Friday, February 12, 2010

Southwest Weekend Preview

Despite the start of the Vancouver Olympics tonight, they is still plenty of action around the southwest as the Dallas Stars will play their final game for 2 and a half weeks. Tomorrow night, the Stars will travel to Phoenix to play them for the 2nd time in a week after the Stars continue to have problems against the Phoenix Coyotes this season. However, the Stars did beat the Coyotes 4-0 back on 2/6. For the Stars, they hoping it's the final game of a successful road trip where the Stars are starting to gain their confidence back on the road for the first time since the start of the season back in October and early November.

It's also important in the standings as last night's 3-1 win in Calgary got the Stars up from 11th to 9th in the standings with the help of their win and the San Jose Sharks beating the Detroit Red Wings in a SO last night. After the two week break, the Stars will play their final 21 games (12H, 9R) in just 41 days, so it will be a game basically every other day starting on March 2 against the Los Angeles Kings. Included in that final stretch is a 6 game home stand, plus a huge roadtrip out east playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres.

All 3 of these teams will be looking to get in a position where they can be big time Stanley Cup Contenders out of the Eastern Conference, so this would be a huge chance to send a statement that they won't miss the playoffs in back to back seasons for the first time since the team's move to Texas in 1993.

A busy weekend in the AHL will have all 3 Texas Teams in big weekend sets. The Texas Stars have a pair of games against the Chicago Wolves which will include Ivan Vishnevskiy making his debut with the Wolves. With how tight the West is, this could be a preview of things to come in the playoffs as the top 4 teams are just separated by just 1 point. Right now it would be the Texas Stars playing the Milwaukee Admirals, while the Rockford Icehogs would get the Chicago Wolves in the other West Division Semifinal Series.

Houston will be in a huge series against Grand Rapids Griffins where both teams are looking to close the gap on the playoff spots in their respective divisions. Last Saturday was the first of a 3 game set over 2 weekends where the Aeros came back from a 2-0 hole they suffered early in the 2nd period, then late in the 2nd, Petr Kalus helped spark a comeback in which follow forwards Cody Almond and Peter Zingoni scored in the third to comeback to get a huge road win. A busy 3 game weekend awaits them with a pair of games against the Grand Rapids Griffins, then followed by a Sunday Afternoon clash against the Chicago Wolves which could help them close the gap in the playoff race.

Houston would like to have a big home weekend before embarking on 6 of their next 8 games on the road, including a huge West Division Roadtrip that takes them to Milwaukee, Chicago and Peoria next weekend.

San Antonio continues their infamous "Rodeo Road Trip" as the Rampage travel to Peoria as the basement teams will be looking to get back in the Playoff race as the Rampage sit 13 points back with 30 games left, so it's critical that they can get on a strong positive run when the team will return home on 2/26 for a weekend home stand against the Manitoba Moose. For San Antonio to have a successful weekend, the Rampage need Kyle Turris needs to find his form as he had scored just 6 points since New Years (2G 4A).

And has been a huge reason that the Rampage defense has been leaking goals on numerous occasions on this road trip, including a 5-4 SO Loss against the lowly Syracuse Crunch and a pair of critical losses in Milwaukee. In all, the Rampage has played a ton of OT lately as 6 of their last 8 games have gone 3-1-4 in that timespan.

Among the top stories in the Central Hockey League is a huge match for the Odessa Jackalopes on the road against the Rapid City Rush. Odessa is closing on being the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot, while Rapid City continues to be in a fight with Colorado for the top spot in the North. Both teams have been on fire with a recent 6-1-0 record on their 7 game road trip. S

Since then they have tripped up some what with a split against the Colorado Eagles last weekend, after a 5-3 loss on Friday, the Jackalopes came back with a 9-4 win on Saturday where Sebastien Thinel is playing some of his best hockey of the year where he has scored points in 8 of his last 9, and in that stretch he has had 3 or more points in 5 of those games. In his last game against Colorado, he had his 2nd 5 point night of the season with 5 assists in the victory which takes him to 62 points in 47 games played this season.

That takes him to 3rd overall in the league only behind the Colorado duo of Kevin Ulanski with 75 points (23G 52A), and Riley Nelson with 68 points (22G 46A). He will hae to have some more big games like that if he will close the gap on the Eagle teammates and win the League scoring title for the 2nd straight season. Rapid City will have to find a way to stop Thinel, but the Rush have a strong offensive trio to fight back with Les Reaney (60 PTS), Scott Wray (58 PTS), and Brendan Cook (57 PTS) that should make this a great weekend series and what could be a possible Championship preview.

Texas and Laredo have a huge game tonight as both teams are looking to avoid the Southern Conference Play In Round as the Bucks are up by just a point over the defending champion Brahmas (LAR 52 PTS, TEX 51 PTS). With the Brahmas hosting this game, it should benefit as this series has gone to the home team. For Texas, it's a busy 3 games in 4 days as that Saturday night will have the Brahmas play Allen at the NYTEX.

Then on Monday night, it's the return leg at the Allen Event Center. Laredo will head back to South Texas after this one, the Bucks will take on the Killer Bees on Saturday night, then the two will meet again in Laredo on Sunday afternoon.

