ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Texas Stars traveled north for a trio of Central Division battles in week nine, taking two-of-three contests to climb to sixth in the Division.

Texas started the weekend 8-8-1-1, and sitting seventh in the Central.  The Stars were able to put together a solid road trip, however, and now sit sixth at 10-9-1-1.  The 20 points now have the Stars just three points back of the Rockford IceHogs for the all-important top four, and, with three games in hand, the Stars sit fourth in points percentage (.524%).

The Stars regained a massive piece to their puzzle prior to the trip, as starting goaltender Landon Bow was returned from a stint with NHL Dallas on Thursday.  Bow played on Friday and Saturday, splitting the two decisions to move to 7-4-1 (2.85 GAA, .894 SV%) in American Hockey League play.

The weekend started well with a 4-1 win over the Admirals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with Bow winning his first start back from the NHL.  Texas then traveled east to Grand Rapids, Michigan, falling 6-3 to a scorching hot Grand Rapids squad, who is now 6-0-0-1 in its last seven outings.  The trip concluded with a bang, though, as the Stars offense exploded for seven goals in a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont, Illinois.

Friday, November 30: Stars 4, Admirals 1

The Stars started the trip with a solid first period, as they took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission thanks to a power play-tally from Erik Condra.  Texas then added two more in the second, and extended the lead to 4-0 in the third, before a late Admirals goal ended Bow’s shutout bid and provided the final score of 4-1.

The Stars had five players with multi-point efforts on Friday, led by a pair of goals by rookie Adam MascherinJustin Dowling (3A), Condra (1G, 1A), Travis Morin (2A), and Denis Gurianov (2A) also had multiple points. Bow played great in net, stopping 23-of-24 Milwaukee offerings.

Takeaways:

  • Bow played excellent hockey in his first start for Texas in two weeks.  He lost the shutout bid with just 3:00 to play, but made 23 saves on the night to pick up his fourth win in his last five starts at the AHL level.
  • Mascherin continued his recent hot streak, putting a pair of pucks between the pipes in the second period.  The two-goal game gave the rookie from the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers five goals in the last two games.  He had a hat-trick in the previous game at San Antonio.
  • The Texas power play was only given two opportunities on Friday, cashing in on one in the first to grab a lead it would never surrender.  The Stars are second in AHL on the man advantage, converting on 24-of-83 (28.9%) chances through Friday’s action.
  • With the win, the Stars moved to 1-0-1-0 in the season series against the Admirals, after a home 4-3 overtime loss in the second game of the year.  The two squads will meet again this week, twice, in fact, with a pair of games set for Wednesday and Friday in Cedar Park.
  • One final note for fans of players from the southwest, the lone Milwaukee goal was scored on the power play by Matt Donovan.  The 28-year-old defenseman hails from Edmond, Oklahoma.

Saturday, December 1: Griffins 6, Stars 3

The Stars and Griffins got started with an offensive flurry, combining for five tallies in the opening frame.  Grand Rapids took an early two-goal lead, but Texas answered quickly with two of its own before a late marker put the home side back up one after 20 minutes.  The Stars would tie it again at three in the second, but the Griffins regained the lead five minutes later and never looked back.  Two third-period goals made the final 6-3 Griffins.

The Stars were led offensively by rookie-standout Joel L’Esperance, who had a goal and a helper on Saturday.  Condra and Mascherin rounded out the scoring for Texas.  Bow got the start for the second straight night, this time surrendering five goals on 29 shots.

Takeaways:

  • L’Esperance found the back of the net for the third game running on Saturday, and had at least one point for the eighth time in nine games.  The 23-year-old from Brighton, Michigan leads all AHL rookies in both goals (10) and points (21).
  • Mascherin and Condra also continued streaks, with Mascherin scoring for the third straight game, and Condra posting a point for a seventh consecutive outing.  Both scored their ninth goals of the year, sitting one tally behind L’Esperance for the team lead in goals going into Sunday.
  • Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw, and that happened to Texas on Saturday.  The Griffins grabbed momentum with two early goals, and were able to respond and retake the lead within five minutes both times the Stars tied it.  The win gave Grand Rapids its fifth straight win, and points in seven straight (6-0-0-1).

