Friday, December 14, 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
13-9-1-1, 28 pts
#5 Central Division
atMilwaukee Admirals
15-9-4-0, 34 pts
#2 Central Division
December 14th at 7:00 PM
UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, Milwaukee, WI

Heading into Friday's game against the Milwaukee Admirals, the Texas Stars are in the midst of a well-timed four game winning streak, each coming against division opponents ahead of them in the standings. If you ask head coach Derek Laxdal to weigh in on what that does for a team, he's far more concerned about taking each game as it comes rather than focusing on the big picture.
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
"Every game you play galvanizes your team," he said. "They’re getting rewarded for their hard work. If you know our dressing room, we’ve got a great group of guys and they play hard for each other. I think that’s important as a team. And they want to win for each other. So you see that in their game and there’s a lot of pride on that bench."

After Wednesday night's win over Iowa, Laxdal did specifically mention how recent back to back wins over the Milwaukee Admirals has had their team feeling confident in what they can achieve. If the Stars can go up into their barn and eke out another win, it will be another signature win in a season that got off to somewhat of a rocky start. Rather than worrying about that, Laxdal just wants to make sure their A game translates away from Cedar Park.

"As we go along in the season I think the galvanization of our club will get better even in losses. If you grind one out and lose a game, you’re going to be stronger as a team moving forward. We’ve just gotta make sure we take this show on the road."

Coming off his two-goal performance on Wednesday, veteran winger Michael Mersch likes what he sees from his team heading into Friday's tilt in Wisconsin. "It’s just a really good group," he said. "Good leadership and good young guys. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re winning. We’re looking forward to going [on the road] this weekend. When you win on the road, it’s a lot of fun."

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST. 

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Bayreuther, Hanley, Fedun (call up)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

High-End Offense Pushes Texas to Fourth Straight Win in 6-3 Victory Over Iowa

The Texas Stars knocked off the Central division-leading Iowa Wild on Wednesday night 6-3, running their current win streak to four games. The offense once again came in spades, with Texas receiving scoring from all over the lineup.

Veteran forward Erik Condra scored two goals, extending his point streak to eleven games and tying Matthew Fraser’s team record set in 2012-13. Winger Michael Mersch also notched two goals in the effort. Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov were strong with two helpers each, while Adam Mascherin scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period. A successive power play goal from Mersch salted the game away.

I think we were playing hard all night in [Iowa’s] zone,” said Mersch about his team’s offensive output. “We were cycling pucks and getting them up to the point, crashing the net. When you’re doing that and pucks are going to the net, you’re going to get opportunities. All four lines played really well tonight and generated offense.”
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Iowa made their presence felt in the opening minutes of the contest, showing why they currently lead the division. Two minutes in, Gerry Fitzgerald cleaned up a loose puck with his backhand to break scoreless play after a flurry of chances in front of Landon Bow. Bow finished the game with 25 saves on 28 shots.

“We were kind of chasing our tails a little bit in the first period,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “When they’re coming with that much speed at us--we’ve got a real young back end there without our veteran guys in the lineup. Teams do pre-scouts and they understand that, so they came real hard on the forecheck.”

The Stars got things under control as the period moved along and answered with Mersch’s first goal right as their first power play expired to knot the score at one. Mersch’s 218 lb frame was unmovable in the crease as Gurianov found him for the deflection.

The second power play unit generating the goal led to a strategic move by Laxdal as the game progressed. “Our second unit is really good. They snapped the puck around, and they scored just at the end of a power play in the first period. So they basically had three power play goals. And so I gave them the 5-on-3 [at the end]. I gave em a little cookie and they rewarded us for it.”

The Wild regained the lead five minutes into the second period when Colton Beck went high glove on Bow after catching the Stars on a change. “[Iowa] is trying to win too, and they’re a good hockey club. They’ve got 14 or 15 wins and they’re their for a reason.”

Once the game moved past the halfway point, the Stars tilted the ice in their favor permanently. Condra crashed the net hard about eleven minutes through the middle frame and was cleaned up the rebound created by Samuel Laberge. “I thought we made a real good push in the second. I think we only gave up three 5-on-5 scoring chances in the second.”

