Monday, October 29, 2012

OKC Overpowers Texas Stars 4-2

(Credit: Steven Christy)

Unable to watch last night's game, so I've got limited visibility to this one.

Texas dropped a 4-2 decision to the OKC Barons on Sunday. It was the fourth time in seven games that the Stars pulled their starting goalie in favor of that night's backup. In each of those games that I've been able to view, the difference has been shot quality and letting in the "easy ones". Either the Stars weren't playing well enough defensively in front of the goal, allowing very difficult shots in that never should have been taken or could have been blocked, or Texas goalies allowed simple shots to beat them. Two of Nilstorp's goals against on Sunday were on slapshots with zero traffic.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars had the edge in shots on goal, but two power play goals from rookie defenseman Justin Schultz was the difference as the Oklahoma City Barons earned a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon at Cox Convention Center.

The Barons opened the scoring at 7:31 of the first period as they caught the Stars in the middle of a line change. Dane Byers took a long pass into the offensive on a partial breakaway and unleashed a powerful slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp to the far right post. Texas answered back 93 seconds later as Francis Wathier stole a clearing pass in the offensive zone and found Matt Fraser for a one-timer at 9:03; Fraser’s first of the season. Taylor Vause took the game’s first penalty, a tripping call at 11:04, and exactly one minute later Barons’ defenseman Justin Schultz shot from the point took several deflections before finding a way to tuck inside the right post. The power play goal gave the hosts a 2-1 after one period of play.

Anti Tyrvainen scored at 2:24 of the second period, sending a slap shot from the left half-wall off the inside of the right post for a 3-1 Oklahoma City lead. After Tyrvainen’s goal Texas replaced Nilstorp in goal with backup Jack Campbell. The Stars rallied again, drawing back to within one as Antoine Roussel sent a clever backhand pass from behind the net to Cody Eakin for a one-timer just above the top of the crease. The goal was Eakin’s fourth of the year and it was assisted by Roussel and Tomas Vincour at 5:51. The Barons regained their two-goal lead at 13:06 with another power play goal from Schultz, his second of the game, and they carried a 4-2 lead into the third period.

Texas mounted a fierce effort to try to comeback in the third period as they out-shot their hosts 14-2 in the final twenty minutes of play, but goaltender Olivier Roy kept the Stars at bay and helped the Barons hang on for the victory.

Roy finished the game with 27 saves on 29 shots to record his second win of the year in goal for Oklahoma City. Texas starter Cristopher Nilstorp took the loss, stopping 9-of-12 shots faced in the first 22:24 of action; Jack Campbell had 6 saves on 7 shots over the final 35:46 in relief. The Stars out-shot the Barons 29-19 in the game and went 0-for-2 on the power play; Oklahoma City was 2-for-4 with man-advantage.
Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Glennie, Chiasson (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Alex Chiasson was out with the flu again. Scott Glennie out again for the seventh game.

Tonight's attendance was 2,501.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Oklahoma City - October 28 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
3-3-0-0, 6 pts
#10 Western Conference
atOklahoma City Barons
3-3-0-0, 6 pts
#9 Western Conference
October 28th at 4:00 PM
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK

The first game against the Oklahoma City Barons had to be one that was circled on the calendar for every organization that plays them this season. However, for all the hype about the Barons, so far they are doing no better than the Texas Stars in the standings. They are even-keel at .500 and only ahead of Texas by one rank by virtue of goals scored.

OKC hsa three players clicking at a point per game or better: Justin Schultz, Teemu Hartikainen and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Coming in at just under that pace are Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi at five in six games.

OKC's Justin Schultz is tied with eight other players for the league lead in point scored at ten total. He and Mikael Granlund are the only rookies among that grouping. What makes it more impressive is that Schultz is a defenseman and is also tied with Texas's Cody Eakin for the league lead in shorthanded goals. He's clearly a player who can hurt you multiple ways.

OKC also returns the reigning AHL goalie of the year in Yann Danis. He is 2-2 with an inflated 3.27 GAA and sub-900 SV%. It could be a run and gun, last goal wins season in Oklahoma. The Barons have failed to allow fewer than two goals in any of their games so far. They average 3.33 goals against per game as a team.

For Texas, this is a chance to build on the win over Milwaukee and show off what they learned the rest of the week in practice. The Stars were working on special teams before Milwaukee and hopefully continued that trend. They scored a power play goal against the Ads and were perfect on the penalty kill.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Blog (unofficial): Oil Field Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Texas Stars Bounce Back Against Milwaukee 3-1

Travis Morin celebrates his first period tally. (Credit: Texas Stars)

The Stars bounced back from a disappointing weekend with a solid 3-1 effort against the Milwaukee Admirals tonight in Cedar Park. "We learned from our mistakes on Sunday," said Jamie Oleksiak, who had his first pro goal in the game. "We reviewed video with coach and established some goals we needed to do to win."

The Stars got up early thanks to a power play goal from Travis Morin. Texas played tight hockey, typical of the Stars-Ads matches of seasons past, all night. "Tonight's game was a lot more like playoff hockey, smarter hockey, not so much run-and-gun," said Jack Campbell, who stopped 23 of 24 Milwaukee shots.

Texas came out of the gate like a flash, racking up 10 shots on goal before Milwaukee managed their first fifteen minutes in.

"I didn't think I was going to get a shot on the whole game the way they played in the first," said Campbell.

The Stars' shot count was aided by two power plays, one of which was successful. A Francis Wathier pass found Travis Morin on the backdoor, where he rainbowed one in for his second of the season. Jordie Benn had the second assist.

The remainder of the first and into the second continued to be a rough grinding game, reminiscent of the 2011 playoff series. Francis Wathier had another great play at the end of the first, checking Milwaukee captain Mike Moore and leaving him a bit stunned. It was prototypical of the entire night.

"Being a physical presence [was one of our goals]," said Oleksiak. "It was a big reason we got chances and opened up the ice."

Scoring resumed in the third period with Jamie Oleksiak's first professional goal. The Admirals were playing aggressively all night, allowing a 3-on-1 for Texas. Cody Eakin dropped the puck to Oleksiak, who slid one in past Jeremy Smith for the 2-0 lead.

"I almost broke my stick calling for the puck from Eakin."

Milwaukee broke up the shutout bid with 4:27 left in the third, scoring on a point shot that found twine. Antoine Roussel would go on to seal the deal with his first goal as a Star. Mike Hedden had a nifty play along the left wing boards to get the puck to Roussel and make it 3-1.

The Stars now have a long layoff until their next home game, broken up by a single game in Oklahoma City on Sunday. Special teams work, which the team concentrated on in practices so far this week, should continue, as it clearly helped.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Glennie, Chiasson (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Texas officially announced Jace Coyle to Idaho today.

Alex Chiasson was out with the flu again.

Scott Glennie out again for the sixth game. Glennie was projected to play tonight by both Coach Desjardins and Les Jackson. Desjardins on Glennie: "he's going to be coming back here real quick." No further comment given.

Tonight's attendance was 3,395.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - October 24 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

Texas Stars
2-3-0-0, 4 pts
#12 Western Conference
v.Milwaukee Admirals
2-2-0-0, 4 pts
#9 Western Conference
October 24th at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Stars expect Scott Glennie to play in his first game of the season this evening. Les Jackson told Stars Inside Edge that it was a conditioning issue, "He wasn’t ready to go, so in fairness to him and the other players he stayed out until he was ready to go."

The Stars face off against unfortunately infrequent visitors to the Cedar Park Center, the Milwaukee Admirals, this evening. Unfortunately infrequent because games against the Admirals are always a spirited affair. In the first two seasons, games with Milwaukee were almost always one-goal games or shootouts. Mark Dekanich, Jeremy Smith, Brent Krahn, Matt Climie, and Richard Bachman combined for some of the best goalie play that Texas Stars fans have ever seen in these previous series. So far this season, Milwaukee has played in all one-goal games, if that's any indication of tonight.

So what's the book on Milwaukee this season? Bad news for Texas is that Jeremy Smith is back and just as good as ever. Despite a 1-2 record, he is the undisputed #1 on the team. His 2.37 GAA and 0.891SV% are certainly far better than either of the Texas Stars tenders.

Also back to bother from previous years are forwards Michael Latta, Gabriel Bourque and Chris Mueller. (Bourque is injured and won't play this week.) Added to that lineup are Patrick Cehlin (3-0-3 in 4 GP) and Mattias Ekholm (2-2-4 in 4 GP).

Special teams work was needed and was done this week in practice. The Stars are #25 (9.5%) on the PP and last on the PK (60%). The Admirals are #11 (23.8%) on the PP and #7 on the PK (88.2%).

