Friday, June 28, 2013

Texas Celebrates Five Years in Cedar Park With New Jersey Patch, Center Ice Logo

The new Stars' five year campaign logo will be
featured on jerseys and center ice.
Click to enlarge.
If you'd believe it, the Texas Stars are opening up their fifth season this fall. The team has announced a commemorative logo to be added to their jersey for the duration of the season to celebrate. It is not immediately clear where on the new jerseys the patch will be placed. The patch logo will also be the center ice logo for the Cedar Park Center ice in 2013-14.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars unveiled today their official Fifth Anniversary logo to celebrate the upcoming 2013-14 season.

The Stars official fifth anniversary logo features an augmented version of the primary logo's green and gold star, a large number five, the words Texas Stars and the years 2009-2014 commemorating the team's seasons of operation, all of which overlay a black circle with gold trim.

The Stars fifth anniversary logo will feature prominently as a patch on the team's home and road jerseys, while also being emblazoned on a variety of new team merchandise. An adaptation of the logo will serve as the center ice logo at Cedar Park Center for the 2013-14 season. The logo introduction is the next step of an on-going fifth anniversary celebration which began when the Stars unveiled their new jersey designs in late May.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Texas Stars Return Key Piece, Re-Sign Justin Dowling

Justin Dowling (Credit: Steven Christy)
The Texas Stars locked up an important piece from their 2012-13 campaign for the coming year by signing Justin Dowling to a one-year AHL standard player contract today. The center played in 38 games for the Stars this season after starting the year in Idaho and earning a starting spot in the ECHL All-Star game. Dowling leads all Texas Stars in franchise history in points percentage at .789. He was 16-14-30 with a plus-16 rating and just four PIMs in a Stars sweater.

Dowling, of course, was a huge part of the Stars success thanks to his chemistry with Mike Hedden and Alex Chiasson. Really, it was his chemistry with Hedden that helped make the pair a standard part of the top six. Chiasson, Glennie and Ritchie all saw time on their wing and all produced there. Chiasson spent the most time with the two and benefited tremendously from it.

Dowling's production tailed off in the playoffs after he suffered a broken finger in the second round, which forced Alex Chiasson to take faceoffs for the line and limited his overall effectiveness.

Mike Hedden now headlines the group of Texas Stars AHL contracts from last season who are still unsigned for next season. GM Scott White told the Statesman that he has had conversations with Hedden. Others include D Gord Baldwin, F Bretton Cameron, G Josh Robison, D John Ryder, F Taylor Vause and D William Wrenn.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced today that center Justin Dowling has signed a standard American Hockey League contract for the 2013-14 season.

Dowling, 22, appeared in 38 games for Texas during the 2012-13 season, recording 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists), a plus-16 rating and just four penalty minutes. The Cochrane, Alberta native finished the year tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (4), ranked second in shooting percentage (15.8%) and points-per-game average (0.79) and was third in goals. Dowling made his Stars debut on January 12, 2013 vs. San Antonio, but failed to register any points in his first three games. He did not take long to catch fire, however, notching seven points (5 goals, 2 assists) in his next five games, including a two-assist game on January 18th at Chicago and tallying the sixth hat trick in franchise history on January 26th vs. San Antonio. It was the only hat trick by a Texas player in the 2012-13 season. Dowling made his Calder Cup Playoff debut on April 26th at Milwaukee, in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, and appeared in all nine of the Stars' post-season games. He was tied for second on the team with four points (1 goal, 3 assists) during the playoffs.

Dowling began last season with the Idaho Steelheads, the Stars' ECHL affiliate, racking up 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 34 games. He was leading Steelheads and ranked second overall in the ECHL in both assists and points when he was called up to Texas and signed to an AHL contract on January 7, 2013. Dowling now enters his third professional season in 2013-14 with 106 points (37 goals, 69 assists) in 128 career pro games under his belt, including 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 68 AHL contests.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dallas Stars Re-Sign Matt Fraser and Cameron Gaunce for 2013-14

Matt Fraser (left) and Cameron Gaunce (Credits: Steven Christy, Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill continues to lock down his RFAs as the Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed forward Matt Fraser and defenseman Cameron Gaunce to one year, two-way deals for 2013-14. Both players finished the season in the AHL with Texas and are expected to be competitive in training camp for a role on the NHL roster.

