Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Aeros inspire this up-and-coming NHLer

I think we have talked about this before on another site, but the story of Tyler Myers, a rookie for the Buffalo Sabres, continues to impress me.

If you can find another NHL player that was inspired to take up the game because of the Houston Aeros, let me know. Because I think this kid is the first. I don't know for sure if the kid was born here, but he calls a town in Alberta, his home.

Oh, and the dude is 6-8!

Here is a story about his impressive start in the NHL.


And here is a good recap of how everything went down courtesy of the newspaper that covered him in juniors.

Enjoy the read(s).

10/29: Aeros v. Griffins

Here's some video from last night's powerhouse offensive performance by your Houston Aeros. I'm gonna say the first goal against was defensive failure, because I always blame D for back door goals ;)... the second, however, ugh. Stinker. But it's not like it matters because even one goal turned out to be too many.

Check it out:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wild, Aeros join forces with Johnstown Chiefs

Looks like the Wild and Aeros now have a new formal agreement in place with an ECHL team. Today, the Johnstown Chiefs announced the affiliation.

Here is a link to the press release, and the following is an excerpt from the announcement:

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Johnstown Chiefs, proud member of the ECHL since 1988, announced today that they have entered into a working agreement with the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild.

During the 2009-10 season the Chiefs will serve as the Wild’s secondary minor league partner. The American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros are Minnesota’s primary affiliate.


"This is a great opportunity for the Johnstown Chiefs to work with the Minnesota Wild and the Houston Aeros. The Minnesota organization is led by outstanding hockey men in owner Craig Leipold and General Manager Chuck Fletcher. They are a player development-minded club and the agreement will benefit all three teams including the Wild, the Aeros, and our Johnstown Chiefs," said Chiefs owner and governor Neil Smith.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sky's The Limit?

I thought I would use another post to discuss something that Andrew raised in his View From the Press Box below. And that involves Jon DiSalvatore talking about some of the veterans preparing to call a team meeting to discuss the team.

“Right now is a great time for us to learn,” he said of the team’s winning streak. “We are winning. It’s a great time to educate yourself. There’s a lot of things we feel we can do a lot better. There’s a group of us that’s going to address the team and get this thing going. We think we can play better. That [Hamilton] was a great team tonight. It was a great win, but we think we can do better.”

Peter Zingoni said much the same thing last week when he said that he and his fellow veterans had to start playing up to their potential.

Colton Gillies, one of the youngsters, noted this also when he talked about how great the team’s penalty kill was last night. In praising the penalty kill, he noted that there were a lot of guys who were well rested after the second period because they didn’t play much, so it was up to those guys to step up in the third period and help out those who had gotten the job done in the second period.

I know many of you are really fond of last year’s team. I am, too. There were some really great guys on that team that I hate not seeing in the locker room every night. But I like what I’m hearing in this locker room after the games. The character and the attitude reminds me of the team two years ago. Erik Reitz was the veteran on that team, and he had the respect of his teammates, and he wasn’t afraid to take the lead.

It wasn’t that he was overly vocal. It was just that he knew there was a job that needed doing, and he was the guy to do it. He said several times that season that Kevin Constantine's system was a proven one that worked, and that if the players just trusted in that system, then they would win. I don’t really recall anyone assuming that role last year. It wasn’t that last year’s team was a team of factions, it was just that, for the most part, I don’t really remember them being an unified force until around the playoffs and the arrival of Tony Hrkac.

But what I’m hearing from Zingoni and DiSalvatore reminds me of what Reitz was like in the locker room. The individuals on this team might not be as gifted as several of last year’s players, but as a group, they can win. That’s the feeling that I’m getting from Zingoni and DiSalvatore and Gillies and Irmen.

DiSalvatore’s been in the middle of the action most of the season, but until last night, he’s had trouble getting the puck into the net. But he understands the team, the talent, and Constantine’s system. And he understands that he keeps doing what he’s got to do, then things are going to work out.

“The type of team that we have -- we’re a four line team right now -- and it’s no time to get frustrated,” he said. “Yeah, I want to participate, I want to produce, but I’ve got to stick with it and just believe in the system of the team and do my thing and just plug away and they’re going to come. And it came tonight. Which is great. If it doesn’t come tomorrow night, or whatever it is, I just stick with the plan.”

And if I can go off on a tangent, I’d like to point out that this reminds me a lot of what I’m hearing from Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin and his players. I cover the Cougars for the Press, so I’m at the games, and I talk to the coach and the players. And what Sumlin and the players stress every week is that it’s nice to win the game. And they win the games by staying in the system and trusting each other. Cougar QB Case Keenum has had his name mentioned when discussing the Heisman Trophy, but last week, against SMU, Keenum cut back on the number of passes he throws in a game because SMU had set its defense to stop the pass, so Keenum started handing the ball off to his running backs because he trusted them to do what was needed for the win. And Sumlin stresses time and time again that the guys have yet to play their best game.

That’s what I’m hearing from this locker room. The players are learning to trust each other, and they’re learning to work within the system. They’ve won games, but they’re not happy about the wins because they haven’t played their best game.

