Thursday, December 31, 2015

Texas Stars Close 2015 With Full 60 Minute Effort, Beat Gulls 6-1

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas put together one of their most complete games of the season to end 2015 with a 6-1 victory over the visiting San Diego Gulls. The offensive showcase stretched their winning streak to three, the longest they've had since starting the season 4-0.

"It was a complete team effort from top to bottom," assessed Coach Derek Laxdal. "We had a good start so the confidence came early. Everybody connected."

The Stars got scoring from every line as their speed and hustle outworked the heavy game the Gulls wanted to play.

"Mentally, you're thinking you have to be on your toes more," said Jason Dickinson, who had a goal and an assist. "They want to play that big game and not skill. If you move the puck fast enough, they're not going to be able to finish their checks."

The Stars potted five goals before San Diego found twine once. From the drop, Texas just seemed to be breaking up everything San Diego tried to do and bringing it back against them.

"We were able to generate a lot off the forecheck. We were in the right position to pick off pucks. We were able to create a lot."

Brendan Ranford snuck behind a changing Gulls bench and collected the opening tally off the pass from Curtis McKenzie. A few minutes later on the PK, Jason Dickinson tallied the eventual game winner as McKenzie again completed a passing play 2-on-0 to give Dickinson an easy angle for the score.

Laxdal noted, "I thought our guys had a great start to the game and we did a lot of things we talked about. We got pucks in deep and our transition was really sharp. The shorty gave us momentum and energy."

Dickinson gave the assist to Derek Hulak on the next goal and it was all going the Stars' way.

"Three goals in the first takes the wind out of your sails. It's very tough to come back from that."

Throughout the game, San Diego worked to use their size to their advantage, but Texas was able to move with speed and cycle through all four lines to foul up those plans. While there were no fights, several matching roughing minors were handed out to usual suspects and unexpected skaters alike.

Remi Elie continued the scoring with a rebound goal to make it 4-0 halfway through the second. As the period came to a close, Gemel Smith scored his seventh of the year off a redirect. It was a good reward for his line with Matej Stransky and Cole Ully, which was buzzing all night.

That confidence allowed Laxdal to "manage the game a bit" in the third, putting out third and fourth line combinations on the power plays and generally giving Texas' top lines more rest.

San Diego would break through in the third period to end the shutout. On the power play, Andrew O'Brien scored to make it 5-1.

Gemel Smith picked up another goal to restore the five goal lead a few minutes later. He had been jawing with Matt Hackett, who replaced starter Anton Khudobin in the third, and noted he was happy to have scored on him after getting so much lip.

The Stars now have a pretty rough travel day as they make their way west with a 6:30 AM flight. Texas plays Stockton on Saturday.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hulak-Dickinson-Rallo
Elie-Dowling-Ritchie
Ully-Smith-Stransky

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Backman-Blacker

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Faksa (callup)
Troock, Shore, Lagace (injury)
Evans, Kane, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,387.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Diego - December 31 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Diego Gulls

Texas Stars
16-13-2-2, 36 pts
#4 Pacific Division
v.San Diego Gulls
15-11-0-1, 31 pts
#2 Pacific Division
December 31st at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas will ice a slightly different lineup from their last matchup as Maxime Lagace has been sidelined with an injury and Radek Faksa is headed to Dallas. Aside from that, the Stars hope to put together their first three-game winning streak since they started the season 4-0.

As noted in last night's game story, it's been the veterans stepping up recently. Travis Morin is tied for the scoring lead in the AHL with 34 points and Greg Rallo had the game winning goal in each of the last two contests. With the loss of Devin Shore, it's been important for someone to pick up the slack. Morin has been a top contributor in Shore's absence. Texas will also look to Brett Ritchie to continue his scoring ways. Ideally, Jason Dickinson would also put the puck in the net. He had 3 or 4 high quality chances on Tuesday and didn't cash in. It's only a matter of time before he has a nice breakout game.

(Credit: Mark Newman)
Speaking of veterans, how about the return of Chris Mueller to the Cedar Park Center? After a year in Hartford, the center makes his first trip back to the CPC since winning a cup here in 2014. Mueller still leads all Stars in regular season points per game (57 in 60 GP) in franchise history. He was a hired gun for a stellar season. He helped the Wolf Pack to great heights last season; they made it to the Eastern Finals. This year, Anaheim hopes he can do the same: provide tons of points in San Diego and act as a serviceable callup for the Ducks. After a point per game November, December has been cold for Mueller. No question he'll bring some extra effort for a game against his old team.

The Gulls are coming off a loss to Bako but had four straight wins before that.

In net, two familiar faces are returning to the CPC. Matt Hackett and Anton Khudobin, who both played so many games here for the Aeros, man the Gulls net. John Gibson has taken most of the time between the pipes for SD, but he is called up to the NHL at the moment.

Another interesting note: Nick Ritchie will face off against his brother, Brett, for the first time in pro hockey tonight. Ritchie was a first round pick of Anaheim in 2014.

Stars injury/call up report:
Faksa (callup)
Lagace, Troock, Shore (injury)

Gulls Web Resources:
Website: sandiegogulls.com
Twitter: @SDGullsAHL
Twitter: @619sports (PBP)
Twitter: @danarelAHL

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Radek Faksa Recalled to Dallas Stars

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the injury to Ales Hemsky last night, Radek Faksa has been recalled to the Dallas Stars.

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

Faksa, 21, has appeared in 14 games for Dallas this season, registering two points (1-1=2) and a +2 plus/minus rating. He scored his first career goal on Nov. 6 at Carolina against Eddie Lack. At the AHL level with Texas, he has posted 13 points (9-4=13) in 19 games played. His nine goals are fourth on the team.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Vitkov, Czech Republic was selected by Dallas in the first round (13th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Texas Stars Send a Message, Recall Philippe Desrosiers

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced today that they have recalled Philippe Desrosiers from the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. After Maxime Lagace left the game late last night with an injury, it was apparently a recall would be needed. What was an open question was who would get the call. Jack Campbell was just sent down and Philippe Desrosiers has been in Idaho all season. If the Stars wanted to send a message to Campbell, the smart money was on a Desrosiers recall.

Texas wanted to send a message.

Desrosiers got the call and Jack Campbell will start tonight for the Idaho Steelheads. He will likely be backed up by an emergency backup. Idaho, unfortunately, traded away their third goalie just after the Campbell assignment.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today rookie goaltender Philippe Desrosiers has been recalled from the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Desrosiers (deh-ROH-see-ay), 20, is currently in his first professional season after beginning the year in training camp with the Texas Stars. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec has won five of his last six appearances at the ECHL level and overall has played in 20 games this season for Idaho with an 8-6-3 record, a 2.46 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.

Desrosiers was a second-round pick by the Dallas Stars (54th overall) in 2013.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vets Morin and Rallo Help Texas Top Rampage 5-4 in OT

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars finished off a three-game series against the Rampage with a big performance from their vets in a 5-4 victory. Travis Morin was playing in his 70th game between the two intrastate rivals and earned four points to put his total at 72 points in the series for his career. Fellow veteran from both sides of the rivalry, Greg Rallo, tallied the overtime game winner on the power play.

"Morin played with a lot of passion," said Coach Laxdal. "Leading this team against a team you played 3 times in 4 nights. As the three games wore on, Travis Morin got better every night. We want to see more guys step into that role behind their captain."

