Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Dallas Stars Sign Joel Kiviranta, Release Several Draft Picks

Summarizing a few stories from the past week as we work on some longer term projects in the background here at 100 Degree Hockey...

First, the Dallas Stars signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two-year entry level contract. He's likely to end up with Texas if he comes over the North America this coming season.

Second, Dallas announced that several drafted players had not been signed to an NHL deal and were eligible to become free agents or re-enter the NHL draft. Brett Davis, Liam Hawel, and Jermaine Loewen are eligible to re-enter the draft. Goalie Markus Ruusu becomes a free agent. Among this group, I think Hawel was closest to getting a deal but didn't do enough in the OHL playoffs to make a mark.

Here's the release on Kiviranta:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Kiviranta, 23, spent the 2018-19 season with Vaasan Sport of Liiga, where he tallied 31 points (16-15=31) in 48 games. His 16 goals were third on the team and he finished tied for second on the club with a +12 plus/minus rating. In five seasons with the team, he appeared in 260 games, posting 114 points (60-54=114).

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound native of Vantaa, Finland helped his country earn a gold medal at the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia skating in nine games and recording three points (2-1=3). He scored the game-winning goal against France in the preliminary round.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Local Group Breaks Ground on New Multi-Sport Complex with Two Full-Sized Ice Sheets

Rendering of the facility (Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
This morning in Cedar Park, the dream of so many local Austin hockey players will get one step closer to reality as Perardi Development breaks ground on the new iSports Training and Performance Center across 183A from the H-E-B Center. Chaparral Ice is the lead tenant at the new facility.

100 Degree Hockey has been following the story of a suburban ice rink since its early days when the AHL’s Stars first moved to Cedar Park. Last year, Perardi and Chaparral Ice announced their partnership to build this facility and construction begins today.

The complex, which will be located at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Drive and 183A in Cedar Park, will be multi-sport, housing two full-sized NHL ice sheets and a mini-sheet for practice and individual skills work, along with two turf fields, one indoors and one outdoors. All of the fields will also be operated by Chaparral.

“The model is built on the fact we are in a non-traditional market,” Chaparral Ice owner Ryan Raya told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone this week. “We have other niche sports that take a backseat to football and baseball.”

(Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
To that end, iSports looks to house sports beyond hockey and figure skating, such as soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics and cheer squads. Raya calls the concept a “sports mall” where all of the tenants work together to reinforce the value of the facility as a whole. “We’re just a tenant here, and we’re partnering to make sure that the people in the building are working toward the same goal.”

Other potential tenants include medical facilities, such as orthopedics, sports medicine and chiropractic services. As of the current moment, D1 Training is the only announced partner, but Raya notes, “There are a lot of groups in Austin that are well-known that are looking to be a part of this.”

Raya’s project came to fruition thanks to a bit of a chance meeting several years ago. The owner of Perardi Development, Eric Perardi, played Division 1 college hockey at RPI. When Eric came in to interview for a youth coaching opening, he joked with Raya that he should give him a call if he ever wanted to build a new facility.

Raya took him up on the offer. He already had a business plan ready to go for the multi-sport facility. Over the past few years, Chaparral has been using their renovations at the Northcross Mall location as a proof of concept for the market’s appetite for this type of facility. “We needed to see if Austin would gravitate to ice sports using the existing facility as a model. It worked. People are interested in coming out.”
(Credit: iSports/Perardi Development)
While multi-sport is definitely a huge part of the success, Raya also thinks that hockey will be a big winner in the facility. He points to the recent success of the youth teams based at Chaparral, including the 10U state championship, as proof that there is a massive talent base here in Austin that is untapped. “We’re building this facility for [those kids]. We want them to have the access that every kid has up north to develop.” He also believes the seeing is believing factor that every hockey fan knows about will attract even more players, envisioning soccer or lacrosse players walking by the rink and becoming enamored with the game of hockey.

As to the Texas Stars involvement, nothing is formally agreed to at this point. Texas practices at the Northcross location when the H-E-B Center is unavailable. “The Stars have always been interested in what we were doing. They’re sending some representatives to the ground breaking to show support, but it’s really up to them how much they do or don’t want to use the facility. I’m hopeful, but there isn’t anything formal in place.”

The facility is set to open June 2020.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Texas Stars Re-Sign Brad McClure for 2019-20

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced earlier today that they have re-signed winger Brad McClure for next season. McClure played most of the season in the ECHL but spent an extended stint with Texas in the back half of the year. He was a goal scorer for the Stars with a Cy Young stat line of 9-2=11. He scored a hat trick on March 30th and notched three game winners in those nine goals.

It appears that McClure is in the plans for the Stars in 2019-20. I would expect that he spends the majority if not the entire season in the AHL after the way he closed the season this year.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Tuesday that the club has signed right wing Brad McClure for the upcoming 2019-2020. McClure began the 2018-19 season with the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads, before logging 30 games with Texas.

McClure, 25, earned his first career promotion to the AHL on Jan. 7, 2019 and made his AHL debut five days later against the Iowa Wild. Following his AHL debut, McClure skated in 30 of the 29 of the Stars final 27 games and collected 11 points (9-2=11) in that stretch. Of his nine goals, three were game winning tallies which included his first AHL goal on Feb. 19 against the Iowa Wild in overtime. The 5-foot-11, 191 pound winger recorded his first career hat trick on Mar. 30, netting all three goals in the third period.

Before earning his full time call to the Texas Stars lineup, McClure was one of the leading scorers of the Steelheads. The Stratford, Ontario native produced 39 points (19-20=39) across 42 ECHL games ending the year third on the roster in goals. McClure went on to rejoin the Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, helping them advance to the Mountain Division final with five points (3-2=5) in nine games.

McClure Is one year removed from a his collegiate career at Minnesota State University-Mankato. The former Mavericks captain logged 159 career games at his alma mater from 2014 to 2018 and tallied 91 points (45-46=91).

How Reece Scarlett Made the Most of a Season Lost to Injury

With his season over on opening night, Scarlett had to find new ways to contribute...
Reece Scarlett (Credit: Texas Stars)
It goes without saying that it wasn’t the season anyone had planned for Texas defenseman Reece Scarlett.

First game of the season, third period against Grand Rapids at H-E-B Center, “I just went into the corner with… I think it was [Chris] Terry. I don’t know, he sort of bounced off the boards and sort of fell in on me. I almost went into like a butterfly that I was not prepared to go into. Not a goalie, never been a goalie. My knee wasn’t supposed to go that way.

“You know, sometimes you get a charlie horse, or you twist something and you know that it’s just okay, that you’ll be able to come back. But even just trying to get off the ice, I knew it wasn’t right.”

The prognosis for Scarlett was a torn ACL, minimum recovery time of six to nine months. He knew forty minutes into the new season that he was already done for the year.

“Disbelief, just disappointment. I was excited to come into training camp, and I thought I did a really good job of proving myself to be a capable call-up if I ever got the chance. I was really excited to get the season going. And then it was, like I said, just disappointment and disbelief. It was a pretty bleak point.”

Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal called the unfortunate injury a big loss for the team, “Any time you lose a player, especially a veteran player who was one of our spiritual leaders in the back end, it’s a pretty big shot. Losing him was a big, big blow.”

But Scarlett never gave up on helping his team even though he wouldn’t play another minute of competitive hockey in the 2018-19 season.

