Saturday, October 27, 2018

San Jose Uses 4-Goal Second to Top Texas 6-1

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)

It happens a couple times every season. Some nights, things just don’t fall your way. Tonight, that was the story for the home side as Texas suffered a 6-1 defeat at home to the Pacific Division leading San Jose Barracuda.

Coach Laxdal was direct, “If we want to continue to make fundamentally lazy mistakes on both sides of the puck, we’re going to pay the price for it. We didn’t get the goaltending performance we wanted out of Point, but we also didn’t give him much help.”

Laxdal split the blame for each goal equally with three on the forwards and three on the defense. Texas is truly suffering from missing of Reece Scarlett and Gavin Bayreuther in the lineup.

“We made some harsh mistakes here the last two nights. I didn’t think it was a great game from the backend tonight. You miss Scarlett and Bayreuther. [We] have to be a tighter checking group.”

Denis Gurianov continued his point streak with an assist but broke his goal streak at six.

The Stars scored first and early, seemingly setting themselves up for a good night. Michael Mersch got a redirect on a fade-away shot by the hot Gurianov. The Barracuda came back hard with two quick ones. Halbgewachs and Middleton scored just 61 seconds apart to set the score at 2-1 for San Jose in short order.

The second period was really where things broke open for the Barracuda. Manuel Wiederer scored early in the period for what was still a manageable differential for Texas. Dillon Heatheringon put one off the crossbar on the power play and later Ben Gleason hit the iron on a drive in deep. The two could have really stemmed the tide before the SJ outbreak.

“We had some moments offensively but not enough tonight.”

In less than two minutes, the Barracuda scored three goals and ended Colton Point’s night. As if to show that it wasn’t all on Point, Bow gave up a goal on his first shot against on the evening. Point finished with 11 saves on 16 shots.

Mercilessly, the Stars would not allow another goal in the contest. They would also not score another. Texas had a late power play that could have provided a bit of a trampoline into their next contest, but San Jose had the best chance of the advantage shorthanded.

Texas has a few days to lick their wounds before facing Ontario on the road on Thursday night.

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

Heatherington-Nyberg
Hanna-Hansson
Gleason-Hanley

Point
Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Bayreuther (day-to-day)
Calderone, Mascherin, Vala (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,841.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Jose - October 27 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Jose Barracuda

Texas Stars
4-2-1-1, 10 pts
#3 Central Division
v. San Jose Barracuda
6-1-0-1, 13 pts
#1 Pacific Division
October 27th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Ondrej Vala has been recalled from Idaho ahead of tonight's game.

After last night's close 4-3 loss, the Stars aren't down on themselves in the slightest.

"We played a good game, had a good finish, we just couldn’t get it done," said Travis Morin. "We’ll look at some video and clean a few things up."

(Credit: Texas Stars)
With a huge bright spots like the Gurianov-Hintz-Mersch line totalling seven points and Gurianov extending his goal streak to six games, Texas should be able to simply take their effort from last night and copy-paste it onto this evening.

Tonight's opponent is similarly strong as last night's. San Jose leads the Pacific Division with six wins in eight games. The Barracuda are scoring just fine with 29 goals to their name this season, same as Texas. Francis Perron leads the way with 5-5=10, and rookie Jayden Halbgewachs is just behind at 4-4=8.

The real difference, however, has been the play of goaltenders Antoine Bibeau and rookie Josef Korenar. They've split starts evenly with near identical stats. In four games for each, they've both allowed eight goals. Thanks to an OT game, Bibeau's GAA floated down to 1.93 while Korenar's is at 2.01. Bibeau was a free agent pickup from Toronto and Korenar was an undrafted free agent himself.

Note that Texas's power play, which had been a sore spot, is now creeping up the standings. The Stars are in 6th in the league with 25.8%.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Dowling (call up)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Top Line Surges, but Texas Falls to Chicago Wolves 4-3

The Texas Stars fell to the Chicago Wolves 4-3 on Friday evening, giving former Stars captain Curtis McKenzie his first win against his former club. Roope Hintz was slotted in between Denis Gurianov and Michael Mersch, the spot recently vacated by Justin Dowling, and feasted with his linemates as Mersch and Dowling tallied two points each, while Hintz finished with a goal and two helpers.

“I thought Mersch, Gurianov, and Hintz were outstanding tonight,” said head coach Derek Laxdal after the game. “What a line; just big, heavy, fast and I thought they dominated the game from start to finish.”
McKenzie looks different in burgundy and gold.
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Gurianov’s goal gave him his sixth straight in as many games, tying a franchise record that was set by Devin Shore in 2015-16. Laxdal was complimentary of his standout forward. “[Gurianov] is growing. His speed, his puck-handling; he’s got an NHL shot. He’s benefitting from some good players but he’s working hard and maturing in his game. We like the growth that he’s brought so far.

The top line provided early returns in the game on Hintz’s goal coming just over five minutes in on a feed from Mersch. Team leader Travis Morin was excited about the potential of the line after Friday’s game. “You’ve got two guys [in Hintz and Gurianov] that can absolutely fly out there. They put the defense on their heels a lot. And then Mersch--you get him down low and you can’t get a puck away from him.”

Five minutes later, the Wolves answered, coming hard on the forecheck and forcing the Stars cough up the puck. Defenseman Griffin Reinhart was true from the top of the left circle to tie the game, beating Bow blocker side.

Bow’s glove hand was a sore spot for the second year netminder for the next three goals against. Red hot forward Brooks Macek went high glove on him with just under four minutes to go in the frame, giving Macek his eleventh point of the young season to maintain his team lead in scoring. “We made a couple mental mistakes and they capitalized on them,” said Laxdal. “Macek got a puck in the slot; I know him from junior, and he can score.”

The Stars had a chance to tie on the power play before the end of the period. Travis Morin set Joel L’Esperance up nicely in the slot for a one timer, but Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk got just enough of it to send the Stars into the locker room down by one.

Gurianov opened the second period with his record-tying goal, ripping one over Dansk’s left shoulder with only eleven ticks off the clock. The top line continued to feast as halfway through the game, Mersch cleaned up a loose puck that Gurianov put on the net to give both players their second point.

Brandon Pirri took the buzz out of the crowd less than three minutes later, working again on Bow’s glove with his screaming wrist shot to knot things up once again. “We made a couple D zone entry errors. We dove in on one and they stung us. Pirri’s a good player.” Bow finished with 27 saves on 31 shots.

Serendipitously, the Wolves took the lead again right before the end of the period. Nick Caamano was called for interference when he was battling for a loose puck, giving the Wolves their second power play of the game. Winger Daniel Carr showed off some filthy handles while streaking on the rush, freezing Bow with a toe drag and potting a quick wrister. Carr and Pirri both finished the game with a goal and helper.

“I thought the whole game there was kind of ebbs and flows in the game. We scored early, they tied it up. And we got the lead in the second and they came back and pushed and got the lead.”

