Texas Stars recall Zach Kamrass from ECHL

With three games in three nights the Texas Stars have recalled defenseman Zach Kamrass from the Idaho Steelheads.

Stephen Johns is still out with a lower-body injury while Stars coach Derek Laxdal said the team has other “bumps and bruises” that need to be sorted out.

Kamrass is on an AHL contract with Texas, but didn’t appear in training camp with Texas. He has 16 points in 37 games with Idaho.

Here is the official release:

CEDAR PARK, Texas – The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced Thursday they have recalled rookie defenseman Zack Kamrass from their ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Kamrass, 25, is on his first career AHL call-up after appearing in 37 games this season for Idaho with 16 points (3-13=16). The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Atlanta, Ga. is currently in his first full professional season after finishing a four-year career at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (NCAA) from 2011-2015. Kamrass (KAM-rihs) appeared in 147 career collegiate games and scored 64 points (13-51=64) over the four-year stretch.

The Stars begin a three-game road trip on Friday in Bakersfield at 9 p.m. CST.

Ranford’s OT winner gives Texas 2-0 series lead

Texas celebrates the game-winning goal in overtime against Oklahoma City. (Photo by Rob Ferguson/Oklahoma City Barons)

Texas celebrates the game-winning goal in overtime against Oklahoma City. (Photo by Rob Ferguson/Oklahoma City Barons)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Brendan Ranford was due.

The rookie hit the crossbar in Game 1 and then hit the post twice in regulation of Game 2.

Finally, in overtime of Game 2, his luck changed and Ranford tucked home the game-winning goal on a wraparound 15 minutes, 4 seconds into the extra period, giving Texas a 3-2 win and 2-0 lead in the series.

“It’s nice, it’s a really nice feeling,” Ranford said. “They were coming hard. They played two hard games … somehow we came out with two wins. It was a very good team effort, and our goalies were unbelievable.”

While Ranford passed off the chance to celebrate, his teammates heaped praise on the rookie who was checked hard, was speared late in the second period and had a bit of bad puck luck.

“It was really nice to see him get rewarded,” Travis Morin said. “We kind of joked about it going off for overtime, saying, ‘You (are) due buddy, just keep working.’ … he worked hard there, that’s a great play.”

“It was amazing, not just because we won the game and we’re up 2-0,” Jack Campbell said. “(Ranford) was out there battling. He took a hard spill in the third and he’s got some serious character.”

Ranford’s character was tested throughout the game Saturday.

Oklahoma City’s checking line of Ben Eager, Will Acton, and Curtis Hamilton hounded Ranford, Morin, and Curtis McKenzie all evening. In the first period, it seemed to get to the younger players when McKenzie and Eager traded blows, but the group rebounded and scored all three goals.

Morin scored the first two goals for Texas, in AHL-MVP fashion.

Trailing 1-0 after a first-period tally by Roman Horak, Morin scored on the power play with 17.2 seconds remaining in the second period.

Morin won the face-off, drove past Acton and fired a shot over Richard Bachman’s glove 2.8 seconds into the power play.

Oklahoma City regained the lead 8:03 remaining, but Morin struck again with 39.8 seconds remaining on a de facto power play.

Taylor Peters and Jack Combs were sent to the box, setting up 4-on-4 situation. Texas then pulled Jack Campbell with 1:15 remaining to go on a 5-on-4 advantage.

“You got to pull him eventually. Giving you a 5-on-4 is more like a power play, gives you more space,” Morin said.

That extra space paid off.

Justin Dowling held the puck in the right face-off circle, hesitated with extra time and fired a seeing-eye pass to Morin who beat Bachman on the glove side.

The goal gave Campbell a chance to win his professional playoff debut.

Campbell stopped 38 of 40 shots, including 11 in overtime.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a while,” Campbell said. “I’ve been waiting to get in and help the team. Obviously its based on wins and losses … it was just great to be in there and see the teams play so well.”