Scarlett set out his mantra for the season from that point out, “Put your head down and go to work. Things might not always go your way, but it’s just how you deal with it. And that was the attitude that I tried to put forward and hopefully instill in others as well.”

Scarlett was a trade acquisition for the Dallas Stars. He put up a couple points in thirteen games to start the 2017-18 season in Springfield and then was swapped with Ludwig Bystrom. As Texas went deep in the playoffs last summer, Scarlett set a steady pairing with Andrew Bodnarchuk, finding his groove in the organization and setting himself up for a big year. Then, October 5th. Opening night was also closing night for Scarlett, and the long road to recovery started almost immediately.

Surgery isn’t always immediate for a torn ACL. Scarlett did some rehab to gain strength and movement in the knee before surgery to improve post-surgical recovery time. On October 24th in Dallas, Dr. William Robertson cut out Scarlett’s left patellar tendon and placed it where the torn ACL had been. Recovery went quickly. “I got to go on the ice probably about a month [later] by myself just messing around. We would just do basic six or seven year old [drills]: skate around in a circle, crossover, stuff like that.”

Within a few months, he noted he felt like a ‘normal human being,’ getting through day-to-day life without any pain. To begin athletic recovery, he and the rehab team had to walk a fine line to avoid re-injury. Even though he wasn’t going to play, the Texas training staff, including head athletic trainer Shay McGlynn, came in early to help Scarlett through his rehab.

“Hats off to Shay and our training staff helper, Hank [Petersen]. They did an unbelievable job being there for me everyday. They were coming to the rink early everyday. That’s their job, but at the same time, I wasn’t necessarily a priority in terms of guys playing, so I really appreciated the effort they put in as well.”

The organization offered Scarlett the opportunity to do his recovery back at home in Canada, but it didn’t even register as a possibility for him. “I’m under contract to play hockey for the Dallas Stars organization, and those are my teammates, those are my friends. And that’s where I wanted to be. So it was never an option for me to go home.”

Scarlett felt he needed to find a way to still contribute to the team in his recovery. He found that in video work. Wearing a suit and tie with a view of the ice from high above, the defenseman would watch the games and construct video breakdowns of plays.

(Credit: Texas Stars)
“I was able to just take some video clips for defensemen, and in the next couple of days after the game do video with the guys and show them what I see, get their perspective.”

Both players benefit from this arrangement. Aside from the coaching that Scarlett provided, he picked up on the finer points of every other player’s game to adapt into his own. “Just being able to watch different defensemen closely. Everybody plays a different style; everybody thinks the game a little bit differently. So for me being able to watch [Bayreuther]’s confidence breaking the puck out or Gleason’s confidence in general.

“It was helpful for me to see different options and different ways of doing things. It was sort of win-win for both of us, for the D corps and myself. Hopefully they got something out of it, I know I did. It also made home games a little more enjoyable. I get to be a part of the team somehow and not just sitting up there.”

Coach Laxdal complimented Scarlett on his work to stay involved and help the team any way he could, “We utilized him at home to help us with the D and a little bit of video work. Just monitor and look for things. Just to take his mind off of not playing and allow him to be part of the team. He embraced it and was great in the room. I think it made the season go a lot quicker for him.”

It was especially tough for Scarlett to see Dallas call up so many defenseman from Texas. It’s nearly certain he would have played his first NHL game this season if it weren’t for the injury. “It was a little bit tough to swallow. You always feel like you have an opportunity, you’re always close. Luckily, for half our D corps, it was the right time right place for them, and I couldn’t have been happier for them.”

Texas Stars General Manager Scott White noted the year he’d had in an interview earlier this summer, “It was a hell of year for him and he’s still got a ways to go. It’s a serious injury when you blow your knee out. He’s done everything right and I think he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. The coaches will remember Reece from last training camp.” Laxdal agreed, calling Scarlett’s past few months the best training he’s probably had in his career. Scarlett added a few pounds in the weight room with intense rehab sessions.

Still, the circumstances stung for the player, “Guys go up and live their dream, and I was just struggling to move my knee. It was crazy to watch, but at the end of the day, you gotta just put your head down and work and trust that everything you do is worth it in the end. Hopefully I know I’m gonna come back stronger next year and hopefully that luck might come my way.”

It’s barely a month into the offseason, but Scarlett has already started his summer workout routine. He joked it’s hard to justify taking much time off given how rested his body is. It is expected that Dallas will qualify the defenseman and bring him back to the organization for another year. He was also able to get back on the ice with the team late in the season. In a red no-contact jersey, #24 dashed up and down the ice, participating in drills for the first time in six months.

“That was one of the highlights of my year, honestly. Just being able to be out there and be myself. You’re one person off the ice, you’re one person in day-to-day life, and for me when I’m out there playing hockey, that’s who I am. It felt really good to be out there, and I felt like myself again.”

Additional reporting provided by Ryan Pennington.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Texas Stars Announce Renovation Plans for Arena's Retractable Seating

Plan will add glass seating and cross-aisle row for better fan movement
Plans for the new seating in the west 'endzone'
(Credit: Texas Stars and Hussey Seating)
The Texas Stars and H-E-B Center at Cedar Park have announced their plans to replace the telescopic seating platforms in sections 111, 112 and 113. Season ticket holders in the affected sections received an email detailing the below information this morning. The seats were damaged during a routine changeover in the middle of the season and were out of commission since early February. 100 Degree Hockey previously reported on the arena's plans here.

Highlights of the new plan include the addition of 21 new glass seats in the section and a cross-aisle to facilitate movement across the sections, removing rows C and D as a result.

"With the increasing event count at H-E-B Center we had a need for an efficient, operator friendly, and robust system that will see hundreds of conversions per year," said Texas Stars Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Delay, who spearheaded the effort. "Given the opportunity to redesign the seating area for Texas Stars games we felt it was important to add additional glass and second row seats as well."

Current estimates show work may not be completed until the second week of October. Current season ticket holders in these sections are being contacted by the team to begin the process of relocation or upgrade. Existing season ticket holders will be allowed to upgrade into these seats as their season seats during the ensuing two weeks and then the seats will be opened for all new ticket holders. Delay said the Stars are working with Hussey Seating and the arena to take every opportunity to make an opening night completion a possibility, but there are many factors at play.

Several significant changes are included in the project, which will be completed by Hussey Seating.
  • The addition of a total of twenty-one (21) Row A – Glass Seats in Sections 112, 113, and 114
  • The addition of additional second row seats bringing the total to twenty-two (22) Row B seats in Sections 112, 113, and 114 and the corresponding removal of the stairwells at the two center down aisles between sections 111/112 and 112/113
  • The addition of seats in Section 112 Row L – Lowering the height of the Zamboni tunnel by one row
  • An overall reduction of the total seating capacity by 86 seats primarily as a result of the removal of rows C and D in all 3 sections to create a cross-aisle between 111/112 and 112/113
  • The sections will feature fixed, armless seating in all Rows except Row R (top row) which remains folding seats. 
  • The down aisles will be wider in all sections, and row E seats may be entered from the front as they are now on the cross-aisle.
Pricing will be commensurate with other sections: Glass pricing for Row A, Luxury in B, Executive for E-G and everything else at Terrace.

Texas will continue to communicate with season ticket holders in these sections over the summer as the season approaches.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Justin Dowling is the Texas Stars 2018-19 MVP

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas didn't have a championship season, but they still had several standout performances. Nominees and the winner for the team MVP award are below...

