Saturday, February 28, 2015

Flatulent Third Period Fatal for Texas in 6-3 Loss

Four goals in the final frame doom Stars' victory plans
Phillip Danault had a natural hat trick for Rockford, all in the third.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Putting it simply, Coach Laxdal had the assessment of the Stars' Saturday night effort.

"If you go back and reflect on the game, I think they outplayed us start to finish. I don't think we deserved to win tonight."

It's not like Texas didn't have chances for the victory. Up 3-2 after two periods, Texas dropped a winnable game by allowing four goals in the final frame.

"We're up going into the third period and we have to find a way to close it out," said Kevin Henderson. "This is a team we need to catch. Being at home, we have to find a way to win."

Texas and Rockford swapped goals in the second period with each club getting an even strength and a power play tally. The Stars saw Justin Dowling score on a one-timer and Kevin Henderson tally his second of the year to make it 2-2 late in the frame.

Travis Morin found himself uncovered in the right wing circle and Gemel Smith feathered a pass over to him for the one-time bid that made it 3-2.

The Stars would start the third on two near-consecutive power plays but couldn't cash in on either.

Laxdal assessed, "They're a physical team and we aren't built to be a big heavy team. They're going to take penalties and we have to take advantage of that."

Greg Rallo and Cameron Gaunce found themselves in the box just after the stars PP and Rockford as able to take advantage of that chance. Laxdal thought the Gaunce cross-checking minor was a soft one, but it made it 5-on-3 for Rockford for 84 seconds nonetheless.

Garrett Ross scored for the Hogs to tie the game on the two-man advantage.

Then the game became The Phillip Danault Show. Coming off a Texas power play, Danault stormed down the ice with Rockford and potted his first of the night. Two minutes later, it was 5-3 thanks to Danault again. He finished the hat trick into the empty net four minutes later.

The Stars tried valiantly to get back into the game after ceding the fifth goal, pulling Campbell with over three minutes left in the frame. Campbell, who started his second game in as many nights this evening, took the loss with 35 saves on 40 shots. He didn't look great, but really this was a team failure more than it could be pinned on any one player.

Texas has a full five days off before their next game against Iowa.

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

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Nemeth
Honka-Valentine

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Wrenn, Peters (scratch)
Troock. Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Texas lost Scott Glennie after an awkward fall in the first period.

Tonight's attendance was 6,165.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - February 28 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
25-17-12-1, 63 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Rockford IceHogs
31-18-4-2, 68 pts
#4 Western Conference
February 28th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Much the same as last night. In fact, nearly identical. Jack Campbell will get the start again with Jussi Rynnas ailing from a minor lower body issue. No transactions have come from Dallas and for now the Blackhawks haven't traded anyone else that will affect the IceHogs. With talks between Washinton and Chicago rumoured to be heating up, there's a chance that the lineup could change in the coming hours or a player could be held out to ensure he isn't injured in the game. You never know.

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

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rockford IceHogs Hand Texas 12th OT Loss of the Season

Jack Campbell stops 24 of 28 shots in his first AHL start since January 20th
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
If nothing else, the new overtime rules have been exciting for fans in Cedar Park. Unfortunately, they haven't translated to points for the Texas Stars this season. Texas suffered its league-worst 12th overtime loss tonight against the visiting Rockford IceHogs.

"3-on-3 is our nemesis right now," said Coach Laxdal. "We had some chances to score. Meech has a good look. Nemeth has a good look where we don't get a shot off. Usually when you don't score, you know what's going to happen right after that."

Jack Campbell "deserved a better fate," according to Greg Rallo. In his first start for the Stars since January 20th, Campbell played well, stopping several breakaways and power play chances, but ultimately suffered the loss in OT.

Greg Rallo gave the summary of the IceHogs' effort on the night.

"They're the classic case of team without superstars that just plays hard. They are constantly transitioning quick. We have to limit our turnovers and keep it in their ends."

Rockford controlled the action in the first period, outshooting Texas 11-5 and out chancing them 13-4. Their control led to the only goal of the period from either squad. Brandon Mashinter scored on the power play as a strange bounce off the boards put the puck behind Jack Campbell, who had squared to the initial shot.

"Rockford had a good energy early on," said Laxdal. "We battled back to find some energy in the second and we got better as the game went along."

Greg Rallo evened things up on the power play in the second period. Off the pass from Derek Meech in the corner, Rallo beat Michael Leighton for his 19th of the year.

Mark McNeill regained the lead for Rockford on a very nice individual effort, cutting across the crease left to right and beating Campbell to the right post on the play.

The eventful second closed with Scott Glennie scoring his eighth of the season. The play was generated off a nice effort by Patrik Nemeth to sneak down from the point and take the initial shot. Faille's rebound shot went out to Glennie, who found twine for the 2-2 score.

Travis Morin found the scoring touch that brought him the AHL MVP trophy last season in the third period to push the game to overtime. Morin carried the puck through half of the offensive zone, deked a Rockford defender out of his jock and found an open Jamie Oleksiak. The former first-rounder one-timed the puck past Leighton, who was not expecting the shot in the slightest.

The Stars made it to OT on the goal but fell in the 3-on-3 portion. The frenetic frame ended with Pierre-Cedric Labrie's goal immediately after a chance by the Stars at the other end. Such is usually the way in the 3-on-3 OT, as Laxdal indicated in postgame.

Rockford will stay in town to play the Stars again tomorrow night.

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

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Wrenn
Honka-Nemeth

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Troock, Valentine, Peters (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,347.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - February 27 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
25-17-11-1, 62 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Rockford IceHogs
30-18-4-2, 66 pts
#5 Western Conference
February 27th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

After a blistering start to the year, the Rockford IceHogs come to Cedar Park for their only visit with designs on the top spot in the Midwest. They've held it for most of the season until this month. Grand Rapids, which was in last place in the Midwest, holds it now, and Milwaukee had it before that.

The IceHogs have had success this season thanks to three goalies who are all NHL calibre or will be soon. Michael Leighton, who went to the Stanley Cup Finals with Philadelphia, was the man in the mask early. His recall put Scott Darling and Antti Raanta in the spotlight. Raanta went up to Chicago and Darling and Leighton have been holding it down since then. Overall, Rockford has the fourth best goals against in the league at 2.31 per game. Goals will be at a premium against this group, so Texas will need to get their scoring game up to get the two points.

Former Marlie TJ Brennan leads the team in scoring as a defenseman. Leading scorer TJ Brennan was traded to the Marlies yesterday for Spencer Abbott. LW Garret Ross is the leader among forwards. Big-time prospect Teuvo Teravainen had a hot start as well and looked like he'd made his place in the NHL with a recall in January. He was back briefly but now is in Chicago again. At least that's not Texas' problem for the night.

On the Stars' side, Patrik Nemeth will play his first AHL home game of the year. It'll be the first time he'll lace them up in front of the home fans since scoring the game-winner in OT for the Cup last June. Nemeth has been uneven so far in his few games with Texas. He is minus-4 in three games in which Texas went 2-0-1.

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

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jack Campbell Recalled to Texas Stars

The Texas Stars have recalled goalie jack Campbell from the ECHL after his seven game stint there. Campbell had not started for Texas since January 20th before the ECHL assignment. He started all seven games while in Boise, amassing a 5-2 record with a 1.73 GAA and .945 SV%.

Henrik Kiviaho was assigned to Idaho in a corresponding move.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today goaltender Jack Campbell has been recalled from the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, and goaltender Henrik Kiviaho has been reassigned to Idaho.

Campbell, 23, appeared in seven games during his stint in Idaho, stringing together a 5-2-0 record, with a 1.73 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. The Port Huron, Michigan native also added a shutout, blanking the Stockton Thunder on Feb. 21, 1-0.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Campbell has appeared in 19 games this season with Texas, and holds a 38-32-9 record overall in his AHL career with the Stars, with a 2.62 goals against average and .909 save percentage.