I talked to Danny Irmen for a bit after the game for a piece I’m doing for the mothership next week. And Irmen likes this team.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” he said. “There’s a lot of character on this team. A lot of talent. A lot of hard work. And that’s what you need. And great goaltending. We’re just going to take it one game at a time here, and hopefully we make a little run here throughout the year and into the playoffs.”

I’m not sure about the sky’s the limit thing. And I would feel a whole lot better with a healthy Barry Brust and Nolan Schaefer back in the net. But I think this is a good team that is on it’s way to becoming better. Now Andrew might disagree with me, and he might think I’ve totally misunderstood what DiSalvatore was getting out -- and Zingoni -- and he’s probably right. But I think the right attitude is there. I can tell that they care, and care deeply. I think the talent, while not great, is good. They’re probably going to be a frustrating team to watch throughout the year, just like last season’s team, and the team before that.

But give this team a chance. I think that, if you do, you’ll find that you actually like them.

10/27 -- Aeros v. Bulldogs -- Helter Skelter Edition

Midway through the second period tonight, I’m not sure that many of the 3134 people inside of Toyota Center were giving the Aeros much of a chance of pulling off the win against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Aeros were, of course, playing their standard style of second period hockey. In other words, they were being dominated.

Then at 4:50 of the second Petr Kalus went to the box for elbowing. Penalty killed. Then at 7:53 J.P. Testwuide went to the box for tripping, and he was followed 32 seconds later by Clayton Stoner who got nailed for a high-stick. And that’s when Hamilton went all Biblical on goalie Wade Dubielewicz. But Dubielewicz, with some help from the team’s excellent penalty kill, killed the five-on-three. Then at 12:21 Duncan Milroy got nailed for roughing and Hamilton was back on the power play.

Yet the score at the end of the second period was the same as the score at the end of the first. Houston and Hamilton were tied at 1-1.

The third period was a bit different as Dubielewicz let in a goal at 10:54 when he appeared to be shielded. Robbie Earl tied the score at 11:41 when he banked in a shot off of Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins. But Dubielewicz failed to cover a rebound at 14:21 and the Bulldogs were right back in front at 3-2.

But two minutes later, Colton Gillies went into the corner after the puck where he fed Chad Rau. Rau missed the shot, but Jon DiSalvatore got the puck at just the right spot in the slot and slipped it past Desjardins to knot the score at 3-3.

“We had a good solid chip in to the corner,” Gillies said. “And I was first on the puck. The defense came down and tried to hit me. I just tried to protect the puck and turned off them. Rau was actually going to the net and I gave it to him in front. He had a good scoring opportunity, but the goalie made a great save. We had a rebound right in the slot where DiSalvatore got to put it up high and the goalie was down and out.”

The team’s made it through overtime and into the shootout, and as they did during the game, the Aeros fell behind as Hamilton scored on their first two chances. But Dubielewicz shut them down the rest of the way as first Jean-Michel Daoust, then Chad Rau, and finally Colton Gillies scored to get the 4-3 victory.

“We had to come from behind the whole game,” head coach Kevin Constantine said. “And then we had to come from behind in the shootout, and the shootout paralleled the whole game kind of. That was kind of interesting to me.”

But listening to the guys talk about their desultory second period, and listening to Constantine go on about the continued disappointment of the team’s play in the second period throughout the year, I think he and the players would rather just skip the interesting part for a good, solid three period performance that results in a win.

And they next get a chance for that kind of victory on Thursday night when they take on Grand Rapids in Grand Rapids.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The win was the team's third straight, and it improved their record to 6-4-0-0 (12 points) on the season. That puts the Aeros in a tie, points wise, with the Texas Stars for second place in the division.

While the team is not happy with their play so far, or with their record, there is one thing to be considered. Except for the Lake Erie Monsters, every team that the Aeros have played so far are at the top of their respective division -- and Lake Erie is only one game below five hundred. Hamilton, the team Houston defeated tonight, has yet to lose a game in regulation this season, and are now 4-0-0-2 on the road.

They've split a two-game with Manitoba. They've lost two of three to Texas, and they've won all three games against San Antonio. And those are the three teams that are supposed to be among the best in the Western Conference. So it's possible, just possible, that some of the team's problems can be linked to their early schedule so far. For instance, the Aeros are yet to face Chicago, and the Wolves, despite the money spent, are having a season so bad that they've already fired their coach.

And while Constantine would like to see the team get rid of this second period funk, he noted that it might be part of the personality of this club. Last year's club, he reminded us, was known for coming from behind only to give up leads in the third period, and it took awhile for the club to learn how to handle that issue.

So perhaps it's not quite the time for panic mode.

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Man, Hamilton is a quick team. It appeared throughout the night that every single player on that team was as fast as Carl Lewis.

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The key to the game, to Constantine and several of the players, was the team's play on penalty kill after penalty kill in the second period.

Dubielewicz "played awesome [on those penalty kills]," Colton Gillies said. "We had a great penalty kill tonight. We couldn’t have asked anything more from our goalie and our penalty kill. They did what they came here to do. We came in here in between the second and third and we just had to settle down. There were a lot of guys who got a lost rest in the second because of all of the penalty killing, and those guys had to step it up and do their thing."