Matt Fraser has played almost every game of his professional career in the Stars organization. The rising third year winger leads the Texas Stars franchise in goals (70) and has led the club in individual season goal scoring each year he has been with the team. He was also an AHL Second-Team All-Star last season. He spent the last month of the season with the Dallas Stars, notching 12 games but having trouble finding his usual scoring success. In 13 NHL games, he has only scored a goal and an assist. Fraser, or a linemate, has to find room for the winger to take his shots. He has a wonderful shot when he has the space to make it. Too often that wasn't the case in the NHL. To be successful, he has to get that space this season in the NHL.

Cameron Gaunce was acquired at the trade deadline in what seemed to be a 'meh' trade to many outside observers. Tomas Vincour, a forward in and out of favor and luck in Dallas, was traded for a defenseman who had mostly played in the AHL to that point. With Jagr and Roy taking headlines, it got lost in the fray. In the ensuing months, Gaunce performed admirably for the Texas Stars, playing in every game since the trade. Vincour, it should be noted, also did well for Lake Erie with 11 points in six games. However, Vincour is on his way to Europe and the Stars have just locked down Gaunce for 2013-14.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced today that the Dallas Stars, the club's National Hockey League affiliate, have signed both left wing Matt Fraser and defenseman Cameron Gaunce to one year, two-way contracts for the 2013-14 season.

Fraser, 23, skated in 12 NHL games during the 2012-13 campaign, earning his first career NHL goal against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25 and recorded three points (1G-2A). Fraser appeared in 62 games this season with Texas, notching 46 points (33G-13A), leading the team in goals, finishing second on the club points and tied for fourth in plus-minus (+13). He appeared in nine games during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs and notched two goals.

The 6-foot-1 native of Red Deer, Alta., finished this past season ranking first in the AHL in power-play goals (17), second in goals (33) and was named to the 2012-13 AHL Second All-Star Team. Earlier this season, he was selected to represent the Western Conference at the 2013 AHL All-Star Game. Fraser went undrafted and was signed as a free agent on Nov. 17, 2010. He is Texas' all-time leader in goals (70) and power play goals (28) and ranks fifth in career points (101).

Gaunce, 23, split the 2012-13 season between the Lake Erie Monsters and Texas, skating in a total of 70 games and recording 16 points (2G-14A) with 98 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-1 defenseman from Markham, Ont., was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Tomas Vincour on April 2, 2013. Gaunce made his first career Calder Cup Playoff appearance this year's with the Stars, appearing in all nine of Texas' post-season games. He has appeared in 11 career NHL games, all during the 2010-11 season with Colorado, recording one goal with 16 penalty minutes. Gaunce was Colorado's second-round selection (50th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft.

Dallas Dev Camp Roster Features Several Texas Stars, Local Products

Brett Ritchie at last year's development camp (Credit: Kimberly Van Heel)
Each summer, the Stars host a development camp during the first week of July for the younger players in the system, including the new draft picks.

From Mark Stepneski's blog, here is the preliminary roster for the 2013 Dallas Stars Development Camp.

*Indicates player not in Dallas system invited to camp

Goalies Forwards Defensemen
Henri Kiviaho
Maxim Lagace
Cab Morris*
Ty Rimmer*
John Keeney*
Branden Troock
Cody Payne
Curtis McKenzie
Devin Shore
Emil Molin
Gemel Smith
Matej Stransky
Mike Winther
Radek Faksa
Taylor Peters
Brendan Ranford*
Brock Montgomery*
Will White*
Jake Fallon*
Dmitry Sinitsyn
Esa Lindell
Joe Morrow
Ludwig Bystrom
Troy Vance
Etienne Boutet*
J.B. Baume*
Matt Staples*

If you take a look, you'll see many of the players listed as not in the system are AHL contracts or likely AHL contracts for next season, including Brendan Ranford, Brock Montgomery and Etienne Boutet. Several of the others are local products, including Jake Fallon from Southlake and Matt Staples from Coppell.

