Texas Eliminates Defending Champ Grand Rapids Griffins in Six

May 21, 2014

Stars to Face Toronto Marlies in 2014 Western Conference Finals

2013-14 Record: 48-18-3-7, 106 points (29-8-0-1 Home, 19-10-3-6 Road), First Place – West Division

2014 Playoff Record: 7-2 (0.778)

Week 33 Recap:

Week 33 was a taxing schedule of four games in six days against Grand Rapids for the Texas Stars. Had the Stars not eliminated the Griffins in Game 6, it would have been five games in seven days. Instead, Texas is now moving on to the Western Conference Finals against the Toronto Marlies

In Game 3, Texas began pressuring Grand Rapids goaltender Petr Mrazek early in the first period. However, the Griffins turned the scales in their favor as Tomas Jurco won a battle behind the net and scored on a wrap-around, beating starter Jack Campbell to the right post at 7:06. Jurco potted home his second goal of the night on the power play at 13:44, taking a cross-ice pass from Riley Sheahan and scoring a back-door goal for a 2-0 lead. It was 3-0 Griffins a mere 25 seconds into the second period as Teemu Pulkkinen made a behind-the-back pass to Andrej Nestrasil, who then beat Campbell with a wrist shot to the blocker side. Pulkkinen then made it 4-0 with a one-timer from the right faceoff circle, tucking his shot just inside the left post and forcing Texas to replace Campbell with backup Cristopher Nilstorp. The Stars continued to have their opportunities denied by Mrazek and the Griffins made them pay for failing to score. Jurco was again in position to tap home the puck into an open net at the right post after it rolled away from a scrum behind the net. Jack Campbell returned to the net for the start of the third period and the armor of Mrazek finally cracked. Justin Dowling made a clever pass to send Mike Hedden in alone and Hedden faked out the goalie before scoring on a forehand shot to the blocker side at 2:24 of the third period. Just over two minutes later, Curtis McKenzie made a beautiful centering pass out of the left wing corner to connect with Brendan Ranford, who cut to the net and slammed the puck through the legs of the Griffins’ netminder to make it 5-2. Texas had several more quality scoring chances, out-shooting Grand Rapids 12-3 in the third period and even pulled Campbell for an extra attacker for the final four minutes of play, but they could not get any closer and lost for the first time in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.

The teams traded chances, and momentum, in the first period of Game 4, but neither squad could find the net. A Griffins’ penalty in the final seconds of the opening frame set the table for the game’s first goal. A mere 13 seconds into the second period, Dustin Jeffrey slipped right through the middle of the Grand Rapids defense and beat goaltender Petr Mrazek one-on-one, faking a shot and the skating around the frozen goalie for an easy tap-in and power play goal. The Griffins responded at 3:48 with a power play goal of their own as a slick passing sequence led to a tap-in for Jeff Hoggan to tie the game 1-1. Halfway through the period David McIntyre batted in a rebound out of mid-air and immediately had his goal waived off by the referee standing behind the net. However, after a conference with all four on-ice officials, the decision would be overturned and a controversial goal awarded for a 2-1 Grand Rapids lead. The home team extended their lead to 3-1 three and a half minutes later as Andrej Nestrasil swooped into the crease and jammed his second effort under the right pad of Cristopher Nilstorp. The Stars bounced back in the final minute of the period as former Griffin, Derek Meech scored on a wrap-around at 19:16, assisted by Mike Hedden, to bring the score to 3-2. Texas upped the pressure in the third period, out-shooting Grand Rapids 10-6 in the final frame. The Stars pulled Nilstorp in the game’s final minutes for an extra attacker, but they could not find the equalizer. It was the first time since February 2nd and 4th that Texas has lost back-to-back games in regulation, setting up a pivotal Game 5.

Just like in Game 4, the Stars scored first in Game 5. Mike Hedden tipped-in a shot from Jyrki Jokipakka at 6:36 of the first period for a power play goal. It was Hedden’s fifth goal of the playoffs and it was assisted by Jokipakka and Derek Meech. A mere 59 seconds later, Curtis McKenzie centered a pass from behind the net and connected with Brendan Ranford for a quick-strike goal and a 2-0 lead. The Griffins fought back in the second period, getting on the board with a power play goal from Mitch Callahan, who tipped-in a Tomas Jurco shot at 11:22. Four minutes later, Xavier Ouellet stepped out of the penalty box and received a long pass for a breakaway that was hindered by Patrik Nemeth. Ouellet was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt was skillfully denied by Texas goaltender Jack Campbell. With 2:03 left in the frame, Grand Rapids tied the game when Teemu Pulkkinen unleashed a ferocious slap shot from the right circle that beat Campbell. With just 1:59 left in regulation, Campbell made a big save on Cory Emmerton, but came up injured and was forced to leave the ice. Cristopher Nilstorp came on in relief and made one save in the final two minutes to usher the contest to overtime. The two teams traded chances in the opening shifts of the extra session, before Meech and Kevin Henderson combined to find Chris Mueller just inside the right size of the offensive zone. With the defense backing off to defend the two Stars driving the net, Mueller was allowed to skate right toward the net and unleash a blistering slap shot under the blocker of Mrazek and just inside the far left post to win the game 3-2 at 3:18, and sent Texas back home with a 3-2 series lead.