And Constantine thought it was the momentum that the team gained off of killing the penalties that propelled them to victory.

"I thought the biggest moment of the game was when we killed -- not just the three on five, certainly the three on five, but the momentum that we saved for ourselves with those penalty kills..." Constantine said. "Obviously it wasn’t very disciplined on our part, but the guys that went out and killed it were fantastic. I thought the biggest momentum change in the game as far as the way the game could have gone was right there."

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Brandon Rogers played center for the third game in a row tonight. The primary reason for this is that the team is short of healthy centers. When he first moved Rogers from defense to center, the only available natural centers were rookies Chad Rau and Cody Almond. Then Nathan Smith came back from Minnesota, only to have Almond break his wrist and be out for at least a month.

"I’ve always found that D -- at least in your own end -- can play center really good," Constantine said. "Maybe they’re not brilliant through the neutral zone making plays. But when you have a guy like [Rogers] at center, it really, it’s a settling shift. You know he can come back in his own end and get the job done."

And this is something that I think the team will continue doing, primarily because the Aeros have nine defensemen on the team, and Constantine doesn't like having to sit three of his best players every night.

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One of the comments to a previous post stated that Dubieleiwcz was injured during the game. If this was so, I didn't see any sign of it. He played the entire game, and the shootout, and he appeared to be in good shape in the locker room after the game. However, I wouldn't put it past me to have missed something.

And Dubielewicz had one of those games last night. I agree with Andrew below that it appeared to me in the press box that he should have easily stopped two of the three shots that went in for goals. Then again, he was spectacular in the second period when he was under pressure due to the constant penalties. And when he got burned on the first two shots of the shootout, I thought the team was history, only to see him stop the next three while the Aeros made their shots.

Now I've been listening to The Beatles' White Album a lot lately. It's not my favorite, but it's been matching my mood. And the first thing that popped into my head during the second period, and throughout the rest of the game was The Beatles song off of that album, "Helter Skelter." So, to play us out tonight, here's The Beatles with "Helter Skelter."

Ode to the Penalty Kill

Someone asked me for my predictions for the week a few hours before the game and, immediately, I said, "Tonight? CRUSHED." Hamilton is a very good team on a major hot streak, the Aeros lost their #1 goalie and a couple of important players. It seemed like the sure thing.

But, that's why they play the games, and why I don't like to make predictions (but I was SO SURE about this one, I didn't even mind!)

But have a confession to make: I loved the second period. I know, I know... it was riddled with penalties and only 3 shots on goal, and I understand that in the grand scheme of things, it's actually not good strategy to spend entire periods on the penalty kill.

But my dirty little secret, among others, is that I love watching the boys on the PK so much that, as long as the Aeros ultimately get the win, I could watch that all night.

It may not be the stuff coaches like, or even the stuff players like, but as a fan of the game and moreover, a fan of gut busting defense, it's the kind of effort that makes me fall in love with a team. When that group of guys, this early in the season, can work that hard for each other, it makes my toes curl.

The PK is the heartbeat of hockey to me. It's why I love the game and write about it just about any place someone will let me; it's why I'm a goalie. It embodies everything really beautiful about the game. Goals, pretty and dirty, are nice and essential, but the soul of hockey is in these warriors who scrap and sacrifice their bodies on the PK.

Dubielewicz, whom I've been pretty hard on since the season started, was magnificent in that period. Everything and more you'd hope to get from your veteran goaltender when under fire. I agree with Andrew on some of the less desirable goals against, but he was a wall when it really could have gotten brutally ugly. And it wasn't luck out there, folks. That was just straight up good, clear-headed, hard-working goaltending. My mask is off to the guy.

And then to get beat twice in the shootout and come back to stop the rest, that's really fantastic mental discipline on Dubie's part. Pad taps.

No stick figures tonight. After three nights in a row of playing goal and being sick two of those days, I'm sweaty and beat and don't even have any ideas. If you want to throw some suggestions my way in the comments, if one speaks to the artist in me, I'll do it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

View from the Press Box: Print Version

We were not able to record a video tonight, so I will just throw out a few thoughts here while I can.

First, for anyone that has been following hockey for the last few years knows that shootouts can be tough. They are even tougher when you're down 2-0 after two rounds.

But the Aeros made light of that, and scored three straight in the extra session to take the win. Just an incredible win for several reasons. Team gutted out a tough Hamilton team, a really bad second period and two one-goal, third period deficits.

Secondly, Wade Dubielewicz had an up and down night for sure. He was brilliant for a stretch in the second period when the Aeros were shorthanded time and time and time again, but he let in a couple of goals that looked bad from the press box. I am no goalie, and I did not get a chance to talk to him after the game, but I think for sure he could have had the first and third scores by the Bulldogs.

The Aeros are two games over .500 for the first time this year, and appear to be getting better in all facets of the game. Kind of a bad time to lose your No. 1 goalie, but they should be OK if Dubielewicz rebounds.

I talked to Jon DiSalvatore after the game, and he made an interesting comment when asked about the team's recent fortune. He said he and a couple of guys will talk to the rest of the team about how they can get better. I am only assuming that he was referring to the second period. That has been their "character" at home this year. Play good to start, taper off badly in the second, and then try to get back in it.

