Friday, July 27, 2018

To Surprise of No One, Rampage and Stars Will Play Pair of Preseason Games

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Stop me if you've heard this one. Texas and the San Antonio Rampage will play a home-and-home series as their preseason slate. Games will be September 28th and 29th with the first game in San Antonio. Note that the Saturday game at Cedar Park will start at 5 PM.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Friday the team will play a preseason home-and-home series against their in-state rival, the San Antonio Rampage, prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

Texas will visit San Antonio on Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CT at AT&T Center for their first exhibition matchup then the two teams come to H-E-B Center on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. CT to close out the home-and-home series in their final preseason tune-up.

Tickets for the Sept. 29 preseason game at H-E-B Center will go on sale at a later date.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Texas Stars Add Defenseman Nolan Gluchowski

The Texas Stars have added a rookie defenseman on an AHL deal this morning. Nolan Gluchowski comes to Texas from St. Lawrence University, where he played 133 games and was alternate captain last season. St. Lawrence has a pipeline to Texas over the past few years with alums Gavin Bayreuther, Eric Sweetman, Mike McKenna and Rich Peverley all around the team in the recent past.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday the team has signed rookie defenseman Nolan Gluchowski to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Gluchowski, 24, begins his professional career after a four-year stretch at St. Lawrence University from 2014-2018. The 6-foot, 196-pound blueliner appeared in 133 games in his career with the Saints and served as an alternate captain during his senior season. The Wixom, Mich. native recorded 71 points (16-55=71) in his time at St. Lawrence, including a career-high 20 points (2-18=20) in his final season.

Gluchowski also competed in the USHL for three seasons prior to college with the Tri-City Storm and Sioux Falls Stampede.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Texas Stars Re-Sign Forward Sam Laberge

In a move they announced with a single tweet on Twitter, the Texas Stars have re-signed forward Sam Laberge for the coming season. Laberge played 66 games with Texas in his rookie season.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Monday the team has signed forward Samuel Laberge for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Laberge, 21, appeared in 66 games for the Stars last season and tallied 15 points (7-8=15). The 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward also competed in 13 playoff games for Texas with a goal and two assists. His lone playoff goal was a double-overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stars’ opening round series against the Ontario Reign.

Prior to his rookie season, Laberge (luh-BERZH) spent four seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and recorded 120 points (55-65=120) in 166 career games. The Chateauguay, Quebec native was a member of Rimouski’s QMJHL championship team in 2014-15 and also played in four Memorial Cup games that season.

Minnesota State-Mankato Forward Brad McClure Joins Texas Stars

The Texas Stars continue to build the bench as rookie forward Brad McClure joined the club today. The Minnesota State-Mankato alum played 159 games across four seasons, earning 91 points and serving as team captain last season.

McClure is in very good company among the Texas Stars as a former Mankato forward. Travis Morin attended the school as well.

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 Brad McClure to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

McClure, 24, begins his professional career after completing a four-year career at the Minnesota State University-Mankato from 2014-2018. In 159 career games for the Mavericks, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound forward tallied 91 points (45-46=91) and served as the team’s captain during his senior season.

Prior to college, McClure also spent two seasons with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees with 126 points (69-57=126) in 111 career games, including an 80-point campaign in 58 games in 2013-14 (41-39=80).

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Texas Stars Add Rookie Forward Spencer Naas on an AHL Deal

The Texas Stars announced the signing of Spencer Naas to an AHL deal this afternoon. The rookie forward played 12 games with Cleveland on an ATO to close last season. Before that, he was an alternate captain for the UConn Huskies, notching 77 points in 143 career games.

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 Spencer Naas to an AHL contract for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Naas, 23, appeared in 12 games for the Cleveland Monsters last season after wrapping up a four-year career at the University of Connecticut from 2014-2018. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward tallied seven points (4-3=7) in his 12 AHL games with Cleveland.

Over four seasons in Connecticut, the St. Louis Park, Minn. native appeared in 143 career games, recorded 77 points (49-28=77) and served as alternate captain for the Huskies in his final two seasons. Naas set a career high with 24 points in his senior season at Connecticut and finished tied for the team lead with 12 goals in 2017-18.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dallas Re-Signs Dillon Heatherington to 1 Year Deal

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Defenseman Dillon Heatherington is in the plans for next year as the Dallas Stars inked the 23-year old to a one-year, two-way deal this afternoon.

Heatherington spent most of the season with Texas and was a mainstay on the blue line in the playoffs. Paired with Brent Regner, "Heater" was used some of the toughest situations of the postseason run. He now has two Finals runs on his resume with his win in Lake Erie in 2016 and this past season's run with Texas.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Dillon Heatherington to a one-year, two-way contract.

Heatherington, 23, split the 2017-18 campaign between Dallas and the Texas Stars (AHL). He appeared in six regular-season NHL games with Dallas, notching one point (0-1=1) and 26 penalty minutes. The blueliner made his NHL debut on Jan. 18 against Columbus, logging two penalty minutes. He also appeared in 55 regular-season games with Texas and registered 17 points (3-14=17) and 47 penalty minutes, while finishing third among team defensemen and seventh among all club skaters with a +6 plus/minus rating. Heatherington also skated in 21 games during the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs and tallied three assists (0-3=3) with 18 penalty minutes.

Heatherington has appeared in 181 regular-season AHL contests with Springfield, Lake Erie/Cleveland and Texas. Over his four AHL seasons, he has recorded 51 points (9-42=51), 148 penalty minutes and a +18 rating. The defenseman has also tallied six points (0-6=6) in 36 career Calder Cup Playoff games.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound native of Calgary, Alberta was originally selected by Columbus in the second round (50th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. He was acquired by Dallas via trade in exchange for Lauri Korpikoski on March 1, 2017.

Dallas Renews Affiliation with Idaho Steelheads for Two More Years

(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
The Idaho Steelheads will continue as the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars organization for the coming two years. There was no doubt the affiliation would continue next year with training camp in Boise in just a few months.

Idaho is a strong competitor in the ECHL, currently owning professional hockey's longest playoff streak at 21 straight seasons. Idaho has advanced to the Kelly Cup Final three times when affiliated with Dallas, winning twice. The last time they won was under the leadership of Derek Laxdal, now the Texas Stars head coach, in 2007.

Here's the release:
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club will renew its affiliation with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads through the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

The Steelheads have served as Dallas' ECHL affiliate since the 2005-06 season, and previous to that, during the 2003-04 campaign. Idaho has reached the Kelly Cup Finals three times as an affiliate of the Dallas Stars, winning the Kelly Cup twice (2004 and 2007). The club has also qualified for the postseason in each of the last 21 seasons, marking the longest active postseason streak in professional hockey. The Steelheads finished second in the Mountain Division and fourth in the Western Conference in 2017-18 with a record of 44-20-5-3, while also advancing to the second round of the postseason.

"We are thrilled to renew our affiliation with the Steelheads for the next two seasons," said Dallas Stars Assistant General Manager and Texas Stars General Manager Scott White. "The Steelheads organization, under the direction of Head Coach Neil Graham, continues to promote the type of developmental atmosphere we seek to maintain, and we couldn't be happier to extend our partnership with them."

The Stars will hold the team's 2018 Training Camp at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, ID., the home of the Steelheads. Camp will run from Sept. 14 - 16, and will mark the first time that the Stars will be holding their training camp in Idaho. The three-day training camp will culminate with a Victory Green vs. White Intrasquad Scrimmage on Sunday, Sept. 16.

The Texas Stars will continue to operate as Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dallas Stars Sign Philippe Desrosiers, Adam Mascherin

(Credit: Texas Stars)
As the week closes out, Dallas made a few moves involving once and future Texas Stars.

