Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Curtis McKenzie, Brett Ritchie Return to Texas Stars

Two big time forwards return from Dallas as Texas looks to put themselves in pole playoff position
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced this afternoon that Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie have both been reassigned to the Texas Stars. Ritchie and McKenzie have spent much of the season with the NHL club with 31 and 36 games played at the NHL level this season.

The additions will present some interesting questions for tomorrow night's lineup. With Devin Shore now in the fold and Nichushkin still on assignment, Texas will have to scratch two players who've been lineup staples all year. Not sure who that will be yet.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has reassigned left wing Curtis McKenzie and right wing Brett Ritchie to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

McKenzie, 24, has appeared in 36 games for Dallas this season posting five points (4-1=5) and 48 penalty minutes. In 25 games with Texas this season, he has posted 17 points (6-11=17) and 64 shots on net.

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

Ritchie, 21, has posted nine points (6-3=9) in 31 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 25 games with Texas in 2014-15, he has posted 18 points (11-7=18) and a +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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Texas Stars Fan Pops the Question on the Ice with Help from Jack Campbell

Video included at the end of the story...
(Credit: Michael Connell)
Popping the question is undoubtedly one of the most nerve-wracking moments in a guy’s life. Getting the words out, making sure you have the ring, and hoping she’ll say yes are all weighing on your mind.

Now imagine doing it in goalie gear on the ice at the Cedar Park Center with Texas Stars goalie Jack Campbell feet away and a handful of Texas players and friends watching from behind the glass.

Joe Brehm is the man with the nerves of steel.

“My heart was racing knowing that I was going to skate on the ice with Jack Campbell for what my girlfriend thought was a ‘practice session’ and then pop the question. Walking down the player tunnel and taking the ice was a surreal experience.”

At a season ticket holder autograph session earlier in the season, Brehm had quietly asked Campbell if he would assist on the proposal.

“Of course, I’m going to do it,” said Campbell. “It’s a pretty big honor and privilege when someone zones in on you as a player. It was fun to be a part of.”

(Credit: Michael Connell)
Brehm, who grew up in Arizona, never played much hockey as a kid. His girlfriend, Samantha, introduced him to the game, and they first attended a Texas game for her birthday. They bought season tickets and then something else happened. Joe decided to try his hand at playing goal in the local men’s leagues.

Brehm explained, “Despite having never played hockey before or even knew how to skate, I donned the pads to learn the game of hockey and play as a goalie, inspired by Jack Campbell. Learning the position gave me a huge respect for the talent and ability of professional net-minders.”

So a plan was hatched. Brehm would come on the ice after a home game and do a little shoot around with Campbell. All the while, the end game was the proposal. Campbell started the March 15th home game and collected his first AHL win in three months in a masterful performance.

“Samantha and I enjoyed watching the Angry Swede (Cristopher Nilstorp), but Jack Campbell became our favorite player. When it came time for me to propose, I had to involve our favorite activity: the Texas Stars.”

With Travis Morin, Justin Dowling, many Stars’ front office staff members and a huge number of section 103 season ticket holders looking on, Brehm took the ice.

“I was doing warmups and stretches when I see a green pair of green Vaughn pads skate over to me. I look up to see Jack's smiling face. I was pretty nervous to be asking the big question in just a few minutes, but he reassured me that I was going to do great. ”

(Credit: Michael Connell)
Campbell took some practice shots on Brehm, all of which he snagged, stopped or had some help from the post on. Joe joked Campbell was making an effort “not make me look too bad in front of everyone.” After getting some pointers on his game from Campbell, it was time for the big moment. Samantha came onto the ice for some quick pictures with Campbell and Joe.

Campbell explained, “The only thing he asked me to do was make a joke about how they’ve been dating for five years, and he hadn’t proposed yet. I made that joke, and she took the bait and started chirping him.”

Brehm took that opportunity to get down on one knee and propose. It went off without a hitch.



“I am very appreciative of everything the Texas Stars did for us,” said Brehm. “I look forward to being a lifetime fan.”

After the proposal, Joe and Samantha might need to plan for an extra attendee or two at their wedding though.

“I’ve barely been to a wedding in general,” said Campbell. “I’ve been to two, my cousin’s and Dustin Jeffrey’s last summer. The whole marriage thing is new to me.

“But if I’m in town, I’ll definitely go!”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Strong Texas Effort Stymied by Griffins Keeper, McCollum

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars had two very good games this weekend, but their opponents, the Grand Rapids Griffins, were just a step better each time. Texas fell tonight by a 4-3 final.

"If you play like that every night, you're going to win a lot of hockey games," said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal. "[Griffins' goalie] Tom McCollum was probably the difference in both games."

Texas poured on the shots tonight after not getting enough quality chances on Friday, peppering McCollum with 48 total shots this evening.

"Tom was great in both games," commented Griffins' coach Jeff Blashill. "He didn't give up any easy ones. The puck stuck to him, and he was big at big moments."

Despite the two losses, Blashill went on to praise the Stars' effort this weekend, "This is a really good team. They are a team that is going to be good down the stretch. It was readily apparent this weekend."

Texas answered two Grand Rapids one-goal leads but could not come back after the Griffins went up 4-2 in the third period.

Louis-Marc Aubry's goal off a scramble in the first period was answered by Gemel Smith, who scored from behind the goal line off the glove of McCollum.

"I saw the puck go off [to the corner], and I knew no one knew where it was," said Smith. "I waited and knew I was going to try to bank it off the goalie."

In the second, the fourth line answered again for Texas. Landon Ferraro scored a pretty goal in tight, elevating the puck over Campbell blocker side. Gemel Smith found Kevin Henderson in the slot mid-frame for the 2-2 score.

"I'm not sure how the puck came to me, but I just passed it to [Henderson], and he buried it."

Coach Laxdal called the Stars' start in the third 'unsure' and that led to two Grand Rapids goals that would ultimately be the difference. Andy Miele scored on a tip in front of Campbell after a defensive zone miscue by the Stars that led to a tic-tac-toe by the Griffins. Jeff Hoggan scored streaking down the right wing side to make it 4-2 by the nine minute mark.

"I'm sure Jack would like ot have the fourth one back," added Laxdal.

The Stars really poured it on late including a power play set that had Grand Rapids swimming and a 6-on-5 set that lasted over two minutes. Jamie Oleksiak got the Stars within one with a shot from the point that beat McCollum low to the ice on the far side. That would be all Texas would get though.

The power play had four chances in the game, but the Griffins stymied that group all weekend.

"This is a really good power play," said Blashill. "Any time you have Travis Morin, who I think is one of the best in the league. They had their chances. Our penalty kill was good, and at times it wasn't. That's when Tom McCollum was our best penalty killer."

Valeri Nichushkin started on a line with Branden Troock and Devin Shore but moved to the first line with Greg Rallo and Travis Morin in the third, earning some power play time as well. He will start there against Adirondack on Wednesday, which is the Stars' next game action.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Gaunce-Honka
Meech-Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Valentine, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Texas lost Derek Meech to a lower body injury in the third period. He is projected to miss at least the next game, if not more.

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

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 28 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
32-20-13-1, 78 pts
#6 Western Conference
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
39-19-6-2, 86 pts
#3 Western Conference
March 28th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

One thing needs to change for the Texas Stars to have a winning night tonight. Tom McCollum was the difference for the Griffins last night. Coach Laxdal intoned that Texas did everything right and gave themselves a chance to win. Copy paste the effort and hope for McCollum's luck to change (or a start from backup Jared Coreau).

The Stars will get a second look at Valeri Nichushkin, who played his first game in five months last night. Laxdal expects him to play even better than last night, which was still pretty good. Esa Lindell will leave the lineup as he heads back to Finland to go through tryouts for the Finnish World Championship team. Ludwig Bystrom probably comes in for him.

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

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Griffins' McCollum Robs Stars with 2-0 Shutout

Valeri Nichushkin and Xavier Oullet battle in front of Tom McCollum.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The matchup between the two most recent winners of the AHL's top prize looked to be just that tonight in Cedar Park. Unfortunately for the home side, the Griffins walked away with a 2-0 margin on the final score.