DiSalvatore said there is so much more this team can do, and after what I have seen so far, I believe him. Had the Aeros been playing pretty much anyone but Hamilton and pumped in at least one more in the first, they probably would have won in regulation.

Well that is all for tonight ... John will likely post something later.

10 games in the books and the Aeros are 6-4. That equates to what, 48 and 32 ... To me that sounds like a Kevin Constantine team. That sounds like second or third place and another trip to the playoffs. But waaaaiiiitttteee a minute. Cart is currently way before the horse.

There are many ups and downs to be had, some good, and some in the not so in the positive and life-affirming kind of way. And as one former Aero used to say, it's not really a sprint or a marathon; it's a hockey season, right?

Lammers tearning up ECHL, gets tryout with the Moose

Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press reports that former Aeros winger John Lammers (pictured right) will join the Moose for their games this weekend against the WBS Penguins.

Lammers already has six goals and three assists in the Aces first six games of the year. Last year, Lammers had 26 points (12 goals, 14 helpers) in 57 games for the Aeros. He was decent in the playoffs, too, as the Aeros made it to the West finals. In 18 playoff games, Lammers contributed with eight assists.

(Update: Lammers was named ECHL player of the week on Tuesday)

"I thought not re-signing Lammers was the hugest mistake in the history of the planet," said Aeros fan Dave Pudry in a completely made up quote. "I, uh, mean (expletive deleted) huge. Right now, the Aeros can't score against the broadside of a barn, or whatever the hell that saying is. With Lammers, they could probably beat any team, including the 2008-09 New York Islanders."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Updated (6:55 p.m): Khudobin up, Zingoni out, Almond out a while.

The Aeros starting goalie Tuesday night against Hamilton will be .... Wade Dubielewicz. Why not go with the guy that just shut out one of the top offenses in minor league hockey? Well, Anton (and how could you not love this picture?) is on his way to St. Paul. Josh Harding is nursing a lower body injury, so it looks like Anton will backup Backstrom in Chicago.

Update: Sources say Brett Jaeger of the Texas Brahmas got the call, though it could be interesting, as he was booted from his game Saturday for spearing and might face a suspension. Not sure if a) he will be suspended or b) suspensions carry over leagues. We know they don't in baseball, thank you Manny Ramirez. Update to the update: Suspensions don't carry across leagues, so Jaeger's fine to dress for the Aeros.

Also, we noticed that Peter Kalus did not play in either game against the Rampage. He was just a healthy scratch Saturday, and Kevin Constantine said the team played one of its best games of the year. Because of that, they wanted to go with the same lineup for the rematch.

Kalus is definitely back in the lineup Tuesday against Hamilton.

I also wanted to report that the Aeros will be without gritty winger Pete Zingoni for at least the next home game and Cody Almond for several weeks, as he sustained a broken wrist. Zingoni's injury is as yet undisclosed, so that will be something to investigate either before or after the matchup against Hamilton.

The Bulldogs are the only team without a regulation defeat. They are good and already 2-0 on their three-game tour de Texas. To me a huge storyline tomorrow will be to see how Dubielewicz responds to Anton being called up.

He was supposed to be the No. 3 guy in the system, but has been outplayed so far by Khudobin. Dubielewicz has been good in his last two outings, so here's to hoping he takes the high road and responds like a pro.

Based on what I know about him so far, I don't expect anything else.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

10/25: Aeros v. Rampage

The Aeros went to San Antonio Saturday knowing that, to stay above the Mendoza Line, they really needed to split the weekend.

And while they still surrendered a point in the standings to the Rampage with the OT win Saturday, they gained on them by three with the 2-0 win today, and that's the kind of thing you have to do early in the season if you want to secure that playoff berth with room to breathe.

I only saw the final 13 minutes of the game and apparently JUST missed the game winning goal by Andy Hilbert (um, welcome back!), but it appears it was a pretty even game based on shot counts. And after having beat each other silly yesterday, there were only 5 penalties today.

Anton Khudobin got the shutout, but looked rattled and the credit all goes to his defense. I'm KIDDING. Settle down. He stopped 28 shots on the way to the perfect game, while Al "Crazy Eyes" Montoya at the other end stopped 27 of the 28 he faced.

The second goal was an empty netter by the always fiery Daoust. He's a smart, slippery little hockey player. My bold prediction is that he's the one everyone will be crying over when the Aeros don't re-sign him next season.

That's really all I've got since I didn't see the whole game. Though, BTW, this was San Antonio's second game being shut out in 3 days. If you read the San Antonio write-up, it's clearly one of those weekends that makes a team and its fan base start to wonder what they've really got.

They're a LOADED team in terms of offensive talent, so I think those who were around for the full Aeros season last year can relate to the "WTF?" feeling they're having at this dry spell.

Okay, gotta go play some hockey myself, but we'll see you back here on Tuesday when the Aeros face Hamilton at the Toyota Center.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

10/24: Aeros v. Rampage

So far this season, the consensus among those of us tasked with coming up with a consensus is that this year's Aeros are a lot more like the Aeros of two seasons ago... Lots of heart, lots of defense, but not much offensive talent and not much ability to come back from a deficit.

