TOP-SEEDED STARS TO TAKE ON ICECAPS IN 2014 CALDER CUP FINALSNews | 6/5/2014 9:44:25 AM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
The 2014 American Hockey League Calder Cup Finals are set to begin on Sunday, June 8 when the top-seeded Texas Stars host the St. John’s IceCaps in Game 1 at Cedar Park Center, where both franchises begin their quest for their first-ever Calder Cup.
How The Series Shapes Up
The best-of-seven series was solidified Tuesday night after the Stars rolled to a decisive 6-2 win over the Toronto Marlies in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Sparked by the return of forward Justin Dowling, and coupled with a pair of three-point efforts from Brett Ritchie and former Amerk Mike Hedden, Texas erased a 2-0 deficit late in the second period with six unanswered goals in a span of 17:42 to secure its second conference championship in its brief five-year history.
The IceCaps, currently in just their third season as the AHL affiliate of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets, also punched their ticket to the Calder Cup Finals on Tuesday after winning the Richard Canning Trophy as Eastern Conference champions with a 5-0 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Mile One Centre in Newfoundland. The IceCaps became just the second AHL franchise in St. John’s to advance to the Calder Cup Finals since the St. John’s Maple Leafs went the distance against the Adirondack Red Wings during the 1992 Calder Cup Playoffs. The 1991-92 season was also the Maple Leafs’ first in the league as AHL members.
Texas and St. John’s enter the final series with identical 11-5 records and having each won six of eight on home ice. The Stars, led by seven goals each from Brendan Ranford and Dustin Jeffrey, pace the AHL with 53 goals in the playoffs while the 47 put up by the IceCaps are currently third-most in the league. St. John’s, however, owns the top defense that has allowed just 28 goals against (1.75 per game) in 16 games this postseason.
Andrew Gordon, a former two-time Calder Cup winner with the Hershey Bears, leads the AHL in postseason scoring with 16 points (8+8) in 16 games while teammate Eric O’Dell has scored a league-best nine goals for the IceCaps. St. John’s defenseman Will O’Neill leads all active blueliners with 13 points (2+11) and his 11 assists are equal to that of Texas forward Travis Morin for the most in the AHL. Morin is also tops in the league with 55 shots on goal while Ranford, the son of former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford, presently leads all active rookies with 10 points on seven goals and three assists. St. John’s goaltender Michael Hutchinson has played all 16 games through the first three rounds, going 11-5 with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. Hutchinson also currently leads all netminders in wins (11) and shutouts (3) and ranks second in saves (459), goals-against average and save percentage.
How They Got There
Texas opened the 2014 postseason with five straight wins, beginning with a first-round sweep of the Oklahoma City Barons before dispatching the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins in six games in the Conference Semifinals. Round three saw the Stars take a 3-2 series lead over Toronto only to have the determined Marlies force a decisive Game 7 that ended with the Stars hoisting the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference champions. Dating back to their 4-2 win over Oklahoma City in Game 3 of the first round, the Stars have outscored the opposition by a 17-5 margin and have scored at least four goals or more in series-clinching games. With the Barons out of the way, Texas then ousted Grand Rapids with a 7-1 rout in Game 6 before following that up with last night’s 6-2 Game 7 win over Toronto.
St. John’s’ road to the Calder Cup Finals began with a 3-1 series win over the Albany Devils before knocking off the Norfolk Admirals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in six games in Rounds Two and Three, respectively. After falling behind early with Game 1 losses to the Admirals and Penguins, the IceCaps won four of the next five games to clinch the series. Similar to that of Texas, St. John’s captured all three of its series-clinching wins on home ice.
Regular Season Recap
Coming off arguably its best season in the American Hockey League, Texas celebrated a record-setting campaign in 2013-14, culminating with the Stars’ second straight first-place finish in both the West Division and Western Conference, respectively. Guided by reigning AHL Coach of the Year Willie Desjardins, the Stars won 12 of their last 14 regular-season games and finished the year with an impressive 48-18-3-7 record and 106 points en route to their first Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular season champions. It also marked the fourth time in their brief five years of existence the Stars would surpass the 40-win mark and the first time in franchise history Texas reached 100 points in a single season.
