Monday, April 30, 2018

John Nyberg Joins Texas Stars, Could Play in Series

(Credit: Texas Stars)
As first reported by 100 Degree Hockey on Saturday, the Texas Stars have officially welcomed defenseman John Nyberg to the team. The 2014 sixth-round pick practiced with the club this weekend and will travel to Tucson tomorrow.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Monday the team has added rookie defenseman John Nyberg on an amateur tryout agreement for the remainder of the postseason.

Nyberg, 21, has been competing in Sweden for the previous four seasons. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound native of Lundy, Sweden has appeared in 101 games over the past two years for Frolunda, tallying 28 points (9-19=28). Nyberg (NIGH-behrg) signed a three-year, entry-level agreement with the Dallas Stars on May 8, 2017.

He was selected in the sixth round by Dallas (165th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Texas Stars Prepping for Round 2 Against Tucson Roadrunners

(Credit: Andy Nieupski/Texas Stars)
With Tucson's 3-0 shutout of the San Jose Barracuda last night, the Texas Stars know their opponent for the second round. The Roadrunners, farm team for the Coyotes, are a tough draw. Texas beat Tucson once in the regular season, but it was their most recent matchup in the season series. Tucson won the division and the conference race handily, racking up 42 wins in a 68 game season.

"We’re the underdogs," said Texas head coach Derek Laxdal after practice this afternoon. "They have a lot of offensive, they skate well and they are creative in the offensive zone. They have the lowest goals against, and they defend really well."

The Stars have had a few days to rest and recover from their grueling four games in six days with Ontario. Laxdal noted it was nearly five games in six days with the double OT in Game 3.

Reflecting on the first series, Mike McKenna called out the adversity that was overcome. "We learned adversity more so than we even saw in the regular season. [In playoffs] the stakes are higher and teams are all on top of their games. Ontario's a very good hockey club so coming out of the games there, we should be proud of ourselves."

In the win, Coach Laxdal earned his first AHL playoff series victory in four years, something he reflected on today as well, "Coming form the [Western Hockey League] and we went to the finals three years in a row and taking four years to get the first playoff series win here, it just shows you how hard it is to win at the pro level."

Some other newcomers to the second round include some of the top players from Round 1 for Texas. Denis Gurianov scored the game winner in Game 4 and Roope Hintz set up more than a few crucial goals. Positive praise was also heaped on Gavin Bayreuther, "I thought Gavin really took a step in his play dealing with a heavy forecheck, cutbacks and moving pucks."

Coach Laxdal used the word resilient to describe his team heading into round two. McKenna agreed but added 'determined'.

"We have a lot of guys on this club, like almost every team, out to prove something at this level. Whether you’re 20 or 35 years old, there’s always something to prove. There’s always the next level, and there’s always the carrot at the end. We all want to win a Calder Cup so bad that determination is a big factor for us."

Other notes
  • Texas had a new face in practice: defenseman John Nyberg. The 2014 sixth-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars finished his season with Frolunda and has joined the Stars for the playoff run. He signed an ELC last season, so it's not an ATO. Coach Laxdal indicated Nyberg would travel with the team to Tucson. Texas will start with the same six they played with in Ontario but could slot in Nyberg if they need a change.
  • Lots of young kids were out at practice today. The Stars were at the Pond Hockey Club due to Disney on Ice at the H-E-B Center. Many signatures, pictures and fistbumps were given out by the Stars to their young fans.
Round 2 Schedule

Game 1 – Wednesday, May 2 – Texas at Tucson, 9:05 p.m. CST
Game 2 – Friday, May 4 – Texas at Tucson, 9:05 p.m. CST
Game 3 – Monday, May 7 – Tucson at Texas, 7 p.m. CST
Game 4 – Wednesday, May 9 – Tucson at Texas, 7 p.m. CST
*Game 5 – Friday, May 11 – Tucson at Texas, 7 p.m. CST
*Game 6 – Sunday, May 13 – Texas at Tucson, 9:05 p.m. CST
*Game 7 – Monday, May 14 – Texas at Tucson, 9:05 p.m. CST
*if necessary

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Texas Earns Well-Deserved Rest, Announces Potential Second Round Dates to Season Ticket Holders

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
First star of the Texas/Ontario series is unquestionably Mike McKenna. Even with Game 2's four-goal night, McKenna finished first round with a 1.68 GAA and .957 SV%. Only Ontario's Cal Petersen has played more minutes in the playoffs league wide than McKenna.

The Stars will face either Tucson or San Jose in the second round. That series is tied at one with Tucson stealing a game on the road in San Jose. Game 3 will be played tonight in Tucson. The earliest the series could be decided is Friday's Game 4. Game 5 comes Saturday if everything is knotted after four.

In the meantime, Texas is on a plane today to come back to Cedar Park. The team will have at least four days of rest, possible significantly more, before their next series begins. Both potential series  would be 2-3-2, but Texas would have home ice against San Jose.

Texas has released preliminary home dates for each of the potential opponents to season ticket holders but will not confirm anything to the media. Home dates were previously posted in this space but Texas Stars media relations asked for them to be removed, and we are respecting that request. If you would like to know more about home dates for Round 2, reach out to a season ticket holder who can share that information with you. We have been prevented from doing so.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

McKenna Turns in Masterful 47 Save Shutout to Send Stars to Second Round

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
For the first time since the 2014 Calder Cup run, The Texas Stars advanced to the second round of the AHL playoffs on Tuesday night, beating the Ontario Reign 1-0 in regulation and ending the series in four games. Veteran goaltender Mike McKenna reached deep into his tool belt and gave the Stars everything he had with a sensational 47 save performance. That runs his streak to 91 straight saves over two games. His less than stellar game two is now a distant memory.

Denis Gurianov scored the lone goal of the contest, notching his second tally of the playoffs in the third period.

As was the case all night, McKenna was a rock in net for the first two periods with the Reign outshooting the Stars 25-19. Cal Petersen was equally impressive to keep the game at a scoreless tie through forty minutes of play. Both goaltenders broke up a couple of odd-man rushes with timely poke checks and sound positioning.

Remi Elie had a great chance on a breakaway five minutes into the second period, but shot wide. It was a common refrain from the Stars when they had their chances. Both teams created their fair share of offense on the rush but couldn't crack either goaltender.

Reign defenseman Oscar Fantenberg, who recorded five shots on goal in the game, finally drew enough post-whistle ire from the Stars for Curtis McKenzie to react, causing an end of period fracas heading into the second intermission.

There were two instances of 4-on-4 play in the second and third periods, but the extra open ice didn't yield a goal for either team. Around the twelve minute marker in the third period, the Stars finally cashed in on a counter attack with Gurianov's goal. Roope Hintz got the initial shot on the rush with the young Russian cleaning up the rebound to break the scoreless tie. Jason Dickinson, still recovering from an injury suffered earlier in the series, set up the play and notched the secondary assist.

A few shifts later, Sheldon Dries nearly picked up a critical insurance goal, ringing a hard shot of the post. From there, the Stars withstood an onslaught of pucks on net, and McKenna did his best work. Winger Jonny Brodzinski was stymied on two glorious chances late in the game, the second coming during 6-on-5 play when the Reign went with an empty net. After the Reign desperately tried to create several stoppages of play and goaded the Stars into a series of icings, McKenna's back got some needed relief from carrying the team all night as the game ended.