Sunday, December 2: Stars 7, Wolves 4

The Stars blitzed the Wolves from the beginning on Sunday, and led 2-0 just 5:32 into the game.  Chicago got back within one before the first intermission, but Texas won the second 3-1 to take a 5-2 edge to the final frame.  Shots were 14-4 after one period, and 24-12 Stars through 40 minutes.  Each team found twine twice in the third, making the final tally 7-4 in favor of the visiting Stars.

Condra led the way for the Stars once again, scoring twice and adding three apples in a five-point game.  Morin and Nicholas Caamano also potted two goals apiece, while L’Esperance and Ben Gleason contributed two assists each.  Dowling had the other Texas tally.  Philippe Desrosiers got the start between the pipes for the Stars, stopping 18-of-22 shots to pick up the win.

Takeaways:

  • Condra had a career-high five points on Sunday, and extended his point streak to eight games running.  He now has sole possession of the team lead in goals (11), and points (26), and is second in assists behind Dowling (15).
  • Dowling extended a recent streak of his own, as his eight-game point streak away from home is currently the longest road scoring streak in the AHL.  He has ten points (3G, 7A) over the eight games, dating back to a game at Rockford on October 13.
  • The lethal Texas power play was on display Sunday evening, scoring twice on six tries with the extra man.  The Stars are now second in the AHL, converting at a 28.6% clip (26-for-91) on the power play this season.  The Stars now have at least one goal with the man advantage in ten of their last 12 games.
  • Desrosiers made his third start of the season for Texas, and secured his first win at the AHL level for 2018-19.  He wasn’t over-worked, but made some excellent saves when called upon to give his offense time to pile on the goals.  He is now 1-2-0 (3.81 GAA, .847 SV%) on the season.

Three Stars of the Week:

⭐⭐⭐- Joel L’Esperance, who contributed two goals and three apples to the Texas cause this week.  He is now second on the Stars, and leads all AHL rookies, with ten goals on the season.  He is one of four Stars with 20+ points (21).

⭐⭐- Justin Dowling, who had six points (1G, 5A) over the three-game weekend.  He now leads Texas in assists with 16, and has at least one helper in five straight, and a point in six straight.

⭐- Erik Condra, who had a goal in each game, and posted eight total points (4G, 4A) over the three-game trip.  The effort was good enough to be named CCM/AHL player of the week.  He now has a point in eight straight, and leads the team with 26 points, and 11 goals, on the season.

Weekly Grade: A-

The Stars did well in week nine, taking four of a possible six points during the three-game divisional trip.  The offense was clicking all weekend, posting 14 goals in the three games (4.67/game).  The defense continues to be hampered by the injury bug that has bitten the Dallas d-corps, but did enough to get two wins in the books.  Texas allowed 11 goals in the three games (3.67/game), but six of those came in the loss to Grand Rapids.  Special teams continue to be a plus as well, with the Stars going 3-for-10 with the man advantage on the weekend. All things told, Texas did very well to take two-of-three against divisional opponents away from home.  The defensive effort was there, but the lack of a consistent lineup on the blueline continues to leave gaps in communication and coverage.  With the offense and power play clicking, and the defense doing its best with a tough hand, I gave the Stars an A- for the weekend.

Looking Ahead:

Texas returns home to the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park for a pair of games in week ten.  The opponent on both nights will be the Milwaukee Admirals, as the Stars and Ads battle for the second and third time in a week, and fourth meeting overall.  The Stars are 1-0-1-0 against the Admirals in 2018-19, winning 4-1 in Wisconsin on Friday, and gaining a point for a 4-3 OT loss in the only previous meeting in Cedar Park on October 6.  The two-game set starts on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CT, and concludes on Friday, same time, same place.

You can follow along with both games this week, as you can every game this season, by following us on Twitter.  Simply follow @SinBinStars for our Texas take, and @SinBinNews for all your AHL, ECHL, and SPHL news and notes.
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