Dickinson and Lagace help Texas Stars steal overtime win against Lake Erie

Branden Troock and Cory Kane look for a rebound against Lake Erie. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Branden Troock and Cory Kane look for a rebound against Lake Erie. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK – Maxime Lagace and Jason Dickinson helped the Texas Stars steal a 4-3 overtime victory against the Lake Erie Monsters on Saturday.

Lagace turned away 33 shots — including several point blank glove saves at key moments — while Dickinson converted on a wraparound in overtime to complete the come-from-behind victory.

After a disheartening first 40 minutes, Texas battled back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in the third period to tie the game and force overtime.

Brett Ritchie scored 13th goal of the season when he put home a rebound with 11:51 remaining.

Texas then tied the game when it captured momentum after a bad call by the officials. Lagace was called for tripping with 7:59 remaining when a Lake Erie player skated through the crease and lost his footing.

Despite being down a man Texas was the aggressor and tied the game. The Stars forced a turnover and Curtis McKenzie was sprung on a 2-on-1 break with Esa Lindell.

McKenzie waited out the Lake Erie defender and connected with Lindell as the Finnish defenseman scored his 10th goal of the season.

Lake Erie almost snuck away with a victory in regulation, but Lagace made his biggest save of the night with 14.8 seconds remaining when he snagged Michael Chaput’s point-blank chance with his glove.

Much earlier, Lake Erie struck on the power play after Stephen Johns was called for boarding with 5:46 remaining in the period.

And the Monsters essentially had a 5-on-3 advantage when T.J. Tynan scored on the rebound. Curtis McKenzie had lost his stick and was hampered after blocking a shot, which gave Lake Erie added time and space on the man advantage.

Lake Erie doubled its lead in the second period on a point shot by Jamie Sifers, but the damage could have been worse.

Lagace was forced to make a trio of highlight-reel saves in the middle stanza after defensive breakdowns by Texas.

He turned away Josh Anderson on a shorthanded breakaway with his catching glove 23 seconds into the period. Five minutes later he made another sparkling glove save, this time on Tynan, while he was forced to make sprawling save with his left pad later in the period.

After a lackluster first 40 minutes Texas finally found the back of the net on its fourth power play of the game early in the third period.

Julius Honka fired point blast that snuck past Brad Thiessen while McKenzie had set up traffic in front of the net.

Lake Erie made it 3-1 five minutes later when Lukas Sedlak scored on a rebound, which set the stage for Texas’ two-goal comeback.

Lines:
Hulak-Morin-Ranford
McKenzie-Dickinson-Ritchie
Elie-Smith-Stransky
Molin-Kane-Troock

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Bystrom-Blacker

Lagace

Texas Stars Morning Skate: Former Star Toby Petersen returns to CPC as assistant coach with Lake Erie

Toby Petersen during warmups before his final game in the Cedar Park Center on May 10, 2014. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Toby Petersen during warmups before his final game in the Cedar Park Center on May 10, 2014. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The last time Toby Petersen was in the Cedar Park Center he hoisted the Calder Cup and announced he was retiring from professional hockey.

Two years later he’s back in Central Texas as assistant coach with the Lake Erie Monsters, preparing for a game this evening against the Texas Stars.

“He was such an amazing leader in our room when we were on that championship team,” Stars forward Curtis McKenzie said. “He taught us a lot in that first year. He taught us how to be professionals, so you knew the transition to coaching would go really well.”

Petersen was forced into a de facto coaching role in his final season with Texas. He missed most of the Calder Cup Playoffs after he broke his foot against the Grand Rapids Griffins and started working as pre-scout on the Toronto Marlies and St. John’s IceCaps, Texas’ future opponents.

“He had figured out all the players and their tendencies, I think that was really critical to our success that season,” McKenzie said.

Tonight the Stars will try to limit Petersen’s success with the Monsters. Lake Erie has won four straight games and taken six out of their last 10.

Goaltender Brad Thiessen and one of the league’s top penalty-killing units have been the catalyst for the charge. Thiessen started the year in the ECHL, but has posted a 1.58 goals against average and .939 save percentage in 14 games. If he has enough minutes played, he would lead the AHL in both categories.