The Stars will have plenty of time to purchase McKenna his drink of choice, or several, as they wait to see the result of the series between the Tucson Roadrunners and San Jose Barracuda, currently tied 1-1.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,222.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Ontario - April 24 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Ontario Reign, Game 4

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
atOntario Reign
36-25-4-3, 79 pts, 0.581
#3 Pacific Division
April 24th at 9:00 PM
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA

Texas leads 2-1

On Tuesday night, the Texas Stars have a chance to win their first playoff series since the 2014 Calder Cup run. Don't expect the Ontario Reign to go quietly. The Stars have had to log each of their wins in the best-of-five series during extended play, the most recent coming in double overtime on Sunday. Samuel Laberge was the unlikely hero, scoring the game winner, but Mike McKenna was beastly.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Stopping all 44 shots he faced in relief of the struggling Landon Bow, McKenna recaptured the poise and consistency he displayed in game one. Expect Coach Laxdal to opt for the sure thing in net. As opposed to the game two fiasco that had the Stars chasing the entire game, Texas was able to come back from a two goal deficit on Sunday with balanced scoring throughout the lineup. As team leader Brian Flynn noted, multiple lines chipping in will be critical for continued success.

Travis Morin, who isn't taking anything for granted towards the end of his career, notched his second goal of the playoffs in game three. Another positive sign was the two point game from Justin Dowling (1 G, 1 A), who had a rough start to the series. On the other side of the ledger, Reign center Mike Amadio also got going with a three point game, bringing his series total to four.

Jason Dickinson, still recovering from a lower body injury, did play in Sunday's game, recording five shots on goal. He played in a number of situations, starting the game on the left wing and also logging some minutes at center. Look for Laxdal to strategically manage his minutes on Tuesday night as the two-way forward will be needed at full strength should the Stars advance.

The puck drops at 9:00 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call up report:
Fyten (questionable)

Twitter: @ontarioreign
Coverage: Reign coverage via Jewels from the Crown

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Mike McKenna Beastly, Stopping 44 in Relief as Texas Beats Ontario 5-4 in 2OT

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
If you had to pick a player to finish a double overtime game, you probably wouldn't pick tonight's hero: rookie fourth liner Samuel Laberge. Ninety-seven minutes into Game 3, Laberge finished a quick play going the opposite way after Mike McKenna made one of his best saves of the night. McKenna was perfect, stopping all 44 shots he faced, after coming in to relieve Landon Bow in the second. It was a gargantuan effort and shows why he went to the Calder Cup Final last year with Syracuse.

Tonight's was the longest game in team history at 97:38 and also the first time Texas had won a game that extended beyond a single overtime. Both previous 2OT games were road losses (2010 at Hamilton, 2011 at Milwaukee). The loss puts Ontario on the brink of elimination with Tuesday's Game 4.

Ontario opened the scoring in the first period with two quick tallies. Matt Roy and Sean Walker each got their first of the playoffs to go up 2-0 halfway through the first. Walker's goal came off a screen in front of Landon Bow. Remi Elie answered with his first of the playoffs as well, assisted by Brian Flynn. It was a bit of redemption for the Elie, Flynn, Sheldon Dries line, who had taken the minus on each of the first two Reign goals.

Coming out of the locker room, Dillon Heatherington headed to the box for hooking and former AHL Rookie of the Year Michael Mersch took just 11 seconds to cash in, making it 3-1. The second period was the Reign's worst throughout the season; they were outscored 59-66 in the frame. Texas jumped on the chance to recover.

Justin Dowling scored on his own rebound thanks to double coverage on his linemate, Travis Morin, left him all alone. Ninety second later, Colin Markison tied the game and restarted the game for Texas.

Two minutes later, Landon Bow's night was over as Mike Amadio collected a turnover off the stick of Remi Elie and rushed in alone for the go-ahead goal. Texas would finish the period down 4-3 with Mike McKenna playing the second half of the period. It was just the beginning of his night.

Who else but Travis Morin knotted the score at four to make overtime possible. Justin Dowling made a backhand pass to Morin in the slot, who buried it.

One overtime wasn't enough. Mike McKenna was a warrior in overtime, stopping 17 shots in 1OT and 11 in 2OT. Each team had a power play goal in the game but neither team had a man advantage in OT.

The Stars take their series lead into Tuesday night's possible elimination game at Ontario. The puck drops at 9 PM CT.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 7,996.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Ontario - April 22 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Ontario Reign, Game 3

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
atOntario Reign
36-25-4-3, 79 pts, 0.581
#3 Pacific Division
April 22nd at 5:00 PM
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA

Series tied 1-1

After Friday's 5-1 loss, Curtis McKenzie best summed up Texas's desired attitude for tonight's game: "That’s the beauty of playoffs. When you leave the rink, it’s a new day. Obviously a little pissed off tonight but it’s off to the next game."

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Cal Petersen may have frustrated Texas with some highlight reel saves, but the Stars didn't do themselves may favors either. The power play got a late goal but didn't cash in when the tally could have turned the tide in the second period. There was a lack of finish throughout the game. Texas was getting its chances but had timings just a bit off, whether it was a missed pass reception, a pass to no one in general or a whiffed one-timer with an empty net.

If the Stars come back strong today with a speed game that pushes the Ontario Reign back on their heels, it makes their lives that much easier. The Stars were in a deeper hole that they may have appeared to be after the Reign scored first on Friday. At 27-3-1-2, the Reign held the regular season's best record when scoring first. Scoring the first goal may be all Texas needs to dictate the terms of the game. Ontario was 9-22-3-1 when giving up the first goal.

Texas may be without the services of Jason Dickinson, who got checked hard into the boards at the Texas bench and came off the ice holding his lower back. "Dickie’s got a lower body injury," said Laxdal. "He’s probably day-to-day. Hopefully we’ll see him on Sunday."

Stars injury/call up report:
Dickinson, Fyten (questionable)

Twitter: @ontarioreign
Coverage: Reign coverage via Jewels from the Crown

Friday, April 20, 2018

Cal Petersen, Ontario Reign Frustrate Stars in Game 2 Loss

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Missed opportunities were the bane of the Texas Stars on Friday night as they soundly beaten by the Ontario Reign 5-1. Rookie goaltender Cal Petersen 26 saves on 27 shots frustrated, stifled, and deflated the Stars at every turn. Stars forward Brian Flynn was the lone goal scorer, notching his second goal of the playoffs. Philippe Maillet scored twice for the Reign.

“We had our looks,” said Stars captain Curtis McKenzie. “Their goalie played really well. At the end of the day we knew they were going to be a desperate team and we needed more urgency coming out of the gate.”

The Stars only put up seven shots on goal in the first period but still managed to generate quality looks. They seemed about to break through on their second power play of the game at the thirteen minute marker but couldn’t get a bounce. At even strength, rookie forward Joel L’Esperance hammered the post with a snap shot off the rush that would’ve sent the crowd into a frenzy had it gone in.

