Sunday buzz: Stars head home still leading Central

Photo: Mike Zitek

📝 by Patrick Williams

The Texas Stars are packing their bags and heading home, still sitting atop the Central Division.

The Stars wrapped up a six-game, 11-day California road trip with a 5-4 overtime loss in San Jose last night. Even with a sub-.500 finish to the trip (2-3-1-0), the Stars return to Cedar Park with a two-point lead over Milwaukee for first place in the Central with 12 games to go — 10 of which will be on home ice.

Texas broke in a new goaltending tandem on the trip, with Matt Murray on recall to Dallas and Anton Khudobin having been dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks in a March 2 trade. Dylan Wells, acquired as part of the Khudobin deal, and Remi Poirier, up from ECHL Idaho, carried the load for the Stars out west.

Poirier wound up making four starts and five appearances on the trip, registering a 2.82 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage in his first extended AHL action. The 21-year-old Poirier was a sixth-round pick by Dallas in the 2020 NHL Draft; he made his AHL debut back in November and earned his first league win on Feb. 19.

Texas hosts Coachella Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, a rematch of the Stars’ visit to Palm Desert last week.

Josh Doan made his pro debut with the Tucson Roadrunners this weekend, skating in both of their games against Calgary at Tucson Arena.

The son of long-time Coyotes star Shane Doan, Josh elected to depart Arizona State University after two seasons and sign his three-year entry-level deal with Arizona. Captaining Arizona State as a sophomore this season, Doan had 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 39 games.

Shane Doan is currently serving as chief hockey development officer for the Coyotes. Josh was a second-round draft pick by the team in 2021.

The Wranglers took a 5-0 win on Friday as Dustin Wolf earned his league-best sixth shutout of the season. But the Roadrunners rebounded last night to take a 3-2 shootout decision, keeping them one point ahead of San Jose for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division.

Did Friday night feel like a must-win game for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins?

Head coach J.D. Forrest thought so.

“Yeah, they all do, unfortunately,” Forrest said. “Like last weekend, it felt the same.”

So when the Penguins fell behind 3-0 in the first period to visiting Rochester, their situation looked dire. But they stuck with it, eventually built a 4-3 lead, withstood a late Rochester equalizer, and then closed out the victory on Ty Glover’s winning shootout tally.

“We just battled back,” Forrest continued. “It was a big win for us.”

That battle continued last night, when Wilkes-Barre coughed up 1-0 and 2-1 leads in Syracuse but earned a point when Filip Hållander scored the tying goal with 8:18 to go in regulation. Despite the 4-3 overtime loss, the Penguins gained ground on sixth-place Bridgeport, which lost at home to Hartford.

The Pens travel to Lehigh Valley this afternoon to close out the weekend. With 12 games to go, they are six points behind the Islanders for the final playoff position in the Atlantic Division.