In the end, the Texas Stars (5-3-1-0, 11 pts, #2 Western Conference) did not have all that bad of a week.
They are still in second place in the conference race. They have three players in the top twenty of AHL scoring (Travis Morin, Chris Mueller and Colton Sceviour) and two in the top twenty of rookie scoring (Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie). They lead the league in penalty kill at 92.1 and are third in power play at 26.2%. Also, their second-year goalie, Jack Campbell, has a 1.00 GAA and .956 save percentage.
That's the good.
The Stars are in second place, sure, but they gave up two goal leads in back-to-back games this past weekend. Travis Morin, the league's leading scorer, is getting a solid tour of Eastern Conference press boxes. And to top it all off, Jack Campbell missed the weekend's games with a 'minor' knee injury.
To echo something said by Francis Wathier last year after a rocky week, "It's not a panic button."
Anyone with a keen memory will remember that the Stars started last season, one where the roster was loaded with talent now in Dallas, with a 3-6-1 record. Coach Willie Desjardins righted that ship and navigated the Stars to the top spot in the conference.
This road trip was bound to be a little tough. It was the first true 'road trip' for the team, which had not played outside Texas and Oklahoma yet this season. Five of the opening seven games were at the Cedar Park Center, perhaps generating a false sense of confidence among the fans. Desjardins alluded to as much as the team was about to go out on the road. The road stretch was going to be a good measuring stick and it looks like the Stars' got their wake-up call early on in the trip. Better to get such a call in October than March.
Expected and unexpected transactions
With the assignment of Aaron Rome, Texas had to do a bit of shuffling. They had already recalled Hubert Labrie to act as the seventh man on the road trip. He stayed on to go to the Midwest with the team. With the additional assignment of Scott Glennie to Texas, gritty forward Brock Montgomery was assigned to Idaho. He immediately scored his first pro point in his first game in Boise.
Jack Campbell also generated some unexpected transactions over the weekend. He tweaked his knee in morning skate on Saturday, which is being called a minor injury. Texas called up Josh Robinson from Idaho, but he could not make it to Milwaukee in time from Boise. Amateur Billy Sias was signed to a tryout contract for the night and released after the Milwaukee game. Robinson backed up on Sunday at Rockford.
Colton Sceviour continued his scoring ways from the weekend with two goals in last Wednesday's contest against the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) and his former teammate and roommate, Richard Bachman. Bachman, who was drafted by Dallas and played parts of the first four years of his career in Texas, faced off against the Stars for the first time at Cedar Park Center.
"It's cool to play against [former teammates]," said Sceviour, who now has seven goals on the season. "But you think in the back of your head that they know what you do. You shot on them so many times in practice. That's in the back of your head."
Sceviour and the Stars got the better of the matchup tonight, only the second of twelve games between the two clubs on the season. Brett Ritchie and Travis Morin added a goal and assist each for the Stars in the 4-1 win.
Jack Campbell was stellar in net, stopping 25 of 26 and carrying a shutout into the third period.
After winning four straight, Texas dropped a disappointing match to the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) in Wisconsin on Saturday night. The Stars appeared to be off to the races early with goals in the sixth and seventh minute of the game. Rookies Curtis McKenzie and Taylor Peters had their third and first respective goals of their AHL careers. McKenzie's was a power play goal, but Peters found the net shorthanded.
Over the following 53 minutes, the Admirals ground down the Stars with four even-strength goals, including two from Colton Sissons.
For the second night in a row, things looked pretty solid for the Texas Stars after twenty minutes. Unfortunately for them, hockey games are sixty minute affairs and their opponents, the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), took full advantage of all sixty. After earning a 2-0 lead after one period, the Stars gave up four unanswered goals in the final 24 minutes of the game, including two unassisted tallies.
The Week Ahead
Texas continues its road trip with three more in the Midwest. The Stars will head back to Milwaukee tonight and then trundle off to Des Moines for the first two games against the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild) on Friday and Saturday. The team may be in a new location, but the Stars are very familiar with the basic team since they just moved from Houston last summer.
Jack Campbell is injured, as previously mentioned, but could play as early as tonight.