“I thought our power play moved around good and our entries were good,” said McKenzie. “It might just be picking our spot or maybe getting a few more spots into the crease area. It’s one of those one where if you have that many opportunities if you score a goal early it changes the outcome of the game or gives us a lot better opportunity. The effort on the power play was there but you need a little more to capitalize.”

The Reign, however, did get the bounces, ending scoreless play on the first penalty called on the Stars. With four minutes left to play in the opening frame, Ontario center Philippe Maillet crashed the net and cashed in on the pass that trickled out from the end boards. In the regular season, the Reign were 27-3-1-2 when scoring the first goal, a bad sign going forward for the Stars.

Head coach Derek Laxdal described the play. “If you look at the first period, I thought it was fairly even. We had a couple of power plays early that we didn’t cash in on. They got a break on their power play goal. It just kind of deflected in off of a player from below the net and they buried it.”

To completely take the air out of the building, the Stars allowed a back-breaking goal with 28 seconds left before first intermission with Matt Luff scoring on the rush. “The second goal at the end of the period really stung,” lamented Laxdal. “We had to really chase the game from there.”

Four minutes into the second period Jason Dickinson and Sheldon Dries checked Oscar Fantenberg through a pane of glass that had to be replaced. The play seemed to get a decent result as the Stars were given a power play a couple of shifts later. Again, they got what they wanted, including a broken Ontario stick, but couldn’t finish as Brent Regner whiffed on a weak side one timer that surely would’ve beaten Petersen.
“We were really chasing and they just kind of managed the game. If you look at the overall game, they really wanted it more.”

Dickinson took a hard hit into the boards and fell awkwardly in the second period. He took another shift but did not return to the game in the third. McKenzie believes his team is staying disciplined with the physical nature of the series. “I thought we stayed away from it tonight. They’re a big, touch physical team. We’re just trying to stay disciplined and play the fast skilled game.”

Just before the second intermission, the Stars missed two more opportunities, the second of which led to an odd man rush for the Reign. When Sheldon Dries couldn’t get his point blank backhander to go, it set up Ontario with a 3-on-1 the other way. At the net, T.J. Hensick cleaned up the rebound on McKenna, who did all he could. “Mike [McKenna] was okay tonight,” said Laxdal. “There was a couple he’d probably like to have back. A couple of bad bounces that they turned into goals was probably the difference.”

On their sixth power play of the game, the Stars finally showed signs of life with Flynn’s goal, though it was too little too late. After Flynn finished off the set-up from Curtis McKenzie and Morin, the Stars gave it right back with Maillet scoring his second goal on the next shift with five minutes left of play. An empty netter from Justin Auger was the last bell that tolled on a frustrating night for the Stars’ offense.

“You gotta reset. You know, it’s the playoffs right? We reset and get ready to play on Sunday. We have to be the urgent team. It’s the best of three now and they have home ice. We gotta try and go in there and get one or get two wins.”

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Shane Hanna was assigned to ECHL Idaho before tonight’s game.

Tonight's attendance was 5,620.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Ontario - April 20 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Ontario Reign, Game 2

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
v.Ontario Reign
36-25-4-3, 79 pts, 0.581
#3 Pacific Division
April 20th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Texas leads 1-0

In the wake of a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Ontario Reign in game one, the Texas Stars had a pretty good idea of what to expect in the second game of the opening round of the AHL playoffs.

"They’ll play the same way," said forward Brian Flynn after scoring the game winner. "They’ll play physical and hard and in our face. We gotta use our legs and play smart on the puck and manage it well. Hopefully we can get some more off the rush."

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Stars were able to withstand the onslaught of hard-hitting play and post-whistle activity from the Reign by refusing to get rattled, even though they didn't get one penalty called in their favor. Center Sheldon Dries, who scored in Thursday's opening frame, knows the Stars will have to stay even keeled."

"Personally I gotta stay out of the box. It’s a chippy game. They want to play that way. We gotta stay out of the stuff and play our style. I expect them to have a heavy push. We just gotta be ready for that."

If the Stars want to take game two, they'll need another solid night from Mike McKenna, who turned in 38 saves on 41 shots on Thursday. Although every AHL team wants to get pucks to the net, Dries noted that the Reign seem to do it in bunches.

Coach Derek Laxdal made a few strategic tweaks to the lines in the middle of game one that seemed to turn the tide in the Stars' favor. Look for him to stick with what worked for him on Friday. "I liked our lineup but I didn’t like our lines in the game," he said. "I made the change [in the third]. It worked tonight, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow night."

Flynn expanded on how the Stars can take control of the series. "We’re not going to beat them by playing that big, heavy game right at them. We’re going to use our legs--that’s our biggest asset as a team, and scoring in transition. That’s when we’re successful."

The puck drops on Friday at 7:00 PM CDT.

Read more about Media Day thoughts here.
Read more about Brian Flynn's impact on the roster here.

Stars injury/call up report:
Fyten (questionable)

Twitter: @ontarioreign
Coverage: Reign coverage via Jewels from the Crown

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Texas Stars Claim Game 1 Off Brian Flynn's OT Winner

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
It was a physical game, as promised, tonight in Cedar Park, and as you would expect, these two teams went to overtime. Texas emerged victorious 4-3 just two minutes into the overtime period off a goal from the quiet, consistent Brian Flynn.

“I just lost a faceoff dead clean and Roope [Hintz] jumped on it and somehow got a tie-up. And then [Denis Gurianov] jumped in and did a good job to get the puck to the net, and I just kind of found a quiet spot and was fortunate to get a bouncer to me.“

It was the first postseason overtime victory for the Texas Stars since Patrik Nemeth went top shelf for the Calder Cup clincher. The physicality of the Reign was on full display, especially in the second period where it put Texas on their heels a bit. Speed won the day though.

“We played right into their hands [in the second],” said Sheldon Dries. “They got those two quick goals but once we settled down and started playing our game--you saw we got two goals in the third and that’s the way we want to play.”

Flynn continued, “We’re not going to beat them by playing that big, heavy game right at them. We’re going to use our legs--that’s our biggest asset as a team and scoring in transition. “

The Stars opened the scoring with a great effort from their bottom six. Dries scored the first goal of the playoffs, cashing in on a pass from Colin Markison behind the net.

“It was a great play by Markison and [Laberge] there,” said Dries. “Marky chips it deep and Sammy is the first guy on the puck, throws it to the front of the net--I just happened to be there. But that’s the way we gotta play. Simple game for us, but at the same time hard on the body.”

Texas would hold that lead to the end of the frame, where they were outshot 12-7 but looked good overall.

Ontario ramped up the physical play in the second period. Texas got caught up in it a bit, engaging in scrums behind plays and at the net more than in the first. Justin Auger broke the scoreless tie with one of his own men down on the ice in the zone. Austin Wagner was clipped on the play but did return to play later. With the chaos of traffic, Roy's shot found twine off the tip from Auger.

A few minutes later, Colin Markison saw his equipment betray him to deny a sure goal. Texas had Markison all alone on the backside of the net when his stick snapped in two on the shot. The tie remained until a few more minutes later.

Mike Amadio drew double coverage in the corner but managed to separate Andrew Bodnarchuk from the puck. A quick pass to an unguarded Jonny Brodzinski in the slot put the Stars down by one. With forty minutes in the books, Texas trailed 2-1.