The second period push concluded with a Colin Markison goal with a minute left. Initially, he beat everyone down ice for a loose puck and missed on a backhand chance. Colton Hargrove was there to force a turnover on the forecheck a second later and found Markison wide open on the back door. Hargrove notched his hundredth career point in the AHL with his helper on a Colin Markison goal.

“You look at everybody’s stat lines, everybody’s got a lot of points,” said Mersch of the depth contributions.

The Wild couldn’t get out of their own way in the third period, costing themselves a chance to get back in the game as they were parading to the penalty box to the tune of eleven total minutes. Laxdal rolled out his second unit during a 5-on-3 and was rewarded with Mascherin’s goal from the left circle. “They took advantage of it and that’s part of the inner competition of your group,” added Laxdal.

Mersch scored the second power play goal for the Stars when he cleaned up a loose rebound after Hintz put a puck on net. “It doesn’t matter if its the other unit or our unit going out,” said Mersch of the big third period. “It’s nice to have that confidence to score the goal. We get put out there and get rewarded.”

Then the Stars opened the door a bit for the Wild with successive penalties to give Iowa some 5-on-3 time. Dmitry Sokolov found the top shelf from the right circle to cut into the Stars lead near the halfway marker of the period. “They’ve got some shooters,” offered Laxdal. “The Sokolov kid’s a shooter, and he buried one to make it 5-3.”

Condra’s empty net goal with sixteen ticks left of regulation removed all doubt, giving the Stars plenty to build on with their recent success against stellar competition. “For us to beat Milwaukee back to back, and then to beat Iowa in our building says a lot about the growth of our hockey club,” said Laxdal. “We’ve just gotta make sure we take this show on the road.”

The Stars begin a three-game road trip on Friday against the Milwaukee Admirals. The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:
Gurianov-Dowling-Mascherin
Morin-L'Esperance-Condra
Caamano-Hintz-Mersch
Laberge-Hargrove-Markison

Heatherington-Hansson
Hanna-Gleason
Nyberg-Norrish

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Vala, Point, Phelan (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,671.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - December 12 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
12-9-1-1, 26 pts
#6 Central Division
v.Iowa Wild
14-5-4-2, 34 pts
#1 Central Division
December 12th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal mentioned last week how these division games are essentially worth four points and that his team is looking to move up the standings. Recently putting together an impressive three-game win streak within their division was a great start toward that goal but nothing more. Getting it done against the Iowa Wild, who currently sit atop the Central, is going to be a tall task, yet almost manditory if these Stars are who they think they can be. 

Usually, measuring stick games don't come this early in the season. But with the Stars offense, even more potent with the return of Roope Hintz, clicking at an elite level, the time to make their push could be now. They're simply playing their best hockey and rising to the occasion while they await the return of key blue-line reinforcements. 

The Stars have to be confident heading into Wednesday evening, as they went 2-0-0-1 in their first three match-ups against the Wild in October. Even so, they're going to need every bit of offense they can muster with Iowa icing arguably one of the top goaltender tandems in the AHL in rookie Kaapo Kahkonen (.933 SP) and savvy vet Andrew Hammond (.911 SP). Kahkonen's save percentage and 1.94 goals against are both tops in the AHL. He's no ordinary rookie. 

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST. 

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Bayreuther, Hanley, Fedun (call up)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Texas Extends Winning Streak to Three, Wins 3-2 Over Ads

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars
The Texas Stars continued their recent streak of hot play, winning their third straight by a 3-2 mark over the visiting Milwaukee Admirals. Erik Condra extended his point streak to ten with an assist in the first period, one away from the franchise record. Roope Hintz had the game-winner in his first game back from NHL recall.

“I think we’re coming together as a team,” said Coach Laxdal. “That’s the kind of [tight] game where your young guys are going to grow.”

Hintz added, “It’s a good group here. They are playing really well, so it’s easy to hop in.”