The Stars battled adversity in the contest as Maxime Lagace came out with 2:10 remaining in regulation after tweaking something on a rather routine save around the midway point of the third. John Muse came in with a 4-4 tie on the board and the game on the line.

After the victory, every Star made their way to Lagace for a tap on the pads. "He played really well," said Morin. "You can look to the first period where he made a big save and turned the momentum."

The victory puts Texas on a track that they hope will lead them to a streak. Laxdal added, "If you're trying to string together a winning streak, you can't get two unless you get the first one."

Borna Redulic opened the scoring just 65 seconds into the first period with a wrist shot to beat Lagace high. Stephen Johns answered back off a nice pass from Travis Morin, who found Johns all alone on the right wing side after the Rampage defense collapsed on the Stars'captain.

Morin broke in alone for his first goal of the night, unassisted, beating Roman Will short side just after a Texas penalty expired. He noted, "I think the first one I surprised the guy and jumped him, got a stick on the puck."

Reid Petryk tied up the game with a power play tally to open the second, but it wouldn't stand up for long. Mattias Backman collected just his third as a Star on a juicy rebound of a Derek Hulak shot.

Morin continued his solid night with a shorthanded goal early in the third. Off the pass from Justin Dowling, Morin found twine for his 10th of the year. "The second one, they all went for a change, and our D-man fired it up to Dowling."

Around the halfway point of the third period, Maxime Lagace showed some discomfort after a routine save but did not leave the game. Everberg and Redulic scored for the Rampage in the next two minutes, and the game was tied.

"Our goaltender hurt himself but he wanted to hang in there," said Laxdal. "The injury caught up with him [on the fourth goal]."

Muse came in to close regulation and take over in OT. The Stars got a gift of a holding call early in the frame, setting them up for a long sequence with the extra attacker and a full two minutes of 4-on-3 in OT.

Perennial OT hero, Greg Rallo stepped up, as usual. Morin summarized succinctly, "Rallo has a great shot. He fired it top cheese. That's what he does.

He continued, summing up the team's effort as the calendar is about to turn, "We never give up. We're a resilient bunch even when we get down. That's all you can ask from these guys."

Morin, by the way, is now tied for the AHL scoring lead at 34 points after tonight's four point effort. Texas plays again on Thursday against San Diego.

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

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Backman-Evans

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Shore (injury)
Blacker, Kane, Ully, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,752.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - December 29 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
15-13-2-2, 34 pts
#5 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
14-11-6-0, 34 pts
#3 Pacific Division
December 29th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

NOTE: Tonight's game starts at 7 PM.

It's the rubber match between the I-35 rivalry teams. The mini-series between the two concludes tonight with Texas getting home ice for the 'deciding' game 3.

It looks like Maxime Lagace provided at least some cover for the Texas defensive corps, stopping 34 of 36 in San Antonio on Sunday. It would not be surprising if, given the day of rest, Lagace started again for the Stars. Meanwhile San Antonio is still the same team they were this weekend. Without Calvin Pickard, Mikko Rantanen and several others, now is the time to strike a divisional opponent while they are down.

Speaking of being down, news broke over the weekend that Devin Shore is done for the season. Sean Shapiro had the update after speaking with Scott White, who revealed shoulder surgery has ended the rookie's season.

How much more can be written about these two teams right now? Win the game and setup a nice 3 games in 4 stretch against more divisional opponents this weekend.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore (shoulder surgery, out for season)
Troock (concussion)

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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Maxime Lagace Leads Texas Stars to 3-2 Victory in Alamo City

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The umpteenth chapter in the I-35 rivalry continued with some new twists, as Texas emerged victorious on the road against San Antonio. Maxime Lagace joined the Stars and stopped 34 of 36 for the win.

Brett Ritchie, who had been so close to scoring several times last night in Cedar Park, opened the night's offensive efforts and Julius Honka pushed the lead to 2-0 on the power play. As the first period came to a close, the Stars had successfully pitched a clean sheet in the period with Maxime Lagace returning to the net to stop 14 shots against.

Greg Rallo, a former Rampage captain, made it 3-0 with a power play goal of his own to start the second. San Antonio began chipping away at the Stars lead from there.

Dennis Everberg got a power play goal to pierce the Stars' shutout with just over four minutes left in the second. As it was Teddy Bear Toss night, a nine minute delay cut into the Rampage momentum from the goal. During the delay, the Rampage mascot got some choice words from Travis Morin after the mascot decided it was appropriate to approach Maxime Lagace and touch him with one of the teddy bears on the ice.

Joey Hishon opened the third period with an even strength mark. San Antonio worked hard to collect the tying goal in the final minutes, but Texas emerged victorious.

The two clubs will finish off a three game set on Tuesday.

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

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Backman-Evans

Lagace

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Blacker, Shore (injury)
Hulak, Kane, Ully, Mangene (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 7,256.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - December 27 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
14-13-2-2, 32 pts
#6 Pacific Division
atSan Antonio Rampage
14-10-6-0, 34 pts
#3 Pacific Division
December 27th at 4:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

UPDATE: Jack Campbell has been assigned to the ECHL.

For the first time in a long time, Texas is on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned. Last night's regulation loss dipped Texas to a .516 points percentage and moved them into fifth and place. A win by Bakersfield late on the West Coast slipped them to sixth and out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.

The cavalry is on its way, perhaps. After another night of subpar goaltending, Texas will put Maxime Lagace in net for this afternoon's game. Lagace was a quiet callup yesterday afternoon. He hasn't played for Idaho since December 16th, a game where he was pulled after allowing three goals on four shots. The Steelheads came back to win that game 8-5.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Lagace is not a cure-all for the Stars' goalie woes. He's not been spectacular in Idaho (3-5-2, 3.09 GAA, 0.886 SV%). Perhaps it is a kick in the pants that Texas needs.

The Stars cannot put all the blame for their losses on the goaltending. However, if you look at last night's game, in which they outshot San Antonio 48-26, that's a winnable game for with just average goaltending. Texas now hopes Lagace can at least provide that for today's game.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore (upper body)
Blacker (lower body)

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

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Texas Plays From Behind, Can't Recover in 5-4 Loss to Rampage

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
A 48-shot effort from the Texas Stars wasn't enough to overcome the mistakes made in their own end as they fell 5-4 to the visiting San Antonio Rampage this evening in Cedar Park.

"We're chasing the game," said Coach Laxdal. "We're down 2 or 3 nothing right off the hop, not getting the save early and then chasing the game. We didn't get great goaltending and that was the difference in the game."

John Muse got the start and stopped 21 of 26 shots against. Roman Will, who had only played in five games to this point this season, stopped 44 of Texas' 48 shots and earned the win.

"We came out a little slow in the first with five days off," noted captain Travis Morin. "They took advantage of it and got a couple."

The Stars offense continued to plug away with four goals but really, as Laxdal stated, the difference was in net. Soft goals against after Texas mistakes are ending up in the Stars' net every night. Not every puck is stoppable, but the Stars should expect their goaltenders to bail them out of a few tight jams. That isn't happening right now, and it's got them near the bottom of the goals against board in the league.

The puck luck isn't flowing their way right now as a late power play for San Antonio put Texas down 5-4 with 22 seconds left. The puck bounced off Stephen Johns in front and past Muse.