The Stars found themselves behind in more than a few contests this season and played the second-most OT games in the league despite that.

Denis Gurianov had a chance to score in the second period and chose an ill-advised drop pass instead. In the third, he made no mistake. On a 2-on-1 with Roope Hintz, the Russian forward collected a smooth cross-crease pass from the Finn and deposited it in a yawning net for the 2-2 tie. The crowd was back into the game with the goal.

Laxdal commented, “You look at Denis’s goal with Roope. That’s an NHL goal.”

Texas went up 3-2 on Travis Morin’s 17th career postseason goal, the most in franchise history. Good pressure from his reconfigured line with Curtis McKenzie and Justin Dowling led to the big goal and set up a final minute showdown.

The AHL’s best compensated forward, Matt Moulson, made no mistake with the 6-on-5 chance for Ontario and sent the game to overtime. In the extra frame, it didn’t take long. Just 1:55 in, Flynn got the winner.

Postgame he noted that Texas had “no panic” in their locker room at the prospect of OT. “We got a lot of older guys in there. And I don’t know how many OT games we’ve played this year, but it feels like a ton. You just make the percentage play and then maybe you get a bounce at the net like that.”

Texas will face Ontario tomorrow night for Game 2 in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
O'Brien, Payne, Calderone, Kelleher, Hanna, Rallo, Hansson, Paliotta (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 4,878.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Ontario - April 19 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Ontario Reign, Game 1

Texas Stars
38-24-8-6, 90 pts, 0.592
#2 Pacific Division
v.Ontario Reign
36-25-4-3, 79 pts, 0.581
#3 Pacific Division
April 18th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Series tied 0-0

Welcome back to the playoffs. After a year out, the Stars return to the postseason with home ice advantage in the first round.

Ontario is a tough customer in this matchup, and you would expect Texas to adjust their line-up some to compensate. Much was made of the heavy style that Ontario plays at Media Day so it only makes sense that players like Sam Laberge would check in. Otherwise, Texas can't try to change their game too much to match up against the Reign. They'll concentrate on speed and making crisp passes. As Travis Morin said on Tuesday, making those crisp passes and making a man miss with speed with back off the Reign defenders and give them pause before finishing a check and being out of position. The Stars will want to establish this early to avoid too many ice packs postgame.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Stars have been a comeback team this season, which gives everyone in the room confidence that they can claw back to even if they need it. This team played the second most OT games in the league this season with 28 total. Knowing they can rally from two down in the third is something that keeps everyone level-headed in the final frame when that happens. Of course, the ideal situation is to not have that happen.

The road has gotten harder for the Stars since Tuesday though. With last night's elimination of the Kings in the NHL playoffs, Ontario gains four players at the top end of their lineup: Michael Amadio, Jonny Brodzinski, Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue. The four combine for an average of 1.05 goals per game in the AHL. The most lethal is Mike Amadio. He's better than a point per game player (35 in 32) and had a 17-game point streak from December to January, the longest in the AHL this year.

Texas is concentrating on that first shift of the first period, not thinking about getting out of round 1. But that doesn't mean it's not in the back of their heads. One unanswered question for that first shift is who will be in net. Mike McKenna and Landon Bow were referred to as "1A and 1B" by Coach Laxdal on Tuesday. Morning skate today should bring clarity.

Read more about Media Day thoughts here.
Read more about Brian Flynn's impact on the roster here.

Stars injury/call up report:
Fyten (questionable)

Twitter: @ontarioreign
Coverage: Reign coverage via Jewels from the Crown

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Quiet Consistency of Brian Flynn

Brian Flynn posts up against Dalton Prout of the Stockton Heat
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
With the Texas Stars putting together a successful regular season and earning the second seed in the Pacific division, the list of notable contributors on the team has some familiar names to the fanbase. The likes of Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie give the Stars some AHL star power punch to go with others such as Jason Dickinson and Remi Elie, who were recently reassigned from Dallas to help with a potentially deep playoff run. One name that gets lost in the shuffle, perhaps by his own design, is Brian Flynn.

“I’m pretty quiet,” Flynn admits. “I don’t like any attention on myself. I think we’ve got a really close group of guys, and I don’t think any one guy wants the attention on himself.”

Flynn signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Stars as a depth forward prior to the start of the 2017-18 season after spending the previous five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres. The former captain at the University of Maine and native Bostonian quietly compiled 47 points in 51 AHL games this season, third in team scoring. Though he eschews speaking openly about his resume and previous accomplishments, his teammates and coaches speak glowingly about him and believe he will be key in every area when the Ontario Reign come to town on Thursday.

“Flynn is a seasoned vet,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “He has a calming presence in our dressing room and on the ice. I think he’s going to be very important in this series because he can play through the hard adversity. He’s played in the NHL in the last several years in Montreal, and he’s been through the playoffs. His experience is going to help our young group, and it’s going to help our leadership group in the room.”

Such experience has given Flynn the tools to be a player who sees ice time in all situations and makes the right plays to help win games. “He really doesn’t have a panic point in the game, and he doesn’t panic with the puck,” said Laxdal. Though his skill with the puck is probably his best asset, Flynn would rather discuss his penchant for playing the game the right way while avoiding unnecessary risk-taking.

“I just try and play pretty honest. I don’t cheat. If you’re cheating, you’ll get some points--maybe in bunches. But I think in the long run it always comes back to bite you. If you look at plus/minus and things like that I think that I always play on the right side of the puck and help generate some offense.”

For all that the quietly consistent Flynn has done for the Stars this season, he sees his role as mainly having to do with how he can help his teammates. “Once the puck is dropped, I think that all the guys know that I want to win. And everything that I do on the ice is not for myself--it’s to help the guys win.”

He also owns the burden of leadership that comes with his list of achievements. “Guys know how hard it is to get to the [NHL] level, and they respect that. We have a lot of guys like [Roope Hintz] and [Denis Gurianov] that are going to play in the NHL for a while. I just try and help them out and give them some of the things that I’ve learned, because it’s a different game at the next level. Those guys have the physical ability, but if you want to stick around for a while you have to play smart. So I try to help those guys out as much as I can.”

In general, this seems to be Flynn’s overall approach to life and leadership. When asked about how his play measured up to his own expectations during the regular season, he spent little time talking about himself and gave ample room for discussing his teammates.

One such teammate, Matt Mangene, who played with Flynn at the University of Maine, helped Flynn and his wife transition to central Texas this past offseason. “We’ve worked out in the summers together for the previous four or five years. Once I signed here, you start hanging out a little bit more. Then in training camp, once you get here you don’t really know anyone so [Mangene] helps introduce you to the guys, and it just makes the transition a lot easier.”

Up to that point, Flynn had spent his entire life in the northeast, but he’s loving life in the south--particularly the weather. “It’s been a nice change of pace, and my wife is thrilled about it. Buffalo has a ton of snow, and Montreal has a ton of snow and is really cold. We’re from Boston, and it snowed there this past week. So we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.”