As a team, Texas also finished with a league-best .697 winning percentage and its high-powered offense, which featured the illustrious and dangerous trio of Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour and Curtis McKenzie, ranked second in the AHL with 274 goals, just two shy of Binghamton’s league-leading 276 tallies this season. The Stars also led the AHL’s 30 teams with 2,775 shots, averaging just over 36.5 shots per game. Texas posted a league-best 29-8-0-1 record at home, including a season-long 12-game winning streak between Nov. 23 and Jan. 24, while outscoring the opposition 154-89 at Cedar Park Center this season. In addition to their dominance on home ice, the Stars were also just as effective on the road as their 11-game road point streak to close out the campaign was the longest in the AHL this season. Texas also owned the AHL’s best power-play in the league, scoring 82 times on 324 man-advantages for a 25.3% efficiency rate.
The storyline of the regular season, however, was that of Texas’ “Big Three”, who combined to produce 91 of the Stars’ 274 goals, including 32 each from both Morin and Sceviour. Most notably, though, was the impressive play of Morin, who in his seventh year of pro hockey, established himself as one of the most prolific scorers in recent AHL history. Before recording a team-high 15 points (4+11) in the playoffs, Morin was the AHL’s leading scorer from wire-to-wire in 2013-14 after amassing 88 points (32+56) with a +16 on-ice rating in 66 games for the Stars. Morin exactly doubled his 44-point output from a year ago while setting Texas franchise records for assists and points in a season. The CCM/AHL Player of the Month in both October and January, Morin began the season on a 10-game scoring streak and went without a point in consecutive games on just four occasions all year. He took part in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic in February and followed that up with a 2013-14 First Team AHL All-Star selection before receiving coveted AHL MVP honors. Morin finished the season first in the AHL in points and assists and second in goals and power-play assists (31).
A seventh-year pro from Brooklyn Park, Minn., Morin also appeared in four games with the Dallas Stars this season, picking up an assist for his first career NHL point. In 350 career AHL games with Texas and Hershey, Morin has totaled 99 goals and 197 assists for 296 points, and he is the Stars franchise’s all-time leader in goals (99), assists (196) and points (295) in 345 contests with the club.
Sceviour, who’s been with the Stars since their inception, is also fresh off a banner year that saw him set career-highs with 32 goals and 63 points to finish among the top three in scoring. Like Morin, the fifth-year pro finished tied for second in the league in goals and 11th in points prior to joining Dallas for the remainder of the season. In 26 games with the big club, the most of any Texas call-up this season, Sceviour registered 12 points (8+4) and remained with the Stars for their playoff run, adding three points (1+2) in six Stanley Cup contests.
Rounding out the top three for Texas was first-year pro Curtis McKenzie, whose 65 points (27+38) led all AHL rookies and ranked second among all Stars skaters. McKenzie, who appeared in all but one game for Texas in 2013-14, finished tied for 14th in the league with 27 goals on his way to being named the AHL’s Rookie of the Year and earning a selection on the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
Having missed the playoffs after a dreadful 72-point season in 2012-13, St. John’s returned to form in 2013-14 and closed out the campaign in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 46-23-2-5 record and 99 points – the best mark in franchise history. Led by All-Star captain and veteran forward Jason Jaffray, the IceCaps bested the 43 wins they captured during their inaugural season and fell just one point back of becoming the fifth AHL team to finish the regular season with 100 points or better.
The IceCaps finished with the fifth-best winning percentage in the league, winning just over 65% of their games. St. John’s was also the only team this season to have an even split of its 46 wins (23 home/23 road) and was one of nine teams to outscore the opposition at both home and on the road. The IceCaps concluded the season behind Texas with the third-best offense in the AHL, scoring just 16 fewer goals than the Stars.
Jaffray paced St. John’s in scoring throughout the regular season, recording a team-high 41 assists and 59 points while being one of three IceCaps skaters to appear in all 76 games. Jaffray, who also served as captain at the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic held in St. John’s, completed his 12th pro season tied for 11th in assists and 16th in scoring among the league’s top point-getters. Finishing just three points back of Jaffray, Jerome Samson closed the books on another productive year as he tied for 14th in the AHL with 27 goals and reached the 50-point mark for the fourth time in his seven-year career. First-year defenseman Brendan Kichton ranked sixth among league defensemen and 12th among rookies with 48 points (10+38) in 76 games. Back for his third season between the pipes, goaltender Eddie Pasquale posted a 17-13-1 record in 31 games and finished sixth and 12th among netminders with a .920 save percentage and a .243 goals-against average, respectively. Hutchinson, meanwhile, tied for 13th with three shutouts.
Playoff History Notes
2014 Calder Cup Finals (best-of-seven)