Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Defenseman Julius Honka Assigned to Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Playing time is king, it seems. Julius Honka looks to have slipped down the depth chart a bit for the Dallas Stars and the team has chosen to have him playing in the AHL rather than sitting in the NHL. He will be available Thursday in California.

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

Honka, 21, has appeared in six games with the Stars during the 2017-18 season, recording six shots on goal, three hits and five blocked shots while averaging 14:58 time on ice per game. Honka split the 2016-17 season between Dallas and Texas (AHL), posting five points (1-4=5) in 16 NHL contests and adding 31 points (7-24=31) in 50 AHL contests with Texas.

The 5-foot-11, 186-pound native of Jyvaskyla, Finland was originally selected by Dallas in the first round (14th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Monday, October 30, 2017

League Suspends Gulls' Stu Bickel 5 Games for Incident Against Texas

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The league has meted out justice for Friday night's fracas in Cedar Park. San Diego Gulls defenseman Stu Bickel has been suspended for five games. He has already served one game of the suspension, Saturday night in San Antonio.

In good news, the Stars do not expect Justin Dowling to miss significant time. He could be a player this weekend in California.

You can watch what happened here, if you can stomach it.

Don't Worry About Idaho's Record, They're Just Unlucky For Now

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
Just a short Monday afternoon blip on the Idaho Steelheads, who dropped two games in extra time this weekend. While their record sits at 2-2-3, it's not time to worry about that record quite yet. They are getting stymied regularly by excellent goaltending on the other side of the ice. And their own goaltending has been solid. Philippe Desrosiers has put up a .920 save percentage so far this year and has yet to lose in regulation.

The real reason you shouldn't worry is PDO. WIthout getting into it too much, PDO is an advanced hockey stat that is used to calculate 'luck' for teams by combining their shooting and save percentages. In short, anything below a 980 PDO shows that a team is unlucky and anything above 1020 indicates good luck so far. Teams tend to regress toward 1000 over the season. Now check out Idaho.


You'll see that their 952 PDO shows that they are not as bad off as things might seem in the standings. And further, some teams in their own division like Colorado (6-1) and Wichita (6-0) are flying a bit too close to the sun where luck is concerned.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Texas Stars Grind Out Shootout Victory, 3-2 Over San Jose

(Credit: Derek Sparta/Texas Stars)
It took extra time for the second night in a row, but the Stars emerged from the weekend home stand with a four point effort and some added home ice confidence. They polished off the San Jose Barracuda in a 3-2 shootout win this evening.

"We talked about trying to regain home ice advantage and improve our record," said Coach Laxdal. "Our guys had a great start to the game; we controlled most of it. It was an emotional weekend but we stuck to it."

After last night's fireworks, tonight's contest was remarkably unremarkable. The Stars and San Jose combined for 36 penalty minutes and 14 power play chances, but many were shortened due to overlapping. Matt Mangene and Roope Hintz had the two goals in the game for the Stars, both scored at even strength and both highlight reel worthy.

After Andrew Bodnarchuk's five-hole OT winner last night, Mangene, who was playing forward tonight, tricked Troy Grosenick with a move to score. Grosenick bit hard on a sweep to the backhand and Mangene pulled back to the forehand and tapped the puck in on the breakaway.

Mangene commented on the silky smooth plays from himself and Bodnarchuk, "We don't show it too much in practice but we had two good moves and it was a huge weekend for us."

The goal tied up the game and was the exact type of thing that Coach Laxdal was hoping to bring by adding Mangene to the forward corps, ""Matt can skate for fun, so we thought we could increase our speed. I probably should have used him in the shootout because he scored the goal!"

Greg Rallo and Mark McNeill were also added to the lineup as Brian Flynn was scratched and Justin Dowling came out for injury. Rallo's line with Cole Ully and Sheldon Dries generated a lot of energy through the first two periods.

"There's a couple guys not going up top," Laxdal noted. "I had to shake up the lines." Dries also drew in on a lot of faceoffs, as Laxdal commented he was one of the only players winning them.

As the second drew to a close, Roope Hintz collected his third of the year on a sweeping move with just over a minute left. Texas would cede a goal in the third period on the power play to set the score at 2-2. The Stars shortened the bench considerably in the final ten minutes to manage through and hold onto the point. Texas had to kill five minute combined penalties in the final ten minutes plus overtime, including the final minute of the OT frame.

The Stars' best chance of overtime was on a penalty shot by Roope Hintz, which was stopped by Grosenick. The shootout saw Cole Ully, Travis Morin and Jason Dickinson take the ice for Texas. San Jose didn't score, but Morin found twine for the shootout winner.

Texas continued its power play power outage with a 0-for-6 effort. However, they got the win with Mike McKenna stopping 26 of 28 and all three in the shootout. Grosenick took the loss with 23 of 25 stopped and two of three in the shootout.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-McNeill
Dickinson-Morin-Gurianov
Ully-Dries-Rallo
Thompson-Markison-Mangene

Heatherington-Regner
Bystrom-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Laberge, Flynn, Fyten (scratch)
Dowling (upper body, day to day)
French (lower-body)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 4,741.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Jose - October 28 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Jose Barracuda

Texas Stars
4-3-0-1, 9 pts, 0.563
#4 Pacific Division
v.San Jose Barracuda
3-4-0-0, 6 pts, 0.429
#7 Pacific Division
October 28th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

All things considered, it's very good news Texas isn't playing the San Diego Gulls two nights in a row here in Cedar Park. After last night's unbelievable sequence of events resulted in two ejections for the Gulls and Texas losing a top offensive player to a one-sided fight, the Stars move on to another opponent.

San Jose won the division a year ago, putting up a blistering .699 points percentage. They knocked off the Heat and the Gulls in the division only to fall to the eventual champion, Grand Rapids, in the Western Conference Finals. This year, they've had an uneven start, unable to string together more than two wins in a row. Troy Grosenick, who was unbeatable last year (30-10-2, .926, 2.04) has become more pedestrian this season (2-2-0, .860, 3.83).

(Credit: Texas Stars)
San Jose is, quite interestingly, a team that has a lot of similarities to the Stars. They're having trouble keeping the puck out of the net. They're struggling on the power play (10%) and on the PK (82.5%).

On the Texas side, another veteran will check in tonight for Dowling. Thompson's addition to the lineup compensated for French's injury. Texas has players in reserve, of course, but couldn't dress them because of the veteran rule.

Stars injury/call up report:
Elie (call up)
French (lower body)
Dowling (upper body)

Barracuda Web Resources:
Website: sjbarracuda.com
Twitter: @SJbarracuda

Friday, October 27, 2017

Texas Stars Outlast Aggressive Gulls in Penalty-Filled 5-4 OT Win

Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars
Overtime was much more kind to the Stars this weekend, even if the Gulls’ pugilists weren’t, as Texas defeated visiting San Diego 5-4 in OT in Cedar Park tonight. Amazingly, San Diego amassed 66 total penalty minutes in the game, 59 of which were taken in a first period barn-burner that had every player on the ice in a scrum.

Andrew Bodnarchuk, who scored the game winner in OT, had the politically correct take on the first period fracas.

“As far as the old school hockey, I think a couple of their guys took exception to a couple of hits that I don’t think are out of the game, plays that happen within the rules. Maybe borderline but nothing dirty. You see a couple plays in that scrum that you don’t like seeing. To be politically correct, not smart.”

