The Texas Stars played a fast and furious schedule over the past week, completing 4 games, including an AHL oddity, the 3-in-3. That's right: the Texas Stars played three games in three nights, including one road game. The Stars faced off against the then-division leading Milwaukee Admirals on Tuesday and then battled the Abbotsford Heat twice on Friday and Saturday. They woke up the next morning and traveled to Peoria, Illinois, to play the Rivermen to close out the set.
Now that we understand the scheduling nightmare of the last week, I think you'll be sufficiently surprised when I tell you that the Stars won all 4 games they played this past week. It certainly didn't hurt they set several franchise records this week. More details on just how they did that, what's ahead for the team, reports on the Dallas Stars prospects in the AHL, and the AHL commissioner's comments on the temporary franchise status of the Texas Stars included after the jump.
Stars down the Admirals 5-2, within one point of first place
(HDH blog link)
Texas started the week with a tough battle against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate), the team they are battling for the West division lead. The Stars started Todd Ford, a PTO signee from the ECHL who has been playing out of his mind recently, just coming off back-to-back shutouts. The Stars played like they were shot out of a cannon. With two early power play goals from Andrew Hutchinson and Aaron Gagnon and an even strength tally from Perttu Lindgren, the Stars led 3-0 at the midpoint of the game.
Todd Ford had his franchise record shutout streak broken in the closing minutes of the second at 158 minutes. The Stars would add two more in the 3rd from Sergei Korostin and Aaron Gagnon, who had three points in the game. Perttu Lindgren also performed well with 2 points.
Texas obliterates Abbotsford, wins 6-1
(HDH blog link)
The last time the Stars faced the Heat (Flames affiliate), Texas dropped both games in British Columbia. Since then, the two teams have gone opposite directions: the Stars have gone 4-0-1-0, the Heat 1-3-2-0. Friday was not the Heat's night either. Texas set a franchise record for goals scored in a game, dropping six on Abbotsford, two in each period. The Stars have been clicking on the power play recently and got 2 of 4 in this game.
The lone goal came on a turnover by Ivan Vishnevskiy in the defensive zone that Jason Jaffray cashed in on. Otherwise, 11 different Stars had points in the game. Travis Morin had two points, Garrett Stafford two goals, and Francis Wathier 3 point, and Aaron Gagnon 2 points. Wathier even picked up the Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, two assists, and a fighting major. Enforcer Luke Gazdic, a fan favorite in Austin, had three fights in the game. Abbotsford is the most penalized team in the AHL and racked up 30 minutes in the game. Texas, the second least penalized racked up 36 minutes, but this was a little skewed by Gazdic's game misconduct for having three major penalties.
Texas breaks through in 3rd, downs Heat 4-2
(HDH blog link)
Abbotsford stuck around for a second beating on Saturday night. The rematch wasn't nearly as high scoring but still was a great one. Goals from Greg Rallo and Maxime Fortunus staked the Stars to an early 2-0 lead. However, the Heat fought back in the last three minutes of the 2nd, scoring two goals on goaltender Matt Climie, who started both Abbotsford games.
Texas scored twice in the third period in just 38 seconds. First, a power play tally from Francis Wathier, a tip in front on a slapshot from Ivan Vishnevskiy. Then, just seconds later, the Stars' Scott McCulloch broke in from the blue line on homerun pass from Dan Jancevski and scored. The Heat would not recover and lost 4-2. The biggest thing to note about this game is the shot totals. The Stars were outshot 36-18 and still doubled up their opponent on the scoresheet. Matt Climie, Texas's goalie, received a well deserved 3rd star. Greg Rallo, one of Texas's leading scorers, received the first Stars with 2 points in the game.
Stars sneak by Peoria, win in shootout 2-1
(HDH blog link)
Texas woke up early the next morning and flew to Chicago, followed by a 3 hour bus ride to Peoria. This is the AHL, buddy; you carry your own equipment and travel by bus. It ain't glamorous, but you're getting paid to play hockey. I'd take it anyday. Todd Ford got the start in net.
