Stars raise Western Conference Championship banner, get three of four points to begin season

Texas beat Grand Rapids in season opener, lost to Milwaukee in second game of season


The Texas Stars added another piece of cloth to the rafters of the HEB Center this weekend as they raised their Western Conference Banner on Friday night. 

On the ice, the AHL team finished the weekend with a split, beating the Grand Rapids Griffins 3-1 on Friday before losing to former Texas coach Karl Taylor and the Milwaukee Admirals 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. 

“Any time you can get three out of four points in a weekend, you’re going to take it,” Stars head coach Derek Laxdal said after Saturday’s game. “I didn’t mind our game tonight. Give our guys a lot of credit for battling back against a team that’s been sitting here rested and ready to go.”

The Stars raised their first banner since the Calder Cup Championship banner following the 2014 season. Texas won their third conference title last year and advanced to the finals for the third time in nine seasons in Cedar Park, where they lost to the Toronto Marlies in seven games. 

The season opener against the Griffins couldn’t have gone any better and Texas is a perfect 10-0 in home openers in franchise history.

Dallas native Colton Hargrove opened the scoring just over three minutes into the first period, but the Griffins evened the score on the power play later in the period. Joel L’Esperance scored the game-winning goal late in the second period and Justin Dowling added an empty-netter late in the third.

Saturday was a different kind of game. 

Dillon Heatherington gave the Stars the lead midway through the first period before Milwaukee scored three straight to help the Admirals get out to a 3-1 lead. 

Niklas Hansson scored midway through the third period and L'Esperance tallied with under a minute left in regulation to give Texas at least one point. Admirals forward Rocco Grimaldi scored two minutes into overtime. 

“We knew we had to stay with it and we had some opportunities in the first and second we didn’t capitalize on,” Stars forward Michael Mersch, who assisted on Hansson’s goal, said. “I knew it was coming down there and I was able to get a stick on it and get it over to him. I was celebrating before it went in the net.”

In Saturday’s overtime loss, the Stars combined for six penalties for 12 minutes, something Laxdal said needs to be addressed going forward. 

“It’s not necessary penalties of just trying to keep your stick down and keep your hands down,” Laxdal said. “We know early in the season, they’re going to call every little thing trying to clamp down. We’ve got to have a little more discipline.”

The Stars are on the road for their next three games, playing at the Iowa Wild on Friday, at the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday and in Grand Rapids against the Griffins on Wednesday. Texas returns home on Oct. 19 to begin a two-game series against the Wild. 

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