The penalties assessed in the incident were all on the Gulls’ side of the ledger, showing that it was a one-sided affair. Essentially, Scott Sabourin and Stu Bickel squared up with two unwilling partners, with Bickel in particular laying punch after punch into Justin Dowling, who was down defenseless on the ice already.

“There’s a lot going around with head injuries these days and there’s absolutely no reason to be taking advantage of a player like Dowling on the ice. That’s disappointing.”

Laxdal was similarly diplomatic, “I’m sure the league will look at that. I’m not going to comment on it but at the end of the day we got the win and we move on.”

On the positive side, Bodnarchuk had a great move to win it in the 3-on-3 overtime. “It was a little bit of luck and timing. I was getting on the ice on a change and my foot got stuck on the bench a bit. I was panicking to get back in the play. One of our forward popped the puck out at the blue line. Once I touched the puck, I knew what I was going to do because I only have so many in my repertoire.”

Texas did not find the start they were looking for as San Diego got on the board within the first minute and a half of the game on an awkward angle shot from Julius Nattinen that skirted Mike McKenna's freeze attempt. It was Nattinen's first AHL goal.

The Stars soon had a chance to atone with a power play opportunity from a slashing call but made a mess of things that climaxed with an ill-advised tripping minor by Jason Dickinson.

Power plays were a sore spot for the Stars throughout the game. On their second attempt, the Stars struggled to enter the offensive zone, which chewed up clock and ultimately led to a 2-on-1 rush from the Gulls as time ran out on the penalty, and Alex Dostie scored again on their third shot of the game. He was the second rookie to score for San Diego on the night.

Frustration was evident for the Stars, and Sheldon Dries dropped his gloves with Stu Bickel for Dries' first professional fight.

Perhaps the ploy for competitiveness worked because Texas tilted the ice back headed into the first intermission when Denis Gurianov fired a point shot that bounced off of goaltender Kevin Boyle's pad and landed on Dickinson's stick. Dickinson, who knows what to do with a rebound, continued his torrid scoring pace and notched his sixth goal of the year.

Texas soon tied the game on their eighth shot from another rebounding point shot, this time from Curtis McKenzie. Things then got a little hairy, and the officials nearly lost control of the ice when several fights broke out at once. No one seemed to know what was going on. The result was repeat offender Bickel, along with Scott Sabourin, being removed from the game, and Stars veteran leader Justin Dowling shaken up. The outcome was the Stars being awarded two five minute major penalties.

The Stars spent five minutes with a two-man advantage to try and get their power play going, but hit the post twice on scoring attempts.

“We did everything we wanted; we were just a little bit rough on the setups,” said Laxdal. “We had a couple of passes that were missed, Boyle made some saves, we hit a post, we missed a couple on the empty net. I think if you bury early on that 5-on-3 you might get two goals on it.”

“Immediately there’s a bit of frustration,” Bodnarchuk concurred. “That’s a huge thing as far as momentum goes. If it’s not clicking, you can't let that negative momentum carry into 5-on-5. Guys really wanted it, but when it’s done, you have to put it on the back burner and not let it affect the game going forward.”

Late in the second period, Matt Mangene turned the puck over at his own blue line and had to take a penalty to diffuse the potential breakaway. It took seven seconds on Texas’ penalty kill to cost them. The Gulls had the puck singing from the moment they won the face-off, and the play ended with a tap-in goal from yet another rookie, Mitch Hults. It was Hults’ fourth goal in six games.

Centering his own line again, Dries took it to heart and tied the game back up with a slick wrister that found the corner of the net. San Diego winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas took the lead back in the third period. Dillon Heatherington answered for the Stars with a point shot that appeared to glance off of a San Diego defender.

Maintaining the physicality of the match, Texas’ Tommy Thompson dropped the gloves with San Diego’s Keaton Thompson. They are not related. Regulation ended with the Stars outshooting the Gulls 28-20.

The numbers don’t tell the story, but Boyle stood on his head several times including in overtime when he miraculously popped back into his vacated net to stop a sure goal. Andrew Bodnarchuk made an impressive play in the neutral zone and pushed the puck up ice. He dangled in front of Boyle and put the puck in with his backhand to score his first goal of the year and win the game for Texas.

Coach Laxdal was happy to get two points in the standings. “We had to grind for that one. You could see the emotion on the bench, and these guys weren’t going to let this one slip away. San Diego is a team we’re battling [in the standings] with and we’ll take the win here tonight.”

The Stars return to the ice in Cedar Park on Saturday, 7:00 PM to take on the San Jose Barracuda.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Dowling-Hintz
Dickinson-Morin-Gurianov
Ully-Dries-Flynn
Thompson-Markison-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
French (lower-body)
Elie (call-up)

Dowling received an upper-body injury in tonight's game and is doubtful for tomorrow's game. The video of the incident is available here.

Tonight's attendance was 4,782

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Diego - October 27 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Diego Gulls

Texas Stars
3-3-0-1, 7 pts, 0.500
#6 Pacific Division
v.San Diego Gulls
3-3-0-0, 6 pts, 0.500
#7 Pacific Division
October 27th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Two weeks can make quite a difference. Texas came into the Valley View Casino Center two weeks ago with a 2-0 record, which they extended to 3-0 that night. On Saturday, the Stars would lose 5-1 and haven't won a game since. After starting with six points, the club has collected just one in the ensuing two weeks.
(Credit: Texas Stars)
So what's the issue?

One of the first places to look is the Stars' anemic power play. At just 11.5%, Texas has scored only three power play goals the entire season. Teams usually shoot for a combined power play and penalty kill percentage of 110. With Texas's 11.5 PP and 80% PK, they are falling far short on each individually and not getting the benefit of having one cover for the other. The Gulls, for example, are at 111, but it's due to their power play overperforming (23%) to cover for their weak penalty kill (77%).

So can Texas take advantage of facing one of the worst penalty kill teams in the league? Tonight will tell us more.

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

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Forward Tommy Thompson Added on PTO

Texas has added Tommy Thompson on a PTO out of Idaho. Thompson attended Texas training camp this fall.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday the team has signed rookie forward Tommy Thompson to a professional tryout agreement.

Thompson, 27, began the 2017-18 season in training camp with the Stars. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward has tallied three points (1-2=3) in five games this season with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads. The Saratoga, N.Y. native has appeared in 74 games professionally, primarily at the ECHL level, but did compete in three games for the AHL’s Hartford WolfPack last season.

Thompson competed for St. Lawrence University (NCAA) from 2011-2016 prior to his professional career and spent two of those seasons as teammates with current Stars defenseman Gavin Bayreuther.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

San Antonio Sweeps the Weekend, Beating Texas Stars 3-1

(Credit: San Antonio Rampage)
The Stars suffered a weekend sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Rampage, a sentence perhaps never written in the history of the team. The matinee game saw the Rampage score a goal in each period to just a single marker for the Stars, a Dillon Heatherington goal in the second.

Mike McKenna got the start and only had to face 13 shots in the game. With a 30-14 shot differential overall, you would have thought Texas could emerge with a victory or a point. Spencer Martin was in net for San Antonio and was again a difference maker. Another difference maker was special teams. Texas finished 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed a PPG against.