"I thought it was a great game with a lot of speed and intensity," said Grand Rapids goalie Tom McCollum. "I told our equipment manager after the first period that it felt like we were playing ourselves. We have very similar systems and play at a high tempo."

Grand Rapids owed much of its success on the night to McCollum, who pitched a 34-save shutout.

"I felt like I was seeing the puck well early. My defensemen and forwards were giving me clear lanes and making it an easy night."

Jack Campbell was good at the other end, giving Texas a chance to win with 36 saves on 38 shots. In the end, the Stars couldn't penetrate McCollum with enough quality chances to break his shutout.

Coach Laxdal expanded, "We've got to manufacture more shots, funnel more pucks to the net. We need more traffic. We're getting boxed out. We've got to do a better job getting pucks to the net through that second layer."

Texas had its chances to get on the board with three power plays in the game. McCollum and the Griffins were aware of the Stars' prowess on the PP and "paid a lot of attention to it" in pre-scouting.

Grand Rapids executed when they had chances. Their first goal came directly off a defensive zone faceoff where Coach Laxdal noted they took advantage of young centerman Devin Shore. Andreas Atahansiou won the puck forward toward the net to Mark Zengerle, who scored uncontested by a skater.

The Stars and Griffins combined for 36 shots in the second period with Texas trailing 1-0 after 40.

The visitors added another early in the third to set the final score at 2-0, a quick shot that the referee didn't even register as a goal at first.

Texas was unable to convert anything with the extra attacker. Many of their best chances came in the high-shooting second, but McCollum smothered them all.

Coach Laxdal concluded, "Could we ask for more in certain areas? Maybe. But it was a good game."

Finally, the night was notable for Dallas Stars fans as it marked the first game action for Valeri Nichushkin in five months. The left winger had no points and was minus-1 on the scoresheet. However, those stats didn't tell the whole story. He was the best player on the ice for Texas most of the night, making strong plays look simple and effortless.

"For a player that hasn't played in five months, he's a special player. You can see how strong he is on the puck. For him to get through a game and feel good about himself, I think he'll be better tomorrow night."

Tomorrow's game will feature these two teams back at it again.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Bystrom, Valentine, Mangene, Peters (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,079.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - March 27 2015

The Texas Stars' Path to Winning the Division

There's a glimmer of hope that Texas can win the West, so let's break down how.
(Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)
Changing fortunes in the AHL's West Division have put the Stars in control on their own destiny in many ways as it pertains to the West Division crown. The Stars have won their division each of the past two years and, at least a month ago, appeared they would not be able to defend that title.

Now, things have changed a bit.

Absurd amounts of injuries for the Oilers and Barons have put them in a precarious state. OKC had led the conference for most of the year but has now dropped to fourth place, seeing San Antonio pass them for the division lead. They are on a five game winless skid and are 7-10-2 since last playing the Stars in early February. For this scenario to work out, you need to assume that this trend continues for the Barons. They, of course, notably just signed a 40-year old to a PTO to fill some injury holes, so it's not happy times in Bricktown at the moment. Texas has no more games against OKC, so the Stars can't help their own cause directly here. All they can do is hope the Barons' luck continues.

(Side note: The Barons will make the playoffs. We're just talking about seeding here.)

Now to toppling the current clubhouse leader: San Antonio. The Rampage are having a bang up season. They lead the league in goals for, which is just something really awesome to behold, and are tops in the conference by points as of this morning. They show no sign of going down easy on their own accord. They're on a six game winning streak and are 9-1 in their last ten.

This is where Texas has to help itself. If everything plays out as it has been until game 73, the Stars will have 88 points and the Rampage will have 95. Those of you with the schedule committed to memory already know where this is going. For everyone else, I only carried the average out to 73 games because games 74, 75 and 76 are all against San Antonio. If San Antonio doesn't quite make it to 95 or Texas gets higher than 88 by game 73 (or any other scenario that sees them 5 or fewer points apart), then oh boy. Those last three games are a mini playoff series, and the stakes are the division title.

Texas will need to win on points because the Rampage own the first tie break: regulation and overtime wins. San Antonio has more shootout wins than Texas but also more wins overall, making it a moot point.

It's slim chance, but there's a chance.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
32-19-13-1, 78 pts
#6 Western Conference
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
38-19-6-2, 84 pts
#3 Western Conference
March 27th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE (9:30am): Valeri Nichushkin has officially been assigned from Dallas. Jesse Root has been assigned to Idaho.

Hockey's back at the Cedar Park Center after a four game roadie for the Texas Stars. They'll welcome in a club that hasn't seen central Texas for 10 months: the Griffins.

Of course, you'll remember the last time these two teams squared off in Cedar Park. In fact, #MrazekGuarantees you'll remember the last time. Coming home from their three games in Grand Rapids with a 3-2 series lead, the Stars absolutely pasted the Griffins in Game 6 to head to the Western Conference Finals.

This year, these two teams have already played twice with both contests in Michigan happening early in the season. Texas lost to Grand Rapids in 3-on-3 overtime both nights, a back-to-back gut punch that really kickstarted their bad luck in OT this season. After those games, watching Grand Rapids in the standings was odd. The perennial power was having trouble staying in playoff contention. They found themselves at 19-16-3-1 in late January, and then something clicked.

From Janaury 23rd until last weekend, the Griffins have lost one game in regulation. They were an obscene 19-1-3-1 over the two month stretch that included a nine-game winning streak. There is a chink in the armor though as lowly Lake Erie and bubble-team Adirondack both put up four and handed the Griffs a loss this past weekend.

Part of that would be Petr Mrazek heading up to Detroit. The Calder Cup winning goalie won't get a repeat showing at the CPC this weekend. Instead it will be Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau. Another player who will not be Teemu Pulkkinen. That's probably a good thing for Texas as well. Pulkkinen has played two games since February 15th and still leads the league in goals by five. He's the top Griffins point scorer by one despite having 14 fewer games played than the next closest player, Andy Miele.

Mattias Backman won't be in the lineup for Grand Rapids this go-round for a different reason. He was traded to the Stars in return for Erik Cole at the deadline. He is currently playing in Europe and could join Texas fully next season.

On the Texas side, it's time to keep things rolling. The good feeling from the road trip needs to continue into the homestand, where Texas has been hot recently. Jussi Rynnas hasn't skated since getting injured last week, so it's still Jack Campbell's net. He's likely to get both games this weekend.

Valeri Nichushkin is expected in the lineup for tonight and tomorrow on a conditioning assignment from Dallas. His assignment will present an interesting question for Coach Laxdal as to where to place him in the lineup. He's definitely top six, but whom do you displace for him? My feeling is put him with Dowling and Ranford in place of Glennie and before that Ritchie. Big bodied scoring winger is a good place for him.

Tonight will also be the only game you'll get to see Esa Lindell this season. He'll head back to Finland after tonight's game to compete in the World Championships.

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

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Few Exclusive Extra ATO Details That Didn't Make the Story on TheAHL.com

Derek Hulak (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
I hope you got a chance to read my AHL On the Beat article today about the Texas Stars amateur tryout players. There were a few snippets that didn't make the cut in the article for whatever reason that I wanted to share with blog readers exclusively:

  • I've mentioned a few times now that Devin Shore and Branden Troock were roommates during Development Camp. One other connection that Shore shared with me was that he stayed at Matt Mangene's apartment when he went on his official visit to the University of Maine three years ago.

  • One of the big advocates for bringing Derek Hulak to Texas was Willie Desjardins, who also attended the University of Saskatchewan. Hulak shared that when he arrived at practice his first day, Coach Desjardins told him that he'd streamed the whole CIS championship tournament from Texas, rooting for Hulak and the Huskies.

  • Hulak mentioned that Coach Desjardins won a lot of the same team awards that Hulak did to end his season at Saskatchewan. That set up a bit of a rivalry-in-jest between the two.