Flynn is also happy with the position of his team heading into the playoffs. A quick survey of the stat sheet will reveal that the Stars possess balanced scoring throughout the lineup, a critical component of winning playoff hockey. “We’re not relying on that one or two guys every night,” said Flynn. “You’re not going to go deep in the playoffs with just the same guys scoring over and over; you need it from everywhere. I think going into the playoffs we’re peaking at the right time.”

Beginning with Thursday’s game against the Reign, the Stars have a chance to do something special as a group, which translates into more opportunities for players looking to set themselves up for future success. “The guys realize that the deeper we go [in the playoffs] and the better our team does, then the better off they’ll be contract-wise and chances moving forward.”

In a lot of ways, the under-the-radar, but successful, Stars season has mirrored the contributions of Flynn. If they are going to make a run, they’ll need Flynn to keep doing what he’s been doing, but you won’t catch him talking about it. When the puck drops on Thursday, watch for him to avoid notoriety and incessantly pursue winning.

“The spotlight is not something that I want. I just want to win and help the guys.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Texas Stars Media Day: Getting Out of Round 1, Ontario's Physicality, Starting Goalies

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars seem loose and ready for their first round matchup with the Ontario Reign, kicking off Thursday night at home. The players were jovial on the ice and seemed relaxed as they talked with the assembled media about the task ahead of them. Coach Derek Laxdal, Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie spoke in the scrum, but 100 Degree Hockey grabbed a 1-on-1 with Brian Flynn that will roll out tomorrow.

Here are some high level topics from the day.

Getting out of the first round
Texas has made the playoffs in 3 of 4 years since the Calder Cup but hasn't yet emerged from the first round. Rockford and San Diego knocked off Texas in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It is definitely something that Texas has on its collective mind, but the team is very focused on game 1.

"We’re focused on this year," said Laxdal. "Our goal is get that first win Thursday night and win the series. We’re not focused on playing a 'championship' game right now. The word 'championship' isn’t even in our vocabulary right now. Our vocabulary right now is Game 1. The focus is on Game 1, getting a win and getting up 1-0 in the series. If you don’t get that, you won’t talk about the other things, plain and simple."

Travis Morin contrasted that, noting game 1 is the first step, "It’s been our goal all year to make it to the playoffs and now we obviously want to go as far as we can. We have to use [previous years] as motivation. Everyone in there should be motivated to play as hard as we can because we want to win a championship, not just win one round."

Ontario's physical style
The Reign have always been a physical team. Texas feels that plays to their advantage for multiple reasons.

"I love it," said McKenzie. "Every game, they came physically. We know what to expect. They’re a big team, and they like to throw the weight around. I’m just going to try to get myself to the net and create what I can."
(Credit: Texas Stars)
Morin noted that the team's speed will prevail if they can be crisp in their passing, "We’re a speed team, and if you can take their overagressiveness to finish checks and make them miss and use your speed to get around them, we’ve got quite a few guys who can fly on the ice. You start backing guys off and they get tentative about stepping up, and it can open up the ice."

Coach Laxdal has been coaching against Mike Stothers for years, both in the AHL and the WHL, and noted that this is simply the way his teams play hockey. "Ontario’s a big heavy team and I can tell you exactly how they’re going to play. They’re going to be physical, finish every hit and try to frustrate you. We have to have unbelievable composure and be disciplined We need to play with speed and be physical. If they’re going to take penalties, we have to strike on the power play. They’re going to try everything. They’re going to try to slow the play down, they’re going to scrum after whistles and stick guys. We have to play through that and have thick skin. That’s the way Mike Stothers coaches. We know what we’re going to get and we’re not going to be surprised."

Veteran and championship experience
With a mix of ATOs, rookies and vets, Texas has a massive number of championship players on the roster but also some green skaters as well. Travis Morin, Justin Dowling and Curtis McKenzie were all part of the Calder Cup team. Mike McKenna and Greg Rallo have made finals trips. Andrew Bodnarchuk won a Cup with Manchester, and Dillon Heatherington got one with Cleveland (Michael Paliotta didn't play in a ton of games in the playoffs, but also won in Cleveland that year).

"The guys who have been here, if anyone needs to ask questions about what to expect, we have a lot of guys in there," said Morin. "It’s experience more to keep yourself calm where you might get panicky."

Starting goalies
Coach Laxdal has Mike McKenna, who went to the finals last year in Syrcause, and rookie Landon Bow to choose from in net. He had this to say about the choice, "We’re pretty confident saying we have a 1a and a 1b. We’ll name our goaltender tomorrow. We could start either goaltender. That’s a great thing to have in the playoffs. McKenna had a great second half of the season, and Bow did a great job when McKenna was in Dallas. The goaltending is a strong point of both teams."

Good life advice
Felt like I should also throw in this Curtis McKenzie quote about playing in the playoffs as a rookie, but it seems like good life advice as well if you generalize.

"Every shift you have to be ready to make a difference. It’s the little things in series that add up to the big things. It could be a faceoff, getting a puck deep or a shot on goal. It could change the outcome of a whole series. You have to be ready for that. If you get behind, you might feel like it’s over. If you get up, it might feel like you already won it. You just have to maintain a level presence."

The series starts Thursday. Watch for our Brian Flynn feature tomorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Texas Closes Regular Season with Shootout Loss, Looks Ahead to Playoffs

Tony Calderone scored his first pro goal tonight (Credit: Derek Sparta/Texas Stars)
In the final game of the regular season, Texas had a predictable storyline. For the team-record 28th time this year, it took more than 60 minutes to get to a final decision. That final was a 4-3 shootout loss that included a come-from-behind third period effort.

"Thank God there's no OT 3-on-3 or shootouts in the playoffs," exclaimed Coach Laxdal after the contest.

The Stars wanted to have a lineup closer to their playoff roster in the game tonight and rested some veterans last night to make that happen. "We rested a bunch of guys last night. I thought they would have a bunch of energy but sometimes that backfires on you. We have to be ready to respond on Thursday night."

ATO forward Tony Calderone scored his first professional goal on the night, tying the game at two in the second period. "It was great," he commented. "I know I had a few chances in the early games. To bury on my chance, it was awesome."

Texas tried a number of line combinations in the third period, down by a goal and looking for energy. "I mixed it up in the third to create some energy. There's 29 guys in there and at some point someone has to step up and take this team by the horns. Any given night someone can be the hero."

The Stars got that goal from Brian Flynn with the goalie pulled, taking them to overtime and a shootout to close the season with a 38-24-8-6 record.

San Antonio jumped out to the early lead with the first AHL goal for Taylor Richart, playing in just his second AHL game. Before the end of the frame, Adam Werner's puckhandling got him in trouble as Sheldon Dries wrapped around on the goalie, who couldn't make it back to the far post in time to prevent the tying goal from Dries.

The Rampage struck again early in the second with Reid Petryk going five hole on Landon Bow. The aforementioned Calderone stepped up on the power play in the 6th minute to wrist one past Werner for the 2-2 tie. It was a quick play by Calderone, which is something he admits he'll have to work on in the league. "Everything is quicker and everyone's better. You don't have as much time with the puck. You have to make the play quick."

Zach Sanford matched the power play goal with one of his own. Just a few seconds after missing on a wide open net, Sanford earned redemption with his fourth of the year to go up 3-2. That would be the score after forty minutes.

