HOUGHTON, Mich. – Former Michigan Tech hockey player Joel L'Esperance leads the American Hockey League with 24 goals in his first full season with the Texas Stars. He played in the AHL All-Star Classic on Monday, scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists.
What was the AHL All-Star experience like?
It was a really cool experience. It was an honor to get selected to go there. I've never done a 3-on-3 like that. It was pretty cool, but it was hard to tell if we should be going really hard or not. It was really fun.
What's been the key to so much offensive success this year?
I think the playoff run last year gave me a lot of confidence going into this season, knowing what I needed to do and how I needed to play to have success. I've been fortunate to get good ice time this season even on the power play and penalty kill. The coaches have confidence in me and that's been huge too.
How did you decide to go to Texas?
Michigan Tech alum Scott White was a great connection to get me here. He started talking to me early on in my career at Tech, and that played a big part in my decision to come to Texas.
What's it like playing in Texas after playing your career in Michigan and in the Midwest?
It's different. You can go to the rink in shorts and a T-shirt and be comfortable compared to at Tech where you're bundled up every day. Some days it's weird walking out of the rink into 75-degree weather.
How much has it helped to have former Husky Shane Hanna with the Stars?
I played with Shane for three years up there and got to know him pretty well. It helped to have someone here last year when I came down in the spring. He lives in the same apartment complex this year, so we catch rides to the rink together some days. It's been a good experience having someone you've played with before and can lean on.
What it like playing against your former Tech teammates Matt Roy and Mitch Reinke?
It's fun going into the corner with Matt. He's a big strong guy like me, so it's fun to get in a battle in front of the net with him and then throw a couple chirps and a smile at him. It's always fun to go against a former teammate when we play Mitch at San Antonio or Matt with Ontario.
What's your mindset of playing in the NHL someday?
I'm not worried about that right now. Obviously, it's in my mind and my ultimate goal. I try to keep it on the back burner and do what I can do to help the Texas Stars and my individual play as much as I can. When I do get that call I want to be ready, so I just have to stay focused on what I can control.
I hear you are a new father?
We had a couple days off for Christmas so our plan was to go to Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. We got a call from the doctor to come in, so we turned around and ended up delivering the baby the next morning on Christmas Eve. It's been great so far. She eats and sleeps and my wife Liana has been awesome letting me get some sleep on game days.
L'Esperance, a native of Brighton, Michigan, played four seasons (2014-18) for the Huskies, appearing in 152 career games. He was an alternate captain last season and finished with 98 career points, racking up over 25 points in each of his final three seasons. He received the Gary Crosby Memorial Award as the team's top scorer as a junior after tallying 28 points on 11 goals and 17 assists. As senior, he was fourth on the team with 27 points on 12 goals and 15 assists. He had a career-high 16 goals as a sophomore, finishing with 26 points after putting up 17 points (7G-10A) as a rookie.
Four other former Huskies play in the AHL—three of which are Joel's former teammates. The Stars aren't scheduled to play Tanner Kero, Cliff Watson and the Utica Comets, Blake Pietila and the Binghamton Devils, or Chris Conner and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.