The 21-year-old Kiviaho (HEHN-rihk kih-vee-AH-hoh) was on his second call-up to the AHL this year. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound goaltender has appeared in 15 games this season for Idaho with a 2.95 goals against average and an .895 save percentage. Kiviaho was a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Stars (144th overall) in 2012.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rookies Score But OKC Sneaks by Texas in OT 3-2

The Stars found themselves up 2-0 early but couldn't hold on against the West's top team. OKC completed the comeback with three unanswered goals, including Andrew Miller's overtime tally to win it. Texas suffered their league-worst 11th overtime loss.

Eric Faille scored his second AHL goal in as many games off a breakaway early. Julius Honka made the lead two with a slap shot in the second. A late Davidson score in the second and a PP marker from Jason Williams sent the game to OT.

Overall, the Stars had a tremendously successful road trip. They captured nine of twelve possible points and moved themselves from 10th place to firmly in 7th in the West. Two home games against Rockford loom this weekend before nearly a week off.

Here's the release:
Andrew Miller's wrist shot from the left circle snuck past Jussi Rynnas in overtime as the Oklahoma City Barons topped the Texas Stars in a 3-2 final on Tuesday night at Cox Convention Center, and brought a possible end to the West Division rivalry as the Barons will relocate to the AHL's Pacific Division next season.

Miller's goal provided the Barons (33-14-3-3) with their league-leading 13th overtime win of the season. Julius Honka tallied a goal and an assist to lead the Stars (25-17-11-1). Rynnas took the loss stopping 27 of 30 shots in net.

The Stars begin a season-long seven-game homestand on Friday against Rockford at 7:30 p.m.

Texas wasted little time to open up the scoring as Eric Faille scored for the second straight game on a breakaway to cap off a stretch pass through the neutral zone from Scott Valentine just 1:39 into the contest.

Honka picked up the second assist on the goal, and then added one of his own at 9:33 of the second when his slap shot across the blue line beat Laurent Brossoit for his sixth of the year. Brossoit would be perfect in net for the remainder of the game to earn the win and finished with 22 saves for the Barons. Brandon Davidson start the Oklahoma City comeback with just over a minute remaining in the middle period off a slap shot from the slot.

The offense remained quiet between both teams until the Barons took advantage of their sixth power play chance of the night late in the third, and Jason William buried his 16th of the year with 3:45 to play in regulation. Miller's game-winner ended the fifth overtime matchup between the Stars and Barons this season. Seven of the 12 total matchups were decided by just a goal.

Texas finished 0-for-4 on the power play while the Barons went 1-for-6. It was the second time in the last 19 road games the Stars had given up a power play goal. There is a chance the two rivals could meet in a playoff series later this year.

Tonight's lines:
Glennie-Dowling-Smith
Ranford-Morin-Rallo
Stransky-Faille-Henderson
Peters-Root-Mangene

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Nemeth
Honka-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Troock, Wrenn, Hulak (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 1,905.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - February 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
25-17-10-1, 61 pts
#7 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
32-14-3-3, 70 pts
#1 Western Conference
February 24th at 7:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

For now, a grudge match first born in the regular season and forged into true steel of a rivalry in the playoffs will come to a conclusion. It remains to be seen if these two teams will play each other in the playoffs. It could happen with either a 1v8 or 2v7 matchup.

All-time, OKC holds the edge. In 55 regular season matchups, they've claimed 66 points to Texas' 56. Last year was a solid one for Texas as they went 8-3-1-0 against the Barons. This year, OKC has held the edge at 6-4-1-0. It's interesting that OKC, the top team in the conference, has had such trouble with the Stars this season. It could make for an interesting playoff matchup if it does happen.

Of course, Texas has some work to do to make the playoffs. They've firmly placed themselves in the conversation with a 9-2-1-1 record since starting their homestand against Chicago on January 23rd. Early season struggles mean that their record over the last month is only enough to get them into the conversation. There's going to be a dogfight down the stretch with Chicago, Hamilton and Adirondack in the pack for the last two playoff spots. This morning's predictions put Texas at the head of the race on pace for 87 points. Chicago is on pace for 86, and Hamilton and Adirondack are at 85. That's not a lot of breathing room.

And so Texas comes to tonight's contest. The Barons are not the same team they were earlier in the season, and the Stars are hot. It's a chance to pounce on a weaker team for Texas. Since the two clubs last played, OKC is 5-5-1-1. Still pretty good, but they've cooled enough that the Utica Comets are just two points behind them in the standings.

Tend the Farm examined this recent fragility in a blog post this week, noting the departure of some key players as potential failure points for the Barons:
The fragility of the Barons isn’t consistent, but it’s consistently there. Meaning that they are prone to mistakes, hard-wired to falter, and pre-conditioned to need heavier scoring / defending leaders like Lander, Pakarinen, Marincin and Klefbom. With all four likely graduating through the end of the NHL season, it is hard to pin point exactly whom is going to take charge with OKC the next month of the season.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Depth Scoring Contributes in 3-1 Victory in Toronto

Kevin Henderson and Eric Faille each scored their first of the season, in Faille's case the first AHL goal of his career, to push Texas past the Toronto Marlies. The Stars finish the season with a 3-0-1 record against the Marlies.

Scott Glennie contributed the game-winning goal, his fourth point in the past three games and first game-winner on the season.

Jussi Rynnas almost had the shutout, but he got the win and that's pretty important too. Rynnas is white hot in February. He's got a 5-2 record with a .942 SV% and 1.72 GAA. The two losses came against the top two teams in the conference, OKC and Utica.

The win puts Texas in seventh place for now with more Western Conference games to be played this evening.

Here's the release:
Two goals in the opening minutes of the third period and another strong performance in net by Jussi Rynnas propelled the Texas Stars to a 3-1 win over the Toronto Marlies in the regular season finale between the two clubs in front 5,183 fans on Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.

Scott Glennie and Eric Faille each scored in the opening 4:29 of the third to open up a 3-0 lead for the Stars. Faille's goal was the first of his AHL career, and came after he was initially credited with the Stars' opening goal, but credit was changed to Kevin Henderson. Rynnas stopped 31 of 32 shots for his 18th win of year, and was less than two minutes away from his fifth shutout of the season before Toronto (21-21-9-0) scored their lone goal with 1:37 remaining.

Texas (25-17-10-1) closes out their six-game road trip on Tuesday, when they visit the Oklahoma City Barons for the final matchup ever between the two clubs as the Barons will relocate the AHL's new Pacific Division next year in Bakersfield, Cali.

Texas opened up the scoring as Henderson tipped home his first goal of the season off Jamie Oleksiak's point shot at 11:59 of the first.

The offense remained quiet in period two as both Rynnas and Toronto's Christopher Gibson went save-for-save with Rynnas turning aside 13 shots from the Marlies. Gibson stopped 11, and took the loss with 29 saves overall in the game.

With a power play early in the third, Gemel Smith fed Glennie for his seventh of the season on a backdoor pass to make it a 2-0 lead for Texas at 3:54. 35 seconds later, Faille buried his first of the year off a turnover in the right circle of the offensive zone by crossing the front of the net to drag Gibson out of position for an easy tap in. Matt Mangene also tallied an assist on Glennie's goal.

The Texas special team's units continued their strong play finishing 1-for-2 on the power play and scoring a man-advantage goal for the 14th time in their last 18 games. The Stars killed off all three Toronto power plays, and have been perfect on the penalty kill in 17 of their last 18 road contests.

Rynnas improved his record to 5-1-0 over his last six games, giving up two goals or less in five of those matchups. 25 of his 31 saves in the game came in the final two periods. Texas is now 4-1-0-0 on their road trip and has won six of their last eight games.

Tonight's lines:
Glennie-Dowling-Smith
Hulak-Morin-Rallo
Stransky-Faille-Henderson
Peters-Root-Mangene

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Nemeth-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Troock, Wrenn (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,183.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - February 21 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Toronto Marlies

Texas Stars
24-17-10-1, 59 pts
#8 Western Conference
atToronto Marlies
21-20-9-0, 51 pts
#12 Western Conference
February 21st at 2:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

Another matinee game at the Ricoh Coliseum will end the season series with the Toronto Marlies. The Stars have yet to come away from a game against the Marlies without at least one point this season. Their only loss was in overtime at the Cedar Park Center on January 10th.

