Texas Stars Dan Spang, Matt Stephenson, and Tomas Vincour share some kind words with the Peoria Rivermen (Photo credit: Brian Hackert)
The Texas Stars finally ended their long and ugly seven games in ten days stretch. You better believe you'd never see anything like that in the NHL, but in the AHL, with preferences for weekend games and trips by bus, it's a regular occurrence. The NHLPA would have a cow.
Texas played five games this past week and came away with a 3-2-0-0 record. First year AHLer Richard Bachman took four of the five starts, going 2-2 on the week. Brent Krahn played one the Stars three games in three nights stretch and then fell ill with a flu-like issue. The Texas Stars needed a backup goaltender for Sunday's game against the Houston Aeros. Texas couldn't get anyone from Idaho or Allen in time for the 4:05 PM start so they went to not the ECHL or CHL but the AA league. That would be the AA amateur recreational adult league at the Chaparral Ice here in Austin. Goaltender Joel Paprocki has backstopped various AA and A league teams since at least 2004 here in the Austin area and will certainly have a heck of a story to tell in the locker room at this Thursday's AA league game. I hope to interview him as well.
Inside we'll break down how the Stars did this past week, including power play struggles, the blossoming of one Fabian Brunnstrom, and the play of rookie Richard Bachman. Also, we'll look at who's hot, who's not, the schedule for next week and the heavy injury load for the Texas Stars squad.
Texas, Bachman Shut Out High-Powered Peoria, 3-0
(HDH blog link)
After being man-handled by the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) in two previous contests at home, Texas played a solid game to defeat them 3-0. The Stars game was arguably their most complete of the year. Richard Bachman got the start for the Texas Stars in net.
A little puglism from Mathieu Tousignant and Francis Wathier got the crowd energized. Goals from Dan Spang, Cody Chupp, and Travis Morin made RIchard Bachman's 38 save performance standup for the shutout.
Richard Bachman was the number one star of the game and deservedly so. "You didn't see the huge highlight reel saves [from Bachman]," said Coach Gulutzan, "but he made the big saves when we needed them." Bachman was quick to deflect praise to his defense corps, "The guys were great in front of me: blocking shots, clearing rebounds, picking up sticks and letting me see shots. I think that was key to our success tonight."
Texas Outlasts Rockford in Shootout, 4-3
(HDH blog link)
The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) were the Stars' first round opponent in last year's playoffs. Texas handled the IceHogs in four games, sending them to the golf course. Brent Krahn was masterful (7-0) over Rockford last year in their building and hoped to continue his mastery.
Texas never trailed in the game but it was still a close one. Every time the Stars scored, Rockford had an answer. The Stars got goals from Tristan King, Aaron Gagnon and Maxime Fortunus but needed a shootout period to finally win the game. In the nine-round shootout, goals from Colton Sceviour, Tomas Vincour and Mathieu Tousignant put the Stars over the top against Rockford. Krahn stopped 7 of 9 in the shootout and 28 of 31 in the game.
Texas Wins Seesaw Battle With Chicago 4-3
(HDH blog link)
Texas returned to the scene of the crime in Rosemont, IL. Last year, Texas wing Jamie Benn ended the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers) season and Chris Chelios's career with an OT game winner in Game 7 of the West Division finals. Texas came in playing their third game in three nights.
The game played out very similarly to the previous night's game against Rockford. Texas never trailed but Chicago always had the answer to the Stars' goals. Texas got goals from Mathieu Tousignant, Tristan King, and Maxime Fortunus through two periods. However, the game winner came off the stick of Fabian Brunnstrom, who was Johnny-on-the-spot when Wolves defenseman Boris Valabik turned it over in his own zone.
Coach Gulutzan has commented positively on the play of Tristan King, who had a goal and an assist in the game. He has shown a great offensive touch and is on the fourth line with Sean Backman, who was a noted goal scorer in his time at Yale. No greater evidence is needed for the scoring touch of the fourth line than the stat line for fellow fourth liner Luke Gazdic. Gazdic has 4 assists in 7 games, matching his point total for all of last year's 49 games.