First of all, goalie Philippe Desrosiers was signed to a one-year, two-way deal. Desrosiers is coming off his entry level contract and was a restricted free agent. Dallas did qualify the young goalie, but he spent the entire year in the ECHL. Desrosiers will have to truly up his game this coming year as Colton Point is coming out of college and looks to already be ahead of him on the depth chart. Note that Desrosiers does have the option to refuse assignment to the ECHL now that he is not on an entry level contract.

Second, Jason Dickinson was signed to a one-year deal. There was no doubt that Dickinson would be signed, but the question was around the 'wayness' of the deal. The contract is a one-way, which means that he is unlikely to return to the Dallas Stars. Effectively, he has graduated to the NHL.

Third, Adam Mascherin has been inked to a three-year entry-level deal. He was originally drafted by the Panthers in 2016 but did not sign and reentered the 2018 draft. Dallas picked him up in the 4th round. Given that he is an older pick, he is immediately eligible for play in the AHL.

Finally, former Texas Star Devin Shore was also re-signed by Dallas on a two-year, one-way deal.

Greg Rallo Retires, Joins Milwaukee Coaching Staff

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Original Texas Star Greg Rallo has retired and heads off to the coaching ranks. He will join the coaching staff of Karl Taylor in Milwaukee.

Rallo has had three stints with the Texas Stars, reaching the Finals with the club in two of them. As an original Texas Star, Rallo was part of a great line with Aaron Gagnon and Francis Wathier during the regular season and played with Travis Morin often in the playoff run. He went to the Florida Panthers after a few years and got a chance at the NHL, playing 11 games for the Panther but spending most of his time with the San Antonio Rampage. Rallo rejoined Texas in 2014-15 and played for two years here before jumping to Europe. In the DEL, he suffered injury and was limited to 45 games.

He was a rare return from the European ranks when he signed with Texas in 2017. The veteran rule limited his play time in Texas and he did not play a single game in the Calder Cup run.

However, Rallo did act as a third coach for the team, working with the black aces in the secondary practices that would occur after the game group. This is where he picked up tons of hands-on coaching experience and clearly caught the eye of Karl Taylor, who added him to the staff in Milwaukee this week.

Rallo finishes his Texas Stars career with his name all over the leaderboard. He is tied for second place in goals scored with Colton Sceviour. He's seventh in assists, fourth in points and second in power play goals.

Texas will face Karl Taylor and Rallo eight times this coming season as the Stars join the Milwaukee Admirals' division.

On a personal note, I wish Rallo the best of luck in his future endeavors. He was one player who consistently said hello no matter the game outcome or his status in the lineup and recognized the constant presence 100 Degree Hockey has had at the rink since the beginning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Texas Stars Release Full Season Schedule, Including New Start Times

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas dropped their season schedule this afternoon along with the rest of the American Hockey League.

The Stars move to the Central Division this season, where every single team will play the same 76 games. All the Pacific teams will continue to play 68, including new addition Colorado. Bizarrely, the Eagles will not play Texas next season.

Also of note, Texas will shift all weekday home games forward half an hour, putting them at 7 PM, same as Saturday games. This was the schedule in the playoffs, and it worked well. There is a lone home game on Sunday this year in March, which will be played at 5 PM. Texas will have one day game in Chicago in January.

Texas will see each team in the Central eight times with the Pacific matchups ranging from zero (Colorado) to four each (Tucson). There are two 3-in-3s, and they come back to back in the season November 23-25 and November 30-December 2.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Wednesday their 76-game schedule for the upcoming 2018-19 season. The franchise will kick off its 10th anniversary season of play at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park with Opening Weekend on Friday, Oct. 5 against the Grand Rapids Griffins and Saturday, Oct. 6 against the Milwaukee Admirals.

The complete schedule and more information are available online at Single-game tickets for all 38 home games will go on sale at a later date this summer.

Prior to the season opener, the Stars will raise their Western Conference Championship banner after advancing to last season’s Calder Cup Finals. The 2018-19 campaign will conclude Saturday, April 14 against the San Antonio Rampage on Fan Appreciation Night. New this season, all Friday and Saturday home games will begin at 7 p.m. CT at H-E-B Center.

The Stars will move to the AHL’s Central Division this year to face the Rampage, Griffins, Admirals, Chicago Wolves, Iowa Wild, Manitoba Moose and Rockford IceHogs. The Stars will visit the IceHogs on Saturday, Oct. 13 for the first meeting between the two teams since Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals when Texas eliminated Rockford to advance to the Calder Cup Finals. The Stars open their season series against the Wild at home on Oct. 19 and 20. Their first matchup against the Wolves is at home on Oct. 26 and the Moose visit on Nov. 14 for their first game against the Stars.

A full promotional schedule of ticket specials and theme nights for home games this season will also be announced at a later date.

In total, the Stars play 27 of their 38 home games on Friday or Saturday. Eight games will be played on Wednesday, two on Thursday and one on Sunday. 13 different teams will visit H-E-B Center this season. The team’s most common opponent is San Antonio with 14 meetings between the two rivals. Of their 76 total games, 62 will be played within the Central Division for the Stars. The other 14 will be played against the AHL’s Pacific Division (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, Stockton Heat and Tucson Roadrunners). The one Western Conference team the Stars will not face this year is the expansion Colorado Eagles.

Texas will play six of its first nine games at home through October and wrap things up hosting four of their last five in April. March is the busiest month for the team with 15 scheduled games. The longest road trip of the season is a five-game, 10-day stretch along the west coast in January. Prior to that, the Stars play a five-game stretch to begin January for their longest homestand of the season at H-E-B Center, and the team will enjoy a 25-day period over December and January where they do not leave Central Texas. Only one three-in-three weekend is scheduled this year for Nov. 23, 24, 25 – all against San Antonio.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Texas Stars Add Forward James Phelan on AHL Deal

The Texas Stars announced another AHL deal today with forward James Phelan officially joining the fold. Phelan's signing was announced by his QMJHL team back in April, but the Texas Stars would not confirm the signing at that time.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday the team has signed rookie forward James Phelan for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Phelan (FEE-lan), 21, begins his pro career after spending the previous five years in the QMJHL. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward tallied 191 points (86-105=191) in 321 career games played between the Shawinigan Cataractres (2013-2016), Victoriaville Tigres (2016-17) and Moncton Wildcats (2017-18).

The Laval, Quebec native also competed in Development Camp with the Dallas Stars earlier this summer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Remi Elie Signs One-Year, One-Way Deal, Unlikely to Return to Texas

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Remi Elie was qualified by Dallas a few weeks back and has now agreed to terms on a one-way contract at $735,000 for the coming season. The contract structure makes it unlikely he will play with the Texas Stars again.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed left wing Remi Elie to a one-year, $735,000 contract.

Elie, 23, skated in 72 regular-season games for Dallas during the 2017-18 season, posting career-highs in points (6-8=14), goals (6), assists (8) and games played (72). He was tied for fifth among Stars forwards and shared seventh among all team skaters with 101 hits. The forward also appeared in four regular-season games for the Texas Stars (AHL), potting one goal (1-0=1). During the 2017-18 postseason, Elie tallied nine points (2-7=9) in 19 Calder Cup Playoff games, helping Texas reach the Calder Cup Final against the Toronto Marlies.

The forward has appeared in 90 career NHL games, all with Dallas, and has registered 21 points (7-14=21) with 26 penalty minutes. He has skated in 121 AHL contests over three seasons, posting 46 points (16-30=46) with 94 penalty minutes. In 23 career Calder Cup Playoff games, Elie has nine points (2-7=9) and 10 penalty minutes.

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.

Texas Stars Hire Bob Jones as Next Assistant Coach

The Texas Stars wasted no time finding a new assistant coach to join Derek Laxdal's staff. Bob Jones joins Texas coming off three seasons as head coach of OHL Oshawa.