Runner up: Denis Gurianov
(20-28=48 in 57 games, plus-2, 12 PIMs, 3 GWGs, 4 PPGs)

The Russian winger had a fantastic year in the AHL and probably should not find himself in Cedar Park again. However, this year, he was in the minors and excelled. At times, Gurianov would completely take over a game in the way that he can in the A. His elite speed was put to good use on defense as well as offense this year as he worked to jet out of the defensive zone and create scoring opportunities the other way.

Runner up: Erik Condra
(20-34=54 in 71 games, minus-6, 64 PIMs, 8 PPGs, 16 PPAs)

Condra was a huge get of a signing. In the middle of the season, he was as high as third in the league scoring table. After a callup to Dallas, his performance tailed off and he had a less productive back half of the year. Still, he was prolific. He notched 24 points on the Texas power play, which was ranked #3 in the regular season. One might argue that Condra should be the team MVP, but I point to the club's performance after the departure of our winner, Justin Dowling, to Dallas and how they struggled without him. Condra also had a less consistent season.

Winner: Justin Dowling
(13-40=53 in 62 games, minus-6, 12 PIMs, 4 PPGs, 19 PPAs)

Justin Dowling was named Texas Stars captain early in the season and lived up to the billing as a leader both on and off the ice. He scored a career-best 53 points including another career-best 40 assists. He was deployed in all situations and put up huge numbers on the power play (23 points).

I lean toward Dowling as MVP over Condra because of his consistency across the season and how much the team struggled without him in the lineup. Texas was 0-5 without Dowling in the lineup until March, when he was called up for good and Texas got some ATO reinforcements. Even then, Texas went 5-8-0-1 without Dowling across the year. Condra, by comparison, saw Texas go 4-0-0-1 when he was out of the lineup.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Joel L'Esperance is the Texas Stars Rookie of the Year

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
It's been a few seasons since 100 Degree Hockey handed out end of season awards. For some teams, this is something that the organization does itself, even. I'm not going to go super in-depth for these awards though. We'll just have two: Rookie of the Year and MVP. Today, rookie of the year.

Alright, I don't think that we need to have much hemming and hawing over who won this award. However, let's discuss some runners up.

Runner up: Nicholas Caamano
(12-12=24 in 72 games, plus-1, 91 PIMs, 3 GWGs, 2 PPGs)

Nicholas Caamano had a solid season for the Texas Stars. As players started being called up to Dallas midseason, Caamano was one of the players called upon to raise his game. He answered the bell with 10 of his 24 points coming in the last month of the season.

Runner up: Ben Gleason
(5-32=37 in 72 games, minus-8, 34 PIMs, 2 PPGs, 18 PPAs)

From Traverse City tryout to playing an NHL game this season, Gleason has had an eventful year. He was a productive member of the Stars top-3 power play with 20 of his 37 points coming with the man advantage. His puck moving skills were evident from game one and the late season addition of Joe Cecconi to his pairing made him even better. Cecconi, of course, is used to working with high-caliber offensive talent like his Michigan D partner Quinn Hughes.

Runner up: Adam Mascherin
(18-26=44 in 75 games, plus-10, 30 PIMs, 4 PPGs, 4 GWGs)

There is no question that Adam Mascherin can put up points. He nearly claimed the rookie scoring lead among Stars at the end of the season with his 44 point effort. However, he has a tendency to be streaky and score in bunches. He will be there for a few games and then disappear. Any player knows that consistency is key to time in the lineup. If Mascherin wants to head to Dallas, he needs to score more evenly across all games and have a less lumpy scoring line.

Winner: Joel L'Esperance
(30-15=45 in 54 games, minus-5, 23 PIMs, 13 PPGs, 7 PPAs, 5 GWGs)

This one felt pretty obvious. L'Esperance had a beastly first season. In just 54 games, he notched 45 points. The power play numbers are truly impressive as well. Thirteen power play goals leads all Texas skaters by four and puts him eighth in the league overall for PPGs. Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal regularly called him a "horse" of a competitor and compared him to Jay Beagle, an undrafted player who continues to enjoy NHL success after being signed to Idaho by Laxdal out of the University of Alaska Anchorage.  L'Esperance's scoring line also showed what he was: a scorer first. He can distribute, but he's most dangerous when he's the triggerman. His five game-winners show that as much as anything.

I'm expecting that L'Esperance will be a bubble player when the year begins. Under contract for the coming season still on his ELC, he has a healthy chance to make the team out of camp and if not, be the first callup to Dallas when the need arises.

MVP coming soon...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Reviewing the Texas Stars' Best Games of the Season

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Two weeks ago, we looked at the worst games of the season. After last night's outcome, it feels like a good time for an injection of positivity with the best games. In chronological order, here are some of the best...

Texas Stars Crush Rampage 8-1 with Balanced Attack
November 10, 2018 - Texas 8 vs. San Antonio 1

It's going to be a going trend here that a lot of the best games of the season were against San Antonio. It's almost not fair. It starts with this 8-1 affair in November. Texas got a hat trick from Erik Condra and four points out of Justin Dowling. With Morin, the trio combined for nine total points. Joel L'Esperance, Colton Hargrove and Colin Markison also scored as the Stars impressed a capacity crowd. Landon Bow also made 30 stops.

Mascherin's First Pro Hat Trick Headlines Heated 7-3 Win for Texas
November 25, 2018 - Texas 7 at San Antonio 3

Goals galore in San Antonio put this one in the conversation. Coming off a loss at home to the Rampage, Texas needed its depth players to step up and bring them across the line. They responded. Adam Mascherin notched a hat trick. Elgin Pearce and Brady Norrish scored their first goals of the season, and there were multi-point nights for depth players Shane Hanna and Robbie Payne. The game is also famous for Jordan Binnington's slash on Joel L'Esperance after the Stars rookie made it a 7-2 game. He was assessed a major and a game misconduct.

Erik Condra's Five Points Power Texas Stars to 7-4 Win Over Chicago Wolves
December 2, 2018 - Texas 7 at Chicago 4

Erik Condra's five-point night is absolutely in the conversation for the best individual performance of the season. At the end of a three-in-three weekend, Texas had plenty of gas in the tank to take the Wolves to task. Nick Caamano had a pair, as did Travis Morin. The top performance, however, came from Condra, who was in the midst of a fantastic points streak. This game was his eighth straight with points and pushed him to third in the league scoring table.

Key Timeout Spurs Texas Stars Past San Antonio Rampage 6-4
March 9, 2019 - Texas 6 at San Antonio 4

Texas had a 4-2 lead but gave it up late. A well-timed timeout by the Texas coaching staff helped to re-center the club and push them past in-state rival San Antonio 6-4. Denis Gurianov and Niklas Hansson each had three-point nights, and several others had two in the contest. Landon Bow picked up a rare road win, just his fifth of the season, stopping 22 shots. Texas got scoring from all over the lineup, including a game-winner from rookie Tony Calderone and the reappearance of the streaky scorer Adam Mascherin, who had two points. It is in the best of list because the Stars came back to win it and because they got contributions from all over the lineup.

Colton Hargrove's First Career Hat Trick Paces Texas to 6-3 Win Over Grand Rapids
March 20, 2019 - Texas 6 vs. Grand Rapids 3

This game was good for more than a few reasons. First, obviously the scoring line against a team like Grand Rapids is a big plus. Second, the fact that a depth player like Colton Hargrove scored a hat trick is a bonus as well. Finally, this was the first game where ATO depth started to affect the lineup. Ty Dellandra, Josh Melnick, Rhett Gardner and Joe Cecconi all made their professional debuts in the game. None looked out of place, and their debuts set a strong path forward for the coming year.

