CEDAR PARK, Texas – Week three of the 2018-19 campaign could not have gone better for the Texas Stars, who won all three to move to 4-1-1-1 on the year.
The Stars came into the week with a record of 1-1-1-1 and knowing they would need to be at their best to defeat two quality opponents. Texas passed the test with flying colors, winning in Grand Rapids, then defeating the previously unbeaten Iowa Wild twice in Cedar Park.
The biggest factor in the Stars success this week was the sizzling Texas power play. The Stars came in with just one power-play goal over the first four games, but erupted this week with seven goals on 15 man advantages. They cashed in three times in seven tries on both Wednesday and Friday night, then scored on their only opportunity on Saturday. The Stars are now sixth in the AHL, converting at a 29.6% clip (8/27).
Wednesday, October 17: Stars 6, Griffins 3
Texas took the lead twice in the first, but Grand Rapids answered both times to send the game to the first intermission even at two. Grand Rapids scored the lone goal of period two, but would not be able to hold on in the third. Texas dominated the final frame, scoring four times to claim the 6-3 victory.
The Stars were led offensively by two-point nights from Adam Mascherin and Joel L’Esperance, with each chipping in a goal and an assist. Denis Gurianov scored for the third straight game, notching the eventual game-winner 4:20 into the third. Landon Bow made the start in net, and stopped 25-of-28 Grand Rapids shots on the evening.
- The Stars offense has been the strength of the team thus far, and that was no different on Wednesday. Texas had contributions from throughout the lineup, with 13 different players chipping in at least one point. The opposing team is forced to pick their poison when defending this loaded Texas attack.
- The Texas power play came in with just one goal on the season, but exploded for three goals on seven chances against Grand Rapids. With the game locked at three in the third, the Texas power play scored twice in the clutch to win it. Gurianov gave Texas the 4-3 lead, then five minutes later, Michael Mersch added insurance with a five-on-three tally.
- The victory ended a streak of three games without a win for the Stars, who had been 0-1-1-1 since their season-opening win against the Griffins. Texas now leads the season series 2-0 against Grand Rapids.
Friday, October 19: Stars 5, Wild 4
The Stars and Wild battled in a defensive struggle through two periods, with Bow and Iowa tender Andrew Hammond keeping their shutouts until the final seven minutes of period two. With the score level at one after 40 minutes, however, the offenses found their groove in the third. Texas scored four in the third for the second straight contest, outscoring Iowa 4-3 over the final 20 minutes to win by a 5-4 count.
L’Esperance was a leader offensively once again for the Stars, contributing a goal and a helper for the second outing in a row. Ben Gleason also had a two-point game, including his first goal of the campaign in period three. Gurianov once again scored the game-winner, finding twine with 4:22 to go.
- The Texas power play continued to be a difference maker, converting on 3/7 advantages for a second game running. The goals were clutch as well, with Gleason and Mersch notching tying tallies on the job, and L’Esperance putting the Stars up for good midway through the final frame.
- Bow did his part in net, keeping the Stars in the game until the offense could wake up. The final line of four goals allowed on 30 shots doesn’t look great, but he was 19-of-20 over the first 40 minutes. He was especially good in the first, getting the Stars to intermission scoreless despite being outshot 13-6 in the frame.
Saturday, October 20: Stars 3, Wild 1
The Stars and Wild once again found themselves in a 1-1 game through two periods Saturday, but, unlike Friday, this time the low-scoring play continued in the third. Erik Condra potted the game-winner 9:22 into the third, then Gurianov notched an insurance tally with 5:00 left to provide the final score of 3-1 Stars.
L’Esperance and Gurianov continued to lead the way for the offense, with each continuing scoring streaks. Gurianov now has goals in five straight outings, while L’Esperance found the back of the net for a third game running. Colton Point made the start in net and was brilliant, stopping 19-of-20 Grand Rapids offerings en route to his first professional victory.
- The Stars continued their third period success, outscoring the Wild 2-0 over the final 20 minutes. The Stars have now outscored the opposition 14-8 in third periods this season. They have come from behind to win twice, and have also secured a point twice with last-minute goals to force overtime before falling. Those extra points go a long way in the standings. The Stars were outscored 3-0 in the third in their only regulation defeat, a 5-3 loss at Rockford.
- The Stars did not get nearly as many power plays on Saturday, but still managed a goal on their only chance. Gurianov’s PPG in the third brought the Stars to 7/15 during the three-game week, a blistering 46.7% success rate. This is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous units in the entire league, ranking sixth after seven games. Having a lethal power play gives you the ability to rally at any moment if losing, and the Stars have used that advantage very well in the early going.
- Point was fantastic in earning his first pro win, keeping the Wild to just one goal on the night. Iowa is a very good squad, but Point was better on Saturday. The Stars have to be thrilled with his effort, and hope it is the first of many wins on his career.
- The Stars offense certainly takes a lot of pressure of their goalies, having now scored three or more in each game to start the season. Knowing they don’t have to be perfect allows the goalies to settle in and focus on the task at hand, as well as keeping the Stars in it no matter the deficit.
Three Stars of the Week:
Third Star: Ben Gleason. Gleason had three points on the week, including his first goal of the season on Friday. With the goal and two helpers this week, he now has four total points (1G, 3A) on the year.
Second Star: Denis Gurianov. Gurianov also had a three-point week, extending his scoring streak to five with a goal in each game. He is now tied for the team lead with five goals, and have seven total points on the campaign.
First Star: Joel L’Esperance. L’Esperance has led the way offensively all year, and continued that with five points (3G, 2A) over the three-game week. He is tied with Gurianov with five goals, and leads the Stars with eight total points on the year.
Weekly Grade: A-
The Stars were excellent this week in securing the three wins, and now sit atop the loaded Central Division with 10 points. The power play paced the offense, which is looking like an absolute juggernaut through seven games. The Stars earn an A- this week, with the defense being the only thing keeping them from a higher grade. There will be games this season where the offense isn’t there, especially as the playoffs approach, and in those games, the Stars will need to be able to defend to get two points. Overall, though, things could not have gone much better for the squad in week three.
This Week’s Opponents:
The Stars will once again be at home this weekend, with two big matchups on the slate inside the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. The Stars open the weekend with their first game of the season against the defending Central Division champion Chicago Wolves, who come in with a record of 4-1-0-1 (9 pts) on the season. Texas was 4-1-0-1 against Chicago a year ago, 2-1-0-0 in Cedar Park. The Stars will then finish the weekend with a battle against the San Jose Barracuda, who enter atop the Pacific with a record of 5-1-0-1 (11 pts) on the season. The Stars were 2-2-0-0 against the Barracuda in 2017-18, winning both matchups at home.
You can follow along with the Stars this weekend, as you can all season, by following us on Twitter. Simply follow @SinBinStars for our Texas take, and @SinBinNews for AHL, ECHL, and SPHL news and notes.