Well, apparently this team does still have a little bit of that comeback mentality from last year. And without Corey Locke or Krys Kolanos or Matt Beaudoin doing the work.

Tonight The Man was Danny Irmen, as he tipped in the goal that got Aeros on the scoreboard when it looked like the team might be facing its second shutout in a row. And then he got credit for the overtime goal, though it was actually an own goal by a San Antonio player. Ooooops!

Why... thank you! You're too kind! It's PERFECT! You know, I... uh.... left your gift at home. I'm so sorry!

The jubilation (and seriously, if you didn't hear Joe O'Donnell's call of the goals, here's the first Irmen goal and the OT game winner) of the Aeros scoring 2 goals within seconds of each other in the closing minutes, and then getting the win are something to behold.

However... this was a hard game to watch for the first 55 minutes. Lots of the same problems as Wednesday (though I guess you could say that at least they ARE the same problems and not new ones). Bad passing, lots of shots but not really capitalizing on the best chances.

Credit to Dubielewicz, this was easily his best game as an Aero and it's good to see he can get through a game without a fluky goal (I kid... sort of). And from what I could see (though watching goalies is especially hard without the benefit of HD as they're often out of frame) he looked steady and calm the whole game, in spite of some pretty heinous turnovers.

However, San Antonio was not without fault, as they allowed both a 3 on 1 and a 4 on 1 rush at points in the game. But of course, the Aeros flubbed it and couldn't take advantage of those earlier gifts.

So the Aeros give a point to their rival, but take two into tomorrow's rematch at 3 p.m.

Other notes:
  • Russo is reporting via Twitter that Nathan Smith and Andy Hilbert have been reassigned back to Houston tonight. Might not be in time for tomorrow's game but certainly Tuesday's back here in Houston.
  • Lots of fights in this game but nobody really dominating any of them. Nice to see rookie Cody Almond offer up a good walloping, but I wish Gillies would give punches to the face a rest. Love the spirit but let's not break that nose again.
Sorry I'm not more stats-oriented as a long drought like the Aeros just had really lends itself to statsgeekery. But I missed the Tragically Hip concert to cover this game, so we'll all just have to make some sacrifices.

Andrew and maybe John(?) are heading to San Antonio to catch tomorrow's game in person. I will be at the opera for most of the game, and I think I heard Joe say the radio broadcast would be joined in progress, so I will make sure the boys have what they need to tweet the game for you. (UPDATE: No they're not, but Andrew says he'll try to get something written for the blog.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

View from the Press Box

The Aeros were good enough to win Wednesday night, but did not convert any of their scoring chances to get one point, let alone two.

This team is obviously weaker up front than the offensive juggernaut Aeros fans witnessed (at times) last season. But it is good enough to win enough games to get to the playoffs. Wednesday was just a bad case of facing a really defensive team that (including Tuesday's shutout at Texas) has not allowed a goal in more than 150 minutes.

That, and they simply did not convert when opportunities presented themselves.

In this video, John and I discuss Wednesday's loss. During the next home game, we are going to publish T3Is very own mobile number so we can accept texts during and after the game. John and I will answer those (or as many as we can) during the next installment of "View from the Press Box."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10/21 -- Aeros v. Monsters -- The Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Edition

“We’re supposed to be an energy team…” center Peter Zingoni said after tonight’s 1-0 Houston Aeros loss to the Lake Erie Monsters before a friends and family special at Toyota Center. “And I don’t think we’re doing that.”

The Monsters were the team playing the back-to-back tonight, but they appeared to be the fresher team as the Aeros often seemed to be a step behind the Monsters. Head coach Kevin Constantine was happy with his team’s effort, just feeling that they’ve got to execute. Zingoni wasn’t as happy.

“I think as a whole, as a team, I think we’re trying to get a little too cute,” he said. “We’re turning the puck over too much on line rushes as well. Myself included.”

That the Aeros stayed in the game was a credit to, once again, Anton Khudobin who stopped 33 of 34 shots on the night. The game’s lone goal came at the 12:59 mark of the first period as Chris Durno stuffed the puck past Khudobin. In years past, Khudobin might have floundered after the goal, but he seems to have gained confidence during the playoffs, and he appeared to get stronger as the game went on and as more and more pressure was put on his shoulders to keep the team in the game.

“I thought he was real good,” Constantine said of Khudobin. “As we started pressing, as the game wore on and we started pressing, we started to give up a little bit going the other way…Anton did everything he could to keep giving us an opportunity in the game.”

But despite Khudobin giving the team the opportunity, the players couldn’t execute, couldn’t capitalize. And that’s becoming a disturbing trend early in this season as the team loses out on points in home games, getting just four out of possible ten points in this home stand.

“These points are going to come back to haunt us at the end of the year,” Zingoni said after it was all over. And while it’s still too early to hit any kind of panic button, perhaps it is time the team started showing a little urgency out on the ice.

The loss dropped the team’s record on the season to 3-4-0-0 (6 points). It also dropped to them to fifth place in the division. The Aeros return to action this weekend as they take on the San Antonio Rampage this weekend in San Antonio before returning home to face Hamilton next Tuesday night.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

We spoke to Peter Zingoni a bit after the game, and he’s frustrated. He thinks this is a veteran team and that he and his fellow veterans have to start taking some responsibility and start producing.