The Stars are 6-2-1-0 against Milwaukee at home and 12-5-1-0 all time. Here's a recap of Milwaukee's weekend games to read over as well.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Admirals Web Resources:
Blog (Official): In The Crease
Blog (Unofficial): Admirals Roundtable (@adsroundtable)
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Texas Stars Assign Tousignant, Austin Smith to Idaho

Austin Smith (left) and Mathieu Tousignant (right) (Credit: Steven Christy and Idaho Steelheads)
It's not quite officially released yet, but the AHL transaction wire lists and the Texas Stars confirm the transfers of forwards Mathieu Tousignant and Austin Smith to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads this morning. Both forwards have only factored into a single game for the Stars this season. Each spent time of the fourth line, but apparently didn't make enough of an impression to demand a repeat performance.

As previously documented in this space, Austin Smith has been struggling in the one main department that was his calling card in the NCAA: goal scoring. Without a professional tally, Smith has to be feeling a little out of sorts. While heading to the ECHL is obviously not the plan that Smith envisioned for his first pro season, he will gain confidence in the pro game there and hopefully come back to Texas in due time with his scoring ways in tow.

As to Tousignant, he really seemed to be having quite a camp. He was agitating as usual and involved in the play as well. However, after one game in San Antonio, which most Stars fans were unable to see, he has not returned to the lineup. Tousignant spent time in Boise in 2009-10, scoring six goals and eleven assists in twenty games. He had one goal and two assists in thirteen playoff games as well.

Texas Stars Need Some Offense; Paging Matt Fraser

Matt Fraser in Friday's game at Houston. (Credit: Morris Molina/Houston Aeros)

Last season, the Texas Stars scored 224 goals. One in six came off the stick of then-rookie Matt Fraser, whose line with Travis Morin and rotating partners including Ray Sawada and Mike Hedden was an offensive powerhouse throughout the season. After being outscored 14-4 in the weekend three-in-three, the question has to be asked: where is that offense this season? The league has obviously noticed Fraser's scoring prowess. Is he a 'marked man'?

"I don't think I'll be able to comment [on being a marked man]," said Fraser before the season. "The challenge is there. The good NHL players find a way to put the puck in the net whether they're a marked guy or not. That's obviously the end goal."

Fraser and Morin have been paired up again and often with Mike Hedden in the early going of the season. The lineup seems obvious. Hedden is a grinder who can score and skate as well. Morin is an effective distributor of the puck, and Fraser has a solid shot that he used to great effect last season. However, Fraser and Morin, when combined with Sawada in the early going had one of the worst plus-minuses of the team.

Fraser was all too aware of the challenge of being defensively responsible: "The plus-minus was an area I'd like to improve on. To be a consistent player in the NHL, you have to be as good defensively as you are offensively. I know a lot of people take stock in that, and there's no one harder on myself than me on that stuff."

So far this season, Fraser has been held to zero points in five games. To this point last season, he was 4-2-6 with a minus-1 rating. This season he has a minus-3 rating, all accumulated this past weekend.

Unfortunately, the AHL does not publish statistics regarding ice time. If they did, it would be interesting to see if Fraser's ice time has dipped due to the lockout pushing Vincour and Eakin to the AHL. The lineup of Vincour-Eakin-R. Smith has supplanted the Morin-Fraser group on the 'top line', meaning that more premium minutes go in their direction.

Perhaps we can consult a proxy for the data. To this point in the 2011-2 season, Fraser had 27 shots and Morin had 19. Through the first five games of this season, Fraser has just 13 shots and was held without a shot on net in the Lake Erie game. Travis Morin has 14 shots on net, aided by a six shot night against Charlotte.

There is no question that Cody Eakin and Tomas Vincour give Texas a chance to score every time they go over the boards. However, their addition means that Fraser and Morin have to work that much harder to make the ice time that they do have available count on the scoresheet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lake Erie Shuts Out Texas Stars 4-0

Toby Petersen and Lake Erie's Mitchell Heard battle for the puck. (Credit: Texas Stars)

The Stars capped a forgettable weekend with a 4-0 loss to the Lake Erie Monsters on Sunday evening. After back-to-back losses to Houston, Texas is now on a three game losing skid and has a 2-3 mark on the season. "It wasn't the weekend we were hoping for," said captain Maxime Fortunus.

"We just didn't come to play," added defenseman Jordie Benn. "No excuses. It just didn't happen."

The Stars struggled in transition all night, making passes that were intercepted with regularity. "Our D are feeling pressure and trying a little too hard [to get the puck out]," said Coach Desjardins.

The captain agreed, "Transition was a big key. It's a part of the game we have to get going."

Texas allowed three goals in the second period, as Cristopher Nilstorp took the loss. Jack Campbell started the third in relief and allowed one. The last time Lake Erie visited the CPC, they also had a four goal margin of victory.

The Stars and Monsters played through a quick first period. Thanks to few whistles and no penalties in the frame, the period was done in under thirty minutes. Texas outshot LE 7-4.

Scoring picked up in the second, where the Monsters did most of their damage. Mark Sgarbossa started it early with a goal off a centering feed from Patrick Bordeleau in the second minute. Just 84 seconds later, Bill Thomas would wrist one past Nilstorp from the right wing circle for the 2-0 lead. That goal came as a directly result of Texas failing to take the quick way out of the zone.

"We have to make the easy play out," said Fortunus. "We can't be looking for the play all the way across the ice. Often, your easy play is your best play."

Lake Erie added another before the end of the period on the power play. Brad Malone picked the top-left corner on Nilstorp and set the score at 3-0. The Monsters were 1/1 on the power play, as that was their only opportunity. Texas was better about not going to the box tonight, but that was surely a hollow victory given the score.

Jack Campbell would replace Nilstorp to start the third after the Swede stopped 10 of 13 shots against in 40 minutes of work. Campbell would allow a goal of his own as Bryan Lerg managed to get Campbell to commit to a fake and then roofed one over the splayed tender for the 4-0 lead.

The Stars outshot Lake Erie 25-23 in the game and 12-10 in the final frame.

Coach Desjardins has a voice of reason on the losing streak. "It's just three games. When we won five in row, everyone thought we'd go forever."

Back to work on Monday for Texas.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Tousignant, Glennie, Coyle, A. Smith, Chiasson (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Jordie Benn played forward for a significant portion of the night, but eventually switched back to defense.

Alex Chiasson missed the game, coming down with the flu just before the game.

Coach Desjardins comments on Glennie:
"No [he's not injured]. He's gonna get ready to play and he'll be in the lineup soon. Probably in the next few games."

Tomas Vincour took a puck to the cheek late in the game on some friendly fire. He appeared to have a cut and left the game for the last four minutes.

Tonight's attendance was 4,231.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Lake Erie - October 21 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Lake Erie Monsters

Texas Stars
2-2-0-0, 4 pts
#11 Western Conference
v.Lake Erie Monsters
3-1-0-0, 6 pts
#4 Western Conference
October 21st at 5:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Coming into the season, Lake Erie had to be looking at their first four games wondering what they'd done to anger the AHL schedule makers. Three of the first four against predicted juggernaut OKC and the fourth against defending Western Conference champion Toronto. And yet, they come to Texas with a 3-1 record. It may be some combination of those teams not performing up to expectations, but at the same time, the Monsters are legit so far this season.

Thanks to the lockout, back again is forward Mark Olver. Also back is Tyson Barrie, who represented Lake Erie at last year's All-Star game and has come out of the gate flying this season. Barrie, a defenseman, has three goals and two assist in just four games, paired with a plus-4 rating. Also clicking in at a point per game or better are European Thomas Pock (2-3-5), rookie Boston College product Paul Carey (1-3-4), and the aforementioned Olver.

Also of note on the roster is former teammate of Jamie Oleksiak, Niagara IceDogs product Andrew Agozzino. Agozzino was undrafted but finished his career in Niagara with 306 points in 318 regular season games and 47 in 50 playoff games. The forward is much smaller than his former teammate Oleksiak, coming in at 5'6". That may have kept many away at draft time as size is so highly valued in today's NHL. Regardless, the Monsters picked him up on a standard player contract. He has two goals and an assist in four games, including a game winner in Lake Erie's season opener.

Among the bad news for Texas about this squad is that they dissected the OKC Barons last night with a 3/4 effort on the power play. Losing by a similar 5-3 score, OKC let the Monsters back into the game in the third after leading 3-2 at the second intermission. All three power play goals were in the final frame. Killing penalties is a lot easier when there are fewer of them, so Texas will have to stay out of the box more on Sunday.

