Texas Stars Report: Heating Up at Just the Right Time
The Stars are on a four-game winning streak and have the playoffs square in their sights. They could clinch this weekend...
Everything is coming together for the Stars at the moment. They've cemented themselves in playoff position after a bit of phenomenal play from all quarters.
Jack Campbell is 9-3 since March 15th. Justin Dowling just earned the player of the week honors for the AHL for a 4-2=6 week. Devin Shore is picking up pace with 3-2=5 in 14 games player, including last night's game winner.
The Stars just passed one of their archrivals on the standings race, the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers). It's great for the overall morale of the group, but it might not be for the Stars' chances to advance past the first round. A 6th place finish would give Texas a shot at I-35 rival San Antonio (Florida Panthers). A fifth place finish will probably put them in a first round matchup against Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks). The problem there is that the Stars have an 0-3-1 record against Rockford. That's not a good look for the defending champs.
Justin Dowling Named CCM/AHL Player of the Week
Dallas Stars prospect and center Justin Dowling was named the AHL's player of the week this week after tallying 4-2=6 in three games for Texas, all wins. Dowling also had the shootout game-winner in Milwaukee.
Idaho gears up for playoffs with division in hand
The Steelheads clinched the Pacific Division this past week, earning them home ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. The ECHL's Pacific Division figures to be a slog once the postseason starts. Remember the ECHL plays divisional playoffs like the NHL.
Currently the Steelheads are slated to play the Utah Grizzlies. However, there are still 3 games left for 4th-place Utah and 5th-place Alaska with three points separating them.
Taylor Peters was sent down to the Steelheads this past week. He had a goal and the shootout winner in his first game with the Boise squad. Peters is playoff eligible in the ECHL (5 or more games played) and will likely be a fixture of their postseason run.
Texas Stars Earn Wild, Penalty-Filled 7-4 Win Over Adirondack
Despite being a Western Conference team, the Adirondack Flames brought a taste of Eastern Conference hockey to the Cedar Park Center last Wednesday evening. In a wild 7-4 win that saw a total of 84 penalty minutes between the two teams, the most atypical moment had to be a fight by Stars captain Maxime Fortunus, just his second in his professional career.
"It was a bad hit," said Fortunus, who was responding to a hit on Gemel Smith. "Sometimes you have to step up for your teammates. I know everyone in that room would have done the same for me."
In his Texas Stars farewell, Valeri Nichushkin had a banner night. The Dallas forward down in Cedar Park for conditioning collected three assists on the night. It was the first time the Stars had earned a win with Nichushkin in the lineup all year, and he was a big part of it and frustrated the Flames to boot.
"I can't say it was my best game," said Nichushkin. "I think I played better in the last two games. Sometimes you touch puck and it's goal."
Coach Laxdal added, "He made some plays at the right time. He made a great play on Dowling's goal and Valentine's goal. He's trying to find his legs a little bit and get up to speed going back to Dallas."
It was a good night for the Stars to have an offensive explosion because it was not the best game that their starting goalie, Jack Campbell, has had this season. Campbell looked like he was having a lot of the same issues that plagued him in the early season, allowing a short side goal shorthanded in the first, having a lot of trouble holding onto rebounds and playing the puck. With the Stars goal total on the night, it didn't matter. That's what Texas needed this past weekend.
"Jack made some timely saves in the second," said Coach Laxdal. "But it was one of those nights where the last team that scored was going to win the game. You're not going to have your best night every night."
Texas Earns Season Sweep of Milwaukee with 3-2 Road Shootout Win
The Stars finished the season series with Milwaukee in fine fashion Friday night as Justin Dowling's fifth round shootout attempt found twine against Marek Mazenec for a 3-2 final tonight in Wisconsin. Jack Campbell got the start and improved his record with a 34 save performance.
The Stars opened the scoring in the first period with a rebound goal off the stick of Derek Hulak. Justin Dowling got the initial shot but Hulak put it home for his 19th of the year. Rookie phenom Kevin Fiala made sure that didn't last long with an independent contractor effort five minutes later. The goal came off a Texas turnover and knotted things at one after twenty minutes.
Milwaukee took the lead in the second period on the power play. Texas ceded four opportunities in the game and broke on just this one chance. Austin Watson's deflection of an Anthony Bitetto point shot beat Campbell to make it 2-1. Travis Morin answered for Texas as Greg Rallo continued a strong week to send him the cross-crease pass for the goal.
The Stars survived a low-shooting seven minute overtime, an accomplishment for the squad this season, which already has 13 overtime losses. In the shootout, four of five Texas shooters scored on Mazanec. Derek Hulak, Travis Morin, Devin Shore and Justin Dowling all scored for Texas as the shootout extended to five rounds after being tied after the third and fourth.
Texas Sweeps Chicago Thanks to Dowling's Big Night
It was a 6-2 victory against the Wolves in Rosemont tonight to keep the Stars flawless against Chicago since March 2013. The Texas win broke up a seven-game winning streak for the Wolves, who are desperate for points to try and make the playoffs.
Justin Dowling had two goals, including a very tricky individual effort that you've got to see to believe. With the win, Texas moves into a tie with OKC in the standings.
Stars Close Strong Road Trip with 6-4 Win in Iowa
Texas closed out its season series with the Iowa Wild with a win, but it wasn't as convincing as it should have been against the worst team in the league. The Stars put themselves up 2-0 early but found themselves tied at three just over halfway through the second. The Stars didn't let that last for long, scoring 18 seconds later to regain the lead.
Jack Campbell stopped 33 of 37 in his 12th straight decision for the Texas Stars. It was Texas' fourth straight win.
Brett Ritchie and Devin Shore were among the six different goal scorers for the Stars in the game.
The Week Ahead
The Stars return home and will stay in the state of Texas for the rest of the regular season. Two games against the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) face them this weekend. Then the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers) and Stars will play a three-game series to end the season. Two will come in San Antonio and the final game in Cedar Park on Saturday the 18th.
Vet D Derek Meech was added to the injured crew this past week. He was injured in the third period of the Adirondack game and did not return. Scott Valentine and Matt Mangene have jumped in alternately in his place. The Stars are still without Jussi Rynnas, who is now skating and taking shots, and of course, Radek Faksa, who is done for the season following shoulder surgery.
Curtis McKenzie took a high hit in the Adirondack game, an elbow to the head, but has not played since. With the team on the road, it's been difficult to get a read on his condition.