Branden Troock Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

Branden Troock celebrates a goal with Gemel Smith.
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Every Thursday, 100 Degree Hockey will name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille features classic comfort food and Southern dishes less than five minutes from the Cedar Park Center. If you mention the Player of the Week or 100 Degree Hockey on your next visit to Lone Star Grille, your server will take $5 off your order of any two entrees.

Rookie Branden Troock has had quite a week. Quietly, Troock has been one of the best players on the Stars' squad. This week, he potted two goals and an assist, including the game winner in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Iowa. He's been defensively responsible, going plus-3 on the week, one for each point.

He's found a quick chemistry with Devin Shore, who also garnered strong consideration for the Player of the Week honor. Shore and Troock were roommates at the past three Dallas Stars development camps and seem to have carried that connection with them onto the ice.

Troock began the year as a fourth liner and even spent some time in the ECHL in early November. Since then, he's found a groove and parlayed that into solid third line time. There is a lot to like in his game. He's a big physical winger, but he clearly also has a knack for scoring goals when called upon. Going out on a limb, I could see him acting as a net front guy next year for the Stars' power play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Texas Finishes Strong Road Trip with 4-3 Win in Iowa

Texas closed their four-game road trip strong with a 4-3 victory in Iowa this evening. The game was the only action in the AHL this evening, allowing Texas to collect two points and put themselves just three points behind the IceHogs for fifth place.

Derek Hulak had an excellent night with a goal and an assist, and Devin Shore collected his second pro goal. The power play scored, and the PK held the Wild scoreless on the man advantage. Texas finishes their road trip with six of a possible eight points.

Texas appeared to have the opening goal in the game off a wrist shot by Cameron Gaunce that was tipped in front. The tip was a high stick and was instantly waved off by the officiating crew. A few minutes later, Iowa collected the actual first goal of the night. Zack Mitchell potted his 16th of the year on a cram play at the net. He collected the puck off Jack Campbell's left pad and backhanded it home.

Joel Chouinard put Iowa up 2-0 in the second with a shot through traffic that beat the Stars' defenses. Less than a minute later, Scott Glennie generated a turnover and pass the puck to an on-rushing Derek Hulak. The rookie snapped the puck to the top-left corner with three Wild players closing in for the 2-1 score.

ATO Devin Shore scored his second professional goal just past the thirteen minute mark of the second period. The goal, which came off a slick pass by Julius Honka, was his first pro point not assisted or scored by Branden Troock.

On the power play late in the frame, Texas completed their demonstrative period with a goal from the captain. Maxime Fortunus got his ninth of the year with twenty seconds left before the intermission. The 'helmet violation' penalty, a new rule this season, was the first Texas has had for or against.

The Stars got an insurance goal late in the third to put the game away. Justin Dowling's initial shot came to the stick of Branden Troock on the rebound for the 4-2 mark. The Wild made it interesting late with a 6-on-5 goal to make it 4-3. Texas managed to keep Gustafsson in the net for much of the remainder of the game to ensure the win.

Texas returns home to play Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Valentine-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell
Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Meech, Henderson, Mangene, Root (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,650.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - March 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
31-19-13-1, 76 pts
#6 Western Conference
atIowa Wild
21-40-1-2, 45 pts
#15 Western Conference
March 24th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

The Stars will close out their road trip against the first club to be eliminated from the postseason this year. The Iowa Wild have just had a season to forget in all ways, shapes and forms. They fired their coach early on to try and spur the team, but there was no spark there. Case in point, since these two teams last played, Iowa has earned just one of a possible eight points. Texas has earned 12 of 14.

And that 12 of 14 mark was due entirely to a winning streak that started after the Stars' last game against the Wild. Texas would like to kick off another win streak with tonight's game as they look ahead to playing the #2 Grand Rapids Griffins for the first time at Cedar Park Center since last year's playoffs.

Games this year against Iowa have been weird for the Stars. It has felt like the team plays down to Iowa's level on occasion with a lot of one-goal games or two-goal games with an empty netter. It looks like Texas has its swagger back now and might be able to enforce its will on the weaker Wild. It would certainly be encouraging to see a big game from the Stars to close out the road trip against meager competition to say the least.

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

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Late Flurry Falls Short in 4-3 Texas Stars Loss in Rockford

The Stars seemed to have everything in hand early against the IceHogs in Illinois this afternoon. Up 2-0, their six game winning streak looked like it would be extended to seven. However, four quick goals by Rockford threw those plans into chaos.

In the end, those goals would be all the IceHogs needed. A late rally by the Stars fell short. Branden Troock and Devin Shore stayed hot, hooking up for another goal on the season in the third period.

The usually stout PK allowed two, one of which was a 5-on-3 goal. The power play was also held scoreless for the first time in three games.

Jack Campbell finished the game with 33 saves and his first loss of March.

Here's the release:
It was a photo finish at the end, but the Texas Stars saw their season-high six-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday evening in a 4-3 loss to the Rockford IceHogs at BMO Harris Bank Center in front of 5,571 in attendance to close out the season series between both clubs.

Brandon Troock scored at 3:32 of the third period to pull Texas (31-19-13-1) within one. The Stars opted for the extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, but could not score the equalizer past Rockford’s Michael Leighton, who finished with 28 saves in the win for the IceHogs (37-19-5-2).

Texas closes out their four-game road trip on Tuesday against the Iowa Wild at 7 p.m.

It was an offensive first period as both teams combined for five goals, beginning with Texas scoring a pair just over a minute apart. Justin Dowling tapped home a crossing feed from Brendan Ranford at 7:07 for his 17th of the season and Greg Rallo snapped home his team-leading 22nd of the year from the slot at 8:11 off an assist by Jamie Oleksiak.

After that, Rockford responded with three unanswered to close out the opening frame. Brandon Mashinter put the Hogs on the board at 9:27 on the power play. Dennis Rasmussen knotted the game at 12:05, and Mark McNeill made it a 3-2 lead for the Hogs with two minutes remaining.

In the second, Rockford took control on a 5-on-3 power play with an easy tap-in goal for Spencer Abbott at 10:16 to make it a 4-2 lead and that was all the offense the Hogs would need.

Jack Campbell saw his personal four-game win streak come to a close despite a 33-save effort in net for Texas.

The Stars finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play while Rockford went 2-for-7. It was the first time in three contests the Stars failed to score a power play goal.

Despite the loss, Texas maintains their hold on sixth place in the AHL’s Western Conference by three points over the Milwaukee Admirals.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Bystrom, Peters, Mangene, Root (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,571.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - March 22 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
31-18-13-1, 76 pts
#6 Western Conference
atRockford IceHogs
36-19-5-2, 79 pts
#5 Western Conference
March 22nd at 4:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

Can Texas continue their improbable streak this afternoon in Rockford with their seventh straight win? Jack Campbell will be key to the chances of that as Texas looks for his fifth straight win since returning from the ECHL.

The IceHogs have a different look since the last time these two clubs faced off. Some moves by the Blackhawks moved TJ Brennan and Klas Dahlbeck out of the lineup. That hasn't changed much for their winning ways. Since these two last played, Texas is 6-0-1 and the Hogs are 4-1-1. Depending on how the rest of the season shakes out, it is entirely possible this is a first round playoff matchup in the 4v5 match.

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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jack Campbell Huge Again in Stars' Sixth Straight Win

The buzzsaw that is the Texas Stars continued its devastation in Milwaukee Saturday night. The Stars earned their sixth straight win to push themselves to 76 points on the season and further entrench themselves among the postseason-bound clubs. The Admirals made a late-game push to come close but an empty net goal ended up being the difference in the 4-3 final score.

Jack Campbell was a huge part of the victory, sustaining 41 shots against and stopping 38 of them for his fourth win in March. His monthly stats now stand at an absurd 1.57 GAA and 0.958 SV%. The most significant part of the stretch of wins has been the competition. Milwaukee and Chicago are both teams in the playoff hunt and the wins have been convincing. This team is finally clicking on all cylinders, and it's dangerous for other clubs.

Also of note, Devin Shore scored his first professional goal.

Here's the release:
Jack Campbell stopped 38 shots on the night and the Texas Stars withstood a final push at the end to hold on for a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in front of 13,088 in attendance, and extend their winning streak to six games.