Texas now has most of the week off before returning home for another back-to-back set in Cedar Park, starting Friday against San Diego.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Fyten, Laberge, Flynn, McKenzie (scratch)
Elie (call-up)

Bystrom, Rallo and McNeill checked into the lineup. The Stars played seven D as Laberge, Flynn and McKenzie checked out.

Tonight's attendance was 5,300.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - October 22 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
3-2-0-1, 7 pts, 0.583
#5 Pacific Division
atSan Antonio Rampage
4-1-0-0, 8 pts, 0.800
#1 Pacific Division
October 22nd at 3:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Given the effort on Friday night, last night was certainly a disappointment. If energy was lacking in the second game of a 3-in-3, the third game will have the same problem all over.

"It's going to be a real test mentally," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "You have to manage the puck in all areas of the ice and keep it simple."

After Landon Bow was pulled last night midgame, there was some question who would start today. Mike McKenna gets the net for this Sunday matinee. Greg Rallo and Mark McNeill will also check into the lineup as part of the veteran crew.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Travis Morin noted that simplicity is the name of the game in the final match of the weekend, "[Last night,] it was a couple bounces and trying to do too much at times. You try to simplify everything and be smart about things."

The team will look to have more 'drivers' on the bus tonight with a higher energy effort out of the squad. For now, Texas is looking up in the standings at San Antonio for the first time in a while.

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

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, October 21, 2017

Low Energy Stars Drop 6-2 Decision to Rampage

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Coming off last night's shootout loss, Texas was looking for a similar effort with a better result tonight. They got neither as the team dropped a 6-2 decision to the San Antonio Rampage, fueled primarily by a second period outburst from the visitors.

"We didn't have enough drivers on the bus tonight," said Coach Derek Laxdal. "We had a few passengers and not enough drivers."

The first period was relatively sleepy. San Antonio came out with decent energy but the period ended scoreless. The true difference was a seven minute stretch in the second that saw the Rampage collect five straight to make the score 5-1.

"It was five or six minutes of not even that bad of play, but bad bounces," said Travis Morin. "We were trying to do too much after the first few, and it snowballed."

It was a tough momentum swing for the team and the building as Texas had just broken the scoreless tie with a power play goal from Morin. Dominic Toninato got a redirection past Landon Bow to tie it and then Andrei Mironov scored to make it 2-1 less than two minutes after Morin's goal.

"On the first one, we lost a box out at the net," said Laxdal. "The second one was just a funnel where the wingers are instructed to sprint out on the D man and they didn't. We just played kind of passive."

With Texas on the power play and looking to tie things up, Reid Petryk sprinted out off a shot block in the San Antonio zone to notch a shorthanded goal, making it 3-1. Landon Bow was bowled over on the play but goalie interference was not called. Laxdal noted, "All we had to do was force the puck down the wall" on the power play, as opposed to taking the shot and allowing that block.

Turnover would generate goals four and five as Texas found itself down 5-1 at the 12 minutes mark of the second. Mike McKenna would come in to relief Landon Bow after the rookie allowed 5 goals on 14 shots. McKenna did not allow a goal on 12 shots. To end the second, Curtis McKenzie would score on a solid effort, falling down as he snuck the puck in far side.

Texas did look better in the third, outshooting San Antonio 14-9 but without a goal to show for it. Laxdal assessed the entire performance, "Energy in the group wasn't high. We were second on pucks, and they had more energy than we did." The Rampage would add an empty net goal in the last frame to set the final at 6-2.

Texas will look for an energy boost as they soldier on to their third game in as many nights tomorrow afternoon against these same Rampage in San Antonio.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-Gurianov
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Dries-Dowling-Flynn
French-Markison-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

Bow
McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 5,432.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - October 21 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
3-1-0-1, 7 pts, 0.700
#2 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
3-1-0-0, 4 pts, 0.750
#1 Pacific Division
October 21st at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

It's a #1 vs #2 matchup tonight in Cedar Park. Texas earned a point last night, but San Antonio nabbed two to push past the Stars for the top of the table. Texas head coach Derek Laxdal thought last night was a solid game from his club and noted that a copy-paste effort from last night to tonight should get the job done. "I liked the game. I can't fault the guys. The effort was there for 60 minutes."

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Stars came up against hot goaltending and an unfortunate cold streak on the power play. Those two items are things Texas hopes to shed tonight in the rematch. Texas would love to keep collecting power plays as the malfeasance of the Rampage mounts. One key is to not get goaded into doing anything stupid to retaliate. Texas did a good job with that last night.

One thing to note will be who goes in net for both clubs. Landon Bow doesn't have a start on the season and Ville Husso has just one, a 5 goal-against performance.

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

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 20, 2017

Unconverted Power Plays Doom Stars in 3-2 Shootout Loss

Rocco Grimaldi scores the winner. (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In the first of 14 games against the San Antonio Rampage in the '17-'18 season, the Texas Stars fell in the shootout 3-2. The tension of the the rivalry was already evident with a pretty chippy game including several post-whistle scuffles. The game would end with 75 penalty minutes total.

"It always seems to be chippy with this rivalry," said Justin Dowling, who has played in many of these rivalry games. "We've played these guys for so long now, and there are several guys there from last year. You build these rivalries not only with the team, but mini rivalries with players on the ice and guys you line up against all the time."

Texas wasn't able to capitalize on their two power play opportunities in the first period, but they outshot San Antonio 12-4 and won 60% of their face-offs. The Stars were only able to post a 15.6% power play percentage against the Rampage last season, and that trend continued in this game as they were unable to cash in on the man advantage. In the end, they went 0-for-5, including a major power play.

Coach Laxdal said as much after the game. "The difference was not scoring on the power play. We generated a lot of shots, but we didn't make them pay when they were in the box."

In the first period, Curtis McKenzie scored from an awkward angle on the left circle after Denis Gurianov bobbled the puck to him to give Texas the first goal of the game. San Antonio forward Tage Thompson immediately answered with a goal of his own to take the energy out of the building on their first recorded shot.

The Stars drew another penalty early in the second period, and Jason Dickinson tipped in a point shot from Denis Gurianov after several seconds of beautiful passing with extended zone time. Impressively, it was Dickinson's sixth point in the last four games.

The Rampage goaltender Spencer Martin had to face several quality shots and made critical saves to keep San Antonio in the game, particularly in the second frame.

Stars center and locker room leader Justin Dowling had high praise for the netminder: "I thought we got lots of good looks tonight. We were moving the puck around well. It was just one of those things--the puck not going in the net and their goalie playing really well. He's been in the NHL, and he's been an all-star in this league. So he's a great goalie. I think we've got to get more bodies to the net, create more second chances off of rebounds, and I think when we get get the opportunity we've got to bear down."

The Stars would end up out-shooting the Rampage 28-7 through two periods, but San Antonio took advantage of their opportunities. On their fifth shot of the game late in the second period defenseman Mason Geertsen beat Mike McKenna high stick side from the left circle after a pretty cross ice pass for his first goal in the AHL.

Jason Dickinson drew a five minute major penalty by getting leveled hard into the boards to which the Stars took issue. It resulted in Andrew Bodnarchuk dropping the gloves with Nicolas Meloche and decisively taking him to the ground.

The second period ended with a 2-2 tie and a total of 62 penalty minutes distributed across both teams. Texas wasn't short-handed until the third period and nearly scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

San Antonio amassed most of their shot total in the third period. They had a golden opportunity to win the game on the power play with 2:40 to go and would fire a shot from the slot which bounced off the pipe. Unable to clear the zone, the Stars' first PK unit had to stay on the ice for the duration of the penalty and were visibly exhausted by the end.