Most on-ice sessions are open to the public. The schedule will be forthcoming.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stars Lock Up Colton Sceviour For Next Year, Travis Morin for Two

Sceviour and Morin (Credit: Steven Christy)
The Dallas Stars announced today that they have locked up two big contributors to the Texas Stars roster for next season: forwards Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour. 

Both deals are two way, but both players will need to pass through waivers if they are going to be with Texas this coming season. Morin, who was due to be an unrestricted free agent,signed a two year deal, and Sceviour, a pending restricted free agent, signed for one year.

Both players have been with the Texas Stars since their inception and are ranked one and two in many of the club's offensive records. Based on the needs of the Dallas Stars, there is some likelihood that Sceviour could start the season in the NHL.

Morin will likely continue to be a heavy contributor at the AHL level for Texas. It was noticeable when he was not on the ice for Texas this season due to injuries. He has a significant player for this team over the last four years and will be into the next two years for sure.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced today that the Dallas Stars, the club's National Hockey League affiliate, have signed forward Travis Morin to a two year, two-way contract and forward Colton Sceviour to a one year, two-way contract.

Morin, 29, has skated in three career NHL games, all during the 2010-11 campaign. This season, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward from Minneapolis, Minn., played 59 games for Texas, where he led the team with 32 assists and ranked third in overall scoring with 44 points (12G-32A). He also earned three assists in seven Calder Cup Playoff games. Morin was Dallas' ninth-round selection (263rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Draft.

Sceviour, 24, has played two career NHL games, and earned his first NHL point (assist) on Jan. 26, 2013 against the St. Louis Blues. The 6-foot, 196-pound forward from Red Deer Alta., led Texas in scoring with 52 points this past season (21G-31A) and also paced the club with a plus-21 rating in 62 regular season contests. Sceviour posted four points (1G-3A) and a plus-1 rating in nine Calder Cup Playoff games this past season. Sceviour was Dallas' fourth-round selection (112th overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft.

Morin and Sceviour are part of the select group of Original Texas Stars, seven players who have appeared in games in each of the team's four seasons of operations (2009-2013). The names of both forwards are a frequent occurrence throughout the Texas Stars record book. They leading or near the top of almost every all-time offensive category for both the regular season and playoffs.

Hockey in Austin Makes National News for the Wrong Reasons

I don't think I can claim to cover hockey in Austin without mentioning what happened last night to those of us enjoying overtime between the Bruins and Blackhawks.

Here's the video...

Yes. You saw that right. Someone or something at KXAN cut to commercial at the worst possible time, just before Seabrook's GWG.

To be fair, the on-air talent apologized at least three times during the ensuing newscast. Those apologies were not helped by the play-by-play of the goal being read by the sportscaster as "Brent Seabrook beats Jonathan Toews."

There was also a nice piece during the broadcast about hockey in Austin. I know everyone that was interviewed and have played with or against them all as well. I'll link it here for the sake of getting the word out and giving them some due. However, overall the piece felt a little forced. Hockey was treated like a brand new sport, as if a Quidditch league had sprung up in North Austin. To contrast, Sean Shapiro points out that Austin actually had the best overnight rating of all cities in Texas for the game at a 2.4.

Sometimes that's the way it is in Austin hockey. It's like a Rodney Dangerfield bit: we don't get no respect.

(Sidenote: Shoutout to Jeremy, a frequent reader, who was in the video. Also, of course, Ryan, Matt, Ron, and Bob. Ryan is one of the best players I've ever played with and Matt taught me how to take a good faceoff. Ron and Bob... well, I'll see you in the penalty box.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Around the League: Utica Comets a Puzzling Addition to AHL

New logo for the Comets
The American Hockey League announced Friday that the Utica Comets will be the newest team to join the league for the 2013-14 season. They will serve as the Canucks farm team, replacing the Peoria Rivermen in the league, who moved to the SPHL following the purchase of the team's franchise license by Vancouver.