Brian Flynn notched his 18th goal of the season on the 6-on-5 advantage with 71 seconds left in the third to push the game to OT. Despite a Texas power play in the extra frame, neither team could break through. A goalie-centric shootout ensued and Klim Kostin scored the winning goal in the fourth round.

Landon Bow stopped 20 of 23 in the loss. Adam Werner stopped 36 of 39 in the win.

The Stars now rest up to start the playoffs on Thursday at home against Ontario.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Mangene, Markison, Kelleher, Rallo, Laberge, O'Brien, Hanna, Paliotta (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863, a sellout.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 14 2018

Texas Announces Playoff Schedule, Flexing on Game 5 Depending on Tonight's Outcomes

(Credit: Texas Stars)
No matter what, the playoffs will start in Cedar Park on April 19th. The Stars will host games 1 and 2 of their opening series against Ontario with games 3 and 4 (if necessary) in California. If game 5 is needed, it will be played at the higher seed, which means the teams will return home for the last contest if Texas claims home ice by winning tonight.

Here's the schedule:

Pacific Division Semifinals – Series “H” (best-of-5)
Game 1 – Thursday, Apr. 19 – Ontario at Texas, 7 p.m. CST
Game 2 – Friday, Apr. 20 – Ontario at Texas, 7 p.m. CST
Game 3 – Sunday, Apr. 22 – Texas at Ontario, 5 p.m. CST
*Game 4 – Tuesday, Apr. 24 – Texas at Ontario, 9 p.m. CST
*Game 5 – Monday, Apr. 30 – at higher seed, 7 p.m. local time
*if necessary

Texas will claim that fifth game at home if any one of the following happens tonight:

1. A Texas win vs. San Antonio
2. An Ontario regulation loss at Bakersfield
3. A Texas overtime/shootout loss vs. San Antonio AND an Ontario overtime/shootout loss at Bakersfield

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

          Texas Stars               San Antonio Rampage
38-24-8-5, 89 pts, .593      v.      34-31-10-0, 78 pts, .520
#2 Pacific Division               #8 Pacific Division

April 14th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

For the 16th time this year, including two preseason games, Texas faces off against San Antonio. The Stars are tuning up for the playoffs and expected to ice a roster as close to their playoff Game 1 lineup as they can get. It's good news they'll be putting their best foot forward, because their good play as of late has put them in a position to lock up home ice advantage with a W.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Coming into the game, Texas has the second seed and home ice if the playoffs started today. Ontario is close on their heels and can pass them to reclaim home ice in a few scenarios. It's easier to view in graphical format so here's that:

The Stars need two points to guarantee home ice but can get by with less if Bakersfield beats Ontario later in the evening. No matter what, Texas faces Ontario in Round 1. Tucson could play any one of Stockton, San Diego or San Jose in the first round depending on tonight's games out west.

Expect San Antonio to send out the final in their goalie trio, Sam Brittain, as the team decided to start each tender once in their final 3-in-3 weekend. Brittain has spent most of the season in the ECHL with Colorado.

Stars injury/call-up report:
Fyten (injury)

Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With the Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Denis Gurianov Scores Twice in Stars 4-2 Win Over Rampage

(credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars iced a young lineup against an equally green squad in the San Antonio Rampage and picked up a 4-2 victory. The game held many glowing statistical tidbits, highlighted by Denis Gurianov's two goals, one of which was assisted by Robbie Payne for his first career AHL point.

Mike McKenna stopped 32 of 34 shots and had an assist on a coast to coast goal from defenseman Andrew O'Brien that tied the game in the second period. It was McKenna's first assist in a Stars uniform. O'Brien, who had been a regular scratch recently, notched his third goal as a Star.

Jason Dickinson squared off against his younger brother Josh, who has played a few games for the Rampage on an ATO, for the first time both their careers. Josh Dickinson had an assist on A.J. Greer's greasy power play goal in the first period that put the Rampage up by one, the only lead they possessed in the game. Jason Dickinson was assessed a game misconduct penalty in the third period period due to instigating a scuffle after he endured a dangerous hit.

The Stars penalty kill received a major test in the game--perhaps a good thing with the unit being a glaring weakness headed into the playoffs. Early results were not good, with Greer getting his goal on the first power play for the Rampage. Afterward, the Stars killed five consecutive penalties and found pay dirt with a shorthanded goal from Colin Markison five minutes into the third period. Joel L'Esperance had an impressive assist on the play.

The three unanswered goals from the Stars from O'Brien, Gurianov, and Markison over the second and third periods gave the Stars a 3-1 lead. Center Felix Girard quickly answered Markison's shorthanded tally, but the Rampage never threatened further, aside from their questionable hits.
Such extra-cirrucular activity sparked outrage from Dillon Heatherington and Sheldon Dries.

With Gurianov's second goal seven minutes into the third period sealing the deal, the Stars can move up in the playoff picture as high as the second seed. As of this writing, the Stockton Heat have opened up a 4-0 lead on the Ontario Reign. The Stars will still need to handle their business in tomorrow's game to get the highest seed possible.

They will ice their likely playoff lineup in tomorrow's final regular season home game against the Rampage. The puck is set to drop at 7:00 PM CDT.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Bodnarchuk, Bayreuther, McKenzie, Flynn, Morin, Dowling, Mangene (scratch)

Today's attendance was 9,235.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - April 13 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

            Texas Stars                        San Antonio Rampage
    37-24-8-5, 87 pts, .588      at      34-29-10-0, 78 pts, .534
  #3 Pacific Division                    #7 Pacific Division

April 13th at 7:30 PM

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
(credit: Texas Stars)
There is still plenty to play for in these final two games for the Texas Stars, a back-to-back home and home weekend set against the San Antonio Rampage. Coming off their dramatic Wednesday night victory in which Travis Morin scored the overtime winner, the Stars have positioned themselves with the potential to move up in the Pacific standings with a chance at home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Stars win both games against the Rampage, they can pass the Ontario Reign should the Reign fail to collect more than two points in their weekend games. You can read more about the scenarios here. Heading into Friday's game, head coach Derek Laxdal said the plan was to give the veterans a breather and see what they have in some of the young players. Expect the top guns like Morin, Curtis McKenzie, Jason Dickinson, and others to be scratches.

For the Rampage, their season is almost over, but they know they can still play a spoiler role of sorts. Recently minted AHL All-Rookie goaltender Ville Husso will be done for the season, as the Rampage want to split the last two games between Spencer Martin and Adam Werner. They can still find a way to be a thorn in the side of the Stars should they force them into extra travel in the first round. Look for them to give the young Texas lineup all they can handle in Friday's tilt in San Antonio.

The puck is set to drop at 7:30 CDT.

Rampage Web Resources

Blog (unofficial): Runnin' With the Herd
Twitter: @SARampage
Twitter: @DanWeissPBP (play-by-play for SA)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Texas Could Snipe Home Ice Advantage with a Little Help This Weekend

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Less than a week after clinching the playoffs, Texas could be setting itself up for home ice advantage in the first round if everything goes their way in the next few days. Thanks to last night's win and an Ontario loss, it's possible.

