November 5, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Hockey: Nyquist has big night

By Kirk Luedeke

Former University of Maine standout Gustav Nyquist (right) was a key contributor in the Griffins' 4-3 win over the Stars on Saturday night. (Photo: Texas Stars)

Texas Stars vs. Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
Nov. 3, 2012 | Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Grand Rapids 4, Texas 3

The Stars came up short in this one, falling 4-1 to the Griffins on the strength of Swedish defenseman Adam Almquist’s two goals, the first tallies of his AHL career. Goaltender Petr Mrazek also made a fine North American pro debut, winning his first AHL start by making 29 saves. Joakim Andersson (2) and Gustav Nyquist (5) also tallied for Grand Rapids, making it an all-Swedish night for the offense. Stars winger Colton Sceviour, playing his first game of the season, tallied at 13:48 of the opening period on a pass from rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, but that was all she wrote for Texas on the scoring ledger. Goaltender Jack Campbell made 23 stops.

New England connections


- Jamie Oleksiak, D: Spent one season at Northeastern University before the Dallas Stars made him their top pick in 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Oleksiak played the 2011-12 season in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit and Niagara Ice Dogs (where he was Dougie Hamilton’s teammate) before turning pro with the Stars. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound native of Ontario scored his first professional goal, the game-winner in a 3-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals Oct. 24.

Game observations: Superb first period as he set the tone on his first shift with a big, rattling hit along the boards. He then made a smart read to intercept a pass at center ice and lead the attack into the Grand Rapids zone, gaining the blue line and then finding a trailing Cody Eakin for a quality scoring chance. Oleksiak hit Sceviour with a nice neutral zone outlet pass to spring him into the clear. Sceviour then did the rest with a laser wrister that beat Grand Rapids goalie Petr Mrazek cleanly to the glove side. Oleksiak was aggressively activating and pinching throughout the game in trying to kick start the Texas attack and did get caught out of position a few times. Although raw and still learning the positional aspects of the pro game, the hallmarks of a first-round pick are all there: size, ability and the attitude of someone who wants to make a difference. He’ll need to learn patience and to pick his spots better going forward.

- Alex Chiasson, RW: Quebec native spent the last three seasons at Boston University after being the Stars’ second choice, 38th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. After 15 goals and 46 points in 38 games for the Terriers last season, Chiasson signed with Dallas. He played nine AHL games with the Texas Stars in 2011-12, posting a 1-4-5 line. Chiasson has one goal in four games this season.

Game observations: Scratch

Stars Notes: Dallas' first-round selection in 2009, center Scott Glennie, suited up for his first game of the 2012-13 season against Grand Rapids.  He played sparingly and looked rusty, not able to make many plays. Colton Sceviour joined him in the lineup but had a much more impactful performance, ripping home a wrist shot in full gallop and standing out

Griffins (Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate)

- Gustav Nyquist, RW: Swedish native was a Hobey Baker finalist at the University of Maine (three seasons) before turning pro with Detroit at the end of the 2011 season. Nyquist was selected in the fourth round, 121st overall, by the Red Wings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. In 9 games this season, Nyquist has five goals and 11 points.

Game observations: Nyquist is his team’s top scorer and it showed at times, as he was visible in the offensive zone as a slick passer who was taking shots from several spots in the zone (four total).  He buried a late-game one-timer from the right faceoff circle after being left alone by the Stars defense. Although not a blazing skater, Nyquist is smart and has excellent vision and hands. He finished the evening with a plus-3 rating, on the ice for all of his club’s even strength goals.

- Max Nicastro, D: The 6-foot-3, 225-pound California native played in the USHL with the Chicago Steel before moving to the NCAA and Hockey East. Nicastro spent three seasons at Boston University and left after the 2012 season under a cloud of controversy involving personal conduct. Former 2008 third-round draft pick of the Red Wings.

Game observations: Healthy scratch.

The post-mortem

Head coach Willie Desjardins

On whether the Stars had the kind of start he wanted:

“Yeah, we had a pretty good start. I think we out-chanced them, we double out-shot them in the first period. We did a pretty good job off that. They’re a good team; they played hard and smart and I think we probably have to battle a little harder but that’s stuff we gotta work on.”

On Mrazek’s play and his ease in seeing the shots taken on him:

“Maybe. We talk about that lots, but you gotta battle for that ice- it isn’t free ice out there. They are a real aggressive team- they push hard and sometimes they leave that net front a little bit open, so you have to be ready to capitalize. They played a real good road game and they deserved the win for sure.”

