Friday, October 30, 2015

'Shorthanded' Tallies Key Texas Stars to 5-4 Victory

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Only one of the two early second period goals were counted as shorthanded, but both essentially were. With Texas down 3-1 after a 5-on-3 goal by Bakersfield, goals from Derek Hulak during the PK and Stephen Johns just as it expired tied the game up and gave Texas new life.

"That's big for momentum," said Devin Shore. "Special teams can gain big momentum or suck it out of your team. We were lucky tonight that the PK helped us bounce back. Anytime you [give up] a shorty, those are back breakers."

Including the two 'shorthanded' tallies, Texas tacked on four unanswered in the second and early third period to put them up 5-3 after trailing by two in the first intermission.

"We started a little slow in the game and got behind," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "We didn't look sharp."

Jesse Blacker added, "You're going to have games where you aren't feeling your best. To be able to get two points, battle the adversity of that is big."

The Stars started out on the wrong foot with Cory Kane in the box for boarding. Brad Hunt's unassisted tally opened the scoring for the Condors. A pretty passing play from Jason Dickinson found Matej Stransky in the slot for the Texas tie, but Ryan Hamilton found twine on a pass from behind the goal line to restore the 2-1 lead after 20.

Cory Kane again found a seat in the penalty box to start the second and was joined by Jesse Blacker for a short 5-on-3 overlap. With one second remaining in the overlap, Brad Hunt scored again to make it 3-1.

"We talked about staying out of the box tonight after Milwaukee. I didn't like Kane's penalties tonight. I sat him down for a little bit. If you're killing four or five in a game, it's tough. Mentally and physically we have to do a better job early in the game."

Devin Shore added, "That was a a tough break. 5-on-3 is tough to kill and that was a nice shot by them. Once the goal is scored, there's not much you can do but look forward to the next shift."

Luckily, the Stars bailed themselves out on the PK with the aforementioned tallies. Derek Hulak had what looked like an offspeed puck beat Brossoit from the left hashes and then Stephen Johns put a puck into an open net off a rush to the net by Devin Shore.

Kane wasn't in the doghouse too long as he was on the ice for the next Stars' goal. Kane dished to Branden Troock, who was able to breeze by a stickless Brad Hunt and beat Brossoit on a dash down the right wing side for the 4-3 lead.

The Stars opened the third on the power play and cashed in for the first time at home all season. Travis Morin collected his third of the year off some mess in front in what would eventually stand up as the game winner.

Josh Winquist would cut the lead to one to make the contest interesting late, but Texas would hold strong.

The Stars take on these same Condors on Sunday afternoon.

Tonight's lines:
Elie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Dickinson-Shore-Stransky
Ully-Kane-Troock

Lindell-Johns
Bystrom-Honka
Backman-Blacker

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Smith, Evans, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,165.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Bakersfield - October 30 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Bakersfield Condors

Texas Stars
5-2-0-1, 11 pts
#4 Pacific Division
v.Bakersfield Condors
2-3-0-1, 5 pts
#7 Pacific Division
October 30th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The Bakersfield Condors are a very familiar opponent for the Texas Stars. Even if the names are different, the Condors are the Edmonton Oilers' farm team and that means they share much of the same player roster as the Oklahoma City Barons have had for the past several years. After double-digit numbers of games against them nearly every season since inception, Texas knows this team well.

The Condors were one of the ECHL markets promoted to the AHL this season in the westward shift. Tonight's game is one of eight against the Condors for Texas, split evenly home and away of course.

The Barons Condors are technically in last place in the division, but that shouldn't fool you. At 2-3-0-1, they're one game from even and two games from being right behind the Stars. Familiar names dot the lineup with Brad Hunt, Matthew Ford and Andrew Miller leading the early scoring. Iiro Pakarinen will not be joining the team in Cedar Park as he is currently skating in the NHL. He was a rookie dynamo for the Barons last year and started the season with 1-2=3 in 4 GP. Another big name that won't be joining the Condors in Texas is Darnell Nurse, who got the call to the NHL and is acclimating himself quite well according to media reports. There is some honest doubt about whether he'll even come back to the AHL at this point.

One player to watch for is Leon Draisaitl. It's his first year in the AHL but he is not a rookie. After being drafted 3rd overall in 2014, he was pulled into the NHL for 37 games, burning a year of his contract. Midseason the Oil decided to send him back to the WHL, where he won the Memorial Cup MVP with Kelowna. It was a tough blunder for a team that has had issues managing super star top picks. Now he's biding his time in the AHL, at 1-1=2 in 5 GP with a minus-5 rating. (Updated: Leon Draisaitl was called up to Edmonton yesterday and found the net twice in the Oilers' win over Montreal.)

Laurent Brossoit has taken the lion's share of work in the net early in the season with 4 GP and both of the team's wins (both shutouts).

For the Stars, this is the start of a 5 game homestand that they will seek to use to bolster their record. A hot start of 4-0 has cooled off to 1-2-0-1 in the second set of four games. In looking at the opponents, Texas should work its hardest to walk away with four points this weekend because the remainder of the homestand is not very kind. San Antonio visits for a pair (#2 Pacific) and then Stockton again (#5 Pacific but with great goaltending).

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

Condors Web Resources:
Website: bakersfieldcondors.com
Blog (Official): Inside the Condors
Twitter: @Condors
Twitter: @CondorsHolty (PBP)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Texas Stars Drop 4-3 Shootout Decision as Dickinson Scores First Pro Goal

The Stars took their first trip to Milwaukee this season and headed to their first shootout of the season. The four round bout culminated in an Admirals win, capping off a comeback from behind 3-1.

The loss snapped Texas' seven game victory streak against the Ads. Jason Dickinson potted his first professional goal and Travis Morin tallied his second of the year in the victory. Julius Honka also picked up his first of the season.

John Muse got his second start in a row and stopped 43 of 46 shots in the loss, moving him to a 3-1 record on the season.

Early in the first, Jason Dickinson got plenty of time and space in the high slot as the Milwaukee defense collapsed on Matej Stransky in their own zone. With no one to defend against him, Dickinson sniped his first pro goal to the top right corner, blocker side on Marek Mazanec, for the 1-0 lead.

John Muse came up huge for the Stars late in the first as they fell into a 2-man disadvantage. A flurry of great saves, including a judicious use of the two-pad stack, kep the sheet clean to end the frame.

It wouldn't be perfect for long however as a power play for delay of game handed the Admirals their first goal of the night. Vladislav Kamenev go this third of the year. Not to be outdone, Travis Morin returned serve on the power play to restore the 2-1 lead.

Julius Honka extended the Stars' lead in the third period with an even-strength tally. There was some question if the goal was his or Travis Morin's. The captain was screening Mazanec heavily either way. Milwaukee's Kamenev scored his second of the night, also on the power play, to bring Milwaukee back within one.

