Morning Skate: Texas Stars looking to continue offensive surge against Stockton

The Texas Stars and Stockton Heat will battle for the second time this season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars and Stockton Heat will battle for the second time this season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The Texas Stars’ offense hasn’t been stifled very often this season.

Texas is averaging a league-high 4.25 goals per game and have scored at least five goals in six of their 12 games.

The one team that put the Stars at a standstill? Tonight’s opponent the Stockton Heat, who will visit the Cedar Park Center tonight at 7:00 p.m.

A little more than three weeks ago Stockton ousted Texas 1-0. The Stars fired 36 shots, but couldn’t beat Stockton’s Jon Gillies.

“Those games happen sometimes,” Stars defenseman Stephen Johns said. “I thought we played well, 1-0 games are fun to play in. It’s tight, you can’t make a mistake, and I’m expecting the same type of game tonight.”

Stockton hasn’t won a game since Gillies whitewashed Texas on Oct. 21. The Heat have struggled offensively and have only scored 19 goals this season — the second-lowest in the AHL (surprisingly, the Grand Rapids Griffins are last with just 18 goals).

The Heat have been good defensively and limit opponents to 2.88 goals per game, and both victories have come in the form of shutouts by Gillies.

And unfortunately for Stockton, Gillies is injured and is out with a lower-body injury. Calgary did acquire Kevin Poulin in a trade to help out their AHL affiliate, and the newest Stockton goaltender allowed four goals on 34 shots.

Of course, the Stars aren’t taking the Heat lightly.

“They’re a well-coached, aggressive physical team,” Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “They got some good skill up front. They played last night in San Antonio, so we’ve got to be at our best here.”

Texas will field the same lineup it used in a 6-3 victory against San Antonio on Wednesday, and Jack Campbell will make his second straight start in goal.

Travis Morin missed the morning skate Saturday after the birth of his third son, Bradley Michael Morin, on Friday night. Morin will still be in the lineup this evening.

Projected lineup:
Justin Dowling-Travis Morin-Brendan Ranford
Jason Dickinson-Devin Shore-Matej Stransky
Derek Hulak-Gemel Smith-Greg Rallo
Emil Molin-Cory Kane-Branden Troock

Esa Lindell-Stephen Johns
Ludwig Bystrom-Julius Honka
Patrik Nemeth-Jesse Blacker

Jack Campbell

Texas Stars fall to Milwaukee Admirals in first shootout of the season

Matej Stransky battles for positioning against the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals)

Matej Stransky battles for positioning against the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals)

The Milwaukee Admirals forced overtime with 5.9 seconds remaining, and then prevailed in a four-round shootout to defeat the Texas Stars 4-3.

The teams where tied at 1-1 after three rounds, including a goal by Devin Shore for Texas, but Frederick Gaudreau scored in the fourth round to secure Milwaukee’s victory.

It was Texas first shootout of the season and capped a game where they blew a 3-1 lead in the third period.

Much earlier Jason Dickinson scored his first goal of the season 1 minute, 53 seconds into the contest on a wrist shot that he fired past Marek Mazanen on the blocker side.

Matej Stransky had the primary assist and found Dickinson wide open in the slot. Devin Shore picked up the secondary assist to continue his hot start to the season.

Muse helped keep Milwaukee at bay in the first period and made a series of saves on the penalty kill, including an old school two-pad stack to his left.

The teams traded power play goals in the second period.

Vladislave Kamenev tied the game 9:53 into the second period, while Travis Morin countered two minutes later on a wrist shot from the right face-off circle.

Morin helped Texas take a 3-1 lead early in the third period. The Stars captain set up in front of the net and screened Mazanec as Honka fired a slap shot that may have been deflected.

Honka was officially given credit for the goal, his first of the season.

Kamenev scored his second power play goal with 6:25 remaining, cutting Texas’ lead to 3-2.

Milwaukee tied the game with 5.9 seconds remaining during a 6-on-4 power play. The shot beat Muse through a screen and may have been deflected.

Milwaukee had a golden chance to end the game in overtime, but couldn’t convert on a power play as Muse and the penalty killers stood tall.

Texas returns home this weekend for a pair of games against the Bakersfield Condors.

Texas Stars set to face former captain Maxime Fortunus in Iowa

Maxime Fortunus will captain the Western Conference All-Stars last season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Maxime Fortunus will captain the Western Conference All-Stars last season. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Read this story in the Austin American-Statesman.

For the first time in his career, Travis Morin will play a game against Maxime Fortunus when the Texas Stars visit the Iowa Wild this weekend.

“It’ll be a little weird, I’m sure,” Morin said. “I played against him all the time in practice. But (the) game will be a little different. Obviously, (we’re) good friends and we both want to win. When we get out there, we’ll put that aside for 60 minutes and then be friends again.”

Fortunus was one of the original Stars and played six seasons for the team, including three as captain. This past offseason the team decided not to re-sign the defenseman, and Morin replaced him as captain.

John Gillies and Maxime Lagace duel as Texas Stars fall to Stockton Heat

Maxime Lagace stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 1-0 loss. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Maxime Lagace stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 1-0 loss. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — Even if you sped a DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and fixed the flux capacitors, you would still have a hard time getting past Maxime Lagace or Jon Gillies.

