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Stars Prospects Fall to Columbus in OT, Finish Second in Traverse City

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars prospects came up short in their bid for a championship at the NHL Prospect Tournament Tuesday night, falling 3-2 in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the title game at Center Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan.

Columbus forward Josh Anderson redirected an Alexander Wennberg shot into the net with 1:54 left in three-on-three overtime to give the Blue Jackets a perfect 4-0-0 record and the Traverse City title.

“I thought we played hard,” said Brendan Ranford, the captain of the Stars prospects. “We should have had a better outcome, but we played hard as a group. The biggest thing in a tournament like this is coming together really quick, and I think our team did. We had a lot of fun. Take it into overtime, anything can happen and we just didn’t get the last goal.”

Ranford and Radek Faksa scored goals for the Stars and goaltender Philippe Desrosiers stopped 26 of 29 shots.

The Stars and Blue Jackets came into the game with identical 3-0-0 records and looked like two evenly matched teams, playing a fast-paced contest for 65 minutes.

“You saw the two best teams battling here,” said Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal, who coached the Dallas prospects. “We went into overtime and we got a little taste of three-on-three overtime. I think we kind of redirected that one into our own net. But at the end of the day the kids had a great tournament, they battled hard, and they can hold their heads high. … This is a chance for all these kids to springboard their season. Whether they are going back to training camp, juniors or Europe, this is a great chance to start the season. We are happy with what we saw.”

After Columbus’ Kerby Rychel scored 4:48 into the game to put the Blue Jackets up 1-0, the Stars answered midway through the first with a goal by Faksa, who took a pass from Gemel Smith and scored off a shot from the slot.

The Stars took the lead at 6:06 of the second period when Ranford was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down on a shorthanded breakaway bid. He cashed in, beating Blue Jackets goaltender Oscar Dansk with a backhand shot.

“I have a couple of moves that I like to use on a penalty shot or shootout,” Ranford said. “I like seeing where the goalie is and his depth. I just tried to make a move and went to the backhand and tried to get it up.”

Columbus tied the game late in the second. After Desrosiers made a sharp save on a Wennberg redirection, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored on the ensuing scramble to make it a 2-2 game with 2:51 remaining in the second.

There was no scoring in the third period. Columbus had the best chance, but T.J Tynan’s shot from the slot rang off the crossbar with 1:59 remaining in regulation.

The teams then headed to a 7:00 session of overtime that would include both four-on-four and three-on-three hockey. Nobody scored in the four-on-four portion, but Anderson tallied with the two teams playing three-on-three to give Columbus the title.

The Stars prospects finished second at the tournament with a 3-0-1 record.

“We were very proud of them,” said Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill. “They played hard and lost in double overtime, or whatever you want to call it. They played hard all tournament, they were a good team and they should be proud of themselves.”

Notes

*Stars forward Gemel Smith tied for second in the tournament in points with six (one goal, five assists). His five assists were tied for first.

*Stars forward Radek Faksa tied for ninth in tournament scoring with five points (two goals, three assists).

*Forwards Matej Stransky and Brendan Ranford tied for seventh in goal scoring with three goals each.

*The final standings for the tournament were:

1. Columbus
2. Dallas
3. Detroit
4. Carolina
5. Minnesota
6. New York Rangers
7. St. Louis
8. Buffalo

Stars lineup

Brendan RanfordJason DickinsonGemel Smith
Remi ElieRadek FaksaMatej Stransky
Brett PollockTaylor PetersBranden Troock
Mads Eller – Cole UllyMatej Paulovic

Jyrki JokipakkaJulius Honka
Esa LindellLudwig Bystrom
Alex Peters – Troy Vance

Philippe Desrosiers
Henri Kiviaho

Prospect Snapshot: Gemel Smith

Stars prospect Gemel Smith headed to Cedar Park after his junior career ended last season to get a taste of pro hockey. He didn’t play in a game for the Texas Stars, but he soaked in the experience, hoping it will help as he makes the transition to the pro ranks this season.

“I watched how they prepare before and after a game, watched how hard they worked in practice,” said Smith. “I watched every little thing they do, how they eat and take care of their body. It was good to watch how pros conduct themselves.”

Smith, a fourth round pick (104th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, believes he gained more valuable experience over the past week playing at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, a tournament that is close to an AHL level of play.

“It helps prepare for the next level,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that have played pro already and a lot of older and stronger guys, so it helps to prepare you for how stronger and quicker the game is up here. I just take everything I can out of it and try to get better.”

Smith and his teammates were a little scrambly in the first game, but things picked up for both Smith and the team, and the gritty, speedy forward has been among Dallas’ better players. He finished tied for second in tournament scoring with six points (one goal, five assists).

“I thought in game two, when we needed some energy, he brought that and was one of our better forwards,” said Scott White, Dallas Stars director of hockey operations and Texas Stars GM. “He’s got some quickness to his game, he just needs to learn the pro game. Like most young guys, consistency will be the key thing in his transition. He’s got some quickness, some skill, but he just has to learn the game.”

The 20-year-old Smith will turn pro after four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, where he played with the Owen Sound Attack and the London Knights. Last season he put up a career-high 37 goals in 69 games, ranking 16th in the league. He started the season with Owen Sound, but at the league’s trade deadline was dealt to London, one of the top organizations in Canadian major junior hockey.

“It expanded my game,” Smith said. “We were trusted with the puck. There was structure, but we were allowed to be creative. I enjoyed it a lot and learned a lot.”

London lost in the second round of the playoffs but played in the Memorial Cup as the host team. The Knights were unable to shake off the rust of a long layoff and went winless in three games at the tournament.

“I got another crack at the Memorial Cup,” said Smith. “It didn’t go so well, but a lot of people don’t even get one chance. It was good just to have another experience there.”

Smith is expected to play for the Texas Stars this season. Texas should be deep at forward, so the Toronto native will have his work cut out for him as far as getting ice time.

“It’s definitely going to be a good experience,” Smith said. “I am looking to learn a lot and as much as I can in my first year.”

“He’s a gifted player,” said Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “He’s got some things to figure out in his game, which is normal. He has a skill set that is pretty impressive, so we’ll just have to work with him and nurture him along.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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