Texas can avoid dipping below .500 with a win.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Blog (unofficial): Cleveland Plain Dealer
Twitter: @monstershockey

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Power Play Fuels 5-3 Houston Win Over Texas Stars

Tomas Vincour had a goal and an assist in tonight's game. (Credit: Texas Stars)

Texas dropped to 2-2 on the season with 5-3 loss to the visiting Houston Aeros tonight. For the second night in a row, Texas took too many ill-advised penalties and it ended up costing them on the score sheet. Houston had three power play goals on the night.

"They scored on their opportunities," said Coach Desjardins. "It's a game of inches. We were just slow tonight."

Despite only losing the shots battle 31-27, Texas's shows weren't finding the net like Houston's. "We tried to be cute and force plays and had a few too many turnovers," said forward Cody Eakin, who scored shorthanded in the third. "We want to cuase traffic and a lot of the shots we weren't doing that."

Jack Campbell took the loss with four goals on 12 shots. Cristopher Nilstorp came in to relieve with 18 saves on 19 shots.

The Stars let an early one by the start the game. Nick Palmieri had the goal off a point shot by Drew Bagnall. The play generated off a miscue by Tyler Sloan, failing to take control of the puck below the red line and clear the zone. Texas got it back three minutes later as a hard-charging Tomas Vincour scored five-hole on Kuemper coming from behind the net. Only 61 seconds later, Mikael Granlund scored his first of the year for Houston after winning a puck battle with the Stars' defense.

The second period was where things got out of control. With the Stars killing a Reilly Smith hooking minor, Francis Wathier took an interference penalty. Houston went 6-on-4 as Texas struggled to control the puck. With one second remaining in Smith's minor, Houston scored off the stick of Palmieri. Wathier's penalty still needed to be served in its entirety. Houston also scored on that power play to set the score at 4-1 and end Jack Campbell's night.

"We had 10 shots against," said Desjardins. "Sometimes it's not the goaltender's fault; you just need a change to get momentum."

With Nilstorp in net, the Stars set out to claim that momentum, earning a power play in the fourth minute of the period. Jordie Benn's point shot was tipped by Travis Morin to set the deficit at 4-2 for Texas. The goal was Morin's first of the year.

Houston reclaimed their three goal lead before the end of the period, again on the power play. Kris Foucault was left all alone on the backdoor and roofed one past Nilstorp for the 5-2 lead.

Penalties were definitely a stroyline for Texas, even though the club only gave up four power plays. Houston was 3/4 on those opportunities. Eakin added, "Our game plan is four [penalties] a game per less. When you aren't moving your feet, that happens."

The Stars would add a third, but ultimately inconsequential, goal in the final minute of the game. Cody Eakin broke in shorthanded with Brenden Dillon and Vincour, finding twine for his third goal of the year and second shorty.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Tousignant, Glennie, Coyle, A. Smith, Hedden (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Fraser, Chiasson, and Vause double shifted tonight.

Coach Desjardins on dressing seven D:
"Tyler Sloan's a good player for us and we needed to get him into the lineup."

Tonight's attendance was 4,422.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Houston - October 20 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
2-1-0-0, 4 pts
#7 Western Conference
v.Houston Aeros
1-2-0-0, 0 pts
#11 Western Conference
October 20th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Texas will try to shake off last night's 5-1 loss as the two squads face off again tonight, this time in Cedar Park.

Last night's game spoke directly to the heart of the AHL. It was a night for rookies, both in good and bad ways. Rookies Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Alex Chiasson all had goals in the game.

On the other hand, three rookie errors led directly to Houston goals. Oleksiak and Nemeth's defensive pairing got caught at the blue line for the 3rd goal and Oleksiak gave away the puck directly to Phillips for the 4th. The fifth goal against was immediately off a faceoff in the final minute with Alex Chiasson in the box for a slashing call clearly taken out of frustration.

Texas, in the past, has had a roster that skewed more to the veteran side of things. The club has never had this many pure rookies on the roster in its four years. That means two things. First, it means that many of these dynamic players are going to have amazing nights and could potentially put up numbers that will blow away previous records. Second, it means there will be some growing pains on team defense for sure. Coach Willie Desjardins is used to molding young minds though, as he did just that with 16 year olds in the WHL for many years.

In summary, last night was no reason to panic. The season is not going down the tubes. Some nights, all the bad shows up and none of the good. You have to take both at the beginning in hopes that the good outweighs the bad by the time the stretch run comes.

Otherwise, previous rotations suggest that Jack Campbell will get tonight's start, especially after the rough outing that Nilstorp had last night. Something to watch for: will Scott Glennie play his first game of the season? Austin Smith rotated in last night and the Stars lost. That wasn't Smith's fault, but coaches are a superstitious bunch, so I wouldn't be surprised if Austin Smith came out in favor of any of the remaining forwards: Vause, Tousignant or Glennie. Remember that Texas won its first two with Tousignant and Vause in the lineup, respectively.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Blog (official): Pilot to Gunner
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros
Twitter: @aero_joe (play-by-play)
Twitter: @TheJoshFisher (PR)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Houston Aeros Fly By Texas Stars 5-1

Texas fell to the Houston Aeros by a 4-1 mark in their first of twelve meetings on the season. Texas was down 2-0 at the first intermission on goals from dynamic rookie Charlie Coyle and veteran captain Drew Bagnall. The Stars managed to cut the deficit to 2-1 with Alex Chiasson's first of the year. Rookie mistakes from Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth made the lead insurmountable as two goals were scored against that line in the third period to make it 4-1. Houston added a fifth with a power play goal in the final minute. Cristopher Nilstorp had 25 saves on 30 shots against.

Houston's two goal first period started with Charlie Coyle's second goal of the season. Drew Bagnall, Houston's captain, had the initial shot, and Coyle picked up the rebound to beat Cristopher Nilstorp just under five minutes into the game. To that point, Houston had an 8-1 shots advantage.

Texas alternate captain Jordie Benn took one the few penalties in the game toward the end of the first, allowing Marco Scandella to score his first of the year on ensuing man-advantage. The goal light came on but referee Jeff Smith called it a no-goal on the ice. The goal went up for review, a season first for the Stars. Smith decided the puck had crossed the line, putting Houston up two goals. Texas was outshot in the period 14-8.

The second period was a scoreless affair, but Texas managed to establish some momentum by killing a four-minute high-sticking minor on Antoine Roussel at the fourteen minute mark of the period. Texas outshot Houston 8-6 in the period despite the extended PK, thanks to several shorthanded chances.

Early in the third period, Alex Chiasson cut the deficit to just a single goal with assists from Francis Wathier and Jamie Oleksiak. Just a few minutes later, Oleksiak and rookie defensive partner Patrik Nemeth would let Jarod Palmer and David McIntyre in alone behind them for an easy 2-on-0 goal by McIntyre.

Oleksiak had a give away with five minutes left in the third to set the score at 4-1 Houston. Zack Phillips broke in alone for his first professional goal. With a combined four AHL games between Oleksiak and Nemeth before tonight, it may be a better play to set them on different lines until they mature just a bit more.

Alex Chiasson took a penalty in the final minute of the period and Houston took advantage immediately off the faceoff to make it a 5-1 final.

Tonight's lines:
Gazdic-Roussel-A. Smith



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Tousignant, Glennie, Vause, Coyle, Sloan (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 5,738.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Houston - October 19 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at Houston Aeros

Texas Stars
2-0-0-0, 4 pts
#3 Western Conference
atHouston Aeros
0-2-0-0, 0 pts
#15 Western Conference
October 19th at 7:05 PM
Toyota Center, Houston, TX

After an unblemished first weekend of the season, Texas will go to its second weekend with a three-in-three on the docket. Luckily, this one will put the Stars in the state of Texas for all three games and home at the Cedar Park Center for two of the three. The weekend starts tonight with a visit to the Toyota Center to take on the winless Houston Aeros. Interestingly, Houston and Texas have both played the exact same two teams en route to their divergent records.

Stars fans should not look at the 0-2 record of the Aeros and expect an easy game, however. Houston is a very talented team. New players to watch for include Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund.

Charlie Coyle, on defense in number 3, already has a goal and an assist in two games of action with Houston. He had a ridiculous 34 points in just 17 QMJHL playoffs games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs. He was a 2010 first round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks but was traded to the Wild in the summer of 2011.

Jason Zucker in the #16 sweater is tied with Coyle for the team lead in points. Zucker was also a 2010 draft pick, along with Coyle and the Stars' Jack Campbell. Zucker and Campbell played together on the U18 and U20 World Junior Championship teams, winning gold in both tournaments.