The goal would be the difference in the game, giving Chicago the edge in the special teams department. They finished one for four on the man advantage, while Texas was blanked during their four chances. The Stars did pepper Dansk with fourteen shots to make an impressive push in the final frame, but he held his ground. Morin could find no fault with the effort.

“I feel like we dominated the third period,” he said. “I had a lot of great chances, just couldn’t get it in. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

The leaders of the team were composed and exhibited a calm perspective after a hard-fought loss. They have little time to stew but quite a bit to build on with the San Jose Barracuda coming to town tomorrow. “We’ve gotta come out and play the same way we finished there,” said Morin. “It’s as simple as that.”

The puck drops at 7:00 PM.

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

Heatherington-Hansson
Nyberg-Hanley
Gleason-Hanna

Bow

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

Tonight’s attendance was 4,339.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Chicago - October 26 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Chicago Wolves

Texas Stars
4-1-1-1, 10 pts
#3 Central Division
v. Chicago Wolves
5-1-0-1, 11 pts
#2 Central Division
October 25th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars are aiming for their fourth straight win on Friday evening against the visiting Chicago Wolves, who are just ahead of the Stars in the division standings. They bring with them an old ally.

Up until this season, winger Curtis McKenzie hadn't played professionally for any other organization than the Stars, having been drafted by them in 2009 and earning the captaincy as recently as last season. It's hard to forget the Calder Cup run from mere months ago, with McKenzie accounting for 20 points in the playoffs.

All that seems like ancient history now, and McKenzie will likely play as if it is. He's been scoring at a point per game pace, yet he's tied for fourth in team scoring with two other players. Standout forward Brook Macek leads them all with ten points, eight of which are goals. There is bound to be some regression for his 66.7 shooting percentage, but the Stars have their work cut out for them against a team that is playing as well as anyone without their special teams firing on all cylinders.

Lest we forget, another old friend will be in town for a visit. Max Lagace has earned more starts this season than his backup Oskar Dansk and has made the most of them (.931 SP). Look for him to get the nod against his former team.

The main storyline for the streaking Stars headed into this one will be the question of who takes over Justin Dowling's recently vacated top line center spot. The obvious choice is Roope Hintz, who was slotted in on the third line after coming in from Dallas last weekend. Other candidates will be Travis Morin and Joel L'Esperance, the latter of which has earned coach Laxdal's praise at every turn this season.

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Dowling (call up)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

In Brian Tosti the Texas Stars Have a Talented New Voice

When Brien Rea, the former PR Director and play-by-play man for the Texas Stars of the past four years, was offered a television broadcast position with the Dallas Stars, he had a guy in mind who could potentially maintain the high bar that he had set: Brian Tosti.

(courtesy of Brian Tosti)
For as long as he can remember, Tosti has loved hockey down to his core. “I learned to skate when I was about 3 or 4 years old,” he said. “My dad took me to an Albany River Rats game and I was hooked.”

Having grown up in Clifton Park, New York, about thirty minutes north of Albany, hockey was embedded into Tosti’s DNA with the glad support of his parents every step of the way. For him, though, it was much less about personal talent and skill level than it was about the feeling of being a part of something bigger than himself. “Being a part of a team was always the most satisfying thing. I love being a part of a collective group.” That desire would have a huge impact on his career many years down the line.

In high school, Tosti explored communications, taking two classes in journalism and broadcasting, which helped him fall in love with the field. To pursue it as a profession didn’t fully materialize as an option in his mind until he was out of high school thinking about a real career path.

“When you’re 5’6”, it doesn’t take long for you to realize that playing hockey at a high level probably isn’t in the cards.” Though he would go on to lace up his skates for the Division III club team at Oswego State, his alma mater, Tosti fully immersed himself in broadcasting during his second year in college.

“I was really into sports and music.” Tosti is a serious musician, being proficient in at least three different instruments. “I didn’t really care to pursue music as a profession and broadcasting was something that I became passionate about as I took more classes.”

At Oswego State, Tosti began finding his voice as an on-air personality and honing his craft. “Some people are just born with this great voice for broadcasting, and you can tell from just talking to them. Others have to really put in the work to find what fits their own voice, and how they can just turn it on when the time comes.”

After college, he landed an internship with the Rockford IceHogs, which led to his first full-time professional gig with the then Bloomington Thunder of the USHL. Through a combination of building relationships and working hard over two years, his growing resume parlayed into another two year stop in Greenville, South Carolina, doing play-by-play for the Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL. As with many professions, Tosti says that the challenge becomes going from more of a generalist to a specialist as you move up each level.

“That’s really been the challenge along the way. Your responsibilities change, and anytime you walk into a new office you’re trying to figure out they dynamics of the relationships and what your role is.”

Though he really loved his time in Greenville and benefited greatly from the experience, it wasn’t long before his reputation preceded him, which led to bigger things. When Rea called to tell him that there was a potential opportunity with the Texas Stars, Tosti was elated. “I really wasn’t looking to go anywhere. But as any person in this business will tell you, you always have to have your ear to the ground. When Brien [Rea] called, I jumped all over it. This is the AHL.”

On what he would say to his peers that are looking for the same opportunities, Tosti was clear. “Make yourself apparent and obvious. Build a website, and maintain your portfolio. You want people to be able to find you very easily.”

The Texas Stars organization vetted through a short list of candidates provided by Rea and ultimately landed on Tosti after an interview process that mainly allowed his audio portfolio to speak for itself. From there, it’s been a whirlwind of logistics--from finding an apartment in Cedar Park, to moving from South Carolina, and going on air within three weeks of pulling into Texas.

“It really was a quick turnaround. It was the same type of thing with the Swamp Rabbits. But with this being the AHL, just a step below the NHL, you’re expected to hit the ground running and operate at a high level.”

One of the biggest challenges in going from the ECHL to the AHL is the talent level and pace of play. “Players say it all the time when they move up another level that the speed of the game is so much faster. The same thing is true of broadcasters. It’s just a huge adjustment to have to put to words what is going on in a particular play while the game is going this fast.”

The first thing Tosti did when he got to Texas? Eat at a Whataburger. “I was told that I couldn’t be a true Texan unless I had eaten there.”

His things had to stay in boxes the first few weeks while he studied hard to learn the ropes of the new job, which included the players for the organization, not to mention the staff that he would be working with. When asked about his favorite thing about working with the Stars, he beamed about the new relationships he was building with people in and around the organization. Primarily, though, Tosti is fulfilling a desire that has stayed with him since playing hockey in grade school.

“There are so many parts to this job that bring me joy. But the most rewarding part is that I get to be a part of a team. This organization, from the top down, is tops in the AHL. For me to be a part of a team like this is one of the most amazing experiences.”

