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McCulloch a Star on the rise

by Josh Fisher || AHL On The Beat Archive

The Texas Stars had three players make the inaugural 2009-10 season squad on tryouts.

Center Travis Morin and right wing Greg Rallo were among the team leaders in goals and points after showing up for training camp without contracts.

The third skater was Scott McCulloch, who was brought in based on a recommendation by head coach Glen Gulutzan. He proved to be a huge addition.

Gulutzan and McCulloch go back to the days before the Texas Stars even existed. In March of 2009, Gulutzan was coaching the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers. Towards the end of the regular season, pro teams sign players out of college. McCulloch had just wrapped up his senior season at Colorado College before he was convinced to go to play for Gulutzan in Las Vegas.

“I had to choose between Las Vegas and Idaho,” said the second-year pro. “My brother was pushing for me to go to Las Vegas and I was just excited to get into the pro game. I thought it might be a good place for me to get my feet wet. It turned out to be a great thing for me because I met Coach Gulutzan.

“We hit it off well. I liked playing for him and the systems that he ran. Things went well and I got to stick around for the playoffs. Our team ended up having a good run when we were not expected to get that far. Things blossomed from there.”

After the 2008-09 season ended, Gulutzan was hired by the Dallas Stars to lead their new AHL Affiliate in Cedar Park, Texas. Gulutzan worked closely with Texas Stars general manager Scott White to find players for the new team.

“The beauty of working with Scott White is that we are coming from the same place and we have similar ideas,” said Gulutzan. “We talked about players a lot the summer before our first season in Cedar Park. We had some holes to fill. Because we were a new team, we had some room for tryout guys. We made the decision to bring him in, along with Rallo and Morin. Those guys became a big part of our team and key pieces for our run to the Calder Cup Finals last spring.

“With McCulloch, one of the biggest things he showed me in Las Vegas was that he could most certainly play in the playoffs.”

The three players took a gamble on coming to Texas. All of them made the team despite the tension that comes with a PTO (professional tryout agreement).

“It’s a little nerve wrecking but, the secret is to not think about it,” explained McCulloch. “If you think too much, it can drive you a little crazy. I understand the business side of the game of hockey and that’s how it goes sometimes. You can be sent down one day, traded or even just released. You try to put that in the back of your mind, but it’s always there to push you to be better.”

Morin, McCulloch’s linemate, relates to his right winger.

“It puts you in a spot where you know you have to perform right away,” said Morin. “You have to show what you have early. I think the three of us found out pretty quickly how to do that. We stuck around and now it’s good for all of us to be back here for another run.”

McCulloch has flourished in his second season, scoring four goals and totaling six points in his first six games this season.

“He sees what he has to do now and he has seen what other guys need to do to advance themselves,” explained Gulutzan. “McCulloch has established himself after a great summer. He came to camp in great shape and continues to excel off the ice. On the ice, he is moving towards defining himself and what kind of identity or what type of player he is.”

McCulloch has been placed on a line with Morin and Rallo. The three mesh well and Morin thinks his line mate compliments his style of play.

“He keeps things pretty simple out there,” said Morin about his teammate. “He takes the puck wide a lot and you know when you give it to him, he is probably going to shoot the puck. That’s good for someone like me. That is what I want in a linemate. I like to pass. If I know I give the puck to someone and they will shoot it, I am more comfortable. McCulloch does a lot of hard work down low and he grinds it out in the corners a lot. It’s always nice to have someone like that on your line.”

Perhaps his biggest asset is the one no one sees. McCulloch is a key piece to the camaraderie of the locker room, supplying adhesive glue with an outgoing and magnetic personality.

“He is someone who keeps it upbeat all the time by cracking jokes to liven the mood up,” Morin said. “Guys can joke with him and there is a bit of give-and-take. I think everyone on the team has a good relationship with him and what he does for our room. If you are having a rough day, he is someone who can help bring a smile to your face.”

As long as McCulloch keeps working hard and doing the things that got him to Texas, there is no telling how far he can take his career. No matter what, he has a lot of friends in the Texas Stars locker room that would like him to stay as long as he wants.