It was a great start as the Stars hit the ice like they'd been shot out of a cannon in the first period. On their first two shots of the game, Texas beat Troy Grosenick to go up 2-0. Justin Dowling scored on a nice cross-crease dish from Denis Gurianov, and Niklas Hansson found twine from the goal line on a pass from Erik Condra.

“We had a really good start to the game,” said Laxdal. “But sometimes when you score early the guys get the mindset that it’s going to be easy.”

Milwaukee took advantage of their power play chances to bring things back to even into the second. After being outshot and outscored 2-0 in the game's opening minutes, they notched a power play goal off the stick of Connor Brickley to make it 2-1 after 20 and took a 16-6 shot advantage to the room. As the second opened, another power play goal put them at 2-2, with Alexandre Carrier being the trigger man. Laxdal added, “Their push came right after we scored the two goals.”

Grosenick was no slouch in the contest, and things could have gotten out of hand without him, especially early in the second period. Big stops on Adam Mascherin and Joel L'Esperance gave Milwaukee the chance to tie things in the middle frame.

“We could have blown the game open at 2-2, Grosenick was really solid for them.”

The recently-assigned Roope Hintz put Texas back on top in the second period with his fifth goal of the season and twelfth point in the ten games he’s had in the AHL. The genesis of the goal came on a heads-up play form Brady Norrish, who spotted an unmarked Michael Mersch at the opposing blue line. Mersch was picked up quickly, but Hintz cleaned up the garbage for the 3-2 score.

Hintz noted, “Mersch just made a good play. I got it and I shot it.”

Texas held on late to close out the game. Landon Bow, who stopped 31 of 33 on the night, was a big part of that. “I like the way Bow is playing right now. He’s getting into his own this year. I think he understands that he’s our #1 goalie right now and he’s playing like it.”

“He was really good today,” Hintz agreed. “There were so many chances to tie the game, especially at the end.”

Milwaukee’s best chance came just as time expired. With the extra attacker, they rang one off the crossbar and stayed on the ice after the horn to see if they would earn a goal review. None came, and Texas skated away with their fourth victory in five contests.

Texas plays again on Wednesday at home against Iowa.

Tonight's lines:
Gurianov-Dowling-Mascherin
Condra-L'Esperance-Morin
Caamano-Hintz-Mersch
Laberge-Hargrove-Markison

Heatherington-Hansson
Gleason-Hanna
Nyberg-Norrish

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Phelan, Vala, Payne, Point (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 5,410.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - December 7 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
11-9-1-1, 24 pts
#6 Central Division
v.Milwaukee Admirals
14-8-3-0, 31 pts
#2 Central Division
December 7th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

The Milwaukee Admirals are doing very well in the standings under first year head coach Karl Taylor and assistant Greg Rallo, both former Texas Stars. They've won five of their last seven, but those two losses have both come at the hands of the Stars, one on the road and one at home. The Ads have another chance at Texas tonight, but the Stars are looking to continue their hot play.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Winners in four of their last five, Texas vaulted over Manitoba to claim 6th in a top-heavy Central Division. Humorously enough, if the Stars were being sorted by points percentage, they would be in much better position, given that they have played the fewest games of any team in the division. The Stars have three games in hand on tonight's opponent, for example.

"We take it at a game-by-game basis, and we’re trying to move up the standings," said Coach Laxdal after last game. "A big thing for us is, any time we play a team ahead of us and if we can beat them, that’s a huge four point game. So now we’ve beaten them back-to-back. That’s five out of six points against them. We not only want to generate points on them, we want to move up our division."

The reinvigorated goalie play from Landon Bow has helped to put them in solid position. He had an off game in Grand Rapids, allowing six, but has only allowed one in both of his other two starts.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Bayreuther, Hanley, Fedun (call up)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Roope Hintz Returns to Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Roope Hintz is on his way back to the Texas Stars. At this point, the young forward has recorded more games in the NHL than AHL on the season.

He is being sent down as part of a series of moves to make room for Martin Hanzal to come off IR. In a related move, Dallas also waived and lost Gemel Smith to the Boston Bruins earlier today. The former Texas Star had 186 AHL games to his name, all in a Texas sweater, and 77 NHL games with Dallas.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has reassigned left wing Roope Hintz to the Texas Stars.

