Texas Blanked 2-0 by Tucson in Season Opener

For the first time in their history, the Texas Stars have dropped a home opener, losing 2-0 to the Tucson Roadrunners on Friday night. Amazingly, they had been 10-0-0-0 in such games up to this point. The Stars struggled to find offense as they dressed ten first-year players in their lineup.

“They’re a little bit older group than we are,” said Laxdal of Tucson. “We got a lot of first year players and I thought it showed a little bit. That’s part of the development. Every game we want to get better with this group.”

(credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Newly minted captain Dillon Heatherington agreed that the youth of his club was one of the differences in the contest. “We’re definitely gonna watch some film and learn from it,” he said. Turning the page is what happens late in the season when guys know what to do and what to expect. Right now we don’t. That was a lot of guys’ first game. We need to study that and identify our mistakes out there.

Landon Bow got the start in net and finished with a strong line of 26 saves on 28 shots. Opposite his crease was Antti Raanta who was on a conditioning assignment from the Arizona Coyotes. Raanta did record the shutout but was very seldom tested from any of the dangerous areas.

“I’m sure in the scoring chances we had about eight or nine,” noted Laxdal. “It wasn’t a hard night for Raanta. That’s part of the process for us, and we have to come in tomorrow morning and show some video to these guys.”

Part of the difficulty with generating looks was the relentless Tucson back check. Space and passing lanes were limited all game. The other part seemed to stem from an early lack of chemistry. For example, the top line of Jason Robertson, Tanner Kero, and Joel Kiviranta were not with the club at all last season. The miscues especially showed up on the power play where the Stars went 0-for-4. Laxdal, however, is preaching process and not panic.

We had some looks, but we made some first year mistakes on [the power play]--inexperience mistakes. That’s part of it. We made some mistakes you don’t make when you have a group that’s more in sync or a more mature group. But that’s part of the process of getting these guys games. And the more games they get, they have to learn from the experience and [understand] this isn’t Junior anymore.

Less than three minutes into the contest, the Stars let gave up a power play goal to Brayden Burke. “They scored early on that first power play and we’re chasing the game a little bit. I thought we were kind of chasing most of the game.”

The second goal from Tucson came halfway through the second period when Jon Martin’s pass deflected off a Texas defender and in through Bow’s five hole.

The highlights for the Stars were few and far between, but Ben Gleason did drop the gloves with Lane Pederson, leading to seventeen total penalty minutes being doled out to Gleason. It was an effort to get the crowd energized, and it seemed to work in the third period. There was simply nothing available from the slot or the dirty areas and Tucson did a great job of winning the net-front battle.

Laxdal saw this as a wake-up call for a handful of his players.

These guys are learning this isn’t junior. Time and space closes a lot quicker. Guys are more physical and stronger. It’s a process for these young guys, and I think a few of these guys got an eye-opener tonight. This isn’t Traverse City, this isn’t training camp. There’s some areas of growth, and we just gotta make sure we nourish that.”

Heatherington wasn’t in the nourishing mood. “We need a little pissed-off attitude in our game that we were lacking tonight," he said. "And get a little anger.”

The Stars square off against the Manitoba Moose on Saturday. The Puck drops at 7:00 PM CST.

Tonight's lines:



Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Scarlett, Nyberg, MacKay, Caamano*, Gardner* (scratch)

*Nick Caamano and Rhett Gardner were called up to the Dallas Stars prior to the game.

Tonight’s attendance was 4,887.

AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Tucson - October 4 2019