November 12, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Hockey: Walker, Monsters down Texas

By Kirk Luedeke

Luke Walker (New Haven, Conn.) is in his third year in the Avs' organization. (Getty Images)

Texas Stars vs. Lake Erie Monsters (AHL)
November 10, 2012 | Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Monsters 5, Stars 4 (SO)

The Texas Stars gave their fans a barnburner of a hockey game, but ultimately came up short Saturday night at the Cedar Park Center. The team dropped a 5-4 shootout game to the Lake Erie Monsters after Matt Fraser scored his second goal of the game with less than a second remaining in regulation. Once again, the Stars outshot their opponent by a wide margin (49-26) but couldn’t secure the victory.

Texas overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first and second periods, but a brief lapse with a little under 14 minutes in the final frame resulted in two quick goals by Lake Erie, appearing to seal the home team’s fate in a disappointing loss. However, Cody Eakin tallied late off of an offensive zone faceoff. Fraser, who coming into the game had been unable to find the net more than one time in nine games, grabbed a Cam Barker (two assists on the night) rebound and ripped a backhander just inside the right post. Fraser’s heroics, though not enough to secure an extra point in the game, fired up the crowd.

Right wing Luke Walker opened the scoring with a scorching wrist shot that beat Stars goalie Jack Campbell cleanly for Walker’s fourth goal of the season. The Stars evened the score while on a two-man advantage, however. Matt Fraser, who had just one goal in nine games, grabbed a rebound of a Barker shot that hit the post and fired it over Calvin Pickard’s left shoulder.

Early in the second period, after the Stars were unable to capitalize on another 5-on-3, Monsters captain Bryan Lerg fired home a wrister off an odd-man rush, his team-leading seventh goal of the year. Tomas Vincour answered with a sharp angle goal when he grabbed his own rebound of a shot that hit the post and put it past Pickard to give the Stars new confidence heading into the final frame.

However, things unraveled quickly in the third when Mike Sgarbossa put a rolling puck through Campbell’s five-hole to give Lake Erie a 3-2 advantage with 13:25 remaining in the contest. Less than 10 seconds later, the Monsters broke out from the center ice faceoff and Brad Malone gathered a juicy rebound, putting it past Campbell for a 4-2 lead.

That set the stage for Eakin and Fraser to find the back of the net to secure the crucial point and demonstrate the team’s commitment to playing to the final buzzer.

Reilly Smith was the only Star to score during the shootout, while the Monsters got goals from Malone, Lerg and Mark Olver, who tallied to secure the victory and extra point. Pickard, who blanked the Stars on Oct. 21, was sensational again in net, making 45 saves in regulation and the overtime period before allowing just one goal in the shootout.

New England connections:

Stars (Dallas Stars AHL affiliate)

- Jamie Oleksiak, D: Spent one season at Northeastern University before the Dallas Stars made him their top pick in 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Oleksiak played the 2011-12 season in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit and Niagara Ice Dogs (where he was Dougie Hamilton’s teammate) before turning pro with the Stars. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound native of Ontario had two assists in four games entering this one.

Game observations: Oleksiak continues to make strides in the offensive element of his game- while on a 2-on-1 rush, he made a terrific pass in first period that Matt Fraser forced Pickard to make a tough save on. He skates well for a player of his 6-foot-7 frame and has improved his directional change, pivoting more smoothly and efficiently than he did in his draft year when skating for Northeastern University.

Stars Notes: It was Military Appreciation Weekend at Cedar Park Center. Members of the 752nd Explosive Ordinance Company out of Fort Hood had a display at the arena  and an anti-explosives robot dropped a ceremonial puck before the game. After the game, Lake Erie coach Dean Chynoweth met with Stars forward Cody Eakin. The two have a connection going back to Chynoweth’s time as GM and coach of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, who drafted Eakin as a bantam and developed him before Chynoweth moved on to an assistant coaching position with the NY Islanders in 2009. Goaltender Jack Campbell wore his Team USA mask from the World Jr. Championship tournament to go with the red, white and blue-themed Stars uniforms for Veterans Day weekend.

Monsters (Colorado Avalanche AHL affiliate)

- Paul Carey, LW (Weymouth, Mass.): Former two-champion NCAA with Boston College is in his first full AHL season. As a senior at BC, Carey (pictured right) scored 18 goals and 30 points for Eagles, capturing second title in four years with the Eagles (2010, 2012). Former Salisbury School captain also led Crimson Knights to prep title in 2007. Scored 34 goals, 66 points for USHL’s Indiana Ice in 2007-08. Drafted by Colorado in 5th round,135th overall in 2007.