Stars Fall Flat Against Aeros, Lose 3-1
(HDH blog link)
Texas was coming in on a 3 game winning streak, and the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) were on a six game winless streak. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for the Stars to strike. However, the Aeros came out victorious off the fantastic play of their goaltender Anton Khudobin, who was previously winless on the season.
Texas's only goal in the game came off the stick of Fabian Brunnstrom with assists from Philip Larsen and Dan Spang. Texas just could not beat Khudobin no matter how hard they tried. The Aeros netminder deflected 29 of 30 Texas shots on the night. Texas was scoreless on the power play including a 67 second long 5-on-3 opportunity. The power play, which ranks in the bottom 10 in the AHL, will surely need work in the coming week.
Texas wore pink uniforms in Saturday's game to support breast cancer awareness. Two dollars of every ticket sold went to Susan G. Komen.
Stars Tricked By Aeros in Halloween Matinee, 4-2
(HDH blog link)
Texas hoped for a rebound after Saturday's disappointing showing against Houston. Traveling to Houston for the day, Texas still came up short. The Stars were scoreless on the PP but did manage to kill off a two minute 5-on-3, technically. Former Star Warren Peters scored three seconds after the Stars came off the penalty kill.
Texas got goals from Francis Wathier and Mathieu Tousignant. Wathier scored as part of a retooled first line, swapping Aaron Gagnon for Travis Morin. The first line has been snakebit at times in the season.
Richard Bachman took the loss but Brent Krahn was not in the lineup backing him up. Krahn and Cody Chupp have both been hit by a flu bug and the Texas Stars signed Joel Paprocki to a tryout contract on an emergency basis. Paprocki plays in the Austin area recreational league at the AA level. I am looking forward to interviewing him about his experience at the rink soon.
The Week Ahead
After this past week and a half's frenetic schedule, Texas will only play two games in the coming week. The Stars take their first trip to Oklahoma City to take on the first-year Barons (Edmonton Oilers) on Friday. They will return home to play the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) in Cedar Park. Last year's contest against Toronto was one of the Stars sellouts with many Canadian fans in attendance.
Mathieu Tousignant is coming on as a scorer this week. "Tousi" had two goals and an assist this week as well as the game winning shootout goal in Rockford. Fabian Brunnstrom has also had two goals and an assist this week after going scoreless in his first four games as a Star. He picked it up in Saturday's Houston game after getting an elbow to the head that went uncalled. He was a man on a mission in the third period, but the Stars still came up short.
Poor Greg Rallo has hit more posts than he can probably count this season. It's not that he isn't hot; it's that he's just this close from being positively on fire. He could probably be in the scoring lead for the team if not for all the posts.
Most of the Stars failures are team issues, which is predictable. Texas scores as a team and plays defense as a team as well. When the team plays well, there isn't always a huge All-Star standout. When they are in a cold streak, it isn't pinnable on any one player either.
With the callup of Philip Larsen and the injury to Severin Blindenbacher, Jordie Benn, older brother of the Dallas Stars Jamie Benn, saw his first game action of the regular season this week. Benn is without a point in three games but sports a plus-2 rating. Guillaume Monast also got time in two games, also going pointless but with a plus-3 rating. Monast was returned to the Idaho Steelheads when Philip Larsen was assigned to Texas by Dallas.
Raymond Sawada continues to be out with an injury sustained in the first game of the year at San Antonio Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes). Scott McCulloch has missed the last six games with an undisclosed injury as well. Severin Blindenbacher continues to be out of the lineup after suffering concussion like symptoms following his car accident here in Austin.
Brent Krahn and Cody Chupp are both out with illness but should hopefully be fine by this weekend's game in Oklahoma City.