Currently, both teams have played the same amount of games (45), but the Bucks have a point edge, so the Brahmas need to get the win tonight, then have a strong home and home against Allen to take them over for 3rd.

The race for the final spot in the South is currently between the RGV Killer Bees and Corpus as both teams are tied, but the Killer Bees have the game in hand. Both teams are looking to get back on track as the Killer Bees have ended up losing 6 of their last 8, but to help them in the standings has been that 4 of the games have gone to OT.

But still, 3 of the 4 games they still lost. The only OT Victory in that span was a 3-2 win over the Laredo Bucks back on 2/4. Starting goalie Andy Franck needs to find his confidence as he has won just 3 of his last 10 starts and have leaked some big goals including a huge 3-2 SO Loss where the Bucks went up 2-0 in the first period. So questions about the confidence of both goalies is starting to erode. Backup Wylie Rogers has taken a fall since his surprising first season with the club last year, with just a 8-7-2 record and a 3.59 GAA and a .899SV%. Compared to an 18-10-3 record with a GAA of just over 3 and a solid .908 SV%.

On Saturday, Amarillo and Tulsa will fight to keep their playoff hopes intact. For the Oilers, following a shameful 4-2 loss against Wichita. The Oilers thought a pair of road wins against the Missouri Mavericks would help them out, however, 2 games in the midweek saw them loss 4-3 against Colorado and a 2-1 OTL against the Allen Americans. Even though Tulsa is up by 3 points, this continues to open the door for Missouri to get back in the playoff race.

In addition to the Amarillo game, another huge game against Mississippi Riverkings as the Kings are starting to get dragged into the Northern Conference Play in Round Race with Bossier-Shreveport went 3-2 in a recent 5 game home stand, including a 4-3 OT win over Colorado against 1/30. The Mudbugs are in the midst of a 3 game road trip with wins over the Mississippi Riverkings and Missouri Mavericks. This weekend is a home and home against Corpus Christi this weekend.

The Texas Tornado will embark on their 2nd trip to Alaska this season, will begin a 6 game road trip that takes place over the next 3 weekends. It starts with the Icedogs, after a successful 3 game homestand against them last week, the Tornado will look to solidify their playoff spot in the South Division. The Tornado will need to stop the league leading score Michael Juola who lit the Tornado for a 7 point night in Frisco back on 2/3. For Fairbanks, for them it's about claiming 1st round home ice as the Wenatchee Wild are off until 2/19. Back in November, the Tornado split a weekend series by beating the Icedogs 6-2 on 11/13, then the Icedogs got revenge the next night with a 5-2 win.

Wichita Falls Playoff hopes are beginning to slip away as a tough road trip to St. Louis awaits them. Last week, the Wildcats were only able to gain an OT loss back on 2/6 where a 3 goal 3rd period helped the game get to OT before Edgars Lipsbergs continues his strong season by scoring his 15th goal of the season. Wichita Falls needs players like Tyler Lundley, Daniel Gentzler and Adam Kuhn to help out the team's leading score Brian Sheehan for the rest of the season if the Wildcats are going to eat in to the Texas Tornado and Springfield Jr. Blues in the playoff race. A 3 game road trip awits them as a 9-7 loss is a part of the season series back in early October, overall, the Wildcats have not beaten the Bandits all season.

Southwest Weekend Schedule

National Hockey League

2/13: Dallas Stars VS. Phoenix Coyotes 8:00 PM

American Hockey League


San Antonio Rampage VS. Peoria Rivermen 7:00 PM

Chicago Wolves VS. Texas Stars 7:30 PM

Grand Rapids Griffins VS. Houston Aeros 7:35 PM


Chicago Wolves VS. Texas Stars 7:00 PM

San Antonio Rampage VS. Peoria Rivermen 7:30 PM

Grand Rapids Griffins VS. Houston Aeros 7:35 PM


San Antonio Rampage VS. Milwaukee Admirals 4:00 PM

Chicago Wolves VS. Houston Aeros 4:05 PM

Central Hockey League


Laredo Bucks VS. Texas Brahmas 7:05 PM

Allen Americans VS. Amarillo Gorillas 7:05 PM

Corpus Christi Icerayz VS. Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees 7:35 PM

Mississippi Riverkings VS. Tulsa Oilers 7:35 PM

Odessa Jackalopes VS. Rapid City Rush 8:05 PM


Allen Americans VS. Texas Brahmas 7:05 PM

Laredo Bucks VS. Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees 7:35 PM

Amarillo Gorillas VS. Tulsa Oilers 7:35 PM

Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs VS. Corpus Christi Icerayz 7:45 PM

Odessa Jackalopes VS. Rapid City Rush 8:05 PM


Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees VS. Laredo Bucks 4:00 PM

Corpus Christi Icerayz VS. Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs 4:05 PM

Arizona Sundogs VS. Amarillo Gorillas 4:05 PM

North American Hockey League


Wichita Falls Wildcats VS. St. Louis Bandits 7:05 PM

Texas Tornado VS. Fairbanks Icedogs 7:30 PM Alaska Time


Wichita Falls Wildcats VS. St. Louis Bandits 7:05 PM

Texas Tornado VS. Fairbanks Icedogs 7:30 PM Alaska Time


Wichita Falls Wildcats VS. St. Louis Bandits 2:00 PM

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