Filling the shoes of your predecessor is seldom easy, but Tosti is driven to succeed. He has his own personal plan for growth. “It may sound silly, but really I just want to watch as much hockey as I can and learn from other broadcasters. I think that at the end of the season I want to see something different about my performance. I want people to be able to listen to me from game one all the way to the end, and they can tell a difference.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

Justin Dowling Earns Dallas's First Callup of the Season

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars have recalled Justin Dowling from the Texas Stars this morning. With the assignment of Roope Hintz to Texas last weekend, it seemed that a forward callup would be coming in return rather quickly. Jim Nill was in the building on Saturday for tryouts. With everyone assuming Denis Gurianov was top of the list with perhaps a dark horse of Joel L'Esperance, the pick of Dowling is a great reward for the vet forward.

Dowling is 2-4=6 in seven games and has NHL experience across nine games two seasons ago. Texas is off until Friday, so we will see how this affects their lineup this weekend, if at all.

In an unrelated move, Texas also assigned defenseman Nolan Gluchowski to Idaho.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has recalled center Justin Dowling from the Texas Stars, Dallas' top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Dowling, 28, is tied for first on Texas with four assists in seven games this season, while he also shares third on the team with six points (2-4=6) so far in 2018-19. The center ranks fourth on the squad with 18 shots on goal so far this season. Dowling has registered two assists (0-2=2) in nine career NHL games, all with Dallas coming in the 2016-17 campaign.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound native of Cochrane, Alta. was originally undrafted and signed as a free agent by Dallas on March 26, 2014.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Texas Vaults Into First with 3-1 Win Over Wild, Big Games from Gurianov, Point

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
On the back of another great third period, Texas claimed first place in the division with a 3-1 victory over the visiting Iowa Wild tonight. The kids are alright, it turns out, as Joel L’Esperance, Denis Gurianov and Colton Point all factored into the win in big ways.

“I like the way our team is growing,” said Coach Laxdal. “For us to win back-to-back with travel on Thursday, it shows a lot of our group. To push in the third period, showed a lot of character in our group. They did a hell of a job.”

It was Colton Point’s first professional win, and he certainly got some help to get there. Iowa hit four posts in the game. “It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Point said of the win, continuing on the posts. “Sometimes when things are going well, they’re going well. I’ll take what I can get.”

Denis Gurianov continued his hot play with his fifth goal in as many games. Laxdal noted that he’s also been one of the team’s best backcheckers, and he plans to use him on the penalty kill starting next weekend.

Gurianov talked about his mantra to improve this season, “Every year I feel more comfortable here. I try to do my best, listen to coach and the other guys. Get better every game, every practice.”

It was a relatively quiet first period for both clubs with no goals and no penalties either way. The best chance of the frame came late as Michael Mersch collected his own rebound and attempted to go left to right across the crease to beat Kahkonen. The rookie netminder extended his pad to keep it scoreless.

The legend of Joel L’Esperance continued to grow in the second period. The young forward had a drive-by tip play on a point shot from Joel Hanley to open the scoring. The Stars would capitulate nine minutes later as former Steelhead Colton Beck broke into the zone with Niklas Hansson draped on him. The play would have been a minor penalty, if not a penalty shot, but Beck buried it for the tie.

Iowa had a few posts in the second that surely made Texas nervous. One off the left post ended with Colton Point snow angeled in the crease and a frantic sequence in the Stars zone a few minutes later saw the Wild ding the crossbar on an open net.

“He had a few posts,” said Laxdal laughing at the understatement. “That’s part of the game. He got scrambling a bit in the second period. He made some timely saves for us. That’s how you learn, trial by fire. He was on his back, his chest, rolling around. That’s only going to help him for his next start.”

In the third period, Laxdal made a common adjustment to put the newly assigned Roope Hintz with Gurianov. The change yielded goals from both the line he left and the line he joined. “The addition of Roope Hintz gave our group energy moving forward,” he noted. First, Erik Condra found the net on his first of the season with an easy tap-in backdoor on Colton Hargrove’s initial chance. That pushed the score to 2-1.

Late in the third, the Stars finally got their first power play of the night and didn’t miss out on the opportunity. Denis Gurianov popped one in high on Kahkonen from the hashes for the 3-1 lead and the final. Roope Hintz had the first assist, and Joel Hanley got his second assist of the night as well.

The Stars would hold strong with the empty net and emerge with 10 points in the standings to hold onto first with an idle Milwaukee and Chicago in the loser column. Texas has a long layoff now until their next game on Friday when Chicago comes to town.

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

Nyberg-Hanley
Heatherington-Hansson
Gleason-Hanna

Point

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Bayreuther (day-to-day)
Calderone, Gluchowski, Laberge, Payne (scratch)

Gavin Bayreuther is expected back next weekend after missing this weekend’s contests.

Tonight’s attendance was 5,267.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - October 20 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
3-1-1-1, 8 pts
#3 Central Division
v.Iowa Wild
3-1-0-0, 6 pts
#4 Central Division
October 20th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

UPDATE: Roope Hintz has been sent to the Texas Stars. Elgin Pearce was assigned to Idaho.

Texas handed the Wild their first loss of the season last night here in Cedar Park. The frenetic third period, headed up by two rookies, put the Stars past Iowa. Joel L'Esperance and Ben Gleason were the headlinders.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
"[L'Esperance] is a big heavyset centerman," said Laxdal last night. "He reminds a lot of Jay Beagle when I brought him out of college in Idaho, and that’s kind of the comparisons we’re trying to use with him. He’s got an offensive upside, he’s a big heavy player and his skating’s getting better; he’s gaining confidence. He plays a heavy game and he’s got a good skillset."

Switching Ben Gleason to the top PP unit last night helped further activate a special teams crew that is now sixth in the league (26.9%). Iowa is also hot. Going into last night, they were fifth and now they're 3rd (33.3%).

"We’ve needed to score a lot more goals on the power play," said Gleason. "And it’s been working for us the last couple of games and right now it’s working."

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Joel L'Esperance and Ben Gleason Power Texas Stars Past Wild 5-4

The Texas Stars handed the Iowa Wild a 5-4 loss on Friday in Iowa’s first road game of the season. Ben Gleason, Michael Mersch, Nick Caamano, Joel L'Esperance, and Denis Gurianov all found the back of the net for the Stars with four of the goals coming in a blitzkrieg third period.

“I thought the depth was good,” said head coach Derek Laxdal of his team. “We’re trying to get four lines rolling early in the season here and trying to give a chance for everyone to click. We had contributions from every line just like we did the other night [in Grand Rapids].”
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Special teams were a big theme headed into this one with the Wild ranking fifth in both the power play and the penalty kill. Two early penalties taken by the Stars killed any momentum they possessed up to that point from an early Justin Dowling breakaway chance that led to a power play. After the dust settled, the Stars walked away unscathed in the first period thanks to Landon Bow. Bow would finish the game with 25 saves on 29 shots.

