To say it was a good week for the Texas Stars (4-1-1-0, 9 pts, #1 Western Conference) would be putting it mildly. Coming off a loss last week to the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers), the Stars put together three wins in three days in which they outscored their opponents by a mark of 18-4.
The main driver of the Stars' early season success has been the first line, featuring Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour. Morin currently leads the league in points with seven goals and eight assists. Of the 26 goals the Stars' have scored on the season, fourteen of them have been scored by the Morin line.
Those goals include a record-breaking performance by Colton Sceviour this past Saturday that saw the fifth-year wnger put up three goals and two assists to break the franchise record for points in a single game. That five point performance came in a 9-3 win for Texas, which also broke a franchise record for goals in a game.
"Coming in to start the third, no one expected the final," said Sceviour, referencing the tied score after forty minutes. He added, "Travis mentioned the five point record on the bench right after I scored. I didn't know it until that point. I've never had a pro hat trick. It's a cool feeling for sure."
Adding to the offensive punch for the Stars was the addition of Chris Mueller to the lineup. Centering rookie Brendan Ranford and vet Toby Petersen, Mueller has three goals and five assists in just four games. He is tied for seventh in the league scoring ranks.
On Saturday and Sunday, Mueller's line saw more ice time than the Dowling line (Mike Hedden-Justin Dowling-Brett Ritchie), usually considered Texas' second line. That line has just two goals and five assists through the first six games. Hedden and Dowling were a big part of Alex Chiasson's breakout performance in the AHL. They had good chemistry with Ritchie in the playoffs last year before Chiasson returned but haven't found that yet this season. If they do begin clicking, the Stars will have three potent offensive lines to throw over the boards on any given night.
Also, one final note on goaltending. In Jack Campbell's absence, the Texas Stars were faced with a three-in-three and put rookie Josh Robinson in net for his first AHL start on Saturday. He stopped all 26 he faced for his first AHL win and first AHL shutout in his very first AHL game. Robinson is back with the Idaho Steelheads now, but Scott White surely knows that the club can count on him if the need arises.
With a four goal, five assist week, Travis Morin was recognized by the league as the AHL's Player of the Week. Morin is only the third Star to be honored as AHL PotW. The other two were Mathieu Beaudoin in 2009 and Richard Bachman in 2010.
Getting a Bit Defensive
Jamie Oleksiak has continued to be 'average' for Texas. His unimpressive work so far this season has been masked by pluses on the scoresheet, but that's really the only place he's showing up. He has a single assist and is plus-1. Perfectly fine for a run-of-the-mill defenseman, but that isn't what Oleksiak needs to be for the Dallas Stars organization. They expect Oleksiak to be the first call this season, and he's not showing the same fire he had last year in his AHL All-Star season. For example, Jyrki Jokipakka and Cameron Gaunce had more ice time in Sunday's game than Oleksiak and his partner, Aaron Rome.
Brendan Ranford and an invigorated third line were the difference in Friday night's 3-1 victory for the Texas Stars tonight at the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers). Having gotten all of their goals from the top six in the preceding three games, Texas Stars' coach Willie Desjardins had intoned that his club needed to develop their depth scoring to ensure success.
The addition of Chris Mueller to center Brendan Ranford and Toby Petersen generated the Stars' first goal, Mueller's first of the year. Brendan Ranford picked up an unassisted goal off a misplay by Rampage goalie Dov Grumet-Morris.
Cristopher Nilstorp got the start in net in the penalty-filled affair, which ultimately saw 46 penalty minutes between the two teams and twelve power play opportunities. The Texas tender faced a light load, only 26 shots, and stopped 25. San Antonio's Grumet-Morris stopped 33 of 35.
It wasn't just the third line getting in on the scoring Saturday night as the Stars fired on all cylinders at forward, defense and especially in net with a six goal outburst and a shutout performance from their rookie goaltender. Josh Robinson, recently called up from the Idaho Steelheads and making his first AHL start, stopped 26 of 26 for a clean sheet.
"I tried to keep my day as normal as possible," said Robinson. "I had some nerves but once I got a few shots, I felt good. You try not to think about anything but stopping the next shot."
San Antonio's Scott Clemmensen had a lot of 'next shots' to worry about on the other side as Texas put 41 on the veteran goalie. Travis Morin scored on a penalty shot and on the power play while each of the players on the Stars' new third line picked up a goal, totalling six points on the night among Chris Mueller, Toby Petersen and rookie Brendan Ranford.
With time dying in the third, William Wrenn finished off Texas' scoring with an unassisted shot from the point finding twine for the 6-0 mark.
With the game tied going into the third period, Texas opened up a six goal final frame including a Colton Sceviour hat trick, four points from Travis Morin and three each from Chris Mueller and Curtis McKenzie, to put a 9-3 final up against the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames). The nine goal outburst was a Texas Stars record for most goals in a game, breaking the previous eight goal record.
Abbotsford and Texas were both finishing a 3-in-3 weekend set, with the Heat coming off two games in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday.
"They had a tough road trip for the game here today," said Travis Morin, who scored his 7th goal of the year in the second period. "Both teams played three but it's always harder when you're on the road. They had five or six hours on the bus last night."
It was a tale of two halves for the Stars as Texas found itself down 3-1 thirty minutes into the contest.
"We didn't play that great in the first half of the game," said Sceviour. "They were taking it to us. When we got down 3-1, we realized we needed to wake up to win this game. We started playing our game and imposing our will on them."
Texas evened it up on goals from Morin and Mueller to end the second tied at three. The power play came alive in the third period to fuel the win. A 5-on-3 opportunity early in the final frame generated two goals in 22 seconds, and Texas was off to the races. McKenzie, Sceviour, Gaunce and Stransky all scored in the third with Sceviour getting all three in the period.
"It's good to see Sceviour get goals," added Coach Desjardins. "He's played well but it hasn't gone for him as much."
Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 20 of 23 shots for the win.
The Week Ahead
Texas heads out on the road with a chance to bond after tonight's game against Oklahoma City at home. Weekend games will find the Stars in the Midwest to face the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) on Saturday and Sunday.
Austin Smith returned from injury only to head right back out of the lineup. Brendan Ranford's success with Mueller will make it harder for the second-year Texas native to crack the lineup again when healthy.