The Texas Stars continued their home stand this week with only two games. Texas has played the fewest games in the AHL up to this point in the season, a "favor" that will be repaid later in the season by the scheduler. February will be one of the worst months for the Stars with 14 games in 28 days.
This week's two games were a mixed bag. Texas showed resiliency in a come from behind win, but also fell to the best team in the league in a shutout performance.
Stars Get Late Goals to Beat Monsters, 3-2
The Texas Stars and Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche) played some grinding and at times tough to watch hockey for two periods on Friday before a breakout third. Lake Erie opened the scoring 47 mnutes into the game, but newcomer Sean Backman got his first professional goal to even the game at 1. Less than 40 seconds later the Stars were down again on a Lake Erie goal by Greg Mauldin. Then it was time for Colton Sceviour to step up.
Texas was awarded a penalty shot after a Monster skater covered the puck in the crease. Coach Gulutzan asked who wanted it and Colton Sceviour piped up, "I'll take it." Sceviour, who was "shaking" out there with the game-tying goal looming in front of him, decided to just go to his signature move. Asked after the game to describe his signature move, Sceviour commented, "If I tell it to you, all the goalies will know what it is." The signature move got the Stars the tying goal, a roofer on the backhand.
WIth the game set to go to overtime, Francis Wathier got the game winner with 40 seconds left in the game. A wrap-around cram play put the Stars up at 3-2 for good. After the game, Wathier was sure to point to the third and fourth lines as Texas's keys to success in the game. "They don't play a ton of ice, but they made it count tonight," said Wathier. "[Their play] pumped us up; I was pumped"
Texas got crushed on Saturday night though against a team that is the class of the AHL. The Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues), who picked up numerous free agents in the off-season, were 7-1-0-0 and had gone on a 7 game winning streak, including 5 straight road wins. San Antonio (Phoenix Coyotes) finally defeated the Rivermen on Sunday to end their streak.
Texas had a tough game of it. Despite outshooting the Rivermen and having 5 power play opportunities, Texas could not beat rookie Jake Allen. Allen let one past him, but the play was overturned due to a kicking motion in the crease by Francis Wathier. The referees never said conclusively that the puck was kicked in, according to Coach Gulutzan, who shared words with the referees at the end of the second and beginning of the third. The call was that there was a kicking motion, but there was no definitive video that showed the puck ended up in the net as a result of the kick. "No one can conclusive say it was kicked," said Gulutzan. "No one can conclusively say it was hit with the stick. [Only] Francis Wathier can tell you."
Coach Gulutzan felt that the team showed "good energy" and really had all that they needed to win the game. "Our power play has to be better," added Gulutzan. "I think that's the difference in the game."
Preview of the week ahead along with who's hot and who's not below the fold.
The Week Ahead
Texas has a full schedule this week with five games. The Rivermen stay in town for one last game on Tuesday, then Texas heads up to Chicago for two games against those local teams, the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) and Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers). The Stars defeated both of those teams on their way to the Calder Cup Finals. The Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) and Texas play a home-and-home series to close out the week on Saturday and Sunday.
Francis Wathier has been all over the place, as you have read above. He's been a great character player for Texas and continues to contribute in all situations.
The most recent Dallas send-downs have been having some issues. Fabian Brunnstrom and Tomas Vincour have one point between them, an assist for Vincour in the home opener. Texas needs its offensive players to step up because this defense can't do it all on their own.
Raymond Sawada is still out with an undisclosed injury. I speculate that it was as a result of a nasty hit he took in the San Antonio game on the 10th.