He’ll face Maxime Lagace tonight, who is making his third straight start for Texas. The rookie goalie won back-to-back games against the Manitoba Moose earlier this week and hasn’t lost since getting recalled from the ECHL in late December.

He’s also been a battler. The goaltender has dealt with a lower-body injury over the past couple weeks and he was cut by a puck on the chin in the overtime win against Manitoba on Wednesday, which required four stitches — the first four of his career.

“I guess I’m one of the guys now,” Lagace joked on Saturday morning.

Texas will have better depth tonight after being limited to two true centers against Manitoba. Gemel Smith will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch, while Cory Kane has returned from injury.

Projected lineup:
Hulak-Morin-Ranford
McKenzie-Dickinson-Ritchie
Elie-Smith-Stransky
Molin-Kane-Troock

Lindell-Johns
Backman-Honka
Bystrom-Blacker

Lagace

Texas Stars Mailbag: Charts, video, and more on Dickinson, plus thoughts on goalie situation

Jason Dickinson during warmups before a game against the San Antonio Rampage. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Jason Dickinson during warmups before a game against the San Antonio Rampage. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The mailbag is back from a two-week hiatus and better than ever, I hope.

And what better way to re-boot the mailbag than with a film study on Jason Dickinson?

When I posed the call for questions last night I received two immediate tweets about the rookie forward and his progress this season.

The answer to the first question is yes, Dickinson is inching closer to NHL material. Especially on the defensive end of the ice. If the AHL gave out a Selke Trophy for best defensive forward Dickinson would be one of the top candidates.

Dickinson’s defensive résumé includes a plus-9 rating (if you want to include power play time, Dickinson has been on the  ice for 12 more goals than he’s allowed), he plays big minutes on the penalty kill, and has a league-leading three shorthanded goals. Dickinson has also been highly efficient on defensive zone face-offs since he moved back to center.

(I would present more evidence if the AHL provided any official resemblance of #FancyStats, but those don’t officially exist).

Also, look at this chart courtesy of Sean Tierney, from one week ago — before Dickinson’s recent offensive outburst against Manitoba.

n_k9Wd85

So, what are you looking at?

This chart shows even strength goals relative to a player’s teammates. For the Texas Stars, it means Mattias Backman and Radek Faksa are on the ice for positive outcomes (AKA goals) significantly more than the average player.

Dickinson is also above the team average and creates more chances (and goals) than he allows. That’s even more impressive since he gets roughly two-thirds of his starts in the defensive zone (I hand track this during home games).

If that was confusing, please bear with me. We’re about to get into the more visual part of the presentation.

I went through and watched Dickinson’s shifts in the last two games against the Manitoba Moose. During that time he was one of the Stars best players and scored a trio of goals, including this game-winner on Tuesday:

But, the understated part of Dickinson’s game has been his ability to control the puck and make plays in tight spaces and against physical opponents.

It’s an element of his game that’s grown throughout the season, and it stood out in the two-game set with Manitoba.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.55.06 PM

This is near the end of a Texas power play and eventually led to Derek Hulak’s goal in the first period. A shot has rebounded to the corner where Dickinson has chased down the puck after being stationed on the half wall.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.55.52 PM

Dickinson is pressured by a Manitoba defender, but he draws attention and shuffles the puck to a wide-open Brendan Ranford who worked the puck to the point for a shot.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.56.41 PM

Ten seconds later it’s a similar play. Dickinson digs the puck off the half wall after a shot while a pair of Manitoba defenders close in.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.56.57 PM

Dickinson waits long enough to draw in the defender and sends a pass along the boards to Ranford behind the net, who then passed to Hulak for an easy goal.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.01.37 PM

Fast forward to the third period, where Dickinson helped create another chance. There was a loose puck to the right of the Manitoba net, where Dickinson beat three defenders to the puck and shook off a hit to cycle the puck around.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 10.01.59 PM

This is later in the same shift. Dickinson (next to the TSN logo) went shoulder-to-shoulder with a defender for a loose puck and won the battle. Brett Ritchie (about to handle the puck) then put the puck into the crease where Curtis McKenzie scored the sixth goal of the game.