The leading scorer for Texas against the Marlies won't be around for the game. Brendan Ranford has 3-3=6 in three games. It's expected he will stay with Dallas through their coming road trip.

The Marlies are known for a heavy style. Luckily both teams are coming off games in upstate New York last night that forced them to travel overnight Friday evening. Toronto lost to Utica last night 5-2, the same score by which Texas beat Rochester.

A few things to watch: the performance of Jussi Rynnas, who will likely get the start after playing last night; the performance of Patrik Nemeth, who is playing in only his second game back after injury in October; continued hot streaks for Derek Hulak and Greg Rallo and how the Marlies will target those players to shut them down.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

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

Friday, February 20, 2015

Justin Dowling Hat Trick Leads Charge in 5-2 Win in Rochester

Justin Dowling had his second career hat trick to power Texas past Rochester in New York this evening. Scott Glennie and Derek Hulak each added two points, and the Stars completed the season series against Rochester with a split of the two games.

The first period was a back and forth affair with Texas and Rochester each scoring twice. Greg Rallo's second period goal off the cross-ice pass by Travis Morin put them up 3-2. Dowling's power play goal added the insurance marker and he scored into the empty net in the final minute for the hat trick.

Jussi Rynnas stopped 30 of 32 in the win. Former Aero, now Amerk, Matt Hackett took the loss with 36 saves on 40 shots by Texas.

Patrik Nemeth, back in the lineup rehabbing an injury suffered in the NHL, was minus-2 with no points.

Here's the release:
A hat trick performance by Justin Dowling sparked the Texas Stars to a 5-2 road win on Friday night over the Rochester Americans in front of 6,293 in attendance at Blue Cross Arena.

Travis Morin (two assists) and Scott Glennie (goal, assist) also tallied multi-point nights for the Stars along with Dowling. Jussi Rynnas turned aside 30 of 32 shots for his 17th win of the season, and Texas has now won three of the first four games on their season-long six-game road trip.

The Stars (24-17-10-1) continue their road trip Saturday when they visit Toronto at 2 p.m. CST.

Tied up 2-2 entering the second period, Greg Rallo snapped the tie at 5:05 on a crossing feed from Morin for his team-leading 18th of the season. Dowling then buried his second of the game from the left circle on the power play with less than a minute remaining in the second to make it a 4-2 lead for the Stars. That's all the offense the Stars would need, but Dowling added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds of the third for the Stars fourth hat trick of the season. Rynnas stopped all 21 shots he faced from the Americans in the final two periods to secure the Texas road win.

Matt Hackett suffered the loss for the Americans (22-28-4-0), stopping 36 of 40 shots.

Texas opened up the scoring just 24 seconds into the game as Glennie lifted home his sixth of the year on a loose puck at the left side of the crease. Rochester tied it up at 9:46 of the frame when Zac Dalpe finished off a crossing pass from the left circle, but Dowling pushed Texas back in front less than three minutes later on a wrist shot from the right circle to make it 2-1. Dan Catenacci slipped home a rebound goal at 14:47 of the opening period to knot the game after one, prior to the Stars offense taking over in period two.

Texas finished 1-for-3 on the power play, and held the Americans scoreless on three man-advantage chances. The Stars have been perfect on the penalty kill in 16 of their last 17 road games. Rallo appeared in his 600th career pro game.

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

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Nemeth
Honka-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Peters, Wrenn (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,293.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rochester - February 20 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rochester Americans

Texas Stars
23-17-10-1, 57 pts
#9 Western Conference
atRochester Americans
22-27-4-0, 48 pts
#13 Western Conference
February 20th at 6:05 PM
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY

The two-game season series against Rochester comes to a close tonight in upstate New York.

The last time these two played, it was an embarrassing affair for the Stars. After leading 4-1 early in the second, Texas 'laid an egg,' according to coach Laxdal, and lost 6-5. It was part of a really rough set that include losses to Iowa and Toronto. All three teams were below Texas in the standings and should have been wins.

Right now, the Stars are on a different track. They've got 16 points in their last 11 games (.727%) and, despite a hiccup against Utica, look to be ready to take on the West for a playoff spot.

Of course, they are being challenged at the moment by things outside their control. Some top scoring talent is out of the lineup with Ritchie and Ranford in Dallas in addition to McKenzie and Jokipakka. The 'kids' need to chip in to make the offense click. Jesse Root picked up a goal in Utica on Wednesday and that's a good sign. Look for Gemel Smith and Derek Hulak to continue their hot streaks if Texas is to continue winning at their current pace.

One thing that might help is the assignment of Patrik Nemeth. Nemeth suffered an arm laceration at the beginning of the NHL season and started on a road to recovery. He was not expected to be able to play at all in February, but here he is. Nemeth, of course, hasn't donned a Texas Stars' sweater since scoring the Cup-clinching OT goal in St. John's last June.

This morning's playoff predictor puts Texas needing a 14-10-1 record down the stretch to get into the playoffs. That doesn't seem too bad until you look at the schedule they have to get there. Out of the remaining 25 games, 17 are against teams currently in playoff position. Texas still has to play its entire season series against #3 Milwaukee and three more games against #4 Rockford.

On the Amerks' side (with thanks to Kevin Oklobzija), Mikhail Grigorenko is not going to play for Rochester this weekend. The center, whose been out with knee injury since January 30th, was hoping to return for the weekend. Former Houston Aero Matt Hackett is back from reconstructive knee surgery. He's started five of the last six Amerks games and went 3-1-1 in those contests.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Patrik Nemeth Assigned to Texas Stars for Conditioning

(Credit: Colin Peddle)
Patrik Nemeth has been assigned to the Texas Stars to rehab his arm laceration that he suffered in October with Dallas. He's not technically on a conditioning assignment, as he is still waiver-exempt, but that's basically what it is. He isn't expected to play more than three games, but there is a tiny possibility that he could play at home next weekend.

Nemeth, of course, hasn't played for the Texas Stars since scoring the Cup-clinching overtime goal in St. John's last June.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has assigned defenseman Patrik Nemeth to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Nemeth, 23, appeared in five games with Dallas, registering a +1 plus/minus rating and three shots on goal. The native of Stockholm, Sweden has missed the last 52 games after suffering an arm laceration on Oct. 18, 2014 against Philadelphia.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defenseman was selected by Dallas in the second round (41st overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Texas' Streak Comes to Screeching Halt in Utica

Utica's at the top of the standings for a reason. They showed why tonight with a 5-2 browbeating of the Texas Stars in upstate New York. The Stars were neck-and-neck with the Comets early but a goal by Dustin Jeffrey in the last minute of the first put Utica on a path to victory. Texas didn't help their own case by allowing goals in the first minute of both the first and second period.

Here's the release:
A pair of power play goals by the Utica Comets was the difference on Wednesday night as the Texas Stars’ three-game winning streak came to an end in a 5-2 loss at Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Former Star Dustin Jeffrey struck late in the first period to give Utica a 2-1 lead on the power play, and Brendan Gaunce also scored on the man-advantage midway through the second to extend it to a three goal cushion and pull the Comets (30-14-5-1) away for good in the Texas loss. It was the first time in 15 road games the Stars had given up a power play goal, as they entered the game as the AHL's top penalty killing team away from home.

Jesse Root and Derek Meech each scored for Texas (23-17-10-1). Jussi Rynnas suffered just his second regulation loss in the last 10 games, stopping 20 of 24 Utica shots. In his only appearance against the Stars this season, Jacob Markstrom turned aside 24 of 26 shots to earn the win.

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

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Mangene-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Wrenn (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,524.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Utica - February 18 2015

Brendan Ranford Earns First NHL Callup to Dallas

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced this afternoon that Brendan Ranford has been recalled to the Dallas Stars.