“It’s time for us to really execute on the ice,” he said.

Part of the problem is that maybe the guys are thinking too much.

“I think we’re trying to do too much -- I don’t know really,” he said about the lack of execution on the ice. “It’s a lot of things. I’ve been watching a lot of video, a lot of personal video, a lot of team video. It looks like a lot of times we’re getting sometimes a little -- maybe sometimes -- a little too cute through the middle and trying to make that last past. Our first goal is to get a shot on net and just crash the rebounds.”

“This is kind of the time when hockey sense is going to have to take over,” he said. “Our coaches do enough for us preparation wise, and we practice these drills in practice everyday. It comes to a point where we’re really going to have to respond.”

Kevin Constantine didn’t necessarily agree with the “too cute” portion. But he does think the team needs to execute.

“I couldn’t say that we’re too cute with the puck,” he said. “I would say that we had some pretty golden scoring opportunities that just didn’t go in. We’ve got to get results there. Guys have to finish the job.”

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Defenseman Jaime Sifers made his debut in an Aeros uniform tonight, but left at about midway through the third period after taking a stick to his mouth. Constantine wasn’t sure about just how serious injury was, but stated that it was bad enough that he couldn’t return to the game.

****************
Lake Erie’s lone goal was the first power play goal allowed by the Aeros this season. Before tonight, the team’s penalty kill had killed 25 power plays.

Speaking of penalties, the Monsters were called for six on the night. Three of the penalties were to Phil Dupuis who pulled it off by getting the first penalty in each of the three periods.

****************
Knowing Kevin Constantine, he’s going to read this paragraph and deliberately set out to prove me wrong this weekend, but it appears that he has decided on Khudobin as his number one goalie. Khudobin is now 2-2-0-0 3-2-0-0 for the season, but except for last Saturday’s loss to Texas, Khudobin has been solid in goal and has done everything possible to keep his team in game.

And as Kevin has proven in the past with Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust, when a goalie gets hot, he’ll stick with that goalie. Of course, like I said, I can just see him doing something different this weekend just to mess with my head.

****************
For tonight's video, how about The Beatles with "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" because, after all, life does goes on.

10/21: Aeros v. Monsters (rawr!)

Well apparently I'm a crazy person because I thought Khudobin looked unsettled in most of the first and all of the second, but was steady eddie in the third. Nobody agrees with me but I saw what I saw. And if you follow our Twitter, you'll know that that "seeing" led me to predict the power play goal that Lake Erie got past him to win the game, 1-0.

But that's okay. I don't need Andrew or Constantine to agree with me that it was the defense saving his bacon most of the first two periods. :) Okay, I'm probably full of shit and projecting my own goalie angst on him or something.

Anyway, here's tonight's depiction of the game. Might as well be a photograph for how accurate it is.

So there you have it. My controversial goalie take. My stick figure drawing. Sorry, no drawings of the food tonight as the baked potatoes were even sketchier than the Aeros offense.

More later from John and a video from the boys that includes really exciting stuff. You'll have to watch and find out.

What to watch for tonight: Aeros vs. Lake Erie

Uh-oh. The Monsters are starting to click, and that has meant bad news for both Manitoba and Texas recently.

Chris Durno and Darren Haydar are getting hot and the right time, and Lake Erie has won two straight after dropping four in a row. With nine goals in two games, the Monsters (3-4-0-0) invade Houston (3-3-0-0) tonight for the first of two matches at Toyota Center this season.

Tonight is the Aeros' first mid week game of the season, and they need points to close out this season-high five-game homestand. To go 2-3 at home to start the year is not the end of the world, but it's not exactly the kind of statement the team needs to make in the first month of the season.

Here are five things I would like to see tonight, and I think this gives the Aeros a good shot a winning not only tonight, but at least one of the games in the Alamo City this weekend.

1) Score the first goal of the game, and put a dent in the opposing goalie.

2) Play two good periods in a row for a change. Read the quote in this story from the head coach (fourth paragraph from the bottom.)

3) Don't allow ANY soft goals. Dubielewicz did that in each of his two starts, and Khudobin let a bad goal get to him en route to last Saturday's 5-1 Texas beat down.

4) I would like to see the emergence of a leader. Someone needs to take charge of the team, either with words or by example, and show Constantine that he deserves wear the "C".

5) Aeros need to continue their streak of not allowing a power play goal. They have the top PK in the league right now, and they'll need to keep it up this week if they want to elevate their spot in the West standings.

Through six games, the Aeros are about what I thought they would be. Average, still working out the kinks and a little short-handed when it comes to have forwards that can score in the clutch. I absolutely love Pete Zingoni so far, but if he continues to be the team's leading scorer after 20 games, I think it very well could be a long year.

And Now For Something Completely Different

For those of you interested in such details, the cast of Mary Poppins is supposedly singing the National Anthem before tonight's game between the Aeros and the Lake Erie Monsters. I suppose that's a good thing. But if you want to impress me with the anthem, then get the cast of Avenue Q to sing it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Early State of The Season Report

I've got a kind of state of the season report on the team posted over at the mothership. You can, for the moment, expect more of that kind of material over at the Press as generally do one post a week over there on hockey, and the game recap stories there are kind of dated as my Houston Cougars material is considered to be primary, and also because the Press generally doesn't post stuff on the weekends and game recaps are kind of useless two or three days down the road.