Thanks to video feeds in Manitoba, we also got a nice overhead angle of Dickinson’s goal on Wednesday. It’s a nice example of what he’s been able to do physically and how he has used his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to the best of his abilities.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.58.43 PM

As you can see in this play, the puck is loose in the crease next to the goalie and a pair of Manitoba defenders. There isn’t a Texas player in the frame.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.58.55 PM

Dickinson enters the frame and pokes at the loose puck, while his stick is being checked by another Manitoba player off the screen.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.59.21 PM

Dickinson stays strong on his stick and doesn’t get rattled by the defender, and pushes the puck over the goal line before taking a hit at the end of the play.

With all this being said, and circling back to the second question, I think Dickinson is a candidate for a call-up this season. However, he’s not the first option at this moment.

If Dallas needed a player to step into the lineup tomorrow Curtis McKenzie would probably get the call.

Ok, enough about Dickinson. Let’s dive into the rest of the mailbag:

I don’t see it happening this season. Dallas has eight defensemen in the NHL and they’ve been playing better lately — even Patrik Nemeth, who was discarded as a healthy scratch for most of the season.

However, here are the circumstances that would clear the way for Johns to make his NHL debut this season:

-Dallas has an injury on defense and has an extra roster spot available.
-Dallas general manager Jim Nill wants to see what Johns can do at the NHL level, so he calls up the defenseman while the injured player is on injured reserve.
-Johns would then return to the AHL when the injured player returned, similar to the move Dallas pulled with Esa Lindell before the All-Star break.

If I’ve learned anything about the Stars goaltending situation it’s this — nothing is set in stone.

For now, Maxime Lagace is the No. 1 goaltender in Texas. He’s had the most consistent performances amongst the group and the team seems to rally around him.

Now, the bigger question is can Lagace stay healthy to keep that No. 1 role? He’s been battling a lower-body injury for almost three weeks now, and in each of his past three starts there have been moments I thought he would get pulled after talking with the trainer.

For Philippe Desrosiers, he just has to make the most of his opportunities. Come playoff time Texas will go with the goalie that’s playing the best at that moment.

If things continue the way they have, Jack Campbell isn’t going to play another game with the Texas Stars this season — in fact, he may have already played his last game in victory green.

However, the Stars could get creative and assign him to another AHL team before the AHL’s movement deadline (which is one week after the NHL trade deadline).

This could be part of an AHL trade, where another NHL team assigns a player to Texas instead of their current club. Texas has done this a couple times, including two seasons ago when Kevin Henderson and Francis Wathier where swapped/re-assigned before the AHL movement deadline.

The more likely scenario would be Campbell getting assigned to another AHL club without a return to Texas. I’d imagine Texas wouldn’t want to face him, so it would likely be to an Eastern Conference AHL team that needed help in goal because of an injury or as test drive for their NHL club.

While that’s possible, I don’t think it’s likely. I think Campbell will spend the rest of the season with the Idaho Steelheads and make a deep run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Texas won. Maybe you should miss games more often?

(I’m just kidding).

Texas will likely finish as the second seed in the Pacific Division, meaning they’ll probably face the San Jose Barracuda, Bakersfield Condors, or San Diego Gulls in the first round.

I think Texas would match up well with all three of those teams in a playoff series. The Stars are faster team, and the speed would be the difference.

The bigger issue would be facing the Ontario Reign in the second round. Ontario is a big, physical team — just like it’s parent club the Los Angeles Kings — and it’s had it’s way with Texas this season.

It’s a long shot for Brendan Ranford to make the Dallas roster next season.

He’s playing well this season and represented Texas in the AHL All-Star Classic, but there are other players ahead of him on the NHL depth chart.

Ranford also needs to play in a top-six role to succeed, Dallas simply doesn’t have the space to give him that type of role. Ranford doesn’t play much of a defensive role in Texas and isn’t used on the penalty kill, in fact on key defensive zone face-offs the coaches often switch up wingers to get a better defensive player on the ice.

It’s not an obsession, it’s simply an appreciation for a word that is underserved in society.

