• Stadium Series provides excitement for fans, players

    The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks clashed in an inter-state rivalry game a few weekends ago, and the reigning Stanley Cup Champions emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory over their enemy to the north.

    However, the game had a different venue than usual. Rather than the Staples Center in Los Angeles or the SAP Center in San Jose playing host to the matchup, the battle took place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.

    The temperature during the day in Santa Clara was in the 70s, and the puck-drop temperature was 57 degrees Fahrenheit-- not quite typical hockey weather.

    Although not completely commonplace, this is not a particularly new spectacle for the NHL. The most familiar locations for Stadium Series games are cold weather cities such as New York and Chicago. Recently, however, the NHL has experimented with playing regular season games in more temperate climates.

    The successes couldn’t be better.

    Bringing hockey to hotter outdoor climates is not the only enticing feature of the Stadium Series.  Live intermission performances by California’s own John Fogerty and the Grammy-winning Melissa Etheridge kept fans entertained even when the greatest game on ice was momentarily paused.

    The NHL has played 15 outdoor games since the 2003-04 season primarily to engage current fans and to create new ones. Levi’s Stadium filled beyond capacity for this year’s tilt with more than 70,000 people in attendance.

    Yet, the memories made at outdoor games are not just owned by the fans. The players that compete in front of these record crowds will certainly never forget their experiences, either.

    "It was incredible. From start to finish, what an atmosphere," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton after the game. "It was a once in-a-lifetime-type thing for us.”

    Sharks coach Todd McLellan also enjoyed the experience. 

    “You talk about moments where the hair stands up on your neck," McLellan said, "and tonight was one of those moments.”

    The fact that both teams are tied in the Western Conference standings and are currently battling each other for a playoff birth did not seem to matter that Saturday night. Getting the opportunity to play hockey outdoors in front of a large number of passionate fans is something that even professional players and coaches cannot take for granted.

    "The fact we lost was disappointing," McLellan admitted. "But to be part of it, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

  • Austin Spurs find themselves while Stars continue to struggle

    After a difficult start to the last week, the Austin Spurs bounced back on Thursday night beating the Reno Bighorns, 112-104. 

    Trailing at halftime 59-50, the Spurs stormed back in the third quarter outscoring and out rebounding the Bighorns, 37-25 and 56-37, respectively, to give them a lead they would hang on to.   

    Jonathan Simmons scored 24 points for the Spurs as Kyle Anderson recording his 11th double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds. 

    Austin’s Orlando Johnson nearly finished with a triple double with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.

    Previously in the week, the Spurs’ nine-game win streak came to an end Tuesday losing to the Santa Cruz Warriors, 109-94. Five Warriors scored in double digits, led by Elliot Williams with 30 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds.

    James Michael McAdoo, rookie out of North Carolina, broke out by scoring 29 points on 12 of 15 shooting, eight rebounds, and three blocks. 

    Erik Murphy for the Spurs tallied 31 points and 19 points and Johnson scored 21 points.  The Spurs, however, were trying to adjust after losing guard Bryce Cotton to a 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz.

    On Saturday, the Spurs began their six-game week with a win against the Texas Legends while they continued their streak with another victory Monday Westchester.

    However, last week was even more difficult for the Texas Stars after losing forward Brendan Ranford to the Dallas Stars.  Goalies Jack Campbell and Henrik Kiviaho were also sent to the Stars ECHL affiliate, Idaho Steelheads.       

    Ranford will be a loss as he is fourth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and second on the team with 36 points (13 points and 23 assists).

    Tuesday on the road against the Oklahoma City Barons, the Stars came up short losing in overtime 3-2. Just 1:39 into the game, the Stars scored quickly as Eric Failie was able to handle the pass in the neutral zone from Scott Valentine. 

    Julius Honka later scored his own goal at the 9:33 mark of the second period, but Brandon Davidson turned the game around as he helped get the Barons on the scoreboard before the half. 

    Both offenses were quiet for the rest of the game until Jason Williams scored his 16th goal of the season for the Barons to tie the game in regulation. Eventually, Andrew Miller’s wrist shot from the left circle was able to sneak past Jussi Rynnas to give the Barons the win in overtime.  

    This past weekend, the Stars returned to the ice with two back-to-back losses, including one in overtime, against Rockford.