The Texas Stars returned home this week for the longest home stand on the season, seven games in all against mostly West Division rivals.
Coach Gulutzan and the Stars are looking forward to the coming homestand as an opportunity to pick up points and help define the team's identity. "Young guys sometimes take longer to find their rhythm and tempo. You hope after Christmas if we find that tempo and that identity, we'll be better."
Gulutzan felt overall that the younger guys on the team could have gotten more ice on the week, but the veterans are still being relied on for heavy minutes to kill off PP opportunities and other key situations. The point where Texas has to begin trusting and passing the reins over to the younger players is approaching, according to Gulutzan, and this week's wins are great to show them the way.
Stars Shoot Down Aeros 5-3
(HDH blog link)
Texas faced off against their in-state rivals the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) once again on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. The game marked the start of the Stars longest home stand of the season, a 7 game stretch.
It was all Texas early in the game with goals from Ondrej Roman and Aaron Gagnon (2). Texas chased Aeros goalie Anton Khudobin from the net but the barrage was not over. Texas traded goals with Houston for the rest of the night as Fabian Brunnstrom and Travis Morin added tallies on the night. Richard Bachman got the win, stopping 20 of 23 shots.
While Coach Gulutzan felt like it was not the best game that Texas had played, he noted that they played well enough to get the win. "We've done a lot of work on [the power play]," said Aaron Gagnon, who had two goals in the game. "It's more keeping it simple and getting on net. That's paid off."
Coverage of the rest of the week's games along with a look at the week ahead and who's hot and not along with the ever-increasing injury report.
Admirals, Dekanich Pitch a 1-0 Shutout in Goalie Battle
(HDH blog link)
Friday night's battle between the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Texas Stars was a faceoff between two of the stingiest teams in AHL. Richard Bachman sported a 2.01 GAA and a .931 SV% coming and Milwaukee goalie Mark Dekanich a 1.81 GAA and .938 SV%. Both teams are ranked in the top 5 in goals against.
The resulting game was a hard grinder that resulted in no goals until the last 6 minutes of play. Former Dallas Star Steve Begin scored the game winner for the Admirals. Texas goalie Richard Bachman received third star honors and stopped 28 of 29 shots on goal.
Stars Halt Rampage Win Streak at 7 With 5-2 Win
(HDH blog link)
The San Antonio
Stars Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes) had been on quite a tear coming into the Cedar Park Center Saturday night. The Rampage were winners of their last 7 straight on the backs of many former Stars, including Matt Climie, Mathieu Beaudoin, and Garrett Stafford, who are all leading the Rampage at their respective positions.
The Stars got started early in this one though with Raymond Sawada getting his 2nd of the year just 24 seconds into the game on a good effort. "The role players definitely responded tonight," said captain Brad Lukowich, pointing to the effort on Sawada's goal as a prime example. Before the period was over, Sean Backman, the rookie out of Yale, scored his 2nd goal of the year on a tip of a point shot from Lukowich.
San Antonio got one back in the second but Texas responded again with a power play goal from Francis Wathier, again assisted by Brad Lukowich. In the third, San Antonio would cut the lead to 3-2 with a power play goal from former Star Mathieu Beaudoin. With 8 minutes left in the 3rd period, the Stars had a game on their hands. Coach Gulutzan commented after the game, "I liked the way our guys responded [when] it got dicey down there."
Texas finished it off with power play goals from Greg Rallo and an empty netter from Fabian Brunnstrom with 5 seconds left.
The Week Ahead
Texas continues their homestand with more visits from more divisional opponents. The division leading Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) will come to town on Tuesday. The Rampage and Aeros will come in on Friday and Saturday for back-to-back games. Texas won their last matchup with all of these teams.
Still the play of Richard Bachman is powering the Texas Stars through their schedule. Bachman is 7-3-0 on the year with 2 shutouts, 1.94 GAA, and .932 SV%. This week he went 2-1-0, losing his one loss by a 1-0 margin.
You may have noted that I often pick "who's not" based on expectations. I think two players that fans are looking for more from are Tomas Vincour and Philip Larsen. Vincour is playing with some great linemates in Wathier and Gagnon but has yet to produce with those linemates. He has 2-4-6 on the year but being one of the last sent down from Dallas led to greater expectations.
Larsen has 7 assists on the year but has yet to tally one of his own. He had a great opportunity on a 2-on-1 breakaway but missed an open net high. It may be a case of clutching the stick a little too hard trying to make it happen. Larsen shows great promise, jumping up on the play when necessary and prudent. He plays on the power play unit as well with Dan Spang.
Lots of injuries to report, unfortunately. Brent Krahn is still day-to-day with a lower body issue. Ondrej Roman was knocked out of the game last Sunday by Colton Gillies and has yet to return to a game since. Scott McCulloch has missed several games as well. Tomas Vincour, who was out last week, has returned to the lineup for Texas.