Texas Stars hockey
Hockey's back: The Texas Stars dominate in their opener
On Sunday, Cedar Park’s Texas Stars opened their 2011 hockey season with a dominant 7-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons at the Cedar Park Center in the their opening game of the AHL season.
Last season, the rivals finished within a point of each other in the Western Division, both narrowly making the playoffs. The Stars went on to Calder Cup semi-finals, eventually losing that series to Milwaukee.
With many players returning to the roster this season, including standout goalie, Richard Bachman and fan favorite, enforcer, Francis Wathier, the Stars look to contend for a playoff spot again this season. Bachman was so impressive in the net last year, he spent time filling in as backup for the Dallas Stars when injured goalie, Kari Lehtonen was unable to play in December.
Perhaps the biggest change for the Stars this season is at head coach where Jeff Pyle takes over the reins from Glen Gulutzan who was tapped to lead the Dallas Stars. Pyle is perhaps the next best coach available at the minor league level, taking the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL to the playoffs six of the eight seasons he led the club.
Pyle spoke to The Horn radio about the upcoming season and his coaching style, “I like being a little more aggressive (than Gulutzan), you know, take a few more chances.”
On the Stars prospects this season, Pyle said, “…they’ve got talent, they’ve got skill… if they work hard together and we’re aggressive at the right times and we make good decisions, it should be a fun year.”
The Stars will have to make the biggest adjustments on offense where they lost three starters, Greg Rallo (Florida Panthers), Aaron Gagnon (Winnipeg Jets) and Sean Backman (New York Islanders) to the NHL. Pyle will be looking to Wathier, Travis Morin and Scott Glennie (if healthy) to lead the offense this season, although it was Matt Fraser who led the team against the Barons with two goals Sunday.
Defensively, the Stars return most of their players, with all signed to NHL deals, a marked difference from last season when three players were unsigned. After a final three preseason games in which Pyle experimented with various lineups, it is still unclear who will find the most time on the ice. Standout defenders include, Brad Lukowich, Philip Larsen, Dan Spang and Jordie Benn.
The Stars next take on in-state rival Houston Aeros on Friday night. Game time is 7:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased here.
The Stars have announced a number of promotional nights in October, most notably, the H-E-B Food Drive Night on October 20th benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. Fans who bring 8 or more non-perishable food items will receive a free ticket to the game.