The late push by Milwaukee as aided by a Texas penalty to setup a 6-on-4 advantage. Kevin Fiala found paydirt with 5.9 seconds left to send things to OT. (The goal was later changed to Colton Sissons)

The Stars will return home for a pair against Bakersfield this weekend.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Elie
Hulak-Dowling-Rallo
Dickinson-Shore-Stransky
Smith-Kane

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Mangene-Blacker
Evans

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Troock, Ully, Bystrom (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 2,058.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Milwaukee - October 27 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
5-2-0-0, 10 pts
#4 Pacific Division
atMilwaukee Admirals
1-3-0-0, 2 pts
#6 Central Division
October 27th at 7:00 PM
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

If you're not seeing this one on the pocket schedule, don't worry. Tonight's Milwaukee v. Texas contest is a reschedule. The Admirals aren't the only tenants at the Bradley Center and gave up their December 4th date against the Stars so that Amy Schumer could visit.

No matter. Texas was already in the Midwest early in the season and extended their trip by a few days to work in the change. The schedule shift probably works in Texas' favor as they would have been coming off a 4 game California swing with just two days at home before hitting the road again in December.

Milwaukee is one of those Western clubs that is lucky enough to have an independent voice in the online media sphere. Once again, I've asked Daniel Lavender of Ads Roundtable to answer just a few questions about the team in preparation for the game tonight:

HDH: Milwaukee missed the playoffs for the first time in many years last season. What changes has the team made (or not) to get back to winning ways?

DL: The honest truth is that not a lot has changed in terms of systems for the Admirals. If anything, the veteran core that has helped provide playoff hockey to Milwaukee in the past have all exited this off-season: Joe Piskula, Mark Van Guilder, Magnus Helberg, Triston Grant, Scott Ford, Mike Liambas. What you get instead is a young team back from last season that took the end of the season slump as a learning experience and are hoping to take bigger steps both as a team and as individuals. This is about as deep of a talent pool as I've seen with the Admirals in awhile and it's going to make watching our ECHL affiliate fun to boot.

HDH: Who are the new roster additions that we should be on the look out for?

DL: Kevin Fiala is back and eager to prove his claim to NHL hockey this season. Vladislav Kamenev, Max Görtz, Juuse Saros, and Kristian Näkyvä are all making their North American professional debuts this season. Plus last season's top goal scorer in the KHL Stevie Moses is with us at the moment. Out of all the new names the one with the biggest potential star power to me is Saros who has dazzled in his first three outings in net despite the wins not showing for him. He is a tiny goalie compared to your prototypical 6'5" Nashville Predators goaltending talents but reads the game so fast that he more than makes up for his lack of size with his instincts and speed.

HDH: Texas/Dallas and Milwaukee/Nashville provide interesting mirror images of each other. Texas/Dallas seem to concentrate on offense and Milwaukee/Nashville on defense. Can this Milwaukee team find scoring in their lineup to match up with high scoring teams? If so, where from?

DL: Right now I find myself crying for Kevin Fiala's offensive game to get going at some point. He has looked as though he is still down on himself for getting cut by Nashville in their pre-season camp to be honest. Should the fire get going for him again he can be this team's spark plug. Since he hasn't so far... the offense has been a hodgepodge of offense wherever we can get it from. The most consistent forwards have been the ones playing a more simple game such as Vladislav Kamenev, Felix Girard, and Frederick Gaudreau. The man who might be coming in to show everyone how it is done though is Viktor Arvidsson who led the team in scoring last season and was reassigned to the Admirals on Sunday. If the Ads are getting into an end-to-end scoring bout - Arvidsson is going to need to be our everything right away.

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

Admirals Web Resources:
Website: milwaukeeadmirals.com
Team blog: In The Crease
Online media: Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Texas Stars Offense Returns in 4-1 Victory in Iowa

Texas never trailed in today's contest in Des Moines, jumping out to a 1-0 lead en route to a 4-1 victory. Travis Morin scored his first of the season, as did Justin Dowling.

Devin Shore scored his league-leading 8th goal of the year. So far, he has been held without a point in just one game. Remi Elie completed the scoring with his second of the year.

John Muse took the start in net, improving his record to 3-0. The Stars stay in the Midwest for Tuesday's rescheduled game against Milwaukee.

Here's the release:
Travis Morin scored his first goal of the season and John Muse turned aside 29 shots in net as the Texas Stars shot down the Iowa Wild in a 4-1 road win on Sunday evening in front of 3,612 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena.

Devin Shore scored his team-leading eighth of the season for Texas (5-2-0-0). Derek Hulak also scored and appeared in his 100th career AHL game. Morin added an assist in the third period for a two-point night and four different players overall scored for the Stars.

The Stars close out their three-game road trip on Tuesday at Milwaukee at 7 p.m. CST.

Similar to Friday night's meeting between the two teams, Texas jumped on the board first midway through the opening period. After an Iowa turnover at the Stars' blue line, Morin finished off a 2-on-1 rush off Brendan Ranford's assist from the left circle for his first of the season.

In the second, Matt Carey put Iowa (2-4-1-1) on the board off a one-time shot from the right circle at 4:27 in Muse's only blemish of the night. Texas responded four minutes later as Esa Lindell threaded a backdoor pass to Shore on the left side of the goal crease for a 2-1 Texas lead and a share of the AHL goal-scoring lead with Providence's Frank Vatrano.

The Stars offense continued to roll in the third as Remi Elie slapped home his second of the year from the slot at 6:38 and Justin Dowling drove the net through the left circle for his first of the year at 10:39.

Jeremy Smith took the loss in net for the Wild with 37 saves. Muse earned his third win of the season with 29 saves for Texas.

Both the Stars and Wild each finished 0-for-4 on the power play.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Stransky, Kane (scratch)

Matt Mangene returned to the lineup tonight.

Tonight's attendance was 3,612.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - October 25 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
4-2-0-0, 8 pts
#4 Pacific Division
atIowa Wild
2-3-1-1, 6 pts
#5 Central Division
October 25th at 3:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

Oddly, this is the final visit for Texas to Iowa this season. Just four contests comprise the season series and both pairs are played in one go. Iowa will make their return trip to the CPC on March 2 and 4.

The Stars had a hot start to the season with a 4-game streak of wins. Now with two in the L column, they will look to rally today. It will remain to be seen on the season, but their youthfulness should be an asset in back-to-back games like this. Short turnarounds favor teams with younger players who are more able to recover.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, McKenzie, Faksa (call up)
Mangene (injury)

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Shore Scores to Stay Hot, But Texas Falls in Iowa 3-2

The Stars found no luck against the Iowa Wild on Saturday night, falling 3-2 despite a late push to even things up. Derek Hulak scored his second goal of the season and Devin Shore scored his seventh to stay very hot and right at the top of the league standings.