Game 3 is Wednesday at the Cedar Park Center. Cristopher Nilstorp will likely start as Stars coach Willie Desjardins continues his goalie rotation.

Could college hockey work at the University of Texas?

A champion will be crowned this weekend at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, signaling the end of the 2012-13 season and the beginning of a brave new world for college hockey. Starting during the 2013-14 season the Big Ten will have its own hockey conference (thanks to Penn State starting a Division I program), the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will play its inaugural season, the CCHA will be no more, and the WCHA will host the leftovers from the realignment fallout.

With all the changes upcoming Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News took the time to speculate which programs could join the ever-changing NCAA hockey landscape in the future. One of the programs Kennedy talked about possibly taking the plunge — and once again, this is just fun speculation — was the University of Texas.

University of Texas Longhorns

The Dallas Stars have done an incredible job growing hockey in Texas and with players such as Chris Brown getting to the NHL, the seeds are beginning to bloom. Texas, Texas A & M and North Texas are seen as the top candidates, but naturally it would take a Pegula-like donation to take things to the next level. Mark Cuban has toyed with the idea of getting into the hockey game; would he consider being a college benefactor? If so, geography is once again not a big problem since Colorado and even Alabama-Huntsville aren’t too far away.

It’s an interesting proposal from Kennedy, and while I would love to watch college hockey in Austin, the logistics of Texas instating a Division I team and supporting it are far out of the realm of possibility.

The first major hurdle would be the facilities and ice time necessary for a Division I program. Right now in Austin there is one full-time rink and the Cedar Park Center, home of the Texas Stars. While the Stars practice at the Cedar Park Center most of the time, the AHL team practices at the Northcross Mall regularly when the CPC is being used for concerts, D-League basketball, etc. So even with a smaller rink, called the Pond, in the works, ice time is already at a premium in Austin.

So the first step towards establishing a hockey team would be building a rink where the Longhorns would be the primary tenant. That rink would also have to be more than a practice rink, too, it would have to be able to accomodate 4,000 to 5,000 people and be on, or within walking distance of, campus. Even though the Cedar Park Center has Texas club games, a Division I team would need its own rink that students can get to on a Friday and Saturday night without having to travel 35 minutes (or worse with traffic).

Finding a conference would be another major roadblock. Alabama-Huntsville, the current southern-most team in the NCAA, was an independent last year and likely would have folded its program eventually if the WCHA didn’t accept it as a member in January.  Without any hockey history Texas wouldn’t be an attractive member to the six conferences and the geographic location doesn’t put the school in a favorable light for a sport that is dominated by bus trips rather than plain rides.

Of course, the biggest question is whether hockey could thrive as a college sport at Texas. The club team at the school currently struggles to field more than 10 players on the roster (I play with two of them in beer league) and those games are rarely well attended by anyone other than friends and players’ girlfriends.

Even with a massive financial donation, hockey at the University of Texas doesn’t seem feasible in the current college hockey landscape. But if the school was to ever pursue the option of adding varsity hockey, the best option is likely entering the college hockey world in a tandem with another Texas-based school.

Whether it’s Texas A&M, North Texas or any other school based in Texas, the two schools could try and institute varsity hockey programs in the same season, ensuring a built-in rivalry and selling themselves as a package deal to a conference (likely  the WCHA).

But even if if had the partnership from another school, Texas unfortunately would have a difficult time fitting into the college hockey landscape.

For the record, I agree with Kennedy on the possibilities of Nebraska, Rhode Island and Saint Louis. As for USC, I don’t know enough about hockey in Southern California.

AHL Fantasy League Week 1 Results

After much stat dredging and computing the results from the first week of the Wrong Side of the Red Line AHL Fantasy League are in.