It was a chaotic finish to the game as Milwaukee closed the gap to 3-2 with just under two minutes to play off a goal by Austin Watson. Scott Glennie added an empty-net, power play goal for the Stars with a minute to play, but Milwaukee made it a one-goal game again with a goal in front by Mark Van Guilder just 16 seconds later. Texas (31-18-13-1) held on during one final push from the Admirals (32-34-5-4) for Campbell to earn his fourth consecutive win and seventh of the season.

The Stars continue their road trip on Sunday when they visit the Rockford IceHogs at 4 p.m.

Campbell saved his best for last, stopping 17 shots in the third period alone and 34 through the final forty minutes of play. Texas opened up a 3-1 lead on the Admirals through the first two periods as Greg Rallo connected on a one-timer from the left circle at 10:27 of the first to make it 1-0, Stars. Kevin Fiala quickly responded for Milwaukee just over four minutes later on his ninth of the season, but Devin Shore answered right back for Texas at 15:17 of the frame from the slot for his first career goal.

Derek Meech tallied assists on both Texas goals in the first, and now sits on 199 points in his pro career.

In the second, Max Fortunus pushed the Texas lead to two off a wrist shot from the point at 2:59 unassisted. As both teams were skating through a scoreless third period, the drama was set up for the final two minutes of regulation where both teams traded goals in the frantic finish.

Texas stayed hot on the power play going 2-for-4. Milwaukee's offensive struggles continued finishing 0-for-6 on the man-advantage, and now 0-for-35 over their past nine games.

Milwaukee's Magnus Hellberg suffered the loss going 19 of 22 in net.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Lindell

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Bystrom, Peters, Mangene, Smith (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 13,088.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Milwaukee - March 21 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
30-18-13-1, 74 pts
#6 Western Conference
atMilwaukee Admirals
32-23-5-4, 73 pts
#7 Western Conference
March 21st at 7:00 PM
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

Texas faces another team they've vaulted in the standings for another head-to-head 'four point game'. Last weekend, these two squads faced off in Cedar Park, and Texas came away with two big wins. Milwaukee was on a five game skid after that second loss but bounced back against Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. The Ads will be coming in on short rest; they played last night in Grand Rapids and lost 3-1.

One piece that isn't helping the Ads' case is the loss of Viktor Arvidsson. The first-year right winger had two goals and an assist last weekend against the Stars but was recalled to Nashville earlier this week. One point bolstering the lineup for Milwaukee is the addition of longtime Ad Scott Ford, who had been playing in the ECHL all season. The former captain of the Milwaukee squad is playing his first AHL action of the year this week. It's an emotion add from the Admirals.

On the Stars' side, the big story is the play of Jack Campbell. The young American had a shutout in his last contest and now has a 1.07 GAA and .970 SV% in three games in the month of March. Campbell figures to get today's game and tomorrow's as well. Can he continue to fuel this club's climb back into playoff position and beyond perhaps to home ice advantage?

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

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Power Play, Jack Campbell Earn Texas' 5th Straight Win

Jack Campbell had exactly the sort of game that he needed for the Texas Stars tonight. Campbell pitched a 27-save shutout in Chicago to win his third straight and the fifth straight for the Texas Stars. Texas is on a six game point streak now and has vaulted itself to sixth place in the Conference outright.

The power play got a lot of chances and made good on them as well. On eight opportunities, the Stars cashed in twice. Scott Glennie and Derek Meech both scored, and Derek Hulak potted an empty netter.

The lineup was packed with youngsters. Esa Lindell played his first pro game in North America. He was on the ice for the empty net goal, making him plus-1 with two shots and two PIMs. Devin Shore and Ludwig Bystrom stayed in the lineup. Shore nearly scored his first career goal off the crossbar in the game.

Matt Climie took the loss for Chicago.

Here's the release:
Jack Campbell's third straight win in net was a big one as the Texas Stars shut out the Chicago Wolves in a 3-0 win on Thursday night at Allstate Arena to open up their four-game road trip and take over sixth place in the AHL's Western Conference.

Campbell stopped 27 shots for his first shutout of the season and the fifth overall for Texas (30-18-13-1). Travis Morin (two assists) and Derek Hulak (goal, assist) each tallied multi-point nights for the Stars, who are now 9-2-3-0 in their last 14 games and have won five straight.

The Stars continue their road-trip on Saturday when they visit the Milwaukee Admirals at 7 p.m.

Texas scored two of their three goals on the power play as Scott Glennie buried the first one at 8:29 of the first for his 12th of the season and a 1-0 Stars lead. Justin Dowling added an assist to extend his point streak to five games. Julius Honka was also credited with a helper on the goal.

In period two, Derek Meech added to the Texas lead with a power play goal of his own when Derek Hulak's shot from the right side of the crease opened up a rebound opportunity for the veteran defenseman to score his 10th of the season at 4:30. Travis Morin added the second assist on the goal as well.

Campbell held the fort in the third long enough for Hulak to score an empty-net goal from the red line with just under two minutes to play for his 17th of the year. The Stars kept the Chicago (29-25-6-1) offense in check the rest of the way to seal the shutout win.

Texas finished 2-for-8 on the power play while the Wolves went 0-for-4.

Esa Lindell made his Texas Stars and AHL debut after being reassigned to Texas from the Finnish Elite League by the Dallas Stars.

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

Fortunus-Oleksiak
Meech-Honka
Gaunce-Bystrom
Lindell

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Peters, Mangene, Root, Valentine (scratch)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,731.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Chicago - March 19 2015

Dallas Draft Pick D Esa Lindell Assigned to Texas Stars

The Dallas Stars announced today that defenseman Esa Lindell has been assigned to the Texas Stars after finishing his season with the Finnish league, Liiga. Lindell led the league in time on ice this season and was the top point scoring defenseman as well.

It is expected he will play at least five AHL games. Lindell will have a chance to play for Finland at the World Championships and would leave Texas to do so. His only home game is likely to be March 27th against Grand Rapids.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has assigned defenseman Esa Lindell from Assat of the Finnish Elite League to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Lindell, 20, finished third on Assat with 35 points (14-21=35) in 57 games played. The 14 goals and 35 points were tied for the league lead amongst all defensemen. Also, he led the entire league averaging 24:56 of time on ice per game.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Vantaa, Finland was selected by Dallas in the third round (74th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Jack Campbell Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Every Thursday, 100 Degree Hockey will name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille features classic comfort food and Southern dishes less than five minutes from the Cedar Park Center. If you mention the Player of the Week or 100 Degree Hockey on your next visit to Lone Star Grille, your server will take $5 off your order of any two entrees.

If you'd said three weeks ago that Jack Campbell would be the Stars' player of the week, I'm not sure I would have beleived you. Campbell came into this weekend's games with a 3-11-5 record, 3.47 GAA and .888 SV%. Not exactly All-Star calibre.

However, on Sunday, Jack picked up his first AHL win since December with a solid 36 save performance against a tough Milwaukee team. What really earned him the honor was Tuesday night's effort against Lake Erie.

With Jussi Rynnas injured, Campbell stepped into a 1-1 game and took the Stars to a shootout win with 35 saves on 36 shots and 4 of four in the shootout. He played confidently, He played aggressively. Campbell was Campbell, prototypically. He collected wins in back-to-back games for the first time since April 2013. In the two games, he had a .959 SV%.

With the confidence boost, Campbell now looks to hit the road tonight in Chicago as 'the man' in net.

Gameday Preview: Stars at Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
29-18-13-1, 72 pts
#7 Western Conference
atChicago Wolves
29-24-6-1, 65 pts
#10 Western Conference
March 19th at 7:00 PM
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

This is one of those cliche games: a four point game. The last time these two teams played, Texas was the one chasing. In fact, the conference standings were exactly opposite with the Stars in 10th and the Wolves in 7th.

In late January, Texas managed to put down the Wolves twice at home and earn four points. Since that point, Texas has been on a tear (11-3-4-1) and the Wolves have been treading water (8-7-1-0). It isn't out of the question to say that those two games on the 23rd and 24th might have kickstarted Texas' playoff run and potentially killed Chicago's chances. With the margins looking as razor thin as they are, four points is a huge loss for the Wolves.

