Saturday, October 13, 2018

Texas Stars Give Up Three Goals in Third, Lose to IceHogs 5-3

The Texas Stars couldn't spoil a home opener, falling to the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 on Saturday. Justin Dowling, rookie James Phelan, and Denis Gurianov all scored for the Stars, but it was not enough to stave off the IceHogs, who had an answer after every goal. Colton Point got the start in net and recorded 30 saves on 34 shots.

(credit: Rockford IceHogs)
The IceHogs out-skated the Stars in the first period and drew three penalties to show for it. They captalized on their first power play within the first four minutes of the game when Tyler Sikura finished off his brother Dylan's rebound.

Between killing penalties, the Stars responded with two goals of their own. Phelan scored his first professional marker with one of the prettiest plays you'll see in the AHL. After breaking out on the rush and receiving the entry pass from Colton Hargrove, Phelan pirouetted away from a back checker and roofed one on a scrambling Delia.

The Stars finished the game 0-for-1 on the power play but took six total penalties.

During their third penalty kill with just over seven minutes left of first period play, Point had to save his team's bacon with a perfectly timed kick save on a potential breakaway goal from IceHogs forward Graham Knott. It was a critical play that seemed to tilt the ice in the Stars' direction as they generated a 3-on-1 rush with less than a minute left in the frame. Denis Gurianov finished the play with his second goal of the young season.

The teams traded a goal a piece in the second period. Henrik Samuelsson cleaned up his own rebound less than three minutes after the puck dropped to draw the IceHogs even. After that goal, Point was sharp where he needed to be, making a few sprawling saves on high danger scoring chances. One came from his belly after he gave up multiple rebounds.

Near the halfway mark of the frame, Justin Dowling recorded his second goal of the season by deflecting Gavin Bayreuther's offering from the point.

Matheson Iacopelli brought the game back to even with a back hander after a hard working shift by the Rockford fourth line near the nine minute marker in the third period. Rockford goaltender Collin was better than Point in the final frame, coming up with some of his own heroics to keep the game at even until Dylan Sikura notched his second point with a go ahead goal.

Mixed in were a couple more penalties the Stars had to kill off, including 19 seconds of a 5-on-3. It was not a recipe for success in the late going, as they were unable to generate any kind of meaningful momentum. The IceHogs capped the game off with an empty net goal from defenseman Darren Raddysh.

The Stars conclude their three game road trip through the Central on Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Nyberg, Laberge, Markison, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,773.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - October 13 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
1-0-1-1, 4 pts
#4 Central Division
atRockford IceHogs
0-2-0-0, 0 pts
#8 Central Division
October 13th at 6:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

Coming off their 4-3 shootout loss against the Iowa Wild, the Texas Stars resume their Central division-heavy schedule against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday evening.

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Rockford hasn't put together the start they wanted, having lost twice to the Cleveland Monsters. This IceHogs team doesn't quite resemble the one that the Stars squared off against during last season's Western Conference Final, but that's par for the course with a successful squad. Only scoring three goals over two contests is going to have the IceHogs hungry to get pucks on net during their home opener on Saturday.

Familiar foe Collin Delia, who had a tremendous rookie season last year, figures to man the pipes for the home crowd, as he was recently reassigned from the Chicago Blackhawks. He allowed five goals in his first start against the Monsters and should project for a bounce back game.

For the Stars to come away from this road trip with three out of four points, they'll need to continue to spread the scoring around. Big forward Michael Mersch has distributed the wealth so far with the helpers in three games. Landon Bow has the numbers to suggest he will grab the most starts in net, at least in the early going. The coaching staff will likely lean on rookie Colton Point to relieve Bow on the second night of a back-to-back.

As much as the IceHogs have churned their roster from last season, the Stars look every bit as unfamiliar. This early slate of Central division games will be key for Texas to forge an identity and gain confidence.

The puck drops at 6:00 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body injury)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Texas Stars Fall in Season's First Road Bout 4-3 in Shootout

(Credit: Iowa Wild)
In their first road game of the season, Texas earned a point but fell 4-3 in the shootout to the host Iowa Wild in Des Moines. Adam Mascherin picked up his first career goal, and the Texas Stars power play activated for the first time on the season. Youngsters Denis Gurianov and Gavin Bayreuther for Texas and Gerry Fitzgerald for Iowa all had a goal and an assist.

Landon Bow got the start and took the loss, stopping 27 of the 30 shots he faced.

Texas got off to a rough start with a 5-on-3 power play going against them for a full two minutes as they took a penalty during a delayed call. Landon Bow and the defense stood strong on this and the next penalty kill, giving Texas a chance at some offense late in the period. Extended O-zone time and an iced puck from Iowa would give the Stars their best chances of the period, but the score would be 0-0 after one.

