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2014 Calder Cup Finals, Game 1 Preview: Texas Stars Begin Quest for the Cup vs. St. John's IceCaps

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The Texas Stars begin the Calder Cup Finals tonight against St. John's, broadcast live at 7:30 CDT on NHL Network.

Texas Stars

The Texas Stars finally hit the ice on Sunday against the St. John's IceCaps in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals in a series between two teams that have never faced each other in competition. Ever.

The makeup and schedule in the AHL means that teams from the Eastern and Western Conference never meet in the regular season (with some rare exceptions) and as such the Stars and IceCaps begin this series with scant knowledge about the other. Coaches Willie Desjardins and Doug Lidster have been working overtime scouting for the series, and backup goalie Tyler Beskorowany will probably try to provide some inside information as he comes back to Texas.

The coaching battle in this series will be incredible to watch, as both teams sport very deep rosters with all four lines capable of contributing offensively, with the IceCaps sporting a very reliable defensive game with Michael Hutchinson sporting the best numbers of any goalie in the postseason (1.61, .946).

The Stars and IceCaps play disparate styles as well, with St. John's using a relentless forecheck and four rotating lines to great success so far in the postseason. The Stars, just like their NHL counterpart in Dallas, utilize a very strong speed and transition game to build a relentless and sustained attack that creates chances off the rush and a very large volume of shots.

Be sure to watch Brett Ritchie closely, who has seven points in eight postseason games since his return from injury. Ritchie, along with Justin Dowling and Mike Hedden, a formidable line to deal with when all are healthy and all three played a pivotal role in the Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Marlies. Radek Faksa has also come on strong as the postseason has progressed and his fourth line will be incredibly important against the deep checking roster of the IceCaps.

In an interview with St. John's beat writer Charles Dart, 100 Degree Hockey has the summary of the IceCaps postseason so far:

The IceCaps defeated the Albany Devils in four games in round one and moved on to defeat the Norfolk Admirals in six games. The IceCaps prevailed against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in six games, however not without rugged contest; there were several penalties, fights, and even a suspension of Will O'Neill. Scoring first in 14-of-16 games in these playoffs, the IceCaps are 9-1 when leading after 40 minutes of play. The strong starts, strong play of Michael Hutchinson, and the depth of scoring for the IceCaps has lead them to their first Calder Cup final history.

The Texas Stars surrendered the first goal to the Toronto Marlies in nearly every game of the series but showed the ability to bounce back and recover. Against an even better team in St. John's this strategy might not work as well, and a strong start will be crucial -- especially considering how important these first two home games will be.

The Calder Cup Finals Game 1 begins in Cedar Park on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CDT. The NHL Network will broadcast the game live, as well as several other games in the series. Here is the full schedule:

Date/Time TV Networks Satellite Radio Web
Game 1 Sun., June 8 at Texas, 8:30 ET Leafs TV
NHL Network (US)
NHL Network Radio AHL Live
Game 2 Mon., June 9 at Texas, 8:30 ET Leafs TV
^NHL Network (US)
-- AHL Live
Game 3 Wed., June 11 at St. John's, 6 ET Leafs TV
^NHL Network (US)
-- AHL Live
Game 4 Mon., June 16 at St. John's, 6 ET Leafs TV
^^NHL Network (US)
NHL Network Radio
(if no NHL game)
AHL Live
*Game 5 Tue., June 17 at St. John's, 6 ET Leafs TV
NHL Network (US)
NHL Network Radio AHL Live
*Game 6 Thu., June 19 at Texas, 8:30 ET Leafs TV
NHL Network (US)
NHL Network Radio AHL Live
*Game 7 Mon., June 23 at Texas, 8:30 ET Leafs TV
NHL Network (US)
NHL Network Radio AHL Live

*if necessary... ^next-day broadcast at 11 am ET... ^^air time TBD