Ranford signed a three-year entry level deal with Dallas this past summer. This will be the first NHL recall of his career, which began on a PTO to the Texas Stars last season. After the young winger proved himself to be extremely valuable on the top line with Curtis McKenzie and Travis Morin in the Calder Cup run, he got a contract from Dallas on July 2nd of last year.

Texas has enough skaters in Utica to ice a full lineup tonight. Depending on the health of Scott Glennie and Maxime Fortunus, they may have some scratches as well.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled forward Brendan Ranford from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Ranford, 22, currently ranks second on Texas with 23 assists and 36 points (13-23=36), while he ranks third on the squad with 13 goals in 50 games this season.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound native of Edmonton, Alta. was originally selected by Philadelphia in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft, and was signed by Dallas as a free agent on July 2, 2014.

Nill also announced today that the club has placed forward Travis Moen on Injured Reserve (upper body), retroactive to Feb. 17. Moen has recorded six points (1-5=6) in 30 games with Dallas this season.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Utica Comets

Texas Stars
23-16-10-1, 57 pts
#8 Western Conference
atUtica Comets
29-14-5-1, 64 pts
#3 Western Conference
February 18th at 6:00 PM
Utica Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY

UPDATE: Brendan Ranford added to the callup list.

Utica has been a pretty hot team this seaosn. As we've mentioned before here, ever since the Comets hit the All-Star Break last season, they've been good. By the time they got to the break last year, they were already too far into the hole to make it back. This year, they started hot and have stayed pretty warm.

Coming out of this year's All-Star Break, they hit a bit of a skid. After the ASG, which was hosted in Utica, the Comets lost four straight. Of course, when you're in a place like Utica was, you can afford to lose a few. That string of losses pushed the loss column into double digits on the season. So... it's all relative.

Since then, the team is 5-2. They've still dipped behind the surging Milwaukee Admirals in the standings and would like to get the full two points here.

The Stars have also been on a hot streak here. In their last ten games, they've collected 16 points with a 7-1-1-1 record. Missing some of their top talent due to Dallas callup wasn't as much of an issue against woebegone Iowa. Depth scoring became primary scoring thanks to the hot streak that Greg Rallo is on. Gemel Smith and Derek Hulak have also stepped up recently for the club.

Utica is currently in possession of all of their top weapons, including leading scorer and former Star Dustin Jeffrey (15-21=36).

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Ranford (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa, Glennie (injury)

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mulhern: Jack Campbell "Outstanding" in Idaho Despite Two Losses

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
Our man in Boise, John Mulhern, worked overtime to get something about Jack Campbell together for today. Campbell played three games with the Steelheads this weekend and Mulhern has his thoughts below...

The Idaho Steelheads just completed a three-game series against the Utah Grizzlies in which the Grizzlies were able to take two out of the three games. The meaning of these three games in the overall grand scheme of the playoffs meant more for Utah trying to get into a playoff position versus Idaho, which currently has a nine point lead over Utah in 4th place and an 11 point lead over 5th place Alaska Aces.

As far as the top of the standings go, Idaho trails the first place Colorado Eagles by six points, and the second place Ontario Reign by three points, but again the Steelheads hold two games in hand on both

Of course at this point I have buried the lead. This past week the Idaho Steelheads were assigned Dallas prospect and Texas backup goaltender Jack Campbell. It is assumed that the assignment will be no longer than a couple of weeks (up to nine games played) before he gets recalled to Texas after having worked off some rust down in the ECHL.

I was given the charge this past weekend to get a good look at the 6’ 3” 195 lb. prospect and give a review of his performance over the two home games played this past weekend.

Friday February 13: Utah Grizzlies win 3-2

This was the first game that Idaho played in over a week, and there was a bit of evidence of that during the game. The entire team was just a bit loose with regards to their systems, and it ended up forcing Campbell to make a few extra saves, as well as force him to do some scrambling around his net. When all was said and done, Campbell made 24 save on 27 shots. Despite getting tagged with the loss, Campbell played well. In the game, Idaho jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of two power play goals, but just as quickly as the power play gave the power play took away.

Both of the goals that Utah scored to tie the game up came on shorthanded breakaways. There was an apparent holding call missed on the first goal and the second one was a breakaway from the penalty box as the player came out behind the Steelheads for the goal. The game-winning goal was a product of right place right time for Utah as the Steelheads broke up the initial rush, but the bouncing puck went right to a Grizzlies stick and a quick release through traffic later, Campbell had no chance to make the save.

I think if Campbell had another game or two under his belt, maybe he comes up with a save on one of the breakaway goals, but as Patrick Cullity told me postgame, there were team breakdowns that led to the Utah goals, and shouldn’t be pinned on any individual. I think if you add in the fact that the team had not played for over a week and Campbell hadn’t played meaningful minutes in what must seem like forever, it wasn’t a bad first outing.

Saturday, February 14: Idaho Steelheads win 4-1

Jack Campbell earned his first ECHL win in his second start and earned the 3rd star of the night for his efforts. Campbell ended the night making 22 saves on 23 shots including a clean breakaway in the second period with the game tied at one. Gaelan Patterson and Colton Beck took care of the game winners and insurance goals to help earn the win for Idaho.

Campbell played as well on Saturday as he did on Friday. The big difference was the team in front of him. Forwards were back-checking harder on Saturday. The defensemen were doing a better job of clearing the crease of players and rebounds. The chances that Utah got were of lesser quality. The lone goal came off a clean face-off win in the offensive zone and a shot from the point that found its way through about five players and may have been deflected on the way in.

Campbell looked calm and collected the entire night, never seemed out of control and if there was any rust leftover from the time off, it was entirely gone by the end of the first period on Saturday.

Monday, February 16: Idaho falls 2-0 in early President's Day game

The Steelheads did travel down to Utah for the third game of the set and Idaho did lose the game 2-0. Didn’t get to see the game, did listen to Will Hoenike on the call and at least one of the goals allowed was a total defensive breakdown that left Campbell out to dry. Of course when a team doesn’t score any goals, it’s awfully hard to win.

So here’s the conclusion from the weekend. First, the Idaho Steelheads are fine even after losing two out of three. They are still solidly in a playoff position and they are starting to get back into the everyday grind of hockey. Nobody on the team will use the layoff as an excuse, but when you don’t have a game for nine days, it affects your body and not always in a great way. But with the grind of the schedule picking back up, I expect the team will be fine going forward.

As for Jack Campbell, I think there are still some things that could be better, however, as a 23 year old, he has plenty of time to work those out of his game. For the three games played this weekend, he has a 1-2 record with a 2.04 GAA and a .919 save percentage. The goals against average and the save percentage are outstanding, and if those numbers hold true for the remainder of his time in the ECHL, not only will the Steelheads win a bunch of games while he is here, but I would consider it mission accomplished as far as the organizational goal of getting him quality playing time goes.

Stay tuned later this month for the regular Steelheads update.

John Mulhern covers the Idaho Steelheads for 100 Degree Hockey. In Boise, Mulhern works as on-air talent for the Steelheads broadcast team on KTIK Boise. You can check out his podcast at Two Sports Nuts.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Flawless Week Lands Jussi Rynnas AHL Player of the Week Honors

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Jussi Rynnas picked up AHL Player of the Week honors this week after a 3-0-0 performance, including one shutout, last week. Rynnas has been key to cleaning up occasionally messy situations that could have put Texas behind the eight ball this season.

It's pretty impressive to consider that Rynnas probably wasn't the only Star who could have been named as PotW. Greg Rallo had four goals and an assist this week. The team is clicking. Utica is going to be a fun game.

Here's the release:
The American Hockey League announced today that Texas Stars goaltender Jussi Rynnas has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Feb. 15, 2015.

Rynnas stopped 89 of 91 shots in three starts last week, posting a 3-0-0 record, a 0.67 goals-against average and a .978 save percentage.

On Tuesday night, Rynnas made 28 saves as Texas rolled past San Antonio, 6-1. He took a shutout bid into the final minute of regulation on Friday night and finished with 35 saves in a 3-1 win at Iowa, then came back on Saturday and earned his fourth shutout of the season with a 26-save effort in a 2-0 victory over the Wild.