The scoring kicked off in the second with a bad bounce for Texas. A breakout pass went off the back of Justin Dowling and landed on the stick of Iowa’s forwards. Justin Kloos kicked a pass out to Ryan Murphy at the point and he beat Bow clean for the 1-0 lead.

The Stars would come back with a pair in the frame. Adam Mascherin picked up his first of the season and first of his career less than a minute after the Iowa goal. A power play goal for Texas off the stick of Gavin Bayreuther would push them ahead 2-1 halfway through the second. The primary assist was Ben Gleason’s first pro point.

It wasn’t a lengthy lead for Texas with Mike Liambas, the former Admiral, sneaking into the crease and redirecting a pass from Gerry Fitzgerald up high and past Bow.

Fitzgerald would get one of his own, his third already on the young season, in the third period to regain the lead over Texas. It was another bad luck play as Bayreuther and Michael Mersch both broke their sticks on the backcheck.

With Bow on the bench late, Denis Gurianov would score his first of the year down the right side and whipping one past Andrew Hammond to tie things up. Ben Gleason would have the best chance of the overtime period, dancing past the Iowa defense but ditching his chance on the side of the Wild net instead of in the back of the cage. In the shootout, Sam Anas was the only goal scorer as the Wild collected the extra standings point.

Texas heads to Rockford tomorrow to continue their second longest road trip of the year.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Hanna, Calderone, Payne, Phelan (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,624.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - October 12 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
1-0-1-0, 3 pts
#4 Central Division
atIowa Wild
2-0-0-0, 4 pts
#1 Central Division
October 12th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

UPDATE: Philippe Desrosiers has been assigned to ECHL Idaho.

Texas's first road trip just so happens to take them to the hottest team in the Central right out of the gate. While the Stars were busy with Grand Rapids and Milwaukee last weekend, the Wild absolutely shellacked another divisional rival, the Moose, to the tune of a 12-2 combined score in their two-game set.

It's a small sample set to be sure but a good sign for an Iowa club that has yet to make the playoffs since coming to Des Moines from Houston. It could be that the Moose are not a great team. It could be the Wild are fantastic. Maybe it's a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
The Wild have done a pretty good job spreading out their wealth on offense in their first two games. Despite the 12 goals, no skater has more than 3 points and only two are without a point, including Cal O'Reilly. Long-time Charlotte defenseman Ryan Murphy has started his second season in the Hawkeye state with three points and rookie Mason Shaw, a fourth round pick in 2017, is right there with him at 3.

Andrew Hammond has backstopped both Wild games to this point, stopping 47 of 49 and allowing just two goals.

Texas got great effort last weekend from rookie Joel L'Esperance and will look to get some of their other lines going in the weekend's contests. It still remains to be seen how the defense will adapt and change without Reece Scarlett. While it is definitely true that the team hadn't been playing long enough to establish too much chemistry, it also hurts no matter what to see 274 games of AHL experience limp off the ice after a bad collision.

Keys to Texas's success would include piercing a thus-far impenetrable Iowa PK (again, small sample set) and not taking so many penalties themselves. Coach Laxdal also noted that the club needs to support their goaltenders and not allow as many odd-man rushes and breakaways as they did against Milwaukee.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body injury)

Wild Web Resources:
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Manifest Destiny: The Westward Expansion of the AHL in Maps

The American Hockey League has marched slowly and steadily westward, most notably first lurching west with the International Hockey League merger in 2001. As we kick off a new season, it's a great time to look back at all the moves that got us to this place.

The below map shows us the movement of the geographic center of the league. It's pretty clear to see how the league has progressed west since 2001 (maps link).

(click to enhance detail)
And here's a great visualization of the westward move in GIF format.

For each season below, we'll take a look at the map, what moves were made to get there and give a link to the map of the teams in Google Maps.

This is our baseline. The league looked as above before the AHL-IHL merger. It's basically a Northeastern league at this point. Cincnnati was in the South Division, if that gives you an idea of where we're at here. Maps link.


After the IHL merger, the AHL became a much larger league, adding Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Utah, Manitoba, and Grand Rapids. Bridgeport was also granted a team in the same year and there were a few other changes, but those were unrelated to the IHL merger. Maps link.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Chicago Wolves
Houston Aeros
Manitoba Moose
Milwaukee Admirals
Utah Grizzlies

Louisville Panthers

Kentucky Thoroughblades become Cleveland Barons

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Texas Battles Back in Third But Falls 4-3 in OT

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the Texas Stars battled back from a deficit to earn a point in overtime tonight against Milwaukee.