Nikita Zadorov opened the scoring for the San Antonio Rampage. Missed assignments left Zadorov uncovered for his seventh of the year. Just over two minutes later, Julius Honka mishandled the puck at the offensive blue line, sending the Rampage in on a semi-breakaway. John Muse made two saves but couldn't get the third as Dennis Everberg scored to make it 2-0.

Aside from one blemish, the second period was exactly what the Stars wanted. Radek Faksa broke in with Greg Rallo and passed off to the vet forward. His shot went clean off the iron to Faksa in the low slot for the 2-1 score.

San Antonio left former league MVP Travis Morin uncovered in the slot a few minutes later, and he went bar down off a pass from Matej Stransky behind the net. Michael Schumacher skated in late as Morin had already snapped the shot to tie things at two.

A late period power play saw the second power play unit of Johns, Bystrom, Dickinson, Dowling and Ritchie do everything but score as they hemmed in the Rampage for nearly the entire penalty. San Antonio got the better of Texas a few minutes later though as Joey Hishon beat John Muse from distance. Dennis Everberg was in front on the play, potentially restricting John Muse's motion. However, Texas had used its timeout in the first and could not challenge the play.

Coach Laxdal noted that he did not think it was interference, and Morin said the refs just called it a battle in front.

The Stars got back in it with a goal early in the third period on the power play. Esa Lindell snuck down the left wing to receive a cross-ice pass from Travis Morin and tie things at three.

Colin Smith scored with a laser of a shot coming down the right-wing side to beat Muse to the corner. Just a few minutes later, Curtis McKenzie redirected a Travis Morin shot past Will for the tie at four.

With things looking headed for OT, Esa Lindell took a questionable penalty with 28 seconds left in the third. Lindell got called for interference even as Dennis Everberg had him in a headlock.

Travis Morin narrated the ensuing play, "It's a faceoff we won and should have gotten the puck down. We didn't get enough on it, and they got a shot through traffic. We have to be able to clear the puck there and get it 200 feet."

Despite an offensive zone faceoff with six seconds left, the Stars fell by that 5-4 final.

"It's still not good enough," said Laxdal. "You've got to bear down and finish it out to get the point."

Texas plays the Rampage again tomorrow in San Antonio. Maxime Lagace, who was recalled earlier in the day, will get the start.

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

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Backman-Evans

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Blacker, Shore (injury)
Troock, Kane, Ully, Mangene, Lagace (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,891.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - December 26 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Texas Stars Nicked By Buzz Saw Grand Rapids 6-1

The Griffins got offensive tonight in Grand Rapids. Six goals sunk the Stars and ended their three-in-three weekend on a sour note with just one point. That is in stark contrast to last weekend's five in the same stretch. Grand Rapids pushed their winning streak to fourteen.

The game was a good study in how the Stars can be successful with their high-flying offense. The true measure of the game came down to the goaltender play of Jared Coreau in the first. Once the team had gotten through that stretch, they began to score and took off.

Texas now sits idle until the day after Christmas.

Here's the release:
Jared Coreau weathered a first period storm from the Texas Stars and opened the door for the Grand Rapids Griffins to skate away with a 6-1 win on Saturday night in front of 8,028 at Van Andel Arena.

It was the 14th consecutive win for Grand Rapids (16-8-0-1). Mattias Backman scored the only goal for the Stars (14-12-2-2). Texas now enjoys a six-day layoff until their next game, their longest break of the season.

The Stars host the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday at 7 p.m. CST.

Martin Frk's slap shot from the right circle for Grand Rapids opened up the game's scoring at 5:12 of the first for a power play goal.

In period two, the Griffins tacked on two more goals to extend their lead to 3-0 beginning with Brian Lashoff's goal at 1:47 to cap off a counterattack rush. Tomas Nosek touched home a rebound goal from the top of the goal crease at 13:55 off a one-time shot from the slot for his second of the season.

The Griffins made it a 5-0 cushion in the third with goals from Anthony Mantha at 8:53 and Andy Miele at 12:57. Backman scored his second goal of the season for the Stars at 13:39 to end the shutout bid for Coreau when his centering pass glanced off a Griffins player and in the net. Andreas Athanasiou added one more for Grand Rapids late for the 6-1 final.

The Stars finished 0-for-3 on the power play. Grand Rapids went 1-for-4.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Shore, Blacker (injury)
Kane, Faksa, Ully (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 8,028.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - December 19 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
14-11-2-2, 32 pts
#3 Pacific Division
atGrand Rapids Griffins
15-8-0-1, 31 pts
#4 Central Division
December 19th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

Texas finishes their 3-in-3 today with another battle against the strongest team in the league right now. Despite leading after two last night, Texas fell to a club that is just getting all the bounces and clicking on all cylinders. Grand Rapids is on a franchise record 13-game streak and looks to extend that to 14 with a victory tonight over Texas.

Things to watch for the Stars include who will take the net. Jack Campbell and John Muse have each had a start on the trip. Also, check to see if Radek Faksa returns to the ice. He was out for unspecified reasons last night.

Stars injury/call up report:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

Streaking Griffins Come Back to Beat Stars 5-4

When you're hot, you're hot. The Griffins set their winning streak at thirteen despite trailing the Stars to open the third period. A quick goal less than a minute in and two in the last six minutes set the final at 5-4 Grand Rapids.

The Stars collected a power play goal in the game but allowed two as well, including the go-ahead goal at 14:26 of the third.

There were plenty of opportunities for the Stars to tie the game late, but ultimately the Griffins got the bounces.

Texas will play again tomorrow, trying to stop the Griff's streak from extending to 14.

Here's the release:
The Grand Rapids Griffins needed three third period goals and few bounces in their favor to hold on for a 5-4 win over the Texas Stars on Friday night at Van Andel Arena in front of 7,311 in attendance.

The win extends the Griffins' (15-8-0-1) franchise record winning streak to 13 games. Curtis McKenzie notched his 100th career AHL point with a late third period goal to pull Texas (14-11-2-2) within one. In the final minute of regulation Travis Morin missed a one-time shot from the slot and the Stars rang a shot off Jared Coreau's shoulder, which the Grand Rapids goaltender never saw, in an effort to tie the score.

The Stars and Griffins will square off again on Saturday at 6 p.m. CST.

Trailing 3-2 entering the third period, the Griffins scored three times to take a 5-3 lead over the Stars off goals from Tyler Bertuzzi 48 seconds in, Anthony Mantha on the power play at 14:26 and Louis-Marc Aubry's deflection at 15:20. Less than a minute after Aubry's goal, McKenzie set the table for the photo finish when he tipped Morin's centering pass past Coreau for his fourth goal of the season to make it 5-4.

Jack Campbell finished 36 of 41 in net for the Stars in the losing effort. Coreau earned his 11th win of the season going 27 of 31.

Texas jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first as Morin converted a breakaway chance 38 seconds in, and Justin Dowling drilled a one-timer power play goal from the right circle at 4:08 off an assist from Brett Ritchie to extend both of their point streaks to four games. Jeff Hoggan made it a 2-1 score at 6:32 with his second of the season.

The offense stayed quiet until 17:51 of the second when Martin Frk's shot from the blue line beat Campbell to tie the game. Just when it looked like the second would end tied, Brendan Ranford buried Jason Dickinson's centering feed from the right wing corner for his seventh of the season with just over a second remaining, and Texas carried a 3-2 lead into the break.

