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Reinforcements on way for Texas Stars' final playoff push

2018 first-round pick Dellandrea and other prospects are slated to join Dallas' AHL affiliate

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Texas Stars are getting reinforcements this week.

The Dallas Stars signed center Rhett Gardner, defense Joe Cecconi, and right wing Josh Melnick to entry-level contracts and all three are joining Texas on amateur tryouts. Also, Dallas assigned center Ty Dellandrea, the team's first-round pick in 2018, to Texas.

Dellandrea, the 13th overall pick in last summer's draft, just wrapped up his regular season with Flint in the Ontario Hockey League where he tallied 63 points (22 goals, 41 assists) in 60 games.

It was a rough season for Flint, which won just 16 games and finished next to last in the OHL standings. But Dellandrea, an excellent all-around player with a good skillset, played well in Flint despite the team's struggles. 

"He's had a good year," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "It's been a tough year team-wise, so it's been a tough grind. He's been the leader of the team all along. He's put up good points, had a strong season. It's a good chance for him to see what the pro game is like."

While Dellandrea will get a taste of the pro game and the AHL for the rest of his season, he won't be eligible to play in the AHL next season under the NHL-CHL transfer agreement. That means he'll return to juniors if he does not make Dallas' NHL roster.

Gardner, a fourth-round pick in 2016, just wrapped up a four-year career at the University of North Dakota where he recorded 74 points (34 goals, 40 assists) in 149 games.

Video: Nill on Stars' three signings, Dellandrea to Texas

The versatile Gardner, who was the NCHC Defensive Forward of the Year in 2017-18, is a faceoff specialist who won 62.3 percent of his draws this past season. The 6-3, 210-pound, left-handed shooting Gardner is an excellent penalty killer and can move up and down the lineup.

"Rhett plays a real hard, heavy game," Nill said. "He's great on draws, a great penalty killer. He plays a man's game. Good net-front presence on the power play. We're excited to watch him."

Cecconi, a fifth-round pick in 2015, is coming off a four-year career at the University of Michigan where he tallied 62 points (9 goals, 53 assists) in 147 games. The 6-2, 210-pound Cecconi, who shoots right-handed, was considered a shutdown defensive defenseman early in his career but has blossomed offensively the past two seasons, tallying 47 points (8 goals, 39 assists) in 76 games.

There was speculation that Cecconi might pass on signing with the Stars and try free agency, but Nill denied the Stars had any concerns.

"We kept in touch with him, and he's always been very positive whenever we've talked to him," Nill said. "In the end, I went up and met with him in Michigan, and he was excited about turning pro. He wants to be a Dallas Star."

Melnick, a free agent signing, played four years at Miami University, where he recorded 107 points (38 goals, 69 assists) in 140 games. He led the RedHawks in scoring this season with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists) in 32 games. A 5-10, 180-pound winger who shoots right, Melnick recorded at least 25 points in each of his four seasons at Miami.

"High energy, plays the game the right way. Good offensive numbers," said Nill.

 

Week in review

The Texas Stars lost two of three games on the road this past week and dropped one point out of a playoff spot in the AHL's Central Division. The Stars have 11 games left in the season, eight of them at home beginning with a four-game homestand that gets underway this week.

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

 

Wednesday, March 13: Manitoba 4, Texas 3

Texas began a three-game road trip with a 4-3 loss at Manitoba on Wednesday. Texas overcame 1-0 and 3-2 deficits, but Manitoba's Felix Girard's goal with 5:39 remaining gave the Moose a 4-3 lead that would hold up the rest of the game.

Brad McClure, Joel Hanley, and Gavin Bayreuther scored for Texas. Hanley's second-period goal turned into an internet sensation.

Hanley fired the puck into the Manitoba zone from the red line, and as Moose goaltender Eric Comrie went to play it, the puck hit the end boards, bounced straight out past the icing line and then took a bizarre left turn into the net.

Landon Bow got the start in goal for Texas and stopped 20 of 24 shots.

 

Friday, March 15: Texas 5, Manitoba 4 (OT)

Michael Mersch scored 1:56 into overtime to lift Texas to a 5-4 victory over Manitoba at Bell MTS Place Friday. Mersch took a pass from Shane Hanna on the rush and scored from the right circle for his 19th goal of the season.

Denis Gurianov and Erik Condra both had one goal and one assist for the Stars while Tony Calderone and Travis Morin also scored. Texas had a 4-1 lead after two periods, but the Moose scored three times in just under five minutes in the third to force overtime. Philippe Desrosiers stopped 38 of 42 shots.

With Landon Bow recalled to the NHL on an emergency basis due to an injury to Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop, Texas signed Byron Spriggs from the University of Manitoba to an amateur tryout to serve as an emergency backup for Friday's game.

 

Sunday, March 17: Rockford 2, Texas 1

Texas wrapped up its three-game road trip with a 2-1 loss at Rockford on Sunday.

With the regulation win, Rockford moved one point ahead of Texas for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Denis Gurianov scored the lone goal for the Stars, and Philippe Desrosiers stopped 23 of 25 shots. All the scoring in the game came in the first period.

Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg made 34 saves, 30 of them over the final two periods as Texas pressed for the equalizer.

 

Prospect spotlight
  • Texas forward Denis Gurianov has eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games since being reassigned to Texas from Dallas in mid-February. For the season, Gurianov has 45 points 19 goals, 26 assists) in 46 games. He leads current Texas players in points per game at 0.98.

  • Texas forward Michael Mersch has nine points (five goals, four assists) in his last ten games. Mersch has 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 57 games.

 

Texas lineup

Michael Mersch - Justin Dowling - Erik Condra
Denis Gurianov - Travis Morin - Colin Markison
Adam Mascherin- Colton Hargrove - Brad McClure
Shane Hanna - James Phelan - Tony Calderone

Gavin Bayreuther - Joel Hanley
Dillon Heatherington - Niklas Hansson
John Nyberg - Ben Gleason

Philippe Desrosiers
Colton Point

 

Upcoming schedule
  • Wednesday, March 20, Grand Rapids at Texas, 7 p.m.

  • Friday, March 22, Chicago at Texas, 7 p.m.

  • Saturday, March 23, Grand Rapids at Texas, 7 p.m.

 

Idaho Steelheads (ECHL)

The Idaho Steelheads have clinched a spot in the ECHL's Kelly Cup Playoffs for a 22nd straight season. The Steelheads (37-22-5) have never missed the playoffs in franchise history.

Idaho won two of three games this past week and is in first place in the Mountain Division.

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 DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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