Finally, Mikael Granlund is the "big" prospect to watch. Drafted just two spots above Jack Campbell, Granlund has been a YouTube sensation and the toast of the SM-liiga for the past four years. Perhaps most famous for his lacrosse style goal in the IIHF World Championship, Granlund has yet to pot a professional goal in North America. Wearing #64, he was named the Finnish Ice Hockey Player of the Year for 2011 and is a very special player.

Texas will continue with a similar lineup as last weekend, surely. The only questions will be on who, of the last six, gets the scratch. I imagine Scott Glennie and Austin Smith will factor into these games this weekend. Then again, it is hard to take out players who have been successful. It is possible that vet Luke Gazdic even takes a seat this weekend. It's unclear if he's showing enough to keep himself in the lineup.

Texas has a 7-8-1-2 record all-time at the Toyota Center.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Blog (official): Pilot to Gunner
Blog (unofficial): The Third Intermission
Twitter: @Houston_Aeros
Twitter: @aero_joe (play-by-play)
Twitter: @TheJoshFisher (PR)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Texas Stars GM Scott White Exclusive: Building a Winner, Part 2

I had the opportunity to sit down for an extended interview with the Texas Stars General Manager and Dallas Stars Director of Minor League Operations, Scott White. This is the second in a multi-part article about his history, time with the Stars and the role of an AHL GM. You can read part 1 here. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the lessons learned in the losing season, the role of an AHL GM and hopes for the future.

Lessons Learned in a Losing Effort

Andrew Raycroft (Credit: Steven Christy)

After a fantastic first season and a solid second season, the Stars suffered their first losing season in Texas, finishing second to last in the league and last in the conference. While it may seem that the 2011-12 season was a lost one for the Texas Stars, White believes that the players develop win or lose.

“Obviously, if the winning were there, your players would develop in the premier situation, but nonetheless, players still develop.”

While the GM certainly would have preferred a playoff berth, he acknowledged the silver lining: Jack Campbell and Austin Smith would never had played the valuable minutes they did if the Stars were in the thick of a playoff run.

His biggest lesson learned from the losing season was found between the pipes.

“The internal competition level in the net wasn't good enough. It's important to have a depth. Not just because you might need a guy to open the door in Rockford, Illinois, on January 21st because some guy came down with the flu, but also because he might be able to play five or six games for you and win some of those.”

White feels that the depth in net this year will help to prevent those same problems from cropping up in the 2012-13 season. White added, “Tyler Beskorowany needs to be the best player in the ECHL to be ready for a potential callup. You never know when injuries might come.”

On the topic of the ECHL, White is an adamant believer in the value of the league, being a product of it as a player, coach and GM. Having an affiliate you can trust is a huge part of it, and Idaho has the GM’s seal of approval.

“It's unbelievable important to have an ECHL affiliate you trust. I respect the ECHL because I played there and I coached there. I know what they go through.”

White expects to send more players to Idaho this season with the lockout pushing NHL-ready players to the AHL. Meanwhile, Texas is also affiliated with the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League. Sending players to the Metroplex for development has been less common for the Texas Stars, but callups have been frequent.

“It's good in terms of proximity and having the relationship with the Stars with Modano there,” said White. “Their proximity to teams in our league is important. I picked up the phone probably about eight times last season asking who was playing well because I might need a guy. I expect to do the same this season again.”

With the CHL membership dwindling over the summer, there have been some rumours of a merger between the ECHL and CHL similar to the merger of the AHL and IHL. White feels the Stars would obviously have to discuss the relationships with Allen and Idaho in the case of such a merger, but they are very happy with how they stand today.

Developing Dallas Stars

Next to GM and director of minor league operations on his crowded business card, Scott White also has the title of professional scout. He estimates that he sees 170 hockey games live each year, including Texas Stars games. His responsibilities include several NHL clubs and their AHL affiliates and some NCAA duty.

“I love the travel because I get some development, amateur and NCAA along with the pros. My job is to develop Dallas Stars. There's a process to it, whether it takes a year or three.”

On the topic of process, White is also responsible for a lot of day-to-day administrative work as the season starts but will be able to transition some of that off to assistant coach Doug Lidster once the season gets rolling.

ECHL GMs are often tasked with travel coordination and immigration for players, but luckily there is a support staff for that in Dallas for the AHL GM.

“I work hand in hand with Pam Wenzel in Dallas. If you ask anyone in our organization, she's probably the most important person in the Dallas office.”

“Otherwise my job is making sure that Willie and Doug have what they need so they can be successful.”

The Best Moment and Thoughts on the Future

Brenden Dillon, among those who got a shot in the show last season (Credit: Ben Hall/Lake Erie Monsters)

Asked about what his best moment was as GM for Texas, White had a two-pronged response. Obviously the trip to the finals in the first year was a big success, but he pointed to another more common experience as still being awe-inspring.

“The coolest call you make, the best call is telling a kid he's going to the show for the first time. Ultimately, these guys all want to play in the NHL. It's a great call to make. All the scouts and everybody deserve credit for it, but the rush of the call is great. You've got to tell the kids to get their stuff together and get to Dallas and then call everyone. You think about the filter down effect of everyone that player is going to call; it's awesome.”

While there may not be any Texas Stars going to the show for the foreseeable future this season, White has high hopes for the AHL club overall.

“The level is going to be very high with players being better and the training camp groups being together from day 1. We’ve got a good mix of youth and veteran players. I think the players who were here last year are looking for some redemption, and the addition of the younger players is huge. I expect high quality.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Texas Stars GM Scott White Exclusive: Building a Winner, Part 1

Scott White introduces Coach Willie Desjardins to the media

I had the opportunity to sit down for an extended interview with the Texas Stars General Manager and Dallas Stars Director of Minor League Operations, Scott White. This is the first in a multi-part article about his history, time with the Stars and the role of an AHL GM. In Part 1, we’ll discuss how White got to Texas and the team’s first season successes once he got here.

As with anyone in hockey, it was a long and winding path for Scott White to get to his job as the Texas Stars General Manager. He credits much of his success on his ECHL roots, both as a player and a coach/GM. However, both his playing and coaching careers started with college hockey with the Michigan Tech Huskies.

Solid Foundations in the ECHL

White played at Michigan Tech for four years and was drafted by Quebec Nordiques in the sixth round of the 1986 draft. After 93 points in 154 games of NCAA action, White played for the ECHL’s Greensboro Monarchs in the 89-90 season.

“I think you'd call me a two-way defenseman with an edge,” said White. “I loved to jump in the play. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the ECHL.”

White played in the ECHL, IHL and AHL across a five season playing career. He had his best years with the ECHL’s Greensboro Monarchs and AHL’s New Haven Senators in back-to-back season, putting up 84 points in 57 games in Greensboro and 54 points in 80 games in New Haven.

At the end of the 1993-94 season, White made the switch to behind the bench.

“I was finishing my contract, and I got a call from my alma mater. They came down and interviewed me. I jumped at it. I love Michigan and the area.”

Michigan Tech, located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was White’s home for the next five years as he bided his time looking for a head coaching job.

“My goal was to be a head coach. As a twenty-five year old in the college game, we had a few seasons there, and I didn't see the head coach writing on the wall. So I decided to make the jump to Greensboro.”

There was word of ECHL expansion on the horizon and an assistant coaching job in a familiar city was a great place to start getting his name in the running for a head coaching spot in the league. After just one season with the Greensboro Generals, the call came to become the new head coach of the ECHL’s expansion Columbia Inferno. White was able to secure an affiliation with the Vancouver Canucks and the Manitoba Moose for the new club, a huge coup for a first year head coach/GM.

The Inferno made the playoffs in each season with White behind the bench, making it to the Finals in 2002-03 but losing to the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in five games.

"Somebody talked to somebody"

After four seasons, White and the Inferno parted ways. Despite success in the ECHL, there were no AHL coaching jobs on the radar, and White was unsure about taking a run at an assistant coaching job in the American League. Then the Dallas Stars called.

“Dallas approached me coming out of the lockout with an offer. The right people talked; somebody talked to somebody. I owe a lot to those people. My coaching in the ECHL prepared me for the next level. I was able to watch a lot of hockey and learn the business side of it. I learned the low-level details more in the pro game than in the college game.”

Immediately, White was tasked with the same job as he has now for the AHL Iowa Stars, which was in its first year of affiliation with Dallas. During the lockout, Dallas had affiliated with the Houston Aeros and the Utah Grizzlies before that. Just three years into the Iowa affiliation, however, Dallas decided to begin work on a new affiliate relationship, including a new building in suburban Austin. For the 2008-09 season, White was an AHL general manager without an AHL team.

“I was based in Iowa [during 08-09]. I did a lot of scouting that year, and I was all over the place.”