Utica has had AHL hockey before. The Utica Devils came to town from 1987-93. (That franchise is now the Abbotsford Heat) Utica has a population of 62,235 according the most recent census. Their arena, the "Aud", seats just 4,000 for hockey. The Upstate New York market is just saturdated with teams; Syracuse is only an hour away. Also it will take (at best) 8.5 hours for prospects to make it from Utica to Vancouver's Airport. Finally, the big rumor is that the Comets will only call Utica home for one season...

So it didn't make a lot of sense. But then it did.

Puck Daddy summarized various reports over the past few days indicating that Seattle is under consideration as an out for the beleaguered Phoenix Coyotes. Part of this came out because the Canucks had asked to put their farm team there and were rebuffed.
"According to Elliotte Friedman, the Vancouver Canucks, who announced on Friday that their AHL team was moving to Utica, N.Y., originally had planned to put it in Seattle in KeyArena. Turns out, they were told "it was not available for hockey," reported Friedman."
That would have made a lot of sense for many parties. Obviously the Canucks and the Seattle AHL club would have had a close relationship. Seattle is closer to Vancouver than Dallas is to Cedar Park. That's always good. Seattle is also a major airport, which means prospects can get to anywhere in the US/Canada quickly when needed.

The other beneficiaries are the rest of the league, specifically the Western Conference. Abbotsford is out on an island very much in the AHL. Having a team in Seattle would have given them a close rival that they surely would have played at least ten times per season. It would also make things easier for all the Western teams that go to play them. Seattle and Abbotsford would be a solid one-two punch for teams. Instead of having to make a huge trek to British Columbia just to play Abbotsford in back-to-back nights, teams could play both clubs in the same trip.

But c'est la vie.

Here's your look around the league:
  • Elliotte Friedman notes that Glen Gulutzan is a possible candidate for the open AHL coaching position in Toronto. He could also be looked at for NHL assistant positions, including for the Rangers.  [CBC]
  • Oilers prospect Mark Arcobello has re-signed by Edmonton and is likely to stay in OKC. The converted winger scored a lot of goals against Texas this year. [Tend the Farm]
  • Also from Tend the Farm, it became official over the weekend that Kristians Pelss passed away in Riga, Latvia. [Tend the Farm]
  • The Fort Worth Brahmas, one of only two remaining Texas-based CHL teams, will be inactive for the coming season. The league, which once sported seven teams in Texas, is now down to just the Allen Americans in Texas and ten teams overall. How much longer is that league tenable? [CHL]
  • Finally, the Calder Cup Final rollercoaster ride continues tomorrow in Syracuse. After going up 3-0 and with two chances to close out the series at home, the Grand Rapids Griffins now head back to Syrcause with just a 3-2 lead. Oh boy... []

Nilstorp Re-Signed to Two-Way Deal, Could Vie for Dallas Backup Job

Cristopher Nilstorp (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Cristopher Nilstorp was the Texas Stars' workhorse in the 2013 Playoffs, getting every minute down to the bitter end. The organization has decided to bring him back for a second season on a one-year two-way deal to Dallas this coming year.

The nature of the deal indicates that at least Nilstorp himself believes he has a chance at the NHL backup job. If he didn't feel he had that shot in Dallas, he would have gone elsewhere or returned to the SEL. Richard Bachman was shaky at best in his time in the NHL this season, which leaves the backup spot open and ready for the taking by either player. Additionally, Bachman is still yet to be re-signed by the Stars. He is a restricted free agent.

Either way, Jack Campbell looks to stay in Texas and will be mentored by either Nilstorp, Bachman or another tender yet to be named.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced today that the Dallas Stars, the team’s National Hockey League affiliate, has signed goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp to a one year, two-way contract through the 2013-14 season.

Nilstorp, 29, posted a 1-3-1 record in five appearances last season for Dallas with a 0.897 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.09 goals-against- average (GAA) during his rookie campaign in the NHL. He recorded the first win of his career against San Jose on Feb. 23, 2013, stopping 31-of-32 shots faced.