The rookie goaltenders dazzled in a 1-0 duel that Marty and Doc would likely schedule their time travel around. And, heck, with time travel, the duo would likely travel back to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2015 once again, just to re-watch the game.

In the end, Stockton prevailed on a power play goal by Freddie Hamilton.

It was the only shot to beat either goalie as Gillies posted a 36-save shutout. Lagace took the tough-luck loss as he stopped 32 of 33 shots.

“He played really well,” Gillies said. “I’m learning more and more, every goalie is good in this league and he was no exception. He was unbelievable and he made some huge saves.”

Each goalie got a little bit of help from the posts in the first period, then they started trading highlights.

Gillies stopped Devin Shore on a breakaway with a sprawling glove save, then Lagace countered as he kicked away a one-timer in the first period.

Jon Gillies posted a 36-save shutout for Stockton. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Jon Gillies posted a 36-save shutout for Stockton. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

“Just trying to think about the next shot you’re going to get,” Lagace said. “Sometimes there was not too much action on my end and I tried to stay focussed.”

Lagace put on a clinic during a Stockton power play in the second period.

He made a pair of glove saves, and kicked out the toe on a seemingly sure goal by Heat stud rookie Oliver Kylington.

Not to be outdone, Gillies left Stars captain Travis Morin looking skyward after a glove save with four minutes into the second period that could only be described one way — Great Scott!!

“Him and I actually had a little conversation about it, he didn’t get all of it,” Gillies said. “He said nice save. Just tried to get something in front of it because it was kind of a broken play and I saw it get passed to the backdoor. Thankful I was able to come up with the save.”

That save allowed Hamilton’s goal to stand up as the game winner.

The brother of NHLer Dougie, Hamilton fired a wrist shot that traveled through a screen and finally hit the back of the net.

Even after allowing the goal, Lagace dazzled.

With 3:30 remaining he made a pair of stops on point-blank chances, keeping Texas within striking distance.

And the Stars had one last chance with Lagace pulled, but couldn’t beat Gillies.

“If you look at the overall game, we didn’t get much puck luck,” Laxdal said. “We hit three posts in the first period … you’re going to have those games. I thought Maxime Lagace played very well for us. And our effort was there, we just didn’t get the result.”

Devin Shore goes from penalty box to overtime hero in Texas Stars 5-4 win

Devin Shore and Brendan Ranford celebrate Shore's game-winning goal in overtime. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Devin Shore and Brendan Ranford celebrate Shore’s game-winning goal in overtime. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — It was the longest five-minute stretch of Devin Shore’s professional career.

After taking a tripping penalty with 50.9 seconds remaining in a tied game, Shore had to sit in the penalty box during the dry scrape that lasted 5 minutes, 19 seconds before overtime began in the Texas Stars 5-4 season-opening victory against the San Antonio Rampage.

“Felt like I was on an island,” Shore said. “I was really nervous … felt a lot longer than five minutes. Pit in my stomach. It was a bad feeling.”

He then watched Travis Morin, Esa Lindell, and Stephen Johns kill the remainder of his penalty, before he charged out of the box with more jump, turning the Texas Stars first 3-on-3 overtime game into a 4-on-4 competition.

“A lot more energy and a lot more motivation,” Shore said. “I was so nervous in the box, so I owe a lot to them.”

He also had more to celebrate when he scored the game-winning goal on a breakaway — converting a high-flip pass by Stephen Johns into a Peter Forsberg-esque finish.

“Once I got the puck I was just playing hockey,” Shore said. “I remember getting the puck and us celebrating in the corner.”

Johns’ flip pass was just as impressive as the finish, and the defenseman said he knew Shore would be pushing forward.

“I knew everyone on the ice was pretty tired and Shoresy had just gotten out of the box, so I knew he was going to have some energy,” Johns said. “And I just saw him take off and tried to get it to him. Thought I could try a flip, and luckily it worked out.”

It capped a come-from-behind win for the Stars, who trailed 3-1 entering the third period.

Brendan Ranford scored twice to tie the game, first on a short-side wrist shot, and then on a breakaway before Radek Faksa gave Texas a temporary 4-3 lead with his second goal of the night.

Ben Street tied the game with 68 seconds remaining for San Antonio and almost won the game when Shore was in the box, but Lindell made a goal-mouth clear.

Despite the scare, Texas took overtime and the team’s effort impressed Stars coach Derek Laxdal.

“What a third period for the kids,” Laxdal said. “They battled their butts off and responded in the third period. When you have a huge change of players and influx of young players, it took some time to find the game a little bit.”

Earlier Andrew Agozzino gave San Antonio a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the season when he corralled a loose puck and beat John Muse on the second shot of the game.

San Antonio doubled the lead less than four minutes later on power play goal by Maxim Noureau.

Overall, it was a rough first period for Texas.

San Antonio was the better team off the opening face-off and could have been up 3-0 if Agozzino had converted on a breakaway 90 seconds into the game.

Texas seized momentum in the second period and cut into San Antonio’s lead when Faksa scored on a wrist shot.

The goal was set up on a slick passing play by Greg Rallo and Curtis McKenzie, who worked the puck behind the net before connecting with Faksa in the slot.

It energized the Stars who continued to pressure Rampage goalie Calvin Pickard, but couldn’t find an equalizing goal in the second period.

That hurt Texas when San Antonio re-built it’s two-goal lead on a 5-on-3 power play goal by Dennis Everberg.