.

To me that previous paragraph is the biggest indicator of the depth that is currently on this team. On any given night Brad Ralph has had the option to maneuver his lineup to make sure that everyone is getting a decent amount of ice early in the season as they adjust not only to the ECHL, but also to the system that Ralph wants to run with the Steelheads. One final number to drive the point home. Of the 20 skaters that are currently on the roster, all but one of them have at least a point. Troock is the one exception, but again, he just arrived this week.

A word of caution about the Steelheads so far this season. They are 6-1. That’s the caution. Anyone who has followed the ECHL with any kind of regularity understands that when teams get off to a hot start, the AHL and the affiliations start to take notice and the inevitable call-ups will start to occur. Or the injury bug starts to affect teams, whether through trickle down (NHL-AHL-ECHL) or directly to a team. When these things begin, the roster will obviously start to change and whatever chemistry that was there, could start to change for the better or the worse.

This is what makes the Steelheads start all the more important. By getting out to a 6-1 record to begin the season and with only four of the seven teams in the Pacific Division making the playoffs, creating as most distance as early as possible allows for a big of wiggle room should there be some massive call-ups or injuries the force the Steelheads to strive for .500 hockey for a period of time. If you were to write a script as to how I would have liked to see the season start, I think I would have hoped for 6-1, but perhaps realistically expected 4-3 or 5-2. I like what I am seeing on the ice from the Steelheads so far and hope that it can continue for the next 7 months, because if can go that long, it will be one entertaining season.

Who’s Hot?

A look at some of the Steelheads off to a great start of the season:
  • Jason Bast -  7GP 7-2=9p
  • Jesse Root - 5GP, 3-5=8
  • Wade MacLeod - 7GP, 2-6=8
  • Olivier Roy - 6GP, 5-0, 1SO, 1.28 GAA, .949SV%
But in all seriousness, I could have picked from just about anyone on the roster and placed them into this section.

Unlike previous seasons, I’m not even going to try to attempt to make this a weekly update, but will strive for at least two updates per month and perhaps a bit more if something warrants the update. If there is anything you would like to see in the Idaho Steelheads updates, let me know and I will try to include it in future articles.

Until next time…

Authors Note: After the writing of this article Levi Nelson was place on the 21 day IR.

John Mulhern is the arena emcee for CenturyLink Arena and does on-air work for the Steelheads broadcast in addition to his own Two Sports Nuts podcast.