While the Dallas Stars have been struggling in their crowded playoff race, the Texas Stars (39-24-4-6, 88 pts, #3 West) have pulled away from the pack thanks to a four game winning streak. The winning streak is accompanied by some fantastic statistics on both ends of the ice. Over the last four, Texas has outscored its opponents 18-5 including four goals from Colton Sceviour and five from Greg Rallo, including his first AHL hat trick.
Goalie Richard Bachman started all four games and has stopped 97 of 102 shots against in the streak. Bachman was not expected to make as many starts this year as he did but has been spectacular anyways. With every win, he sets a new franchise record for wins in a season by a goaltender, surpassing Matt Climie's 22 last year with 26 after Saturday's victory.
With the four regulation wins, Texas has put five points between themselves and the three teams clawing at their heals at 83 points a piece. Coach Gulutzan summed it up best:
"We decided that we don't want or need anyone's help. We don't want to wake up in the morning and look [at the other scores]. We just want to wake up and worry about what we're going to do."
To make it all that much better, it would be fair to categorize three of the four games as character wins. Texas defeated Houston on Tuesday 3-0, a team they had struggled with all season. Then they fell behind 3-0 on Friday against Grand Rapids but won 5-3. Finally on Saturday, Texas jumped out to a 5-0 lead and won by a 5-1 final. That's the kind of hockey that you need to get to and stay in the playoffs.
More about each game after the jump and some info on the nature of Philip Larsen's injury inside...
Texas' special teams and goaltending all got into the act to provide a solid 3-0 win to start a five-game home stand. Power play and shorthanded goals from Francis Wathier and another power play tally from Travis Morin set the score at 3-0 while Richard Bachman's 20-save effort sealed the deal. Aaron Gagnon assisted on all three goals.
The win was significant in that Texas had a 2-6-2-1 record against the Wild farm club coming into the game. Additionally, it is looking more and more like Houston will be the Stars' first round opponent.
The Stars started this one out poorly, allowing three goals in the first half of the game, including a shorthanded goal. Grand Rapids then capitulated completely as Texas roared to life. The Stars got goals from Sceviour (2), Rallo, Gagnon and Mathieu Tousignant to complete a full comeback victory 5-3. Texas outshot the Griffins 15-3 in the third period.
After the game, the first question to Texas forward Sceviour, who scored two goals and had an assist, was, "So, what happened there?" Sceviour made a confused face and said, "Can you put that into words?" As a bit of an editorial, Sceviour is really great player to talk to and I think his attitude will play well with the media in Dallas.
The Griffins stayed in town to receive another beating on Saturday night. In front of a crowd of over 6,000, the Stars put up five on the Red Wings' farm team once again. This time, it was five to start the game, not to end it. Colton Sceviour had another two goal and one assist night.
Bachman again played fantastically with 29 saves on 30 shots. "Bachman is going to be our go-to guy [for the rest of the season]," said forward Greg Rallo. "He's filled the #1 role and put us in the position we're in right now."
Amateur Player Additions
The AHL allows players completing their college or junior seasons to be added to the roster for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. Texas picked up two of these players this past week. First, Mike Embach is a forward out of Ferris State University. He has seen limited action on fourth line in the week. Greg Rallo and Cody Chupp also attended Ferris State.
The more relevant addition to Dallas fans is Brenden Dillon, recently signed to an ELC by the Stars. He finished his last season with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, where he was the captain and this year's Co-MVP with Avalanche goalie prospect Calvin Packard. Dillon is a big guy at 6 foot 2, known for putting up points and PIMs in the WHL. He is an excited addition to a Texas team that has been ravaged by injuries, both their own and Dallas'.
The Week Ahead
Texas now waits 6 days for another game. They will finish the season thereafter with seven games in ten days, three at home and four on the road. This weekend's battles will be at home against the Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers), at the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers), and home again versus the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks).
Philip Larsen is out with a hip pointer, according to Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. He has not played since March 20th but could see action this weekend. Trevor Ludwig missed Saturday's game, but it is unclear at this point the nature of any injury he may have.