Coming off the crucial overtime win in Game 5, the Stars looked to finish of the Griffins and move on to the next round in Game 6 back at Cedar Park Center. However, a mere 36 seconds into the game, Teemu Pulkkinen put the Griffins in front on the very first shot of the game, a vicious slap shot from the right wing faceoff circle. At 3:56, Grand Rapids goaltender Petr Mrazek redirected Kevin Henderson’s centering pass into the middle of the slot where Chris Mueller was waiting and ripped a slap-shot past Mrazek to tie the game at one. Texas took the lead 62 seconds later as Dustin Jeffrey kept Mrazek guessing on a two-on-one and banked the puck off his pad and into the net. Mueller and Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp notched the assists on Jeffrey’s goal. Derek Meech extended the Stars’ lead to 3-1 on a slap shot that found its way through multiple screens and into the net at 10:37. Two minutes into the second period, rookie Radek Faksa scored an unassisted goal, the first of his Calder Cup Playoff career, beating Mrazek with a wrist shot from the high slot to put Texas on top 4-1. Mrazek was then replaced by backup goaltender Tom McCollum. Faksa would score his second goal of the game at 2:22 of the third period, hammering home a rebound on a shot from fellow rookie Matej Stransky. In his return from a month-long injury, rookie Brett Ritchie scored a power play goal on a wrist shot from the slot at 11:53, beating McCollum for a 6-1 lead. In a last-ditch effort, Grand Rapids pulled the goalie with 6:26 left in regulation, but Dustin Jeffrey spoiled their six-on-four advantage, firing a shot from the Stars’ defensive zone and into the empty net, for a shorthanded goal to cap off a convincing 7-1 victory. Jeffrey’s second goal of the night broke the Stars’ franchise record for most goals scored by Texas in a single playoff game. Cristopher Nilstorp (5-1) stopped 23-of-24 shots to record his fifth win of the playoffs in net for Texas.

Week 34 Preview:

For the second time in the team’s five-year history, Texas has reached the Western Conference Finals. The Stars overcame the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2010 Conference Finals in seven games to advance to the Calder Cup Finals against the Hershey Bears. This year Texas will square off with the Toronto Marlies. The Stars were 2-1-0-1 (5 pts.) in four regular season games against the Marlies, winning both home games by a combined score of 11-2, including a 6-0 shutout on February 1st at Cedar Park Center. Texas lost both road games to Toronto, falling 3-2 in a shootout at Ricoh Coliseum on November 17th and then 4-1 on February 17th at Air Canada Center, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

The best-of-seven series will begin on Friday, May 23rd at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Park Center for Game 1. Friday’s game is a $3 Draft Beer and $4 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wine Night, while all home playoff games this season are Texas Lottery Lucky Row Nights. Although technically part of the Week 35 schedule, Game 2 will be played on Monday, May 26th, also at 7:30 p.m. in Cedar Park.

LW Mike Hedden (5-4-9) ranks second on the team in points and is currently on a seven-game point streak with seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) and a +3 rating during that span. D Derek Meech (3-5-8) is currently on a three game point streak with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and a +5 rating during that span. C Dustin Jeffrey (5-1-6) has four points (3 goals, 1 assist) and +2 rating in his last three games. C Travis Morin (2-8-10) leads the team and is tied for seventh in the Calder Cup Playoffs in points, is tied for second in the league in assists and has four assists and a +1 rating in his last five games.