The Stars would've liked to get more shots on net in the first period, as they were outshot 13-6, but they generated a few golden chances that won't show up on the score sheet. Dowling and Mersch made some magic on two different back door feeds but couldn’t quite case in. As time expired for the first twenty minutes of play, L'Esperance forced a five hole attempt off a rebound from a Travis Morin shot.

L’Esperance, who plays in all situations for the Stars now, would go on to finish the game with a goal and an assist. “He was a beast,” offered Laxdal. “He’s going to have a bright future ahead of him just because he plays the game the right way.”

Though the Stars amassed four power play opportunities in the second period they also ceded two to the Wild. As you would expect, the hot power play unit for Iowa took advantage. After killing their own power play by taking committing a careless hooking minor in the offensive zone, the Stars gave up the first goal of the game to winger Kyle Rau when he came in hot towards the net about fourteen minutes into the frame.

The Stars answered the goal in a big way a couple shifts later. After earning almost a full minute of 5-on-3 play, they probed, prodded, and peppered their way to some decent chances but couldn’t yet solve goaltender Andrew Hammond. Once the Wild got their fourth man back on the ice, Gleason called his own number in the neutral zone as he dangled his way past a back checker, beating Hammond cleanly over his right shoulder with two and a half minutes left in the second period.

“I saw an opportunity there and took it,” said Gleason after the game. “A lot of guys set some picks out there for me and I saw a couple plays to be made in the whole game. It was nice to put one away.”

The third period was some of the very best hockey that the AHL has to offer, or at least some of the most entertaining. “The adjustments made in the third I thought paid dividends, and give our guys a lot of credit for executing the adjustments that we put in,” said Laxdal.

Liambas’s tally less than two minutes into the final frame took the air out of the building at first. Bow was heavily screened and really had no chance to track the puck. Mersch’s game-tying goal came three minutes later with L’Esperance went behind the net and set him up nicely in the slot. One shift later, the Stars pulled ahead when Caamano scored on the rush, notching his second goal of the season. Wild captain Cal O’Reilly responded with a back hand goal near the thirteen minute marker to knot the game up again.

One of the adjustments that Laxdal was referring to in the third period was putting Gleason with the top power play unit. The Stars continued to ravage the Wilds’ impressive special teams stat sheet with their second power play goal a couple minutes after the O’Reilly marker. They cycled for about one minute and ten seconds until Gleason found L’Esperance waiting near the crease pulling the Stars ahead by one.

Laxdal beamed about the young defenseman. “He’s been fun to have so far and he’s going to be a big part of our power play moving forward. You saw what he can do. He’s here to develop and learn. We’ve just got to keep nourishing that skillset.”

With just over five minutes left in the game, the Stars found a huge insurance goal after Mersch just missed a wide open net on a wrap around attempt. The puck cycled back to Gurianov who buried it from the left circle, tallying his sixth point in as many games.

The Wild had enough fight in them to draw one more penalty in the dying minutes of the game and cashed in again to make the Stars sweat for about thirty seconds. Perhaps it gave the Stars something to think about for tomorrow’s game to complete the weekend set against the Wild.

“We gotta come out ready to go tomorrow,” said L’Esperance. “They’re going to push back. They probably aren’t happy with the way the game ended. We just got to come out and play the same way we did tonight and clean up some of our neutral zone play.”

The puck drops drops at 7:00 PM CDT.

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

Nyberg-Hanley
Heatherington-Hanna
Gleason-Hansson

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Gluchowski, Bayreuther, Laberge, Payne, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,930.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - October 19 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
2-1-1-1, 6 pts
#4 Central Division
v.Iowa Wild
3-0-0-0, 6 pts
#3 Central Division
October 19th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX
Justin Dowling takes a draw against Wild captain Cal O'Reilly during the '17-'18 season
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Iowa Wild head to central Texas this weekend for their first road game sporting an unblemished record in the budding new AHL season. They thumped the Manitoba Moose in their opening game set, outscoring them 12-2 over two games, and handed the Stars a 4-3 shootout loss. Get used to seeing this team a lot this season with the new division alignment.

A couple of youngsters are getting it done in the scoring department for the Wild: rookie forwards Gerry Fitzgerald and Mason Shaw with four points a piece. Statistically, the Wild also hold up against any team in the AHL. That's what a small sample size will do at this juncture. But some numbers do stand out more than others. They are top five in both the power play (30.8%) and the penalty kill (91.7%). Four of their goals have come on the man advantage this year.

All things considered during their impressive early-season run, the biggest story so far coming out of Iowa is well-traveled net minder Andrew Hammond. Having drawn spot duty for the Colorado Avalanche during their unexpected playoff run last year, his experience and savvy has so far buoyed the Wild to the tune of a .939 save percentage across all three starts. Stars fans are very familiar with the type of effect a quality veteran goaltender can have on his team and how that can produce unbridled confidence throughout the lineup. Remember the last season's playoffs?

As well as the Wild have played, the Stars match them in points, and have had to play three road games to the Wild's none. They put together a successful display of offense on against the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday with six goals and are receiving welcome contributions from players who have become very critical all of a sudden. Denis Gurianov, Michael Mersch, and Joel L'Esperance all lead the team in scoring with five points each. That's a ton of size and scoring ability that you like to see clicking this early.

This will be as good of a test as you will get this time of year. The puck drops at 7 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Texas Stars Recall Defenseman Nolan Gluchowski

The Texas Stars are in the air at the moment, but the team has made a move to add to their defense. Defenseman Nolan Gluchowski has been recalled from Idaho this afternoon.

Reece Scarlett was downed in the first game by an ACL tear and isn't expected to play again this season. Gavin Bayreuther missed last night's game as well. More info will be gleaned tomorrow concerning Bayreuther.

Gluchowski comes to Texas after racking up six penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating in the Steelheads opening trio of games.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Texas Stars Youngsters Lead Third Period Comeback Win

(Credit: Grand Rapids Griffins)
Texas salvaged their first road trip of the season with a win in Grand Rapids this evening. The back-and-forth game saw Texas emerge victorious in a 6-3 final score. Landon Bow came up big in the first period to keep Texas in it, and Joel L'Esperance and Adam Mascherin found chemistry on a new line combo with Travis Morin.

Denis Gurianov had the game winning goal as he knocked a puck into the net completely out of mid air on the power play. Texas tallied three power play goals on the night, including a 5-on-3, firmly shaking off their man-advantage demons from the previous few games. In addition, they were only shorthanded three times on the night.

It was Texas getting the first goal in this one as Joel L'Esperance continued his excellent start to the season, collecting his third tally. It was an unassisted marker, but Adam Mascherin's initial shot created the havoc that led to L'Esperance putting it away. It was a power play goal, just Texas's second of the season. Grand Rapids had a chance to tie it up on a penalty shot by Wade Megan a few minutes later but Bow stopped that. It was only a matter of time before Chris Terry notched his first of the year. It came in the eighth minute on a tip from Saarijarvi's initial shot.