Maxime Lagace took the loss, his second of the season, as the Stars dropped to 4-2-0-0 with the defeat.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars tallied a late goal to pull within one, and made a final push with the extra attacker, but Leland Irving and the Iowa Wild held on for a 3-2 win on Saturday night in front of 6,536 in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena.

Shore's team-leading seventh goal of the season was set up by Julius Honka's centering pass from behind the net with 2:45 left in regulation to make it a 3-2 deficit for the Stars (4-2-0-0), and that is as close as Texas could come. Irving's 29 saves on the night were the difference as the veteran goaltender made a variety of stops on quality scoring chances for Texas all game.

Texas and Iowa (2-3-1-1) face off again Sunday at 3 p.m. CST.

Derek Hulak opened up the scoring 8:33 into the first on a breakaway goal, for his second of the year, generated by a Justin Dowling pass. The Wild answered back with a pair of goals in the final 30 seconds of the first to take a 2-1 lead. Zach Palmquist snapped home his first career goal from the slot at 19:31 and Daniel Keranen converted a penalty shot chance at the end of the period.

After a scoreless second, Jordan Scroeder tapped home a power play goal at 11:55 of third to push the Wild up 3-1.

The Stars were held scoreless on five power play chances while Iowa finished 1-for-5.

Maxime Lagace stopped 17 of 20 shots in net for the Stars and suffered the loss.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Stransky, Backman (scratch)
Mangene (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,536.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - October 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
4-1-0-0, 8 pts
#4 Pacific Division
atIowa Wild
1-3-1-1, 4 pts
#5 Central Division
October 24th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

The last time Texas played Iowa, the Wild held the worst record in the league and Stars fans were rooting for the OKC Barons to win their game so that the Stars didn't have to play Rockford in the first round of the playoffs. That didn't work out so well, did it?

Maxime Fortunus
(Credit: Iowa Wild)
Now Iowa is re-tuned and ready for a new season. From a Stars' standpoint, the biggest change on the Iowa Wild is their captain. For six seasons, Texas Stars fans had only known Maxime Fortunus as a Star. As the seventh season dawns, Fortunus has moved on to a two-year deal with the Iowa Wild, where he serves as their captain.

As you can see at the right, Fortunus looks just a little strange in anything other than a Texas Stars jersey. The Wild saw his veteran savvy as a useful asset and snapped him up on the very first day of free agency. He's played in all six games so far this season and scored a goal in the Wild's most recent contest against Rockford.

One peculiarity of the Wild's situation this season is in net. John Curry and Johan Gustafsson were not a winning pair for the club, and Iowa cleaned house. Curry hasn't signed anywhere this season, and Gustafsson is in Sweden. Instead in net, the Wild pulled Leland Irving back to North America from Russia. Irving, who you'll remember as the next big thing for the Flames organization circa 2012, is on an AHL deal. Jeremy Smith, their other tender, is on an NHL deal, but it's not with the Minnesota Wild. Smith is assigned to Iowa by the Bruins, who could recall him at any point of course and leave Iowa without two goalies.

The Wild organization can have two goaltenders at the AHL level who can't be called upon to play for their NHL squad because Minnesota has three goalies on their roster right now. The Wild signed a multi-year deal with last year's standout goalie, Devan Dubnyk, and have Darcy Kuemper on contract for this season slotted in the backup spot.

That leaves Niklas Backstrom in the awkward spot of third wheel. Previously the Wild's top goalie, he is now "open to being traded" if that's what the Wild want to do with him. It's amazing how fast things turn in the league.

Texas will look to rebound from the tough loss they suffered on Wednesday. The net for Texas will be an interesting discussion as well. With three games in four days, both tenders will likely get a start. I would be Muse takes one of these weekend games, and Lagace starts the other two.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell, McKenzie, Faksa (call up)
Dowling, Mangene (injury)

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Goalie Maxime Lagace Turns Heads Despite 1-0 Texas Stars Loss

Texas comes up empty on offense for first time this season
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After a 24 goal outburst in their first four games, the Texas Stars found themselves on the wrong end of a good old fashioned goalie duel this evening in Cedar Park.

"Both goaltenders played very well," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "We had some good looks to tie it up but we didn't get puck luck."

Maxime Lagace made his third straight start after winning his previous two on the road in Rockford this weekend. The rookie netminder stopped 32 of 33 shots on the night.

"I felt good in net," said Lagace. "The boys played hard. It could have gone either way. Their goalie had a good game as well."

Jon Gillies, Stockton's goaltender, picked up well-earned first star honors for stymieing Texas on all 36 shots he faced on the night. Despite it only being his 3rd AHL game, it was his second shutout.

Lagace has been astounding this week and is working to defy expectations after a year spent bouncing around the ECHL. His work with Mike Valley has really helped his game and was on display tonight as an active glove hand kept Texas with a clean sheet until late in the third period.

Texas had a bit of a "lull" coming in to the game as Calgary's system was on full display with a strong forecheck. The Stars had chances to break the scoreless tie early in the first with two shots going off the post. Travis Morin had a beautiful setup in the slot snagged by Gillies, and Jason Dickinson was hauled down on a breakaway in the third.

Devin Shore, coming off being named the AHL's Player of the Week, got a few good looks but didn't score in a game for the first time this year.

"If you look at Shore's shifts, he had some great looks," said Laxdal. "Devin isn't a flashy guy. He's hard working, and he'll take the puck to the net. He'll get by you. He had 3 looks tonight and just couldn't get any of them to go."

Late in the third, Esa Lindell got a little too anxious to put a body on a player and body checked a Stockton forward a few seconds after he had dumped the puck into the Texas zone. The call of interference was a fair one, but certainly not the call you want to get late in a 0-0 hockey game.

Freddie Hamilton made that penalty sting with a wrister that beat Lagace for the 1-0 lead. Texas had trouble getting established in the zone in the final minutes to pull Lagace. A final push with the net empty and a faceoff in the Stockton zone generated one or two chances but not the tying goal.

Texas now hits the road to face Iowa on Saturday and Sunday.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Elie
Dickinson-Shore-Rallo
Hulak-Smith-Stransky
Ully-Kane

Lindell-Johns
Blacker-Honka
Bystrom-Backman
Evans

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Troock (scratch)
Dowling, Mangene (injury)

The Stars have run a system the past two games where they dress three centers and four pairs of wingers and then rotate them all around independently. It worked well in Rockford, so they gave it another go tonight.

Cam Braes has left professional hockey to pursue his master's degree.

Tonight's attendance was 5,726.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Stockton - October 21 2015

Idaho Steelheads Report: Steelheads Looking for Continued Success Amid Big Changes

CenturyLink Arena (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
I'm pleased to be welcoming John Mulhern back to the site for a fourth season covering the goings-on in Boise, Idaho, home of the ECHL affiliate of the Texas Stars, the Idaho Steelheads. John will be updating us on Texas players in Idaho and the general state of the team each month throughout the season.

