Maxime Lagace continues to impress in Texas Stars overtime victory

Brendan Ranford and Maxime Lagace celebrate the Stars preseason victory. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Brendan Ranford and Maxime Lagace celebrate the Stars preseason victory. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — Maxime Lagace was put in a tough spot in the Texas Stars 5-4 overtime preseason victory against the San Antonio Rampage.

The 22-year-old goalie entered in the third period with Texas trailing 4-3, and didn’t face a shot for nearly eight minutes — which can feel like an eternity for a goaltender when you’ve been sitting on a bench for two periods.

“It’s just thinking about the next shot, and what I need to do to make the next stop,” Lagace said. “I was just trying to focus on that and keep my head in the game.”

His approach was enough for Texas to tie the game with a minute remaining, on a goal by Justin Dowling, and then win in overtime when Julius Honka scored with 1.9 seconds remaining.

“Awesome,” Lagace said. “I probably jumped if you saw me. I was really, really happy. A shootout is not a thing you want. To end it up in the 3-on-3 was awesome.”

Honka wouldn’t have been able to win it overtime if Lagace didn’t make a couple crucial saves.

First he stopped Colin Smith on a breakaway early in overtime, then he stopped a flurry of shots with 30 seconds remaining — with a little bit of help from Brendan Ranford — before Dowling set up Honka for the game-winner.

“He’s been great, I mean, he was good last year when he was here,” Dowling said of Lagace. “I always thought he was a really good goalie. He’s got a lot of poise for his age, he makes the big saves.”

And Lagace had the best performance of the Stars three goalies during a pair of preseason games against San Antonio.

He stopped 19 of 21 shots in just under a game of work and he’s making a push to not only dress on opening night, but also start next Saturday against the Rampage.

“He’s been solid,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “He had a real solid main camp, and his game has really grown. He’s got a calming type of style — you saw the overtime save — and it was great for him.”

Laxdal did admit that John Muse, who stopped nine of 13 shots Sunday, was brought in to be the starter if “something went sidewise” with Jack Campbell — which it did with his hand injury — but he’ll be watching all three goalies closely this week.

“We have to find out what we’re going to do this week and the next couple weeks with Jack out,” Laxdal said. “And we’ll have to find a starter for Saturday.”

While the starting goalie is still up for grabs, the rest of Texas lineup was close to the opening night group.

“Pretty close, we got a couple guys here and there,” Laxdal said. “Probably 95 percent of the group you’ll see on opening night next week.”

Laxdal said Greg Rallo is one player who will likely be in the lineup next Saturday, and the veteran is about “99.9 percent” recovered from his lower-body injury.

San Antonio’s lineup was more of a hybrid between the ECHL and AHL roster.

Rampage coach Dean Chynoweth said he’s missing roughly seven players that will play on opening night, including four centers.

Stephen Johns gave Texas an early lead 3:21 into the game on a blast from the point, which was deflected by a San Antonio player battling with Travis Morin in front of the net.

Smith countered for San Antonio when he swatted a rebound out of mid air on the power play midway through the perdiod.

Mason Geertsen then gave San Antonio it’s first lead when he beat Muse with a wrist shot from the slot three minutes later.

Texas tied the game on a crisp passing play by the first power play unit, which consisted of Jason Dickinson, Morin, Ranford, Ludwig Bystrom, and Johns.

After a face-off win, Morin controlled the puck along the half wall and fired a cross-ice pass to Bystrom, who one-touched a pass to Ranford who easily scored near the right post.

Chris Bigras scored on a similar play for San Antonio with 49 seconds remaining in the period on a cross-crease pass by Smith.

Texas dominated the second period and outshot San Antonio 13-7, but trailed 4-3 after 40 minutes.

The Stars spent the majority of the period in the offensive zone and put consistent pressure on Calvin Pickard, but Devin Shore’s wrist shot was the only chance to hit the back of the net.

It didn’t help that San Antonio’s goal came after a Texas turnover that Brett Perlini deposited behind Muse.

Lagace only faced three shots and stopped all of them in an uneventful third period, before Dowling forced overtime.

Morning Skate: Texas Stars set for opening night dress rehearsal in final preseason game

Radek Faksa is working on his transition as a defensive center. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Radek Faksa is working on his transition as a defensive center. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — Radek Faksa, Jason Dickinson, and Remi Elie are expected to play in the Texas Stars preseason game against the San Antonio Rampage after spending extended time with the Dallas Stars during NHL preseason.

Dickinson, a first-round pick, drew a favorable assignment in practice yesterday working on the left wing with Travis Morin and Brandon Ranford as part of Texas’ projected top line for tonight.

Elie was sharing a line with Justin Dowling and Devin Shore in practice, while Faksa was centering a third line with Derek Hulak and Branden Troock in practice.

Texas was running six lines in practice, but the likely fourth line was the one consisting of Cory Kaye, Gemel Smith, and Matej Stransky.

It’s likely going to be a “dress rehearsal” type game for Texas, and the lineup is similar to the projected opening night roster. San Antonio is taking a similar approach after both teams went with young lineups Friday.

While they wish they where still in camp with Dallas, Dickinson and Elie both said they plan to bring an “NHL approach” to the AHL preseason game.

“Just be crisp, fast, be a professional,” Dickinson said. “Everybody there is at a level of intensity that I’m still adjusting to coming off of junior. That extended chance game me a look at what the best players in the game bring to practice.”