Week 34 Schedule:
(All games are broadcast LIVE over the Internet at www.TexasStarsHockey.com and the free radio button on the schedule page of www.ahllive.com and can be viewed via internet pay-per-view video on www.ahllive.com. All times listed in Central Time)

Friday, May 23 – 7:30 p.m. – Cedar Park Center – Cedar Park, TX

vs. Toronto Marlies (45-21-5-5, 96 pts.)
First Place, North Division – Third Seed, Western Conference

Monday, May 26 – 7:30 p.m. – Cedar Park Center – Cedar Park, TX

vs. Toronto Marlies (45-21-5-5, 96 pts.)
First Place, North Division – Third Seed, Western Conference
·         Team Notes: The Toronto Marlies have made quick work of their opponents in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Toronto swept Milwaukee Admirals in three games in round one and then swept the number two seed Chicago Wolves in four games in round two, outscoring both opponents 30-11 in seven total games. Peter Holland, Carter Ashton, Jerry D’Amigo and Trevor Smith, veterans of 121 NHL games this season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, have combined for 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists), which is 38.3% of Toronto’s total offense. D’Amigo is currently the AHL playoff leader in points with 12 (4 goals, 12 assists) in seven games. The Marlies have scored first in all seven playoff games thus far and have out-scored their opponents 12-5 in the third period. Toronto is 9-for-36 (25.0%) on the power play, which ranks fourth in the AHL and is 26-for-29 (89.7%) on the penalty kill ranking second. Goaltender Drew MacIntyre has started all seven games and is a perfect 7-0, with a 1.56 goals-against average, a 0.949 save percentage and two shutouts. Holland and Spencer Abbott, who ranked second on the team in points during the regular season, both missed the first round series against Milwaukee due to injuries, but suited up for all four games against Chicago. When Game 1 begins on Friday, May 23rd, the Marlies will have had seven days since their last game. Defenseman T.J. Brennan, who won the Eddie Shore Award for the AHL’s top blue liner, led the Marlies in regular season scoring (69 pts.) and has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in seven playoff games.
·         Leading Scorer: Jerry D’Amigo (LW) – 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) and a +11 rating in 7 GP.
·         Leading Goaltender: Drew MacIntyre (G) – 1.56 GAA, 0.949 save pct. 7-0-0 and 2 SO in 7 GP.
Who’s Hot: LW Jerry D’Amigo (4-8-12) leads the Calder Cup Playoffs in points  and plus-minus (+11), is tied for second in the league in assists and is currently on a seven-game point streak, with 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) and a +11 rating during that span. C Peter Holland (4-2-6) is currently on a four-game point streak, with six points (4 goals, 2 assists) and a +4 rating during that span. RW Carter Ashton (2-3-5) is currently on a four-game point streak, with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and a +4 rating during that span. C Trevor Smith (2-6-8) ranks second on the team in points and has eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) and a +8 rating in seven games.

Week 33 Game Results:

May 13, 2014                                      Game 3: Texas 2 @ Grand Rapids 5
May 14, 2014                                      Game 4: Texas 2 @ Grand Rapids 3
May 16, 2014                                      Game 5: Texas 3 @ Grand Rapids 2 – OT
May 18, 2014                                      Game 6: Grand Rapids 1 @ Texas 7

Stars Player of the Week: (Week 33)

Derek Meech – D – #9                                   4 GP, 5 Points (2 G, 3 A), +5

Veteran defensemen Derek Meech was outstanding at both ends of the ice during Week 33, helping to lead the Texas Stars to the Western Conference Finals. Playing against the Grand Rapids Griffins, of whom he appeared in 304 games for over five seasons, Meech recorded five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and a +5 rating in four games during the week. He posted two assists in Texas’ pivotal win in Game 5, including a helper on Chris Mueller’s overtime-winning goal and then in Game 6, Meech picked up a goal and an assist and was on the ice for five of the Stars’ seven goals in the game. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native has eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in nine playoff games this year, sitting tied for first in goals and second in points amongst all AHL defenseman and is tied for 12th overall in points.

Stars Quick Hits:

·         CONFERENCE FINALS BOUND – For the second time in their short five-year history, the Texas Stars are headed to the Western Conference Finals. In the inaugural 2009-10 season, the Stars came back from a 0-2 and 2-3 series deficit to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs in seven games in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. This season, Texas will have the benefit of home-ice advantage with Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 at Cedar Park Center.

·         PINBALL POINT STREAK RECORD – Mike Hedden extended his current point streak to seven games with an assist on Derek Meech’s first period goal in Game 6 against Grand Rapids, breaking the franchise record for longest point streak in the playoffs. Rookie Brendan Ranford broke the record in Game 3 against Grand Rapids with a six-game point streak and then Travis Morin tied Ranford’s mark in Game 4, before Hedden surpassed them both on Sunday. After a career year in the regular season, Hedden has nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) and a +6 rating in nine playoff games.

·         RECORD GOALS IN A GAME – The seven goals the Stars scored on Sunday night against the Griffins set a new franchise record for most goals scored in one playoff game. During the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs, Texas scored six goals against Rockford in Game 3 of the first round on April 21, 201 and then posted six against Chicago in the second round in Game 7 on May 11, 2010. The performance was also the largest margin of victory (6) for the Stars in a playoff game.