However, as director of minor league operations, he was still tasked with making sure that Dallas’s prospects developed into NHL caliber players. Those players were assigned to various different teams all across the AHL. Maxime Fortunus and Raymond Sawada, for example, went to Manitoba, and Aaron Gagnon went to Grand Rapids. Others went to Hamilton and Peoria.

“Our philosophy is that we want to be hands-off. If we send a guy to Grand Rapids, we trust the people at the affiliate. We let our players do their thing there and get an update every once in a while.”

Building a Winner: Who Do We Have?

As the 2009 AHL season approached and soon-to-be Texas Stars fans were buying season tickets, White was spending the summer solidifying a roster and staff that would go very deep in the playoffs less than 10 months later.

The first decision for the young club was the matter of who would be behind the bench. The Stars went with a trusted source for coaches and players in the ECHL. It was a decision between the Las Vegas Wranglers’ Glen Gulutzan and Idaho’s Derek Laxdal. Gulutzan would get the job. “Les Jackson and I were involved in getting [Gulutzan] here in the first place, but it was ultimately Les's call.” Texas added Paul Jerrard, who had assisted all three years in Iowa, to the staff as well.

Then it was down to the roster. White hadn’t seen these players together for over a year, but knew what he had overall.

“It wasn't too difficult, based on we knew who we had under contract and who was coming in. Then it's a question of 'Where does Dan Jancevski fit in, or Andrew Hutchinson or Max Fortunus?’”

Getting Lucky on PTOs

Texas had two lucky breaks with PTOs from the ECHL turning into strong players in their first seasons in the AHL. Greg Rallo and Travis Morin both came to Texas on tryouts that first season, which is surprising given their contribution to the club in the first season and beyond.

Travis Morin (Credit: Texas Stars/Ron Byrd)

Rallo had played with the Iowa Stars and was planning on playing the entire season with Idaho until he made Texas on a tryout contract. “Coach Gulutzan, having coached against Greg in Vegas, knew what kind of player he was. Both player and coach knew each other.”

Morin was a case of the team and its scouts doing their homework.

“We heard [Morin] was a guy in the Washington system that just never got a chance but was the best player in the ECHL, bottom line. Glen and I have a background from the ECHL; we have a respect for it. When our peers from that level say that he's the best, we respect that.”

Eventually both Morin and Rallo earned NHL contracts: Morin with the Stars and Rallo with the Panthers.

“If you look around the AHL, all the teams have these players like Morin under NHL contracts. If the player is very important on the AHL team, he doesn't have a chance to go to the NHL without a contract. You have to pay the piper when you want to keep the guy in your system.”

Finals Defeat
As every Stars fan knows, despite their miraculous season, the Stars lost to the Hershey Bears in six games that summer of 2010 after taking on the best the Western Conference had to offer and winning.

“Even though we lost in the finals, it was a great accomplishment.”

In Part 2, which you can find here, we’ll discuss the lessons learned in the losing season, the role of an AHL GM and hopes for the future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thoughts on Texas Stars Opening Weekend; Labrie to Idaho

Hubert Labrie in Idaho (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)

Before thoughts on the weekend, just a quick note that Hubert Labrie has been assigned to the Idaho Steelheads today. He will travel with the team to Colorado for their game against the Eagles Wednesday night.

First and foremost, four points in two games is a good weekend for any team. And even though it's early, getting four points against divisional opponents matters just that much more. I had some thoughts on the weekend that didn't make the two postgame articles:
  • Alex Chiasson, who was big in the final few games of the 2011-12 season for Texas, had a quiet weekend. Working on a line with veterans Toby Petersen and Francis Wathier, Chiasson had no points and was even with only two shots on net. I didn't notice anything particularly out of place with Chiasson, but then again, I also didn't notice him that much in general. If that makes sense...

  • Goaltending was solid this weekend. Nilstorp was a minute away from a shutout and Jack Campbell should have earned a star for his performance in Sunday's game, despite three goals against. In general, it looks like the compete level in net will be high between these two tenders, something that raises the overall play of both. Remember when Krahn and Climie were both vying for starts in season one? Both were legit AHL starters trying to prove their worth, and that's what Texas has again this season.

  • Cam Barker did have the goal that started the comeback on Sunday, but he also took some poorly timed penalties in the game as well. Obviously, having him on point on the power play is the right call as well. He had a good movement out there and a great shot.

  • Cody Eakin was special this weekend for Texas, picking up three points and a plus-3 rating overall in two games. The shot he took to tie things up shorthanded in the Charlotte game was a wicked snipe. If he plays like that on a consistent basis, the Stars just might have a goal scorer to give Matt Fraser a run for his money.

  • Matt Fraser had no points with seven shots on goal this weekend. The team's leading goal scorer from last year is probably feeling pressure to produce just within himself. He had an opportunity in the Charlotte game to pair with Travis Morin and Mike Hedden, two players he played with last season as well. That should raise his comfort level and the goals will come in time.

  • Slighty lighter crowd (5,072) than in previous home opener years, which both broke 6200. The crowd was raucous anyways, and the players noticed.

  • Taylor Vause factored into the second game on the weekend and had a really great showing. He was strong on the forecheck and seemed to be in the right places. Coach Desjardins clearly showed his confidence in the young forward by placing him in the shootout lineup. Vause is making it very hard for Desjardins to scratch him this weekend with his play.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Texas Stars Comeback Against Checkers for 4-3 Shootout Win

Cody Eakin squares up for a faceoff in tonight's game. (Credit: Texas Stars)

Texas needed more than the standard sixty to do it but managed to set their home opener record at 4-0 with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Charlotte Checkers tonight in Cedar Park. The Stars were down 3-1 in the third period after two power play goals from the Checkers but clawed back with two in the period. "We traded chances and there were ups and downs," said Stars forward Cody Eakin, who had two goals in the game. "We just didn't give up."

"Eakin played well," said Coach Desjardins. "It's one thing to play well when you're fresh, but he was tired on a lot of his shifts. He was great."

Jack Campbell was similarly excellent, keeping the Stars in it during the overtime period and stopping eight of nine in the shootout. "He's a money goaltender," added Desjardins.

Texas seemingly had all the momentum in the first period, getting two late power plays and seemingly doing everything right except put the puck in the net. That momentum went away in the second when a whiffed pass by Jordie Benn allowed Zach Boychuk to break in alone for the 1-0 lead. Cody Eakin would even things up before the end of the second with his first goal as a Star. Reilly Smith and Tomas Vincour deserve a lot of credit for the play, dishing the puck to Eakin, who was alone in front. "It was pretty easy [to play with Vincour and Smith]," said Eakin. "We found chemistry early."

"We had a really good second, putting up a lot of shots," added Desjardins.

The wheels came off a bit in the third as a series of penalties put Texas on the PK repeatedly. Riley Nash squeaked one past Campbell at 1:43 of the third. It looked like the Texas tender had the puck sealed up but the referee's vehement gesticulating told the true story. Bobby Sanguenetti added a third for the Checkers just two minutes later, again on the power play.

Down 3-1, Texas drew a brief 5-on-3 power play, allowing Cam Barker to score his first as a Star, booming one from the point to beat Dan Ellis clean. Texas completed the comeback on the penalty kill as Cody Eakin again found twine, this time shorthanded, beating Ellis on a wrister from the left wing circle.

"This group of guys is young and hungry and can skate," said Eakin. "We don't quit and we're relentless. We make teams turn it over in the third, because we pressure them and wear them down."

The Stars took things to overtime and Jack Campbell absorbed four shots to Texas's zero, taking the game to a shootout. Nine rounds were needed to decide the matter with Texas putting up Eakin, Matt Fraser, Tomas Vincour, Mike Hedden, Reilly Smith, Francis Wathier, Taylor Vause, Travis Morin and Jordie Benn. Fraser scored but the score was immediately tied with a tally by Jerome Samson. Jordie Benn found the net in the ninth round and Jack Campbell stopped Sanguenetti with a flourish to set Texas's record at 2-0. The only other time Texas started the season 2-0 was 2010-11.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
A. Smith, Tousignant, Glennie, Labrie, Coyle, Sloan (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Coach Desjardins on playing Nemeth and Oleksiak together: "Nemeth and Oleksiak are both good players. Both with world juniors experience and Nemeth with experience in the SEL."

Coach Desjardins on scratching Austin Smith and Scott Glennie this evening: "It's nothing really. Both guys are ready, they can play and they will play. When you win and you have a guy in the lineup, you tend to come back to him."