Jake Oettinger's Strong Debut, McClure's Hat Trick Lead Stars Past Wild 4-1
March 30, 2019 - Texas 4 at Iowa 1

A late season road trip to Iowa saw Texas capture all four points available. Brad McClure did his thing, scoring goals as he does to notch a hat trick, his first. Jake Oettinger made his professional debut just a few days after being bounced from the NCAA tournament. He stopped 23 of 24, aided by the depth offense ahead of him. These were huge points for the playoff race, helping to keep Texas in it right until the bitter end.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Dallas Stars Sign Emil Djuse on Entry-Level Deal, Likely a Texas Player

The Dallas Stars announced this morning that they have signed left-handed defenseman Emil Djuse on a one-year entry-level contract. Djuse is already 25, thus the one-year ELC. He played the past three seasons with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden.

Based on blue line depth in Dallas and his experience level, I would expect to see him in Cedar Park in the fall.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Emil Djuse to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Djuse, 25, spent the 2018-19 season with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Elite League. He registered 21 points (3-18=21) in 50 games, recording career-highs in points (21) and assists (18). In three seasons with the club, Djuse skated in 149 games and amassed 56 points (13-43=56) with 136 penalty minutes. The blueliner qualified for the postseason in all three campaigns with Skelleftea and has posted four assists (0-4=4) in 20 postseason contests.

Prior to his time with Skelleftea, Djuse spent two seasons with MODO (2014-15, 2015-16) and two seasons with Frolunda (2013-14, 2014-15). The defenseman registered 85 points (21-64=85) and 158 penalty minutes in 252 career Swedish Elite League games over seven seasons.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Ostersund, Sweden helped his country earn a silver medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Russia, skating in six games and tallying two points (1-1=2).

Friday, April 26, 2019

Texas Stars Season Recap: Worst Game of the Season Contest Has More Than a Few Entries

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
"Take out the trash" is a phrase often used in media organizations to refer to putting out stories that you don't want anyone to read on a Friday afternoon. We decided to twist that around and talk about some of the garbage that the Texas Stars had in their season this Friday morning.

That's right, it's time for season superlatives. We're kicking off with a negative one, and it's our only one. We'll also be covering best game, best performance and MVP. But, for today, we're getting started with the worst game of the season. There are a few candidates that we discussed, but staff writer Ryan Pennington was adamant that he had covered the clear winner. Let's start with the runners up.

Texas Stars Lose Fifth Straight, Complete Winless Road Trip with Loss in Tucson
January 23, 2019 - Texas 0 at Tucson 4

This was a stinging defeat for Texas. Already in a four-game winless skid on the road trip and eight game road losing streak overall, everything sort of fell apart in a 4-0 shutout loss in Tucson. Landon Bow stopped just three of six shots before being pulled. The offense never went anywhere, and a third period penalty parade killed any chance to gain momentum in the game. These were key points in the season that Texas didn't collect. It was deflating overall in the arc of the January to February span that GM Scott White told us last week that he believes were the death knell of the season.

Rockford Slips By Texas 4-3 in Shootout, Collecting Key Standings Points
April 6, 2019 - Texas 2 vs. Rockford 3 (SO)

In the end, even collecting the extra point out of Rockford on this evening wouldn't have gotten them into the playoffs on its own. However, the deflating nature of the loss in front of a sellout crowd, especially after Texas led 3-2 late in the contest, was a key element. Rockford was playing for its playoff life, an ultimately fruitless battle, and bested Texas on their home ice. This was more a season flow choice and honestly might have something to do with a recency bias. However, it wasn't a great game and overall put Texas in a rough spot to make the postseason.

Texas Stars Miss Playoffs, Close Season with 3-1 Loss to Rampage
April 13, 2019 - Texas 1 vs. San Antonio 3

The final game of the season. Texas had to win and get help to make it into the playoffs. Just before the end of the second period, Milwaukee closed the book on a 5-0 win against Grand Rapids, and the Stars were eliminated from the postseason. The third period was a disaster for Texas. For the record, this was the game that Texas head coach Derek Laxdal called the worst of the season. "I think you saw the final result of a grind down the stretch finally catching up with our guys," Coach Laxdal said postgame. "I think it was a combination of the grind and that we'd asked so much of these guys down the stretch to stay in the race." Texas went 0-for-7 on the power play and allowed a shorthanded goal as well. It was a rough way to end the season without a doubt.

And now the winner...

Wolves Blow Out Texas 6-1 in Chicago Day Game
December 18, 2018 - Texas 1 at Chicago 6
I'm just going to copy in the opening paragraph of Ryan's recap to give you a feel for this day game in Chicago, which we are deeming the worst of the season.
Right from the drop of the puck, today's game was in the hands of the Wolves. In the first six minutes, Chicago delighted the home crowd with three straight goals. The second and third came just nine seconds apart and truly set Texas on its heels. The final, almost predestined score, was 6-1.
Those first three goals delighted the home crowd of over 12,000 screaming children. Suffice to say if you blocked off some time out of your work day to listen to this game, you didn't miss lunch. You probably cut out after the second media timeout. This was one of the few games that Texas was out of in the first period this year.

Next week, we're looking at best games and more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Despite Playoff Miss, Texas Stars Score Near Record Attendance in Tenth Season

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
In their tenth season in Central Texas, the Texas Stars are still a great draw. The team celebrated a decade in Cedar Park with their second-best average attendance ever: 5,406. This year trailed only the 2011-12 season, which saw an average of 5,470 and was a jump of over a hundred per game compared to last season.

“We had a great response from our season ticket holders for the tenth anniversary year,” Texas Stars Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Delay told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone last week. “The sales team did a great job. Groups were up this year. I think we increased groups by over 11%.”

Season ticket holders form the majority of the ticket base in H-E-B Center’s 6,863 full capacity crowd. Incentives for the tenth season including commemorative jerseys and the chance to drop the puck before the game were big draws for retention and growth of those numbers. Winning Wednesday, where fans in attendance for a Wednesday win get a free ticket to the next Wednesday game, also yielded huge dividends as Texas won six straight Wednesday games from December 5 to March 27.

The Stars saw 26 nights with attendance over 5,000. Their record is 27, set during the 2011-12 season. They also set a team best for fewest nights under 4,000, just two.

“Not too bad considering we went two and a half months with a net loss of 570 seats,” continued Delay. “We might have done a bit better if we had had those extra seats for the last two and a half months.”

The missing seats in the visitor’s end zone were definitely a factor in the Stars not getting to record attendance. In the ten weeks after the seats broke, Texas lost twelve homes games worth of attendance in those sections. If Texas had averaged 35% occupancy or better in those sections during that stretch, they would have set a new record.

“We might have been able to get there with all the great nights we had on the back half. It is what it is.”

Texas had some more new variables to deal with as well. It seems second nature now, but this was the first year with a harmonized 7 PM start time for all home games. Delay expects that to continue, “That was a request that came down from the hockey side of things. We looked at those Friday games, and we were one of the last holdouts for 7:30 games. It’s become pretty much a standard across the board that folks are doing 7 o’clock local time start.”