That’s essentially what it is, the AHL tapping into the video feed for the video board and overlaying the audio from the broadcasters.

In some cases it’s good — the Manitoba feed was very good the other night — while others are very bad. In general, I’ve seen a couple issues with California-based feeds this season, including a Texas-San Diego game that was simply never aired because of technical issues.

Why did that happen? I don’t know.

My biggest complaint with AHL Live is the lack of scoreboards in some of the feeds. If you don’t have a scoreboard or time on the feeds, it’s very hard to go through and find highlights or watch tape at a later time.

Nothing new to report on Justin Dowling. He’s still dealing with a lower-body injury and hasn’t been skating.

When he was initially injured the worry was that he would be out a much longer period of time. But, the initial MRI results came back better than expected.

Q&A: Predecessor reflects on Roy Sommer, the AHL’s winningest coach

Photo courtesy San Jose Barracuda

Photo courtesy San Jose Barracuda

San Jose Barracuda coach Roy Sommer became the AHL’s winningest coach last night in a 4-2 win against the Ontario Reign.

It was Sommer’s 637th AHL victory, moving him past Fred “Bun” Cook who had 636 career victories with the Providence Reds and Cleveland Barons.

Sommer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate on May 28, 1998 and has spent 18 seasons leading San Jose’s AHL efforts. He has guided the Kentucky Thoroughblades (1998-2001), Cleveland Barons (2001-06), Worcester Sharks (2006-15) and Barracuda (2015- ) over 1,388 games – also a league record.

Here is a trivia question: The Sharks have had their primary affiliate in the AHL since 1996. Who is the only other person to coach one of San Jose’s AHL affiliates?

Jim Wiley, who coached the Thoroughblades from 1996 through 1998. Wiley also was the interim coach of the San Jose Sharks during the 1995-96 season, and worked closely with Sommer for a period of three years.

I caught up with Wiley earlier this week in a phone conversation about Sommer’s AHL success.

Q: When Roy took over in Kentucky, could you have imagined Roy would still be coaching the Sharks AHL team 18 years later?

A: I don’t think anyone could have predicted or imagined something like that. It’s not an easy job or league to coach in, so to do it for that long you have to do something right. I think the first thing about Roy Sommer that comes to mind is that he’s a great person. And you can’t ignore that, great people, who treat people the right way, like Roy are going to find success.

Q: What do you remember about Roy as a coach?

A: He’s good at finding the right fit. He has his ways about him, but he doesn’t stick with them to a fault. He’s good at finding the the right mix that works with the players he has and the goals that the Sharks have for them.

Q: What has that longevity done for the Sharks?

A: It’s great, isn’t it? For two decades the Sharks have known their prospects have been in good hands. They don’t have to worry about players learning to do things the right way and or being professionals, because Roy Sommer is the coach and example (players) can learn from.

Q: Any plans to congratulate Roy when be breaks the record?

A: I’m sure once he breaks the record he’ll have a ton of calls and congratulations coming in. I’ll be among those, but I’ll also make sure to say something to him in person sometime soon. Probably next time I’m in the same building or in California.

Texas Stars survive 7-6 shootout with Manitoba, Dickinson nets game winner

Here is the official release:

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – After a wild third period saw six combined goals and left the game tied through regulation, Jason Dickinson tallied the shootout-winner to lead the Texas Stars to a 7-6 road win over the Manitoba Moose on Wednesday in front of 5,860 in attendance at MTS Centre.

With the win, the Stars sweep their two-game set in Winnipeg. Dickinson tallied a goal and two assists, along with the shootout-winner, and the Texas rookie recorded five points (3-2=5) in the two-game set overall. Maxime Lagace won his seventh straight start in net. Brendan Ranford extended his point streak to four games for the Stars (28-18-3-3) with two assists.

Texas returns home to host the Lake Erie Monsters in a two-game set beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. CST at Cedar Park Center.

Enter the third period in a 3-3 tie, the Stars rattled off three straight goals to open up a 6-3 lead with just under 12 minutes to play in regulation. Ludwig Bystrom put Texas in front on a wrist shot from the slot at 2:19. Julius Honka then drove the net and wrapped a puck around Manitoba’s Eric Comrie at 6:04, and Curtis McKenzie deflected a puck over the Moose goaltender at 8:16.