In 28 appearances with Texas this season, Rynnas has a record of 16-4-6 with a 2.46 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts. The 27-year-old native of Pori, Finland, signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars on July 7, 2014, after leading all Liiga (Finnish Elite League) goaltenders in GAA and save percentage and winning a championship with Karpat last season. Rynnas has played 101 career AHL games with Texas and Toronto as well as five National Hockey League contests, including two this season with Dallas.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rynnas Shuts Out Wild as Rallo Stays Hot for 2-0 Texas Win

Jussi Rynnas (Credit: Iowa Wild)
Needing four points to get themselves into prime position in the playoff race, Texas got those points and some big-time added confidence thanks to really solid goaltending from Jussi Rynnas. Rynnas' shutout was his fourth of the year. Greg Rallo also stayed hot with a goal in five straight games now.

Texas is still in 8th place but has a three point cushion on Adirondack, which is spiraling out of control at 3-6-1-0 in their last ten.

Here's the release:
Jussi Rynnas was perfect in net and Greg Rallo continued his scoring binge to lead the Texas Stars to their fourth shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the Iowa Wild on Satuday night at Wells Fargo Arena in front of 9,107 in attendance.

Rynnas stopped 26 shots for his fourth shutout and 16th win of the year. Greg Rallo's first period goal held up as the game-winner and extended the veteran forward's goal-scoring streak to five games. Rallo has tallied six goals and eight points overall during the stretch. Rynnas has given up just a pair of goals over his last three stars, and has won six of his last eight for Texas.

Texas (23-16-10-1) continues their season-long road trip on Wednesday, when they visit Utica at 6 p.m.

Rallo buried Derek Hulak's crossing pass from the right circle at 10:06 of the first for his 17th of the season, and third goal in two games against Iowa (17-33-1-1). After a scoreless second, Brendan Ranford kept the Stars power play unit clicking with a wrist shot at 12:30 of the third from the right circle that banked off the crossbar for his 13th of the season.

The Stars finished 1-for-3 on the power play and have scored a man-advantage goal in 12 of their last 15 contests. Texas also continued their strong penalty killing on the road, holding the Wild scoreless in six power play chances.

Matt Mangene recorded the assist on Ranford's goal. Iowa's Johan Gustafsson took the loss, going 18 of 20 in net.
Tonight's lines:
Hulak-Smith-Rallo
Ranford-Dowling-Stransky
Troock-Faille-Henderson
Mangene-Peters-Root

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Wrenn-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Morin, Ritchie (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa, Glennie (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 9,107.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - February 14 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
22-16-10-1, 53 pts
#8 Western Conference
atIowa Wild
17-32-1-1, 36 pts
#15 Western Conference
February 14th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

UPDATE: Brett Ritchie and Travis Morin have been recalled to Dallas. Jesse Root has been recalled to Texas from Boise as well.

Same teams and Texas is hoping for the same result. Two points tonight would be a pretty big feat though.

Texas is likely to lose at least two players today thanks to last night's Dallas game. Ales Hemsky, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves all left the game with injuries. Brett Ritchie is a likely callup. Justin Dowling might be as well. Travis Morin would be, but he's got the waiver limit just one game away. Stay tuned through the day for more callup information.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie, Ritchie, Morin (call up)
Fortunus, Dowling, Glennie (injury)
Faksa (injury, out for season)

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Greg Rallo, Jussi Rynnas Lead Texas Over Iowa 3-1

(Credit: Iowa Wild)
Big two points in Des Moines for the Texas Stars. Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and didn't look back. For the night, Texas is into playoff position. They can solidify their position with two more tomorrow night against Iowa again.

Here's the release:
Jussi Rynnas stopped 35 shots in net and Greg Rallo scored twice to extend his goal-scoring streak as the Texas Stars topped the Iowa Wild for a 3-1 win on Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena in front of 6,680 in attendance.

Justin Dowling added the other goal for the Stars. Rallo has scored in four straight games, and Gemel Smith also tallied a two-point night with assists on both goals by the veteran forward. With the win, the Stars passed Hamilton and Adirondack to take over the eighth and final playoff spot in the AHL's Western Conference, plus pulled themselves within one point of seventh-place Grand Rapids.

The Stars (22-16-10-1) and Wild (17-32-1-1) hook up again Saturday at 7 p.m. to close out their weekend set.

Appearing in his 100th career AHL game, Rynnas was in reach of his fourth shutout of the season but Olivier Archambault batted in a bouncing puck at the right side of the crease with 54 seconds remaining in regulation to end the bid. The Stars netminder earned his 15th win of the year to open the team's season-long, six-game road trip. Texas is 6-1-1-1 in their last nine games.

Rallo put Texas in front two minutes into the contest on a wrist shot from the right circle to beat Iowa goaltender John Curry, who took the loss in a 22-save effort. Dowling then struck at 9:16 for his 12th of the year, deflecting Julius Honka's point shot to make it a 2-0 lead for Texas, and the rest of the night belonged to Rynnas.

Rallo scored again at 12:52 of the second, beating Curry from the slot, but the Texas goaltender turned aside 28 of his 35 saves in the game during the final forty minutes of play. Cameron Gaunce on Rallo's second and Matej Stransky on Dowling's lone goal, each recorded assists as well.

Texas was scoreless in their lone power play chance in the game, and held the Wild off the scoresheet in their three man-advantage attempts.

Tonight's lines:
Rnaford-Morin-Ritchie
Hulak-Smith-Rallo
Troock-Dowling-Stransky
Mangene-Peters-Henderson

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Wrenn-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, McKenzie (call up)
Faille (scratch)
Fortunus, Faksa, Glennie (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,680.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - February 13 2015

Former Star Francis Wathier Shaves His Head to Support Iowa-Based Fan with Cancer



The Wathier family has maintained close connections to people they've met throughout Francis' long career. That includes Karen Bougher, an Iowa fan who "rarely misses a hockey game," that the Wathiers met during their four years in Des Moines. Bougher was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy in December. She is currently in the midst of multiple chemotherapy sessions that began on January 27th.

Karen decided to shave her head in advance of her second chemotherapy treatment yesterday. Former Star Francis Wathier joined Karen from Portland, Maine, via video chat and shaved his head as well in a showing of solidarity. His wife, Isabel, filmed the event while two of his children helped him out with the task.

You can learn more about Karen's fight here. Texas will host its 6th Annual Pink in the Rink night when Texas returns to the CPC on February 27th and 28th.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
21-16-10-1, 53 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Iowa Wild
17-31-1-1, 36 pts
#15 Western Conference
February 13th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

It's just been a season to forget in Des Moines. The Iowa Wild are the worst club in the American Hockey League despite firing their coach early in the season.

With Texas wins this weekend, the Stars could put Iowa out of its misery. Currently with 36 points, the Wild need approximately 50 points in their remaining 26 games to match the pace for 8th in the West. If they lose this weekend, there would need to be a colossal collapse among the current contenders and a near-perfect record from the Wild.

Long story short, these are games the Stars absolutely have to win.

And the Stars recent record on the homestand suggests they can do it. They claimed 12 of 16 points in the last eight-game segment and appear ready to take on the world after the vociferous 6-1 victory over San Antonio. Texas is 7-2 against Iowa all-time and 2-1 this season, so that's a good added stat. The current standings put Texas in 10th place by percentage and show that they need 33 points in 28 games. Let's call it a 15-10-3-0 record. That doesn't look all that bad. Completely doable and it has to start tonight in Iowa.

Among the cornfields, Texas will ice only a slightly different lineup than their last game. Brett Ritchie was assigned from Dallas and Curtis McKenzie recalled. Ritchie will bring a scoring edge back to Texas after honing his skills on the Dallas Stars top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

Tonight's game will be the first in a 14 day road trip and a huge turning point, make or break moment in the season. All eyes are on Jussi Rynnas with Jack Campbell in Idaho. He'll probably get every game on the trip starting tonight.

