AHL Central News: Admirals, Moose Stay Hot

The American Hockey League’s Central Division marked another week off their calendar with more exciting hockey. The standings are about as tight as you can get. Seven of the eight teams are with nine points of each other and only two points separate third through seventh place. The race for the four Calder Cup playoff berths will come right down to the wire.

Admirals Expand Lead with Three Wins

The first place Milwaukee Admirals (11-3-1-2) have everything going right for them these days. The offense has been red-hot while their goaltending has been outstanding since opening night. Their current seven-game winning streak has them all alone atop the Central Division. They lead the Western Conference with 25 points, which is second-best in the entire AHL.

The Admirals stayed hot on Wednesday night with a dominating 6-3 victory over the Wolves. They scored five power-play goals on the night, the first time they’ve accomplished this feat since 2011.

After the Wolves struck first with an early goal, the Admirals got four power plays to close out the first period and scored on all of them. The first one came while the Admirals were on a two-man advantage with Colin Blackwell’s fourth of the season. Eeli Tovlanen’s second goal of the season doubled the lead just 36 seconds later.

Daniel Carr scored his first goal of the night later in the period and Rem Pitlick’s first career AHL goal closed out the power-play assault in the final minute of the frame. The Wolves got five power-play chances in the second period, but the Admirals were able to kill off four of them to hold 4-2 lead after 40 minutes.

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Carr haunted his former team for the second time with the Admirals’ only 5v5 goal of the night. Tommy Novak scored the team’s fifth power-play about six minutes later to extend the lead to 6-2. The Wolves added another power-play goal, but it was far too late to mount a serious comeback. Connor Ingram made 20 saves in the win.  

“I’ve never seen that before; that’s a first for me,” head coach Karl Taylor said about his team scoring five power-play goals. “The guys executed well – outstanding job. We were able to sting them early. Obviously, we got a lot of opportunities in the first period and we were able to take advantage to get them placed firmly behind the 8-ball.”

The Admirals made their first trip to Quebec since 1998, when they were still in the old IHL, by taking on the Laval Rocket Friday night. Taylor knew the significance of the trip and his starting lineup included all five players on the roster who were born in Quebec.

Yakov Trenin, who played his junior hockey in Quebec, got the offense going with his team-leading seventh goal of the season just 59 seconds into the contest. Matt Donovan doubled the Admirals lead, midway through the first period, with his first goal of the season. The defenseman extended his point streak to five straight games.

Matt Donovan Milwaukee Admirals
Donovan scored his first goal of the season in Laval. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Admirals added three more goals in the second period to take control of the game. Anthony Richard, Carr and Laurent Dauphin all lit the lamp in the middle frame.

Troy Grosenick surrendered a goal midway through the second period and another late in the game. He made 33 saves for the victory.

The winning streak hit seven games with a 4-2 win at the Belleville Senators on Saturday night, in the first-ever meeting between these two teams. Ingram made 28 saves to improve to 5-0-1 in his career versus Belleville.

Cole Schneider and Pitlick each scored a power-play goal late in the first period, about two minutes apart, to give the Admirals a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission. During the current winning streak, Milwaukee’s power play has gone 13-for-28 (46.4%).

Early in the second period, Carr extended his point streak to seven games with his ninth goal of the season. The Senators cut the lead to one a few minutes later, but Jeremy Davies scored with just 12 seconds left in the frame to complete the scoring on the evening.

Defenseman Alex Carrier picked up two assists in the game to become the first defenseman, and only the fifth player overall, to score 100 points in an Admirals uniform since they joined the AHL.