Not far from his collegiate home in Ann Arbor, Tony Calderone picked up his first of the year after Colton Hargrove slipped through three Griffins D-men and passed it over to him for the 2-1 tally. It was short-lived as Matt Finn tied things up. A missed pass in the GR zone from Dowling to Gurianov went the other way and fast. Finn beat Bow five hole and 2-2 was the score after 20.

The lone score in the second period was a tip play by Axel Holmstrom off a shot from Jake Chelios. Texas roared back in the third period with Adam Mascherin being the beneficiary of a slick pass from Joel L'Esperance this time to tie it at three. Immediately after, Texas went to the power play with Mascherin drawing the call. Gurianov popped in his third in as many games to go ahead 4-3.


From there, the Griffins just fell apart. Another power play became a 5-on-3 for 68 seconds. Michael Mersch scored on the doorstep to make it 5-3, his first as a Star. Nick Caamano polished things off with an empty net goal in the dying minutes to make the final 6-3.

Texas heads home to take on the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday.

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

Nyberg-Hanley
Heatherington-Hansson
Hanna-Gleason

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Bayreuther, Laberge, Payne, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,010.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Grand Rapids - October 17 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
1-1-1-1, 4 pts
#5 Central Division
atGrand Rapids Griffins
1-3-0-0, 2 pts
#7 Central Division
October 17th at 6:00 PM
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

The start of the season has definitely not gone the way the Griffins wanted it to. Four games in, they've got just two points to their name. However, they've also had the misfortune of playing most of those games on the road. Their lone win came at home against Hershey last weekend. Tonight's midweek bout is just their second home game of the season.

With the exception of the Hershey game, the Griffins have had trouble putting pucks in the net. Their six goal outburst against the Bears accounts for 75% of their goals. In their games against Texas and Chicago they were held to one by Landon Bow and Max Lagace, respectively. Ville Husso shut them down completely in San Antonio.

Givani Smith (L) and Gavin Bayreuther (C) battle in front of Landon Bow
(Credit: Texas Stars)
Texas, on the other hand, has had no trouble scoring. They've scored three goals in every game. However, their only win was on opening night when they allowed just a single goal against.

And so, as it so often happens in sports, something's gotta give. These two teams do have some game tape to review between the clubs as Texas beat GRG on opening night in Cedar Park. Joel L'Esperance had the game-winning tally, and Landon Bow got the win.

Filip Zadina, the Griffin's flashy rookie, finally got on the board in that Hershey win with a pair of goals. Otherwise, he's had nothing. That doesn't feel like it can last for long. Watch for him.

Penalties have been an issue for Texas so far this season as they've been shorthanded 21 times in 4 games. That's near the top of the league (tied for 7th). Their PK has been good because they've needed it to, but it's definitely not helping that Reece Scarlett is now out for the season with an ACL injury. The steady hand of an experienced vet defenseman on the backend will be missed, especially in those PK situations.

Texas, which has only had one power play goal this season, could have a breakout chance against a middling GR penalty kill. They've allowed 3 themselves (same as Texas) but on fewer opportunities to rank 21st in the league at 78.6%.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Texas Stars Give Up Three Goals in Third, Lose to IceHogs 5-3

The Texas Stars couldn't spoil a home opener, falling to the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 on Saturday. Justin Dowling, rookie James Phelan, and Denis Gurianov all scored for the Stars, but it was not enough to stave off the IceHogs, who had an answer after every goal. Colton Point got the start in net and recorded 30 saves on 34 shots.

(credit: Rockford IceHogs)
The IceHogs out-skated the Stars in the first period and drew three penalties to show for it. They captalized on their first power play within the first four minutes of the game when Tyler Sikura finished off his brother Dylan's rebound.

Between killing penalties, the Stars responded with two goals of their own. Phelan scored his first professional marker with one of the prettiest plays you'll see in the AHL. After breaking out on the rush and receiving the entry pass from Colton Hargrove, Phelan pirouetted away from a back checker and roofed one on a scrambling Delia.

The Stars finished the game 0-for-1 on the power play but took six total penalties.

During their third penalty kill with just over seven minutes left of first period play, Point had to save his team's bacon with a perfectly timed kick save on a potential breakaway goal from IceHogs forward Graham Knott. It was a critical play that seemed to tilt the ice in the Stars' direction as they generated a 3-on-1 rush with less than a minute left in the frame. Denis Gurianov finished the play with his second goal of the young season.

The teams traded a goal a piece in the second period. Henrik Samuelsson cleaned up his own rebound less than three minutes after the puck dropped to draw the IceHogs even. After that goal, Point was sharp where he needed to be, making a few sprawling saves on high danger scoring chances. One came from his belly after he gave up multiple rebounds.

Near the halfway mark of the frame, Justin Dowling recorded his second goal of the season by deflecting Gavin Bayreuther's offering from the point.

Matheson Iacopelli brought the game back to even with a back hander after a hard working shift by the Rockford fourth line near the nine minute marker in the third period. Rockford goaltender Collin was better than Point in the final frame, coming up with some of his own heroics to keep the game at even until Dylan Sikura notched his second point with a go ahead goal.

Mixed in were a couple more penalties the Stars had to kill off, including 19 seconds of a 5-on-3. It was not a recipe for success in the late going, as they were unable to generate any kind of meaningful momentum. The IceHogs capped the game off with an empty net goal from defenseman Darren Raddysh.

The Stars conclude their three game road trip through the Central on Wednesday against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

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

Heatherington-Hanley
Bayreuther-Hanna
Hansson-Gleason

Point

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Nyberg, Laberge, Markison, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,773.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Rockford - October 13 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Rockford IceHogs

Texas Stars
1-0-1-1, 4 pts
#4 Central Division
atRockford IceHogs
0-2-0-0, 0 pts
#8 Central Division
October 13th at 6:00 PM
BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL

Coming off their 4-3 shootout loss against the Iowa Wild, the Texas Stars resume their Central division-heavy schedule against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday evening.

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Rockford hasn't put together the start they wanted, having lost twice to the Cleveland Monsters. This IceHogs team doesn't quite resemble the one that the Stars squared off against during last season's Western Conference Final, but that's par for the course with a successful squad. Only scoring three goals over two contests is going to have the IceHogs hungry to get pucks on net during their home opener on Saturday.

Familiar foe Collin Delia, who had a tremendous rookie season last year, figures to man the pipes for the home crowd, as he was recently reassigned from the Chicago Blackhawks. He allowed five goals in his first start against the Monsters and should project for a bounce back game.

For the Stars to come away from this road trip with three out of four points, they'll need to continue to spread the scoring around. Big forward Michael Mersch has distributed the wealth so far with the helpers in three games. Landon Bow has the numbers to suggest he will grab the most starts in net, at least in the early going. The coaching staff will likely lean on rookie Colton Point to relieve Bow on the second night of a back-to-back.