Expect all five NHL-contracted defensemen in the lineup, including a top-pairing of Esa Lindell and Julius Honka.

Texas was rotating pairs slightly in practice, so Matt Mangene or Jesse Blacker could also be in the lineup.

It’ll also be interesting to see who the back-up goalie is. John Muse is going to start and play at least two periods, but Philippe Desrosiers or Maxime Lagace could play the third period as they continue their battle for the back-up role on opening night.

Lines (based on yesterday’s practice. Team did not have a morning skate with a 3 p.m. start.)

Jason Dickinson-Travis Morin-Brandon Ranford
Devin Shore-Justin Dowling-Remi Elie
Derek Hulak-Radek Faksa-Branden Troock
Cory Kane-Gemel Smith-Matej Stransky

Esa Lindell-Julius Honka
Ludwig Bystrom-Stephen Johns
Mattias Backman-Jesse Blacker OR Matt Mangene

John Muse
Maxime Lagace OR Philippe Desrosiers

Texas Stars sign Brandon Magee to standard AHL contract

Brandon Magee has impressed against NHL competition. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Brandon Magee has impressed against NHL competition. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars have signed Brandon Magee to a standard AHL contract, the team announced Saturday morning.

The team also announced that Taylor Stefishen, Andrew Panzarella, Colton Beck, Jake Rutt, and Cole Martin have been cut and will be returned to their ECHL teams.

Magee made the most of his September in front of Dallas and Texas management.

He was a free-agent invitee to Traverse City and centered an effective fourth line. He built on that momentum and carried it into Dallas training camp, where Dallas coach Lindy Ruff was impressed with the Victoria Royals product.

That trend continued in Texas training camp and he played well — particularly in the offensive zone — in the first preseason game on Friday.

You can read more about Magee here.

Branden Troock making an impression, while borrowing Greg Rallo’s stick

Branden Troock tracks down a loose puck against San Antonio. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Branden Troock tracks down a loose puck against San Antonio. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Branden Troock did his best Greg Rallo impression in a 4-3 preseason loss to the San Antonio Rampage on Friday.

The 21-year-old forward scored twice from the left face-off circle — which might as well be called Rallo’s office — and he did so while using one his 34-year-old teammate’s sticks.

“He had a pretty good year last year,” Troock said. “He’s obviously a really good goal scorer. So you just watch him and you find those areas that he goes to. He’s one guy that I really like to watch play.”

On the urging of the coaching staff, Troock had been looking for a new stick and tested Rallo’s out at morning skate.

It was a good fit for Troock and Stars coach Derek Laxdal approved of the selection.

“If you ever watch tape on him, he had such a high lie on his stick,” Laxdal said. “So his blade was never touching the ice. (We are) trying to get more blade on the ice for him, so he has a better chance of handling the puck.”

And it was an important night for Troock, who is battling to find a role as one of the 14 forwards Texas is expected to carry on opening night.

“It’s a numbers game and we’re all fighting for those couple last spots,” Troock said. “You just go about your own job and do the best you can.”

He was one of Texas best forwards Friday and was trusted in all three zones. He also used his stick, with it’s better lie, to disrupt Rampage attacks and moved the puck well through the neutral zone.

Texas Stars will carry 3 goalies as Lagace and Desrosiers duel for playing time

Maxime Lagace makes a save during warmups before Texas' preseason game with San Antonio on Friday. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Maxime Lagace makes a save during warmups before Texas’ preseason game with San Antonio on Friday. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

The Texas Stars goalie competition is just getting started.

Jack Campbell suffered a hand injury in Dallas Stars training camp and is out “for at least a couple weeks,” meaning Texas will carry three goalies at the start of the season.

John Muse, an AHL veteran, is slated as the likely starter on opening night and Texas coach Derek Laxdal said it’s “his job to step up.”

But, Maxime Lagace and Philippe Desrosiers will both have a chance to earn AHL playing time.

“We’re going to carry three,” Texas Stars general manager Scott White said. “I like what we’ve got. Right now, with how they’ve been playing, I could see any of the three playing next Saturday night.”

Lagace got the start in a 4-3 preseason loss Friday and stopped 13 of 15 shots. Desrosiers entered in relief and stopped six of eight shots, but didn’t have much help on either goal.

“For both goaltenders there is an opportunity to get a back-up role,” Laxdal said. “We’ll make that decision moving forward this week.”

Laxdal said Muse will play the first two periods in Sunday’s preseason game, while he’s still determining who will back-up and play the third period.

For Lagace, being in the conversation is a testament to his growth as a player.

Before camp, and going back to this summer, members of Dallas organization — including general manager Jim Nill — talked about Campbell and Desrosiers handling a heavy load. The number 60 was thrown out a couple times as the target number of games.

Lagace, on the other hand was an afterthought.

Many assumed he’d simply be the back-up goalie in Idaho, especially after a difficult rookie season that included stops with the Missouri Mavericks and Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL.

Lagace said he learned from the journey, and he became a better goalie as he adjusted to the speed of the pro game.

“It was my first pro season, I learned a lot about pro hockey,” Lagace said. “You learn you have to be ready for everything. I’m excited to get into this season with that confidence.”

He carried that confidence into Dallas and Texas training camp.

And during the two-week stretch he’s matched or outperformed Desrosiers and Muse in practice on a consistent basis.

“Competition, that’s what you want,” White said. “We have that, and we’ll see how we can benefit.”