The Malmo, Sweden, native appeared in 39 games last season with Texas Stars, recording a 0.907 SV% and 2.38 GAA with a record of 19-13-3. He finished the 2012-13 season tied for 12th amongst AHL goaltenders in GAA. Nilstorp appeared in nine games during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs, posting a .922 SV%, 2.30 GAA with a 4-5-0 record. He also registered the first post-season shutout in team history with 21 saves in a 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Admirals in Game 3 of the Conference Quarterfinals on May 1st.

Prior to joining the Dallas Stars organization last summer, Nilstorp helped Farjestad BK capture the Le Mat Trophy in 2011, which is earned annually by the victors in the Swedish Elite League playoffs. He went undrafted and was signed by Dallas as a free agent on June 5, 2012.

Friday, June 14, 2013

AHL Players Making Moves to Europe; Are Any Stars on Their Way?

Gragnani (Credit: Texas Stars)
As soon as the book closed on the 2012-13 regular season, deals started to be made for many AHL players to either head back to their homeland or the promise of more money (or both) in the many hockey leagues in Europe. Many of the Stars' South Division rivals will look different next season due to these moves. It's possible the Stars could as well.

First, in the confirmed category, are two moves by Checkers' defensemen. Justin Krueger will be headed to the Swiss national league and Marc-Andre Gragnani will take his talents to the KHL's HC Lev Praha. Krueger is a German citizen and possesses a Swiss 'player-license' allowing him to play in the European leagues without counting against common 'import player' restrictions. Similar rules allowed former Star Dan Spang, who has an Italian passport, to more easily move to Europe. Gragnani, on the other hand, is a Canadian with no European ties and has 74 NHL games to his name. He was a third round pick by the Sabres, where he played all but one of those games. His single season in Charlotte only saw him called to the Hurricanes for a single game.

The OKC Barons could lose a big star according to rumours out of Sweden. Marc Arcobello is tops on the list of acquisition target for the SEL club Brynäs. Arcobello still has a possible Oilers deal on the table but there is clearly a possible spot for the "points king" in Sweden.

Former Star Garrett Stafford will leave North American for sure as he signed a deal with Färjestad of the SEL

Antti Tyrväinen, also of the Barons, is definitely on the move as he signed a one-year deal with SM-liiga's Jokerit (Helsinki, Finland). Tyrväinen spent two years in OKC, racking up 9 goals and 15 assists in 87 games. He added 3-3-6 across 30 playoff games.

Other relevant AHL players on the move include:
  • Juuso Puustinen of Milwaukee to HIFK (SM-liiga)
  • Ben Walter of Abbotsford to Örebro (SEL)
  • Anton Rödin of Chicago to Brynäs (SEL)
Finally, in tangentially related news, Ben Gazdic, younger older brother of Texas Star Luke Gazdic, has signed with the KHL's Zagreb. Zagreb will be joining the KHL for the first time in the 2013-14 season, and they have been making a number of 'bigger' moves to ensure they are successful in the league. Goalie Mark Dekanich, skaters Hugh Jessiman and Mike Glumac and former Bears coach Mark French are among the names they've added that you might know. Several articles on the signing of Ben Gazdic mentioned that Luke and Mark Gazdic are both eligible to play with Zagreb due to their Croatian heritage. While it seems unlikely that #34 leaves North America at this moment, Luke Gazdic is a restricted free agent this summer for Dallas.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dallas Stars Sign D Kevin Connauton to Three-Year Deal

Connauton (right) chats with Petersen before a faceoff (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill started locking down his restricted free agent assets today with the announcement of a three year deal for the 23 year-old defenseman.

The first year of the deal is two-way and the second two years are one-way. The length, one-way nature and escalating value indicate the organizations' belief in the future value of Connauton as a Dallas Star.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars announced today that the Dallas Stars, the team's National Hockey League affiliate, has signed defenseman Kevin Connauton to a three-year contract through the 2015-16 season. The first year is a two-way deal ($600,000 NHL; $100,000 AHL), while years two and three are both one-way ($650,000 in year two; $800,000 in year three).