All that being said, here we are with a chance for the Wolves to get some redemption. They come into the contest with a two-game losing streak and a 3-6-1 record in their last ten. Texas, of course, brings a four-game winning streak and will roll out Jack Campbell in net for his third appearance in as many games.

In net for Chicago, Jordan Binnington has taken much of the load during the interim stretch since the teams last met. Matt Climie has been battling injury this season. The former Star missed the entire month of February.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Honka (probable)
Rynnas, Faksa (injury)

Website: chicagowolves.com
Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves
Twitter: @theshaves (Wolves PxP)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jack Campbell Steps Up Big in Relief as Texas Earns Shootout Win

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
From the greatest adversities can come the greatest chances for glory. In the final two minutes of the first period, Texas lost their starting goaltender, Jussi Rynnas, to a lower body injury as he was toppled by Lake Erie's Sam Henley.

In stepped Jack Campbell, who was coming off his first win since December in what has been a rough season for the top pick. Campbell stopped 35 of 36 in relief plus 3 of 4 in the shootout to claim his first back-to-back victories since April 2013.

"It's always nice to step in and help the team the best you can," said Campbell, deflecting some praise. "It's a big win, and we'll take it. For the team's sake, it was awesome, and personally it feels nice. It feels so good to step up when the team needs me."

Campbell played a strong aggressive game. The only shot that beat him in regulation and OT was a point-blank blast that he had no chance on.

After hitting the end of regulation, Texas decided to play a more aggressive game overall in the overtime period.

Coach Laxdal said, "I told the guys, 'What do we have to lose in OT?'"

The attitude was typified most accurately in the two homerun passes that Jack Campbell attempted in the 3-on-3 segment.

Travis Morin described the scene, "Standing around while they're scraping the ice [Campbell] said, 'If I get it and catch it, just go.' and I said, 'Alright, I'll go.' He made an unbelievable save and then threw it up."

Campbell looked down and out late in the OT, but made an incredible glove grab and popped to his feet to find Morin on a breakaway. The shot ended up in Pickard's chest, but it was an exhilarating moment that Coach Laxdal pointed to as an example of why the NHL should move to 3-on-3 OT.

In the first period, Branden Troock had a nice 2-on-0 goal with newcomer Devin Shore on the assist. With the man power set at four each, Shore broke in with Troock against Pickard. After three passes between them, Troock buried the puck glove side for the 1-0 lead.

Texas found themselves on the penalty kill in the middle of the frame. Sam Henley took the first of his cut against the Stars with a power play goal on that shift with just four seconds left in the kill.

With the score tied at one, the second cut came when Henley bowled over Jussi Rynnas and landed awkwardly on the keeper, who immediately looked to be in pain. Rynnas went off limping, and Jack Campbell entered the game.

"Once and a while the team needs someone to step up," said Campbell. "[Lake Erie] came out ready to play tonight and put a lot of pucks to the net. Sometimes you have to make more saves than the other guy, and I'm so proud we got the win."

In the second period, the team traded power play goals. Cameron Gaunce, earning time on that second power play unit again, scored from the left point. His tally was as much his doing as the work of Brendan Ranford on the screen in front.

Unfortunately, that work was undone later in the period when the Stars all got caught below the goal line on the penalty kill. That left Stefan Elliot wide open on the right wing hashes. Ben Street sent him a nice pass, which Elliot had time to skate into for the one-timer past Campbell. The Texas netminder had no chance on the shot from point-blank range.

Jack Campbell continued to endure the barrage from Lake Erie in the third, stopping all 15 shots he faced in the frame. Overtime came and Texas had further theatrics from Campbell as the best two chances of the period came in rapid succession with Campbell's aforementioned save and Morin's breakaway off the pass from the netminder.

The Stars went to their second shootout of the year, a place where they've yet to win on the season. "We haven't had a lot of success this year," said Laxdal. "So we were going with the guys we knew, Smith and Ranford. You know, it'll be an HBO moment. Let's throw Morin in there. It was a little bit of karma that it worked out."

Morin looked far side and shot short side on Pickard for the win in the fourth round of the shootout after Brendan Ranford and the Monsters' Vincour each scored in the initial three rounds.

Texas hits the road for a string of games in the Midwest. Henri Kiviaho will join them in Chicago tomorrow to back up Jack Campbell.

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

Gaunce-Oleksiak
Meech-Fortunus
Valentine-Bystrom

Rynnas
Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Root, Stransky (scratch)
Faksa, Honka (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,978.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Lake Erie - March 17 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
28-18-13-1, 70 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Lake Erie Monsters
27-25-5-3, 62 pts
#12 Western Conference
March 17th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Monsters return to Cedar Park for their final matchup against Texas this season.

Lake Erie played the Stars last week, and Texas used its power play to carve up the visitors to the tune of a 6-4 final score. Since that game, Lake Erie split their weekend series with San Antonio. Surprisingly, they beat the Rampage 4-0 on Friday but lost 5-2 on Saturday.

Texas needs this win to complete a very successful homestand and send themselves off to the Midwest with a big points cushion. With Sunday's win, they've pushed themselves to sixth place by points percentage. It's a thin margin over Milwaukee but it's reinforced by the two games in hand they have over the Ads.

Ludwig Bystrom and Devin Shore will continue to work their way into the lineup more and more. With a few days sleeping in the Central Time Zone, Bystrom may get a full workload instead of being one of seven. With the addition of Oleksiak, that might be tough, and the Stars could end up skating seven defensemen again. William Wrenn would probably come out in that situation. He looked rusty against meager competition this weekend. William Wrenn has been assigned to Idaho.

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

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Jamie Oleksiak Reassigned; Eric Faille Released from PTO

Jamie Oleksiak scores in last year's Stars and Stripes game
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars have reassigned defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars this morning. The 6'7" defender has split time between the NHL and AHL this season and will be available for tomorrow's game against Lake Erie.

In an unrelated move, the Texas Stars released rookie PTO forward Eric Faille. Faille had 2-4=6 in 21 games with Texas this season but was scratched the past two games. With the arrival of Devin Shore, Faille just gets squeezed out on the numbers game. I personally think he'll pick up some PTO games elsewhere out East in the AHL in the final month of the season.

Here is the release on Oleksiak:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has reassigned defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Oleksiak, 22, has appeared in 36 games for Dallas this season posting eight points (1-7=8) and eight penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 19 games for Texas this season and registering 11 points (3-8=11) and a team-leading +11 plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound native of Toronto, Ontario was selected by Dallas in the first round (14th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Expected End of Season Additions to the Stars' Roster

Devin Shore (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
It's March, which means the steady influx of players from college, Europe and major junior has begun in the AHL. Devin Shore was the first to join this season for Texas followed by Ludwig Bystrom last night. There are a few others soon to join. Here's a breakdown of some of the players mentioned by Texas GM Scott White as possibilities and the two who've already joined.

College

Devin Shore (C, Maine)

Maine's captain made his way to Texas last week and has already played in three games. Coach Laxdal said he clearly 'a player' for this team. He was slated to play on the 2nd power play unit this weekend after Julius Honka got injured on Wednesday. Laxdal liked what Cameron Gaunce brought in that role, so the blue liner might have earned some time there.

Europe

Ludwig Bystrom (D, Farjestad)

Bystrom came to Texas briefly last year but did not play in any playoff games. He was officially assigned to Texas on Saturday and had his first North American game last night. Bystrom might have stayed in Texas this year all season if the blue line hadn't been so jammed up. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and having him here might have been a good call after seeing injuries and waiver claims eat away at that depth.

Esa Lindell (D, Assat Pori)

Lindell is a Finn who played in the Finnish SM-liiga this season. He piled up 35 points in 57 games. This was his first year entirely in the top Finnish league and not split with the second league in any way. He was the top scoring defenseman in Liiga this year.

