No matter what happens between now and then, the Texas Stars’ 2021 season will end on May 15th in a road game against the Iowa Wild.
It’s not technically because of the team’s performance thus far, even though they have a losing record on the season and currently sit fifth out of six teams in the AHL’s Central Division. Rather, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cash-strapped league were too much of a problem, leading to the decision to not host a playoffs and reward the Calder Cup for the second straight year.
While each of the AHL’s five divisions were provided the opportunity to host some sort of unique in-division postseason, the collective decision of the Central Division, which Texas is a part of, declined. Only one group of teams, the Pacific Division, decided to have a playoff tournament.
With seemingly little to play for, it would have been hard to begrudge them too much if they simply went through the motions in their final games.
However, what happened this past week is the exact opposite of that. The Stars put forth gutsy efforts in front of their home fans against the opposing Cleveland Monsters, winning the first two games before dropping the final one in overtime.
Recent NCAA signing Adam Scheel required very little time to win the starting goaltender job with his new team, playing in all three games last week and posting impressive numbers in each one. The first of the three, on April 29th, was the most notable, as he turned aside 39 of 40 shots and then all three that he faced in the shootout to secure a tight win.
“He made some game-changing saves in the final twenty,” said head coach Neil Graham, as reported by 100 Degree Hockey. “He was big for us in overtime, and then he was great in the shootout. Happy for him. It was a great night on his part.”
Texas opened the floodgates a little more on Saturday, leading for most of the game en route to a 5-2 victory. Rookie defenseman Dawson Barteaux potted his first professional goal and it was a beauty, while Riley Damiani had a goal and Adam Mascherin picked up two helpers.
Damiani scored again in the third of the three matches, Ty Dellandrea picked up a beautiful assist and Scheel turned aside 34 pucks, but the 35th squeaked past him in overtime to give Cleveland the 3-2 win.
Mascherin (31) and Damiani (29) continue to pace the team in terms of points, and both are actually still in the race for the AHL scoring title, behind San Diego Gulls forward Andrew Potularki’s 34. Thomas Harley continues leads all Texas defenders in scoring, as he has all season, with 17 points in 32 games.
The Stars have six more games remaining on their schedule: a three-game series at home against the Tucson Roadrunners that begins this week, before hitting the road to face Iowa to wrap things up. Win or lose, playing some spirited, competitive hockey would be a respectable way to end a strange, challenging season.
While his scoring pace has slowed down considerably, forward Fredrik Karlström nevertheless still finds himself on the verge of a league championship, as his Växjö Lakers team leads Rögle BK 2-0 in the SHL final. Karlström was held to just one assist in the five-game semifinal series win against Örebro and has yet to find the scoresheet against Rögle.
As has been reported elsewhere, fellow Swedes Jacob Peterson and Oskar Bäck have deservingly signed their entry-level contracts with the Dallas Stars, and these three countrymen could all head to North America for the 2021-22 season.
Someone who hasn’t signed his entry-level contract yet? Albin Eriksson, who was selected by Dallas in the 2nd round, 44th overall, in the 2018 draft. The Stars have one more year to sign Eriksson before losing his rights, so it will be an especially big season for him. The good news? It appears that he will have a much-needed change of scenery for next season, as he is reportedly heading over to Finland to play with Ässät, a similar path taken by former Dallas prospect Jakob Stenqvist (who just left the team himself to sign in the KHL).
North American Junior
Center Mavrik Bourque’s QMJHL season has come to an end after his Shawinigan Cataractes team was eliminated in the playoffs by the Rimouski Océanic in five games. It’s certainly an unexpected outcome, as Shawinigan was the much better of the two teams during the regular season and Rimouski was without one of their top players, Zachary Bolduc, due to injury.
Bourque, the Cataractes captain, showed a lot of maturity and responsibility after the series ended, calling out one of his own mistakes as the turning point in the series.
“They were there in every game,” he said to local media and translated from French by Google Translate. “Their goaler was good, their game system too. When you get shut out two games out of three wins, it doesn’t help. Perhaps the lack of opportunism cost us the series. You have to learn from defeat, we are back next year, we must not make the same mistakes. We were fickle during the year, and it hurt us for the playoffs. I think my mistake in Game 4 was the turning point of that series. My bad backhand pass to take the game to 3-2 was the turning point. ”
He shouldn’t be too hard on himself, though, as he did lead his team in goals and tied for the lead in points in the series.
Goaltender Rémi Poirier’s season is also done as his Gatineau Olympiques were eliminated by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in that series. Poirier finished the playoffs with a .879 save percentage, but after watching every single goal that he allowed I can honestly say that he wasn’t getting a whole lot of support in front of him. He is eligible to turn pro next season, but my money would be on him returning to the QMJHL for his overage year. Whether the Stars will decide to offer him an entry-level contract, or even should, is difficult to say.
For a full database of the organization’s prospects and their stats, check out the Stars’ “In the System” page on Elite Prospects.