Before that, he was an associate coach and spent one season as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires. That run included two OHL championships headlined by leading scorer Taylor Hall. Jones was drafted in the ninth round by the Red Wings in 1989. That year, the draft went out to 12 rounds. He played just over 100 games in the AHL and IHL from 1990-92.

Jones missed the 2017-18 season with Oshawa after suffering a ruptured colon in June 2017. Jones was given a 20% chance to survive. He recovered but ultimately did not coach in the 2017-18 season for Oshawa. You can read more about the illness and his decision not to return to Oshawa here.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars Assistant General Manager and Texas Stars General Manager Scott White announced today that the club has appointed Bob Jones as Assistant Coach of the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL). Jones replaces Karl Taylor, who was named the head coach of Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) on June 29.

Jones, 48, spent the last three seasons as head coach of the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Over that span, he amassed a 103-85-16 record and qualified for the OHL Playoffs in all three campaigns with a 7-14 postseason record. Prior to his time in Oshawa, Jones spent eight seasons behind the bench for the Windsor Spitfires. In his time with the Spitfires, the club won back-to-back OHL championships (2008-09, 2009-10) and qualified for the postseason every year. He served as an associate coach for seven seasons (2007-10, 2011-15) and was the team's head coach for the 2010-11 campaign. In his lone campaign as head coach in 2010-11, Jones compiled a 39-23-6 regular-season record and helped the Spitfires reach the third round of the 2011 OHL Playoffs.

"Bob has been very successful in junior hockey for two decades and we are pleased to welcome him to the Dallas Stars organization," White said. "He has over 21 seasons of coaching experience and his wealth of knowledge and ability to develop young players will be a tremendous asset to our organization."

He joins Texas Stars Head Coach Derek Laxdal and his staff in Cedar Park, Texas. During the 2017-18 season, the Texas Stars won the AHL's Western Conference and made the franchise's third Calder Cup Finals appearance over the last nine seasons.

Jones also has served in numerous coaching capacities across the OHL including as an assistant coach for the Sudbury Wolves (2004-07), an associate coach for Toronto St. Michael's Majors (2000-01, 2002-04), an assistant coach for the Brampton Battalion (1999-00) and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1995-99).

The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the ninth round (179th overall) of the 1989 NHL Draft and played six seasons of professional hockey with the Adirondack Red Wings (AHL), San Diego Gulls (IHL), Fort Wayne Komets (IHL), Muskegon Fury (CoHL) and the Saginaw Wheels (CoHL). Prior to turning pro, Jones played five seasons of junior hockey for Sault Ste. Marie (OHL).

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bevy of Free Agent Signings Brings Texas Stars Roster Churn

(credit: Texas Stars)
Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill wasted no time in boosting organizational depth when the July 1 free agency window opened in the NHL. As a result, the Texas Stars roster has experienced an overnight facelift and will look markedly different when they take the ice in October.

Here are the notable transactions up until day 2 of free agency and how they figure to impact the Texas Stars.

Joel L'Esperance - C/RW

The promising power forward who joined the Texas roster prior to the start of the Calder Cup playoffs will remain a Star with a two-year ELC. Though he only amassed four points in 22 playoff games, L'Esperance was a key cog that played up and down the lineup and quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff. His relative versatility will help him be a fixture in Cedar Park next season.

Michael Mersch - RW/LW

Having played against Mersch in their first round playoff series against the Ontario Reign, the Texas Stars know they are getting a winger who can play both sides, use his 6'2" stature to be a net front presence, and provide plenty of scoring. The Illinois native put together a 49 point 2017-18 campaign while playing within the compressed 65-game California schedule. He signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Stars.

Joel Hanley - D

Another player the Stars are familiar with from the postseason, Hanley tallied four points in nine games for his Tucson Roadrunners during their playoff run. His 31 regular season points helped also helped them run away with the Pacific division early. The left-handed shot has signed to a one-year, two-way contract and seems a good bet to replace Andrew Bodnarchuk.

Erik Condra - RW/LW

The former captain of the Syracuse Crunch has been signed to a one-year, two-way deal and brings an impressive resumé with him. With 366 career games in the NHL, Condra is a great piece to help replace what the Stars lost in the departures of Curtis McKenzie and Brian Flynn. A point per game player in Syracuse's 2016-17 Calder Cup run, that saw the Crunch come up just short, Condra could be a huge boon to high end prospects like Roope Hintz.

Colton Point - G

The 2016 5th round pick of the Dallas Stars has left Colgate University to sign a three-year ELC. The signing essentially spelled the end for Mike McKenna's time in Cedar Park. Point will battle with Landon Bow for the lion's share of time in the crease and will give goalie coach Jim Bedard an exciting project in which to invest.

Here are the notable players that have signed elsewhere during free agency.

Curtis McKenzie - LW

Texas Stars captain for the 2017-18 season and team leader in playoff scoring, McKenzie was likely never going to get the opportunity he probably deserved in Dallas. He sought potentially greener pastures with the Vegas Golden Knights. It remains unclear whether he will play for their affiliate Chicago Wolves or compete for a spot in their bottom six. His departure will leave a massive void in production, leadership, and professionalism that some of the younger players with have the opportunity to replace.

Brian Flynn - LW/RW

The sneaky-good veteran forward was third in team scoring during the 2017-18 regular season and parlayed that production into a contract with the St. Louis Blues. Having to move only about an hour south to San Antonio, Flynn projects to be a thorn in the side of the Texas Stars when they face the Rampage over a dozen times next season.

Mike McKenna - G

An instant fan favorite with the Texas Stars fanbase, McKenna was the primary reason the Texas Stars came within one game of winning the Calder Cup. Keeping in step with his journeyman identity, he signed a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators to help bolster their affiliate team in Bellville. With his departure, the Stars will focus more on goaltender development.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Texas Stars Assistant Coach Karl Taylor Named Milwaukee's Head Coach

(Credit: Texas Stars)
When you go deep in the playoffs, opportunities arise for everyone in the organization. The coaching ranks are no exception as assistant coach Karl Taylor was named the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals this morning.

Taylor has been the assistant for Texas since 2014-15, running the defense and penalty kill during that time. He becomes the 21st head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals after Dean Evason headed to the NHL this offseason to become an assistant with Minnesota.

This is the first time that Texas has had just one of the two coaching jobs open at one time. Each of the previous assistant coaches (Paul Jerrard, Jeff Truitt, and Doug Lidster) left at the same time as their paired head coach.

Here's the release from Milwaukee:
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that Karl Taylor has been hired as head coach of the Admirals.

Taylor, a 47-year-old native of North Bay, Ont., comes to Milwaukee after spending four seasons with the AHL’s Texas Stars as an assistant coach. He is the 21st Head Coach in Admirals history, replacing Dean Evason who took an assistant coaching position with the Minnesota Wild.

“Karl comes highly recommended to us with a diverse skillset to coach and develop players, and we are happy to promote him to a position where he will take care of our top prospects,” Poile said. “We always say the road to Nashville runs through Milwaukee, and are confident that Karl will continue that legacy.”

In Texas, Taylor’s teams went a combined 152-108-30-14 and made the playoffs in three of his four seasons. His tenure was headlined by the Stars’ appearance in last season’s Calder Cup Finals, where they came one game from claiming the AHL title, falling to the Toronto Marlies in Game 7. With Taylor behind the bench, Texas earned at least 90 points in three seasons, including the 2017-18 season’s 90-point effort (38-24-8-6) that culminated with the AHL’s Western Conference Championship.