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, McKenzie (call up)
Fortunus, Dowling, Glennie (injury)
Faksa (injury, out for season)

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dallas Stars Recall Curtis McKenzie from Texas

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars have recalled winger Curtis McKenzie from the Texas Stars. Earlier in the day, Brett Ritchie was assigned to Texas.

Dallas Trades Anders Lindback to Buffalo, Solidifying Jussi Rynnas as Texas Starter

Anders Lindback (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Anders Lindback experiment in Dallas is over as GM Jim Nill traded Lindback and a conditional third round pick to Buffalo for goalie Jhonas Enroth.

Enroth has been playing all season with Buffalo, getting into 37 NHL games as opposed to Lindback's 10. The trade likely means that Jussi Rynnas is the solidified starter for the Texas Stars the rest of the season.

Brett Ritchie Returns to Texas Stars

Brett Ritchie (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Brett Ritchie has been reassigned to the Texas Stars as they prepare to leave for a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.

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

Ritchie, 21, has posted four points (three goals, one assist) and a +2 plus/minus rating in 10 NHL games with Dallas this season. He scored his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game on his first shot on Dec. 31, 2014 vs. the Arizona Coyotes. In 23 games with Texas, he has posted 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) and a team-leading +10 plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Orangeville, Ontario was selected by Dallas in the second round (44th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Physical Texas Stars Cruise to 6-1 Win Over Rival Rampage

Gemel Smith's pair highlights rookie's development during homestand
Gemel Smith (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Faced with a schedule that will see them outside the state of Texas for most of the rest of the month of February, the Stars took one final opportunity to collect some huge points tonight in Cedar Park with a 6-1 throttling of the San Antonio Rampage. Coach Laxdal called out two-goal scorer Gemel Smith as the best player on the ice tonight.

"It was a great team effort overall and guys were clicking," said Jamie Oleksiak, who had the game-winning goal and two assists. "Once we get momentum, guys start making plays, and we gain confidence."

The game's momentum hinged on a San Antonio 5-on-3 power play that spanned the first intermission. Coach Laxdal called out the excellent play of Greg Rallo, Jamie Oleksiak and Cameron Gaunce on the penalty kill to keep San Antonio off the board. The Stars drew a penalty while down 5-on-3 and then scored on the resulting power play after killing the 4-on-3 segment.

Jamie Oleksiak's collected the puck in front of the net and deposited it in the twine with a nifty turn-around move. From there, the Stars were off to the races on San Antonio.

The first period had been a grinding and physical affair, certainly expected by both parties after playing each other three times in the last week.

"I liked our physical presence," said Laxdal. "When you add Oleksiak, Wrenn and Henderson, we got heavier as a team, which is something we lack, especially in a game against San Antonio."

Late in the first, Cameron Gaunce snuck down low from the point to put home a five-hole tally on Dan Ellis for the 1-0 score off the pass from Derek Hulak.

After Oleksiak's goal to go up 2-0, it was time for Gemel Smith to extend his scoring prowess against Dan Ellis. Coming into the game, Smith had scored just six goals total but four had been against Ellis. He added another with a nice snipe off a bad San Antonio turnover in their own zone. That would end Ellis' night.

"I know I've been having some good luck against them," said Smith. "So I just tried to shoot the puck today. I've had [Ellis'] number here, and I guess I sense the opportunity and feel confident when I shoot on him."

Curtis McKenzie would go next on the power play, scoring his first in five games to make it 4-0. San Antonio's Michael Houser yielded one more goal before the end of the frame, a tip play by Greg Rallo off the shot by Derek Meech.

As things got out of hand on the scoreboard, they also got chippier on the ice. Even the first period had a big hit when Greg Zanon crushed Brendan Ranford along the near-side boards. Ranford did not miss a shift, but it was a thundering hit that set a tone for both sides. Even Julius Honka got into othe action, upending Jonathan Racine in the third with a hip check.

Shane O'Brien would break up the shutout for Jussi Rynnas on a power play. Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie were in the box following a fracas that saw Morin nearly drop the gloves with Josh McFarland.

Gemel Smith added one more for good measure in the final minutes of the game. His 6-1 tally came off the assist of Jamie Oleksiak off a 2-on-0 type play where the two skaters just outpassed the goaltender.

Texas now has to hit the road for six games, starting with two in Iowa this weekend.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Smith-Rallo
Troock-Faille-Stransky
Mangene-Peters-Henderson

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Wrenn-Valentine

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, Ritchie (call up)
Fortunus, Faksa, Dowling, Glennie (injury)

Fortunus is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Travis Morin wore the captain's "C" in his place.

Tonight's attendance was 4,872.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - February 10 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
20-16-10-1, 51 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
27-15-4-0, 58 pts
#4 Western Conference
February 10th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The tone of tonight's game could be determined off the first puck drop. Last time these two teams met, it got a little heated. Coach Laxdal got into a heated argument with San Antonio's Coach Rowe. The time before that Shane O'Brien tried to take down anyone he could at the end of overtime, attempting to draw either Cameron Gaunce or Maxime Fortunus into a brawl. Neither incident drew any supplemental justice. It appears these teams will try to settle things between themselves in the Lone Star state.

So I would listen closely when Rob Mason announces tonight's starting lineup for the San Antonio Rampage. Tom Rowe has to make the first move, sending in his lineup first. If you see some of the punchers out there, like Shane O'Brien particularly, get ready for something interesting off the drop.

As to the game at hand, the Rampage are doing pretty well points-wise. After beating Texas in the shootout, the Rampage beat OKC 5-3, scoring three straight to roar back from a 3-2 deficit in front of a home crowd of over 13,000. Dan Ellis is 21-8-2 on the season and is feasting on Texas. At 6-1 with a 2.09 GAA and .929 SV% against his former organization, Ellis is the ace in the hole of the I-35 rivalry.

On the Texas side, Jussi Rynnas is your man in net. He's yet to lose to San Antonio in regulation, but it's a small sample size. Jack Campbell is 0-4 against the Rampage this season; Rynnas is 1-0-1.

Stars injury/call up report:
Ritchie, Jokipakka (call up)
Henderson (injury, upper body)
Faksa (injury, out for season)

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Goalie Jack Campbell Assigned to Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
UPDATE: Quotes from Texas Stars GM Scott White.

Texas Stars goaltender Jack Campbell has been assigned to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this afternoon. Campbell has not played in an AHL game since January 20th, a stretch of seven games, which is the longest time Campbell has been healthy and gone without playing time.

In a corresponding move, Henri Kiviaho was recalled from the Steelheads to back up Rynnas.

Campbell has struggled mightily this season. After playing in limited games last year due to injury but having good numbers, the first-round pick was expected to share the net with Jussi Rynnas in Texas. A disastrous November which saw Campbell go 0-4-2 with a 3.44 GAA and .903 SV% put him firmly in the backup role. Campbell owns a 3-10-4 record overall, a 0.890 SV% and 3.36 GAA.

The assignment is likely a short-term move to get Campbell playing time. Idaho plays three games in four days this weekend, and you'd expect Campbell to get at least two of those games, if not all three. Texas will face Iowa this weekend back-to-back and either Rynnas will get both starts or Kiviaho will make his first AHL start in Des Moines.

I spoke with Texas Stars GM Scott White later in the afternoon about the transaction. He was frank in that Campbell just hasn't played a lot of hockey between his injury and his down year this year. Idaho has a busy schedule coming up until the end of February, and White expects Campbell to spend "a good two weeks" in the ECHL.

Campbell took the assignment well, according to White, who added "he just wants to play." Campbell looked at NHL goalies who had early success in the AHL and then had to spend some time in the ECHL and realized he might benefit from the same.

"He's got to win games, make the big saves and stop pucks," summarized White, simply.

Dallas Stars assistant goalie coach Andy Moog is working out his schedule to head out to Boise and California to observe Campbell's starts.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

OKC Emerges Victorious in Final Visit to Cedar Park

Derek Hulak scores to stay hot for Stars despite loss
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars' sluggish start put them in a 3-1 hole after forty from which they would not recover. Despite a third period power play tally, Texas dropped a 3-2 decision to the visiting Barons.