The only constant in life is change. That statement has never been more accurate for the Idaho Steelheads this past offseason.

The more things change; the more things stay the same. That statement was never more accurate for the Idaho Steelheads than this past weekend.

This offseason, the Steelheads were expected to have an overhauled roster. After last season’s early exit in the playoffs, the number of players that had earned a look at either the AHL level or overseas was very high. In the NHL, I believe it would have been possible to have most of that core back for another go at a championship. But in the ECHL and with roster restrictions on both veteran players and salary requirements, it wasn’t going to be able to happen.

Because of these circumstances, eight different players jumped over the pond and now play in Europe, and a few others moved to other teams within the ECHL. Jason Bast, Alex Belzile, Wade MacLeod all pursued other options. However, Idaho was able to bring back some quality and character players for another go around. Colton Beck, Jefferson Dahl, Rob Linsmayer, Andrew Carroll, Jake Rutt, Zack Kamrass and Shawn Boutin all signed on to come back to the Steelheads. That’s seven players from years prior, the most interesting one is Andrew Carroll who decided to come back to the City of Trees after taking a whole year off to get a degree after spending time before that with the Condors in Bakersfield during the 2013-14 season. Something must be good in town if it can draw that type if veteran back into the fold.

The other big change for the Steelheads this off-season was in the office. Head Coach Brad Ralph moved on in August to become the coach of the Kelowna Rockets. But, the Powers That Be, knew that Ralph for the past two and a half seasons had an apprentice by the name of Neil Graham. He was very quickly promoted from Assistant to Head Coach of the Steelheads. To replace himself as assistant, he was able to bring in former Steelheads defenseman Gord Baldwin. Another name from the past with ties to the team, but also a great defensive pedigree to help what was probably going to shape up to be a young defensive corps.

After 10 days of intense on and off ice training, and two preseason games, the Steelheads opening night roster looked like this:

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
4-0-0-0, 8 pts
#1 Pacific Division
v.Stockton Heat
1-1-0-0, 2 pts
#6 Pacific Division
October 21st at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

For the first time, Texas will welcome a team based in California to the Cedar Park Center. Stockton, tonight's opponent, is one of the five California-based teams making up the remainder of the Pacific division this year in the AHL. The Heat, affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, are the first of the five to visit.

Last year's edition of the Heat were based on Adirondack, as the Flames. Before that, the team was in Abbotsford as the Heat. There are only a handful of players who've been through all three destinations though.

Coming into the game, Stockton has only played two contests so far. Top scorers have yet to filter out entirely. It's a sure bet that Emile Poirier will settle toward the top of the heap. The second-year right winger had 19-23=42 in 55 games last year in ADK. Rookie Jon Gillies minds the net for Stockton.

On Texas' side, two questions are in play tonight. The first will be obvious from the outset of warmups. Who will start in net? Maxime Lagace was sparkling this weekend for the Stars, a 2.01 GAA and .937 SV%. John Muse has the same number of wins, but he's needed run support at 3.48 GAA and .889 SV%. My bet is on Lagace.

Second, will Texas be able to keep up its torrid offensive pace? Can this team win a grinding game? The Heat have allowed four goals in one game and shutout Rockford in the other. Who will step up to provide offense for Texas tonight, and how much will they need it?

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (call up)
Dowling, Mangene (questionable)
Braes (team suspension)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Monday, October 19, 2015

Texas Stars Devin Shore Named CCM/AHL Player of the Week

Devin Shore (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Devin Shore had a fantastic week and got the reward he deserved from the league today. After five goals and one assist this week, he is just one behind rookie Frank Vatrano for the rookies scoring lead across the league.

Here's the release:
The American Hockey League announced today that Texas Stars center Devin Shore has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending Oct. 18, 2015.

Shore scored five goals and added one assist for a total of six points in helping the Stars collect three impressive road victories last week.

On Friday night at Chicago, Shore scored twice – including the tiebreaking goal late in the second period – as Texas defeated the Wolves, 7-3. On Saturday in Rockford, Shore registered his first pro hat trick to lead the Stars past the IceHogs, 5-2. And on Sunday evening, Shore contributed an assist in Texas’ 7-2 win over Rockford.

A 21-year-old native of Ajax, Ont., Shore ranks second in the AHL with six goals and seven points in four games to begin his rookie professional season with Texas. Shore joined the Stars organization following three years at the University of Maine, making his pro debut last spring and tallying four goals and two assists in 19 AHL games in 2014-15. Shore was selected by the Dallas Stars in the second round (61st overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Texas Stars Offense Obliterates Rockford IceHogs 7-2

Maxime Lagace wins second game; Remi Elie, Esa Lindell score first AHL goals
File photo of Greg Rallo, who scored two tonight
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas left no doubt today in Rockford as they swept the weekend's 3-in-3 set with a 7-2 victory in Rockford. Texas is 4-0 to start the season for the first time in team history.

Greg Rallo scored a pair and Matej Stransky and Esa Lindell each had a goal and an assist. Derek Hulak and Jason Dickinson each notched two assists, and Maxime Lagace picked up his second win of the season in as many starts.

Remi Elie scored a late power play goal to put Texas up 7-2; it was his first professional goal.

In the first, Greg Rallo tallied his third and fourth of the season in the first period, the latter on the power play. By the halfway point of the period, Texas would have all the goals they would need after Matej Stransky scored on a deflection. The goal was his second of the season.

The Stars kept the foot down on the throttle in the second with Branden Troock opening the scoring just 33 seconds into the frame. Newcomer Cory Kane picked up his first point as a Star with the primary assist on the goal.

Texas exploded in the third period for two more goals. Gemel Smith scored unassisted, kissing one off the post and in. Matej Stransky dropped the puck to Esa Lindell just over a minute later for Lindell's first goal of the season and the 6-0 lead.

Rockford poured it on in an attempt to get something going. Ryan Haggerty broke up the shutout bid at 6:28 of the third. At four-on-four shortly thereafter, Texas' Remi Elie put the puck right on the stick of Jeremy Morin on a bad clearing attempt for the IceHogs' second goal of the night.

Texas returns home for just their second home game of the year on Wednesday, having swept their 3-in-3 in Illinois.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Elie
Dickinson-Shore-Rallo
Hulak-Smith-Stransky
Troock-Kane

Lindell-Johns
Blacker-Honka
Bystrom-Backman
Evans

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Dowling, Ully, Mangene (scratch)
Braes (team suspension)

Tonight's attendance was 2,502.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - October 18 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
3-0-0-0, 6 pts
#1 Pacific Division
atRockford IceHogs
1-2-0-0, 2 pts
#5 Central Division
October 18th at 4:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

The Stars have a shot at the rare 3-in-3 sweep with a win today in Rockford.

