Despite a week with two wins, the Texas Stars (27-29-2-2, 58 pts, #15 Western Conference) are close to sealing their fate as the first edition of the AHL club not to make the playoffs. Needing 28 points to match the current 8th seed's pace, Texas would need a 14-2-0 record from here on out to make the postseason.
While that may be a dire outlook, there are positives to be found among the bigger picture of not making the playoffs. This week's games saw several records set and continued for Texas Stars players. In Saturday's game, Matt Fraser broke the record for goals in a single season, previous set by Aaron Gagnon in 2009-10. Fraser's 28th of the year came shorthanded. He is also tied for the single season record for PPGs at ten.
After an early season cold streak, Colton Sceviour has exploded in the second half. Since December 27th, he has tallied a point in 16 straight home games. He has 33 points overall home and away since Christmas. It is by far the top record in the AHL and for the franchise for such a streak. He's clutch to boot with six game-winners.
More inside on OT thrillers and a little help from Buffalo...
The Stars pulled off a 5-4 OT victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) last Wednesday in Cedar Park, an unnecessarily close final score in a game that seemed to be all Stars early. Texas used a three goal second period to accumulate a four goal lead after two. Grand Rapids mounted a four goal comeback in the third to tie things and take it to OT. "We just got sloppy," said Coach Pyle. "4-0 in any league is no gimme." Newcomer Michael Forney tipped a point shot from fellow newcomer Drew Schiestel two mintues into OT for the game winner.
Colton Sceviour scored his 16th of the year in overtime to push Texas past the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers) and extend his personal home point streak to fifteen games on Friday. Texas was down 3-2 heading into the third period but rallied to tie thanks to Matt Fraser's team-leading 27th of the season. "A comeback win against that team in the third period is a good win," said Coach Pyle. "We've always fought back. This team has no quit in it. We're going to play to the final whistle of the final game."
Neither team led by more than a goal at any point as the two clubs played a tight game throughout, as is to be expected from two teams that know each other so well. "With a team like San Antonio, we play them so much that it's like a chess match," said Sceviour postgame. "I could go over there and play their system and they could play ours no problem. We see each other that much."
The Rampage took Saturday's contest over the Stars by scoring a power play goal in the final ten seconds of regulation to win 4-3. The win was just their fourth all-time in Cedar Park. After allowing the first two goals, Texas fought back from a 3-2 deficit to tie things in the third period, thanks to even strength tallies from Angelo Esposito and Francis Wathier and an electrifying shorty from Matt Fraser. "We played pretty hard and waited for opportunities to tie it up," said Coach Pyle.
With 6.5 seconds left, and on the power play, San Antonio found the back of the net to win it 4-3. "That's a bad bounce," said forward Luke Gazdic. "We were working hard, but we could have cleaned that up a little bit."
Andrew Raycroft started the game, but Tyler Beskorowany finished it. Each allowed two goals, and Beskorowany took the loss.
It just so happens that Colton Sceviour's dad played three seasons with Texas Stars head coach Jeff Pyle. Read my article on Hundred Degree Hockey about the lost connection and Coach Pyle doing snow angels in sand traps.
The Stars added Nick Layton, a forward from Allen, to the roster late on Monday, after the callup of Jordie Benn. Texas now has four Clear Day roster players out due to injury or callup, which means they may use two players in residence. Forward Scott Campbell was already in the lineup. Layton may take his spot as D Matt Case likely steps into Benn's place on the blue line.
The Week Ahead
Texas continues its homestand with a slate of four games in the coming week. Grand Rapids played some weekend games in Texas and will face the Stars again on tonight. The Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) then visit for a two game set on Friday and Saturday. The homestand wraps with a rare Monday game against the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames).
Texas is injury prone here in the late season with four players on the IR. Maxime Fortunus, Stephen Schultz and Hubert Labrie roll over from last week, each with no timetable for a return. Mathieu Tousignant was added to that list this week, reportedly "for a while". Finally, Andrew Raycroft, who had been reported as injured after the first on Saturday, practiced with the team on Monday and should be ready to go tonight.