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3 straight wins keep Texas Stars in thick of playoff race

Dallas' AHL affiliate is tied with three other teams at 77 points for the fourth and final playoff spot

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Texas Stars had a big week, winning all three of their games to stay in the thick of a tight race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the AHL's Central Division.

Texas (35-29-7) is one of three teams tied at 77 points for that final spot, with a fourth team trailing closely at 76 points.

Some of the recently added Dallas prospects played a big role for Texas this past week, including goaltender Jake Oettinger winning his pro debut and Rhett Gardner delivering a game-winning goal.

Here's the latest on the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars.


Wednesday, March 27: Texas 3, Manitoba 2

The Texas Stars rallied in the third period for a 3-2 win over the Manitoba Moose Wednesday at H-E-B Center.

Dillon Heatherington gave the Stars a 3-2 lead on a goal off the rush with 10:40 remaining after Michael Mersch had tied the game 2-2 just 34 seconds earlier, picking off a clearing attempt and scoring from the right circle.

Joel Hanley scored a first-period goal, and Landon Bow stopped 25 of 27 shots for Texas, which finished a four-game homestand 2-2-0.


Friday, March 29: Texas 5, Iowa 2

Gardener recorded his first points as a pro, tallying one goal and one assist, as the Texas Stars overcame an early 2-0 deficit and won, 5-2, at Iowa on Friday.

Gardner's goal at 17:22 of the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and held up as the game-winner for the Stars, who trailed 2-0 after the first period.

Adam Mascherin and Colin Markison scored in the second to pull Texas even before Gardner, who had assisted on Markison's goal, put Texas ahead with a one-timer. Philippe Desrosiers stopped 24 of 26 shots.


Saturday, March 30: Texas 4, Iowa 1

Oettinger stopped 23 shots to win his pro debut, and Brad McClure scored three third-period goals as the Texas Stars won their third straight game, defeating Iowa, 4-1, at Wells Fargo Arena.

Oettinger, a first-round pick by Dallas in the 2017-NHL draft, had just joined Texas last week on an amateur tryout.

"He's the real deal," Texas coach Derek Laxdal told broadcast media before the game. "It's a big game to get thrown into, but that's part of the development process in the AHL."

Nick Caamano scored in the second to give Texas a 1-0 lead, and after Iowa tied the game later in the period, McClure tallied three goals in a 7:28 span of the third to propel Texas to the win.


Dallas prospect Damiani joins Texas

Dallas forward prospect Riley Damiani has joined Texas on an amateur tryout after signing a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL club.

The 19-year-old Damiani, a fifth-round pick (137th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, recorded 85 points (35 goals, 50 assists) in 58 games with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League.

He ranked 16th in the OHL in points and 12th in points per game (1.47).


Player notes:
  • Among players currently on the Texas roster, Erik Contra is tops with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) and Michael Mersch leads with 22 goals.

  • Mersch has scored 8 goals in his last 16 games.

  • Defenseman Joel Hanley has recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in his last 11 games.

  •  Rookie forward Nick Caamano has scored 5 goals in his last 12 games. Caamano has 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 68 games for the season.


Central Division playoff race

The Central Division playoff race continues to be tight with three teams tied at 77 points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division and another team just one point back at 76.

And third-place Iowa has lost six straight games and has seen its lead over the final playoff spot shrink to three games. Texas ranks sixth in the standings in based on tiebreakers.

(3) Iowa: 80 points (5 games remaining - 3 home/2 away)
(4) Manitoba: 77 points (6 games remaining - 3 home/3 away)
(5) Milwaukee: 77 points (6 games remaining - 5 home/1 away)
(6) Texas: 77 points (5 games remaining - 4 home/1 away)
(7) Rockford: 76 games (5 games remaining - 1 home/4 away)


Texas lineup

Here is the Texas lineup from the last game.

Michael Mersch - Travis Morin - Erik Condra
Nick Caamano - Josh Melnick - Denis Gurianov
Brad McClure - Ty Dellandrea - Adam Mascherin
Colton Hargrove - Rhett Gardner - Colin Markison

Dillon Heatherington - Niklas Hansson
Gavin Bayreuther - Joel Hanley
Ben Gleason - Joe Cecconi

Jake Oettinger
Philippe Desrosiers


Upcoming schedule
  • Friday, April 5, Rockford at Texas, 7 p.m.

  • Saturday, April 6, Rockford at Texas, 7 p.m.


Idaho Steelheads (ECHL)

The Idaho Steelheads (40-24-5) close out the regular season this week with a three-game series against Utah, a potential first-round playoff opponent.

The Steelheads are currently in second place in the ECHL's Mountain Division, and that first-round playoff will be determined this week.  

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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