For individual ticket buyers, many received text messages this year reminding them that Texas was in town and tickets were on sale. “There’s a few teams using their peer-to-peer texting platforms, and that was something new we tried. If you think about your personal experience of getting an email versus a text. The email might sit in your inbox if it’s a newsletter or something like that. But if you get a text message, you’re much more likely to respond back to it in one way or another.

“We’re looking to continue it, so I would say that it’s been successful.”

Theme nights were a success again, and Texas is busy planning the coming season. This is the the “busiest time of the year behind the scenes,” according to Delay, with game operations, specialty jerseys, theme nights and giveaways all in the planning stage. “It’s constantly tweaking. We can’t just cookie cutter. We’re always looking to change things up. Two years ago, Harry Potter [night] wasn’t a thing for us, but now it’s one of our mainstays.”

The Stars look ahead to the next season, their eleventh at H-E-B Center, ready to innovate to keep the building packed and loud.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Report: Texas Stars Sign NCAA Tourney MVP, RW Parker Mackay, on AHL Deal

According to the CBS 3 Duluth, Riley Tufte won't be the only UMD Bulldog skating for the Texas Stars next season. Forward and team captain Parker Mackay has been added on an AHL contract for next year.The right winger will be 25 at the start of next year and racked up 16-17=33 in 40 games his senior season. In addition to winning the championship with Duluth, he was also named the tournament's most outstanding player.

The Texas Stars have not confirmed the signing as of this time and have no comment on the report.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Texas Stars GM Scott White: Poor Road Play Killer for Playoff Hopes

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The architect of the Texas Stars for all ten seasons has been general manager Scott White. In that decade, his clubs have only missed the playoffs three times, including this season. 100 Degree Hockey caught up with White this week to go over the Texas Stars season and look ahead a bit to next year.

White diagnosed the team pretty simply in two points: inability to pick up road points and a particularly bad road trip in January and February.

“You have to be able to navigate those circumstances and find ways to win games and get points at various times of the year,” White told 100 Degree Hockey via phone on Thursday. He continued on to the California trip, “We didn't garner points. Instead of finding ways to get to overtime, we’d give up the empty netter. There were no lineup excuses. We didn’t score; we didn’t get the big save.”

The stretch of games that White said “probably cost us the opportunity” kicked off on January 16 in San Diego. Coming off three straight wins at home and a five-game point streak, Texas dropped every one of their five road contests on the trip. Close games in San Diego and San Jose gave way to not close games in Tucson, concluding with a 4-0 defeat on January 23. Texas came home and earned just one win on a three game stand and went on the road for a split at 2-2. In all, they went 3-9 and dropped themselves from 21-11-3-2 to 24-20-3-2, a significant dip.

“Getting that extra point was vital,” said White, clearly thinking back to the Stars’ 2017-18 squad that collected a boatload of points by making it to overtime. “That was some of the messaging for the more experience guys and the young guys alike. You have to find a way to get points on the road. We struggled on the road on the whole.”

Texas finished the year with a .421 road win percentage, sixth worst in the league. Their home percentage (.658) was 12th best. The sting of not getting can be a good motivator for summer workouts though, “It stings, and it should carry over to the fall.”

White is clearly excited by the youth movement with players coming in like Jason Robertson, Tye Felhaber and Jake Oettinger. Another big name is Joe Cecconi, who missed the last three games of the season. 100 Degree Hockey confirmed that Cecconi returned home after the Iowa homestand and had surgery. White expects he will be at Dallas Stars training camp. His surgery, upper body in nature, carries a lengthy recovery, so he will miss development camp and Traverse City as well. Texas definitely missed his defensive steadiness despite his youth in their last three games.

Among AHL contracted players, White called out Brad McClure, Colton Hargrove and Colin Markison as having good seasons for Texas. From the sound of it, Texas has interest in all three. On McClure, he said, “He plays fast and fits into the mold of our character and he scored some big goals.” On Markison, he added, “Colin Markison is Colin Markison. We missed him when he was out. He’s a good AHL player for a bottom six group.”

Even though they didn’t make the postseason, White notes that they played meaningful hockey right up to the very end. “Those were meaningful games all the way through and the level of hockey was good based in what we had. We asked a lot of some young players, especially down the middle.”

At the same time, they are taking a no excuses mentality. “There were some great things with the way the team played down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to get us in. Our guys have to grab it. These guys get a chance to work on those things to get them ready for next fall.”

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Tell Us What You Think in the 100 Degree Hockey 2019 Reader Survey

(Credit: Texas Stars)
With the season in the rear view, everyone is taking time to reflect on the year that was. That includes Ryan and me concerning 100 Degree Hockey. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the content we write here and what we can do better to cover the Texas Stars.

We've created a short Google form, and we can't wait to get your feedback.

Vote in the 100 Degree Hockey 2019 Reader Survey...

Chirp us all you want in the free text boxes! Thanks for reading and for completing the survey.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Riley Tufte Signs with Dallas, Will Join Texas Next Season

Fresh off winning his second consecutive college national championship, Riley Tufte signed his entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars today. The 2016 first round pick (25th overall) has a championship pedigree with those two wins and a runner-up bid as a freshman at Minnesota-Duluth.

Tufte is likely to slot into the lineup with the Texas Stars next season, adding to a massive youth movement that already includes players like Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger and Tye Felhaber.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed left wing Riley Tufte to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Tufte, 21, finished his junior season at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) in 2018-19, recording 19 points (9-10=19) in 42 games played and helping the school to their second consecutive National Championship. Amongst team leaders, he finished first with seven power play goals and tied for fourth with nine goals overall.

During his three years at UMD, he competed in the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship Game in each season, winning the last two. In 121 career games played, he recorded 64 points (34-30=64) with a +28 plus/minus rating and 13 power play goals. He also represented the United States at the 2018 World Jr. Championship, helping his country secure a Bronze Medal by recording three assists (0-3=3) in seven games played.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound native of Coon Rapids, Minnesota was originally selected by Dallas in the first round (25th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Dallas Stars Recall Seven From Texas for Black Ace Duty

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Seven Texas Stars got the call today to head up to Dallas for the NHL club's playoff run. The three defensemen and four forwards will serve as black aces, gaining valuable experience and practicing with the team for as long as Dallas is in the hunt. Among the crew, only Nicholas Caamano and Adam Mascherin have never been recalled to Dallas before.

Here's the list:

  • Joel Hanley
  • Dillon Heatherington
  • Gavin Bayreuther
  • Denis Gurianov
  • Joel L'Esperance
  • Nicholas Caamano
  • Adam Mascherin
Remember that ATO players are not eligible for callup to Dallas since their professional contracts have not yet begun. The only surprise here is that D Ben Gleason is not in the group going up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

End of Season Updates to 100 Degree Hockey Stat Tracking

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
With the season drawing to a close on Saturday night, it's time to do some housecleaning with some of the 'stat tracking' documents that we maintain here at 100 Degree Hockey. All four of those major documents have been updated to the end of the 2018-19 season.

Texas Stars Historical Jersey Numbers
This is a complete list of everyone to ever wear a sweater for the Stars in a regular season or playoff game. It's up to date with the end of the season, adding Riley Damiani in the very last game of the season.

Texas Stars Attendance
This is the only public place where Texas's attendance is crosstabbed and deep dived. The Stars really crushed it on attendance this year, marking the second best attendance in their ten years.

Stars of the Game Record
The awarding of the three stars of the game is an imperfect process at best, but it is a matter of permanent record. We've collated all 1406 stars that Texas has been awarded over ten seasons of regular season and playoff games. This season, Justin Dowling moved into third place on the all time list behind Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour.