"We've been pushing real strong on this segment," said Coach Laxdal. "But we came out flat tonight. We expected our group to have some good jump in the first period, but we didn't get our legs until the third period.

Texas and Oklahoma City had a sleepy start to the game, combining for just four shots in the first twelve minutes of the game.

"We were sluggish to begin the game," agreed Rallo. "Moving forward, we got better, but that's not good enough at this level."

Having not played since Thursday and getting Friday and Saturday off, the Stars' start was not ideal.

Laxdal added, "A typical Sunday game in the American League. I expected our team to have more energy than Oklahoma City. We didn't find our game until the third period and by theyn, it was too late."

"I didn't think Jussi [Rynnas] was sharp. Of the three goals, we should have had two of the three. Every game is tough for us. Every point we let go is going to hurt us at the end."

Tonight's game marked the final visit for the Oklahoma City squad, which is heading to Bakersfield, California next season.

The Barons opened the scoring in the final 80 seconds of the first period. Andrew Miller was left all alone in front of the net and potted his 16th of the year. It appeared that Texas would head to the room down 1-0 until Derek Hulak beat Laurent Brossoit just 38 seconds later. It was Hulak's 12th of the year and continues his hot 2015 campaign. He's scored 13 points since the new year began.

The second period was all OKC. Taylor Peters went to the box after seeing his stick ride up into the face of a Baron on the backcheck. On the ensuing faceoff, Brad Hunt put a puck off Stars' D Derek Meech and into the net through the pads of Rynnas.

Late in the frame, the Stars were guilty of a bad change, leaving Jujhar Khaira rushing in on a 2-on-1 against Rynnas. He snapped the puck far side and in as Maxime Fortunus defended the pass.

The Stars began the third period on the power play, and Greg Rallo cashed in. Meech's point shot tipped off Rallo's stick to the top-right corner for the 3-2 score.

"It's something we talked about, getting pucks to the net. Meech and I have practiced that a bit, finding that spot where he shoots for my stick, and I get it to the net. Tonight it worked out well."

Brossoit got lucky as much as he was good in the third. He got a fraction of a glove on a point-bank chance from Gemel Smith, another from Derek Hulak and a third from Julius Honka as the period wore on.

Late in the game, Texas attempted to gain the equalizer, earning a faceoff in the Barons' zone with 1:47 left in the third. The Stars won the faceoff and had pressure but did not pull Jussi Rynnas until just under 60 seconds remaining. Rynnas was ready to come off at 1:40 but was held back with the extended hand of Derek Laxdal.

The Stars got another faceoff with 19.2 left but could not pull out the tying goal. Texas stays in town to face San Antonio on Tuesday.

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

Meech-Fortunus
Honka-Valentine
Gaunce-Oleksiak

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Jokipakka, Ritchie (call up)
Faille, Wrenn (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,624.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Oklahoma City - February 8 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
20-15-10-1, 51 pts
#10 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
29-11-3-3, 64 pts
#1 Western Conference
February 8th at 5:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Oklahoma City Barons make their final regular season visit to the Cedar Park Center this afternoon. The peculiar Sunday visit to the CPC is one of only three Sunday home games, the second so far on the season.

Following Thursday's fracas and resulting 5-2 victory over the San Antonio Rampage, Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal appears to have found a way to motivate his troops: get emotionally involved. At the start of Texas' home stand, David Banfield was really letting the teams play, as it were, and Laxdal didn't like some of the liberties that were taken with his guys. He got fired up; the team got fired up. They've now claimed 10 of 12 points since that game.

If Texas makes the playoffs, tonight's game could be a playoff preview. If that is true, it would be a good matchup for Texas. Despite OKC's top ranking in the conference, the Stars have a 5-2-3-0 record against them. One plus for Texas at the moment is that Iiro Pakarinen is currently on recall to Edmonton. He's the leading scorer in the series with 5-4=9 in 10 GP. Anton Lander, a point-per-game player against Texas, is also in Edmonton.

Stars injury/call up report:
Ritchie, Jokipakka (call up)
Troock, Henderson, Faksa (injury)

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Understanding the AHL Pacific: Independent v. NHL Ownership

Money lies at the heart of the divide between the two AHL ownership camps
(Credit: Lindsay A. Mogle/AHL)
Monday's article about AHL affiliations and arena contracts included a lot of information about NHL ownership versus independent ownership. One key to understanding the movement that is happening the AHL is the sometimes divergent set of needs that these two groups of owners have.

First, let's set up the ground rules here. The AHL has 30 franchises. Every one of those franchises is affiliated with an NHL club. Some of them are owned by the same group that owns the NHL team. With the purchase of the Texas Stars and the Norfolk Admirals, there are now 15 of these teams in the league. The remaining 15 teams are owned by groups independent of their NHL team.

All AHL teams, regardless of NHL or independent ownership, have an affiliation agreement with their NHL partner. In these deals, the AHL team pays some amount of money to the NHL club for the affiliation and the NHL team agrees to send its development players to the AHL side. In addition, there may be some details regarding the NHL teams providing some assistance with AHL travel. In the NHL-owned case, it's basically just shifting money from one bucket to another on these affiliate deals.

Based on the level of competition in the AHL, you should expect to never see a team without an affiliate. AHL president David Andrews echoed this point last week at the State of the League address. An AHL team without an affiliate would not be able to field enough high-level players to compete in the league, because the NHL affiliate usually provides 75% or more of the AHL affiliate's roster. (The ECHL has several unaffiliated 'independent' teams, however.)

So, let's think about each of these scenarios. If you're an NHL team, your number one priority is developing NHL-calibre players for your team. You want to make sure they play games, because that's where you probably learn the most about what they have. Playing too many games might add more wear-and-tear to your top prospects, more chances to get injured. You also want to get as many practices in as possible. Each practice is a chance to instill your system in your players and make them better NHL players, which is your top goal.

Independent teams, however, don't care as much about development. Their primary goal is make money and keep their affiliate reasonably happy. The main way that you make money as an independent owner is filling your building. To that end, you want as many games as you can get within reason, full buildings (fueled by good/interesting opponents) and relatively low travel budgets.

Low travel budgets just so happen to coincide with a desire of the NHL teams to have as much practice time as possible. Mark Divver, beat writer for the Providence Bruins, commented on Twitter recently that the Bruins get 45 more practices per season than Western Conference teams that travel more often.

The point where these two camps diverge is on games played. On every other issue, one defers to the other, but Andrews said that it's "like Republicans and Democrats" when this issue comes up, comparing it to the rancorous nature of US politics. The AHL played an 80 game schedule as recently as 2010-11. It dropped to a 76 game slate the next year and hasn't moved since. According to Andrews, there isn't support in the room to drop to any fewer games. (For comparison, the ECHL plays 72 games.)

With the move to the West Coast, many of those NHL teams were clearly pushing for a reduced schedule given all the long travel they would have to do to play teams outside the division. Some proposals rumored the number of games falling all the way to 66, a reduction of ten games for every team in the league.

Independent owners, predictably, balked at this plan. While they would love not paying to travel to those five lost road games, they would also lose the ticket, concession and ad revenues from five home games. The drop from 38 to 33 home games would account for approximately 13% of their annual budget. With no way to make up that revenue, those owners would be in a bind. It's not like player and staff salaries would decrease 13% to compensate.

But the NHL owner doesn't care as much. The AHL team can be a loss leader (revenue-wise) because its job is not to drive revenue but instead to drive player development.

And so here lies the crux of the matter: money. Independent owners need games and full buildings to drive revenue. NHL owners need players to develop, full stop.

Reports indicate that the league expects to play 76 games next season across the board. Tim Gortsema, Grand Rapids Griffins senior vice president of business operations, told MLive.com that a proposal to reduce the season was defeated in the Board of Governors meeting last week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Stars Land Massive 5-2 Win in Alamo City

The value of tonight's win against the San Antonio Rampage cannot be overstated. With it, Texas is in sole possession of eighth place and now has 10 points in their last six games. For San Antonio, it was their first regulation loss to a divisional opponent on home ice all season. Previous to tonight, they were 12-0-2.