Last night's 5-2 victory put their goal differential at 12-5 on the weekend and show that they have depth scoring to be dangerous in the league this season. Take a look at who is scoring for them and it's all over the map, and that's a good thing: Devin Shore, Cole Ully, Brendan Ranford.

Travis Morin and Justin Dowling have assists but haven't scored yet. If that's a trend, it'll be a problem, but right now it shows that if those top vet scorers go through dry streaks, the kids have the wherewithal to power the team through.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (call up)
Braes (team suspension)
Dowling (questionable)

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Devin Shore's Hat Trick Pushes Texas Stars Past Rockford IceHogs 5-2

Maxime Lagace picks up first AHL win in first start of the season
File photo of Devin Shore (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Devin Shore is having quite the start to the season. Three goals tonight for his first professional hat trick put him at six on the year in just three games. Shore had the game winner for Texas. Derek Hulak and Brendan Ranford also scored for the Stars.

Rockford opened the scoring with a power play goal midway through the first. Texas answered shorthanded just under two minutes later. Shore's first shorthanded goal of his career tied things at one and cut the momentum on the penalty, which was a double minor to Stransky for high sticking.

Shore went a step further with an even-strength tally less than a minute later to make it 2-1. Derek Hulak, who had assisted on Shore's second goal, scored the ultimate game winner to make it 3-1 after 40.

Shore would score again in the third to complete the hat trick before Brendan Ranford put up an empty net goal, his third goal of the year, to ice the contest.

Maxime Lagace picked up his first AHL win in his first start of the season. He stopped 25 of 27 in net.

Texas stays in Rockford to complete the 3-in-3 Sunday.

Tonight's lines:
Ranford-Morin-Rallo
Elie-Shore-Ully
Hulak-Dickinson-Stransky
Smith-Kane

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Mangene-Blacker
Evans

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Dowling, Bystrom, Troock (scratch)
Braes (team suspension)

Tonight's attendance was 4,860.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - October 17 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
2-0-0-0, 4 pts
#1 Pacific Division
atRockford IceHogs
1-1-0-0, 2 pts
#4 Central Division
October 17th at 7:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

After last night's 7-3 victory in Chicago, Texas has no time to rest as they bus out west of the Windy City for a set of two against the Rockford IceHogs. The Stars were last in Rockford in April when the Hogs eliminated the defending Cup champions from the playoffs in a 3-0 sweep. Stephen Johns, now a Texas Star, scored the game-winning overtime goal to seal the series. Tonight will surely be an interesting one for him as he faces off against so many former teammates in a building that he used to call home.

Rockford has only played two games as well so far on the season. A member of the Central Division, they've already made their first trip to the West Coast for the season. Tonight's game will be their home opener as the club spent last Friday and Saturday in San Jose and Stockton, respectively. They defeated the Barracuda 4-2 then got throttled by the Heat 7-0. With a week off to assess that loss and the furor of the hometown fans behind them, they will be a tough card tonight for Texas.

The Stars shuffled things up pretty well last night after finding out that Radek Faksa would be heading to the NHL. Cole Ully and Matej Stransky stepped in for Curtis McKenzie and Faksa and each had a goal and an assist. Not bad for guys coming off the bench.

Tonight's contest could see Maxime Lagace make his season debut in net. With a 3-in-3 sequence in Illinois here, Muse is unlikely to get all three starts.

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2015

Texas Stars' Power Play Lights Up Chicago Wolves 7-3

(Credit: Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves)
Special teams were the big winner on both sides of the ledger for the Texas Stars this evening. A 3-for-6 power play effort and a spotless 4-for-4 penalty kill helped the Stars to a 7-3 final over the home team Chicago Wolves at Allstate Arena on Friday.

Greg Rallo and Devin Shore each scored a pair of goals. Cole Ully notched his first professional goal in his first AHL game of the season and added an assist as well. Matej Stransky and Gemel Smith rounded out the Stars' scoring.

Texas never trailed in the contest after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on the Stransky and Smith goals. Stransky assisted on Smith's tally, generating a turnover that led to the score.

Chicago evened it up in the second period with goals from Peter Harrold and Danny Kristo. Just 40 seconds after the Kristo goal, Devin Shore answered unassisted and Rallo scorred on the power play nine second later to make it 4-2.

Rallo would add another poewr play goal and Ully and Shore would score in the third to finish the Stars scoring at 7. Ty Rattie scored for Chicago in the third as well, his third of the season already.

John Muse got the win, his second of the season in as many starts. Phoenix Copley took the loss with a .767 save percentage.

The Stars travel west now for two games against Rockford tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight's lines:

Ranford-Morin-Dickinson
Elie-Dowling-Ully
Hulak-Shore-Rallo
Troock-Smith-Stransky

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Bystrom-Blacker

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
McKenzie, Campbell, Faksa (callup)
Kane, Mangene, Evans (scratch)
Braes (team suspension)

Radek Faksa was recalled to Dallas prior to tonight's game.

Tonight's attendance was 3,221.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Chicago - October 16 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
1-0-0-0, 2 pts
#3 Pacific Division
atChicago Wolves
1-0-0-0, 2 pts
#2 Central Division
October 16th at 7:00 PM
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

After a long layoff, Texas is back in action tonight for the first of a three-game set this weekend in Illinois. Interestingly, they will be playing a Chicago squad that also only has one game under their belt.

The Wolves are still affiliated with the St. Louis Blues and much of the supported cast is back for another go-round. Ty Rattie is leading the Wolves in scoring with 2-1-3 and probably won't be in the AHL too much longer. Andre Benoit dished out three assists in their first game to lead all defensemen. Pat Cannone is another vet name you might remember. Jordan Binnington returns in net with a new backup, Phoenix Copley, who came from the Eastern Conference.

Texas had a full week to analyze Saturday's game. Maybe that was too long? Maybe just enough? The weekend will tell, but it's good that they've got the rest. It's a bizarre scheduling selection that puts them on their first 3-in-3 so early in the season.

One note that Texas might lose a player to callup before the game is played. Curtis McKenzie left last night's Dallas game in Tampa after being boarded and heading to the hospital.

Stars injury/call up report:
McKenzie, Campbell (callup)
Braes (team suspension)

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Curtis McKenzie Recalled to Dallas Stars

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the Eaves injury last night, Curtis McKenzie gets the inevitable recall. It's the first of the season for Texas.

Here's the relese:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the team has recalled forward Curtis McKenzie from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

McKenzie, 24, leads Texas with three points (0-3=3) through the first game of the 2015-16 AHL season. The forward recorded four goals and five points (4-1=5) in 36 regular-season NHL contests with Dallas last season. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound native of Golden, B.C. was selected by Dallas in the sixth round (159th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft.