I would, however, ask that you go read the Press post as a) it's how I get my press pass, so clicking, reading, and leaving comments there lets the bosses know that you're interested, and b) I think it's a halfway interesting post on a team that's still searching for it's identity.

You'll read about the second period problems, the unsettled goalie situation, and my thoughts on the team's best line, which is the third line of Peter Zingoni, Carson McMillan, and Cody Almond. I didn't mention the Craig Weller trade because I actually wrote this Sunday night, and I didn't know, at the time, who the Wild was going to send to Houston to take his place. I'm not surprised it's Jaime Sifers as I think it was intended that he would start the season here anyway.

Oh well. I hope you guys make it to to game tomorrow night.

Roster changes

Just to provide a quick update, as the Wild has made some moves that will affect the Aeros (though I make no claims as to the degree of effect).

As you might have heard, the Wild traded Craig Weller, a (college) prospect, and pick for Boston's Chuck Kobasew. This gets the Wild some help up front and drops Weller's $600k+ salary from the Aeros budget.

The Aeros don't get anything in return, but frankly, I don't feel like they lost a lot either. Weller was sent directly to Providence to play for the Bruins AHL team.

However, part of adding Kobasew is that they had to clear a roster spot for him, so they waived Jaime Sifers and he cleared waivers today. They can send him down to Houston any time now, and as you could see on Saturday night, another proven guy on defense for the Aeros wouldn't hurt matters one bit. (UPDATE: The team has sent Sifers down to Houston, per Russo.)

Also, to add to Andrew's post below about the Wolves, they fired their coaches yesterday, too. After not making the playoffs and starting the season with a string of losses, the organization felt like a fresh perspective behind the bench was warranted. Nobody's been hired yet.

It's Official ... Chelios signs with Wolves

The 1-5 and coach-less Chicago Wolves have a new player, long time and 47-year old Chris Chelios.

Here is the Wolves' release:


WOLVES SIGN CHRIS CHELIOS

The Chicago Wolves have signed 25-year National Hockey League veteran CHRIS CHELIOS. The Chicago native will make his Wolves debut on Friday when the team hosts the Manitoba Moose at the Allstate Arena at 7:30 p.m.

CHELIOS leads all American-born players with 1,644 career NHL outings, and has racked up 948 points (185G, 763A) and 2,891 penalty minutes with the Montreal Canadiens (1983-90), Chicago Blackhawks (1990-99) and Detroit Red Wings (1999-2009).

“It is an honor for us to have him,” said Wolves General Manager Wendell Young. “We are very excited to have someone of Chris’ stature join our team. He will be an excellent example for our young players to watch, both on and off the ice.”

The 47-year-old blueliner has been awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman three times (1989, 1993, 1996), and has been named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team five times (1989, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002). He has participated in 11 NHL All-Star Games, and been a member of three Stanley Cup winning teams (Montreal, 1986; Detroit, 2002 and 2008), while playing in the Stanley Cup Finals on three other occasions (1989, 1992, 2009).

CHELIOS has competed in 266 Stanley Cup playoff outings, an NHL record, and has missed the playoffs only once in his 25-year NHL career. He has tallied 144 points (31G, 113A) and 423 penalty minutes in postseason competition.

In addition to his storied NHL career, CHELIOS has represented the United States in International play on 12 occasions, which includes captaining Team USA in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics.

In accordance with team policy, terms of the Professional Tryout Contract were not disclose

Sunday, October 18, 2009

10/17 - Aeros v. Stars

Well, that was craptacular. Actually, I thought the boys played hard but they looked tired later in the game. The score sure made me feel tired: 5-1 Stars.

This may sound weird and I'm not sure how to explain it, but even when they're playing badly/unsuccessfully, it's a lot less frustrating than last year's team when they played badly. The effort seems honest, just too often futile.

Still there's just not much positive to take home from this game, is there? It's unfortunate that Daoust's goal is being overshadowed by the surrounding unpleasantness, but that's how it goes sometimes. Better than a shutout, but not much.

On top of that, I showed up to press row in a bad mood and had to find ways to console myself, if only to keep my colleagues safe from Death by Bitch.

First, John had the bright and self-preserving idea of asking Andrew to bring me a bowl of mashed potatoes from the dining room. Now, I'm in love with these mashed potatoes. Made with real taters but just the right texture, smooth and creamy with a few lumps to let you know a real potato died for your pleasure.

And I played hockey in the morning, so I was ravenous. John and Andrew got Ms. Conduct's co-#1 stars for conspiring for my mashed tater delight.

My #2 star was the potatoes themselves. NOM NOM NOM!
The potatoes helped soothe the beast for a while, but then I got ruffled again and happened to flip through the calendar freebie the team gave away. I expected game photos or something.

No.

Brandon MFing Rogers in a hot tub? And this was free? I've been saying for a while now that the Aeros should do a calendar to sell for charity. You know, hockey beefcake thing? And here it is just handed to me. Well done, Aeros!