Alexandre Carrier Milwaukee Admirals
Carrier made franchise history over the weekend. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Player of the Week

The Admirals had plenty of contributors with their offense firing on all cylinders. Carr had four goals and six points, Blackwell had five assists to go along with his goal while Carrier and Donovan each had four helpers. While Pitlick didn’t lead the team in any specific category, he entered the week still looking for his first career AHL goal. He finally picked it up against Chicago and then added another goal in each of the Admirals’ games in Canada. The rookie had an assist as well and now has nine points on the season.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Nov. 19 @ Iowa Wild; Saturday, Nov. 22 @ Grand Rapids Griffins; Sunday, Nov. 23 vs Griffins

Wild Splits Weekend Set

The Wild (9-4-2-1) split their weekend, home-and-home series with the Wolves. They find themselves in second place with 21 points, four points behind the Admirals.

Kaapo Kahkonen made 22 saves in Saturday night’s 3-0 win at the Wolves. It was the first regular-season shutout of the Wolves in franchise history and it was the second in as many games for the Wild after Mat Robson’s blanking of the San Antonio Rampage last Sunday.

Kaapo Kahkonen Iowa Wild
Kahkonen picked up his eighth career shutout in Chicago, a franchise record. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Dmitry Sokolov scored the only goal the Wild would need midway through the first period. He made an easy tap in of a Kyle Bauman pass for his first goal of the season. That combination struck again to double the lead in the second period.

Defenseman Keaton Thompson scored his first goal as a member of the Wild early in the third period to increase the lead to 3-0. The Wild outshot the Wolves 33-22 and the home team was never much of a threat in the game.

The teams both traveled to Des Moines right after the game for Sunday’s rematch. The Wild were unable to complete the weekend sweep as they dropped their second straight home game against the Wolves, in a hard-fought 4-3 defeat.

After giving up a shorthanded goal early in the game, Gerry Mayhew’s team-high ninth goal tied the game nine minutes into the middle stanza. Kyle Rau gave the Wild a 2-1 lead just over a minute later. The Wolves scored twice to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.

Gerald Mayhew Minnesota Wild
Mayhew leads Iowa with nine goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Connor Dewar, who picked up his first professional point with an assist on Rau’s goal, tied the game eight minutes into the third period. He was able to locate a loose puck and backhand it into the Wolves’ net for his first AHL goal.

Unfortunately for the home team, the Wolves scored just over a minute later and held on for the one-goal victory.

“We had the better of the play,” head coach Tim Army said after the game. “We pinned them in and had the possession time. They just happened to capitalize and we didn’t on some of our chances. But that’s what happens. It’s that tight.”

Player of the Week:

The Wild scored six goals by five different players over the weekend. Defenseman Josh Atkinson led the way three points, picking up two helpers on Saturday and another on Sunday. He only had one assist in his previous 14 games.

The Week Ahead:

Tuesday, Nov. 19 vs Admirals; Saturday, Nov. 22 vs Bakersfield Condors; Sunday, Nov. 23 vs Condors

Moose Dominate in Eight-Point Week

Don’t look now, but the Manitoba Moose (9-8-0-0) are one of the hottest teams in the AHL. After sweeping their week against teams for Texas, they have won six straight games. Their surge has them up to 18 points on the season, which has them tied for third place.

The Moose were back on home ice after a successful weekend in Illinois. They picked up their third straight victory with a 4-1 win over the Stars in a Remembrance Day matinee.

The home team took control of the game with three goals in a span of 4:22 midway through the first period. Michael Spacek opened the scoring with a power-play tally. Brent Pedersen scored his first goal of the season, just 38 seconds later, by finishing off a breakaway chance. Jansen Harkins’ fourth goal of the season gave the Moose a 3-0 lead thanks to a great set up by Skyler McKenzie.

The Stars got the only goal of the middle frame to get on the board. Harkins scored an empty-net goal with just two seconds left in the game. Mikhail Berdin followed up his back-to-back shutouts with another 32 saves in the victory.

In between matchups with the Stars, the Winnipeg Jets recalled Spacek on Tuesday morning. He has three goals and seven points in his 14 games with the Moose.

Michael Spacek, Manitoba Moose
Spacek’s play earned him a recall to the NHL. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Berdin was in net again on Wednesday night and worked some more magic. Despite being outshot 37-16, the young netminder led the way in a 2-1 victory.