The Texas power play remained hot going 1-for-4 in the game. Grand Rapids finished 2-for-4.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)
Faksa, Ully (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 7,311.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - December 18 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
14-10-2-2, 32 pts
#2 Pacific Division
atGrand Rapids Griffins
14-8-0-1, 29 pts
#4 Central Division
December 18th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

Coming off yesterday's tough loss to Chicago, Texas rolls into Grand Rapids to face the hottest team in the AHL. The Griffins lost their head coach to the NHL club over the summer and found one of the best possible replacements: Todd Nelson. Nelson and his OKC Barons played a million games against the Texas Stars over the past five years as basically the only head coach the team ever knew. Nelson went to Edmonton at the end of the last year, but then wasn't made the head coach after the season was over. He left for Grand Rapids, where he had coached once before as an assistant, and it looked like everything was going to be amazing for the Griffs.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
As the season started, it just wasn't clicking. I mean, not at all. GRG won just one of its first eight games. By mid-November, they were 2-8-0-1 with no end in sight. They were allowing too many goals (four or more in their first 11) and scoring too few (zero or one in six of their first 11). Then... something clicked. A 3-2 win against Rockford put them on a trajectory to compile the best winning streak in the league this season. Coming into tonight's game, the Griffins have won 12 straight. They've scored 3 or more in all but one of those games. They allowed just one or zero goals in seven of those.

So, Nelson works his magic again.

He has a potent offensive club. Andy Miele returned for another season after last year's torrid campaign. Eri Tangradi joined the West from WBS and leads the team in scoring. Prospects Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou round out the top four scorers. Rookie D Robbie Russo is sixth with 2-11=13. Jared Coreau is the main man in net this season just on the balance of his win total. Coreau's 10-2-1 mark stands over Tom McCollum's 4-6-0 total. However, their save percentages are not far off (.934 and .924) so both are fairing well, especially since mid-November.

Items to watch here include the loss of previously mentioned leading scorer Eric Tangradi. He was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head. He'll miss both games against Texas. Grand Rapids already played a game without him and handled the Lake Erie by a 3-2 score.

Stars injury/call up report:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)

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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Texas Stars Salvage Point With 4-3 Shootout Loss in Chicago

After falling behind 3-0 in the first, Texas rallied in the third to salvage a point with a 4-3 shootout loss today in Chicago. The Stars gave no help to their starting goalie, John Muse, as he was pierced for those three goals in quick succession in the opening frame.

Jack Campbell entered in relief and held down the fort through the rest of the game. He was a perfect 28 for 28 during regulation and overtime. Neither team scored in the second, but Texas found an opening in the third on the power play. Brett Ritchie potted his fifth in three games with the extra man, and the Stars had life. Two minutes later, Greg Rallo scored on another power play. Mattias Backman added his first as a Star late in the frame and it was a new game with just under three minutes left.

The Stars would go to overtime and later a shootout to determine the outcome. Texas was held scoreless but Chicago collected a goal off the stick of Jordan Schmaltz for the shootout victory.

Texas plays again tomorrow in Grand Rapids.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)
Smith, Ully (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 14,517.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Chicago - December 17 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
14-10-2-1, 31 pts
#2 Pacific Division
atChicago Wolves
11-10-1-2, 25 pts
#6 Central Division
December 17th at 11:00 AM
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

After starting the season 8-1-1-1 with their only regulation loss coming to the Stars, the Chicago Wolves have dipped in the standings thanks to a 3-9-0-2 run over the last 14 games. During the skid, it seems like the Wolves were catching every team they played at their peak. They caught a hot Milwaukee club three times, streaking Grand Rapids twice, and San Antonio pre-losing streak twice. Their only wins came against Iowa and Manitoba, the two basement dwellers of the division.

Jordan Binnington (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Wolves have scored 73 goals on the season, but that offense is deceiving. Since the aforementioned split on November 18th, the Wolves have only potted 30 goals, just a hair over 2 per game. They've allowed 37. There have been a number of nights during their skid where the Wolves only score one goal. In several of those instances, they got good enough goaltending to win but didn't cash in on the offensive side to make it stand up. Chicago's record in 1 goal games is 3-4-1-2 overall but 1-4-0-1 since Nov. 18th.

If Texas gets its way, the Wolves might be hitting another team at a peak. After dropping four games and collecting just two points in those contests, the Stars picked up five of six last weekend despite the adversity of losing their top scorer. Brett Ritchie picked up where Shore left off and Julius Honka had quite a weekend with two game-winning goals among five total points. The past three games represent one-third of Honka's season total.

With another three-in-three, both goaltenders will get a chance to start. Last weekend, Jack Campbell got Friday's game and John Muse took Saturday and Sunday. Personally, I would roll the same type of lineup: Campbell against a struggling Wolves team today and Muse against a very hot Grand Rapids club.

Stars injury/call up report:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)
Ranford (questionable)

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gemel Smith, Cole Ully Return To Texas Stars

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Following the recent injuries to forwards Devin Shore and Branden Troock and defenseman Jesse Blacker, the Texas Stars have recalled Cole Ully and Gemel Smith from Idaho. Each tallied a goal during their short stint with the Steelheads. Smith added three assists as well.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Monday that forwards Gemel Smith and Cole Ully have been recalled from the team’s ECHL’s affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Smith (jeh-MEHL SMITH), 21, has appeared in 20 AHL games this season with nine points overall, including six goals (6-3=9). The 5-foot-10, 200-pound native of Toronto, Ontario played four games for the Steelheads this year, and registered a goal and three assists. Smith was selected by Dallas in the fourth round (104th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Ully (YEW-lee), 20, tallied six points in six games with Idaho during his ECHL stint on a goal and five assists (1-5=6). The 5-foot-11, 170-pound forward scored the overtime-winner in Idaho’s 3-2 win on Sunday over the Allen Americans. In 10 games this season with the Texas Stars, the Calgary, Alberta native has a goal and four assists. His first professional goal came on Oct. 16 against the Chicago Wolves. Ully was a fifth-round pick of Dallas (131st overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Honka and Ritchie Help Texas Polish Off Weekend with Road Win

After allowing the first goal, the Stars stormed back and played an excellent game in San Antonio for a 3-2 win. Julius Honka scored the game-winner in the third and Brett Ritchie added his fourth of the season. For the second night in a row, the Stars had three fights: Brennan Evans once and Curtis McKenzie twice.

Here's the release:
Julius Honka's third period goal held up as the difference on Sunday in a 3-2 road win for the Texas Stars over the rival San Antonio Rampage in front of 5,792 at AT&T Center.

Honka's game-winner came at 7:26 of the third from the right circle. Brett Ritchie and Justin Dowling also scored for the Stars (14-10-2-1). John Muse made Honka's third period goal hold up with a 14-save third period, and finished with 31 saves in the game for his seventh win of the year.

Texas hits the road on Thursday to visit the Chicago Wolves at 11 a.m. CST.

In the first, the Rampage (11-8-6-0) opened up the game's scoring off a Chris Bigras goal 3:58 into the first. Ritchie knotted the score less than four minutes later off a centering feed from Derek Hulak for his fourth goal in the last two games.

Both teams traded goals again in the second as Dowling made it a 2-1 score with the Stars' fourth shorthanded goal of the season at 9:01. The Rampage answered right back with just over two minutes left in the frame however, when Cody Corbett blasted a point shot past Muse for his first of the year.