From there, the Moose (12-27-3-5) started their comeback run when Josh Morrissey’s point shot deflected past Lagace at 9:58 to make it a 6-4 Texas lead. Nic Petan banked home his second goal of the night at 11:56 off the skate of the Stars’ Bystrom, and Julian Melchiori snapped a point shot through a screen in front with 2:02 to play to knot the score back up.

Early in the overtime frame, Lagace kept the Stars alive on a sliding glove save to stop a 3-on-1 rush for the Moose, denying John Albert’s one-timer from the right circle. Travis Morin also scored for Texas in the shootout in round two. Austen Brassard was the only scorer for the Moose in round one.

Manitoba opened up the scoring quickly off a long offensive possession that ended with a Scott Kosmachuk goal off Petan’s centering feed from the corner just over a minute into the game. The Moose made it a 2-0 score on another crossing feed as Petan buried a goal of his own from the right circle at 9:25, but Derek Hulak responded for the Stars with a power play goal for his 11th of the year.

The Stars fell into a 3-1 hole when Brendan Kitchton scored on his own rebound to finish a counter-attack rush at 5:32 of the second, but Texas used the remainder of the frame knot things back up. Esa Lindell drilled in a one-time shot from the left circle off a rebound at 8:59, and Dickinson stuffed in a loose puck in the goal crease with three minutes to play in the frame for his 13th of the season.

Texas finished 0-for-2 on the power play. Manitoba went 0-for-1.

Eric Comrie finished 11 of 13 in net for the Moose after coming on in the third to relieve starter Jussi Olkinuora, who stopped 17 of 21.

Jason Dickinson’s late strike leads Texas Stars to 3-2 win against Manitoba

The Texas Stars scored a pair of power play goals late in the third period of a 3-2 comeback victory against the Manitoba Moose.

Jason Dickinson scored twice, including the game-winning goal with 46.2 seconds remaining after Brett Ritchie had tied the game with his own power play tally.

On Ritchie’s goal Texas took advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage as the winger fired a wrist shot through a screen after a feed from Travis Morin.

Dickinson then finished off a partial breakaway after a pass from Brendan Ranford.

Maxime Lagace turned away 27 shots in his first start after missing two games with a lower-body injury. The goaltender also picked up an assist on Dickinson’s game-winning goal when made an outlet pass to Ranford.

Both of Manitoba’s goals came on fortuitous bounces in the crease. The first was mistakenly shoveled into the Texas net by Lagace when he tried to cover a rebound, while the second bounced off a skate and jumped over the Stars goalie.

In total Texas 3-for-7 on the power play, and the Stars fired 33 shots at Moose goalie Eric Comrie.

Texas Stars go hard to the net and get rewarded in victory

Matej Stransky crashes the net in the Texas Stars 4-3 victory. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Matej Stransky crashes the net in the Texas Stars 4-3 victory. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK – At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds Brendan Ranford isn’t the most physically imposing force on the Texas Stars.

But he’s pesky in front of the net. He’s a “little rat down there,” according to teammate Stephen Johns, and when you go to the net good things happen – just like Ranford’s first-period goal in a 4-3 win against the San Antonio Rampage.

“It’s what (coach Derek Laxdal) stresses,” Johns said. “Getting bodies to the front of the net and throwing pucks to the front of the net, only good things can happen.”

If it works for a middleweight, like Ranford, going to the net works even better with heavyweights like Brett Ritchie, Matej Stransky, and Curtis McKenzie crashing the crease.

“It’s tough to move those guys and you got to reward them for going to the dirty areas,” Johns said.

That’s how Texas beat San Antonio on Saturday. All four goals came when Texas drove the net hard.

Stransky set the screen on the first goal, Ritchie hammered home another and had a screen on the fourth, while Ranford scored when he deflected Johns point blast in the first period.

“Make it hard on (Rampage goalie Roman Will) and get a couple of rebounds,” Stransky said. “I think we gave him a hard time there.”