Tonight's attendance was 5,072.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Charlotte - October 14 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Charlotte Checkers

Texas Stars
1-0-0-0, 2 pts
#5 Western Conference
v.Charlotte Checkers
1-0-0-0, 2 pts
#2 Western Conference
October 14th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Hockey's back. Texas will welcome the Charlotte Checkers to the newly-minted South Division and open up the Cedar Park Center for a fourth year of AHL hockey this evening at 7:00 PM.

Charlotte and Texas each help one of the other Texas teams open up their seasons last night. Texas defeated the Rampage in San Antonio by a 2-1 mark. Charlotte was equally stingy, beating Houston 3-1 at the Toyota Center.

One of the "big guys" that was discussed on the Charlotte roster was Jeff Skinner. However, Skinner is eligible play but has not reported to the AHL club yet. The NHL team has approved this decision and it is entirely unclear why Skinner has not reported. Regardless, Justin Faulk is in Charlotte and had two assists in last night's win.

The Checkers, much like Texas and Cam Barker, had an unexpected PTO in former Stars goalie Dan Ellis. Ellis, who spent time in Nashville, Tampa Bay and Anaheim, started his career with the Dallas Stars, playing for the Iowa Stars and Idaho Steelheads. Ellis did not get the start on Saturday and could play tonight. For comparison, some of the Stars that Ellis played with who are still in the system include Francis Wathier, Toby Petersen, Mark Fistric, Trevor Daley and Loui Eriksson.

Texas will look to improve their power play percentage. The Stars had no trouble drawing penalties in the first game or the preseason, drawing 32 total man-advantages over the four games. After going 8/24 in the preseason, there was a power outage in San Antonio.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (injury)

Checkers Social Media: Social Media
Blog (unofficial): Chasing Checkers
Twitter: @checkershockey
Twitter: @mikelappan (PR)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Texas Stars Open Season with 2-1 Win in Alamo City

Two first period goals were all the Stars needed to start the Willie Desjardins era off with a "W". Cristopher Nilstorp had a win in his first North American game with an 18 save effort. Goals from the Stars captain Maxime Fortunus and wily veteran Toby Petersen won the night for Texas. The Stars had eight power play opportunities in the game and came up empty on all eight after going 8/24 in the preseason.

The captain, Maxime Fortunus, opened up the scoring in the first period with a goal through traffic at the 4:49 mark of the frame. Cody Eakin had his first point as a Star, assisting on the play. Another veteran, Toby Petersen, added his own first tally of the season with four minutes left in the first period. Again through traffic, Dov Grumet-Morris didn't have a chance on the goal, assisted by Jordie Benn.

Penalty trouble haunted the Rampage in the second and third periods. Shots were 12-5 thanks to three Texas power plays in the period. The Stars were unable to take advantage of any of the three opportunities. It wasn't for lack of trying, as Tomas Vincour had 6 shots through the first forty, adding a seventh as the third started.

The Stars had a fair bit of power play time in the third period as well, with Eric Selleck railroaded Luke Gazdic at 6:28 of the third period. Selleck was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for the hit. However, Texas was unable to score on the ensuing major penalty power play. Despite an added minor for interference, taking it to a 5-on-3 power play, the Stars could not find the back of the net. An eighth power play opportunity also came up short with Dov Grumet-Morris having a great game.

The Stars had a scare at the end of the game as Drew Shore broke up the shutout bid and made it a one-goal game with 56 seconds left in the game. The goal came on the 6-on-4 PP. Jordie Benn took a penalty with 6.9 seconds left to make it interesting, but the win stood.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
A. Smith, Vause, Glennie, Labrie, Coyle, Sloan (scratch)
Sceviour (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 7,439.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - October 13 2012

Gameday Preview: Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
atSan Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
October 13th at 7:00 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Quite a few familiar faces will be across the ice as Texas opens its fourth AHL season against a frequent foe, the San Antonio Rampage.

The Rampage were one of the few clubs in the AHL not to get significant help from their NHL club as a result of the lockout. As a result, much of the top-end talent in the Alamo City is similar to last year's group. Jacob Markstrom and last year's hero Dov Grumet-Morris man the net for the Rampage. Michael Houser appears on the opening roster but will likely not get many minutes.

Quinton Howden headlines the incoming prospects for the Rampage. The 2010 first round pick (selected 14 after Jack Campbell at #25) joined the club for 4 games in the 2012 Calder Cup race. The forward played his junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Warriors, where he collected 239 points in 239 regular season games.

The big question for Texas will be the lineup. With twenty-five skaters on the roster, someone has to sit to get down to eighteen. As outlined yesterday, I think the forwards will be a rotating group of about six for at least the first few weeks of the season. Defense could be more volatile.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (broken hand)

Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @SARampage_Voice (play-by-play for SA)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Texas Stars Solidify Opening Roster, Sign Barker and Vause to PTOs

Cody Eakin in Friday's game against San Antonio (Credit: Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars announced their opening roster for the 2012-13 season. Honestly, there were no big surprises on the roster because nothing changed. Texas has decided to keep a few more bodies around to start the season because of the unexpected depth in the AHL this season.

The team doesn't feel that it would make sense to send down some of the bubble players only to potentially have to call them back up again in a week for depth during the three-in-three. GM Scott White is hedging his bets on the lockout ending soon as well with the move. If movement has to happen fast, it will be easier if all of the bodies are here in Cedar Park already.

Maintaining the roster as-is means that both Cam Barker and Taylor Vause have been signed to professional tryout contracts. PTOs are 25-games in length and can be terminated at any time by the team. A PTO is a great thing for Barker. After the first, you are allowed a second 25-gamer. That takes the deal all the way to February 15th. By that time a decision will surely have to be made on whether the 2012-13 NHL season is completely cancelled. That timing works out well for Texas because there is no such thing as a third PTO. After the second, the player must be signed to a standard contract or released. With the NHL cancellation decision made at that point, it would be easy to decide on an SPC for Barker.

Vause is another good story. He clearly spent the summer training up and getting ready for this year knowing that he would have a very tough time getting in because of the lockout's trickle-down effect. He made it and that's quite an accomplishment.

At times, I believe Vause looked better on the ice than Dallas-contracted players like Austin Smith. Both played four years of hockey before this, but Vause played in the WHL and Smith in the ECAC of the NCAA. Smith has commented that he is working on learning systems more because his role on the Colgate Raiders allowed him to "go wherever he wanted" on the ice. Perhaps the WHL's more structured style allowed Vause to make a smoother transition to the professional game.

There is no doubt that there are hints of a spark in Smith's game, but it seems that learning the defensive side might be holding back his offense a bit overall. However, comparing the two alternatives, playing defense and not scoring goals or concentrating on offense and getting a nasty plus-minus, you're sure to get farther with Coach Desjardins and Scott White doing the former, not the latter.


The fullness of the roster presents some unique challenges to Coach Desjardins. For example, here are the forwards:
Colton Sceviour, Austin Smith, Taylor Vause, Scott Glennie, Tomas Vincour, Toby Petersen, Cody Eakin, Travis Morin, Matt Fraser, Mike Hedden, Antoine Roussel, Reilly Smith, Alex Chiasson, Luke Gazdic, Francis Wathier, Mathieu Tousignant

Among that group, there are a certain subset of players who are unlikely to be scratched. Here's my set of forwards who are likely to rotate through the pressbox (Keep in mind that Sceviour is injured):
Austin Smith, Taylor Vause, Mike Hedden, Antoine Roussel, Luke Gazdic, Mathieu Tousignant
Each night Coach Desjardins will have to pick three of these players to make up his fourth line. It's a tough challenge because each player brings a different element. Even just the first three versus the last three is a completely different look for the fourth line. Tough decisions to be made.


Here is the defense:
Brenden Dillon, Tyler Sloan, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Hubert Labrie, Maxime Fortunus, Cam Barker, Jace Coyle
That's nine bodies on the blue line, by the way. What a huge group. Hubert Labrie and Jace Coyle have to be destined to Idaho shortly, in my opinion, and they will probably sit most nights in Cedar Park until that happens. The thorny issue is who the 7th man is. Some argument could be made that Nemeth should be that man some nights, given that he is making the adjustment to North American hockey and may have a longer development curve than Oleksiak. After that, it's a toss up to me of Barker and Benn. You don't want to sit either because they are both great veterans. It will be interesting to see the opening lineup on Saturday.


No big surprises in net as Jack Campbell and Cristopher Nilstorp will man the pipes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Texas Stars Expected to Name Maxime Fortunus Team Captain

(Credit: Steven Christy)

Hundred Degree Hockey has learned that the Texas Stars expect to name veteran defenseman Maxime Fortunus as the third team captain in club history this week. Fortunus, who has played for the Texas Stars since their inception, is a vet of 501 AHL games and has an additional eight NHL games under his belt, all with Dallas.