Assat played its last regular season game on Thursday but is on its way to the Liiga playoffs though, so Lindell may still be a while. Assat is part of the four-team playoff between the teams ranked 7-10 to get into the quarter-finals against the clubs 1-6. Pretty cool little way to setup the postseason. They were eliminated on Sunday, and Lindell is eligible to be reassigned.

WHL

Cole Ully (LW, Kamloops)

Cole Ully's Blazers are right on the playoff line in the WHL. Currently ranked 9th, they are tied with the eighth place squad with only a handful of games to go. If they miss, the last regular season game is March 21.

Scott White indicated Ully would come to Cedar Park to "see how to be a pro," but may not get playing time.

OHL

Jason Dickinson (C, Guelph)

Jason Dickinson was the draft pick that Dallas received in return for Jaromir Jagr. It's turned out pretty well for them as Dickinson appears to have top-six center written all over him from the early prognostication. He has 67 points in 52 games with the Guelph Storm in this, his fourth season in the OHL.

The Storm have secured a playoff spot and look like they will have home ice advantage in the first round as well. It's unlikely we'll see Dickinson too soon in Texas.

Remi Elie (LW, Erie)

Remi Elie is a lucky guy. He just so happened to be on same squad as the most anticipated player since Crosby, Connor McDavid. Elie's Erie Otters have clinched their division and will likely go deep in the playoffs. For both Elie and Dickinson, the OHL playoffs experience is probably better for them than the AHL black ace experience.

QMJHL

Philippe Desrosiers (G, Rimouski)

I'm including Desrosiers for completeness, but I don't think he'll make an appearance in Texas this season. His club, Rimouski, is the top team in the QMJHL and should make a deep run with Desrosiers in net. That's best for his development at this point.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Full Team Effort Vaults Texas Over Milwaukee 6-2

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
There's something in these Texas Stars now that hasn't been there all season, according to Coach Derek Laxdal. After the Stars' 6-2 throttling of the Admirals tonight in Cedar Park, he opined that this is a team finally playing with passion and for each other.

"That's a team. That's passion. We hadn't seen that, and we're seeing it now. Any team, you have to play for the guy beside you. When you have that trust in your group, it can be a powerful thing."

Texas got contributions from all over the lineup as they completed the two-game set against Milwaukee with a huge four points. Laxdal pointed out, correctly, that it is more accurately an eight-point swing since Texas is right behind Milwaukee in the standings.

The game was so complete by Texas that there are at least half a dozen different angles you could take on the game. Jack Campbell had his first win since December and looked very good stopping 36 of 38. Brendan Ranford scored two, clicking with his linemates and playing his best hockey since being reassigned. Former Ads Scott Valentine and Kevin Henderson both scored against their old team. Branden Troock assisted on each of those goals and had a pretty stellar night as well.

Brendan Ranford expanded, "I thought we played well. Every line contributed on the night, and it was a good night for everybody. That's what we needed."

To put it simply, this team is very dangerous right now.

After a sleepy first few minutes, Ranford scored his first of the game on a sweeping backhand move. He beat Marek Mazanec, starting for the second straight game, farside for the 1-0 lead. Viktor Arvidsson tied things up less than a minute later on a breakaway where William Wrenn got burned by the footspeed of the young Swede.

Texas would go up for good on Henderson's goal just 49 seconds later.

"Henderson is on a streak here," said Coach Laxdal. "He's scoring about every other game. He had about four grade A scoring chances here. Branden Troock also had a good game tonight."

Troock passed to Henderson in the slot, where the former Ad roofed the puck for the 2-1 lead.

The second period was all Texas and started with a fantastic play by Scott Valentine. The Stars managed to force a turnover and Branden Troock raced to the puck in the Milwaukee zone. Scott Valentine lifted Troock's pass under the armpit of Mazanec as he fell to the ice.

"The effort on Valentine's goal to score was second to none. He showed a top notch effort to skate on to that loose puck."

Scott Glennie added his 11th of the year a minute later to make it 4-1.

As the period wore on, Texas found itself on the PK a few times, needing a big performance from their goalie. Jack Campbell, looking for his first win since December 20th, stepped up.

"My game is starting to feel better," said Campbell. "The guys played really hard in front of me, allowing me to see the shooting lanes and clearing our rebound."

Laxdal added, "For Jack to get in there and face a lot of shots and get the win, that's going to build confidence for him. We have a heavy schedule so we need two goalies."

Brendan Ranford closed the period with a rebound goal to make it 5-1 and take the pressure off the third period. Ranford looked solid for the first tiem since returning from Dallas.

"I think the last three games I've been better," he said. "The first four coming back were not great my greatest games all season, probably the worst stretch I've had. Playing with Dowling and Glennie has been really nice."

Newcomers Devin Shore and Ludwig Bystrom both got extended looks in the third period, including a PK shift for Shore. Texas and Milwaukee traded goals in the frame. Derek Hulak scored on the first shot of the period against backup Magnus Hellberg. Viktor Arvidsson got his second of the game on a redirect in front.

The Stars will stay in town to play Lake Erie on Tuesday.

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

Gaunce-Mangene
Meech-Fortunus
Valentine-Wrenn
Bystrom

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Oleksiak, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Faille, Root, Stransky (scratch)
Faksa, Honka (injury)

Texas dressed seven defenseman tonight. Matt Mangene played fourth line forward on some shifts and defense on others.

Laxdal on Bystrom: "For a guy that flew in last night, he was fine. He didn't look tired. We ran him hard in the third to get some experience. He snapped some passes and played hard."

Tonight's attendance was 4,036.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - March 15 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
27-18-13-1, 68 pts
#8 Western Conference
v.Milwaukee Admirals
31-21-5-4, 71 pts
#6 Western Conference
March 15th at 5:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Last night was fun, so Texas will try to do it again. Coach Laxdal said postgame that hoped he could bottle whatever came over the Stars in their hot start last night for today's game as well.

Given the tone of the prior contest, tonight will surely be a chippy matchup. Coach Laxdal agreed, "Both teams are battling for a playoff spot and you're going to have that animosity and passion. It sets up for a big game."

Derek Hulak added, "Coming down the stretch every game is huge. A lot of the teams we play down the stretch are teams we're chasing."

Texas is now just three point behind the Ads in the playoff race and could cut that to one with a win today. Additionally, the #8 Stars have a two games in hand on the #6 Admirals and three on the #7 Bulldogs. If Texas can win today, they will leapfrog the Admirals for the 6th spot by points percentage in the West.

Stars injury/call up report:
Oleksiak, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Faksa, Honka (injury)

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hot Start Keys Off Power Play Success in 4-3 Texas Win

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars power play opened a can on the usually stingy Milwaukee Admirals this evening for a 4-3 final at Cedar Park Center. The power play went 3-for-5 with both units scoring in the contest.

"That's something we've keyed in on the last few weeks," said Derek Hulak of the power play. "In some of the games we were close, the power play was the difference, and we needed to bear down. We had a lot of movement out there tonight."

In addition to the power play success, Texas amped up their physical edge to match the heavy tone of the visiting Admirals.

"They're a heavy team up front," said former Admiral Scott Valentine. "So we knew they would be physical. We upped that from the start."

Valentine and Kevin Henderson both had this game circled on the calendar as it was their first chance to face their former club.

"There was a lot of emotion out there. Personally, the biggest thing was trying to harness that. For the most part, I kept myself in check and my teammates played for me and Henderson."

"I thought Valentine did a great job," said Coach Laxdal, who also mentioned Valentine's fight in the first period. "Everybody brought the passion that we've been lacking in our starts recently."

Hulak added, "Whenever you have guys on your team playing their old squad, you want to amp it up a bit. It was nice to get this one for those guys."

Right off the drop, Texas went hard at this Milwaukee squad. The Stars drew a holding penalty and Scott Glennie cashed in at the net off a pinpoint pass from Justin Dowling. A few minutes later, Travis Morin collected a cross-ice pass from Greg Rallo and found himself with a yawning net for the 2-0 lead, this one at even strength.

The power play struck again just under nine minutes into the game. Greg Rallo went five hole on Marek Mazanec for the Stars' third goal on their fifth shot. Milwaukee called their time out, and it looked like Mazanec might be headed for the showers.