On rookie Jamie Oleksiak’s play in the first month of the season:

“I think he’s looked real good. He’s got a real big upside to his game. I think he still makes some mistakes through his inexperience, but that’s the only way you can get experience. He’s getting that. He tries to do maybe a little bit too much sometimes and that’s not a bad thing either. You want a guy that wants to make a difference. You don’t want a guy that’s afraid to go out there…he believes he can do things, which is great. He’s played real well for us and at both ends of the rink, too. He’s contributed offensively and as well defensively.”

On focus areas for the team going forward in the schedule:

“We have to be better in our specialty teams. That’s been a theme since we started here- we need to be better at it. There’s nothing you can do but keep working on it. And probably our compete level a little bit on our 1-on-1s. For some reason, they seemed hungrier and that can’t happen, especially in your own rink.”

Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak

On the importance of a good start:

“I think that’s something I’ve noticed at this level. You’ve got to get off quick and get your feet going on every shift. You never know what’s going to happen because these guys (at the AHL level) can bury every opportunity. I think it’s important to start off on a good note and on every shift come out fighting and making sure they don’t get opportunities and try to make something happen. That’s something I’m focusing on and I think I’m getting better and better as the games progress.”

On how the Stars did at executing Coach Desjardins’ keys to the game:

“I think one of the things he was talking about was playing every shift like the game was on the line. I think he puts emphasis on guys finishing the opportunities and guys who can make chances out of anything; any type of play, any loose puck- you have to win your 1-on-1 battles and I that’s really what coach was emphasizing. Also, to keep battling no matter what happened and just persevere and push through all the obstacles.”

On losing a game the Stars were competitive in:

“It’s obviously frustrating. I think we had a lot of great chances and you just don’t win them all, I guess.”

On former OHL opponent and Grand Rapids goalie Petr Mrazek’s play:

“I think he’s a pretty proven goalie. I think it was his first game in the ‘A’ and he definitely stepped up for his team and we through a lot of shots on him. Like I said, I think we had a lot of great chances and he was able to stand on his head a lot of times. Credit goes to him for playing a good game. I think we did the best we could, we just came up against a tough goalie and a good team that was really battling and really wanted it and we came out on the losing end.”

On the key lessons learned after a month in the AHL:

“I think just sticking to your game and not wandering too far out of your boundaries. You have to be able to play every shift and compete every time you step on the ice. So I think just try not to over think things and try not to do too much. Just stick to your game, stick to what you’re good at. Try to contribute to the team and make sure you’re a part of that puzzle.”

Stars winger Colton Sceviour:

On whether this was an “adrenaline” game for him:

“It was exciting. I haven’t played a full game since probably last April, the last game of the regular season so it’s exciting. It was good, it was long overdue- I was tired of sitting in the stands. It felt good to get back on the ice.”

On what getting a goal right away did for his confidence going forward:

“On a personal level it was good to get some stuff going right away, get a goal and get my legs going and see what it’s like to play again. It doesn’t matter how much you bag skate at practice or how much you practice, the game is entirely different. So it was good to get that in and get that feeling again and hopefully, we can help this get off this little schneid we’re on and get some wins.”

On the challenges of having to play from behind for much of the game:

“You obviously don’t want to play from behind for most of the game which we never did.  We do this every day and that stuff shouldn’t bother us. We need to have thicker skin than that. We need to be tougher than that. We need to be able to put that stuff behind us and keep playing.”

On Mrazek’s play in net:

“He played well- don’t get me wrong. He made some big saves on rebounds off of scrambles (in front of the net) and things like that, but at the same time we let him off the hook. We had shots at times where there was nobody there- he’s getting clean looks at them whereas guys need to be getting in his eyes and making him battle for pucks and maybe there’s one or two more sitting there that he can’t find right away, but he was finding everything right off the bat and we weren’t getting a lot of great opportunities off rebounds. The shots were there, but we need more guys at the net and more guys banging, chipping, trying to get some ‘greasy’ ones and that’s where we made things easy for him.”

The “Deep in the Heart of Hockey” blog returns next week when the Stars face the Toronto Marlies and Lake Erie Monsters at home next Friday and Saturday. The Marlies feature former Bruins first-round pick in 2008, Joe Colborne, who was dealt to the Leafs in 2011 as part of the package for defenseman Tomas Kaberle. The Monsters defeated the Stars 4-0 in their last contest on Oct 20.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.