As much as the IceHogs have churned their roster from last season, the Stars look every bit as unfamiliar. This early slate of Central division games will be key for Texas to forge an identity and gain confidence.

The puck drops at 6:00 PM CDT.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body injury)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Texas Stars Fall in Season's First Road Bout 4-3 in Shootout

(Credit: Iowa Wild)
In their first road game of the season, Texas earned a point but fell 4-3 in the shootout to the host Iowa Wild in Des Moines. Adam Mascherin picked up his first career goal, and the Texas Stars power play activated for the first time on the season. Youngsters Denis Gurianov and Gavin Bayreuther for Texas and Gerry Fitzgerald for Iowa all had a goal and an assist.

Landon Bow got the start and took the loss, stopping 27 of the 30 shots he faced.

Texas got off to a rough start with a 5-on-3 power play going against them for a full two minutes as they took a penalty during a delayed call. Landon Bow and the defense stood strong on this and the next penalty kill, giving Texas a chance at some offense late in the period. Extended O-zone time and an iced puck from Iowa would give the Stars their best chances of the period, but the score would be 0-0 after one.

The scoring kicked off in the second with a bad bounce for Texas. A breakout pass went off the back of Justin Dowling and landed on the stick of Iowa’s forwards. Justin Kloos kicked a pass out to Ryan Murphy at the point and he beat Bow clean for the 1-0 lead.

The Stars would come back with a pair in the frame. Adam Mascherin picked up his first of the season and first of his career less than a minute after the Iowa goal. A power play goal for Texas off the stick of Gavin Bayreuther would push them ahead 2-1 halfway through the second. The primary assist was Ben Gleason’s first pro point.

It wasn’t a lengthy lead for Texas with Mike Liambas, the former Admiral, sneaking into the crease and redirecting a pass from Gerry Fitzgerald up high and past Bow.

Fitzgerald would get one of his own, his third already on the young season, in the third period to regain the lead over Texas. It was another bad luck play as Bayreuther and Michael Mersch both broke their sticks on the backcheck.

With Bow on the bench late, Denis Gurianov would score his first of the year down the right side and whipping one past Andrew Hammond to tie things up. Ben Gleason would have the best chance of the overtime period, dancing past the Iowa defense but ditching his chance on the side of the Wild net instead of in the back of the cage. In the shootout, Sam Anas was the only goal scorer as the Wild collected the extra standings point.

Texas heads to Rockford tomorrow to continue their second longest road trip of the year.

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

Heatherington-Hanley
Bayreuther-Hansson
Nyberg-Gleason

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Hanna, Calderone, Payne, Phelan (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,624.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at Iowa - October 12 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Iowa Wild

Texas Stars
1-0-1-0, 3 pts
#4 Central Division
atIowa Wild
2-0-0-0, 4 pts
#1 Central Division
October 12th at 7:00 PM
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

UPDATE: Philippe Desrosiers has been assigned to ECHL Idaho.

Texas's first road trip just so happens to take them to the hottest team in the Central right out of the gate. While the Stars were busy with Grand Rapids and Milwaukee last weekend, the Wild absolutely shellacked another divisional rival, the Moose, to the tune of a 12-2 combined score in their two-game set.

It's a small sample set to be sure but a good sign for an Iowa club that has yet to make the playoffs since coming to Des Moines from Houston. It could be that the Moose are not a great team. It could be the Wild are fantastic. Maybe it's a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
The Wild have done a pretty good job spreading out their wealth on offense in their first two games. Despite the 12 goals, no skater has more than 3 points and only two are without a point, including Cal O'Reilly. Long-time Charlotte defenseman Ryan Murphy has started his second season in the Hawkeye state with three points and rookie Mason Shaw, a fourth round pick in 2017, is right there with him at 3.

Andrew Hammond has backstopped both Wild games to this point, stopping 47 of 49 and allowing just two goals.

Texas got great effort last weekend from rookie Joel L'Esperance and will look to get some of their other lines going in the weekend's contests. It still remains to be seen how the defense will adapt and change without Reece Scarlett. While it is definitely true that the team hadn't been playing long enough to establish too much chemistry, it also hurts no matter what to see 274 games of AHL experience limp off the ice after a bad collision.

Keys to Texas's success would include piercing a thus-far impenetrable Iowa PK (again, small sample set) and not taking so many penalties themselves. Coach Laxdal also noted that the club needs to support their goaltenders and not allow as many odd-man rushes and breakaways as they did against Milwaukee.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body injury)

Wild Web Resources:
Website: iowawild.com
Blog (Official): I Wild Blog
Twitter: @IAWild

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Manifest Destiny: The Westward Expansion of the AHL in Maps

The American Hockey League has marched slowly and steadily westward, most notably first lurching west with the International Hockey League merger in 2001. As we kick off a new season, it's a great time to look back at all the moves that got us to this place.

The below map shows us the movement of the geographic center of the league. It's pretty clear to see how the league has progressed west since 2001 (maps link).

(click to enhance detail)
And here's a great visualization of the westward move in GIF format.


For each season below, we'll take a look at the map, what moves were made to get there and give a link to the map of the teams in Google Maps.

2000-2001
This is our baseline. The league looked as above before the AHL-IHL merger. It's basically a Northeastern league at this point. Cincnnati was in the South Division, if that gives you an idea of where we're at here. Maps link.

2001-2002

After the IHL merger, the AHL became a much larger league, adding Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Utah, Manitoba, and Grand Rapids. Bridgeport was also granted a team in the same year and there were a few other changes, but those were unrelated to the IHL merger. Maps link.

ADD
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Chicago Wolves
Houston Aeros
Manitoba Moose
Milwaukee Admirals
Utah Grizzlies

REMOVE
Louisville Panthers

RELOCATE
Kentucky Thoroughblades become Cleveland Barons

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Texas Battles Back in Third But Falls 4-3 in OT

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the Texas Stars battled back from a deficit to earn a point in overtime tonight against Milwaukee.

“That’s the Texas way we talk about. That resiliency,” said coach Laxdal. “We played last night so I’ll give our guys a lot of credit battling back against a team that’s been resting.”

Milwaukee hadn’t played a game yet this season, and the Stars played again in as many nights. Texas hit the third period down 2-1 and saw that sink to a 3-1 deficit before roaring back.

Niklas Hansson, who checked in for the injured Reece Scarlett, scored on a one-timer eight minutes into the final frame. Then, it was time for 6-on-5 play to get the final goal. Joel L’Esperance, who had a great game last night, put one back on the doorstep to tie things with 35 seconds left.

“I think I was almost celebrating before it went in the net,” said Michael Mersch, who had the primary assist on the tally.

Part of what kept Texas from surging ahead despite some good chances were the penalties they kept taking. Even though Milwaukee only scored once, the Stars had to roll out their top PKers constantly, sapping energy from their 5-on-5 play.