Calvin Pickard suffered the loss for the Rampage with 33 saves. Texas finished 0-for-2 on the power play. San Antonio went 1-for-5.

It was San Antonio's fifth consecutive loss to start the month of December.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Shore, Blacker (injury)
Kane (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,792.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - December 13 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
13-10-2-1, 29 pts
#3 Pacific Division
atSan Antonio Rampage
11-7-6-0, 28 pts
#2 Pacific Division
December 13th at 4:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Finishing off the three in three, Texas heads to San Antonio this afternoon. The team has had some attrition thanks to the rough schedule. Jesse Blacker was injured last night and Devin Shore on Friday. Branden Troock has been out for a few games now as well. The Stars are set on defense but they are right at capacity on forwards. Cory Kane figured into the lineup last night for the first time in a week.

San Antonio is actually coming into today's game on a four game losing skid. They've been consistent, scoring two goals in each one of those losses. However, their opponents scored a total of 15 across the games. Given that Texas and San Antonio are geographic island mates, those losses have all been against the same teams Texas has played recently: Rockford, Charlotte and Stockton.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore (upper body)
Blacker (lower body)
Troock (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)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ritchie's Hat Trick Highlights Complete Game Over Stockton

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
If you were wondering who was going to replace the lost offense following Devin Shore's injury, Brett Ritchie has an answer for you. After starting the season on the IR, Ritchie potted a hat trick in tonight's game to help Texas top Stockton by a 5-2 final.

"Ritchie is a trigger man," said Derek Laxdal. "He's a scorer and he's got a bomb of a shot."

The Stars got themselves a really solid all around effort after last night's disappointing outcome. They scored five, allowed only two, scored twice on the power play, had a clean sheet on the PK and piked up three fights against a physical team.

"I thought our guys really responded after last night," said Derek Laxdal. "[The Heat] play big and physical and our guys stepped up."

Brett Ritchie started his night early with a goal just 80 seconds into the contest off the centering pass from Justin Dowling. Radek Faksa added his third of the weekend off a rebound before the end of the frame.

Julius Honka kept his scoring ways going with a power play tally. The Heat answered back with their first of the night with 6 minutes left in the second. Brett Ritchie restored the three goal lead with another power play goal to end 40 up 4-1.

The physical game was highlighted by three fights, certainly the most this Texas team has seen in a while. Brennan Evans, Curtis McKenzie, and Jason Dickinson dropped the gloves in the first, second and third periods respectively.

Texas finishes the weekend set with a game in San Antonio tomorrow afternoon.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Dickinson-Faksa-Stransky
Hulak-Dowling-Ritchie
Elie-Kane-Rallo

Lindell-Honka
Bystrom-Johns
Blacker-Evans

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Shore (injury)
Backman, Mangene (scratch)

Jesse Blacker was injured in the game, a lower body injury, and will likely be out tomorrow. The Stars have Mangene and Backman to slide in for him though.

Tonight's attendance was 4,746.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - December 11 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Stockton Heat

Texas Stars
12-10-2-1, 27 pts
#3 Pacific Division
v.Stockton Heat
8-8-0-2, 18 pts
#7 Pacific Division
December 12th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

The last time these two met, we were discussing the re-addition of Devin Shore to the Stars' lineup after a successful NHL callup. This time, the story is a little bit different.

After last night's hit and subsequent injury, the Stars will be without their leading scorer, both in goals and points, for at least 4-6 weeks, if not more. On a team with suspect defense and goaltending, it can't be good to lose the guy who is best at putting the puck in the other team's net.

Texas has Cory Kane available for the night as well as Matt Mangene, who has played forward at times this season. They could also go with seven defenseman and 11 forwards. The Steelheads, who are in Oklahoma and heading back to Allen at the moment for a Sunday rematch, just finished three games in three nights and it wouldn't probably be worth it to try to use any of the players currently there as callups. Four games in four nights is not a great situation. If they were called on to play both games, it would be five in five. That's not doable.

Since these two clubs last met, Texas is 4-6-2 and Stockton is 5-3. With the way the numbers shake out though, neither has changed their playoff fate much in any significant way. However, this week at least there is definitely a trend. The Stars have lost their last four while the Heat just knocked off two playoff teams in San Diego and San Antonio.

Joni Ortio is probably your starter for Stockton. John Muse will go for Texas.

Stars injury/call up report:
Shore, Troock (injury)

Website: stocktonheat.com
Twitter: @ahlheat

Friday, December 11, 2015

Loss of Devin Shore Looms Large in Texas Stars 5-4 OT Loss

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Regardless of the outcome of the game on the scoresheet, tonight's contest might have reverberations on the rest of the season for the Texas Stars. The game, a 5-4 overtime loss for the home team, saw a significant injury to a key player for Texas.

In the third period, Devin Shore, the Stars' leading scorer, was upended and fell to the ice in a lot of pain. He left holding his right elbow to support his arm and did not return. Coach Laxdal put his timeline at a 4-6 week minimum, possibly more depending on the diagnosis.

Shore, who was definitely garnering consideration for the All-Star game, sees his season come to a sudden pause.

As to the other 17 skaters on the ice, Texas played a very familiar game to many of their recent home contests. Enough scoring to win the game but mistakes that bit them at the wrong times.

Laxdal noted, "When you're in a rut like this, every time you make a mistake you get stung. It's too good of a league to make the same mistakes. When things aren't going great for your team, you find ways to lose."

Texas opened the scoring with Julius Honka's third of the year, a nice back door finish of a Stransky pass. The Stars then ceded the next three to Charlotte before the end of the first. Jack Campbell was pulled for John Muse, and the frame ended at 3-2 Checkers after Radek Faksa tipped a Ludwig Bystrom shot for the Stars' second goal.

Laxdal made the decision to put Campbell back in for the second.

"We did a lot of good things in the first period but we made three mistakes they capitalized on. A couple of the goals I don't fault Jack on.

"We had to make a statement to the team, you can't just pull your goaltender and blame it on them. We put him back and challenged the guys to stick up for the goaltender."

Julius Honka said Texas responded to the call, "We talked about it in the first intermission. We know we can play better, and we came back."

Within six seconds in the middle frame, the Stars tied and went up on the Checkers thanks to goals from their Czech duo. Faksa went first at 12:33 and Matej Stransky scored off the ensuing faceoff at 12:39.

Given the final result though, Faksa was very focused on defense in his postgame comments, "We have to have better defense. We have to help Jack more around the net."

The Stars killed a 5-on-3 at the midpoint of the third and looked like they had the momentum to carry them to victory. Brock McGinn stifled that notion after breaking free in the slot and putting in a pass from behind the goal line on Campbell for the 4-4 tie.

Going to overtime, Stephen Johns took a delay of game penalty with just 8 seconds left in regulation. Texas started the OT on the PK.

"We had a chance to clear it," said Laxdal. "When you don't clear it on [a penalty], it usually comes back to sting you. One of our defensemen got caught out of position. That's usually what happens when you can't get the puck out."

Brock McGinn finished off a hat trick with a one-timer on the backdoor in OT.

The Stars get a chance for redemption pretty quickly with tomorrow's game against Stockton.