Connauton, 23, was acquired by Dallas along with a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Derek Roy on April 2, 2013. He was immediately loaned to Texas and he made his AHL Stars' debut on April 5, 2013 vs. Oklahoma City. Connauton played in nine regular season games for the Stars, scoring six points (2 goals, 4 assists), while adding six penalty minutes and a +2 rating. He registered his first point with Texas when he scored the game-winning goal a mere nine seconds into overtime on April 12th in a 3-2 win at Charlotte. Last season, Connauton skated in 69 combined games for Texas and the Chicago Wolves, where he totaled 31 points (9 goals, 22 assists) and 73 penalty minutes. He also led Texas in playoff scoring with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in nine Calder Cup playoff games.

The Edmonton native was Vancouver's third-round selection (83rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft. While playing for Chicago (AHL), Connauton was selected to the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic in Atlantic City. During the AHL All-Star Skills Competition, he won the Hardest Shot event by registering a 99.4 mph slap shot. Connauton has played 215 AHL games in his pro career for Manitoba, Chicago and Texas, posting 87 points (33 goals, 54 assists) and 182 penalty minutes.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Around the League: Gonchar Signing Will Impact Texas Prospects

Jamie Oleksiak (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced over the weekend that Sergei Gonchar, vet defenseman most recently of Ottawa, was signed to a two-year deal that will see him become a staple of the blue line in Big D. According to most reports, the 39-year old was brought in largely as a power play specialist and situational guy.

The other big piece of the puzzle is his mentorship. Many have pointed to his time with the Senators' Erik Karlsson, who won the Norris Trophy last season, as positive evidence of that. With so many young defensive prospects in the system, it is a very good time for the Stars to acquire a veteran blue liner who can teach the younger kids 'how to be pros'. You don't rack up over 1,100 games of NHL service by accident. Between Robidas and Gonchar, the younger players like Oleksiak, Dillon, etc. will have a chance to learn all the little things that have kept those two going for a combined 2,000+ NHL contests.

Of course, the other piece of the effect on the Texas prospects will be that the Stars' have now occupied another spot on their blue line. This means that it is more likely that a player like Oleksiak, COnnauton or Gaunce is more likely to stay in Texas than get the NHL callup to start the coming season.

Elsewhere around the league:
  • Syracuse and Grand Rapids are off to an interesting start. After the Crunch absolutely dominated the East in the first three rounds, the Griffins have gotten the better of them in two games at home. Will Syracuse be able to change the story on the road?

  • Interestingly, the teams that made the AHL Final have two of the most active beat writers in the league. You should read them. Follow Lindsay Kramer on and the various writers at

  • Tend the Farm is closing down the OKC Barons season with a few posts. Similar to this site they have a summary of the current roster's contracts for next season. They've also put up a 'Season in Pictures' post, which is rather nice. [Tend the Farm]

  • Reports are that Dallas Eakins is the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers. He was a rumoured frontrunner for a few jobs around the league, including the one in Dallas. How does that change the dynamic of Dallas's coaching decision, which they want to make before the Draft on June 30th? [Puck Daddy]

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Idaho Steelheads Officially Extended as ECHL Affiliate

Josh Robinson (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
The Dallas Stars announced today that the Idaho Steelheads will be the organization's ECHL affiliate for the ninth straight season. There was some uncertainty that Idaho would return in the AA affiliate role for the club as the Allen Americans were seeking ECHL membership. As reported here yesterday, Allen's bid to join the ECHL was blocked in court, paving the way for the extension today with the Steelheads.

As chronicled yesterday, the Steelheads are one of the most successful ECHL franchises out there and their relationship with Dallas and Texas is one of the longest continuous affiliations in the league.

Idaho looks poised for positive growth following head coach and GM Brad Ralph's first season. A trip to the second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs after a third place finish looks to be a good springboard for the coming season.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has extended its affiliation agreement with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL for the 2013-14 season. This will be the ninth season in a row, and the 10th overall that the Stars organization has partnered with the Steelheads. Idaho was affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes for one season in 2004-05, but the team has spent the rest of its ECHL history working with the Stars, making it one of the longest continuous affiliations in the ECHL. This will be the fifth consecutive season that the Texas Stars have shared an affiliation with Idaho.