Dallas has also placed forward Patrick Eaves on Injured Reserve with a lower body injury.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Electric Texas OT Goal Caps Back and Forth Game

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Devin Shore had a long time to think about his late third period penalty. Tied at four, the second-year forward went to the box, giving San Antonio a chance at the go-ahead goal with a minute left in regulation.

"I was so nervous in the box. I was in there the whole [dry scrape], so lonely and very nervous. I was on an island with a pit in my stomach."

Shore made up for his transgression as he was the recipient of a high-flip pass from Stephen Johns after his teammates killed his penalties and he rejoined them in overtime.

"I had the puck on my stick, and next thing I knew we were celebrating in the corner"

After going down 3-1 after two periods, the Texas Stars came away with a 5-4 overtime victory in their season and home opener tonight in Cedar Park.

"What a third period for the kids," said coach Derek Laxdal. "They battled their butts off. It took some time to find their game. We did a good job battling back. Quite a game for the home opener."

The first period was unkind to Texas, as they allowed two goals from players who should be frequent contributors to the Rampage's offense this season: Andrew Agozzino and Maxim Noreau.

"We played a sloppy first," said Stephen Johns. "The bounces didn't go our way."

The second period saw Texas come out fighting with Radek Faksa first of the season just 25 seconds in. Curtis McKenzie dished from behind the net to an open Faksa in the slot for the tally. The late frame saw that good work undone as Texas took two penalties to end up on the 5-on-3 kill. A tip from Dennis Everberg in front of the net sent the score to 3-1 for San Antonio.

"We got it together in the second, but they got a 5-on-3 goal. Those are going to happen. We liked the second we had."

The third period saw Texas score three goals in 6:24 seconds to rally for a 4-3 lead. Brendan Ranford scored back-to-back off assists from Esa Lindell each time. The first was a five hole tally along the ice from a sharp angle on the left wing side and the second was a breakaway that Ranford scored practically from behind the net as Calvin Pickard ran him out of room on the short side.

With things tied at three, Radek Faksa scored in very tight off a centering shot/pass from Greg Rallo.

"Faksa struggled to score early last season," said Laxdal. "He played a well-rounded, hard-working game. You saw a workhorse game, penalty kill and five on five. It was good to see him get back in it. His confidence has taken off and he's just getting better and better."

San Antonio would have to pull Pickard late to attempt the tying goal. Ben Street found the back off the net just off a faceoff on a tip of a Noreau shot. Tied at four, Devin Shore took a penalty and began his nervous wait in the box.

"The puck was in my feet on that penalty," added Shore. "I wasn't trying to trip him, but I did. I have to more responsible at that point in the game."

The Stars made it to overtime and started with the now-rare 4-on-3 setup. In 3-on-3 overtime, a player is added to the club with the power play instead of subtracting a player from the penalized team. When Shore joined the play, it would stay 4-on-4 until the next whistle, when it would have been reduced to 3-on-3. Texas and San Antonio never got there.

Coming out of the box, Shore made it back to the defensive zone to help out a tired John, Lindell and Travis Morin and then got the high flip pass from Johns to breakaway against a similarly-tired Rampage defender. With what Laxdal called a "Forsberg move," Shore put Texas in the win column for the first of 14 matchups between these teams.

"It was a lucky play, one of those crazy nights," said Johns. "It's going to be a lot like this for 13 more games. It's fun to play in these games."

Texas is idle most of this week before traveling to Illinois for games against Chicago and Rockford on Friday and Saturday.

Tonight's lines:
Elie-Dowling-Shore
Ranford-Morin-Dickinson
Rallo-Faksa-McKenzie
Troock-Smith-Hulak

Bystrom-Evans
Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Kane, Ully, Stransky, Mangene, Blacker (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,913.

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

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, - pts
#- Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, - pts
#- Pacific Division
October 10th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

For the seventh season, the Texas Stars will take the ice at Cedar Park Center. This time, as many times before, they will face a familiar foe in name. This go-around, it might not be as familiar as far as personnel.

Over the summer, the Rampage switched affiliations, taking on prospects from the Colorado Avalanche. For the past several seasons, the Florida Panthers had been the club's NHL affiliate. Fans at the preseason games got a preview of what the Stars will see for 14 more games this season in terms of their lineup. Last Sunday's game was closer to the lineup we'll see tonight for both teams than what was on display on Friday.

One name to watch for all year will be the man in net: Calvin Pickard. He's a highly touted prospect and finally starting coming into his own last year with Lake Erie. After two years of approiximately 50-50 win percentages, Pickard earned a 23-17-9 record for the Monsters and even played 16 games for the Avalanche. He'll get rolled out regularly for the Rampage as the Avs look to hone his skills and place him behind Semyon Varlamov in the long term.

One change you'll notice to the format of this article is that the 'place' is now divisional, not by conference. The realignment this summer put Texas in the Pacific Division with San Antonio and changed the playoff format to match the NHL's division ranking. Top four teams in each division make the playoffs with no cross over. It's gonna get hateful.

John Muse starts in net for Texas.

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2015

AHL, PHPA Ratify New CBA, Will Play Hockey Tonight

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The American Hockey League and Professional Hockey Players Association announced this morning that they have reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement and both parties have ratified it with 'overwhelming' support'.

The AHL was in limbo just a bit with no CBA, the agreement that governs the working relationship between the league, teams, and its players. The prior agreement expired this summer. The new deal is good until 2019.

There isn't a lot to say about the agreement until the text is released. Some details are included in the AHL's press release below.
The American Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association today announced the ratification of a new four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The new CBA, which is effective through August 31, 2019, has been ratified by both the AHL’s Board of Governors and the overwhelming majority of AHL players.

The CBA has been modified to include enhancements to the health and welfare plan currently offered to AHL players and their families, and to provide significantly better playoff compensation to players while allowing more flexibility to the AHL in Calder Cup Playoff scheduling and financing. The new Agreement also provides for increases in per-diem and minimum salary as well as modifications to housing and travel provisions.

“The American Hockey League remains fortunate to have an extremely positive and open relationship with our players and with the PHPA,” said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our previous CBA included several significant elements which have been beneficial to our players, our owners, and ultimately our fans, and this new agreement continues in that same spirit of cooperation.”

“The players advised us of the areas within the CBA most important to them, and we feel this deal addresses those issues, adding significant monetary and non-monetary value for present and future AHL players,” said PHPA Executive Director Larry Landon. “A number of players sacrificed family time to assist us with these negotiations, and I, along with all current and future AHL players thank them for their unwavering commitment.”

As it begins its historic 80th-anniversary season this weekend, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Since its inception in 1967, the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) has continued to serve as an advocate of player interests. Currently, the PHPA is the certified, U.S. National Labor Relations Board collective bargaining representative for over 1,600 players on 68 teams in the American Hockey League and ECHL.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Texas Stars Opening Roster

Cole Ully (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Following my sojourn to Pennsylvania for hockey, there was some intense work to be done to earn the trip, hence the lack of updates here this week.