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

Lindell-Johns
Bystrom-Evans
Backman-Honka

Campbell
Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock (injury)
Blacker, Mangene, Kane (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,746.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - December 11 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
12-10-1-1, 26 pts
#4 Pacific Division
v.Charlotte Checkers
12-11-0-0, 24 pts
#6 Central Division
December 11th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With nearly the same record as the Texas Stars, the Charlotte Checkers come into town holding the 6th place spot in the Central Division. As previously mentioned in this space, the Checkers are in a ridiculously competitive division right now. The current playoff cutoff line in the division is .595, which is a pretty crazy bar to set. It seems like it's destined to fall from such high heights, and the Checkers are surely gunning to jump over some teams to get there. They've missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Since falling to Texas on November 20th, the Checkers are 5-3. That includes a disappointing 3-3 homestand that saw Charlotte win both against Iowa (of course), lose both against Ontario (predictable) and split with middling San Jose (would have wanted two wins there).

On the Texas side, home games have been unkind to the Stars so far this season. With a 5-5-1 record, Texas is right at .500 on the season in points at home. Historically, the lowest the Stars have ended a season in points percentage at home is .513 in the non-playoff 2011-12 campaign. The Stars have plenty of time to shore up their home record, but it is definitely a sore point. You can throw all the cliches you want at it; they just need to find ways to win games. The team averages north of 4 goals per game and half the nights this season, that hasn't been good enough at the CPC. That obviously points to keeping pucks out of the net. The Stars allow 3.91 goals per game at home.

Like Dallas, it's high event hockey. However, it's not working out in their favor as often as their NHL parent club. With the three-in-three starting tonight, there will be some pretty immediate chances to reverse that trend.

Stars injury/call up report:
Troock (day-to-day)

Website: gocheckers.com
Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Coverage: Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @N_Niedzielski (former Texas Stars intern, now Checkers Communications)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Texas Stars Stymied By Rockford's Michael Leighton 5-3

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Michael Leighton was the story of the night against the Texas Stars this evening. Texas dropped 52 shots on the IceHogs' goalie and by all acounts should have won the game with that effort. Leighton was up to the task though, winning the contest with a 5-3 final.

"Leighton was the difference in the game," agreed Laxdal. "We played a nearly perfect game here. I liked our game, but we didn't get the win."

The Stars scored three and limited the chances on John Muse to just 18 through two periods. By all accounts, the Stars had a distinct advantage and were the better overall team. Strong play from the aforementioned Leighton and some individuals like Pierre-Cedric Labrie made the difference for Rockford.

"We outworked them and out chanced them," said Derek Hulak, who had a goal and an assist in the game. "But we have to put the puck in the net. It's a bounce here or there. Whenever you lose, there's always something you can do better."

Laxdal noted that each of the first three goals came off of avoidable mistakes. Each one was correctable in his estimation. He added, "You have to win the tight games, the one goal games. This is part of our learning curve."

The Stars opened the scoring in the first with a nice tally from Hulak. The real genesis of the tally was Esa Lindell's keep just inside the blue line and subsequent skate down into the zone to keep the play alive. His pass from below the goal line to Hulak ended up in the back of the net from the slot.

Daniel Ciampini scored his first of the season to tie things up. Ciampini tipped Viktor Svedberg's point shot for the goal. Jake Dowell pushed the IceHogs ahead off a bad turnover. John Muse let Dowell in easy through the five hole, a pretty soft goal overall.

That lead didn't last long as Devin Shore extended his point streak with an assist on the tying goal. Down the right wing side, his drop pass to Jesse Blacker was smashed for the 2-2 score. It was Blacker's first goal as a Star.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie burned Esa Lindell before the end of the period though, outworking the defender and passing off to Garret Ross for a quick snapshot goal in front. The goal was a real back breaker for the Stars, who had just generated a ton of chances on the power play and were repeatedly robbed by Michael Leighton.

With 12:44 left in the third, the Stars had probably their best chance to tie things up. Devin Shore rang one right off the crossbar, "bardown" according to Laxdal. He had the look but just didn't get the luck.

The Stars would score one more in the game, but it was a late one already down by two. Rockford ended up scoring two empty net goals. Justin Dowling collected the late Stars' goal.

Texas now prepares itself for a three-in-three this weekend, all in the state of Texas.

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

Lindell-Johns
Bystrom-Blacker
Backman-Honka

Muse

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Evans, Mangene, Kane (scratch)

Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup, notching a point on Dowling's late goal. He noted postgame, "The first couple shifts it felt weird, lots of adrenaline like a big playoff game. I settled down and felt OK. Legs felt good and the wrist held up."

Tonight's attendance was 6,252.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - December 8 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
12-9-1-1, 26 pts
#3 Pacific Division
v.Rockford IceHogs
15-5-1-2, 33 pts
#1 Central Division
December 8th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Don't look now, but the IceHogs used the past week to vault to the top of the Central Division. Really, the entire Central Division is on fire at the moment. Currently, the third place team has a .659 points percentage. What the what? It probably helps that the two worst teams in the league are both in the division. Iowa and Manitoba are a combined 9-31-2-4. The Stars will play five of their next seven games against the Central Division; none will be against the Moose or Wild.

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Moose aren't really the concern at the moment. The elephant is. That elephant is the goaltending situation.

Jack Campbell is not faring well in his return to the pipes in Texas. Aside from a win in Bakersfield before Thanksgiving, he has allowed at least three in every game he's played in. His goals against average is 4.27 and his SV% is .862.

Campbell has always been an eager and athletic goalie. He garnered praise when he entered the league for never giving up on a puck and always playing like he could make every save.

Now that he is a veteran, what was once perceived as athleticism is now over-eagerness. He should have an economy of movement instead of the frenetic attitude he often takes in net.

Further, you can read his mood in his body language. On a route shot into the zone last home game, Campbell miscalculated the angle and moved to deflect it. The puck was nowhere near the net and his movement was superfluous. Instantly, you could see the shoulders sink as the puck rimmed around the boards. Little things like that are adding up to easy shots that are missed and failing to execute on the simple plays that should be made.

If Campbell continues to play, you have to believe it's not Derek Laxdal's choice. His play is not giving the Stars the best chance to win every night.

But then again, what do you do to get him in gear? The Stars have the highest flyign offense in the West. If games are still being lost with that offense in front of him, Campbell might find himself in a tough spot very soon.

Stars injury/call up report:
None.

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Good Chance Only Three Pacific Teams Make The Playoffs

Ontario Reign bench (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
I was cruising the Twitterverse after last night's 5-2 Stars loss to the Admirals and this tweet from Ads' writer Daniel Lavender and team caught my eye:
That tweet, of course, sent me on a beeline to the AHL standings. And there it is, clear as day.


If the playoffs started today, the San Diego Gulls wouldn't make it. If you'll remember from the start of the season, the crossover rule is back. If the fifth place team int he Central Division has a better record than the fourth place team in the Pacific, the Central team gets the last playoff spot in the Pacific. As of today, the resurgent Grand Rapids Griffins would crossover and play the Ontario Reign in the first round of the playoffs.

For Texas, what was previously a race for top four in the division might be a race for the top three.

You'll notice that while Texas is in third place in the division, it's not a very comfortable margin when you look at the Griffins' points percentage. The Griffs, who've won eight in a row after starting the season 2-8-0-1, face a tough test on Wednesday against Milwaukee. However, if they win they will leapfrog the Stars' points percentage (.575 v. .565).