Laxdal noted, "In the third period, we knew we were going to get some penalty kills. [San Antonio] took over the game a little bit, but we managed back the last ten."

Both teams earned equal zone time in the overtime period, which featured several impressive defensive plays that ultimately took the game to a shootout. San Antonio scored two out of three of their opportunities to put it away.

Texas plays San Antonio again tomorrow night in Cedar Park, the second game of their three-in-three weekend.

Tonight's lines:
McKenzie-Hintz-Gurianov
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Dries-Dowling-Flynn
French-Markison-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Elie (call-up)

Tonight's attendance was 4,442.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - October 20 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
3-1-0-0, 6 pts, 0.750
#1 Pacific Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
2-1-0-0, 4 pts, 0.667
#3 Pacific Division
October 20th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

I can't believe I'm going to jinx it by saying this, but... is this the year Texas and San Antonio are good at the same time? Not just make the playoffs good, but really good?

In eight years, the Texas Stars have made the playoffs six times. In that same time frame, San Antonio has only made it twice, with one of those years being the year Texas missed in 11-12. The Rampage also made it in 14-15, but Texas and San Antonio were both lower seeds and bounced in the first round.

The dream, of course, is that Texas and San Antonio both knock out their first round opponents and get to play a seven-game series in the second round to win the division.

That, however, is months away. But we can dream.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
As far as tonight's matchup, the game starts a 3-in-3 set for the two teams. The Stars didn't play a single one of these last year, but have the good fortune to get this one out of the way early and on their home turf for 2/3.

For San Antonio, the partnership with Colorado and St. Louis has yielded early fruit. In addition to expected players like Andrew Agozzino (2-4=6, 3 GP) and Rocco Grimaldi (1-1=2, 3 GP), Blues skaters like D Jordan Schmaltz (1-3-=4, 3 GP) have been added. Samuel Blais, another player who can make a difference in the AHL, was recalled to St. Louis after opening this season with three goals in two games. Another name to watch out for is Brendan Ranford. The former Star was signed to an AHL deal by San Antonio in the offseason.

This weekend, Texas will surely see all four goaltenders between the two teams. Spencer Martin (2-0, 1.50, .919) is the undoubted #1 for San Antonio just as Mike Mckenna is for Texas. Ville Husso, Martin's backup, has seen game action, allowing five goals in San Antonio's lone loss on the season. Landon Bow, Texas's backup, has not seen action yet. This weekend will surely bring his debut.

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

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, October 14, 2017

Texas Stars' Streak Halted with 5-1 Loss in San Diego

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
A three-goal second period for the home team downed the Texas Stars this evening in San Diego. From start to finish, it was San Diego's game overall though. The Gulls opened the scoring early in the first and never trailed. Jason Dickinson got the Stars' only goal of the game late in the first period to tie things at one.

Early in the second, Steve Oleksy, former Steelhead defenseman, netted the eventual game winner. The Stars would also be pierced by a shorthanded marker and a power play goal in the contest.

Mike McKenna took his first loss of the season, stopping just 24 of 29 shots against him. San Diego's defense tightened up as Texas only managed 20 shots on Kevin Boyle, who stopped 19 of those for the win.

Of note, Sheldon Dries took the Stars' first faceoff violation penalty of the season, a more strictly enforced penalty this year at the NHL level, which has caused some level of consternation.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Bystrom, Rallo, Fyten, Dowling (scratch)
Elie (call up)

Max French played his first game of the year tonight.

Tonight's attendance was 7,109.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - October 14 2017

Texas Stars Recall Max French from Idaho Steelheads

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have recalled forward Max French from the Idaho Steelheads. French was one of the last cuts from training camp and made his pro debut last night in Idaho's 4-2 in over Norfolk.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Saturday the team has recalled rookie forward Max French from their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

French, 25, began the year in training camp with the Stars before making his pro debut Friday night with the Steelheads in their 4-2 win over the Norfolk Admirals. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward signed an AHL contract with Texas on July 12, 2017 after wrapping up a four-year career at Bentley University.

Texas closes out their weekend set against the San Diego Gulls tonight at 9 p.m. CST.

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Diego Gulls

Texas Stars
3-0-0-0, 6 pts, 1.000
#1 Pacific Division
atSan Diego Gulls
1-1-0-0, 2 pts, 0.500
#2 Pacific Division
October 14th at 9:00 PM
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego, CA

With last night's win, Texas now sits in rarefied air. At 3-0, the Stars are one of only five remaining undefeated teams in the AHL after a week of play. The others are all in other divisions: Providence, Laval, Rockford and Milwaukee. Among those, only Laval has played three games like the Stars.

So what's working?

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
While the team has definitely had issues prevented power play goals, it's very clear they can score them. Well, it's clear that they can score, full stop. Among teams with more than one game played, only Laval has scored more than the Stars this season so far (5.67 G/GP vs. 5.00).

Texas has a good shooting percentage at the moment (17%) and a poorer than desired save percentage. The team has to assume that the shooting percentage will dip, so the save percentage needs to increase to compensate for not scoring as many goals. Look for whether Texas can get another one-goal-against performance tonight.

Also, watch out for who starts in net. Mike McKenna has started all three games so far and Landon Bow has to figure in at some point. Is tonight that point?

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Texas Extends Season-Opening Win Streak to Three with 3-1 Win at San Diego

(Credit: Vince Rappleyea/San Diego Gulls)
In the first of many games that finished after this author's bedtime, the Stars defeated the San Diego Gulls Friday night to roll their season-opening streak to three games. They are in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with the win. The game was also San Diego's home opener, a sellout of 12,920.

The Stars opened the scoring with Roope Hintz collecting his second of the season off a loose puck scramble between the circles. On the power play later in the first, Travis Morin fed Curtis McKenzie for his first of the year to make it 2-0. That would be all the scoring Texas would need in the contest.

Mike McKenna locked things down with a 27 save performance. Following last week's five-goal outings, Texas and McKenna alike have to be feeling more confident in the team's defense.

Austin Ortega would net a power play goal in the third to make it close, but Matt Mangene found the empty net with eight seconds left to ice the game at 3-1.

These two teams face off again tomorrow night in San Diego.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Regner, McNeill, Markison (scratch)
Elie (call up)

Austin Fyten and Greg Rallo both played their first game of the year tonight.

Tonight's attendance was 12,920.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Diego - October 13 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Diego Gulls

Texas Stars
2-0-0-0, 4 pts, 1.000
#2 Pacific Division
atSan Diego Gulls
1-0-0-0, 2 pts, 1.000
#3 Pacific Division
October 13th at 9:00 PM
Valley View Casino Center, San Diego, CA

Texas rolls into southern California looking to continue their winning ways but also to win the right way this weekend. Last weekend's games were fun for the fans, but as Coach Laxdal noted, not much fun for a defensively minded coaching staff. Allowing ten goals in the first two games but still getting the win speaks to the power of the team offense.

There isn't much tale of the tape for either team as San Diego has played just one game so far. It was a 7-6 win, so perhaps there are some defensive items to focus on for the Gulls as well. LW Kevin Roy had a three-point night with two goals. He scored his first pro goal against Texas last year around this time. Mitch Hults had a goal and one assist. Forward Spencer Abbott didn't have any points, but you have to imagine he's good for a few against the Stars. His time with the Marlies against the Stars was always deadly for the Texas goals against.

