|(Credit: Ross Bonander/Texas Stars)|
Don't get him wrong. Thomas Harley absolutely wants to be in Dallas right now. But part of his heart was still in Cedar Park rooting for the Texas Stars ever since his callup to Dallas on April 3. It is clear now that he's never returning to the AHL, even though he wanted to at times in the playoffs to help the Texas Stars.
Jake Oettinger joked with him that he could go down on off days for Dallas and suit up for Texas to help, especially after the season-ending injury to Will Butcher, Harley's defensive partner for much of the season.
"That team was awesome," Harley said after Tuesday's morning skate. "The group of guys we had in that room was really close and that really contributed to our team success. We were a good team. We cycled pucks so well. We held onto it in the offensive zone. We'd get out of our D-zone quick and I thought we pretty much outshot [the other team] in every game.
"We outplayed teams every game. I haven't been on a lot of teams like that. It was really fun to be a part of it."
As to what contributed to their closeness, the team has alluded to some struggles that they shared together and adversity, especially on the road, that the team worked through. On the more positive side, Harley said that the team really bought in on team bonding activities, which allowed them to be more of themselves, on and off the ice.
"I think because we were so good on the ice and we were allowed to be ourselves off the ice, that's why we were so close. We got to be ourselves, to screw around, have team parties and enjoy ourselves as a team. Because of that we got better as a team. We got better as a team then we got closer and then back and forth."
When asked about the leaders in the Texas room and the emotions around the end of the season, Harley waxed a bit philosophical.
"As far as [McKenzie] goes, these older guys in the league will tell you: you don't get many chances to win. When you do have a good team, you really have to take advantage of it, give it your all. Heck, [Suter] has been in this league for twenty years and it's his first conference final. You have to take advantage of it when you have it."
Dallas will seek to extend their season on Thursday against Vegas in Game 4.