Texas Stars: Where Are They Now?
This is a list of every player to ever suit up for Texas and where they've gone since. This document will continue to grow over the summer as more players sign new contracts.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Texas Stars Miss Playoffs, Close Season with 3-1 Loss to Rampage

(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)
No matter the outcome of tonight's game, the Texas Stars knew their playoff fate just after the end of the second period. With Milwaukee's commanding 5-0 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Stars were officially eliminated from the postseason. On the ice in Cedar Park, the Stars fell 3-1 in what Coach Laxdal called the 'worst game' they had played all year.

"I think you saw the final result of a grind down the stretch finally catching up with our guys," Coach Laxdal said postgame. "I think it was a combination of the grind and that we'd asked so much of these guys down the stretch to stay in the race."

In the past ten years, it's been a rare occurrence in Cedar Park to have truly meaningless hockey be played. Ultimately, Texas only had twenty minutes of inconsequential hockey tonight, the final frame.

Much like the Dallas game tonight, the power play opportunities and the lack of scoring therein were a huge difference in the contest. Texas went 0-for-7 on the night while San Antonio collected a power play goal and a shorty to vault ahead of the Stars in the final scoring.

Rhett Gardner had the only Texas tally in the game, beating Jared Coreau on a slick backhand in the first. It was Gardner's fourth of the season and certainly set him up for a fantastic 2019-20 as he joins the club full time in the fall.

"It's been a great learning experience for me," said Gardner. "That's why I came down here, to learn and soak everything in."

Rhett Gardner's goal
Adam Mascherin had two chance in the game on odd-man rushes where he went for the pretty pass instead of shooting the puck, something that has plagued Texas a good deal this year. The first pass was off the mark behind his man and the second was broken up by San Antonio.

The Rampage got on the board early in the second period, tying the contest at one. Heading into the third tied at one, Texas squandered the opportunity to go out on a high note with the home fans, allowing a power play tally and a shorthanded marker.

Laxdal added, "It's a tough way to go out with a full building on game 76, but you can't ask any more of your guys. I think we got everything out of them throughout the 76 games. Unfortunately, we didn't make the playoffs."

Rhett Gardner summarized the takeaways of the end of season closed door team meeting: "Don't waste a day. We talked about how every win is so important. The games in January and February come back to bite you late in the season and just don't waste a day whether it be summer training or games."

Many of the Dallas-contracted players for Texas will head up I-35 to join the NHL's Stars as black aces for their postseason run. Brad McClure is the only player on the Texas roster eligible for the postseason in Idaho. It's unknown if he will head down.

Watch this space for season breakdowns over the next few weeks and a new look and feel coming later in the offseason. Thank you, as always, for reading.

Tonight's lines:
Mersch-Gardner-Condra
Caamano-L'Esperance-Gurianov
Mascherin-Dellandrea-McClure
Melnick-Damiani-Hanna

Heatherington-Hansson
Bayreuther-Hanley
Nyberg-Gleason

Oettinger

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Point, Markison, Hargrove, Cuglietta (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 5,998.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 13 2019

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
37-30-4-4, 82 pts
#6 Central Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
30-38-6-1, 67 pts
#8 Central Division
April 13th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

Two points. To have any chance at the postseason, Texas needs two points. Sitting at 82 points on the season now, the Stars have a max possible point total of 84. With everyone around them also collecting points, 83 isn't good enough, and 82 is right out. Let's run down the scenario.

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Texas needs all of the following to happen in order to qualify for the postseason:

  • Stars collect two points tonight against San Antonio
  • Milwaukee loses both of their remaining games (Grand Rapids, @Rockford) in regulation
  • Manitoba earns no more than one point this weekend in two games (@Chicago twice)

If all of the above occurs, three teams will be tied at 84 points. The Stars, in this scenario, would earn the final playoff spot by virtue of tie breakers. Texas would have 37 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) while Milwaukee would be woefully behind at 30 and Manitoba would have 36. Rockford, even if they win both games this weekend (@Iowa, Milwaukee), would be stuck at 33 ROW and could rise no higher than 6th place.

Of course, as mentioned before Rockford could vault over everyone in this last weekend to make it in, so nothing is out of the realm of possibility. Milwaukee's game begins at 6 tonight, so we'll know that result before the end of the Texas game.

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Dowling, Bow (call up)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Cuglietta's Game Winner Keep Texas's Slim Playoff Hopes Alive in 4-3 Win Over Rampage

The Texas Stars sure made things interesting by allowing three goals in the third period, but they ultimately prevailed over the San Antonio Rampage by a 4-3 score. For now, the Stars are still technically in the hunt for the playoffs, provided they win on Saturday and get help.

Colin Markison had two big helpers on the rush.
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Rookie forward Diego Cuglietta scored the game winner nearly twelve and half minutes into the third period after a furious comeback by the Rampage. That’s not a bad way to pick up your first career AHL goal. That makes the fifth time this season a Texas Stars rookie has had the game winner count for his first AHL goal.

Jake Oettinger got the nod in net again and responded to his subpar game on Wednesday with a decent outing to give his club a chance. Allowing three goals in rapid succession in the third period isn’t ideal, but it was more of a team gaffe as the Stars were caught out of position several times. Oettinger finished with 24 saves on 27 shots.

Defenseman Gavin Bayreuther got the Stars started off the right way with an early tally from the point just over one minute into the contest. The Rampage started a super green goaltender in Joel Hofer to give him a look. Frankly, it was a goal that should never be allowed, but the Stars took it gladly.

Ty Dellandrea chipped in with his second goal of the season just after the two minute marker in the second period. He finished a feed from Colin Markison on the rush to push the lead to two.


Michael Mersch then followed his own rebound for a goal nine minutes later to give the Stars a commanding 3-0 lead. Just like Wednesday’s game, however, the Rampage didn’t seem to get the memo as they rang off three quick goals in the third period to tie.

Tallies from Bobby MacIntyre, Jordan Nolan, and Ryan Olsen were haymakers that could’ve sent the Stars to the bus with their heads down. Olsen’s equalizer had the building on their feet and forced Texas to regroup on the fly.


But the Stars had one more card to play. On the very next shift, the Stars won the faceoff and Markison once again set his teammate up on the rush. Cuglietta made a diving play to force the puck past Hofer and regain the Stars lead.


The Rampage scored four unanswered goals on Wednesday night, but the Stars were determined to keep it at three on Friday.

Now to get our heads around the playoff scenarios. Iowa beat Chicago in the waning seconds of overtime during Texas’s game to put the Wild in third place for now. The Stars are no longer able to catch them. They will need to both win their final game on Saturday and have Milwaukee and Manitoba drop their final two games in regulation. The odds are long, but stranger things have happened.

The final game of the regular season is against the Rampage in Cedar Park.

Tonight's lines:
Mersch-Melnick-Gurianov
Caamano-Gardner-Condra
Mascherin-L’Esperance-McClure
Cuglietta-Dellandrea-Markison

Hanley-Heatherington
Nyberg-Bayreuther
Gleason-Hanna

Oettinger

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Point, Hargrove, Hansson, Damiani (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 9,185.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas at San Antonio - April 12 2019

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
36-30-4-4, 80 pts
#6 Central Division
atSan Antonio Rampage
30-37-6-1, 67 pts
#8 Central Division
April 12th at 7:30 PM
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

In case you were wondering if the pressure was getting to the Texas Stars on Wednesday night against the Rampage, think again. The Stars have been in this mode for the past three weeks now.