(Credit: Texas Stars)

Kevin Boyle mans the net for the Gulls, at least he did in their first and only game. Leland Irving is your other masked man in San Diego. The long-time AHL journeyman was traded within the AHL this week, heading from Lehigh Valley to the Gulls.

Speaking of goaltenders, one thing to watch for Texas is when the team deploys Landon Bow. Mike McKenna is a great goalie at the AHL level, but he can't play all 76 games. The early schedule is conducive to having him play a heavy load since there are so many breaks. However, the team needs to figure out what they have with Bow sooner rather than later.

Stars injury/call up report:
Bodnarchuk (upper body)
Elie (call up)

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Colorado Eagles Set to Join Texas Stars' Division, or Are They?

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have a new foe in the AHL coming next season. In case you missed it, earlier this week the league announced that the Colorado Eagles will be moving up from the ECHL into the AHL, matching the 31 teams in the NHL.

The Colorado Eagles will be affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche starting next season. That will end the short-lived saga of the St. Louis Blues multiple assignment homes for their AHL players.

Texas plays in the Pacific Division this year and now the question exists of whether they will still play there next season. Further, the question also should be asked of how many games the Eagles will play in the AHL.

If you assume Colorado plays only 68 games as their fellow newcomers to the league have done, then you can start to see the argument for a Pacific Division that consists only of teams playing 68 games. That division would be comprised of seven teams:
  • Bakersfield
  • Colorado
  • Ontario
  • San Diego
  • San Jose
  • Stockton
  • Tucson
So where does that leave the Texas Stars?

Well, for better or worse, the Stars are a package deal with the Rampage. Unless Colorado gets added to the Central Division (balancing at eight each), there will be a division with nine teams.

Nine teams!

OK, maybe that doesn't make sense. Ideally, we'd be looking at 8-8-8-7 alignment. The Central Division is pretty tightly clustered aside from Manitoba and Cleveland. Here's my proposal.

Atlantic Division (8 teams, no changes)
Charlotte
Providence
Lehigh Valley
Hartford
Bridgeport
Springfield
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Hershey

North Division (8 teams, adding Cleveland)
Laval
Rochester
Toronto
Binghamton
Syracuse
Utica
Belleville
Cleveland

Central Division (8 teams, adding Texas and San Antonio)
Rockford
Milwaukee
Manitoba
Grand Rapids
Chicago
Iowa
Texas
San Antonio


Pacific Division (7 teams, only playing 68 games; add Colorado)
San Jose
San Diego
Colorado
Ontario
Bakersfield
Stockton
Tucson

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dallas Stars Add Speed, Recall F Remi Elie

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Dallas recalled forward Remi Elie early this morning, adding speed to their lineup ahead of tonight's game against Detroit. They were able to pull Elie up to the NHL after Adam Cracknell was claimed off waivers by the New York Rangers.

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

Elie, 22, has registered one goal (1-0=1) on six shots to go along with a +3 plus/minus rating in two games for Texas this season. In 2016-17, he appeared in 18 games for Dallas recording seven points (1-6=7) and a +5 plus/minus rating. He also posted 28 points (9-19=28) in 53 regular-season games last season with Texas.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound native of Cornwall, Ontario was originally selected by Dallas in the second round (40th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Texas Stars Assign Chris Martenet to the ECHL; Dallas Seeking a Forward Recall?

Martenet (Credit: Texas Stars)
Defender Chris Martenet, who missed all of training camp and the preseason, has been assigned to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this morning. He missed time suffering from mononucleosis. It's not clear what his timeline is to rejoin practices and games. Martenet was slated for the ECHL from the outside by my estimation, so this is not unexpected.

Martin Hanzal's absence from the second half of last night's game in Dallas might necessitate a forward recall from Texas. My bet, if it happens, is Jason Dickinson. The center had three goals on the weekend, including the winner last night.

Also worth watching: Dallas placed Adam Cracknell on waivers this morning. We won't know if he clearsuntil 11 AM CST on Monday. If so, it's not clear if he would be assigned.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Texas Stars Tame Chicago Wolves in OT, 6-5

(Credit: Texas Stars)
With a copy-paste scoring line from last night, Texas notched a 6-5 OT win over the visiting Wolves this evening in Cedar Park, vaulting their record to 2-0. Jason Dickinson was the overtime hero, scoring his second of the night with 17.7 seconds left in the extra frame to seal the deal.

"All I was thinking was trying to keep [Shea] Theodore off my back," said Dickinson, who scored five points on the weekend. "He's fast, and I was tired. I was thinking if I can keep him off the puck and get a shot off, I'd give myself a chance."

Dickinson's chance capped a comeback win for the Stars, who led 4-2 as the third period started but gave up three straight to find themselves down 5-4 late in the third period.

"That's a highly skilled team, and you have to give them a lot of credit. It's no surprise the score is that high. And it's not like the goalies played bad. McKenna made some great saves."

Matt Mangene tied things up to ensure the overtime period. The defense activated tonight for the squad with Gavin Bayreuther and Mangene scoring on the night.

"It was an incredible game to watch from the fan standpoint," said Coach Laxdal. "Pretty tough game to watch if you're a defensive minded coach. It's two wins for us and we've got a week to work on what we need to work on. It was a good weekend to watch hockey."

Chicago opened the scoring with surely the best player on their roster netting his second of the weekend. Shea Theodore found twine from the point on the power play. It was one of three penalties Texas took in the period, giving an uneven start to the game for the Stars. They made up for it with a power play goal of their own, a 5-on-3 tally. Gavin Bayreuther snuck down low to roof a puck that slid off the stick of Curtis McKenzie as he tried his usual in-tight rotation play on the post.
(Credit: Texas Stars)

"That's kinda part of the play I don't want to spoil too much," said Bayreuther when asked if it was a designed play. "The puck popped out to my stick, and I was lucky enough to put it home."

The Stars pushed the pace in the second, earning their first lead of the night with Jason Dickinson's second of the season. Coach Laxdal called it the Stars' best period of the weekend. The goal was a bizarre play wherein Cole Ully just threw the puck on net, and Dickinson batted it out of midair. The bounce seemed to fluster Oscar Dansk, who fell flat on his back and allowed the puck over the line.

Shea Theodore would strike again on the power play, another point shot as well. His third goal of the weekend tied things at two. Texas answered right back with two pretty scoring plays. Travis Morin went first, completing a passing play from Dickinson to Ully to Morin, backhanded, and over Dansk. Mark McNeill potted his first of the season off the pass from Gavin Bayreuther, who was patrolling down low on the half-wall. Laxdal commented again on the play of the fourth line, which added energy all throughout the game.

"When you're up 4-2, you know you'll get a push," noted Laxdal, and push the Wolves did. After a breakdown by Texas to allow the score to slip to 4-3 off a backdoor tap-in, Chicago netted two more in 90 seconds and the script was flipped to a 5-4 Chicago lead. Laxdal contemplated the timeout, "I decided to let the guys play through it. We had enough time on the clock. I knew the game was being televised so we'd have a 3-4 minute break coming, so we used that."