Standings

Team Wins Loss
Shap’s Snipers 1 0
Bettman Locked Out My Team 1 0
Jew Crew 1 0
Albany Avengers 1 0
Les Garçons en Bleu 0 0
Rock Out With Your Lockout 0 1
The Pocono Poconuts 0 1
Jeff Tyner 0 1
Gilroy Gives Me A Bonino 0 1

Shap’s Snipers (Sean Shapiro) 3, Rock Out With your Lockout (T.J. McAloon) 2First off we will lead with the results. Most of the games were quite close.

Bettman Locked Out My Team (Ryan Satkowiak) 3, The Pocono Poconuts (Howie Sussman) 2

Albany Avengers (Chris Wassell) 2, Gilroy Gives Me A Bonino (Jeffrey Zucker) 1

Jew Crew (Brian Fisher) 3, Jeff Tyner 1 (also need team)

BYE: Les Garçons en Bleu (Shaun Springfield)

Other league news to report:

Team Les Garçons en Bleu has completed building through free agency. The team is as follows:

Forwards
Ben Walter — Abbotsford Heat
Jerome Samson — Charlotte Checkers
Jean-Francois Jacques — San Antonio Rampage
Jimmy Bonneau — Worcester Sharks
Nicolas Blanchard — Charlotte Checkers
Defensemen
Frederic St-Denis — Hamilton Bulldogs
Marco Scandella — Houston Aeros
Goalie
Kevin Poulin — Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Dany Sabourin — Hershey Bears

Also, Jeff, you only have eight players on your roster. I have no problem with you running the season without one player but you might want to think about picking someone up.

All members of the league should send in their weekly lineup as soon as possible. If no changes have been sent in by Friday the league will assume that the lineup will be the same for the next week.

Next week’s matchups are:

Rock Out With Your Lockout (0-1) vs. Les Garçons en Bleu (0-0)
Shap’s Snipers (1-0) vs. The Pocono Poconuts (0-1)
Albany Avengers (1-0) vs. Jeff Tyner (0-1)
Ryan Satkowiak (1-0) vs. Brian Fisher (1-0)
BYE: Gilroy Gives Me A Bonino (0-1)

Until next week mes amis.

2012 taking me back to 2003, 2000 and 1995

The last time the Devils won the Stanley Cup (or reached the finals), I was in eighth grade and predicted they would win in seven games in my middle school newspaper — I was right.

Nine years later I’m getting to follow my team make a run again, only this time I can grow a playoff beard and when I call a friend before overtime starts its not their parent fielding the call on the house phone telling me, “It’s too late for phone calls.”

Of course, a lot has changed since 2003. I graduated college, got a real newspaper job and got married — and that list only includes the past 18 months. However, watching your team make a run again connects you to those past championships, and the ones that just got away (2001, I was at Game 6).

Seeing Adam Henrique score in overtime — a goal that I’m certain woke up my upstairs neighbor — takes me back to Jason Arnott scoring against Dallas in Game 6, or Jeff Friesen scoring the game-winning goal against Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Finals (which I listened to in the car, refusing my sisters’ pleas to change the radio).

Having Brodeur in net for what may be his last cup run forces me to look at the defense and remember watching Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermeyer. Bringing back memories of Niedermeyer’s end-to-end rush against Detroit (one of my first vivid Devils memories) and Stevens crushing Eric Lindros in 2000.

The Devils reaching the finals also makes me think about hats, which I always, and I mean always, wore growing up. In fact, my 2000 Devils’ championship hat was nearly in shreds by the time I was able to buy another one in 2003 (many people I knew said, ‘Finally, a new hat.’)

It doesn’t hurt that players seem to recycle through the Devils system (Petr Sykora) or make New Jersey a career-long team (Brodeur, Patrick Elias).  The Devils are one of the teams you could grow around and grow up with, watching players progress through their careers.

When I was younger it felt like the Devils were in the finals every year or every other year, and I may have taken that success for granted. But after nine years of early playoff exits, and even missing the playoffs last season, New Jersey possibly winning another cup is bringing me back to some of my favorite moments as a Devils fan.

Oh yea, Go Devils!