“This is an exciting time for the Nashville Predators, the Milwaukee Admirals and for Karl and his family,” Predators Director of Player Development and Milwaukee General Manager Scott Nichol said. “He comes to us with a great coaching pedigree and fantastic communication skills across many different levels working with both veteran and young players. For four seasons, he has been the only assistant coach on a Texas club that came within one game of a 2018 Calder Cup title, and now it is his time to take the next step up to being a head coach at the American Hockey League level.”

Prior to joining Texas, Taylor spent one season as an assistant coach for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks in 2013-14, where they finished second in the WHL’s regular-season standings with 113 points (54-13-5 record). Taylor helped guide the Winterhawks to the WHL Finals as the 2014 WHL Western Conference Champions, where they fell to the Edmonton Oil Kings in seven games.

Before jumping to the WHL, Taylor served as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves in 2011-12 and was a head coach in the ECHL for six seasons from 2005-11. He was at the helm of the Reading Royals from 2005-08, making the playoffs in two of his three campaigns, amassing a 112-82-22 record in the process. Taylor then became the first head coach of the ECHL’s Ontario Reign from 2008-11, leading them to the playoffs in their inaugural season. He finished second in the John Brophy Award voting for ECHL coach of the year in 2008-09.

Taylor played three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires, London Knights and North Bay Centennials, tallying 35 points (16g-19a) in 137 games from 1988-91. Following his junior career, he played for the University of New Brunswick from 1991-95, serving as an alternate captain in his final three seasons. Taylor also spent time as a head coach at Red Deer College in Alberta and the University of Waterloo before landing his first professional coaching job.

Taylor and the Admirals will play their home opener on Saturday, October 13 at 6 pm at Panther Arena, while the rest of the schedule will be released later this summer

Texas Stars Add Shane Hanna, Robbie Payne on AHL Deals

(Credit: Texas Stars)
In a Friday afternoon Twitter release today, the Texas Stars announced that they have signed defenseman Shane Hanna and forward Robbie Payne to AHL contracts for 2018-19. Hanna was on an AHL deal in 2017-18 with Texas but spent most of the year in Idaho. Robbie Payne joined Texas late in the year on an ATO and was a black ace in the playoff run.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Friday the team has signed rookie forward Robbie Payne and rookie defenseman Shane Hanna for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Payne, 24, joined the Stars on a tryout agreement late last season after concluding his collegiate career and appeared in six AHL games with a pair of assists. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound forward played four years at Northern Michigan University where he tallied 24 goals in 42 games and served as team captain during his senior season. He played 158 games over his four-year career at Northern Michigan with 94 points (54-40=94), including a career-high 34 during the 2017-18 season.

The Gaylord, Mich. native also spent time with USHL’s Tri-City Storm and Chicago Steel, plus the NAHL’s Kalamazoo Junior K-Wings.

Hanna, 24, appeared in 20 games last season with Texas tallying three assists. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound defenseman also competed in 41 games for the Stars’ ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, with 17 points (5-12=17) last year. Before beginning his pro career, the Salmon Arm, British Columbia native appeared in 163 games over a four-year stretch at Michigan Tech with 90 career points (21-69=90) from 2013-2017.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Texas Stars Re-Sign Speedy Forward Colin Markison

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars added another returning forward to their lineup for 2018-19 with Colin Markison signing another AHL contract for the coming season today.

The speedy forward racked up 27 points for Texas, mostly on the bottom six. He occasionally flexed up to the top 6 for added speed in the lineup when the Stars were thin.

The move, which was only announced on Twitter, is Texas's second announced AHL signing of the offseason along with Travis Morin.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday the team has re-signed forward Colin Markison for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Markison, 25, is entering his fourth AHL season and second straight with the Stars after tallying 27 points (7-27=27) in 73 games last year.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound native of Princeton, N.J. has appeared in 146 AHL games in his career with 45 points total (13-32=45). This past season, Markison also recorded five points (3-2=5) in 22 playoff games for the Stars, including the primary assist on Roope Hintz’s overtime goal that sent Texas to the Calder Cup Finals.

Prior to his professional career, Markison spent four seasons playing for the University of Vermont (2011-2015) and two seasons with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers (2009-2011).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dallas Qualifies Seven, Re-Signs Reece Scarlett

(Credit: Texas Stars)
In a pair of moves over the last two days, Dallas helped shape the Texas Stars roster considerably by extending qualifying offers and making a signing.

First, Dallas extended qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents, many of whom saw time in Texas this season. They included Philippe Desrosiers, Jason Dickinson, Remi Elie, Dillon Heatherington, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, and Gemel Smith. The only unqualified RFA was Cole Ully, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st as a result. Dickinson, Elie and Heatherington are all expected to compete for jobs in Dallas this season. Janmark, Shore and Smith appear to have solidified themselves in Dallas. Desrosiers is a question mark for Texas versus Idaho.

Further, Dallas signed mid-season pickup Reece Scarlett to a one-year, two-way deal. The defenseman was the return for Ludwig Bystrom, who was sent to Florida and played with the Springfield Thunderbirds all season. Bystrom was also re-signed by Florida, so it appears the deal worked out for both sides.

Scarlett was a stalwart defenseman for Texas in the Calder Cup run, playing every game and provided steady defense. With 273 games played, Scarlett counts as one of the club's veterans for 2018-19.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Travis Morin Returns For 10th Season in Cedar Park

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Only one player has laced up his skates for every single season of Texas Stars hockey. That streak will remain unbroken as Travis Morin has re-signed with the club on an AHL contract for 2018-19.

Morin, who started his career with Texas on a professional tryout in 2009, is the most important Star in team history. He won league MVP honors in 2014 along with playoffs MVP on the way to a Calder Cup. He holds nearly every offensive record for the team after playing in 618 career games with Texas.

"Travis has been the face of the Texas Stars for nine seasons and continues to be an important part of what we do as an organization," said Texas GM Scott White. "He continues to contribute as an impact player on the ice for us and, off the ice, he is an important example to our younger players on what it takes to reach the next level in their careers."

There is no doubt that when Morin retires, which could be after this coming season, his number will never be worn again in Texas.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Chaparral Ice Planning New Rinks in Cedar Park including Future Texas Stars Practice Rink

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
This morning, the Austin Business Journal reported that Perardi Development in conjunction with Chaparral Ice is working to create a new multi-sport complex in Cedar Park, which will include ice facilities. The iSports Training and Performance Center will be located at the southeast corner of 183A and Scottsdale, just one exit north of the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. The plan is to create two NHL sized rinks and become the future practice rink of the Texas Stars.

100 Degree Hockey reached out to the owner of Chaparral Ice, Ryan Raya, this morning. We caught up this afternoon.

"We're super excited about it," said Raya. "It's been about four years in the making since I moved to Austin."

Raya sees Austin as being very much like Washington, DC, where he lived before moving to central Texas: a hockey hotbed waiting to happen if there were just more ice in town. He purchased the Chaparral Ice 18 months ago but began exploring ice options in Cedar Park a year before that. The current effort is a joint project between Eric Perardi and Chaparral Ice.

"[The Texas Stars] know the project is going on, and we made them aware that it was going on a few years ago. However, there hasn't been any stars money or effort behind this."

Texas practices at the Chaparral Ice at Anderson and Burnet now, and Raya assumes Texas will start practicing at a facility around the corner if it's available once the construction is done. Ground breaking could happen as soon as this fall.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Texas Stars Thoughts on the Day After

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

With the wound still fresh, Texas Stars fans got out the shaving cream today and trimmed up their playoff beards, literal and figurative ones alike.

I personally spent a decent amount of time after last night's game just staring off into space thinking about what this team accomplished this year. I kept coming back to the same phrase that's become a bit of a meme for the media corps: "You've gotta give them credit."