Dickinson added, "I think our whole team did a great job, nobody panicked. We weren't worried at all." The aforementioned Mangene goal tied things up, as he snuck down the right side and wired the puck far side through traffic for the 5-5 tie.

Overtime was no walk in the park as Brent Regner took a high-sticking minor to give a power play to the Wolves. Mike McKenna came up with five saves in the OT period, most of them on that PP, and was the best player on the ice in the extra frame.

Jason Dickinson ended it all in the last minute. With Theodore on his back, Dickinson had two-thirds of the ice to decide what to do. "There's two guys who can fly," said Laxdal. "Theodore made an effort to get back there. Dickinson got great position on the chance and buried it."

The Stars acknowledge there are gaps right now. Bayreuther noted, "A lot of the veterans say the first couple of games are a scramble as guys are trying to find their game and team play."

Texas has a week to patch up their defensive deficiencies. They'll next be in action on the road against San Diego next Friday.

Tonight's lines:
Flynn-Dowling-Gurianov
McKenzie-Hintz-Elie
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Laberge-Dries-McNeill

Heatherington-Regner
Bayreuther-Mangene
Bystrom-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, Fyten, Markison (scratch)
Bodnarchuk (upper body)
Martenet (mononucleosis)

Tonight's attendance was 5,392.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - October 6 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
1-0-0-0, 2 pts, 1.000
#- Pacific Division
v.Chicago Wolves
0-1-0-0, 0 pts, 0.000
#- Central Division
October 7th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Texas comes right back at it tonight with the same opponent. Last night's game looked promising at 6-3 but finished worrisome at 6-5. It's clear the scoring is there, but Chicago is a deep club, too. Texas looked overmatched in the defensive zone at times. However, it was game 1 of a 76 game schedule.

"We’ve got to take it to them early and push the pace," said Jason Dickinson. "It’s going to be a matter of us playing our game and not trying to defend theirs."

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Coach Laxdal noted that the team allowed goal under pressure and had a number of failed clears that gave the Wolves life on otherwise dead plays. "We didn’t handle the pressure great and that’s when you’re trying to find how a young team will react."

Asked about getting those clears, Sheldon Dries noted, "That’s on us. We have pucks on our sticks, we need to bear down and get them out. So we’ll learn from this and work on it for next game."

Mike McKenna is expected in net for the Stars again. He faced 33 shots last night and got the win. Another item to watch tonight will be the choice of veteran scratches. Last night those were Greg Rallo and Mark McNeill.

Stars injury/call up report:
Martenet (mononucleosis)

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fourth Line Comes Up Big in Texas Stars' Season Opening Win

Texas fourth line celebrates goal
Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars
The Texas Stars continued their home opener winning streak with a high event, up-tempo affair against the Chicago Wolves. Chicago is teeming with top-end talent, and it showed tonight as NHL-tested players Alex Tuch, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Shea Theodore all scored to remain competitive in the game when Texas wanted to pull away. It showed in the 6-5 final score.

“[Chicago has] about 6 lines over there,” Coach Laxdal said, pointing to the Wolves’ deep roster. “We managed the game very well to get it to 6-3 and then we got a little nervous with some puck play. We didn’t handle the pressure great and that’s when you’re trying to find how a young team will react.”

Up 6-3, the Stars let the Wolves back in the game a bit. “They took it to us the last ten, but our guys did a good job hanging in there. I liked the start to our game and the way we rolled 4 lines.”

As Laxdal mentioned, the Stars had balanced scoring throughout as all four forward groups recorded a tally. Further, Roope Hintz and Sheldon Dries both scored their first goals for the Texas Stars. Dries, who centered the outstanding fourth line, made a lot of positive noise in this game and proved Coach Laxdal’s confidence in him. Not only did he score, the rookie forward netted an assist, saw time on the penalty kill and mixed it up in a couple of post-whistle tussles, which electrified the crowd.

“We’ve got to be the energy line,” said Dries. “We gotta be hard on forechecks, that’s gotta be our role and our mandate from here going forward. We feed off of each other very well, we definitely have something to prove here having two rookies on the line. The chemistry will come along with more games, but it was a great start tonight.”

Mike McKenna got the start and stopped 28 of 33 shots. Former Star Maxime Lagace took the loss for Chicago with 21 saves on 27 shots.

Jason Dickinson got the scoring started, receiving a pass in the neutral zone and sneaking in behind the two Chicago defenseman. His first attempt was rejected by Lagace, but the versatile forward cleaned up the rebound. “I think in the first period we were really able to take it to them,” said Dickinson. “I think they started to tighten up the neutral zone and take away a little bit of our space and time so it was a little bit harder to get the speed going, but we tried to push the pace as much as we could.”

Chicago would answer a minute later with a power play goal by Alex Tuch. The Vegas expansion draft pick stood in front of the net and deflected a point shot. Texas followed up a couple minutes when Justin Dowling dug the puck out of the back of the net and centered it to Brian Flynn in the slot.

Roope Hintz looked every bit the Stars’ elite prospect. He scored his first North American goal on Lagace’s glove side with a nasty back hander before the end of the first period.

The Stars would open the second period with a statement when Samuel Laberge punched the helmet off of Keegan Kolesar during an early period scrape. Chicago’s Alex Tuch was not done scoring. The former Minnesota Wild forward turned in a four-point night and a hat trick. He received a behind the net pass for a backhand goal in which McKenna had no time to recover.

This was the first hat trick scored against Texas since February 28, 2017 against the Bakersfield Condors. The Stars had trouble clearing their the defensive zone for most of the night. Laxdal agreed, “If you look at the PK, we had about five clearing attempts we didn’t get out and that fueled the intensity and confidence of their power play. We have to be harder on pucks all over the ice; we were swinging a little bit.”

Teemu Pulkkinnen opened the third period with a power play goal. Markison scored halfway through the third period to put the Stars up by two, and Remi Elie would quickly enlarge the lead to 6-3 with a back hander.

Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore scored back-to-back goals late in the third to make Texas fans extremely nervous. The Stars would put the game away by drawing a high sticking double minor penalty and bore down for the final minutes of the game when Chicago launched a bevy of quality shots.

“Our defense wasn’t great under pressure, and we turned some pucks over under pressure. We’ve got some work to do, but it’s a good win.”

Texas faces Chicago again tomorrow night.

Tonight's lines:
Flynn-Dowling-Gurianov
McKenzie-Hintz-Elie
Dickinson-Morin-Ully
Markison-Dries-Laberge

Heatherington-Regner
Mangene-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Hansson

McKenna

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Rallo, McNeill, Fyten, Bystrom (scratch)
Martenet (mononucleosis)

Tonight's attendance was 4,852.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - October 6 2017

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts, --
#- Pacific Division
v.Chicago Wolves
0-0-0-0, 0 pts, --
#- Central Division
October 6th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Welcome back for a ninth year of Texas Stars hockey. After missing the playoffs for just the second time in eight years, the Stars re-tooled and look to start a Calder Cup campaign with a deep and fast roster filling with exciting prospects and grizzled veterans.

