While the Dallas Stars have already played three games on the season, the defending Calder Cup champion Texas Stars (1-0-0-0, 2 pts, T-5th West Conf.) have only laced them up once so far. It was a sellout as the Stars raised a total of four banners to celebrate last year's success.
The team dropped three smaller banners for the West Division crown, the AHL's regular season championship and the Western Conference playoff champs. With all eyes on center ice, Texas unveiled a large green banner declaring their Calder Cup championship.
"It was obviously a special moment," said Justin Dowling, who was a pivotal piece of the Cup run. "I've never been a part of something like that. I know it was special for the other guys too. It was good for the organization and the fans too."
Attention turned very quickly to the task at hand. The visiting Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild) did not sit through the ceremony but were surely motivated by the overall celebratory tone of the night. What could be better than upsetting the reigning champs in their building in front of a sold out crowd?
It looked promising for the Wild early as they earned the first goal. The Stars would score the next three though. Curtis McKenzie opened the scoring with an assist from his fellow first-line mates, Travis Morin and Brett Ritchie. Justin Dowling added another on a pretty play for the 2-1 lead.
Julius Honka scored his first professional goal on the power play as the period wound down. From the point with Brendan Ranford screening in front, the Stars took a 3-1 lead off the stick of the rookie 18-year old.
Honka had a few moments where the speed of play seemed to overwhelm him, but overall he was solid. Honka said, "I got used to how you have to move your feet and how fast they are coming at you, so it wasn't that bad."
Specifically there were two attempted breakouts where Honka was behind the net and had a very panicked stance as he was trying to read the play. On one, Derek Meech bailed him out and took the puck. On the other, he made a bad outlet pass up the middle which came back for a Wild shot on net.
John Klingberg added a power play goal, his first North American goal, to set the final at 4-2.
In net, Texas had Jussi Rynnas. Coach Laxdal has said that he wants each goalie to earn his starts; no one is getting anything for free. In these first two games, each goalie will get a start, meaning Jack Campbell will start on Friday at Oklahoma City. Rynnas looked solid in his first game, stopping 20 of 22.
Overall, Coach Laxdal was satisfied with the effort on opening night, "The guys had a great effort tonight. You're always going to be a little unclear what you'll see [on opening night]. I thought our guys came out and picked up where they left off last year."
The Week Ahead
Texas will play Friday at Oklahoma City (Edmonton Oilers) and then return home to play the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) on Saturday. Former Stars will feature in both games with Richard Bachman in net for the Barons and Dustin Jeffrey surely on the top line for Utica.
Scott Glennie did not play in any preseason games but played in the starter. It was his first season opener in the AHL in four years. Greg Rallo was also healthy despite being day-to-day earlier in the week.