“That’s the Texas way we talk about. That resiliency,” said coach Laxdal. “We played last night so I’ll give our guys a lot of credit battling back against a team that’s been resting.”

Milwaukee hadn’t played a game yet this season, and the Stars played again in as many nights. Texas hit the third period down 2-1 and saw that sink to a 3-1 deficit before roaring back.

Niklas Hansson, who checked in for the injured Reece Scarlett, scored on a one-timer eight minutes into the final frame. Then, it was time for 6-on-5 play to get the final goal. Joel L’Esperance, who had a great game last night, put one back on the doorstep to tie things with 35 seconds left.

“I think I was almost celebrating before it went in the net,” said Michael Mersch, who had the primary assist on the tally.

Part of what kept Texas from surging ahead despite some good chances were the penalties they kept taking. Even though Milwaukee only scored once, the Stars had to roll out their top PKers constantly, sapping energy from their 5-on-5 play.

“We got into penalty trouble in the first and the second, and we had to tax some players on the PK,” said Laxdal. “It’s non-necessary penalties. Keeping your stick down, keeping your hands down. We know [the officials] are going to clamp down [early in the year].”

Colton Point had a solid start to his pro career despite the loss. There were several breakaways that he had to deal with that pierced his armor. Keeping things tight in the third was a feather in his cap.

Also notably, it was the first win for former Star Greg Rallo as a coach. “For me, today was pretty special to start my coaching career in a place that was home for so long,” he said. “I don’t know if easier is the word, but there was a certain comfort level and with the fans seeing a certain welcoming.”

Texas opened the scoring with a nifty move by Dillon Heatherington down low. With Heatherington coming out of the penalty box, John Nyberg threw the puck down to knock off the last seconds of the kill. Heatherington picked up the puck in the corner and wrapped around Troy Grosenick for the 1-0 goal.

The Stars capitulated late in the frame as a bad bounce at the opposing blue line ended up on the stick of Rocco Grimaldi, who sprung Anthony Richard for a breakaway. He flipped the one backhand over Point to tie things.

Opening the second period, the Milwaukee power play bit Texas. With Nick Caamano in the box, Colin Blackwell slapped one through traffic to take the lead 2-1. The best chances Texas had in the period again came from last night’s hero line of L’Esperance, Hargrove and Condra. Grosenick was swimming but two pucks went right through his crease without anything coming through on the scoreboard.

The third saw a breakaway off a bad change by Tony Calderone end up behind Point for the 3-1 lead. This is where Texas mounted its comeback. Goals by Hansson and L’Esperance tied things after sixty.

In overtime, breakaways were again the story. Noted Star killer during his time in San Antonio, Rocco Grimaldi, fired the final shot to ice a 4-3 victory for the Admirals.

Texas finishes the weekend with three points of a possible four and next faces Iowa on Friday in Des Moines.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Desrosiers, Hanna, Laberge, Payne, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,984.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - October 6 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

            Texas Stars                         Milwaukee Admirals
    1-0-0-0, 2 pts      v.      0-0-0-0, -- pts
   #3 Central Division                       #4 Central Division

October 6th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

The Milwaukee Admirals come to town and it's a homecoming for their entire coaching staff. After a big year last year, Karl Taylor got the call to take on his first AHL head coaching gig in Wisconsin.

"There always is [extra motivation]," said Coach Laxdal last night of playing a former colleague. "Karl was a great soldier, great coach for us for four years. He was a great coach to work with and I’m happy to see him get his opportunity."

In a suit behind the bench for the first time is Greg Rallo, the long time Star with a soft spot for Central Texas. He played the last ten season of his career split between San Antonio and Texas. Rallo is from Gurnee, Illinois, which is a short drive from Milwaukee. It's a great gig for him and an excellent entree into the coaching ranks with a head coach he is well acquainted with.

All that being said, Laxdal added, "I hope he doesn’t get his first win against us."

Scarlett leaves the ice last night (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Two big things to watch tonight will be the starting goaltender and Reece Scarlett's backfill. Landon Bow turned in a solid performance last night, stopping 24 of 25. Laxdal was cagey on whether Colton Point would get his first professional start tonight. With a tendency to ride the hot hand, I'd say it's equally likely that Bow gets a second start in as many games. If I were doing the planning, with road games coming up, I'd rather give Point his first start at home than on the road, which is where Texas will be for the next three games after this.

Last ngiht's injury to Reece Scarlett was painful to watch. He went off putting no weight on the leg. Texas will have to put either Niklas Hansson or Shane Hanna into the lineup to compensate. Both are fine players but neither has the experience of Scarlett.

Here's the injury again, if you can stand to watch.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body)

Admirals Web Resources:
Twitter: @mkeadmirals