"Developing hockey players is one of the most important functions we have as an organization," said Nill. "The Idaho Steelheads are a big part of that development process and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them this upcoming season."

The Steelheads finished with the third-best regular season record in the Western Conference last season, earning a 45-20-7 record, good for 97 points in the standings. Idaho's 45 victories were the second-most for the club in their ECHL tenure. The team also advanced to the Western Conference Final in the ECHL playoffs before losing to the Stockton Thunder.

Dallas Stars draftee, and Dallas native, Austin Smith led the Steelheads with 27 goals and also paced the club in overall points (27G-23A-50). Other Dallas prospects to skate for Idaho in 2012-13 include Tristan King, Jace Coyle, Mathieu Tousignant, Hubert Labrie, and Tyler Beskorowany.

Additionally, seven players skated for both Texas and Idaho during the 2012-13 regular season: Justin Dowling, Gord Baldwin, Hubert Labrie, Jace Coyle, Austin Fyten, Mathieu Tousignant and Austin Smith, while goaltenders Tyler Beskorowany and Josh Robinson combined for numerous call-ups to Cedar Park. Dowling was the standout of the Texas-Idaho affiliation last season. The Cochrane, Alberta native began the year with the Steelheads, scoring 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 34 games and was leading the ECHL in points at the time of his call-up to Texas. The Stars signed Dowling to an AHL contract on January 7th, right before the NHL lockout officially ended, and he scored 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) in 38 AHL games, finishing tied for the team-lead in game-winning goals (4), ranking third in both points-per-game (0.79) and plus-minus (+16) and ninth overall in points. Dowling appeared in all nine of Texas' 2013 Calder Cup Playoff games and had a goal and three assists to finish tied for second on the team in points.

The Idaho Steelheads play at the 5,006-seat CenturyLink Arena, which opened in downtown Boise in 1997, and played host to over 165,000 fans last season. The Steelheads have qualified for the playoffs every year since joining the ECHL in 2003.

Considered the premier "AA" hockey league in North America, in 2012-13 the ECHL had affiliations with 27 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League. Additionally, the ECHL also had affiliations with 27 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League, creating a true minor league system where players can be promoted within the given parent organization.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Idaho Steelheads Expected as Affiliate After Allen ECHL Bid Fails

Francis Wathier
(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
According to PHPA agent Darryl Wolski, there has been an official 'no' ruling on Allen and Rapid City's bids to join the ECHL. The agent reported on Twitter last night that the Americans and Rush were denied their opportunity to leave after the CHL pursued them in court and won. Neither will join the ECHL in 2013-14.

This means that the Idaho Steelheads will continue to be the Dallas and Texas Stars' ECHL affiliate.

The relationship with the Steelheads has been a strong one for the Texas Stars. Scott White began his career in the ECHL and has a huge belief in the role that it plays in the development of Dallas Stars. Idaho has been one of the most successful franchises out West, making the playoffs every year of their ECHL history and finishing below .500 just once (but still advancing to the second round of the playoffs that year). The Steelheads played a key role for the Stars this season as the lockout forced more players down to the Coast. As the Stars farm system continues to grow and shift, Idaho will continue to play an important role in player development.

As Scott White mentioned to me last week, there should be an announcement made officially on the ECHL relationship some time this week.

It is likely that the Allen Americans will continue to be the Stars' CHL affiliate, though their usage will likely be sparing. Not a single player was sent to the Americans this past season. It is, for now, mostly a symbolic affiliation, which serves to help marketing of the sport in the Dallas area. The court battle is the culmination of two years of rumours and speculation that Allen would move to the ECHL. The Central League is holding on by a thread and sued to block two of their most successful franchises from leaving, a case which they won. The Americans will be the first Central League champion to remain in the league to defend their title since 2010 when the Rapid City Rush defeated Allen in six games. Champions from 2011 and 2012, Bossier-Shreveport and Fort Wayne, both left the league. The Mudbugs folded, but the Komets continue on in the ECHL.

Wolski also reported that the CHL will lose the Fort Worth-based Brahmas. The Bloomington Blaze are also leaving and moving to the SPHL.