Every coach has their phrases they love to use. Coach Pyle overused the word "phenomenal." Things weren't great; they were phenomenal! Coach Desjardins would dig up, "That's a good team over there," with blistering frequency to describe some club they'd just blitzed 4-0. And Coach Laxdal leans on "You've gotta give them credit." Sometimes it's "our guys" with the credit, and sometimes it's "their guys."

But today, it's 'our guys.' You've gotta give them credit.

We were never quite sure during the early season if this was a team bound for the playoffs or not. Texas would win 8 out of 10 (e.g. Nov 21 - Dec 3) and then turn around and lose 8 of 10 (e.g. Dec 20 - Jan 10). They would follow up that losing bout with two dominant wins against the best team in the West at the time, the Moose, in Winnipeg (Jan 19 and 20). Something clicked right around that point, and the Stars would open a can on the league. Before the Manitoba games, Texas was 20-15-4-2. They went on a season-ending run that saw them go 18-9-4-4. In a division where not every team is on equal footing, I give a lot of credit to a resilient Texas team that battled through to get to overtime in many games where they weren't the better team for much of the contest.

Those overtime contest hardened up this club. It made them believe in themselves. They were never out of a game because they had been there before. They almost relished the opportunity when they had their collective backs against the wall late in a contest. Texas finished the season with 37 overtime games to their name between regular and postseason play.

You've gotta give credit to Curtis McKenzie, Justin Dowling and Travis Morin. The only three players remaining from that 2014 Cup team made their mark in the playoffs. They went 1-2-3 in scoring for Texas in the postseason while playing every single game.

Not really finally, but at least for this post, my goodness, you've got to give credit to Mike McKenna. There will be a future McKenna retrospective post in this space, but for the moment, you have to marvel at what he did to put this team on his back at times to get them to Game 7.

Is there stuff to work on? Sure. Wouldn't you love to be basking in the glory of a championship right now? Absolutely.

But this team surprised you. I can guarantee it did. And you've gotta give them credit.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Toronto Marlies Claim Calder Cup Glory as Texas Stars Fall 6-1 in Decisive Game 7

(Credit: Toronto Marlies)
No matter what, the Texas Stars season was coming to an end this evening. At times, it seemed like the only people in the world who believed in this team was themselves. At the start of every round, there was some reason why this club couldn't compete with their foe for that series.

"They'll struggle against Ontario," we said. Done in four. "Tucson won the Western Conference." Crushed in five. "Rockford hasn't lost in the postseason." Cleared away in six.

"Toronto had the best record in the AHL..." And even though they didn't win, Texas took a fantastic, talented team to the brink. Seven games against a club that so many had penciled in for a walk in the park to the Calder Cup.

Texas proved themselves worthy. They showed resiliency. They made their fans proud.

The final score was 6-1 for the Marlies, and the road to get there is the point of this post. But it's important to remember all of that before recounting how we got here on this particular evening.

The Stars were plagued by another slow start, being outshot 19-7 in the first period. It got no better in the second as the final shot count after 40 was 2-to-1 at 34-17. Texas never recovered from the early offensive outburst of the Marlies, and the contest was over nearly before Texas got started.

Texas had a great early chance of the stick of rookie phenom Sheldon Dries. On one of the breakaways he has become known for this season, he clanged it off the post. The Marlies paid it no mind as they poured on their offensive onslaught.

Their first goal came off a giveaway by Roope Hintz as he looked to exit the Texas zone. Miro Aaltonen picked his pocket and dished to Carl Grundstrom for the shot. Andreas Johnsson cleaned it up for his 9th goal of the postseason, and Texas was in a hole.

Toronto's offense didn't relent, pouring on 19 shots in the period to Texas's 7. Just as it appeared the Stars would escape the first with just a 1-0 deficit, Mason Marchment rifled a one-timer from the slot past Mike McKenna with 17 seconds left in the frame. Texas retreated to the locker room down 2-0.

The Stars had some solid opportunities in period two but couldn't get anything to go. Dillon Heatherington snuck down to the right wing dot and sailed one high over an empty net in the eighth minute of the period. A few minutes later, the Stars thought they had a goal as the puck sat on the line after a good shift from Fyten's crew. The play went to review but was confirmed as no goal, as called on the ice.

The Marlies outshot the Stars 15-10 in the middle stanza and led the count 34-17 in the game by that point.

Toronto went up 3-0 in the final frame with Grundstrom's eighth of the postseason. It was another giveaway, this time from rookie John Nyberg.

The Stars found the net, ending a shutout bid for Garret Sparks, with a goal that was initially not called on the ice, but was then reviewed and called a goal after the fact. Austin Fyten got the credit for the tally.

Andreas Johnsson got his second of the game to make it 4-1 with less than four minutes left in regulation. The Stars pulled McKenna immediately after the goal, and captain Ben Smith found that empty net for the 5-1 score. Then Marchment added one more for the 6-1 final.

Tonight's lines:


Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Laberge, Desrosiers, Gurianov, Caamano (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 8,818.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - June 14 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Toronto Marlies, Game 7

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
atToronto Marlies
40-28-4-4, 90 pts, 0.579
#1 North Division
June 14th at 6:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

Series tied 3-3

Playing hockey on June 14th... what else is there left to say? It's game seven of a finals series. Most had Texas bouncing out of the playoffs in round two, but here they sit on the precipice of earning their second championship in five years.

The last time the Calder Cup went to a seventh game, the series also featured a team from Texas and one from Ontario. In that 2003 battle, the Houston Aeros beat the Hamilton Bulldogs for the championship. Neither team exists anymore, if that gives you a sense of how long ago that was in the league's terms.

(Credit: Toronto Marlies)

Any number of storylines could emerge tonight.

Will Mike McKenna turn in another sterling performance to earn his first AHL championship? If so, it couldn't happen to a better guy. His rebound game in Game 6 kept Texas alive through period one and gave them the chance to breakaway in period two.

Will Texas get depth scoring like Game 6, rely on their top line like all the other games or get nothing at all? Any of those feels possible right now as the game approaches.

Will Garret Sparks have a rebound game of his own for Toronto after being chased on Tuesday? Would Sheldon Keefe consider calling on backup Calvin Pickard to start game 7? Sparks has looked shaky at times in the series, but he's generally gotten it done. It's hard to argue with the results generally even if one game was less than ideal.

Texas has a 3-0 record in Game 7s all-time including a 6-2 come-from-behind victory against this same Marlies team in the Western Conference Finals in 2014. Toronto is 3-2 all-time in Game 7s.

Thousands of words could be written about all the things that tonight's game is and will be, but in the end, the teams will decide the AHL's championship in a winner-take-all best-of-1 series tonight in Ontario to close the entirety of the North American professional hockey season.

And it doesn't get much better than that.

Stars Injury Report

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Brilliant McKenna, Huge Second Period Give Stars 5-2 Game 6 Win Over Marlies

(credit: Toronto Marlies)
The Texas Stars beat the Toronto Marlies 5-2 in game 6, forcing a game 7 on Thursday. After surviving a first period blitz from Toronto, Texas responded with three goals in the second period, effectively answering the beatdown they endured in game 5.

The Stars received contributions from everywhere in the lineup. Sheldon Dries scored a shorthanded goal in the third period, notching his tenth goal of the postseason. Curtis McKenzie's opening goal gave him eleven for the playoffs. Goaltender Mike McKenna turned in a monstrous effort, stopping 43 of 45 shots.

The first nine minutes of play were brisk and competitive, with quality chances going both ways. The Stars generated two good looks on the rush coming from Justin Dowling and Travis Morin. At one point, the shots on goal were tied at 4-4. Then the Marlies turned on their forecheck and forced the Stars to take a delay of game penalty. It would result the Marlies taking control of the game for the rest of the period.