It's pretty clear with all the competition in the Central that the Stars are not competing against San Diego and Bakersfield for playoff spots. They are competing against Chicago and Grand Rapids as well.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Milwaukee Admirals Torpedo Texas Stars 5-2

(Credit: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Admirals)
A quick trip to Milwaukee turned up no luck for the Stars this afternoon as they fell 5-2 to the Admirals. The Stars hung in it through the first half of the game, trading goals with the Ads up to 2-2. Joe Pendenza netted a shorthanded goal that broke the back of the Stars and was the ultimate game winner. The Ads added two goals in the third to set the final.

Despite the loss, Devin Shore extended his point streak to nine games. Jack Campbell took the loss with 18 saves on 23 shots.

Jason Dickinson and Derek Hulak returned to the Stars lineup. Brett Ritchie, who was assigned yesterday, did not suit up.

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

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Bystrom-Mangene

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Troock, Evans, Blacker, Ritchie (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,764.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Milwaukee - December 6 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
12-8-1-1, 26 pts
#3 Pacific Division
atMilwaukee Admirals
13-6-1-0, 27 pts
#3 Central Division
December 6th at 3:00 PM
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

If Rockford was a team that has turned the corner since the Stars last played them, boy, look out for the Milwaukee Admirals. After they beat Texas on October 27th, they dropped two and then went on a ten-game winning streak. When these two teams first faced off, Daniel Lavender from Admirals Roundtable talked about how he wasn't sure where the offensive would come from for this team. It turns out they found it. Viktor Arvidsson won the November Player of the Month award and has 7-10=17 so far this season. Frederick Gaudreau is 5-8=13 and Vladislav Kamenev, who scored against Texas, is 5-7=12. Max Reinhart, Taylor Aronson and Trevor Murphy are all in double digits on points as well.

Of course, with success comes the callup. Arvidsson is in Nashville now and Juuse Saros, their goaltender for most of those wins, had a brief call up. Over the past three games, the Ads have dropped two, including a loss to the resurgent Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Ads are a good test for a Stars team that is coming off a disappointing loss. Interestingly, the Stars have a very good road record, 7-4-1, but have been pretty meager at home (5-4-1).

With the assignment of Gemel Smith and Cole Ully, Texas will have a slightly different lineup than on Wednesday. Cory Kane or, if he's healthy, Jason Dickinson could join the lineup. Texas could also add a 7th defenseman, which has been commonplace recently. Either Jack Campbell or John Muse will go in net now that Lagace has been assigned. If Campbell goes, can he play within himself to get the saves this team needs him to get?

Stars injury/call up report:
Dickinson (lower body, questionable)
Hulak (upper body)

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ully, Smith and Lagace Head to Idaho Steelheads

With many players returning to health and assignments from Dallas galore, Texas assigned three players to the Idaho Steelheads this afternoon. Goalie Maxime Lagace and forwards Cole Ully and Gemel Smith will make the trip to Boise to join the ECHL side. The Steelheads, mired in an uncharacteristic slump, will definitely be looking forward to the top-end talent.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday goaltender Maxime Lagace and forwards Gemel Smith and Cole Ully have been reassigned to the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Lagace (luh-GAH-say), 22, has appeared in eight games this season for Texas with a 4-4-0 record, a 2.91 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. During his time in Idaho this year, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound rookie made six appearances with a 3.24 goals against average and a .891 save percentage.

Smith, 21, has appeared in 20 games this season for Texas with nine points (6-3=9). The 5-foot-11, 200-pound forward was a fourth-round selection of Dallas in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (104th overall). Smith appeared in 68 AHL games last year for Texas, registering 27 points (10-17=27).

Ully (YOO-lee), 20, is currently in his rookie campaign with five points in 10 games for the Stars this season (1-4=5). The 5-foot-11, 170-pound forward was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas (131st overall) and tallied 237 career points in 256 games over a five-year stretch with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers from 2010-2015 prior to turning pro.

The Stars visit the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday at 3 p.m. CST.

AHL On The Beat: Shore Takes Road Less Traveled

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
For the umpteenth time, I've written some words, a lot of words actually, for the AHL about a Texas Stars player. This time, Devin Shore is the article's focus. Give it a read, won't you?
Every Canadian kid dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. The road to get there usually involves plenty of youth hockey, some Tier 2 junior, a stint in major junior, a stop in the American Hockey League and then the big show.

The AHL’s leading goal scorer, Texas Stars rookie Devin Shore, decided on a less-traveled road to the show for a Canadian: NCAA collegiate hockey. And for him, that has made all the difference.
Continue reading on TheAHL.com...

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Porous" Texas Stars Defense Allows IceHogs to Slip By in OT

Rockford's game winner (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars have scored 11 goals in their past two home games. They've won neither.

Each time, Texas has been bested by the visitor. Tonight, Rockford took Texas to overtime and beat the home side by a 6-5 final. It's clear they can score, now they need to stop the puck more effectively.

"A lot of it is our own doing," said Travis Morin, who scored in the game. "We are making big mistakes at bad times and leaving our goalies out to dry. We have to know that our offense is going to score as long as we play good defense."

Neither team led by more than a goal at any time as Jack Campbell and Michael Leighton were both equally porous and mistake-prone. Campbell let in an easy goal gloveside in the second and both Campbell and Leighton had misplayed pucks that ended up in the back of their nets.

"We're a little porous in the D zone," Laxdal said. "Jack played today despite traveling all day. There's probably 3 or 4 he'd like to have back. Leighton wasn't any better. It was the last team to score that would win."

Campbell stopped 37 of 43 shots on the night after arriving at 3:45 PM from Calgary. Michael Leighton stopped 32 of 37 shots. With the loss, the Stars dropped to 5-4-1 on home ice this season.

The IceHogs picked up the first goal of the night off the stick of Ryan Hartman, but the Stars answered back in quick order. Travis Morin put in a sharp angle shot on the backhand. Within two minutes, Radek Faksa had pushed Texas ahead after winning a faceoff and finishing his own rebound.

In the second, both goaltenders had some pretty notable issues with routine shots and plays. Bryan Bickell scored after a broken play on the PP left him all alone in front. Garret Ross pushed the Hogs ahead on what should have been a routine shot for Campbell. The puck seemingly went through his glove and into the net behind him. It was an abhorrent goal on a pretty standard play.

Michael Leighton had a misplay of his own and turned the puck over directly onto the stick of Travis Morin. The captain was patient and found an open Greg Rallo for a tap-in on the back door. Julius Honka pushed Texas ahead 4-3 with a shot from the point. Jack Campbell handed it back with a misplay behind the net, which gave the puck to Ryan Hartman for his second of the night, using Campbell as the backboard for his shot from behind the net.

Rockford got a faceoff win and sent it back to Eric Gustafsson on the point. His shot rimmed around the back of the net, going in stick side on Campbell for the 5-4 lead.

Justin Dowling generated the game tying goal with a rush to the net. Off the rebound, Curtis McKenzie came in unmarked and roofed it, ringing one off the crossbar for the 5-5 tie.

Texas put themselves in great position to win with a power play heading into OT. They couldn't convert and ended up on the PK with a questionable hooking call on Radek Faksa. Morin summarized, "We failed to convert on our power play and it came back to bite us."

Off a screen in front, Dennis Rasmussen beat Campbell stick side for the 6-5 win.

"4-on-3 we got some defenseman mixed up there," said Laxdal. "They had a good screen."

Texas will get a longer break now, thanks to the rescheduled game, and hit the road for a Sunday match with the Milwaukee Admirals.