The power play's success keyed on a lot of movement in their setup. Coach Laxdal indicated a lot of that was truly calculated movement, but there might have been a bit too much in the end. Overall, in the last two months, he believes the power play is "trending in the right direction."

The Ads battled back in the first, and rookie phenom Kevin Fiala got them on the board late with his seventh of the year.

"To get two power play goals in the first period, as long as you don't let off the gas pedal, it's always a good thing."

Derek Hulak scored the Stars' third power play goal of the night in the second period on the second deflection of a Maxime Fortunus shot-pass. Greg Rallo had the primary assist to give him a goal and two helpers on the night.

The Ads would not go down quietly though, as Bitetto scored with 10 seconds left in the period to make it 4-2. The tight score setup a tense 3rd period. Texas had a chance to seal it with their fourth power play goal of the night mid-period but could not convert.

Late in the frame, Texas yielded two PP chances to the Ads back-to-back. The penalty kill stood strong with both Valentine and Henderson breaking sticks and giving up the body to ensure the win. Colton Sissons would get one more goal with the extra attacker but the Stars held up for the 4-3 win.

Milwaukee stays in town to play what will surely a spirited game against Texas again tomorrow.

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

Gaunce-Mangene
Meech-Fortunus
Valentine-Wrenn

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Oleksiak, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Faille, Root, Bystrom (scratch)
Faksa, Honka (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,709.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - March 14 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
26-18-13-1, 66 pts
#8 Western Conference
v.Milwaukee Admirals
31-20-5-4, 71 pts
#6 Western Conference
March 14th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

For something a little different this weekend, I've traded emails with Daniel Lavender, Editor-in-Chief of Admirals Roundtable. We've both posted our thoughts on our respective teams to each others' sites. You can read what I had to say about Texas over here. So, below, enjoy the gameday preview brought to you by a source much more knowledgeable than me on the Admirals...

HDH: What's been the story of the season overall? These teams haven't played, so Texas fans have no context.
DL: Our season has been hot and cold. When it's hot, it is really hot. We opened with a franchise record six-game winning streak to start a season. January was also fantastic for the Admirals as well. Then there are the cold stretches such as December, February, and right about now. The mantra for much of this season has been "play the right way" and a lot of the comes down to simplifying the game and minimizing mistakes. Our cold stretches tend to come from getting out of that philosophy. Simply put: When it is good - it has been very good. When it's bad - it is rough.
HDH: Milwaukee was hot hot hot in January and February, winning 13 of 15. Since then, they've been 3-7-2. What's changed?
DL: I feel that there are a few things that contributed to this current skid. The biggest change was probably the first real injury bug of the season which were almost all on the defensive end of things. The Nashville Predators had some bodies banged up and it led to Anthony Bitetto going up all while Joe Piskula, Jimmy Oligny, and Johan Alm were injured. The great news is that all those names have since returned but for that brief while we made due with Jaynen Rissling from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL getting his first AHL action of the season, signed hired gun to the AHL this year Jared Nightingale to make it his fourth stop with a different team in the league this season, and even played left winger Mike Liambas in defense for a few games.
I also question how big of a loss to the Admirals Brendan Leipsic has been since the Predators traded him as part of their deal to acquire Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leipsic was our leading scorer for the better part of this season and was a real spark plug for the offense. Since his absence Kevin Fiala, who pretty much just made the leap to North America, has been tasked with filling his wing role. Fiala is still adjusting and a guy like Colton SIssons has really been picking up the offensive slack where Leipsic left off. It's still a drop off for the Admirals since Leipsic left. The sooner they find some consistency in their forward make-up the quicker the results can stabilize.
HDH: Is it the same formula as always for these Ads: defense and goaltending?
DL: The goaltending has been phenomenal this season. Both Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg have really played great all season long. While some of their numbers, especially recent, may suggest struggles I would say that's a bigger reflection of the team in front of them than solely their fault. Mazanec has looked much improved than he did last season. He's been very calm and confident in net. And Hellberg looks just as good as he did at the end of his stellar rookie season for the Admirals. Goaltending has been one of, if not the, biggest pluses on the season.
HDH: Who should we be watching?
DL: Viktor Arvidsson should be a man fans in Texas watch out for this weekend. He was the Predators fourth round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft and he currently leads the entire AHL in shots on goal with 224 for an average of 3.7 shots per game. He might not be the biggest bloke on the ice at standing at 5'9" but his slap shot is a nasty one. He generates some serious pop with his shot and is really skilled when it comes to his playmaking ability.
The other obvious name worth throwing out is the Predators first selection from that same draft class, Fiala. He's had a slow adjustment period since joining the Admirals in late-January from HV71 in Sweden. The North American game is something he is still getting used to: pace, defensive closing rate, etc. Still, he has shown more than enough times that even at 18-years old he is incredibly talented. He skates really well and his stickhandling abilities remind me a lot of a guy we had last season named Filip Forsberg. Crazy hand speed. The more comfortable Fiala gets the better and better the team around him is going to get.
HDH: Talk about the resurgence of goalie Magnus Hellberg. We saw him in the playoffs two years ago, and he was great. He had a weird year last year and now he's back in the AHL. What's up?
DL: Last season was about as rough as they get for him. He picked up an injury in pre-season camp in Nashville and he never truly got his motor going. Scott Darling was our ECHL guy last season and his play for the Admirals, during the system-wide goalie shuffle with Pekka Rinne's injury, had him leap Hellberg with the big Swede ending last season on the bench watching Rob Madore's MVP run for the Cyclones in the Kelly Cup Finals.
Since the start of this season it has been a different story. He's healthy. Not that it was a problem before but I think last season grounded him and kept him humble to keep things day-to-day and one game at a time. He never gets frazzled by who gets more starts, Mazanec or himself, and both goaltenders really support and feed off one-another to get going. It didn't take him long to eclipse his numbers from a year ago and it really is a matter of goalie "1-A and 1-B" than one over the other.
Thanks to Lavender and the Admirals Roundtable crew for reaching out.

Stars injury/call up report:
Oleksiak, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Faksa, Honka (injury)

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Friday, March 13, 2015

Idaho Steelheads Report: Deep Roster Contributes to Ten Game Point Streak

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern returns for March's Idaho Steelheads Report...

Since the last Idaho Steelheads update, which primarily focused on goaltender Jack Campbell, the Steelheads were able to run off nine consecutive wins. Seven of those wins were by more than two goals. Those wins along with a couple of losses by both the Ontario Reign and Colorado Eagles, led to the Steelheads regaining the Pacific Division lead for the past couple of weeks. The Steelheads hold a two point advantage over the Colorado Eagles, who have currently won five straight games themselves, and a ten point lead over the fading Ontario Reign. Below is a current snapshot of the top three teams in the Pacific Division. Note: teams play 72 games.

TeamGames WinsLossesOTLSOLPoints
Idaho6039162383
Colorado6139190381
Ontario5832174573

The Steelheads did take an overtime loss to the Bakersfield Condors this past Monday but were able to bounce back with a convincing 5-1 win on Wednesday before heading back on the road for three more games against the Stockton Thunder.

To round out the playoff picture, the Utah Grizzlies currently hold the 4th and final playoff spot with a total of 66 points, and the Alaska Aces are hot on their tail with 61 points. The Aces have currently played two fewer games than Utah.

Getting back to the Steelheads, over the course of their winning and now point streak, after the win on February 14th where they defeated the Grizzlies 4-1, they would go 11 consecutive games without a multi-goal scorer. That streak ended on the 11th when both Wade MacLeod and Jason Bast netted two goals. Interesting note: it was MacLeod who had the last two goal game prior to Wednesday night.

Of course going 11 games without a multi-goal scorer is something that is easily done if you are losing games 2-1 or 3-2. However, when you look at how many goals the Steelheads put up in that time, it becomes mystifying how it took so many games to get a multi-goal scorer. In those 11 games where they won nine of them and got points in 10 of them, the Steelheads scored a total of 44 goals, including games where they scored five goals twice, six goals twice, and one game with seven goals.