Though the Stars managed to kill the penalty while only ceding one shot on goal, they gained no meaningful zone time during the ensuing shifts and struggled to solve the puck pursuit of Toronto. Neutral zone turnovers and poor breakout attempts led to quality chances against McKenna, who handled himself admirably all game, keeping the game goalless at first intermission.

The Marlies ended up outshooting the Stars 12-0 over the latter thirteen minutes of the period. The script would quickly flip.

The Stars got their second period push going by being harder on pucks. Nearly seven minutes in, they dialed up their own forecheck and forced the Marlies into a defensive zone turnover, leaving McKenzie 1-on-1 with Garret Sparks. McKenzie made Sparks overcommit on the initial move and find twine with his forehand, drawing the ire of Toronto fans who felt he had committed a penalty behind the net.

Matt Mangene nearly netted the second goal on the next shift, but he had a tough angle on the yawning net and only found the post. Morin wouldn't miss on his chance. The Stars dumped the puck in on Sparks near the fifteen minute marker to force him to make a clearing attempt. Dowling came hard on the forecheck and disrupted the clear, taking the puck to the crease. Morin was there to clean up Dowling's offering and push the game to 2-0.

The silence at the Ricoh Coliseum was palpable when Austin Fyten provided some secondary scoring and gave the Stars a three goal lead with three minutes left in the middle frame. Fyten earned it by stripping a puck in the neutral zone and taking it all the way for a short side tally.

It took less than two minutes for the Marlies to respond in the third period. Calle Rosen found the back of the net from the left circle while McKenna was being heavily screened by Carl Gundstrom. The crowd back into it, the Marlies seemed to be onto something when they drew a penalty one minute later on Reece Scarlett.

As has been a motif all series, the Stars did not benefit from any whistles and did not go on the power play once. They did, however, tilt the special teams battle in their favor on the ensuing penalty kill. After McKenna continued to be brilliant while Toronto was forcing traffic towards his crease, Dries sprung loose on the clear and left no doubt on his short side marker that has become a favorite shot of his. Restoring the three goal lead took the wind right back out of the building. The tally led to Calvin Pickard replacing Sparks in net.

With five minutes to go in the game, the Marlies pulled Pickard for the extra attacker and found success by once again getting bodies to the net. Justin Holl's shot from the point made its way through traffic to cut into the lead. Any momentum gained from the marker was quickly snuffed out by Colin Markison's empty net goal one minute later.

Game 7 will be on Thursday evening at 6:00 PM CDT.

Tonight's lines:


Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Laberge, Desrosiers, Gurianov, Caamano (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 8,783.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Toronto - June 12 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Toronto Marlies, Game 6

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
atToronto Marlies
40-28-4-4, 90 pts, 0.579
#1 North Division
June 12th at 6:00 PM
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, ON

Toronto leads 3-2
(credit: Toronto Marlies)
It has been well documented that in the previous twenty instances where there has been a 2-2 tie in the Calder Cup Final, the loser of game 5 has only gone on to win the series once. Head coach Derek Laxdal bristles at the notion that the trend would have any bearing on his team's current predicament.

"[Toronto] won the first game of the series, we won the second," he said after the loss in game 5. "They won the third, we won the [fourth]. They won the fifth, our goal is to try to win the sixth and the seventh. Plain and simple."

The Stars have to at least be confident that they have as good of a chance as anyone in taking two games north of the border. Both games 1 and 2 were won by one goal, resulting in an even split. Texas has had a way of bouncing back from tough losses all season. The beatdown they received on Saturday should make for a far more competitive game 6.

"The big thing for us is we need to work a little harder to draw some penalties, to score some goals on the power play. When the refs aren’t making calls we’re going to have to draw on some of that leadership to move forward and just play through it. We definitely have to find some [secondary scoring] in the next game for sure. We need some of our second, third line--Remi Elie, [Jason Dickinson]--some guys like that step up and score some goals."

Finding themselves in unfamiliar territory this postseason, the Stars are staring down the potential end of their magical season. "It’s a different task for us. We’re still paying until they tell us we can’t play anymore. We’re not going to change who we are and change our game plan."

For Laxdal, much of that game plan includes looking internally to the resiliency of a proven team. He and his club also draw motivation from the outside perception that they are overmatched.

"I have a lot of confidence in that group in the dressing room. Only two teams left playing hockey right now, and we’re one of them. Going into Toronto, there’s no pressure. We’re the underdogs, we’re not supposed to win, according to the media. So we’re going to try to prove some people wrong. That’s our goal. I believe in our group 100%. Our goal is to win Tuesday and try and get it to a game 7."

The puck drops at 6:00 PM CDT.

Stars Injury Report

Monday, June 11, 2018

Where is the Calder Cup The Rest of the Year?

(Credit: AHL)
No matter what, the Calder Cup, the AHL's top prize, will be awarded this week in Toronto. But where has it been this season in the meantime?

As Texas and Toronto came to Cedar Park tied at 1 early last week, it was possible that the Cup could have been awarded on Saturday if either team swept the games in Texas. Then the question occurred to me, "Where is the Calder Cup now?"

I turned to the AHL's PR team, who are in town for the series, to answer that one. Hannah Bevis, who manages all digital and social endeavor for the league, had a few answers.

The league doesn't have a keeper of the Cup like the NHL for the Stanley Cup. It stays in Springfield most of the year and actually does not currently have a permanent display case at the league office. The Cup resides in its padded box in storage for most of the season.

Aside from promotional appearances, the Cup doesn't come out of storage until it's possible for a team to clinch, which means it never made it to Texas last week. It will be on its way to Toronto today as it could be won tonight.

Who comes with the Cup? The league has a rotating staff of front office people who haul the Cup wherever it needs to go.

League president Dave Andrews will be on hand to potentially present the Cup Tuesday's evening to the Marlies if they win. No matter what, the Calder Cup will have a new home by Thursday night.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Marlies Offense Explodes 6-2 to Push Texas Stars to Brink in Game 5

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Toronto Marlies finally got a chance to impose their will on the Texas Stars, playing the game that led them to the best record in the league, and besting Texas in dominating fashion 6-2.

Captain Curtis McKenzie said, “It wasn’t really what we were looking [for]. It hasn’t happened to us all year, and it stunned us a bit.”

“Our group’s resilient,” said Laxdal, looking ahead to Game 6 already. “We’ve gone through the playoffs here; we haven’t faced an elimination game yet. It’s a different task for us.”

Texas had the first few chances of the game, but Toronto scored on two of their first three shots. The Stars never truly recovered.

“It’s huge,” said Keefe of the quick start. “Especially when you’ve played three games now where offense is so hard to come by.”

Despite some pretty serious seeming transgressions both ways, there was only one penalty called total in the game tonight. Laxdal was diplomatic, “I’m not going to comment on the penalties. I’ll just leave it at that.” However, he did add that his team needs to be better at drawing penalties.

Andreas Johnsson potted his 8th of the playoffs on a breakaway to start the scoring just 92 seconds in. Brent Regner mishandled a puck at the point, sending Johnsson in alone. Dillon Heatherington couldn’t catch him, and it went to 1-0 Toronto.

“When your top player is on a breakaway early and finishes it’s a pretty good sign of what’s to come in the game,” said Keefe. “Certainly when we can skate to the neutral zone it makes everybody’s life a little bit easier.”

Dowling continued, “We started out the shift really well and then it just took a bad hop on Regner there. There’s nothing you can do. The hockey gods weren’t on our side. It’s hard to start the game like that.”

Trevor Moore scored just 47 seconds later, a puck that beat McKenna five hole. The Stars were lucky to make it out of the period down just 2-0 as they were outshot 9-2 at one point and ended the frame down 11-6 on shots. Mike McKenna had issues with rebound control.