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

Lindell-Johns
Blacker-Evans
Backman-Honka

Campbell

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Lagace, Bystrom, Ully, Kane(scratch)
Dickinson (lower body)
Hulak (upper body)

Tonight's attendance was 3,976.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - December 2 2015

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
12-8-0-1, 25 pts
#4 Pacific Division
v.Rockford IceHogs
12-5-1-2, 27 pts
#3 Central Division
December 2nd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Jack Campbell has been reassigned and will start this evening if he arrives in time. If not, John Muse will go.

The Rockford IceHogs return to the Cedar Park Center for the first time since their Game 2 victory over the Stars last postseason. That game was the second game in their three game sweep of Texas.

Michael Leighton (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Stars have already played Rockford twice this season. Both contests were shellackings. Texas put up a total of 12 goals against the Hogs in two games early in October. Those losses dropped Rockford to 1-3 on the season. Since then, they've gone 10-2-1-2. Much of that has been on the back of their veteran netminder, Michael Leighton. He has collected an 11-3-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 SV%. Mark Visentin and Mac Carruth have each seen game action, but their combined 1-2-2 record is nothing to write home about. If Rockford goes anywhere this season, it's Leighton in net.

After a successful road trip, the Stars will want to continue refining the details in their game. Special teams have been a challenge for Texas so far this season. Usually teams shoot for a combined PP and PK number of 110. The Stars are sitting at 17% PP and 79.1% PK for a total of 96.1%. Rockford is similarly challenged at 97.1 total, but their numbers skew high on PK (85.1%) than PP (12%). When faced with a Texas PK, the Stars have an opportunity to up their numbers against the languishing Rockford PP.

The Hogs are firmly in a playoff spot as we hit December. At .675 points percentage, they are ahead of fourth place Chicago by a decent margin (.588). This is a good test for Texas at this point in the season.

Remi Elie is expected to return tonight. Jason Dickinson missed the Stars' last game in San Jose and could also miss this evening's game with a lower body issue.

Stars injury/call up report:
Campbell (call up)
Elie (upper body, expected)
Hulak (upper body)
Dickinson (lower body)

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Idaho Steelheads Report: Growing Pains in Boise

Philippe Desrosiers in training camp (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
John Mulhern returns with the monthly Idaho Steelheads Report...

To say it’s been a while since the last Idaho Steelheads update would be an understatement. It has been 18 games, over a month, and there is certainly a lot to talk about both positive and negative for the Steelheads as the team heads towards their December schedule. The Steelheads are going to be playing their first home game in over a month this week as they just embarked on a 19 day road trip. We’ll get to the results of the games later, but before that let’s take a look at the Steelheads over their first 20 games in some pieces and parts.

Special Teams:
Idaho is operating at 11% on the power play and 83.3% on the penalty kill. The numbers jump off the page for a couple of reasons. The immediate number that jumps in the 11% on the power play. Overall that works out to 9 for 82, which is nothing to write home about, but when compared to how the season started on the power play, these numbers are an improvement. The majority of those nine goals have come over the past nine games, so this is a unit which is trending upwards at the moment. Also it’s worth noting that the only team with more chances on the power play is Wheeling with 83 opportunities, so the chances are going to continue to come for Idaho, but sadly they worked themselves into such a huge hole early, the power play numbers will have to be looked at in chunks instead of the overall numbers.

The penalty kill on the other hand, has been working its way down from a top three position early in the year. Call it a regression to the mean, call it a slump, call it whatever you’d like. I’ll call it as it is, just too many penalties taken. The Steelheads have been shorthanded a total of 84 times and that trails only Norfolk (97), Florida (87), and Wichita (85) on the season. Combine that with 6 games against Florida (4th pp), Orlando (1st pp) and Atlanta (8th pp) you’re just setting yourself up for trouble. Add in some tired penalty killers, and you see where this is headed. Solution for this problem, start playing a more disciplined brand of hockey. A challenge, yes, but something we’ve seen from this team at times during the season.

Offense:
Through 20 games this season, the Steelheads are averaging 2.55 goals per game, which is probably a little lower than they would like it to be. When you look at teams probably needing to score at least 3 to win on most nights, you can see where some of the losses are coming from. But before you immediately write off the offense for lack of production, I don’t see it as a huge concern at the moment. Looking up and down this roster, the Steelheads are on pace to have six players get close to our over the 20 goal plateau this season. This is good news considering six players is equal to two lines of scoring. Then you look at three more players that are angling for about 15 goals, and are maybe one good week or two away from pushing into the 20 goal range. Offense is not going to be a problem as long as it continues to consistently come from a couple different places. Of course where it stands right now, the lack of a high goals per game average is going to put pressure on the…

Defense and Goaltending:
Let’s first look at goaltending. The Steelheads have had three different netminders dress this season: Philippe Desrosiers, Maxime Legace and Eric Hartzell. As a team the Steelheads are allowing 3.2 goals against per game. Compared to the 2.55 they are scoring, not great. However, when you look at the last six total games against the Colorado Eagles (3 games) and the Rapid City Rush (3 games), the goals allowed is only 2.5 goals per game, which falls in nicely when compared to goals scored. (Full disclosure the Steelheads have only scored 1.88 per game over that same stretch. Bad timing for a scoring drought.) But looking at how the current average of goals against is coming down, it looks like some of the moves that Neil Graham has made in terms of player movement and pairings are starting to pay off in terms of consistency of defensive play. That level on consistency will also help the goaltenders. It should also be noted that as a team the Steelheads have allowed no more than 20 shots over their past four games.

Speaking more specifically on the goaltending, there have been times where some saves should have been made, but overall the goaltenders have been solid. The one unfortunate thing about the goaltending play at the moment is that no one was able to grab the number one position and run for it, for any real amount of time. With Legace up in the AHL with Texas for the short term and no back-up as it appears as if Hartzell is headed overseas, it’s going to be Desrosiers job to win over the next couple of games. If you’ve listened to the Idaho Steelheads Hockey Show on 1350 AM KTIK over the past couple of weeks, the prevailing thought is that the defense and goaltending is young but will only continue to improve as the season goes forward.

Results:
These are going to be in order based on the schedule.

@ Alaska Aces (Independent) 1-2
vs Utah Grizzlies (San Diego Gulls) 0-1
@ Grizzlies 2-0
vs Atlanta Gladiators (Providence Bruins) 0-2-1
@ Orlando Solar Bears (Toronto Marlies) 0-1
@ Florida Everblades (Charlotte Checkers) 0-1-1
@ Colorado Eagles (Independent) 1-1-1
@ Rapid City Rush (Springfield Falcons) 1-2

Overall Record: 6-10-4 (16 pts.) 4th Place in Western Division

Upcoming Games:
The Idaho Steelheads start a three game set with the Florida Everblades in their first home games since November 7th. Games will be played on Dec 2, 4 and 5 this week before another road trip to play four more road games split between the Allen Americans (San Jose Baracuda) and the Tulsa Oilers (Manitoba Moose).

Stay tuned for an Idaho Steelheads update appendix coming in the next week with a few more notes as well as a look at player movement to and from the AHL.

Until then…

John Mulhern is the host of the Bud Light Idaho Steelheads Hockey show on 1350 AM KTIK in Boise. He is the home game ice-level color analyst for the Steelheads and also hosts his own Two Sports Nuts podcast. You can also follow John on Twitter @mulhern4.