“We got into penalty trouble in the first and the second, and we had to tax some players on the PK,” said Laxdal. “It’s non-necessary penalties. Keeping your stick down, keeping your hands down. We know [the officials] are going to clamp down [early in the year].”

Colton Point had a solid start to his pro career despite the loss. There were several breakaways that he had to deal with that pierced his armor. Keeping things tight in the third was a feather in his cap.

Also notably, it was the first win for former Star Greg Rallo as a coach. “For me, today was pretty special to start my coaching career in a place that was home for so long,” he said. “I don’t know if easier is the word, but there was a certain comfort level and with the fans seeing a certain welcoming.”

Texas opened the scoring with a nifty move by Dillon Heatherington down low. With Heatherington coming out of the penalty box, John Nyberg threw the puck down to knock off the last seconds of the kill. Heatherington picked up the puck in the corner and wrapped around Troy Grosenick for the 1-0 goal.

The Stars capitulated late in the frame as a bad bounce at the opposing blue line ended up on the stick of Rocco Grimaldi, who sprung Anthony Richard for a breakaway. He flipped the one backhand over Point to tie things.

Opening the second period, the Milwaukee power play bit Texas. With Nick Caamano in the box, Colin Blackwell slapped one through traffic to take the lead 2-1. The best chances Texas had in the period again came from last night’s hero line of L’Esperance, Hargrove and Condra. Grosenick was swimming but two pucks went right through his crease without anything coming through on the scoreboard.

The third saw a breakaway off a bad change by Tony Calderone end up behind Point for the 3-1 lead. This is where Texas mounted its comeback. Goals by Hansson and L’Esperance tied things after sixty.

In overtime, breakaways were again the story. Noted Star killer during his time in San Antonio, Rocco Grimaldi, fired the final shot to ice a 4-3 victory for the Admirals.

Texas finishes the weekend with three points of a possible four and next faces Iowa on Friday in Des Moines.

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

Bayreuther-Hanley
Heatherington-Hansson
Nyberg-Gleason

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (lower body)
Desrosiers, Hanna, Laberge, Payne, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 4,984.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Milwaukee - October 6 2018

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Milwaukee Admirals

            Texas Stars                         Milwaukee Admirals
    1-0-0-0, 2 pts      v.      0-0-0-0, -- pts
   #3 Central Division                       #4 Central Division

October 6th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX


The Milwaukee Admirals come to town and it's a homecoming for their entire coaching staff. After a big year last year, Karl Taylor got the call to take on his first AHL head coaching gig in Wisconsin.

"There always is [extra motivation]," said Coach Laxdal last night of playing a former colleague. "Karl was a great soldier, great coach for us for four years. He was a great coach to work with and I’m happy to see him get his opportunity."

In a suit behind the bench for the first time is Greg Rallo, the long time Star with a soft spot for Central Texas. He played the last ten season of his career split between San Antonio and Texas. Rallo is from Gurnee, Illinois, which is a short drive from Milwaukee. It's a great gig for him and an excellent entree into the coaching ranks with a head coach he is well acquainted with.

All that being said, Laxdal added, "I hope he doesn’t get his first win against us."

Scarlett leaves the ice last night (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Two big things to watch tonight will be the starting goaltender and Reece Scarlett's backfill. Landon Bow turned in a solid performance last night, stopping 24 of 25. Laxdal was cagey on whether Colton Point would get his first professional start tonight. With a tendency to ride the hot hand, I'd say it's equally likely that Bow gets a second start in as many games. If I were doing the planning, with road games coming up, I'd rather give Point his first start at home than on the road, which is where Texas will be for the next three games after this.

Last ngiht's injury to Reece Scarlett was painful to watch. He went off putting no weight on the leg. Texas will have to put either Niklas Hansson or Shane Hanna into the lineup to compensate. Both are fine players but neither has the experience of Scarlett.

Here's the injury again, if you can stand to watch.


Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (lower body)

Admirals Web Resources:
Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Friday, October 5, 2018

Texas Opens with 3-1 Win, Headlined by Landon Bow and Joel L'Esperance

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
After unveiling their Western Conference championship banner, rookie Joel L’Esperance showed that this team has a bright future ahead as he headlined a 3-1 victory over the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins. Not to be outdone, goalie Landon Bow secured the win with a 24 save effort to kick off his season.

“I like the work ethic of the group for the sixty minutes,” said Coach Derek Laxdal. “We were really resilient again, kind of a trademark of our organization. We didn’t bend that much.”

Amid all the good news, Texas did have some bad. In the third period, Reece Scarlett went down awkwardly under the weight of a Griffins forward, bending his leg under him. “The most unfortunate part of the game was losing Scarlett.”

Landon Bow expanded, “It sucked to see him go down like that. When you lose a veteran guy like that, we were going to lean on him a lot this season, so hopefully it’s not too serious.”

Texas got off to a quick start in the first period, scoring on their first shot of the season. On the penalty kill, L’Esperance applied pressure at the point on Chris Terry, a forward playing at the blue line on the power play. “Playing heavy on the puck is part of my game,” said L’Esperance postgame.

He freed the puck but saw it go just beyond his grasp. Grand Rapids keeper Harri Sateri was stuck in a pickle and had to come out to play the puck away at the hashes. It ended up on the stick of Colton Hargrove and then in the back of the net.

“L’Esperance was a beast tonight,” said Laxdal. “He picked up right where he left off [last season]. I like to compare him to Jay Beagle with more offensive upside.”

The Stars got into penalty trouble midway through the period, putting Joel Hanley and Scarlett in the box for a 5-on-3 Griffins advantage. With two of their best PKers in the box, Texas ceded a deft tip goal in front to GR captain Matt Ford to make it 1-1.

In a mostly quiet second period, L’Esperance again generated the offense. Off a slick pass from Erik Condra, he found twine over the left shoulder of Sateri. Nicholas Caamano had a few great chances in the period that just didn't go, both pretty much point blank. One was a whiff, and another went straight to the chest of the Griffins’ goalie.

Landon Bow sustained heavy pressure in the third period, stopping all 11 shots he faced in the frame to keep the score at 2-1. Justin Dowling collected the late empty net goal just a few seconds after Michael Mersch had an ENG of his own waved off for offsides.

Texas faces Milwaukee tomorrow in Cedar Park, the return of coaches Karl Taylor and Greg Rallo to their former home.

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

Bayreuther-Hanley
Heatherington-Scarlett
Nyberg-Gleason

Bow

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Desrosiers, Hanna, Calderone, Payne, Hansson, Pearce (scratch)

Tonight's attendance was 5,317.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Grand Rapids - October 5 2018


Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. Grand Rapids Griffins

Texas Stars
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Central Division
v.Grand Rapids Griffins
0-0-0-0, 0 pts
#-- Central Division
October 5th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Welcome back to hockey season. It's a whole new year in Cedar Park, and the more things change the more they stay the same. Names like McKenzie, McKenna, Regner, Flynn, Dries, and Hintz have moved on, but there are new exciting faces ready to take the mantle like Calderone (below), Caamano, Mascherin, Nyberg, Gleason and more.