Greg Rallo got first star honors in his 500th AHL game as well. 397 of them have come with either a Texas or San Antonio jersey on.

There was some bad blood tonight between the coaches as well. Coach Laxdal earned a two-minute penalty after pushing down the divider between the two benches and getting into it with the other bench.

Here's the release:
In his 500th career AHL game, Greg Rallo buried the game-winner on the power play against his former team as the Texas Stars dropped the San Antonio Rampage for a 5-2 win on Thursday night at AT&T Center in front of 5,491.

With the win, the Stars (20-15-10-1) take over control of the eighth and final playoff spot in the AHL's Western Conference, passing Chicago and Hamilton. Brendan Ranford led all skaters with a three-point night on a goal and two assists, and the Stars extended their point streak to six games going 4-0-1-1 in that stretch. It was also a milestone night for Texas defenseman Derek Meech, who appeared in the 600th game of his pro career.

The Stars return home on Sunday to host Oklahoma City at 5 p.m.

Rallo's game-winner came at 5:17 of third with a one-time blast from the top of the slot for his 12th of the year and his team-leading sixth power play goal. Travis Morin picked up the assist on a feed from the right wing boards. Jamie Oleksiak padded the Stars lead on an odd-man rush at 13:21 of the period, beating San Antonio's Michael Houser from the right circle to make it 4-2. Ranford added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds to seal the Stars first road win against the Rampage (26-15-4-0) this season.

San Antonio opened the scoring with a goal from Mark Mancari 3:28 into the first. After that, Anders Lindback put in another stellar goaltending performance to keep the deficit at 1, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the period -- including two breakaways.

Texas responded late in period two as Matej Stransky finished off a counter-attack play with Ranford feeding Morin on a cross-ice pass, who then touched it in front for the second-year forward to deflect in for his fourth of the season. Two minutes later, Julius Honka sprung Texas in front on a wrist shot from the slot to make it a 2-1 game.

San Antonio's Garrett Wilson deflected in a goal at 2:13 of the third to tie things at 2, before Rallo's game-winner ignited the Stars offense.

Lindback earned his fourth win of the year for the Stars stopping 30 of 32 shots. Houser took the loss for San Antonio, stopping 24.

The Texas specials teams units stayed hot going 1-for-4 on the power play and killing off all four Rampage chances.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Glennie-Smith-Stransky
Mangene-Faille-Wrenn

Meech-Fortunus
Honka-Valentine
Gaunce-Oleksiak

Lindback

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rynnas, Jokipakka, Ritchie (call up)
Troock, Henderson, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,491.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - February 5 2015

Defenseman Matt Mangene Signed to AHL Contract

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Matt Mangene, who came to the Texas Stars on a PTO out of ECHL Florida, has signed an AHL deal for the rest of the season. Mangene was nearing the end of his 25-game professional tryout with Texas and this deal settles the question of what's next.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today they have signed defenseman Matt Mangene off his tryout agreement and to an AHL contract for the remainder of the season.

Mangene (MAN-jeen), 25, signed a tryout agreement and joined the Stars on Dec. 20, 2014. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Manorville, N. Y. tallied assists in his first two games for the Stars and has appeared in 15 games this season, recording seven assists overall.

Gameday Preview: Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
19-15-10-1, 49 pts
#10 Western Conference
atSan Antonio Rampage
26-14-4-0, 56 pts
#5 Western Conference
February 5th at 7:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

UPDATE: Brett Ritchie has been recalled to Dallas. With Jesse Root in Idaho, Texas will likely dress a defenseman at forward.

San Antonio again. With Tuesday's loss, the Stars dropped to 1-4-1-1 against the Rampage this season and have now started the back-half of their schedule against the San Antonio squad. With tonight's game, two of the next three come against them.

It's at least a little unclear what there is to say about this matchup at this point. Texas has had success jumping on San Antonio early but has gotten taken down in the late stage of many of those same games, as was the case on Tuesday. Texas had 1-0 and 2-1 leads and lost 3-2 in their first shootout.

Anders Lindback's play will be one huge thing to watch. Dallas is looking to get him back in a rhythm with some starts. He got 40 of 42 saves in regulation and OT on Tuesday and gave up two in the shootout. However, all four goals were scored the same way: five-hole. Lindback was none too pleased, cracking his stick on the dashers as he left the ice Tuesday. Will San Antonio go back to the well on that move tonight?

Stars injury/call up report:
Jokipakka, Rynnas, Ritchie (call up)
Henderson (injury, upper body)
Faksa (injury, out for season)

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

San Antonio Bests Texas in Stars' First Shootout of the Year

Stars collect eight of ten possible points on homestand
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Looking to turn a good homestand into a great one, Texas got just this close, falling in their first shootout of the season. The Stars collected eight of ten possible points in the five game set that spanned the All-Star Break and was very heavy on divisional opponents.

"We're selfish and want to get ten," said Laxdal, after admitting eight was good. "We have to battle for points. We're getting close to that [playoff] line, but it shows you how tough it is get over the line because everybody wins."

Texas was up 2-1 after forty and had a great chance at earning both points. Rocco Grimaldi helped to spur a comeback for San Antonio with the game-tying goal in the third period and the winner in the shootout for the 3-2 final.

The Stars managed to make it through overtime without any score for the first time this season. It wasn't for lack of trying on both sides. Brendan Ranford hit a post with 4:41 left, and the 3-on-3 segment was especially electrifying as both teams had good chances.

"3-on-3 is a crapshoot. You're trying to 2-on-1 guys all over the ice. We couldn't capitalize on it. For us, it's disheartening because we'd like to get an overtime win."

Justin Dowling added, "[Overtime has] been our Achilles' heel this year. I thought we played well in overtime and well enough to win the game. We weren't super ready to go to a shootout today since we haven't been there in a while."

Rookie Gemel Smith scored his sixth goal of the season in the game's opening minutes. It was his fourth career goal against Dan Ellis.

Another rookie, Connor Brickley of San Antonio, would tie the game up off a point shot a few minutes later to set the score at tied after the first period. Brickley got a stick on Jonathan Racine's point shot to get the puck between Anders Lindback's pads. The Swedish tender kicked his skate in to attempt to cover the puck and knocked it into the net. The Rampage outshot Texas 17-16 in the period.

Derek Hulak continued his emergence as a solid all-around player in the second period. With Travis Morin in the box for high-sticking, the rookie forward blocked three shots on the same shift to keep the San Antonio power play off the board. In the third, he added two more big blocks on the PK.

"We've been harping on shot blocking and Dallas is making us wear those shot blockers," said Dowling. "Even with them, Hulak was getting them in all the wrong places. He really put his body on the line and sacrificed a lot for us."

Later in the period with Texas on a power play of its own, it was another rookie, Julius Honka, helping to generate the go-ahead goal for the Stars. With a nice keep at the right point, Honka got the puck down to Brendan Ranford on the man advantage. Ranford slid the pass out to Justin Dowling, who one-timed the puck by Ellis stick-side high. Hulak was at the net occupying a defenseman to boot.

Rocco Grimaldi kicked off the third period with an unassisted tally.

Overtime had been unkind to Texas this season and the team was hoping for a different fate. Coach Laxdal called the 3-on-3 segment a track meet. Further, he specifically called out a play where Shane O'Brien threw his stick at a puck to try and keep the puck away from a Stars' forward.

"If you look at the overtime again," said Laxdal. "I don't know how a player can throw his stick on a puck and get away with it without a penalty call. That's a question for the league."

In the shootout, Brendan Ranford was the only Stars' scorer. Vincent Trocheck and Rocco Grimaldi both scored five-hole on Lindback. All four Rampage goals in the game were scored five-hole.

Texas now hits the road to play San Antonio on Thursday.

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

Meech-Fortunus
Honka-Valentine
Gaunce-Oleksiak

Lindback

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rynnas, Jokipakka (call up)
Mangene, Wrenn (scratch)
Henderson, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,530.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - February 3 2015