Texas has spent the week doing hard work themselves. They solidified their opening roster for this Saturday's game against San Antonio and that wasn't without a few surprises along the way.

First of all, here is the final roster that Texas announced today:
Forwards:
#8 Cory Kane
#9 Remi Elie
#10 Justin Dowling
#11 Branden Troock
#14 Gemel Smith
#16 Curtis McKenzie
#19 Brendan Ranford
#21 Cole Ully
#23 Travis Morin (C)
#24 Derek Hulak
#27 Greg Rallo (A)
#28 Matej Stransky
#29 Radek Faksa
#34 Devin Shore
#38 Jason Dickinson

Defensemen:
#3 Esa Lindell
#4 Stephen Johns
#5 Mattias Backman
#6 Julius Honka
#12 Jesse Blacker
#17 Ludwig Bystrom
#22 Brennan Evans (A)
#26 Matt Mangene

Goaltenders:
#33 Maxime Lagace
#40 John Muse

Some notes for me include:
  • Curtis McKenzie is back in Cedar Park after it looked liek he was a lock to make the roster in Dallas. The surprise here is less McKenzie and more the emergence of Mattias Janmark. If you'll remember, Janmark was last seen by most Texas Stars fans in the playoffs, playing a very tired game against Rockford after traveling from Europe and being pressed into service on short notice. It clearly wasn't a game that was indicative of his talent.
  • McKenzie is not the type of player to sulk at his assignment. He will definitely contribute and earn an inevitable callup. Injuries and other movement are just part of the game.
  • Cory Kane is surprise to make the roster. Not much noise of him in the preseason games I watched, but he must have impressed the coaching staff. I think he's the first assignment to Idaho though, if they move that way. Players like Taylor Peters and Emil Molin may even be better than Kane in some ways, but they need to get quality minutes in Idaho, which brings us to...
  • Philippe Desrosiers was always penciled in for Boise. When Jack Campbell got injured, that went out the door a bit, and there was an open competition to backup John Muse in Texas. Maxime Lagace made the original plan easy by just nailing training camp and playing lights out in preseason. Scott White can feel good with Desrosiers getting tons of minutes in Idaho because Lagace has shown he can hang at this level.
  • Cole Ully is the final note, a surprise to make it out of camp in a Texas sweater. He didn't look like he was 100% ready for the AHL just 6 months ago, but he spent some time this summer concentrating on things that he can change about his game and it made a difference. essentially, he stopped trying to bulk up, accepted he wasn't going to get any bigger and instead worked on other things like explosive speed and agility. It worked.
Season starts on Saturday...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hershey's Giant Center Is The AHL's Crown Jewel

GIANT Center (Credit: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey)
Taking nothing away from the Cedar Park Center, the Giant Center, home to the Hershey Bears, is the premier facility in the American Hockey League. It is a 10,500-person facility purpose built for hockey. It is simultaneously expansive and intimate. Sleek and new but steeped in a long tradition. Fans are rabid but knowledgeable.

"I played in Lehigh Valley last year, and [Giant Center] was always a hostile environment," said Austin Fyten, a former Star who now wears the Bears chocolate and white. "It's hard [for visitors] to win in this building."

On a business trip for the day job, I took the opportunity to visit the Giant Center for a preseason game between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It being a preseason game, the final score was rather immaterial. The trip was more about the chance to experience an Eastern Conference arena and game. Given the Texas Stars' connection to this building, it couldn't have been a better match.

Of course, long-time Stars fans know that this was both a site of great triumph and great sadness for their club. Hot off beating Hamilton in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, the Jamie Benn-led Stars had to take the show on the road to face the Eastern Conference champion Bears for the Cup.

Giant Center is an intimidating space. Even for a preseason game, the fans were there in droves. I seat surfed during the second period of the game and talked with fans who were extremely knowledgeable and very bought into their club. The shortest tenured season ticket holder I talked to had had their seats for seven years.

During the regular season, the doors open to several thousand fans already waiting to enter. Inside they find a shrine to the history of their club; each of the Bears eleven Calder Cup banners hangs in the main arena.

"We're getting 10 or 12 thousand on the weekend, and uh, they'll let you know if your'e not playing well," Fyten noted, laughing. "We have to bring our A game every night in this building."

GIANT Center's new video board on season ticket holder night.
(Credit: Kyle Mace/Chocolate Hockey)
Only three of those Calder Cup titles were won while their current building was open. The previous eight came during their tenure in Hersheypark Arena, the oldest continuously operated hockey facility in North America.

Opened in 1936, Hersheypark Arena has a history longer than almost any sports facility you can find west of the Mississippi, both hockey and non-hockey related. On March 2, 1962, for example, it was the site of Wilt Chamberlain's famous 100 point game. Now it hosts recreational and pick up hockey games in its cavernous main space. One might argue it's the best place to play a regular pick up game in the country. Imagine if you could just saunter down to Reunion Arena in Dallas to lace up the skates for a few hours. That's what we're talking about here.

The hockey history is all over the arena in more than just the banners. Retired numbers, championship photos, plaques and all sorts of other regalia adorn the place.

"[The history] is a good thing. They preach that here. You come here, and it's a pride thing. You put that jersey on and they expect to win. The fact taht they have 11 banners here says a lot about the organization."

Texas contributed to that history in 2010. After going up 2-0 in two sold-out games at Giant Center, the Stars dropped three at home and return to Pennsylvania to lose Game 6 by a 4-0 margin. For the Bears, it meant back-to-back Cups. Texas would be back, but it took 4 more years to achieve the Cup.

The Bears have ten Cups on the Stars, but they've also been around for 70 more years. As far as teams go, Hershey can't be a bad team to model yourself off.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Texas Stars Finish Preseason with OT Thriller

Justin Dowling's game-tying goal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
San Antonio led in the third period, but Texas came back and won things in overtime. The 3-on-3 overtime frame, which had been unkind to Texas last season, was the savior in this contest. Julius Honka, a player known for his vision on the ice and ability to make things happen offensively, was the trigger man for the 5-4 victory.

"Honka was in a perfect spot to score," said Justin Dowling, who scored the tying goal himself. "He made the right play to beat the defenseman and hit the backside."

John Muse was not spectacular early, stopping just three of his first six shots. He finished 9 for 13 before Maxime Lagace spelled him in the third period. Lagace earned the win with a six save performance. It's not a great sign for the veteran Muse as he is being looked at as the de facto starter for the moment with Jack Campbell injured in Dallas.

Stephen Johns, Brendan Ranford and Devin Shore also scored for Texas. The Stars finished their preseason slate with a 1-1 record and start the regular season this Saturday against San Antonio again.