First of all, Texas did make a decision on the backup goalie yesterday afternoon, sending Philippe Desrosiers to the ECHL. Mike McKenna will start tonight, backed up by Landon Bow.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Another decision that Texas will make for tonight will be who is scratched among the eight veterans. Texas has five skaters with more than 320 games and three with more than 260 but fewer than 320. They can only play six of those total and one of them must be from the 260-320 group, often called 'exempt veterans'. The exempt veteran group consists of Mark McNeill, Justin Dowling and this week's late addition, Curtis McKenzie. The rest of the crew is Travis Morin, Greg Rallo, Brian Flynn, Brent Regner and Andrew Bodnarchuk. Coach Laxdal looks to be leaning on playing the defensemen Regner and Bodnarchuk more consistently than the forwards, so the decision comes up front. I think Curtis McKenzie is a lock, as is Brian Flynn. Justin Dowling makes sense, too. The final spot is a toss-up for me. We will see what Laxdal chooses.

On the other side of the ice, the Chicago Wolves come in having had a tumultuous and interesting summer. Last year, the Wolves were solely affiliated with the St. Louis Blues. As always, they also stocked their roster with talented AHL players, bank rolled by the independent ownership of the Chicago club. This season, Chicago is affiliated with the newly-formed Vegas Golden Knights. St. Louis was left holding the bag and is without a primary affiliate this season. The Blues are spreading their players between Chicago and San Antonio, who will become the affiliate next season. In addition, Chicago always has their own aforementioned independent players. Long story short, it's a stacked roster. Some of the highlights include Shea Theodore and Teemu Pulkkinen, among others.

However, having multiple NHL teams sending you players has a downside. The Wolves, as of Thursday afternoon, had four goalies on the roster, including former Star Maxime Lagace. Making those tough decisions is part of the issue. Talking with some hockey ops people who had experience with this sort of situation, the common thought here is that teams two affiliate come out of the gate fast but get bogged down as both NHL teams have to make callups and there aren't enough AHL level players to backfill from the ECHL.

Texas is facing Chicago in that 'out of the gate fast' moment, so the outcome of this weekend's series may not indicate either team's long term future. Either way, there's a lot to look at here.

Stars injury/call up report:
Martenet (mononucleosis)

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Landon Bow Wins Backup Job as Texas Stars Announce Opening Roster

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced their opening night roster this afternoon. Most notably, the team showed their hand on which goalie will backup Mike McKenna.

Undrafted free agent signee Landon Bow will backup McKenna on opening night. Philippe Desrosiers has been assigned to Idaho. However, Desrosiers will likely find himself in Austin pretty soon. Coach Laxdal is looking to 'platoon' the two, switching them out to keep a good mixture of AHL practice/backup time and ECHL game time in their diets.

Here is the full roster by position:

Goalies: Mike McKenna, Landon Bow

Defensemen: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Dillon Heatherington, Matt Mangene, Gavin Bayreuther, Chris Martenet, Ludwig Bystrom, Brent Regner, Niklas Hansson

Forwards: Remi Elie, Justin Dowling, Jason Dickinson, Colin Markison, Austin Fyten, Curtis McKenzie, Sheldon Dries, Roope Hintz, Cole Ully, Travis Morin, Denis Gurianov, Greg Rallo, Brian Flynn, Mark McNeill, Samuel Laberge


Idaho Steelheads Following Dallas's Mantra: Speed and Depth

Max French (Credit: Texas Stars)
The Idaho Steelheads hit the ice this weekend for two preseason games against Utah. Some of the players in camp with Idaho will go a full month from the start of hockey related activities in Traverse City to playing their first regular season game next weekend. The same is true for head coach Neil Graham. He coached in Traverse and came to Texas camp last week before kicking off his own camp in Boise earlier this week.

He's extremely excited about the system's overall improvements and his players in Boise as well. "Dallas has done a tremendous job building the depth, adding to their roster and in turn we should see some guys in Idaho. That benefits all three teams."

Over the summer, I spoke with coach Graham and he emphasized wanting to improve speed and depth at the ECHL level. That turned into a mantra across the organization and has been noted by all who have watched Dallas and Texas camps this preseason. "A big part of the identity of this organization all levels is the pace, tempo and speed we want to play at. We want to adjust our practices so that we play with that speed. The only way to execute that in games is to practice that way."

Coaching changes in Dallas have trickled down a little bit to Idaho as some terminology has shifted. Graham got a chance to talk with Ken Hitchcock, the new Dallas Stars head coach, in Traverse City. In the end, the systems are basically the same across all three teams.

Graham recruited a team that hits on the speed and depth points but is also 'harder to play against,' a bit of an unquantifiable quality. "Something important was that we wanted to improve our speed, depth and wanted to be tougher to play against. We'll be grittier, harder on pucks, under sticks, winning battles. We'll also have a speed element that will be more dynamic than the last two years."

Another important element to this year's roster for Idaho is its completeness at the start of the season. Barring injuries in the next week, the Steelheads will have a significantly more 'complete' roster than last year when the team was decimated by injuries in Dallas and Texas that strapped the depth of the squad. Recent assignments such as Max French and Shane Hanna stayed a long time in Texas camp and could be big difference makers at the ECHL level.

"We have a roster in mind, and some things change based on affiliate players. If we don't see someone, it means they've earned a spot at the next level and you tip your hat to those guys. I think we'll see a good chunk of our guys."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Texas Stars Announce Small Round of Cuts

Max French
(Credit: Texas Stars)
Texas assigned forward Max French and defenseman Shane Hanna to the ECHL this afternoon. The Steelheads are in camp now with their first preseason game slated for Friday. While there isn't a roster limit in the AHL, Texas still has more cuts to make in order to put themselves closer to the usual 23-24 player roster construction.

The big question that still lingers is which of Landon Bow or Philippe Desrosiers will win the backup job out of camp. No indication has been given either way, and the two had identical stats in the preseason, each allowing two goals on eight shots in 30 minutes of work.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Notes from Media Day: Laxdal Managing Vets, Happy for Nemeth

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Media day was today at H-E-B Center, bringing out TV cameras and the usual suspects to chat about the upcoming season. Coach Laxdal, Travis Morin and Jason Dickinson all made appearances.

"We feel like we have the team to win a championship," said Derek Laxdal. "It's a great group of guys, and there's a vibe in the dressing room, the vibe you need to have to be a playoff team."

The two keywords for the entire team are speed and depth. The team is fast, as many may have noticed on Saturday at the preseason game. "Team speed is huge in the game, and I haven't seen a team this fast since my second year here and this team is much faster."

The addition of Curtis McKenzie added to the already significant depth on the team. Jason Dickinson is bullish on the team's ability to compete in the league, "We've got 5 very capable lines right now. Anyone on our team would make any other team in the league. If anyone goes down, we've got someone who can step in."

Laxdal called it the best training camp he's had while in the AHL.

A few other notes here:

  • Coach Laxdal is very aware and ready for the veteran issue. With eight guys in the veteran group, there will be two scratches each night. The vets met Tuesday morning to discuss the issues and the message was that 'these things have a way of working themselves out.'
  • The team overall seems very settled down by the presence of Mike McKenna. Morin noted, "Nothing against the goalies we've had but they've been young guys, inexperienced. It's nice to have a presence back there who's been through, played at all levels, won at all levels."
  • Landon Bow and Philippe Desrosiers will platoon back and forth to Idaho in all likelihood, regardless of who wins the job out of camp.
  • Roope Hintz is ready for the North American game. Jason Dickinson said Hintz has skipped the entire 'finding his game' period of the transition. He's "ready to go."
  • Coach Laxdal plans to go with three alternate captains to start the season and figure out the captaincy at that point, if at all.
  • Laxdal also said he was happy for Patrik Nemeth, who was claimed off waivers today. "We're really happy for Nemeth. He's been a great citizen for the organization and gets a second chance with Colorado."
The season starts Friday at home against Chicago.