In order to pass Ontario for the second seed, the Stars will need to grab all four points from the weekend set with San Antonio, giving them a .599 points percentage to end the season. Ontario can't beat that unless they pick up three or four points in their final two games of the year. Those two contests are against Stockton at home and in Bakersfield. Ontario has dominated Stockton all year (6-1) but struggled against Bakersfield (3-4-1-1). The Stars themselves have had mixed results against the Rampage, so their weekend task is no cakewalk either.

Whether Texas plays Tucson or Ontario in round one is a mixed bag as far as the season series. Each has yielded only one win for Texas (Tucson: 1-1-2, Ontario 1-1-1-1). However, if you're going to play Ontario, you'd want home ice when you do.

There is also a very slight chance that Texas plays San Diego in round one, but that's pretty unlikely. The Stars and Gulls would both need to win out, and Ontario would have to lose both games.

We'll know everything we need to know by Saturday evening for sure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Morin's OT Winner Pushes Texas Past Grand Rapids 3-2

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas completed yet another overtime game this evening in Cedar Park, their 27th of the season. After going up 2-0 in the second, Grand Rapids jumped right back and the Stars clawed out a tight third to make it to OT.

"We're comfortable playing tight games in the third period," said Travis Morin. "It's something we've been doing all year, and we're coming up with wins in OT and shootouts."

The Stars had to battle some second period adversity as their lead evaporated. Coach Laxdal commented, "We managed through that and did a better job in the third period getting traction. They've been a resilient group all year and that's going to be part of our motto moving forward. You have to battle back."

Mike McKenna collected the win in his first start since returning from Dallas. It was his first AHL action since March 17th.

A mostly quiet first period gave way to a score-filled second. Denis Gurianov had a good chance in the first but made good in the second on a breakaway. Gurianov had just been beat out on an iffy icing call but came down the ice with purpose to score. A solid seam pass from Sheldon Dries sent Gurianov into the zone all alone for the 1-0 goal. Greg Rallo followed shortly thereafter with a tally from the left wing circle that eluded Jared Coreau and seemed to perplex the tender.

With the 2-0 lead, Texas caught a break when the Griffins appeared to have score a goal and saw it waved off. That only seemed to invigorate them. Just a few minutes later, Dan Renouf ripped one from the left side dot, ringing it off the pipe and in past Mike McKenna.

Just three minutes later, Brian Lashoff scored his fifth of the year from the point, another bardown shot, off the faceoff win in the Texas zone.

McKenna made a huge save six minutes into the third period to keep things scoreless as Eric Tangradi broke in all alone on the power play. Going the other way, Joel L'Esperance just missed on a feed from Colin Markison on a 2-on-1. Markison was showing off his speed tonight but didn't find the net.

A few minutes into the overtime period, Travis Morin picks up the action. "[Bayreuther] knocked down a cross seam pass there and I was like, "I'm going!" I thought he had it, and he got it up to me. It's exactly what I wanted to do on my first breakaway in the first period just I thought somebody was on me on that one so I shot it a little quicker. I noticed the goalie dropped his glove a little bit and I thought I could get it over and I found some net."

Morin's breakaway goal was the OT game-winner, his 10th goal of the season and 60th point.

Texas heads to San Antonio to end the season with a home-and-home series with the Rampage on Friday and Saturday.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Mangene, O'Brien, Dowling, McKenzie, Kelleher, Hanna, Hansson, Thompson (scratch)
Fyten (injury)

Tonight's attendance was 3,850.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - April 11 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
36-24-8-5, 85 pts, 0.582
#4 Pacific Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
40-25-1-7, 88 pts, 0.603
#3 Central Division
April 11th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

With playoffs secured for both clubs, Grand Rapids and Texas look to round out their season series in Cedar Park this evening.

Texas will be getting ready for the playoffs with some new additions to the lineup. Remi Elie was assigned yesterday, and Dillon Heatherington and Mike McKenna returned on Sunday. With all three getting mixed levels of action over the past week, you can expect them to get game time this week, starting tonight, to become acclimated again.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Grand Rapids comes in with wins in seven of their last 10. They dropped contests against the top team in each division, Chicago and Tucson, both on the road. All things considered, they're on a good streak right now.

Texas has some gaps that they need to fix up before the playoffs begin. A match against Grand Rapids will give them a taste of what they can expect in the postseason. Notably, the penalty kill could use continued improvement. Consistently, Texas has ranked in the bottom five of the league on the PK all season. It's unlikely that the Stars can get far in the playoffs without a stark turnaround in that statistic.

One item to watch tonight will be the potential inclusion of Tony Calderone in the lineup. The forward joins Texas fresh off his collegiate career at Michigan. With ATOs Robbie Payne and Joel L'Esperance already in the mix, it will be a battle to see who among those players gets the call while the Stars also add top line forwards like Elie back to the lineup as well.

Stars injury/call up report:

Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dallas Stars Reassign Remi Elie to Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have added more firepower to their lineup as the playoffs approach. Dallas assigned left wing Remi Elie to the AHL. The winger missed the last game of the NHL season with injury and has now recovered enough for assignment. He is eligible for the rest of the season and playoffs after being assigned on a paper transaction on the day of the trade deadline.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has reassigned left wing Remi Elie to the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Elie, 22, recorded 14 points (6-8=14), 18 penalty minutes and a +5 plus/minus rating in 72 games played for Dallas this season. He has also appeared in two games for Texas in 2017-18, registering one goal (1-0=1) and a +3 plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Cornwall, Ont. was originally selected by Dallas in the second round (40th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Philippe Desrosiers Assigned to ECHL as Steelheads Start Playoffs

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars have assigned goalie Philippe Desrosiers to the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads.

Desrosiers did not play in his stint with Texas this go-around. He joins a Steelheads roster that has closed the regular season and is looking ahead to the playoffs, a seven game series against Allen. The Steelheads have found a reliable goalie to replace Desrosiers in his absence with Tomas Sholl, who twice won ECHL Goalie of the Week honors and is 9-0-1 with Idaho with a 1.24 GAA and .953 SV%. It will be very interesting how Coach Graham deploys Sholl and Desrosiers in the playoffs.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Monday rookie goaltender Phil Desrosiers has been reassigned to the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads.

Desrosiers, 22, is 23-9-3 with Idaho this season with a 2.51 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound netminder made his season debut and stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 5-1 win over the San Antonio Rampage on February 3rd.

Desrosiers (deh-ROH-see-ay) was a second-round pick of Dallas in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Collegiate Signee Tony Calderone Joins Texas Stars on ATO

The Dallas Stars have signed Michigan captain Tony Calderone to an entry-level deal, and the forward has signed an amateur tryout with the Texas Stars. We should be available for the final three games of the season and the playoffs. Calderone's Wolverines just finished the Frozen Four with a semifinal loss to Notre Dame.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed right wing Tony Calderone to a two-year entry level contract. The rookie forward will join the AHL’s Texas Stars on an amateur tryout agreement for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

Calderone, 23, appeared in 40 games and served as captain for the University of Michigan in 2017-18, registering 44 points (25-19=44). He ranked first on the club in goals (25), power play goals (7), game-winning goals (4) and shots on goal (132), while finishing second in points (44) and fourth in assists (19). The forward skated in all three of the Wolverines' NCAA tournament games and tallied four points (2-2=4), helping Michigan reach the Frozen Four semifinal vs. Notre Dame.