The Moose went on the power play late in the first period and cashed in. With just 22 seconds remaining in the frame, Kristian Vesalainen came through with his second goal of the season.

The Stars fought back to even up the game midway through the second period. Less than two minutes later, Emile Poirer scored the eventual game-winning goal off a great pass from Cole Mairer. Special teams were the difference maker as the Moose scored on their lone power play while killing off all four of their penalties.

The Rampage was next in town for the first of two meetings on Friday night. After a scoreless first period, Andrei Chibisov got the Moose on the board with his third goal of the season, midway through the sandwich stanza.

The Rampage came back and tied the game with a power-play just over a minute later. The tally ended a streak of 22 straight penalties killed off by the Moose.

The third period was a battle of the goaltenders. Berdin made 13 of his 45 saves on the night to help send the game into overtime. Seth Griffith won the game, 3:23 into the extra time, with a power-play goal set up by Chibisov.

Seth Griffith Manitoba Moose
Griffith notched the OT GWG on Friday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Sunday’s rematch was closer than the 5-2 score would suggest, but the Moose used a big third period to grab the win.

For the second straight game, neither team found the back of the net in the opening frame. Less than two minutes after the Rampage opening the scoring, early in the second period, Maier evened things up with a shorthanded goal. San Antonio responded 23 seconds later to recapture a one-goal lead. Chibisov changed the momentum of the game by tying the game with just 0.7 seconds left on the clock.

Maier’s second goal in as many games gave the Moose a 3-2 lead less than four minutes into the third period. Vesalainen scored a 4v4 goal for some insurance about 10 minutes later. Leon Gawanke fired the puck into an empty net for his first professional goal with just over three minutes left in the game.

Harkins had two assists to extend his personal point streak to nine games, the longest active streak in the league. Berdin made another 31 saves for another victory between the pipes.

Jansen Harkins, Manitoba Moose
Harkins is coming into his won this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“Very mature, very smart,” head coach Pascal Vincent said of Maier after his two-goal game. “He takes care of the details of the game. He’s working hard, post-practice, on him improving his skills. He’s a real mature player. Very good stick. Good reads. He’s a student of the game. He works hard. It’s a pretty good combination. I don’t what his ceiling is, but he is improving fast.”

Player of the Week

Berdin has been putting up MVP type numbers for the last two weeks. After back-to-back shutouts on Nov. 8 and 9, he won all four of his starts this past week. He even picked up his first career point with an assist on Gawanke’s empty-net goal on Sunday. He earned CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors on Monday for his efforts, becoming the fourth straight AHL Central player to win the award. In his last six starts, Berdin has given up just four goals on 220 shots for an incredible .981 save percentage (SV%)!

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The Week Ahead

Saturday, Nov. 23 @ Toronto Marlies; Sunday, Nov. 24 @ Marlies

Two Out of Three for the Griffins

With two wins in three games, the Griffins (8-7-1-1) still find themselves in a playoff position. They are currently tied with the Moose with 18 points.

The Griffins got back to their winning ways on Tuesday night with a 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Monsters. They were able to succeed without the services of forward Givani Smith, who was recalled by the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Turner Elson opened the scoring, early in the first period, by redirecting a Joe Hicketts shot from the point for his second goal of the season. The Monsters tied the game just past the halfway mark of the opening frame.

Despite being outshot 15-6 during the second period, the Griffins were the only team to score. Elson picked up a primary assist when Filip Zadina jammed home the rebound from his own shot, late in the frame, to give the Griffins a 2-1 lead.  

Turner Elson, Grand Rapids Griffins
Elson had a big night versus Cleveland. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Griffins held onto that lead until 1:51 left in the third period when the Monsters were able to draw even with their goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker. However, the home team responded with the eventual game-winning goal just 20 seconds later. Joe Veleno benefitted from a fortunate bounce off the boards and scored from the left circle. Matt Puempel iced the game with an empty-net goal, in the final seconds, to extend his point streak to a career-best 10 games.