The Stars had an interesting issue in this game as well. On the lineup card for the game, whoever fills out the player names had misspelled "Luke Gazdic" as "Luke Gadzic". Referee Jamie Koharski ruled Gazdic ineligible to play so the Stars shuffled their fourth liners in to the third line throughout the night, which can't have helped the fatigue.
As a result of the 3-in-3 scheduling, the Stars came out of the gate sluggish. They only had two shots in the first period to Peoria's 9. Interestingly, they scored on one of them when Mathieu Beaudoin fed Travis Morin. The Rivermen had a power play tally in the first period as well. That would be all the scoring in regulation though. The Stars did pick it up on shots on goal, finally winning the shots battle in the third but overall being outshot 38-23 in the game.
The game went to a shootout and all of the Texas scorers were under contract to Dallas. Colton Sceviour and Ivan Vishnevskiy both used the same move to score on Rivermen goalie Hannu Toivonen, backhand over the right pad of a sprawled tender. Perttu Lindgren scored the game winner when he modified their shots slightly and tucked his backhand under the right pad of Toivonen. I can't wait to see VIshnevskiy in the shootout in Dallas; he is currently 4 for 5 on the season in the 'skills competition'.
With their win on Sunday, the Stars moved into sole possession of first place in the West division.
The Week Ahead
The Stars stay on the road to face off with the Milwaukee Admirals in Wisconsin on Tuesday. The Admirals will definitely be out for revenge after last week's 5-2 loss. They too are still battling for first place in the division race, a crowded race to be sure. This should be another great game.
Texas finishes out the week at home with two against the Rivermen again on Friday and Saturday. Texas is currently in the middle of a stretch of games that will see them playing 17 in 31 days. It is going to be brutal and they will be leaning on their team defense mindset and good goaltending to get through the games.
There have been a lot of great players over the past week, as there are anytime you win 4 games by an average margin of 4.25 to 1.50. However, among Stars prospects, Matt Climie has found new confidence with Todd Ford serving as his pressure valve much like Brent Krahn did early in the season. Aaron Gagnon, who earned a callup early in the season, has 6 points in his last 4 games. Ivan Visnevskiy and Garret Stafford both have 4 points in their last 4 games and 10 points for the month of January.
I know it's going to curse me not to put anyone here, but I've scoured the lineup. The Stars are getting great team scoring from all over the roster. I think Andrew Hutchinson has had some issues recently, but nothing too major. I just feel like he's been reluctant to shoot and tensing up in key situations.
At the AHL All-Star game, the Commissioner of the AHL was asked about the franchise status of the Texas Stars. For those who might be unaware, here's a quick rundown. The Dallas Stars made several efforts to purchase a franchise before the start of the 2009-2010 franchise to play in Austin. However, certain circumstances (financial impropriety by the Anaheim Ducks farm team) made it impossible for them to purchase a permanent franchise. The AHL granted the Stars a temporary franchise on the condition that they purchase an existing permanent franchise by the end of the season.
There has been no movement on this as far as we have been told and the Commissioner has stated that the Stars will not be allowed to continue unless they located a franchise; there will be no exceptions for them. He also had this to say about the franchise:
"...the franchise has been a home-run. It's probably in the top 5 in the league in revenue, the team's really competitive, the building's terrific, and the market is really responding to it."
However, he said that it was completely out of the question that the Stars would be given an extension on their temporary license. The Texas Stars president, Rick McLaughlin, had this to say when asked for comment:
"We are in discussions with the league to purchase an AHL franchise. We expect this transaction to occur by the end of the season."
A great non-answer answer. Commissioner Andrews said that the league's Board of Governors would likely be very upset with him if no deal was worked out due to the franchise's success. Stay tuned to this space for more information. Not to push it too much, but I would read these blog entries, filed under "The Business Side", if you are more interested.