·         FIFTEENTH AND COUNTING – Captain Maxime Fortunus has skated in every Calder Cup Playoff game (48) in franchise history. Game 6 was his 103rd career Calder Cup Playoff game, which breaks the tie with John Stevens (1986-1999) and moves him to sole possession of 15th, one game behind Alain Nasreddine (1995-2008) for 14th on the all-time list.

·         LET’S FINISH THIS – The Texas Stars have capitalized on each of their two opportunities to eliminate their opponent from the playoffs. In round one, the Stars beat the Oklahoma City Barons 4-2 in Game 3 and convincingly defeated the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins 7-1, both games at Cedar Park Center. In 11 total elimination games, the Stars have a 7-4 record, including 3-0 at home. Texas is 6-1 in playoff games where its opponent can be eliminated and 3-3 when facing elimination; the Stars are 2-0 in Game 7’s, which were counted in both categories.

·         FAKSA’S FIRST – Playing in his ninth Calder Cup Playoff game, rookie Radek Faksa scored his first and second career playoff goals. He is also the seventh Texas Stars player to score two goals in a game this postseason. In 28 playoff games in the OHL, Faksa recorded 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in three years.

·         NO PRESSURE – Texas’ Game 5 victory in overtime marked the third overtime win for the Stars this postseason, two shy of tying the team record for overtime wins in a single postseason. The 2009-10 Texas Stars won five overtime games during the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Stars are 10-6 all-time in playoff overtime games; in all 10 overtime wins in team history, there have been nine different goal scorers, with Jamie Benn scoring two in 2010.

·         RETURN OF THE RITCHIE – Last playing on April 13th and missing the last ten total games with injury, rookie Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup in Game 6. He made his presence known, notching a power play goal in the third period. Ritchie skated in nine playoff games last season, picking up two goals including an overtime winner.

·         FOR THE SECOND TIME – Dustin Jeffrey scored a shorthanded, empty net goal at 13:44 of the third period in Sunday’s 7-1 win over Grand Rapids in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was the first shorthanded goal scored by the Stars in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs and the second in postseason team history. Francis Wathier scored the first shorthanded goal in Texas playoff history in Game 3 of the 2010 Calder Cup Finals at 11:15 of the first period on June 7, 2010. The Stars would watch a 3-1 lead turn into a 6-3 loss to the Hershey Bears in the series-shifting game; the Bears won four straight games to capture the championship in six games. Both of Texas’ playoff shorthanded goals have come at Cedar Park Center.

·         HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – The Texas Stars had the best home record in the AHL during the regular season, posting a 29-8-0-1 record (59 pts., 0.776) at Cedar Park Center. The team also had a league-best +65 goal differential on home ice (154-89). So far during the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Stars are 4-0 at home and have out-scored their opponents 20-5 (+15). By winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy winners, as the regular season champions, Texas will have home ice advantage for as long as the team stays alive in the playoffs.

Stars Week 33 Transactions:

May 14 – ADD – Josh Robinson (G) – Recalled from loan to Idaho (ECHL).
May 14 – DELETE – Philippe Desrosiers (G) – Released from ATO.

Texas Stars Team Leaders:

Games Played:               11 Players tied (9)
Goals:                              Brendan Ranford (7)
Assists:                           Travis Morin (8)
Points:                             Travis Morin (10)
Plus/Minus:                     Mike Hedden & Derek Meech (+6)
Penalty Minutes:             Mike Hedden (14)
Power Play Goals:          Justin Dowling, Mike Hedden & Dustin Jeffrey (2)
Short Handed Goals:      Dustin Jeffrey (1)
Game-Winning Goals:    Mike Hedden & Brendan Ranford (2)
Shots:                             Maxime Fortunus (26)
Shooting Percentage:     Brendan Ranford (33.3%)
Saves:                            Cristopher Nilstorp (128)
Wins:                              Cristopher Nilstorp (5)
GAA:                              Cristopher Nilstorp (1.68)
Save Percentage:          Cristopher Nilstorp (0.934)
Shutouts:                        Cristopher Nilstorp (1)

The Texas Stars will open the 2014 Western Conference Finals with Game 1 on Friday, May 23rd at 7:30 p.m. at Cedar Park Center against the Toronto Marlies. Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased via Ticketmaster or the Cedar Park Center Box Office. Friday’s game is a $3 Draft Beer and $4 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wine Night, as well as a Texas Lottery Lucky Row Night. Texas Stars’ 2014 Calder Cup playoff ticket packages are on sale now! Reserve your seats for all Calder Cup playoff games at Cedar Park Center at a discounted rate. For more information on Texas Stars season tickets call (512) GO-STARS (467-8277) or visit www.TexasStarsHockey.com.

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