"Personally I want to be the guy that players can come to if they have a problem," said Fortunus today. "I'm not going to change my game on the ice. I'm trying to get better game by game. I want to lead by example everyday."

Fortunus noted that there's a lot of existing leadership in the room, making his job easier. "We have guys like Dillon and Fraser, on their second years, who are great leaders in the room. We have guys like Cam Barker and Toby Petersen. It's going to be a group effort."

Fortunus follows forward Landon Wilson and defenseman Brad Lukowich as the third captain in the history of the organization. Each prior captain had several hundred games of NHL experience under their belt before joining the Stars.

The 29-year old defenseman, who has spent the majority of his career in the AHL, represents a bit of departure in that regard. However, he represents a player who has been a good steady standby for the minor league side for a number of years. It's a "hiring from within", as opposed to bringing in a player specifically to serve the role of captain. That has both pros and cons in the business world and certainly in the sports world as well. It remains to be seen what it means for his leadership style.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Texas Stars Report: Undefeated Preseason, Deep Roster Set Expectations High

The Texas Stars Report on Defending Big D...
It was a good week for the Texas Stars as the club went a perfect 3-0 in the preseason. It was a far cry from last season's winless preseason and set expectations high for the incoming roster, deep with Dallas Stars prospects.

Speaking of that roster, there are some tough decisions still to be made by Texas GM Scott White. The Stars have so far released or assigned ten of their original 37 training camp roster. Many of those players had deals with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. Still others had deals with Texas, including goalie Josh Robinson and defenseman John Ryder. Finally, there was the assignment of Dallas contracted goalie Tyler Beskorowany and forward Tristan King.
Read more at Defending Big D...

Image credit: Texas Stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

Texas Stars Trim Roster By Seven; Beskorowany to Idaho

Tyler Beskorowany in Idaho during the 2010-11 season (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)

Tyler Beskorowany was the headliner among seven moves today that trimmed the Texas Stars roster to 27. Defenseman Matt Case and forwards Jacob Cepis, Austin Fyten and Andrew Carroll were released from their tryouts, but all are expected to join Idaho for the season. Forward Tristan King, defenseman John Ryder, and goalie Tyler Beskorowany were all assigned to Idaho.

Tristan King showed a good bit of growth over the last time he was in Texas's camp. He has a chance to really shine at the ECHL level and be a quality callup. However, there are still probably 4 or 5 too many bodies in Texas that will probably be in front of him for those jobs. He will have to excel beyond anything he's ever done to prove he should be welcomed back to the CPC during the season.

Tyler Beskorowany had a really rough year last season. The team defense in front of him was part of it, but at the same time, his level of play seemingly dropped off from prior years and expectations of a second round pick. He is in the last year of his entry level deal and will have a tough time battling up the depth chart. Texas will be extremely reticent to send Campbell or Nilstorp down, so injury up the line is the only way that Beskorowany returns. His chances are further hurt by the lockout, as there are only two possible goalies to get injured in front of him instead of four.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Stars Post 3-0 Shutout in Preseason Finale

After last season's 0-3 preseason, this week's three straight preseason victories were a positive sign. The Stars finished off the preseason schedule in suburban San Antonio with a 3-0 win over the host Rampage. Texas has outscored their opponents 14-3 in the preseason. The power play was another bright spot, contributing two of the three goals. Texas is eight for twenty-four in the preseason.

Luke Gazdic, Mike Hedden and Austin Smith potted goals as Cristopher Nilstorp and Jack Campbell combined for a shutout. The Stars led shots 21-17.

Luke Gazdic opened the scoring in the first, tipping a shot from Mathieu Tousignant past starting tender Jacob Markstrom. Antoine Roussel assisted on the goal by the gritty trio.

Another early goal in the second period, this time from Mike Hedden, made the score 2-0. Just 62 seconds in, Hedden found twine on the power play, assisted by Chiasson and Oleksiak. The point was Oleksiak's first of the preseason.

The third period added another for the Stars as Austin Smith potted his first professional goal, albeit a preseason empty-netter. Taylor Vause had his second assist in as many games. Oleksiak had his second assist of the game on the play.

Cristopher Nilstorp had 10 saves and Jack Campbell seven in the split effort.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Beskorowany, Dillon, Sceviour, Benn, Vincour, Fortunus, Petersen, Eakin, Barker, Morin, Fraser, R. Smith, Wathier (scratched)
Sceviour (broken hand)

Scott Howes and Jordan Hill were released before the game today. Josh Robinson was assigned to ECHL Idaho.

Today's attendance was not announced.

Gameday Preview: Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
atSan Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
October 6th at 4:00 PM
Northwoods Ice Center, San Antonio, TX

Another preseason meeting of the I-35 rivalry today for the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage, this time in the Alamo City. Last night's game was a better compare than Wednesday's game, but it still seemed like Texas was playing a higher percentage of players expected to make the roster than San Antonio. Today may be a little different in that regard.

So far on the preseason, the power play is the story. Going 6 for 15 in two games is approaching the efficiency Texas had at the start of last year under Coach Pyle, known for his PP. The difference so far this preseason is that the defense and goaltending has matched that play. Only three goals have been scored against Texas this preseason, as opposed to eleven goals for.

Coach Desjardins expects to play both Jack Campbell and Cristopher Nilstorp in net today. That almost certainly seals the fate of Tyler Beskorowany. He will likely be sent down to the ECHL as early as Sunday. Josh Robinson will also go with him, possibly before.

Toby Petersen is likely questionable for this game as he left last night's game in the third period after being hit. Coach Desjardins said he was likely "shook up" but couldn't offer more specifics. Petersen has already played in the first two preseason games, so there is likely no reason to put him in if there are any concerns at all about his condition. I imagine he would stay at home.

After a full night of DGM in Cedar Park, San Antonio should be starting Jacob Markstrom today and swapping in Brian Foster at some point during the game.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (broken hand)
Petersen (questionable, see above)

Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @SARampage_Voice (play-by-play for SA)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Texas Stars Power Past Rampage 4-1

Alex Chiasson (Credit: Texas Stars)

A solid Texas power play and stout goaltending again led to a win for the Stars tonight in Cedar Park. Texas scored two power play goals on eight opportunities. "We had a number of power play advantages and that helps," said Coach Willie Desjardins. "I think we are skating pretty hard and maybe that is drawing [penalties]."

Texas had goals from Tomas Vincour and Brenden Dillon on the power play. Francis Wathier and Alex Chiasson chipped in even-strength tallies in between. Cristopher Nilstorp picked up his first North American win in his first game. The tender stopped 18 of 19 shots against.

"It was fun to play; I've not played in half a year now," said Nilstorp postgame. "The angles are a big difference. I've been here for a month now and trying to get used to it."

Texas opened the scoring in the first period with a power play goal. After being ineffective on the first two power play chances they were granted, the third was the charm. A net mouth scramble saw Dov Grumet-Morris stop several point blank chances before Tomas Vincour knocked the puck into the net out of midair.

The Stars finished the period with eight shots to San Antonio's five.

Texas's offense picked up in the second period with a three goal outburst. Veterans Toby Petersen and Francis Wathier combined for the first of the period. Wathier whipped the puck past Dov Grumet-Morris after a bright drop pass from Toby Petersen at the right point.

Not to be outdone, Alex Chiasson picked up his second of the preseason on another smart play from Taylor Vause, who had a very good night. Vause and Chiasson broke in to the zone two-on-one. Vause sent a pass in Chiasson's direction, which he managed to deflect into the net for the 3-0 score. Tyler Sloan had the second assist.

"Chaisson is a big strong forward, heavy body to move," said Desjardins. "And he's got a great attitude."

The final goal of the period came on the power play as Brenden Dillon bombed one past DGM clean from the right point. Petersen, also playing the point, slid the puck over the Dillon for the primary assist, and Morin had the secondary on the 4-0 goal.

Goalie Nilstorp came on strong at the end of the second. Coach Desjardins noted, "He had a few chances [against] late in the second period that could have turned it, but he was solid."

Texas would finally give one up in the third frame on the power play. Francis Wathier took a questionable goaltender interference call, and Drew Shore found twine from the high slot on the ensuing man advantage.

Tonight's lines:
R. Smith-Eakin-Vincour



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
G Campbell, Robinson; D Hill, Ryder, Benn, Case, Coyle; F A. Smith, Fyten, Carroll, Hedden, Cepis, Gazdic, Howes, Tousignant (scratched)
Sceviour (broken hand)

Taylor Vause had a sneaky good night. I think his assist was a great play, but he played very well overall. He is making a solid case to stay.

Toby Petersen left the game in the third period after taking a hit in the offensive zone. He did not return. Coach Desjardins had no comment on his condition after the game.