Curtis McKenzie Clears Waivers, Expected in Texas; Patrik Nemeth Claimed by Colorado

Curtis McKenzie (Credit: Texas Stars)
Patrik Nemeth is no longer a Star. The Colorado Avalanche claimed the defenseman this morning off waivers. He instantly becomes one of their top 6 forwards and has a great chance to stay there all year. On the other side of things, Curtis McKenzie cleared waivers and is expected to be assigned to the Texas Stars imminently.

Patrik Nemeth joined the Texas Stars in 2012-13, playing half a season worth of games due to injury. In 2013-14, he anchored a blue line that drove Texas to the Calder Cup. As a feather in his cap, Nemeth scored the Cup-clinching goal in overitme of Game 5. Over the next three season, he played 100 NHL games and a smattering of AHL games, hampered by both injury and relegation to the press box.

It's good for Nemeth to get a chance in the NHL somewhere else. The well-documented defensive logjam in Dallas was hurting his career, and he gets a fresh start in Colorado now.

Curtis McKenzie came to the Texas Stars as a rookie in 2013-14 after a career at Miami of Ohio. He was a 6th round pick for the Stars and wasn't pegged to be an offensive powerhouse. At the AHL level, those expectations were definitely wrong. McKenzie earned the Rookie of the Year award as he scored 27 goals and 38 assists, working the wing on a top line that was a catalyst in helping Texas win the Calder that year. McKenzie played a mixture of AHL and NHL time in the next two years and settled into solely NHL work last season. With new additions and rising prospects, McKenzie now finds himself in Texas where he will be a top six forward on day one and a threat on the power play as well.

As discussed yesterday, McKenzie's addition exacerbates an already present veteran issue. Texas has eight veterans and can only play six of them each night.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dallas Assigns Three, Places McKenzie and Nemeth on Waivers; Veteran Issues Incoming

Credit: Texas Stars
The Dallas Stars announced a few moves today that drastically improved the Texas Stars roster. First, Dallas assigned forwards Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson and Remi Elie to the Texas Stars. All three were expected to play with the Texas Stars to open this season. The move essentially creates a new top-line from nothing.

Secondly, Dallas placed Curtis McKenzie and Patrik Nemeth on waivers with the intention of assigning them to Texas if they clear. We won't know that until 11 AM Tuesday. If they both clear, Texas will become a favorite in the West instantly. Curtis McKenzie won the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award and Patrik Nemeth is a dominant defender at this level.

The assignments would create a knock-on effect downstream, putting a plethora of skaters in Boise. Here are Saturday's lines with the five additions from today (bolded) and subtractions from yesterday.

Dickinson-Hintz-Elie
McKenzie-Morin-McNeill
Flynn-Dowling-Gurianov
Dries-Laberge-French
Ully-Markison-Fyten
Rallo

Nemeth-Bayreuther
Bodnarchuk-Mangene
Bystrom-Hansson
Heatherington-Regner

The AHL does not have a roster limit, but having said that, it's unlikely that Texas will hold on to all of these players. Scott White looks to need to clear three forwards and a defenseman. My bet is that forwards Laberge, French, and Markison head to the ECHL. The defenseman conversation is a lot trickier. Hansson is the most likely to go, if for no other reason than he is a rookie and still on his entry-level contract. Players not on ELCs have a say in whether they can be assigned to the ECHL.

Finally, there is now a vet problem. Coach Laxdal was going to be managing things closely before, but Curtis McKenzie is now a vet in the lineup as well. You get one player between 260-320 games, which McNeill, McKenzie or Dowling could count as, and only five players more with 320 games or more of experience. That excludes goalies. Texas has Morin, Flynn, Rallo, Bodnarchuk, and Regner all with more than 320 games. Two of those eight players will have to be scratched each night to comply. Texas previously ran into this problem in 2013-14. Francis Wathier was traded to the Milwaukee Admirals for Kevin Henderson, who was not a veteran, to alleviate the recurring problem.

Texas Stars Goalie Coach Jim Bedard Ready to Develop Next Dallas Stars #1 Goalie

Bedard talks with Desrosiers during camp
(Credit: Texas Stars)
For eight years, Texas had just two coaches on staff in Cedar Park: head coach and assistant. As the league continues to become more advanced, so too has the coaching staff with the addition of Jim Bedard as the organization's goalie coach focused on the minor leagues and based in Austin.

Bedard comes to the organization with a boatload of experience in Detroit, having been the goalie coach there for the entire system from 2002-2016. Last season, he was in OHL Windsor. He had a playing career that included 73 NHL games in the late 70s but mostly focused on the minors and international play, including stints with the Hershey Bears and Rochester Americans. Now he is focused on developing the next generation of Dallas Stars goalie talent from the AHL and ECHL all the way to prospects in college and major junior.

"I'd never seen these guys before but I read up on them," said Bedard of Landon Bow and Philippe Desrosiers, currently battling for the backup spot in Texas. "I had people tell me about their strengths and weaknesses, but until I see them on the ice and see them eye ball to eye ball, you've yet to see what you're working with."

Interestingly, he notes that Bow and Desrosiers have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Bow is a big guy who needs to work on his speed, footwork and recovery. Desrosiers is quick but doesn't have the positioning discipline that Bow has.

"What we try to do is just practice hard every day. Come early; stay late. Every day we work on fundamentals of power skating. When you work hard every day, your talent comes out. Obviously, these guys passed a lot of tests to get them to this point, but to get to that next level they have to put up good numbers and have good performances. At the end of it all, they hope they can advance their carers."

One of the two will be heading to Boise this week though, so the fraternal battle lines have been drawn.

"In this case, it's a situation where we don't want to have guys in the press box. We want these guys playing. And it's a situation where you don't have a crystal ball to see who will be injured or who won't play well. We let the players decide. Let's have a good game today, and let tomorrow take care of itself."

Aside from developing Bow and Desrosiers, Bedard is also concentrating on making sure that Mike McKenna is ready in case of callup to Dallas. "The season is a real grind now with the bye week. The games are really condensed, so it's hard to stay healthy."

Bedard will make several trips to Boise this season in addition to traveling a bit to visit other drafted goalies the college and major junior. In a few weeks, he'll be on the road to Boston, watching Jake Oettinger take on Minnesota State. While NHL teams cannot do anything on-ice with college players in season, Bedard will chat with Oettinger after the game. He notes that bigger guys like Oettinger often do well in college since they get a longer timeline to develop and come out into the professional ranks as 22 year-olds instead of 20 year olds, as they would in major junior.

Bedard, who is Canadian, has a place in Cedar Park and will make it his base of operations regardless of his travels, giving Texas a vital piece of the puzzle in developing the next #1 goaltender for the Dallas Stars.

Goaltending preview
Based on this weekend's performances, it's clear that Mike McKenna is your undisputed #1 goalie right now. His 19-save shutout effort on Saturday compared quite favorably to the identical stat line of 6-for-8 that Bow and Desroisers each had on Friday. However, McKenna's status comes as no surprise. As the week rolls on, we'll learn which of these two goalies will head to the ECHL. Idaho opens camp today with preseason dates this weekend. Idaho does not play its first game until October 13th.