Game observations: Another quiet game for Carey, who is an average skater and does not bring much in terms of a dynamic element to his playing style. He exists on smarts and anticipating the play with limited minutes. He got into some trouble late in the game when he was called for boarding. He did well in a fight with Jordie Benn, but was ejected from the game and Fraser scored to tie the game with the Stars enjoying a 6-on-4 advantage because of Carey’s penalty.

- David van der Gulik, LW: British Columbia native spent four years at Boston University from 2002-06 after being a seventh-round pick of the Calgary Flames in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. In 37 NHL games between the Flames and Colorado Avalanche, Van Der Gulik has two goals and 11 points.

Game observations: Aside from taking a bad interference penalty when he ran Texas defenseman Jordie Benn into Campbell, van der Gulik did not stand out in this one.

- Thomas Pock, D: Former UMass Minuteman and NHLer with the NY Rangers and Islanders is back in North America after spending a season in the Swedish Elite League with MoDo.

Game observations: The Austrian veteran did not register any points, but played a steady, effective game in his own end while aiding in the Lake Erie transition. He’s a smooth operator along the point who distributes the puck well and keeps things pretty well under control on special teams.

- Luke Walker, RW (New Haven, Connecticut): Son of former minor league and NHL (31 games with NY Rangers and Los Angeles) journeyman forward Gord Walker was born in the Nutmeg State while his dad skated for the New Haven Nighthawks when in the Kings’ system during the 1989-90 season. Raised out in Western Canada, Walker played in the WHL for the Portland Winterhawks and was a member of the gold medal-winning USA World Jr. Championship Team in 2010 with Jack Campbell.

Game observations: Streaked down the right wing boards and ripped a laser shot through Campbell’s five-hole for the first score of the game, his fourth of the year in 10 games. Stood out with his speed and energy throughout the game.

- Dean Chynoweth, head coach: The first-round selection of the New York Islanders (13th overall) in 1987 played for the Boston Bruins from 1996-98. The rugged, hard-nosed defender coached the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds and Swift Current Broncos (also serving as GM) before moving to the NHL as an assistant with the New York Islanders from 2009-12. He was hired to coach Colorado’s AHL affiliate in the off-season.

The post-mortem

Lake Erie Monsters Head Coach Dean Chynoweth

On the contest and his team’s performance:

“(The Stars) played a tough game tonight and we were fortunate to come away with the extra point. Earlier in the season, our special teams were doing a great job for us, and now it’s our goaltending that is making a difference when we’re falling short in other areas. We still have some things to work on, but we’re glad to get out of here with a win.”

Texas Stars Head Coach Willie Desjardins

On his team’s heart and comeback attempt:

“Yeah- we had lots of chances. It seems like every time I talk we put up lots of shots. Boy, one hit the guy in the head- he didn’t even see it- so it’s tough to buy right now. It was good- specialty teams were better tonight both ways and that’s probably why we got some points.”

On Matt Fraser’s night being big for his confidence going forward:

“It’s big. He had 37 last year and that’s a huge number he expected to have it easy this year…not easy, but he put expectations on himself. It was good for him to score- he’s got a great release and it was good to see.”

Texas Stars RW Matt Fraser

On his goals:

“To be honest I don’t really remember the first one. We’re obviously hard pressed to score goals right now and I got to get to the net and put myself in position to shoot the puck. On the last one there it was just kind of a lucky play behind the net. It’s nice to get a bounce and have one go our way.”

On the emotion of scoring the goal and then having to wait for the video review:

“It’s obviously nice to contribute and get those goals. There’s lots of stuff that has to happen for me to score there. Obviously, we were riding a high going into overtime and it kind of sucks for the team in the shootout- it’s such a toss-up. We were hard tonight, battled hard and we have to take the positives from that.”

On getting a point in the game and building on that momentum:

“Obviously, this point is huge. We would have liked two, but we’ll take the one right now. It’s been a little bit of a struggle for the forwards and myself included to find the back of the net. It’s nice to get some momentum and you know you’re capable of scoring and believing in yourself again.”

On special teams play:

“The penalty kill and power play- we knew as a team it wasn’t up to par. Specialty teams are going to win you games. A lot of credit goes to the guys who are penalty killing- they’re sacrificing their bodies and everyone has to amp it up that much more on the PK and the power play too.”

On the Stars playing from behind in so many of the games and the pressure that creates:

“It’s obviously frustrating and the onus is on ourselves to make sure we’re ready. In this league it’s that much better with this lockout going on and once a team is behind the 8-ball it’s that much harder to get ahead of it again. Teams find a way to shut the other team down but tonight we were fortunate to battle back, but that doesn’t happen very often and we can’t be putting ourselves behind the 8-ball like that.”

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.