The marching orders went into effect in the first period as Texas built a 3-0 lead and outshot San Antonio 17-9.

Midway through the opening stanza Stransky set a screen in front of Will, which allowed Esa Lindell to fire home his eighth goal of the season.

Four minutes later Ritchie cashed in on a rebound after Travis Morin won a battle for a loose puck on top of the crease.

The Stars then capitalized on a foolish penalty by Rampage forward Patrick Bordelau late in the period. With the antagonist in the box for roughing, Ranford tipped Johns initial shot past Will for his 15th goal of the season.

Borna Rendulic helped San Antonio climb back into the game in the second period.

The Croatian scored a pair of goals on individual efforts. First he picked the far corner behind Philippe Desrosiers with a blast he teed up on the wing.

A little more than five minutes later he went on a solo mission through the slot and fired home his 10th goal of the season.

Texas countered on another gritty effort.

Morin won the face-off back to Mattias Backman and went hard to the net as Backman shuffled a pass to Julius Honka. A defender in front of Will blocked down Honka’s initial shot, but Morin cleaned up the rebound for his second goal of the weekend.

San Antonio did cut into the lead with 37 seconds remaining on a shot by Maxime Noreau, but Texas was able to hold on for the victory.

Desrosiers made 29 saves in the victory, his fourth of the season, while Will turned away 33 shots for San Antonio.

Notes: Matt Mangene made the switch to center on Saturday due to injuries and won three of five face-offs … Stephen Johns became the sixth Texas player to wear an “A” as the alternate captain on Saturday. Greg Rallo, Brennan Evans, Justin Dowling, Radek Faksa, and Curtis McKenzie are the others … scouts from the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Florida Panthers were in attendance for the game. So was Dallas Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson … the announced attendance was 5,951.

Lines:
McKenzie-Morin-Ritchie
Hulak-Dickinson-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Stransky
Ully-Mangene-Troock

Lindell-Honka
Backman-Johns
Bystrom-Blacker

Desrosiers

Texas Stars Morning Skate: Mangene will take turn at center, Lagace still questionable

Matt Mangene will play center tonight for the Texas Stars. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Matt Mangene will play center tonight for the Texas Stars. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — To borrow a baseball term, Matt Mangene is the utility infielder at the end of the bench who does it all.

In 21 games, Mangene has done the following for the Texas Stars:

–Played defense.
–Played forward (both left wing and right wing).
–Quarterbacked the second power play unit.
–Been used as an example that Julius Honka should model for carrying the puck.
–Filled in as the color commentator on the Stars radio broadcast (seriously).

Tonight he’ll add fourth-line center to that list when Texas tries to bounce back against the San Antonio Rampage at Cedar Park Center.

Texas lost 5-2 in the Alamo City on Friday night, and lost center Cory Kane in the process to a lower-body injury. Combined with Radek Faksa’s call-up on Friday afternoon, Texas is left with three healthy centers for tonight.

That’s where Mangene will step in on the fourth line between Cole Ully and Branden Troock.

Mangene does have limited experience at center. Earlier in his career with the Adirondack Phantoms and Bridgeport Sound Tigers he played a handful of games at center.

“I was mainly a PK guy, kind of like a third defenseman out there,” Mangene said. “I haven’t taken any draws in a couple years, but I’m sure it won’t be to hard.”

Mangene hasn’t even taken face-offs in practice this season. He joked on Saturday morning that he’s tried to, but the coaching staff hasn’t taken him seriously.

“Matty just told me he was 53 percent the one year he was with Bridgeport, so we’re going to ride with that,” Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “But, I’m not going to lie to you. Jesse Blacker told me he was 5-for-8 in the shootout and I put him in there a couple times and he didn’t score, so I’m a little bit hesitant. But, we’ll have some fun with it. Matty’s got good speed. He’s got some defensive responsibilities down low being a defenseman, he breaks the puck out well, so I’m sure he’ll do fine.”

Laxdal added that he’ll manage where Mangene takes face offs, and assess the situation as the game progresses.