The Red Wings came calling for a pair of blueliners as they recalled Jonathan Ericsson on Wednesday and then Hicketts on Thursday. In response to these moves, the Griffins signed former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Blake Hillman to a professional tryout (PTO).  

The Griffins began a home-and-home season with the Rockford IceHogs on Friday and rode the penalty kill to a big 5-2 victory.

Jarid Lukosevicius opened the scoring, early in the first period, by scoring his third goal of the season right off an offensive zone faceoff win. Two minutes later, Puempel doubled the lead to keep his point streak alive with his ninth goal of the season. The IceHogs scored before the final horn sounded on the first period.

After withstanding an early second-period push by the visitors, Chase Pearson extended the Griffins’ lead to 3-1. The IceHogs drew within a single goal before the break with a 5v3 power-play goal.

Midway through the third period, Chris Terry finished off a beautiful passing pass to give the Griffins some breathing room while on the power play. Pearson capped off the scoring with a late empty-net goal. The Griffins went 6-for-7 on the penalty kill to lead the way to victory.

“I think they were aggressive when they needed to be,” said head coach Ben Simon when asked about the penalty kill. “They recognized when they could pressure and when they couldn’t. I thought they a good job of gutting it out. At the end of the day, your best PK guy is your goalie and Picks (Calvin Pickard) made some big saves.”

Evgeny Svechnikov has a big night in Saturday’s rematch in Rockford with the first multi-goal game of his AHL career. However, his two goals were not enough in a 5-2 loss.

Evgeny Svechnikov
Svechnikov picked up his first multi-goal AHL game on Saturday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period with a shorthanded and even-strength goal just over a minute apart. The Griffins had three power plays and 17 shots on goal in the first period but trailed by a pair of goals after 20 minutes.

Svechnikov got the Griffins on the board late in the second period after the IceHogs went up 3-0 earlier in the frame. He added a second goal to cut the deficit to 4-2 in the third period, but they were unable to get any closer before surrendering a fifth and final goal.

Player of the Week

The Griffins had a balanced offensive attack last week with 16 different players picking up at least one point. Zadina led the way with four points, scoring a goal and adding three assists. The former sixth-overall selection and highest draft pick to ever play for the Griffins is off to a good start in his second full AHL season. He is currently third on the team with six goals and 11 points.

Filip Zadina Grand Rapids Griffins
Zadina is living up to the hype this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Nov. 20 vs Rampage; Friday, Nov. 22 vs Admirals; Saturday, Nov. 23 @ Admirals

Rampage’s Downward Slide Continues

The Rampage (6-5-3-2) got off to such a great start, but they have fallen on hard times of late. With just one point in their three games last week, they have fallen down to fifth place with 17 points.

The week began by hosting the Colorado Eagles on Tuesday afternoon for their “Cool School Day.” They were able to get 39 shots on goal, but they could not figure out goaltender Hunter Miska in a 3-1 loss.

The Eagles took the lead, just over five minutes into the game, by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. Veteran Erik Condra doubled the lead late in the second period. He now has 12 points in his last 15 games against the Rampage.

Defenseman Cam Darcy scored the Rampage’s lone goal of the day, on the power play, with just four seconds left in the middle frame. The Eagles regained their two-goal advantage with the final goal of the game, midway through the third period. Goaltender Adam Wilcox made 16 saves in his first regulation loss of the season.

“It’s certainly a disappointing loss,” a somber Drew Bannister, Rampage head coach, said after the defeat. “I’m obviously not happy with the play in the first 40 minutes. I thought we played outstanding in the third. We had a really good push back; their goalie was excellent. Unfortunately for us, they get a bounce and that ends up being the difference in the game.”

On Wednesday morning, the St. Louis Blues recalled forward Klim Kostin. The 2017 first-round draft pick has three goals and eight points this season. Kostin made his NHL debut on Saturday night at the Anaheim Ducks.

Klim Kostin
Kostin made his NHL debut over the weekend. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, the Rampage headed north for a weekend series in Manitoba, against the red-hot Moose. They picked up their lone point of the week Friday night, in a 2-1 overtime loss.

The Moose opened the scoring with a late second-period goal off a 3-on-2 rush. The Ramage drew even just 89 seconds later when Derrick Pouliot sent Nathan Walker in all alone on a breakaway and he converted for his ninth goal of the season. It was Pouliot’s ninth power-play assist on the season, which leads the entire AHL.

Jordan Kyrou had a breakaway late in the third period, but he was denied. Joey LaLeggia took a slashing penalty midway through the overtime session and the Moose cashed in shortly after to win the game. The Rampage is now 0-5 in games that have gone past regulation this season.

The two teams returned to action at Bell MTS Place on Sunday afternoon for the rematch, which the Moose won 5-2, handing the Rampage their fifth straight loss.

The Rampage got on the board first, nearly four minutes into the game, with Mike Vecchione’s ninth goal of the season; a wrist shot from the left circle. The Moose evened things up with a shorthanded tally about two minutes later. Kyrou answered just 21 seconds later while on the same power play. He was the last Rampage player to touch the puck before Manitoba defenseman Nelson Nogier’s clearing attempt hit off a teammate and got in behind his goaltender.

The Moose would score the final four goals of the afternoon for the victory. They tied the game with just 0.7 seconds left in the middle frame before scoring a trio of third-period goals. The Rampage is now 0-12-1 in their last 13 trips to Manitoba.

Player of the Week

It is hard to find a deserving candidate when the team only scored four goals all week. 10 players finished with one point each. Goaltender Ville Husso will get the nod this week and not for his goaltending. He gave up six goals on 58 shots for a .896 SV%. Rather, he is being mentioned here because he was one of those 10 players with a point by getting the secondary assist on Walker’s power-play on Friday night.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Nov. 19 @ Wolves; Wednesday, Nov. 20 @ Griffins; Friday, Nov. 22 vs Stars; Sunday, Nov. 24 vs IceHogs

Help on the Way for the Wolves

The reigning Western Conference champion Wolves (8-9-1-0) have been having a hard time finding the consistency in their game over the first seven weeks of the season. They won one of their three games last week and currently find themselves tied with the Rampage with 17 points. However, there is help on the way.

The Wolves headed up to Milwaukee on Wednesday night but struggled mightily in a 6-3 loss; their third straight defeat.

The night got off to good start for the visitors as Curtis McKenzie gave them a 1-0 lead, less than five minutes into the game with his fourth goal of the season. From there, the Wolves’ parade to the penalty box began and the Admirals made them pay with four power-play goals before the end of the first period.

Curtis McKenzie, Chicago Wolves
McKenzie continues to be a valuable contributor for Chicago. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Admirals added their only 5v5 goal early in the third period. The Wolves gave up a fifth power-play goal midway through the frame, tying a franchise record for the most surrendered in a single game. Coghlan added a second power-play goal, late in the game, from top of the left circle again.

The second period not only saw a goaltending change for the Wolves, as Oscar Dansk replaced starter Garret Sparks, but it also saw them get five power-play chances. They were only able to cash in on one of them when defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored off a one-timer from the top of the left circle.

Related – Wolves Adjusting to Philosophy Change

The Wolves returned home on Saturday night but were shutout by the Wild 3-0. It was the second time in their last three home games in which they were held off the scoreboard. In fact, they have just one goal during that span.

The biggest excitement came for the wrong reasons late in the first period. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud was nailed into the end boards by Wild forward Mike Liambus and remained on the ice for a few moments. He was helped off the ice by the trainer, went straight to the locker room and was done for the evening.

When Liambas left the box, Tyrel Goulbourne was waiting for him right outside the door and starting throwing punches. After a major heavyweight bout, Goulbourne was given a total of 17 minutes of penalties for his actions. Even though he was eligible to return midway through the second period, he also missed the rest of the game with an apparent injury. Head coach Rocky Thompson did not have an update on either player after the game.

“When one of your teammates gets a cheap shot, you want to respond, so I thought it was the right thing to do,” Thomspon said of the in-game fireworks.

The Wolves killed off all four of their penalties in a rather nice response after giving up five power-play goals on Wednesday.

Both Goulbourne and Whitecloud were out of the lineup in Sunday’s rematch at the Wild. So were forwards Brandon Pirri and Nicolas Roy, who were both reassigned by the Vegas Golden Knights earlier in the day. The duo will give the Wolves a well-needed offensive boost when the join the team this week.

Vegas Golden Knights Brandon Pirri
Pirri will provide some offensive help for the Wolves. (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wolves offense showed up in a 4-3 victory Sunday night for their second win at the Wells Fargo Arena in the last 10 days. Just like in Milwaukee, McKenzie opened the scoring early in the first period, this time with a shorthanded tally.

Iowa came back to take a 2-1 lead, midway through the second period, with a pair of goals just over a minute apart. Reid Duke answered about four minutes later with his fourth goal of the season to tie the game. Lucas Elvenes scored on a late power play to give the Wolves a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.

The score was once again even with just over eight minutes to play. Rooke Ben Jones responded 1:19 later with a slap shot from the high slot. His first professional goal turned out to be the game-winner.

Player of the Week

McKenzie led the way for the Wolves last week with two goals and three points. The veteran forward is an important part of the Wolves’ success as he plays a key role at even strength as well as on the power play and penalty kill. He is never afraid to mix it up when the time is needed and is always willing to give a great quote after the game no matter the outcome.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Nov. 19 vs Rampage; Friday, Nov. 22 @ Cleveland Monsters

IceHogs Split Weekend, Lose Captain

The IceHogs (8-7-0-0) split their weekend home-and-home series with the Griffins. Although they find themselves in seventh place with 16 points, they are just two points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

Before they took the bus up to Grand Rapids, the Chicago Blackhawks reassigned defenseman Adam Boqvist to the IceHogs on Thursday morning. He scored a goal in his first six NHL games before heading back to the AHL.

Adam Boqvist Chicago Blackhawks
Boqvist is back with the IceHogs. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs found themselves down 2-0 to the Griffins midway through the first period on Friday night. Matthew Highmore cut the lead in half with less than three minutes to play in the opening stanza. It appeared that Anton Wedin tied the game shortly after, but the officials waved off the goal because it was touched illegally with a high stick.

The Griffins grabbed a 3-1 lead early in the second period, but defenseman Philip Holm’s slap shot through traffic got the IceHogs back to within a goal late in the frame. That would be as close as they would get as the home team added a pair of goals in the third period to pull away with the 5-2 win.

The IceHogs were able to return the favor with a 5-2 of their own in Saturday night’s rematch in Rockford.

Nick Moutrey intercepted a pass and scored a shorthanded, breakaway goal to open up the scoring late in the first period. Just over a minute later, Philipp Kurashev doubled the Rockford lead with his second goal of the season.

MacKenzie Entwistle increased the lead to 3-0 with an easy tap-in goal at the back door late in the second period. The Griffins ended Kevin Lankinen’s shutout bid less than two minutes later.

Branden Hagel got that goal back 17 seconds into the third period with his second point on the night. Alexandre Fortin scored his first goal of the season, on a breakaway, shortly after the Griffins cut the lead to 4-2.

On Sunday afternoon, the team announced that they were releasing captain Kris Versteeg in a mutual decision. The veteran forward was limited to just six games as nagging injuries prevented from hitting the ice as much as he would have like to.

Kris Versteeg
Versteeg is stepping away from the game. (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

“Kinger (Head Coach Derek King) and Anders (Assistant Coach Anders Sorensen) were so good to me,” Versteeg said in an official statement. “I have to thank them for how they treated me the entire time and understood the situation I was in and where I am in my hockey career and life. I wish nothing but the best for them because they truly were great to me this whole time and very helpful through everything.”

Player of the Week

There is little doubt that Lankinen is the best goaltender currently on the IceHogs roster with his 1.99 goals-against average (GAA) and .937 SV%. However, an injury suffered on opening night has limited him to just five games this season and has forced the IceHogs to carry three netminders on their roster. He was back in the net for Saturday’s win over the Griffins and made 42 saves to improve to 4-1-0 on the season.

The Week Ahead

Saturday, Nov. 23 @ Stars; Sunday, Nov. 24 @ Rampage

Miserable Start Continues for Stars

While we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet in the United States, the Stars’ (3-12-0-2) season is already doomed after an atrocious start. They have just three wins in their first 17 games and their eight points are the fewest in the entire AHL.

The offensive struggles followed the Stars’ on their four-game trip north of the border. They fell to the Moose, 4-1, in a Monday afternoon game in Manitoba.

The Stars found themselves down 3-0 in a span of just over four minutes in the first period. They gave up a goal after a strange bounce, one on a breakaway and a third just seconds after failing to score on a power play.

Josh Melnick scored the lone goal of the day for the Stars, midway through the second period by cashing in off a rebound. It was Melnick’s second goal in as many games. With goaltender Jake Oettinger on the bench for an extra attacker, late in the game, the Moose added a fourth and final goal.

On Tuesday, the Dallas Stars recalled center Rhett Gardner. This will be his second stint in the NHL this season. He has three goals and six points in his nine AHL games with Texas.

Rhett Gardner Dallas Stars
Gardner has been bouncing between the AHL and NHL this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The following evening, the Stars dropped their rematch with the Moose in a hard-fought 2-1 decision. The Stars had some golden chances early but failed to score on a 5v3 power play and Joel L’Esperance was denied on a breakaway. The Moose grabbed the momentum with a power-play goal just 22 seconds before the end of the opening frame.

Brad McClure tied the game, just over nine minutes into the second period, by scoring on a redirection of an Adam Mascherin shot, right off an offensive zone faceoff win. Unfortunately, the Moose recaptured the lead less than two minutes later.

The Stars outshot the Moose 37-16 on the night but were unable to draw even during the third period.

The trip through Canada continued with a weekend set against the Marlies; the first time these two teams have met since the 2017 Calder Cup Finals. While the offense showed signs of life in Toronto, the Stars still couldn’t find a way to earn any points. They lost Saturday’s game 8-4 after giving up six goals in the second period.

Michael Mersch scored a power-play goal late in the first period and a second tally early in the middle frame to tie the game at 2-2. Then the Marlies went on an offensive explosion that ended with them owning an 8-2 advantage at the end of 40 minutes of play.

The Stars didn’t just roll over and play dead as Ben Gleason and L’Esperance each scored in the third period, but it was far too late to mount a serious comeback.

Sunday’s rematch was much more competitive, but the Stars still fell short in a 4-3 loss. Mersch’s third goal of the weekend gave the Stars an early lead. Shortly after the Marlies evened the score, John Nyberg blasted a one-timer past the recently demoted Michael Hutchinson.

Related – THW’s Goalie News: Nilsson, Hutchinson & History

The Marlies second-period magic carried over from the previous night as they tied the game with a shorthanded goal just 11 seconds into the frame. They added two more goals to take a 4-2 lead into the third period.

The Stars had another strong third period by putting 20 shots on goal during the final stanza. Mascherin converted on a 2-on-1 rush to draw them to within just a single goal. They would get two power plays during the second half of the period, but they were unable to score the equalizer.

Player of the Week

Mersch’s three-goal weekend in Toronto was one of the few bright spots of a rather miserable week for the Stars. He is now up to four goals on the season, tying him with both L’Esperance and rookie Jason Robertson for the team lead.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Nov. 22 @ Rampage; Saturday, Nov. 23 vs IceHogs