"Our guys have done a pretty good job of handling it down the stretch, especially with the young group that we have," said head coach Derek Laxdal. "You play a team that’s out of the playoffs [in San Antonio], they have nothing to lose. As the game went along, I thought we pressed in the third and couldn’t generate. Give them credit. They did a pretty good job of shutting it down."

(credit: Andy Nietupski)
A couple of bad bounces and the puck was in the back of the Texas net. That's hockey. As much as Wednesday's loss stung, this is no time for the Stars to wallow in their woes, and that was the message coming out of the leadership group on Wednesday.

"Looking back, it’s a hard lesson to learn right now, but as a young team we can take lessons and it’ll help us in the long run," said Joel Hanley. "We got a game on Friday so we’re just going to focus on that right now."

Enough has been written about the Rampage this season, considering the Stars have now played them twelve times. They know what they're going to get when they head south on I-35, and it's on the Stars to give themselves a chance at the postseason with a couple of wins over the weekend. Should they fail to collect at least one point on Friday, it's all over.

Laxdal was realistic with his optimism: "We’re not out of it. We gotta pick ourselves up. It’s not looking good. But we’ve gotta pick ourselves up and get ready for Friday and go from there. We [needed] three in a row to get in. Now we have to win two to give ourselves a look with some help."

The puck drops at 7:30 CDT. 

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Dowling, Bow (call up)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Texas Stars Playoff Hopes on Life Support After Zero Point Game

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Five out of six points. Coming into the week, that was the line that Texas needed to hit to reasonably have a shot at the postseason. With last night's regulation loss, the Stars can only gather four this week and might have seen their playoff dreams die on the vine Wednesday night. Let's break it down.

First of all, Texas needs to get four points the rest of the way this week. If Texas loses in regulation on Friday, they're eliminated. End of story. Their max points of 82 will put them below the established line at 83, and that'll be all she wrote.

If Texas collects three of four points, there is a chance that they could limp into the playoffs if Iowa collects no more points in two remaining games and Manitoba collects no more than two. If that occurs, three teams would be tied at 83 points and the tie break of ROW would come into play.  If Rockford gets three points as well, then four teams would be tied up. Manitoba and Texas are tied at 35 but Iowa and Rockford sit at 31, so that would be a major factor. The final tie break is season series record. Manitoba owns that break with Texas, so the Stars must beat Manitoba outright or hope the Moose's remaining victory comes in a shootout (and Texas's does not).

And by the way, seventh place Rockford could also just win their last two games and negate the above scenario entirely.

If Texas does collect all four points, they will sit at 84. They own the tiebreak over Milwaukee, if the Ads don't collect anymore points on the season. Iowa and Manitoba could both eclipse the 84 point mark easily with an 87 point max still possible. Any finish is still possible for the five teams gunning for the last two spots. Nearly any combination you can imagine, including 7th place Rockford finishing 3rd overall, is still in the cards.

It's going to be a mad dash to the finish.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Stars's Playoff Hopes Dented in 5-3 Loss to Rampage

The Texas Stars’s playoff hopes took a major hit on Wednesday as they fell to the San Antonio Rampage in a 5-3 decision. Brad McClure, Joel Hanley, and Rhett Gardner all scored to help the Stars to a 3-1 lead in the early minutes of the second period, but they went on to allow four unanswered goals.
(credit: Andy Nietupski)
“I thought it was a tale of two different teams tonight,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “Played decently the first half and just fell apart in the second.”

“We came out hard in the start of the second and we popped a couple,” added Hanley. “It was nice to get ahead there, but I think we took our foot off the pedal a little bit and let them back in the game.”

McClure opened the scoring fourteen minutes into the period after two Stars power plays failed to do the trick. McClure went short side on Jared Coreau who couldn’t get the full glove on it.


The Stars dominated in puck possession and shot total, outshooting the Rampage 14-3 in the opening frame. They left the period with a tie game, however, as the Stars gave the Rampage almost two minutes of 5-on-3 at the close of the frame resulting in a goal from Mitch Reinke.

It was a shame, too, because Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger made the best save of his young professional career. The Rampage had the angle they wanted and got the puck to their one timer option on the left wing. Oettinger absolutely robbed Ryan Olsen to send the building into a frenzy.


“I thought he made some big saves when he had to,” said Laxdal of his rookie netminder. “It’s a lot of pressure on him. We gotta win to get in. And that’s what it’s all about is his game growing.”

The Stars scored two quick goals within the first five minutes of the second period to seize temporary control of the contest. Hanley’s goal came from the point where he beat Jared Coreau through a screen. Gardner chipped in when he cleaned up a loose puck created by Ben Gleason.

The Stars’s grip on the steering wheel was wrested away from there when red hot Rampage winger Joey LaLeggia got going. “We got it to 3-1 to start the second, and I thought our demeanor changed as a group.”

Nearly eleven minutes into the middle frame, he extended his point streak to eight games with a goal to cut the lead to 3-2. LaLeggia’s second goal came near the five minute marker of the third period to tie the game.

“LaLeggia’s been hot. He’s been carrying their offense, and he got a couple of looks tonight and scored. I think the second goal was kind of a broken play in the neutral zone. Shot off the wall, and we lost coverage.”

An empty netter from Ryan Olsen sealed the deal on a second half to forget for the Stars.

A somber and sullen Hanley fought for words to try to explain the loss. “Sometimes you can run into teams like that that are out of the playoffs and have nothing to lose,” he said. “But that’s no excuse on our part. I know we have a younger squad, and that’s not excuse either. There were a couple of bad bounces and they’re in the back of our net. It’s a tough one to swallow, but we just have to keep moving forward.”

Heading into this three game set against San Antonio, the Stars needed five of the six available points to give themselves a good chance to get into the postseason. Now that that’s off the table, they’ll certainly need to win the final two games and get help from other teams.

“The only thing we can do is just look ahead and take care of business moving forward. So that means winning the last two games and just hope we get some luck with the other teams. That’s our focus right now.”

The Stars head to San Antonio for Friday’s contest.

Tonight's lines:
Mersch-L’Esperance-Condra
Caamano-Melnick-Gurianov
Mascherin-Dellandrea-McClure
Hargrove-Gardner-Markison

Hansson-Heatherington
Bayreuther-Hanley
Gleason-Hanna

Oettinger

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Cecconi (undisclosed)
Nyberg, Cuglietta, Damiani (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 5,448.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. San Antonio - April 10 2019

Gameday Preview: Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage

Texas Stars
36-29-4-4, 80 pts
#6 Central Division
v.San Antonio Rampage
29-37-6-1, 65 pts
#8 Central Division
April 10th at 7:00 PM
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park, Cedar Park, TX

It's the final week of the AHL regular season, and the Texas Stars have three huge tilts against the San Antonio Rampage on the docket. The Stars are coming off a rather successful two games against the Rockford IceHogs to give them more than a puncher's chance at the playoffs.

"That’s a big weekend for us, three out of four points," said head coach Derek Laxdal on Saturay. "It’s in our own hands. We’ve got San Antonio coming in on Wednesday trying to play the spoiler role."

(credit: Andy Nietupski)
Texas received a gift on Saturday in the reassignment of Joel L'Esperance. Providing some much needed punch down the middle with Travis Morin on the shelf, the AHL Rookie of the Year candidate netted the first goal in Saturday's game against Rockford to help the Stars pick up the point.