Texas will also have to monitor Maxime Lagace’s health. The goalie was supposed to start last night, but didn’t dress as he continues to be hampered by a lower-body injury. He was going to skate later this morning (the ice was still being switched over after a concert at CPC) and if Lagace is feeling well enough, he’ll start. If not, Philippe Desrosiers will get the nod in goal.

Projected lineup:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Stransky
Hulak-Dickinson-Ritchie
Ully-Mangene-Troock

Lindell-Honka
Backman-Johns
Evans-Bystrom

Lagace OR Desrosiers

Rampage run over Stars despite Morin’s 400th career point

Here is the official release:

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The San Antonio Rampage used a three-goal third period to snap open a tie game and top the Texas Stars by a 5-2 final on Friday at AT&T Center to take game one of a home-and-home series between the in-state rivals.

Travis Morin tallied his 400th career AHL point with a shorthanded goal for the Stars. The loss snaps a three-game win streak for Texas in the I-35 series over San Antonio.

Texas (25-18-3-3) and San Antonio (20-20-7-0) close out their weekend set Saturday at Cedar Park Center at 7 p.m. CST.

Matej Stransky’s power play goal from Brendan Ranford at 11:54 of the first opened up the scoring and gave Texas a 1-0 lead. The Rampage responded with two quick goals as Reid Petryk slipped in a breakaway goal less than two minutes later and Maxim Noreau drilled a power play goal from the left point at 14:37 to make it a 2-1 score.

In period two, Travis Morin converted an odd-man rush with Stephen Johns at 7:28 to knot the game at 2-2 on his 13th of the season, but the rest of the game belonged to the Rampage.

Garrett Thompson broke open the tie game on a rebound power play goal at 6:50 of the third to make it 3-2 Rampage. Mikko Rantanen tapped in his 14th of the year off a Texas turnover and an odd-man rush midway through. Petryk fired home his second of the game at 16:37 to give San Antonio three power play goals in the game.

Philippe Desrosiers suffered the loss in net for the Stars stopping 30 of 35 shots. Roman Will earned the San Antonio win going 32 of 34.

Texas finished 1-for-6 on the power play. The Rampage went 3-for-6.

McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Elie-Smith-Stransky
Hulak-Dickinson-Ritchie
Ully-Kane-Troock

Lindell-Honka
Backman-Johns
Evans-Bystrom

Desrosiers
(Muse)

Morning Skate: Texas Stars open second half with trip to San Antonio

The Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage will battle twice this weekend. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage will battle twice this weekend. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The marathon has turned into a sprint for the Texas Stars.

After playing a league-high 48 games before the AHL All-Star break, Texas kicks off a stretch of 28 games in a little under 12 weeks when the team battles the San Antonio Rampage tonight at the AT&T Center.

“We’ve played a lot of hockey,” Texas coach Derek Laxdal said. “And after some R-and-R it goes from a marathon to a sprint. Everybody is trying to get into the playoffs, so every game means that much more. And now you’re going to tax your guys a little bit more, trying to run four lines and keep guys rested … everything becomes magnified and every loss is huge because of the percentage points.”

And if percentage points are magnified, this is a must-win weekend for Texas with back-to-back games against a last-place team. The Rampage limped into the All-Star break and have the the third-worst record in the Western Conference with a .489 points percentage.

Meanwhile Texas has caught fire. The Stars are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have started to settle nicely into second in the Pacific Division.

Goaltending has been the catalyst of that charge. Maxime Lagace and Philippe Desrosiers have provided stability in net during that time, with Lagace taking over as the de facto starter with his recent performances — even though he’s been battling a lower-body injury.

If he’s healthy enough, Lagace will start tonight. The team didn’t have a morning skate Friday, but Laxdal said the team would monitor Lagace’s status when it arrived in San Antonio.

The Stars may also have to monitor the status of Radek Faksa. The Dallas Stars lost Jason Spezza to a lower-body injury on Thursday, meaning the Czech center will likely get recalled by the NHL club before tonight’s game.

Potential lineup:

McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Ully-Dickinson-Ritchie
Hulak-Smith-Stransky
Troock-Kane-Elie

Lindell-Honka
Blacker-Johns
Backman-Bystrom

Lagace OR Desrosiers (based on Lagace’s health)