Texas got a bit of a spark to start the second, but it was short lived. From the point, Gavin Bayreuther bombed his second of the series and third of the playoffs. With the lead cut to one, the overcapacity crowd was re-energized. Toronto took the air right out of the building with Colin Greening’s goal. Greening picked up a pass from Chris Mueller and whipped it past McKenna. The Texas defense seemed to have almost lost track of the puck as it initially struck Greening before coming to Mueller for the pass.

Defenseman Calle Rosen stepped up to end the second period strong for the Marlies. First, he absolutely deked the pants off Justin Dowling to get an open lane for the fourth goal. The fifth came as he skated in nearly untouched from his own blue line and rifled one in.

The third period would see Landon Bow jump into game action for the first time since April. McKenna would end the night with 17 saves on 22 shots.

“Mike has been outstanding for us in the playoffs,” said Laxdal. “He’s been our MVP so far. He’s given it every game, and we needed to get him a break in there. It was just to change the momentum of the game and kind of change the mindset of our group.”

Bow only saw five shots in the final frame, letting up one to Carl Grundstrom in the 11th minute. It was quickly followed by a rebound tap-in by Sheldon Dries, his 9th of the postseason.

Texas had a chance to make it 6-3 with just over four minutes left as Travis Morin scored a goal that was immediately waved off for being played with a high stick. The crowd was incensed, as was the Texas bench. The officials explained the goal to Laxdal but refused to speak to Curtis McKenzie or any other Texas player afterwards.

The Stars, down 6-2, did not opt to pull Bow for the extra attacker with the four goal deficit. With three, that might have happened, but four seemed insurmountable.

Texas heads to Toronto tomorrow for Tuesday’s Game 6 at Ricoh Coliseum.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Laberge, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Nyberg, Desrosiers, Caamano (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout. Texas solid a decent number of standing room tickets, so it’s unclear why the number wasn’t higher than the usual sellout number. Building record is from Game 5 of the Finals in 2010 at 7,054.

All reports from players indicated the ice conditions were great and certainly better than Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 9 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Toronto Marlies, Game 5

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
v.Toronto Marlies
54-18-2-2, 112 pts, 0.737
#1 North Division
June 9th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Series tied 2-2

There's only one stat that matter tonight: 19-1.

In the 20 Finals series before this that have been tied at two, the team that wins Game 5 has gone on to win.

To get that third win, Texas needs to do what it did on Thursday: frustrate the Marlies. It was clear from postgame comments and even on-ice body language that Toronto did not expect to be challenged like this in the Finals. "They’re playing their best hockey--that’s pretty clear," said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe of Texas after Game 4. "They’re a big, fast, heavy hockey team and there’s not much between the two teams. It’s a matter of who’s going to find a way to get one more than the other team."

(Credit: Texas Stars)

When asked what he could take away from the fact that each game has been a one-goal margin but no overtime, Keefe repeated several times that "there's not much between these two teams." If nothing else, Texas has earned the respect of the Marlies squad. They are having to respect all four lines and take "no shifts off."

The way Texas has played since Christmas was shown in full effect in the third period on Thursday. Tight shot counts (only allowing six shots) and a bend don't break defensive effort overall.

"You gotta give a lot of credit to our leadership group in the dressing room," said Laxdal. They know what’s at stake. They know what the third period [entails]. If you lose that third period, you’re down 3-1 in the series and you’ve got a deep whole to cover. I thought our guys managed it well."

One thing to watch for tonight is ice condition. If you're reading this before 2:30 PM today, the ice at H-E-B Center is still under 100s of folding chairs. Graduations for 5 different Leander ISD high schools took place over the last 48 hours and the last one today, Rouse, starts at noon.

Finally, the Stars are expecting a packed house as they announced a sellout yesterday. If you don't already have tickets, check the secondary markets or head to the box office at 10AM for standing room only seats. They'll be limited, but it at least gets you in the arena for the final home game of the season.

Stars injury report:
None reported, but surely some that we'll learn about once the series is over.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Justin Dowling, Curtis McKenzie Lead as Texas Stars Even Up The Finals With 3-2 Win

Justin Dowling ignites the sellout crowd with his third period game winner
(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars turned the Calder Cup Final into a best-of-3 tonight with a 3-2 victory at home in Game 4. The top line shined again as Curtis McKenzie collected two and Justin Dowling tipped in the game-winner.

“I thought our top line really led our hockey club tonight,” agreed Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal. “They scored some big goals for us here tonight. One on the power play, two 5-on-5.”

“Our line’s been going all playoffs,” said Dowling. “Last series kickstarted us, bearing down on our chances. In these high pressure situations, guys who have been there, it’s a little easier than people who haven’t been there.”

Sheldon Keefe, head coach for the Marlies, clearly did not expect this series to be such a slog, “Our guys played real hard today. It was a tough hockey game, just like its been all series. They were one shot better than us today. You’re in the Final, you’ve got the two best teams in the league. I don’t care what happened in the regular season, that’s the best team in the Western conference as far as I’m concerned. ”

It was also a loud, raucous atmosphere, and everyone commented on it tonight postgame. Laxdal noted, “[The crowd] gave us another boost. It’s great to see that building full. In the four years that I’ve been here it’s probably the loudest and fullest that I’ve seen.”

Texas had the first good chance of the game as Travis Morin fanned on a zippy pass and couldn't send it to the open net. The play went the other way 3-on-1, and Mike McKenna bailed out the power play unit with a save. The Stars would open the scoring in the first with that exact same line getting the tally. Morin's initial shot popped up high of Brian Flynn at the net, and the Toronto D lost track of the puck. McKenzie found it and beat Sparks to go up 1-0, their first home power play goal of the series.

After one, Texas held the 1-0 lead despite a 13-10 Marlies shot advantage.

Justin Dowling with the genesis of Texas's second goal. Carrying down the left side, he found McKenzie in the slot. McKenzie wasn't all alone, but he was certainly uncovered as Vincent LoVerde had lost him on the play and wasn't defending on the play in the slightest.

As the second wore on, Texas had several chances to take the kill shot. The best of them came off the stick of Brent Regner, who say his shot ride up Sparks' chest pad, hit the crossbar and fall away harmlessly.

Shortly thereafter, Toronto finally activated. Dmytro Timashov knocked one in on a wild swing after Texas couldn't corral the puck in the paint. McKenna was standing, expecting the clear, and saw it go five hole.

Just forty second later, Justin Holl and Andreas Johnsson broke in 2-on-1. Holl found Johnsson on the right wing side, and McKenna had no chance.

“I knew our team was not going to go away,” siad Keefe. “Our guys are dug in. We’re going to keep pushing. To bring it back to 2-2 is a real good sign of the character of our group. “

“They can sting you pretty quick,” added Laxdal. “I thought our guys managed it well. We took a deep breath between the second and third periods and talked about a couple of things.”

Unfazed in the third, Texas came out on top thanks to a set play from Justin Dowling, a redirect from Matt Mangene’s point shot past Sparks. Dowling narrated, “We’ve been doing that all year, getting someone to the high slot to get more options. If you can play it off the end wall or get someone in the high slot, you can redirect it.

“We’ve been doing it all year it seems like. We’re pretty comfortable going into the third period, down by one, up by one or tied. Our game plan doesn’t change.”

Coming down to the wire, Texas rolled out Brian Flynn, Dillon Heatherington and Brent Regner for most of the final three minutes, even when there was a chance to change out those tired legs. Heatherington had his best night of the playoffs this evening and the D corps was solid overall. Keefe called it the most mobile backend he’s seen.