Hintz, 22, has recorded three points (2-1=3) in 14 NHL games with Dallas during the 2018-19 campaign. Hintz recorded his first career NHL goal on Nov. 18 against the New York Islanders. The forward has also appeared in nine AHL contests with Texas so far this season, registering 11 points (4-7=11), including two power play goals.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound native of Tampere, Finland was originally selected by Dallas in the second round (49th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft. In 79 career AHL games, Hintz has recorded 46 points (24-22=46) including nine power play goals.

Denis Gurianov Notches Three Points as Stars Fell Admirals 5-1

The Texas Stars knocked off the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday evening 5-1. Russian winger Denis Gurianov had one goal and two helpers and was the best player on the ice for most of the contest.

“He’s playing at a high level right now and using his assets, which is his speed,” said head coach Derek Laxdal of Gurianov’s game. “He has great skill and a great set of hands and sees the ice well. For him it’s all about maturity, and it’s a process for his game. He’s doing a lot of the little things a lot better now, and obviously he’s getting rewarded for it.”
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Gurianov’s speed was on display for the Wednesday crowd, which included the Dallas brass, in the first period. With just under seven minutes left Gurianov forced a blue line turnover in the defensive zone, turned on the jets, and went five hole on Milwaukee netminder Tom McCollum to open the scoring. “I’m just trying to use my strong suits,” said Gurianov. “When I get the puck I just try and skate hard.”

Laxdal sees a young player rounding into form. “Give him a lot of credit because he’s starting to understand the asset that he has and how dangerous he is as a forward,” he said. “That first goal that he scored was huge for us.”

Aside from Gurianov, there were several standout players for the Stars. Power forward Joel L’Esperance, defenseman Shane Hanna, and playmaking winger Adam Mascherin all had two points each. Landon Bow put together another strong start, finishing with 29 saves on 30 shots. He credits his recent stint with the Dallas Stars in helping him along.

“I just try to carry what I got in my little half game [against the Penguins] there,” he said. “If I can do that up there and bring it back down here, it’s really beneficial.”

The Stars power play once again got the better of the exchange between two top special teams units. Nearly six minutes into the middle frame, red hot Erik Condra centered a puck to set up L'Esperance in the slot for his first goal of the contest. Condra, who ran his points streak to nine games, is now tied for second in league scoring with 27 points.

The fourth line also pitched in on scoring. In the waning minutes of the second period, Colin Markison kept the puck during a 2-on-1 and beat McCollum over his right shoulder pushing the Texas lead to three. L'Esperance’s second goal came only a minute later when Gurianov sprung him for a breakaway. He currently leads all AHL rookies in scoring with 22 points on the season.

“You saw [L’Esperance] tonight playing a hard, heavy game and scoring off a rush on a breakaway,” said Laxdal. “He was some great speed at the end of a shift. It’s great to see his game taking off and him developing.”

The Stars finished off their offensive surge early in the third period. Near the five minute marker, Mascherin went back door on a feed from Dowling and Gurianov. Gurianov has seen the chemistry developing with their line over the last several games. “[Dowling] and [Mascherin] are smart players,” he offered. “We just understand each other. It’s like hockey language.”

Bow's shutout bid was ended eight minutes into the final frame when Garrett Ross stepped out of the penalty box into a breakaway, finishing with his backhand. Small blemish aside, Bow was deserving of the cowboy hat he donned in the locker room. “I thought Bow was outstanding,” said Laxdal. “I thought he was seeing the puck real well tonight, and he made the big saves when counted upon.”

The Stars will lace them up again on Friday night against the Admirals. The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:
Gurianov-Dowling-Mascherin
Condra-L'Esperance-Morin
Caamano-Hargrove-Mersch
Laberge-Phelan-Markison

Heatherington-Hansson
Hanna-Gleason
Nyberg-Norrish

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Vala, Payne, Point (scratch)

Texas assigned Elgin Pearce to Idaho yesterday.

Tonight’s attendance was 3,705.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - December 5 2018