Texas Stars seek to bring back hockey fervor

2013-05-02_Hockey_Stars_Pu

Pu Ying Huang

Texas Stars goalie Cris Nilstorp is expected to start for the remainder of playoff games.  Nilstorp, originally from Sweden, said fan support has greatly aided the Stars in their success this season.

Will Korn

The Dallas Stars, Texas’ lone National Hockey League team, took home their only Stanley Cup in 1999. Since then however, it seems that many Texans’ appreciation for hockey has bowed in the presence of their true love — football. Missing the playoffs for the fifth season in a row this year, the Stars didn’t do much to win back widespread Texan support from 13 years ago. But there’s another hockey team in Texas that might be up to the task. Allow me to introduce the Texas Stars, Dallas’ America Hockey League affiliate.

Formerly known as the Iowa Chops until 2008, the team was renamed the Texas Stars in 2009, and in the same year relocated to Cedar Park, Texas. The move from Iowa gave hockey fans in Central Texas a new team to cheer for. Playing in the then-brand-new Cedar Park Center in front of a fresh fan base, the Stars won the AHL’s Western Conference in their inaugural season. Although they fell in six games to the Hershey Bears in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals, the team’s success that season was promising. 

This season was the Stars’ most successful one in their brief history. Finishing with a record of 43-22-5-6 (22 regulation losses, five overtime losses and six shootout losses) this year is the first time they have finished in first place in the South Division. 

Their 97 points also earned them the Western Conference’s top seed in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Overall, the Stars finished this year’s campaign tied for the third-best record in the AHL. 

The Stars have already begun their quest for the 2013 Calder Cup. They are currently in a best-of-five series against the Milwaukee Admirals, the west’s eighth seed. Differing from the best-of-seven series format of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the AHL uses a best-of-five format for its first-round series, and a best-of-seven format for the remaining rounds. As is the AHL playoff format, the Stars played the first two games of the opening round on the road in Milwaukee, Wis., where they left with the series tied 1-1. They will be back home in Cedar Park for games three, four and five if necessary. 

Stars head coach Willie Desjardins admitted that his team is in a tough battle with the Admirals.

“The first two games were tight, and we thought they would be,” Desjardins said. “Milwaukee has played well down the stretch, they don’t give up a lot and both teams are geared up for the playoffs.”

With the series squared at one, the team says it’s excited to be back home for some playoff hockey in Texas.

“It’s always good to play at home,” said Cris Nilstorp, the Stars’ expected starting goalie for the remainder of these playoffs. “Our fans are great, and I’m sure they are going to help us tomorrow night.”

A few of the Stars’ players were called up to Dallas this year to fill in for injuries or just to get NHL ice time. One of those players was winger Alex Chiasson. He said he enjoyed his time with Dallas, but he’s glad everyone is back together again.

“For me, coming back down here is great,” Chiasson said. “It’s the experience I’m looking for. I haven’t played in a real playoff atmosphere for so long. I’ve spent most of this year with this group of guys and it’s a great group to make a run with.”

The Stars hope to capture their first-ever Calder Cup and bring the hockey fervor back to Texas.