The Stars have guaranteed Game 6 in Toronto, but Game 5 comes first on Saturday night here in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Laberge, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Nyberg, Desrosiers, Caamano (scratch)

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

Coach Laxdal on Denis Gurianov in his return to the lineup: “I thought Denis was fine. For a guy coming back into the Finals, I thought he had some good speed, good energy. He didn’t have a lot of minutes in the first two periods. I tried to put him with Roope and Flynn. Flynn’s really good with playing with those two guys so I wanted to see if I could get them loose. Denis chased a couple pucks, he had a hit. So, hopefully, now he can settle into the series and bring us some of that speed he can bring.”

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 7 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Toronto Marlies, Game 4

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
v.Toronto Marlies
40-28-4-4, 90 pts, 0.579
#1 North Division
June 7th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Toronto leads 2-1
(credit: Derek Sparta/Texas Stars)
If the Texas Stars are to even the series up in the Calder Cup Final in game 4, they must find a way to overcome the crowded ice that the Toronto Marlies create and find some offense. Scoring one goal isn't going to cut it against such competition. 

"We didn’t generate a lot of offense," said head coach Derek Laxdal after the game 3 defeat.  "[Toronto] had a lot of zone time, but we did a good job defending, not giving up a lot of scoring chances. I thought we probably didn’t have the same amount of guys going as we did in Toronto."

Goaltender Mike McKenna is still doing his part with a .933 SP in the playoffs. The Stars simply need to help him out with goal support throughout the lineup. Could Denis Gurianov find his way back on the ice with scoring at a premium? Laxdal hasn't been afraid to make strategic tweaks in his lines in these playoffs. It will be an interesting storyline to follow.

The penalty situation didn't favor the Stars either in game 3. In order to generate more offense, the Stars cannot afford to only rely on even strength play. They also must keep their cool should they receive the same dearth of calls on Thursday. "You talk about playing whistle to whistle, control your emotions, don’t let your emotions control you," said Laxdal. "It’s playoffs. They’re up 2-1 in the series; they’re a good team, they’re up for a reason. Our job is to respond Thursday night."

One final key in game 4 is crisp passing on zone exits to stave off the fast skating and blistering forecheck of the Marlies. That's going to fall on the blue liners, according to Laxdal.

"I thought our back end as a whole was just okay [in game 3]. There were probably two or three guys that were solid and the other guys struggled. That’s part of the pressure forecheck from Toronto. I expect our group to be better as the series goes along."

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT.

Stars Injury Report

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Toronto Claims Series Lead with Tight 2-1 Victory Over Texas

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Toronto pushed back tonight in Cedar Park with another tight 2-1 game, this time ending in favor of the Marlies. With the win, Toronto takes a 2-1 series lead and regains home ice advantage.

“It was a hard fought game out there,” said Texas head coach Derek Laxdal. “They really shut us down offensively. We didn’t get a lot of chances in the game and when we did get some chances, Sparks made some good saves.”

When Texas had success in games 1 and 2, they were clogging up neutral ice. Tonight, the Marlies had a bit more free rein in that regard. Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe noted, “I just thought we spent a lot of time on their half of the ice. We got to the neutral zone a lot better today. As a result, it took the heat off our defending a little bit as well.”

It was a wide open game in terms of officiating as the refs put away the whistles almost entirely. Curtis McKenzie took the only penalty of the game late in the third, even though Texas and Toronto could have easily earned multiple power plays throughout the contest.

“It was game 3 in the Finals and the officiating was almost like game 7, just letting the guys play,” said Laxdal. “I thought we struggled with some of the non-calls our way. We talked about channeling that emotion and just playing whistle to whistle. If you get the call, you get the call. But you’ve got to work for the call.”

Brent Regner, who had a good night despite the loss, said he “would rather play with 1 or 2 penalties a game” just to keep the flow going.

Almost like period one of a new series, Texas and Toronto seemed to be feeling each other out in the opening frame here. It didn’t last too long though. The Stars had a few good breaks that they couldn’t get to go. Colin Markison had the first chance, and Curtis McKenzie followed up with one of his own a few minutes later. It was a relatively low-shooting period from both teams, as the Marlies topped the shots 7-5.

The scoring dam broke in the second period quite early. Sheldon Dries scored his league-tying 8th of the playoffs off a zippy pass from Remi Elie. Dries collected the puck at the blue line and drove in alone, sniping one high glove on Garret Sparks for the 1-0 score.

Dries recounted the play, “I got hit in the corner, got knocked down and lost my stick. By the time I got it up ice, Remi had it on his stick, threw it across. I was trying to beat their D and that’s kind of a spot I like to pick. Luckily I hit it.”

Chris Mueller, who had been kneed earlier in the game by Reece Scarlett and didn’t earn a call, evened things up just three minutes later. It was a deft play by Andreas Johnsson to pass the puck around the back of the net to Mueller, open on the left wing side, for the easy one-timer. Johnsson and the first line had not scored a point in the series yet but opened their account on that play. Keefe called the pass a “big-time play” for his club.

The Texas fourth line got victimized for the go-ahead goal with blown coverage on the left point giving Calle Rosen a wide open lane to release his second of the playoffs. Joel L’Esperance got pulled down lower than he should have been on the play and didn’t get to the point in time to disrupt the shot. McKenna was screened by both his own men and Toronto on the shot as well.

““I haven’t watched it back yet but it was the kind of goal that we want to have,” said Keefe. “We drove the puck down in the offensive zone; we were able to change sides, get it up to the top. A lot of traffic at the net.”

The Stars worked to even the score in the third, but they couldn’t get anything to go. Garret Sparks earned star honors despite a relatively light workload on the night of just 20 shots. However, nine of those came in the final frame.

Texas did get a chance with the empty net and decided to send out the Dries, Dickinson, Elie line for the 6-on-5.

“I thought that group played well tonight,” said Laxdal. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t put them out there for the last 40 seconds. They’ve earned the right to be out there and I feel very confident putting those guys out there in those situations.”

The Stars take their shot at evening the series again on Thursday night at 7 PM in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Gurianov, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta, Robertson, Nyberg, Desrosiers, Caamano (scratch)

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

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Toronto - June 5 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Toronto Marlies, Game 3

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
v.Toronto Marlies
54-18-2-2, 112 pts, 0.737
#1 North Division
June 5th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Series tied 1-1

After earning a split in Canada, Texas returns home in a pretty ideal spot given what they were up against. Clawing two away from Toronto in their barn was probably too much to hope for overall. The fact that Texas came so close in Game 1 is a huge sign of their potential as a team to really lock things down here in Cedar Park.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Home games in the Calder Cup Finals have not been kind to the Texas Stars historically. In 2010, Texas was swept at home after winning both in Hershey. In 2014, Texas got the split and then headed to St. John's to win it all by sweeping the IceCaps in their building. That's a 1-4 record at home. However, each team is different for sure.

Back to the series at hand, the Marlies had a pretty good home record in the regular season, 24-13-1-0. Where they really shined was an absurd road record of 30-5-1-2. Eight road losses in an entire season is unbelievably good. By comparison, the next best finisher by percentage, Tucson had 10 and they played 8 fewer games. Texas had 21, following the more traditional model of home strength.

I would make the argument that the Stars got lucky in Toronto with their win. Aside from Austin Fyten's tally, all points scored by forwards came from the top line. While it's great to see the players who have been in Texas for a while contirbuting, it's not a sustainable model. Gavin Bayreuther's power play goal was a good sign for scoring beyond line one, but it's just one goal of the eight that were scored in Toronto.

The Stars need activation from players like Flynn, Dries, Hintz, Dickinson and Elie to compete in this series against a very deep Marlies squad. Playing their third game in four days, relying on the top line is not a recipe for success. Texas depth scoring needs to contribute or the speed and depth of the Marlies will outpace the Stars over a seven game series.

It sounds like Texas isn't quite to capacity for Game 3 but is looking very full for 4 and 5. If you know anyone who is looking for some hockey today, give 'em a ring and let 'em know what's going on in Cedar Park.

Stars injury report: