CEDAR PARK, TX – The Texas Stars hit the road tonight, as they begin a four-game trip in Bakersfield against the Condors. The Stars then move on to Stockton Saturday, San Jose Sunday, and then finish the trip Wednesday in San Diego. The Stars are coming off a wild weekend, which saw them win two tight games to move to 5-3-0-1 on the season. Texas will also have a few changes to the line-up, as an injury and moves with parent club Dallas, have made an impact on the Texas roster.
Texas played a pair of exciting games against Pacific division foes last weekend, winning both games after regulation. The wins snapped a four-game winless streak.
The weekend started with a back and forth battle with the San Diego Gulls. The Gulls gained leads of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3, but the Stars would respond every time. The game went to overtime locked at four apiece before Andrew Bodnarchuk scored the game-winner.
The game would be overshadowed, however, by a nasty bit of play from the Gulls late in the first. With 50 seconds to play before intermission Scott Sabourin pinned a Stars player against the boards and began attacking him. Then Stu Bickel took it to a whole new level, tackling Justin Dowling to the ice and punching him in the back of the head. Officials were slow responding, forcing players to pull Bickel off Dowling. The Stars would receive no penalty minutes and would end up with a full five-minute five-on-three. For San Diego, Sabourin received five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct, while Bickel would be given even more. He would be given five for fighting and THREE game misconducts, one for being the aggressor, one for a secondary altercation, and one for a third major/second fight. Bickel was suspended for five games as a result of the fracas.
Saturday was a much more controlled affair when the San Jose Barracuda visited for the first time this year. The game would be a goalie duel as Mike McKenna for the Stars, and Troy Grosenick for San Jose would battle to a 2-2 draw thru 65 minutes of regulation and overtime. In the shootout, Travis Morin would score the only goal, and McKenna stopped all three San Jose attempts to end the game. The Stars won 3-2 to sweep the weekend.
The Stars hit the road with a slightly different line-up, beginning with the absence of Dowling. Dowling continues to suffer from an upper-body injury after Friday’s incident.
There have also been two moves with NHL Dallas that will affect the Texas line-up. First, Texas’ leading offensive weapon, Jason Dickinson, was called up to Dallas. Dickinson leads Texas, and is fourth in the AHL, with six goals on the year. This is not Dickinson’s first trip to Dallas, as he scored two goals in 10 games for Dallas in 2016-17. With the loss, the Stars will need players like Morin, Curtis McKenzie, and Denis Gurianov to step up offensively.
The affiliation goes both ways, though, as Dallas has sent down defensive help to Texas. Defensemen Julius Honka was sent down to Texas on Tuesday, for his first stint this year in Cedar Park. It is not his first time playing for Texas, however, as Stars fans will remember his 31 points (7G 24A) in 50 games for Texas last season. Honka should help stabilize the Texas defense, and will also provide offense from the point. The defense will need to play well, especially without Dickinson.
Texas now heads to California for the second time in 2017-18, after splitting two in San Diego early in the year. The trip begins tonight in Bakersfield, as the Stars face the Condors for the first time this season. Texas was 2-3-0 last year against the Condors.
The trip then moves on to Stockton for the first battle of the campaign between the Stars and Heat. Texas was 1-4-0 against Stockton in 2016-17.
After that, it will be on to San Jose Sunday for a rematch with the Barracuda. This will be the second game this year, with the Stars winning in the shootout Saturday.
The trip concludes in San Diego, with what should be an intense battle with the Gulls. This is already the fourth time early on the Stars and Gulls have met. Texas is 2-1-0 against the Gulls and will be seeing red after Friday’s incident.
Tonight’s game with the Condors begins at 8:30 P.M. CT and can be seen on AHL Live. Make sure to follow @SinBinStars as we live tweet every game!