"Any point is huge at this point in the year," he said. "We’re battling for a playoff spot so I try to do what I can to help them."

What also helps is that the Stars are 7-4-0-0 against the Rampage this season. By our calculations, the Stars will need to take at least five out of the six available points and get help this week to get the playoff spot. Rest assured, you're going to see the Stars fight harder than they have all season.

"I think we’ve just got to go in with the mindset we're going to win. If we go in with that confidence and swagger, it’ll help us in those three games."

Laxdal added, "We just have to have the same effort [from Saturday]. We get this same effort Wednesday night we’ll have a good chance."

Stars injury/call up report:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Dowling, Bow (call up)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Playoff Race Could Be Down to Three Teams After Tonight

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The lone game on the AHL calendar affecting Texas tonight is Rockford's visit to Milwaukee. The Admirals sit at 83 points and own third place in the division as of this afternoon. If they can win tonight, they'll effectively turn a five-team race for two playoff spots into a three-team race for just one.

The current "line" for playoff contention is 85 points after the full season (rounded up from 84.36). With a win tonight, the Admirals' point total would cross that line and virtually lock in their playoff berth. Again, anything is possible, but Milwaukee will have, at that point, gone on an absurd 10-0-1-1 run to seal their spot in the postseason. What a run for Karl Taylor and Greg Rallo.

On the other side, the loss by Rockford would keep them at 78 points with just two games left, setting their best possible outcome at 82 points. Texas would pass that mark with a single win this week (by virtue of ROW tiebreaker). Iowa could do it with an OT or regulation win and Manitoba with any point at all.

Of course, none of this applies if Rockford wins, but it just goes to show how razor thin everything is right now.

Texas needs five of six points this week to meet that 85 point line. Even with a full six points, Texas does not control its own destiny. Manitoba and Iowa do not play each other in the coming week, so they can both claim a full six points as well.

There is even an outside chance that Texas finishes Saturday not knowing if they've made the playoffs. Sunday's games could be the decider for several clubs' playoff fates, even those not playing. Chicago plays Manitoba, and Milwaukee faces Rockford.

Suffice to say, it's going to be a wild week.

Monday, April 8, 2019

H-E-B Center Plans Summer Improvements for Arena's Retractable Seating

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
Saturday night's contest against the IceHogs was a sellout, according to the Stars. Texas sold standing room only seats for a regular season game, and that's definitely a good thing. However, a sellout ain't what it used to be at H-E-B Center. Since early February, the Stars have been down approximately 700 seats thanks to the closure of the west side retractable seating area.

The issue occurred during a busy weekend where the arena changed over from a Stars game to an Austin Spurs game and finally to a sold-out TobyMac concert. After 10 years of wear and tear, the seats in section 111 wouldn't come out when arena staff tried to move them.

Since that point, the entire end zone area has been closed. The retractable seats are a package deal for safety reasons. If you can't pull them all out, you can't pull any of them out.

The arena is absolutely working as hard as they can to get the area fixed, but the earliest quote any company could give them was mid-April. It turns out there are only two or three companies that do this kind of work in the US. So, the Stars are taking the opportunity to improve the seating in that area and ensure that they continue to innovate on the fan experience ten years into the life of the arena.

Of course, fans who had season tickets in the retractable area had to be relocated and not all of them are happy with their new placement. Many reached out to 100 Degree Hockey wondering what was going on with the seating area. Rest assured, the arena is working hard to ensure they will have a great place to sit next season and the bar top seating there now is just a temporary way to recoup some of the lost revenue from walk-up sales in the popular section that is now temporarily gone.

Team and arena officials have told 100 Degree Hockey that they expect to have detailed plans for the new retractable area within the coming month. We expect to be able to share those plans here soon.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Rockford Slips By Texas 4-3 in Shootout, Collecting Key Standings Points

(Credit: Texas Stars)
It was a close, tight affair tonight in Cedar Park as the Stars battled to a shootout loss with the Rockford IceHogs by a 4-3 score. Neither club led by more than a goal as each club scored once per period and dueled to a scoreless overtime. Texas got a single point in the loss.

“At the end of the day, with our young group, I thought our guys did a really good job right to the end of the game,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “I thought we had them in the shootout. That’s a big weekend for us, three out of four points. It’s in our own hands.”

Rockford was the more desperate team, as a regulation loss would have all but eliminated them from postseason contention. With two points, they rise to 78 total and stay in striking distance of the final spot.

“I saw a team desperate to try and win the game,” said Laxdal of Rockford. “They’re battling for their life to get back in the pack and we’re trying to get points. I give our guys credit. They battled their arses off from start to finish.”

The IceHogs struck first in the game. It was their first shot of the contest, a 2-on-1 effort that beat the pass defense of Ben Gleason and went roof on Jake Oettinger. Joel L’Esperance, fresh off assignment from Dallas, was quick to re-open his scoring account. Off the feed from Erik Condra, L’Esperance went bardown to even the score.

“You see a player that’s really taken another turn in his game. He looked like an NHLer out there tonight. Just controlled the play. His first goal was just tremendous where he walked off the wall and went bar down.”

L’Esperance got the call at 11:30 AM and was in town by 3:45, heading straight to the rink after the drive down I-35 in the rain. He added, “There was a little excitement going into the game. I was fired to get back down here and get some games in.”

Texas put a blistering 13 shots on the Anton Forsberg in the first period and only allowed three themselves. Two of those three shots came in the last minute of the period. Those numbers would continue into the second period with a 13-5 advantage for the Stars.

“They had some looks and shots that missed the net or didn’t get through. I think our guys did a good job blocking shots, especially in the second period. There were some looks they had where if they hit the net it might have been a goal.”

Despite the shot differential, the scoring result was the same. Nick Caamano went first this time for Texas. On the power play, generated by a boarding call to Dmitry Osipov, Gavin Bayreuther dished to Caamano down low. His shot bored through Forsberg to trickle in five hole.

The lead didn’t last long, just 36 seconds to be precise. Peter Holland tipped a shot from Matt Highmore. The entire sequence seemed to bewilder the home side.

The third period was another even scoring affair. Rhett Gardner slammed home his second in a week off the assist from Colin Markison. Tyler Sikura answered back with five minutes left on a fluky goal that fluttered up over Oettinger for the 3-3 tie.

Overtime was frenetic. Oettinger had two ten-bell saves on the same shift through the middle of the five-minute segment to keep the game even. Neither club scored, and the shootout commenced.

Colton Hargrove scored the only goal of the shootout in the first round. Peter Holland kept it alive in the third round with a goal, and Jacob Nilsson finished it off in the fifth.

Texas has three games left to make the playoffs, all against San Antonio. Wednesday night starts the final stretch.

Tonight's lines:
Mersch-L’Esperance-Condra
Caamano-Melnick-Gurianov
Mascherin-Dellandrea-McClure
Hargrove-Gardner-Markison

Hansson-Heatherington
Bayreuther-Hanley
Gleason-Cecconi

Oettinger

Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett (season-ending ACL injury)
Laberge (upper body)
Morin (upper body)
Nyberg, Hanna, Cuglietta, Damiani (scratch)

Tonight’s attendance was 6,331, a sellout. Texas sold standing room only seats, making it a sellout, but their sellout number is lower due to the broken west 'end zone' seating area.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Rockford - April 6 2019