The fact that Idaho was able to go as long as they did and still continue to win hockey games, once again speaks to the depth on this team. Wade MacLeod, Jason Bast, Alex Belzile, Josh Robinson, Colton Beck and Jefferson Dahl just to name a few, helped to pace the forwards. Shawn Boutin, Drew Baker and Matt Case helped pace the blue line scoring. It also helps when you get good goaltending to go along with deep scoring. Over those same 11 games, Idaho goaltending only allowed 24 goals which equals out to 2.18 goals allowed per game. The credit for those numbers go to Jack Campbell, Henri Kiviaho and Chris Rawlings as well as a full team defensive effort.

ECHL trade deadline
The ECHL trade deadline was on Thursday, and the Idaho Steelheads decided to get in on the action. It took a little help from the Texas Stars to pull of the trade, but the Steelheads are welcoming defenseman Martin Lee from the Missouri Mavericks. Officially, Idaho picked up Lee for future considerations. There was a corresponding move that saw Texas recall forward Ludwig Karlsson and defenseman Troy Vance. The conversation out of Texas is that those two will be reassigned to Missouri and that will end up completing the trade.

In Lee, the Steelheads are picking up a steady D-Man who has 5 G and 16 A on the season for 21 total points. All 5 of his goals have come on the power play which is a bonus. He is only carrying a plus-2 so far through the season, but when you look at how Missouri is a minus-39 in goal differential on the season, that number is pretty good.

For Karlsson and Vance, this is an opportunity to get more regular time. Recently Vance has been dressing as a seventh defenseman or a tenth forward. Moving over to Missouri will give him more regular shifts. Karlsson will be able to get more time as well as he will be able to find some additional regular shifts and find a spot on the power play.

What Lies Ahead?
Up next for Idaho is a three game in three night set against the Thunder down in Stockton starting on Friday. These will be the last three games that Idaho will play against the Thunder franchise as next year they will move up to the AHL.

After that they will get some deserved time off before the Colorado Eagles come to town on March 20 and March 21 in what will be a showdown of the top two teams in the conference. Big time playoff implications from that 2 game set. They will finish out the month with three games against the Utah Grizzlies. To finish the regular season they will play one more game against the Aces, two more against the Colorado Eagles, and finish the season against the Grizzlies.

Until next month where we will have a playoff preview (hopefully)...

John Mulhern is the arena emcee for CenturyLink Arena, home of the Idaho Steelheads, and does on-air work for the Steelheads broadcast in addition to his own Two Sports Nuts podcast. You can also follow John on Twitter @mulhern4.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ludwig Karlsson, Troy Vance Reassigned in ECHL from Idaho to Missouri

Forward Ludwig Karlsson and defenseman Troy Vance have both been reassigned by the Dallas organization to the ECHL's Missouri Mavericks.

The move was part of a trade arrangement between Missouri and Idaho that involved NHL-contracted players. Both Karlsson and Vance have played all season for the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads, the AA affiliate of the Dallas and Texas Stars.

The trade will allow Karlsson and Vance to get more playing time down the stretch. Missouri is not projected to make the playoffs, currently in 6th in the Central Division.

Defenseman Martin Lee will be joining the Steelheads from the Mavericks. Lee is a three-year vet of the ECHL and is on an ECHL contract.

Texas Stars GM Scott White was not available for comment.

(Image credit: Idaho Steelheads)

Julius Honka Named Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Every Thursday, 100 Degree Hockey will name the Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week. Lone Star Grille features classic comfort food and Southern dishes less than five minutes from the Cedar Park Center. If you mention the Player of the Week or 100 Degree Hockey on your next visit to Lone Star Grille, your server will take $5 off your order of any two entrees.

Rookie Julius Honka had a solid week in a light game schedule, tallying a goal and an assist last night against Lake Erie. His dynamic offensive play helped spur Texas to the victory, earning his first star honors in the game and the inaugural Lone Star Grille/100 Degree Hockey Player of the Week title.

Honka has had an up and down year, but that much can be expected from a 19-year old rookie playing in the AHL. Texas assistant coach Karl Taylor elaborated on how Honka is able to impact the Texas squad:
"He's a young kid with million dollar legs. Can he ever skate with that puck! He scored a beautiful goal and made a great play on the Henderson goal. He's starting to hit a stride at an important part of the year. Certain guys relish that element and others are nervous, but he's starting to step up his game."
The ringing endorsement from the coaching staff has been evident all year as Honka has played in 53 of Texas' 58 games this year. Most of those five missed games were due to the World Juniors Tournament, not Honka needing time in the press box or injury.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Power Play Fuels Offensive Outburst, 6-4 Texas Win

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas got the sort of start it wanted at home, with two early goals leading the charge in tonight's 6-4 win over the Lake Erie Monsters. Scott Glennie and Julius Honka each scored in the first and later had assists, both finishing with two point nights.

"We need the points," said assistant coach Karl Taylor. "It's a desperate time of year and also the funnest time of year. It's when you want to play. No one's in the backyard pretending to go shelf in overtime of the exhibition game. You want to win the games down the stretch."

The power play was a big factor for the Stars tonight. While just two power play goals were officially tallied, Texas' first goal of the night came just as the power play expired. Lake Erie was also good on the power play, scoring two on three opportunities.

"The power play stepped up and gave us a chance to win the game. The PK let us down a bit tonight, but it's been strong most of the season. We have to tighten up in a few spots."

Justin Dowling continued, "We've been working on the power play a lot. We've been getting a lot of chances and it seems every game we're getting a goal. Today it worked out in our favor."

On that first almost power play goal, Justin Dowling rifled the puck to the net where it deflected off Scott Glennie and past Aittokallio for the 1-0 lead.

Actually on the power play a few minutes later, Julius Honka called for the puck on the left point and got exactly what he wanted on the pass from Matt Mangene. Honka walked up a bit to the top of the circle and picked a corner for the 2-0 lead.

The early second period was fast and furious back and forth action for both teams. Ben Youds and the Monsters scored on the power play just thirty seconds into the frame. Derek Meech had the answer off a nice pass form Justin Dowling, who slid the puck through the legs of a defenseman to an open Meech in the high slot for an open look.

Lake Erie answered the answer with a short-side goal on Jussi Rynnas from Sam Hentley, just his fifth goal of his rookie season.

That score would stand until late in the period when Julius Honka pulled off another impressive maneuver to generate a goal for Kevin Henderson. After nearly ceding the zone to an on-rushing Lake Erie forward, Honka kept the puck in by mere inches, stickhandled deftly down the left wing side and found an unguarded Kevin Henderson for a one-timer.

"I've got to give credit to Rallo," said Dowling. "He was on the bench yelling at me that Meech was open. I was able to catch him out of the corner of my eye. He had a great shot."

The power play found twine again in the third period off a too many men call for the Monsters. Derek Hulak got his 13th of the season on a far-side bid off the pass from Travis Morin.

Lake Erie made things interesting late. Ben Street scored on the power play at 11:33 and then the Monsters pulled Sami Aittokallio for the extra man with five minutes left in the third. They were rewarded with a bar-down goal by Reid Petryk with 4:13 left.

The Stars had a team first to end the game though. Travis Morin was breaking in on the net and two Lake Erie defenders threw their sticks to prevent a play at the empty net. According to rule, that is an awarded goal. It was the first awarded goal in team history either for or against. Morin's goal set the final at 6-4.

"I've only seen it two or three times," said Taylor. "It is rare."

Texas stays in town to take on Milwaukee for the first time this season on Saturday and Sunday.

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

Gaunce-Honka
Meech-Fortunus
Valentine-Mangene

Rynnas

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Oleksiak, McKenzie, Ritchie (call up)
Root, Peters, Wrenn (scratch)
Faksa (injury)

Karl Taylor on Devin Shore's first game: "He's running on adrenaline. We try not to give him too much but you have to give him some structure. You try to play him so he has some success. He won 5/8 faceoffs. I thought he did well tonight."

Tonight's attendance was 2,887.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Lake Erie - March 11 2015