Tony Calderone (Credit: Texas Stars)
On Tuesday, the team openly acknowledged that they were still in search of their identity for the season. That's not a bad thing, of course. The club has yet to play a competitive game with their full roster.

The Grand Rapids Griffins come into the season with some exciting new players of their own on the roster. Filip Zadina, who was drafted 6th overall at the 2018 Draft in Dallas this past summer, will start his season in the AHL. The Red Wings are not expected to be great this season.

"They talked to me like two days ago and told me I was going down and I was like OK,” Zadina told the Detroit media. "...I probably don’t know if I was expecting this, that they were going to send me down. They did that, they made a decision and now it’s up to me. So, yeah, I will work on those things. I’ll do my best here and help the team to win games and hopefully they will call me up at some point.”

He's expected to play on the top line with Chris Terry, who led the AHL in scoring last season.

Another exciting player to watch is Givani Smith. Yes, that's the brother of now Dallas Star and former Texas Star Gemel Smith. Gemel is Givani's elder by four years. The 2016 second round pick finished up his junior career with 11-7=18 in 18 playoff games in the playoffs with Kitchener. He's a power forward and has Detroit fans excited for the future. For now, he'll get started in the AHL.

If you can't make it to the game, don't forget that AHL TV is free this weekend.

Stars injury/call up report:
None.

Website: griffinshockey.com
Twitter: @GriffinsHockey
Blog: Griffins Hockey on MLive.com

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Texas Stars Prep for Opening Night with New Faces, Same Goal

Western Conference Title Defense Starts on Friday Night in Cedar Park
Nicholas Caamano screens the goalie in the preseason game last weekend.
(Credit: Texas Stars)
This is not the same team that took Toronto to seven games in the Finals last season. It never is in the AHL. Success, especially deep in the playoffs, brings new opportunity for players and coaches alike. Texas starts the season with a crop of fresh faces, many long in gestation as Dallas draft picks.

“We’ve got a whole new staff and 10 or 11 new guys,” said Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal. “The guys coming in know the rich history of the team, being in the finals three out of the nine years. For some of these new guys, this is going to be a great experience.”

Captain Curtis McKenzie, forward Brian Flynn, defensemen Andrew Bodnarchuk and Brent Regner and goaltender Mike McKenna all moved on after the Finals were over, and Texas seeks to replace them with a new crop of veterans and rookies alike. Even the coaching staff has shifted as Karl Taylor now leads the Milwaukee Admirals bench with Greg Rallo as his assistant.

“It’s a new group,” said defenseman Dillon Heatherington, who figures to find himself in Dallas on occasion this season. “We’re not too sure what our identity is right now. We lost a few players but that generally happens when you go deep in the playoffs in the AHL.”

New additions at forward include Nicholas Caamano and Adam Mascherin, two Dallas draft picks with big expectations, and Erik Condra and Michael Mersch, wily veterans with lengthy experience. After losing Regner and Bodnarchuk on defense, Texas is a young crew on the backend. John Nyberg, Ben Gleason and others will anchor their defense around veterans like Joel Hanley, Reece Scarlett and even the still relatively young Dillon Heatherington.

The biggest question on the squad right now is in goal. Early in the summer, it looked like Dallas would sign another journeyman to pair up with Landon Bow, similar to last year. The Mike McKenna signing worked so well it wouldn’t have been surprising if he was the man again. However, the surprise of Colton Point coming out of college early tipped those plans upside down. Now, Point will compete for starts with Bow, who is most likely to make it over Philippe Desrosiers. The question of who gets the starts is open. Coach Laxdal has always shown a willingness to go with the hot hand, regardless of whatever the draft status or pedigree is of a player in net. Landon Bow, a native of Alberta, moved to Toronto for the summer to work on his quickness and strength with the famed trainer Gary Roberts. It figures to be a fierce competition and could be the key to Texas’s success this season.

With the departure of Curtis McKenzie, the Stars will have three alternate captains for a few weeks before deciding on a captain for the season. Laxdal puts a lot of trust in his leadership group and it’s going to be important with all of these younger players on the roster.

The most veteran Texas Star, Travis Morin, is excited for his tenth season, “I think it’s a very talented team. You come into it new and refreshed but you never know what you’re going to have. Dallas has done a good job with draft picks and guys pushing for spots in Dallas. The biggest question mark is if these guys can become professionals and give that effort day in and day out.”

Monday, October 1, 2018

Texas Stars Lineup Options Increase as Dallas Makes Cuts

On Monday, the Dallas Stars completed a number of roster transactions in preparation for opening night of the NHL season on Thursday. Some were expected, and others provided an element of surprise. Here's how those moves will impact the Texas Stars.
Remi Elie is likely to land back with the Texas Stars.
(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Remi Elie - placed on waivers
The speedy winger logged 72 regular season games for Dallas last season but was squeezed out due to the logjam of bottom six options for the parent club. Roope Hintz looks to have potentially locked down a fourth line spot, along with Jason Dickinson and Gemel Smith providing further wing and center help in that department. Elie, who was not waiver exempt, will most likely clear and resume his career in Cedar Park this season. He provides a nice veteran complement to bolster the top six with the Texas Stars should other NHL teams refrain from snatching him up.

Justin Dowling - placed on waivers
Dowling will return to Cedar Park after he was also unable to surpass the quagmire of NHL-ready youngsters in Dallas. He will likely assume the top center spot with Texas, a role that he excelled in last season en route to a Calder Cup run.

Joel Hanley - placed on waivers
The veteran defenseman was acquired as a depth option for the AHL team. He'll provide a stable and solid presence on the blue line, making for a good partner to pair with some of the younger prospects.

Landon Bow and Colton Point - sent to AHL
This was always the plan. Bow and Point will be your goaltenders for the Texas squad in the 18-19 season. The only question is who will win the most starts. Bow seems to have a leg-up in that regard following his decent showing in the NHL preseason.

Gavin Bayreuther - in limbo
Having passed Dillon Heatherington in the organizational depth chart, the standout second-year defenseman had Dallas thinking he would start in place of an ailing Stephen Johns. However, Dallas made a trade, picking up Connor Carrick from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional 7th round pick. That likely means that Bayreuther will be sent down to Cedar park soon where he can continue logging significant ice time.

In other news, Hintz's play in Traverse City and in the NHL preseason has garnered him a well-earned roster spot with Dallas. New head coach Jim Montgomery clearly thinks that he makes the team better. Sadly for fans in Cedar Park, this means Hintz probably won't see any time in the AHL this season. The only way for that to happen is for Martin Hanzal to get healthy, and for Hintz's play to fall off. The latter of those two scenarios is something that none of us truly wants.