41-29-4-6, 92 pts
#4 West Division
44-22-6-8, 102 pts
#1 West Division
Series tied 0-0
April 14th at 7:00 PM
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
The Texas Stars begin their quest for the Calder Cup this evening in Milwaukee against the West Division's #1 team, the Admirals. After a hectic last few weeks jockeying for position, the Stars probably drew the most favorable matchup of all the possibilities. Texas achieved a 5-1 mark against the Ads in the regular season series, including a 3-0 record at the Bradley Center.
Coach Gulutzan has a cautious optimism about the team's regular season success. "We've had success, but this is playoffs. I think the only thing [our record] gives us is knowing that we can win in that building." The goal differential in the six games was only seven goals. The games were wins for Texas, but they were all tight.
With the two teams being so evenly matched on paper, a lot of ink is being spilled on Richard Bachman. The rookie goaltender was around for part of the Stars run last year but is now firmly in the starter role. "We feel like we have the goaltending from both of our guys to compete," said Gulutzan, who is unconcerned with Bachman's rookie status. "If I say we have a rookie goalie, I can also say we've had the fourth best GAA goalie and the third best save percentage goalie."
Bachman played in eight postseason games for the Steelheads last year but this will be his first AHL playoff experience. "He gave us a lot of wins this year," said defensemen Maxime Fortunus. "He's gained a lot of experience." despite playing 3,191 minutes, second in the league, the goalie feels ready to go. "[In the playoffs] you feel rejuvenated," said Bachman. "We had a busy stretch, but my body feels good."
The rookies on the team and those who weren't here for last year's run are excited to make their own bit of Lone Star hockey history. "This team is excited," said Fortunus. "These new guys have heard about [the run] for a year. They want to carve out their own little niche here in Texas."
The Admirals, as we have documented, are a very similar team to Texas. The biggest potential vulnerability for the Admirals compared to the Stars is their goaltending. Mark Dekanich has been out of the lineup with an ankle injury, and Milwaukee will be looking to Jeremy Smith for their playoff tending. Smith is no slouch with a 16-8-2 record, 2.26 GAA and .921 SV%. Dekanich, however, was a magic bullet for the Ads this season, stealing games with regularity.
Overall, the two very similar teams are going to have a grinding series. If Texas can get one of the two games in Milwaukee, their chances to clinch at home with the crowd behind them is huge. Texas has yet to clinch a playoff series win on home ice and would love to do just that next week.
Stars injury/call up report:
Ludwig (lower body)
Admirals Web Resources:
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)