Tonight's attendance was not announced.

Clarifying the AHL's Hybrid Icing Rule

(Credit: Steven Christy)

Among new players, coaches and surely fans, the Texas Stars also experienced new rules on Wednesday night. The most noticeable rule change this year is the move to so-called "hybrid icing".

Up until this summer, there were two flavors of icing: touch and no-touch. The NHL and AHL were two of the only leagues in the world to still use touch icing. At a basic level, when a player dumps the puck into the offensive zone from the opposite side of the center line and it crosses the goal line without another player touching it, icing occurs.

What triggers the whistle is the difference in the two types. In touch icing, a player from the defensive club must be the first to touch the puck, at which point the referee will blow the play dead and there will be a faceoff in the offending team's zone. In no-touch icing, the play is blown dead the instant the puck crosses the goal line.

Safety is the primary motivator for most league moving to no-touch icing. Players trying to "beat out the call" will race with defensemen to reach the puck, often resulting in nasty collisions with the end boards.

Hybrid icing, which the AHL is trying out on a limited basis until mid-November, was debuted in preseason games across the league this week. Essentially, in the event of a potential icing violation, should a defending player be the first to reach the end zone face-off dots, the play will be completed, provided the puck has crossed the goal line at that point.

This description led many to believe that hybrid icing was a "race to the faceoff dots." However, the linesman is actually making a determination of which player more likely to make it to the puck first. A case where this might apply would be a puck being rimmed around the boards. While the defensive player may reach the dots first, icing may be waived because the offensive player is more likely to reach the puck first.

Let's take a look at a diagram.

This is a hypothetical example of the above description. If the puck (red) were rimmed around the boards in a clock wise fashion, you can see that the defensive (green) player may be the first to the dots but the offensive player (yellow) would be first the puck. That is what matters in hybrid icing.

Watch for the calls tonight to understand more. Tweet me @100degreehockey during the game if you need further clarification on any of the calls tonight.

Gameday Preview: Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
v.San Antonio Rampage
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Western Conference
October 5th at 7:00 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

San Antonio is up next on the preseason docket. The Stars will be the only team the Rampage face in their two-game preseason. The clubs will play tomorrow as well in suburban San Antonio.

The NHL lockout is affecting rosters all over the league, but San Antonio is one of the few teams without any "big names" sent down. Texas has Eakin and Vincour, which may not be as big as Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, but the Rampage do not expect to have any players on the roster this year that they probably wouldn't have seen anyways.

As to Texas's extended depth, Coach Desjardins had this to say after Wednesday's game, a quote that I'll let stand on its own.
"We have lots of depth. We have guys who can play here who didn't tonight. Guys are going to have to go hard. I don't have a history with a lot of these guys, so every spot is up for grabs."
Several players expected on the roster were out on Wednesday including last year's leading scorer, Matt Fraser, and first-round pick Scott Glennie. Also left off were vet D-man Tyler Sloan and sophomore blue liner Hubert Labrie. Expect those four to cycle in for this game so coach can evaluate what he has from them.

Colton Sceviour is expected to be out for a while. Hand injuries, especially broken hands, can range from 4-6 weeks of recovery time.

San Antonio expects to play Dov Grumet-Morris or DGM, in shorthand, and flip halfway through the game to Michael Houser. Coach Desjardins, on the other hand, indicated that he will give the entire game to Cristopher Nilstorp.

Stars injury/call up report:
Sceviour (broken hand)

Blog (unofficial): Rampage with Tony U.
Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With The Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @SARampage_Voice (play-by-play for SA)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Quick Hits with Taylor Vause

(Credit: Steven Christy)

After joining the Stars on an ATO at the end of last season, Taylor Vause broke his foot blocking a shot after only playing five games. He showed enough in those five games to earn a training camp tryout. HDH got a chance to talk with him this week.

HDH: Congratulations on the tryout to camp. Can you talk a little about the end of the season last year?
"It was unfortunate that I blocked and shot and had the injury. I was lucky enough to play all 72 with my junior club. Injuries will happen, though. Coming down and getting a taste of what it was like was great. Before that, I was leaning a bit more towards school because I didn't know if I could play at this level."
HDH: How did the recovery go on the foot?
"The foot was seven weeks in a boot. It slowed me down, so I was itching to get back. I spent a lot of time in Calgary getting ready. I had a lot of fun getting ready for the season."
HDH: Other have mentioned a different attitude this year from last. What have you seen?
"The fans see the young guys coming up and they're excited. I'm hoping I can be a part of that where I can come in and contribute as a 3rd or 4th line guy, come in and create a little energy. The fans and the guys in the room see [the young guys'] talent and are excited."
HDH: It's a tough time to break into the league with the trickle-down effect from the lockout. Have you had a chance to read about that much?
"I noticed that right away. It's an obvious thing where guys are getting sent down. I've prepared as much as I can for this season and I feel as ready as I could ever be. At the same time, I have to do what I can when I get put in the lineup and show that I belong."
HDH: Have you had any talks with GM Scott White about the expectations given that there are so many bodies here?
"I'm just hoping that the lockout gets figured out as soon as possible. The tryout is gonna take me where it takes me. I just have to hope for some playing time. I like the team and the staff and want to stay."
HDH: Are you still considering college as an option?
"My main goal is pro. If it comes down to it, school is an option. My main goal is pro, though."
[Ed. Note: Taylor is eligible for the WHL Scholarship, but would forfeit the scholarship by signing a contract with the Stars.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Texas Stars Win, Put Up Seven on Houston

Jamie Oleksiak in tonight's game versus Houston (Credit: Texas Stars)

Texas's power play contributed four of a total seven goals on the night to overwhelm the Houston Aeros in preseason action by a final of 7-2. First star of the game, Francis Wathier, had two goals and two assists on the night. "We tried to move the puck a lot," said Wathier. "We're trying something different and it's working." Jack Campbell played the entire game and stopped 22 of 24 shots against.

"There were a lot of good things," said Coach Desjardins. "We were lucky on the power play and that was the difference in the game." Jokingly, he added that the power play was working because "we haven't had time to screw it up yet."

Texas also had success as they were able to roll four lines. "Clubs are going to be a little deeper [this season]," said assistant coach Doug Lidster. "So you're going to need your fourth liners to eat up minutes."

In a first period with 26 minutes of penalties between the teams, Texas was the one that managed to capitalize on the opportunities. The club went 2/5 on the PP in the first. Colton Sceviour opened the scoring with a nice wrist shot from the left wing circle, assisted by Jordie Benn and Travis Morin. Houston answered back halfway through the period with a two-on-one goal finished off by veteran Aero Carson McMillan.

The Stars continued their power play mastery with another goal from Francis Wathier in the 12th minute of the period. A nice shot from the point man, Toby Petersen, was tipped up and over Darcy Kuemper to make it a 2-1 game. Jordie Benn picked up his second assist of the night on the play.

The power play picked up right where it left off in the second as a 5-on-3 led to an easy tap-in goal by Mike Hedden on the back door. Morin and Wathier assisted on the play. The third period is where things got pretty out of hand for the Aeros as Texas extended their success to even-strength.

Tomas Vincour opened that third period scoring with a great backdoor tap-in. Maxime Fortunus kept the puck in the zone at the left point to keep the play alive. Francis Wathier potted his second of the night just two minutes later, with a Chiasson shot-pass deflecting in off his skate.

Cody Eakin scored his first goal as a Star just a minute later, finishing off a rebound on an opportunity where Fortunus recovered an errant Houston pass and took a shot. Brenden Dillon finished off the scoring in the game with a power play goal, Texas's fourth of the game, assisted by Wathier and Chiasson.

Tonight's lines:
Hedden-Morin-A. Smith
R. Smith-Eakin-Vincour



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
G Beskorowany, Nilstorp;
D Hill, Labrie, Ryder, Sloan;
F Fyten, Carroll, Vause, Glennie, King, Case, Fraser, Roussel, Cepis, Howes;

Austin Smith had the first fight of the preseason, throwing down with Ryley Grantham in a short-lived bout at the end of the first period. Smith had just jumped over a player, clipping his head and drawing the ire of Grantham, who picked up an extra minor.

Colton Sceviour left the game after blocking a shot in the first period. He did not return, and Coach Desjardins does not expect him to be 'out for a while'. Early indications point to a broken hand.

Jace Coyle dressed for the game but did not play until the third period. Defense coach Doug Lidster indicated that this was an agreement between the teams to allow the dressing of an extra player. "Dressing an extra player puts a lot of stress on the team since you grow up used to six. Jace did a real good job with his ice time in the third."

Tonight's attendance was not announced.