The 6-foot, 200-pound native of Trenton, Mich. recorded 91 points (54-37=91) in 134 career contests over his four seasons at Michigan. He also spent two seasons (2012-14) with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, tallying 85 points (53-32=85) in 124 games.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Texas Clinches Playoffs with Come From Behind Victory

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
With a playoff berth within reach for the first time this season, Texas punched their ticket in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 come from behind victory against Rockford tonight. The Stars scored first but saw the IceHogs jump ahead 3-1 by the end of the second period. The final frame was all Texas as Joel L'Esperance one-timed his first professional goal past Matt Tomkins for the game winner with just under three minutes left.

"We scored a big goal to get back in it," said Coach Laxdal. "Morin make a heck of a pass and Joel [L'Esperance] got good wood on it. He's had some good looks and hadn't scored yet so it was good to see him get the first goal tonight."

It was a sellout crowd in Cedar Park, which helped Texas jump back into things after Brian Flynn scored his 17th of the year early in that final frame. The end of the second showed a lot of good effort from Texas but Tomkins was up to the task for the IceHogs. Coach Laxdal told his team in the locker room during the second intermission, "If we can score in the first five minutes, it will take a little bit of pressure off our group."

Flynn's breakaway tally pulled Texas to within one. After last night's less than ideal special teams outcome, the Stars got a big power play goal from Roope Hintz to tie the game at three. Brent Regner also scored the game's opening goal on the power play in the first period. "It was good to see our special teams respond tonight. Last night we weren't happy with them."

L'Esperance scored that first pro goal just three minute later off Travis Morin's 50th assist of the season. Texas fought off nearly two minutes of 6-on-5 hockey to earn the win. With Stockton losing to San Jose out west, the playoffs were clinched with those two points.

Landon Bow stopped 22 of 25 shots against for his 20th win of the season. Texas stays at home to play Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Kelleher, Rallo, Thompson, Paliotta, O’Brien, Mangene, Fyten (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 6,863.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - April 7 2018

Friday, April 6, 2018

Stars Squeeze Point Out of 3-2 Shootout Loss to IceHogs

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars made a dent in their magic number for a playoff berth but only a small one after losing to the Rockford IceHogs 3-2 in a shootout. Gavin Bayreuther scored a late 6-on-5 goal to send it to overtime. Tenured NHL defenseman Cody Franson tallied two assists for the IceHogs, who went 2-for-2 on the power play and blanked the Stars on their two chances.

“If you’re PK is loose, making mistakes and not getting pucks out, you’re going to get stung,” said Stars coach Derek Laxdal. “And if your PP is sloppy and lazy, you’re not going to score any goals. I think we looked a little, I guess the word would be dozy, in both groups.”

Landon Bow was solid in net (24 saves on 26 shots) but couldn’t make one final stop in the shootout. Bayreuther was optimistic about the outcome. “Every point is big. I think it’s our second OT loss in a row. A point is a point, and we’ll move on for tomorrow.”

A scary moment occurred midway through the third period when Austin Fyten went down in a hard collision at the blue line. He was taken off the ice by a trainer and did not return to the game.

The game didn’t have the expected playoff feel at the outset, and both teams had trouble establishing any kind of forecheck. “We looked slow tonight and that’s a process of their team being really fast,” said Laxdal. Scoreless play ended when Brent Regner took a pass at the blue line from Jason Dickinson and found the five hole on Collin Delia with three minutes left in the first period.

Dickinson finished the game with two assists and continued his torrid scoring pace since coming back to Cedar Park, with four points in two games.

Playoff intensity and chippiness were ramped in the second period, most notably when Andrew Bodnarchuk took issue with Henrik Samuelsson cross checking Curtis McKenzie after a whistle was blown a few minutes in, causing a minor fracas.

After eleven minutes into the middle frame, the Stars paid the price for ceding the first power play of the game. Their penalty kill failed them, a common occurrence as of late, on a shot from the high slot that bounced its way to Tyler Sikura’s stick and in past Bow to tie the game up.

Bayreuther wasn’t discouraged by the poor special teams showing. “We’re not playing bad hockey. Sometimes at their blue line you’ve got to get pucks in deep and get past defenders. I think if we tighten up a few little things we’ll be alright.”

The Stars had two prime opportunities to retake the lead over the next several minutes of play with two power plays but failed to make Delia blink. It would come back to haunt them four minutes into the final frame when Franson set Chris DiDomenico up for a slap shot for Rockford’s second power play goal.

Bow headed to the bench with a little over two minutes left in regulation, and Bayreuther picked up his game-tying goal thirty seconds later, sending the game to overtime. Brian Flynn was key on the play, winning a tough faceoff and assisting on the goal along with Dickinson.

Bayreuther wasn’t concerned with how the goal looked. “Good things happen when pucks hit the net--rebounds, lucky bounces. I think it hit one of [Rockford's] shin pads or skates, but they don’t ask how, right?”

After the overtime frame yielded few shots on net for either team, Travis Morin was the lone scorer for the Stars in the shootout. Franson matched Morin’s goal, followed by the winner from Viktor Svedberg. “It stings tonight because we had a good look,” said Laxdal. “We scored on our third shooter. We needed a save, and the guy came down and ripped one. But when you look back on this for us to come back and tie it up late and get that point is huge.”

Bayreuther expects it to be even more of a challenge in tomorrow’s game. “I think we’ve got to play a little harder and a little grittier. It’s playoff hockey now.”

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Kelleher, Rallo, Thompson, Paliotta, O’Brien, Magene, Payne (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 4,938.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - April 6 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Rockford IceHogs

         Texas Stars                           Rockford IceHogs
    35-24-8-4, 82 pts, .577      v.      38-25-4-4, 72 pts, .592
  #4 Pacific Division                    #4 Central Division

April 6th at 7:30 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX
(credit: Greg Hamil/Rockford IceHogs)
With five games left in the regular season, the Texas Stars still control their playoff destiny with their magic number being eight--meaning the amount of points they have to collect to clinch a berth. If they cannot collect points during this weekend back-to-back set against the red hot Rockford IceHogs, they will need help to punch their ticket. The IceHogs face a similar situation in their own division, although less urgent.

The Stars have only faced the IceHogs twice this season, with both losses coming in Rockford. The sledding is going to be tough, as Rockford comes into Cedar Park having won five straight games with a sterling 8-1-1-0 record in their last ten games. Coach Derek Laxdal went out of his way to talk about how well Rockford has been playing during his post-game press conference following the Stars' overtime loss to the Stockton Heat.

Just in time for a push down the stretch, the Stars received a major boost from the returning Jason Dickinson, who scored two goals in Wednesday's game. The recently nicked up Roope Hintz is considered day-to-day, and his injury isn't thought to be serious. It's entirely possible that he draws into the lineup to provide more punch down the middle. The Stars know what's at stake, so expect this game to be a foretaste of the post-season.

The puck drops at 7:30 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call-up report:
Heatherington, McKenna (call-up)
Hintz (upper body, day-to-day)