Here's the release:
After both teams traded goals throughout the entire game, the Texas Stars pulled out a last-second win over the rival San Antonio Rampage on Sunday evening in a 5-4, overtime finish at Cedar Park Center to close out their preseason schedule.

Justin Dowling setup Julius Honka with 1.9 seconds left on a backdoor pass to beat Rampage goaltender Calvin Pickard in the extra frame. The Stars and Rampage split their two preseason games over the weekend, and the two teams will hook up again on Saturday in their respective regular season openers to the 2015-16 campaign.

With the Stars trailing 4-3, Dowling forced the extra frame with a minute left in regulation when his sharp-angled shot from the left side of the net snuck through the legs of Pickard. Texas played catch-up all game long erasing San Antonio leads of 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 before taking the overtime win.

Stephen Johns opened up the scoring at 3:21 of the first period on a deflected shot from the right point. The Rampage tallied two of their own to take their first lead of the night with goals from Colin Smith on the power play at 10:41 and Mason Geertsen at 13:42. Brendan Ranford touched home a power play goal for the Stars to tie the game at 2-2 with 3:29 left in the frame, but the Rampage capped off the offensive first period with a power play goal from Chris Bigras with just under a minute remaining.

Devin Shore knotted the score again on a wrist shot from the slot midway through the second, but Brett Perlini banged home a loose pick in front at 18:37 to push the Rampage in front again.

John Muse took the start in net for Texas, going nine of 13 in just under 40 minutes of play. Maxime Lagace came on in relief to start the third and earned the win after stopping all six shots he faced. Pickard suffered the loss stopping 25 of 30 in net for the Rampage.

San Antonio went 2-for-3 on the power play. The Stars went 1-for-3.

Tonight's lines:
Dickinson-Morin-Ranford
Shore-Dowling-Elie
Hulak-Faksa-Troock
Kane-Smith-Stransky

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Backman-Blacker

Muse
Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Ully, Eller, Molin, Braes, Peters, Rallo, Magee, Evans, Mangene, Desrosiers

Tonight's attendance was not announced.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Texas Stars Cut Five, Sign Magee to AHL Deal

Andrew Panzarella (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
(Updates about my trip to Hershey later, but now this...)

The Texas Stars announced several roster cuts this morning and one signing. Five players were released from training camp: F Colton Beck; D Cole Martin; D Andrew Panzarella; D Jake Rutt; and F Taylor Stefishen. All five played in last night's preseason contest against San Antonio and weren't going to play in Sunday's game. Coach Laxdal plans to go with a more 'opening day' lineup for his final preseason game.

In addition to the cuts, Texas announced that they had signed Brandon Magee to an AHL deal. Magee already had an ECHL deal in Idaho but this puts him on the radar for a callup with more certainty now. He impressed in Dallas and Texas camps and is still in camp with Texas for the time being. There are roster battles in the bottom six and Magee is part of that conversation now for sure.

Beck, Martin, Panzarella and Rutt will all report to Steelheads camp in Boise next.

Friday, October 2, 2015

San Antonio Takes Feisty Contest Over Texas 4-3

Branden Troock had two goals. (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Tryout players looking to make an impression turned tonight's preseason contest into a truculent one. Texas and San Antonio totaled 68 penalty minutes including four fights. The 4-3 score was almost secondary in the contest.

San Antonio opened the scoring with a quick shoveling backhand over a sprawled Maxime Lagace. Lagace had stopped the first shot but wasn't able to get to the second with traffic in front vying for the puck. Branden Troock poured it on to end the period. Troock, who is fighting to ensure he has a spot in Cedar Park this season, slipped a puck five-hole on Roman Will and then scored on a rebound to make it 2-1 to end the period.

The Rampage stepped up in the second period, scoring all three in the frame. Andreas Martinsen potted a power play goal to tie things up. Mid period, the goalies switched as Maxime Lagace gave way to Philippe Desrosiers. Shortly thereafter, former Star Brock Montgomery put the visitors in the lead at 3-2. Ben Street scored on a breakaway with a fantastic backhand move that perplexed Desrosiers, and it was 4-2.

The real story of the back half of the game was the truculence. Starting with a hit from Taylor Stefishen on Will Weber, the gloves were off. Stefishen fought Duncan Siemens immediately after the hit and later fought Weber himself, earning an ejection for two fights in a game. Cam Braes had a center ice bout that began with some circling before it degenerated into a pummeling with haymakers on both sides. The third period saw Andrew Panzarella fight Dan Maggio.

The Stars battled back with an extra attacker goal. Matt Mangene was the recipient of a nice pass from the left wing circle, which he wired to the net to make it 4-3 with 2:10 left in the third.

Texas attempted to get the tying goal late but their best chance, off the stick of Branden Troock, wouldn't go, ending the game with a 4-3 final.

These two teams will face off again on Sunday.

Tonight's lines:
Hulak-Smith-Troock
Kane-Magee-Ully
Beck-Peter-Stefishen
Braes-Shore-Molin

Martin-Mangene
Rutt-Blacker
Evans-Panzarella

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:


Tonight's attendance was not announced.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - April 24 2015

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, - pts
#- Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, - pts
#- Western Conference
October 2nd at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

It may be just preseason, but it's hockey. Real competitive hockey against another team. Not an intrasquad scrimmage. Not a skating drill. Real honest to goodness hockey. Feels good, doesn't it?

Texas starts the preseason as it would in any preseason, trying to figure out who stays and who goes. There are several players on the training camp roster who have a chance at surprising and staying at the AHL level. Many of them already have contracts in the ECHL with Idaho. Some don't.

A name to watch for in my opinion is Brandon Magee (muh-GEE). The forward is already on a contract to Idaho but could do a lot for his future with an impressive run at training camp. If he doesn't end up with a two-way contract, he could be an easy callup from Idaho.

Among the Dallas-contracted forwards, there is a battle brewing at the bottom of the roster. At the moment, it appears to be a battle between Taylor Peters, Gemel Smith and Cole Ully. Ully, who seemed ticketed to Boise or an overage year in the WHL, has impressed in camp and showed he might be able to hack it in the AHL this season. Peters fell out of favor last year with Derek Laxdal and finished the season in Idaho. Gemel Smith likely has the edge over both since he has never played in the ECHL.

Defensive pairing won't mean much to the long-term of the team tonight. In all likelihood, there will be a lot of ECHL contract guys in the lineup to see what they've got. Long term, Texas does have a similar logjam to Dallas with 8 defensemen likely to make the cut in Cedar Park: Lindell, Honka, Johns, Bystrom, Backman, Mangene, Blacker, and Evans. The last three are on AHL-only contracts.

On the other side, things will be a little different than prior years. Remember that San Antonio switched affiliates this summer and now hosts the Colorado Avalanche prospect pool. Colorado was previously affiliated with the Lake Erie Monsters.

Stars injury/call up report:
None.

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