Brandon was the only one in full beefcake mode, but the rest were fantastic, too. I might have taken 3 home with me. I also might just decide it's April until the end of time. I mean really, Brusty hamming it up under the hood of a car in his goalie gear? Shut up! Get on my wall, Mr. April!


So, the calendar was my #3 star.

Lake Erie is in town on Wednesday. Always a little ho-hum about playing Lake Erie... they're not a rival, they're not usually very good, and yet they're still a threat, but hopefully it's a chance for the guys to hit the road on Saturday and Sunday on a high note.

Who is in goal Wednesday? If I'm KC, I put Anton back in.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

10/17 -- Aeros v. Stars -- The Pink Edition

There’s not really much to say about tonight’s 5-1 Houston Aeros loss to the Texas Stars. The 4919 fans in attendance at Toyota Center saw lots of pink -- the Aero Dynamics looked really nice in pink -- and they saw lot of Texas Stars goals. Other than that, meh.

The Aeros, as has been the situation all season, played a really strong first period and threatened Stars goalie Brent Krahn multiple times early in the first. But after one period, the score was 0-0. That’s about the last good thing that can be said about the game as the Aeros, as has been the situation all season, failed to show up in the second period.

The Stars scored four times in the second at 5:45, 10:42, 13:50, and 15:13. After that last goal, Anton Khudobin was pulled for Wade Dubielewicz. But by then, it was far, far too late to save the game.

Kevin Constantine, as he’s been known to do in the past, pulled Dubielewicz at 12:11 of the third to go with the extra skater. Still the Aeros just couldn’t do much, and after the Stars netted an empty-netter at 15:15 to make it 5-1, Constantine sent Dubielewicz back out to end the game.

“I thought in the first period we had some chances,” Constantine said. “It would have been nice to get some goals out of those. The period was pretty even though. And then they clearly -- you guys don’t need me to tell you they dominated the second period. That’s two out of three games we’ve played them where they’ve been a lot better second period team than us. I’m trying to figure out: are we bad, or are they pretty good. I don’t know, I think they’re pretty good, actually.”

Whether the Stars are good or the Aeros are bad, the result is that the Stars have won two of the three games the teams have played this season. Luckily, the Aeros don’t face Texas again for a couple of weeks, so maybe Constantine and the staff can find some answers. The Aeros return to play on Wednesday night when they host the Lake Erie Monsters at 7:05.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

After tonight’s loss, the Aeros sit in a tie for fourth place with the Peoria Rivermen. The Aeros are 3-3-0-0 (6 points) and Peoria is 2-2-1-1 (6 points). Milwaukee sits in sixth place, just one point back. The Rampage are in first at 5-1-1-0 (11 points), and the Stars (4-1-0-1) and Rockford (4-2-1-0) are tied for second with nine points.

*******************
It’s easy to blame Anton Khudobin for tonight’s loss. Easy, but not entirely correct. Khudobin did appear to get rattled after the second goal of the second period. But he didn’t appear to have a lot of help from his defense. The forwards were faked out several times by the Texas defensemen up on the point, and there were long stretches in the second period where the Aeros failed time after time to clear the puck from their zone. And when that happens, goals are almost guaranteed.

“They faked some shots to the points and went around our blocks and got some point shots,” Kevin Constantine said. “That’s a credit to the poise and confidence of their [defense] versus our forwards ability to cover the points. So two of their first three goals were point shots. But I also thought -- they spent time in our end, significant amounts of time in our end where we couldn’t defend and get the puck back. We weren’t quick enough to situations, and they had a very good game.”

********************
The giveaway for tonight was an Aeros calendar featuring the players in their hockey gear doing various non-hockey things -- playing golf, hanging out at the pool, lounging in a hot tub, etc. It’s a nice looking calendar, but I believe that I speak for all of the guys when I ask this one question: When are we ever going to get a calendar of the Aero Dynamics?

Who's with me on this, huh?

********************
Tonight’s game was also the annual Breast Cancer Awareness game, which means the players had pink on their uniforms and sticks, and the Dynamics were dressed in tight pink shirts. Joe O’Donnell was even wearing some pink. But the one thing the Aeros failed to do was play a song with the word pink in the title. I’m thinking of Aerosmith’s “Pink.”

So, to play us out tonight, here’s Aerosmith with “Pink.” (Warning, brief flash of nudity towards the end.)

View from the Press Box

Friday night the Aeros dominated a tired Rampage team and won 5-2.
In this video, John and I break down the game and give a little preview on tonight's opponent, the Texas Stars.

The Stars were idle Friday, but goalie Matt Climie shut out the Grand Rapids Griffins 2-0 Thursday.

Enjoy!


10/16 -- Aeros v. Rampage -- And The Oscar Goes To Edition

It was midway through the second period, and 6557 fans inside of Toyota Center were watching the San Antonio Rampage take the 2-1 lead on the Houston Aeros. Then Rampage goalie Al Montoya got whistled at 9:46 for a tripping penalty, followed less than a minute later by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

That’s when the hockey game turned into a soccer game as just seconds later Craig Weller was pushed from behind by one of the Rampage. Weller appeared to brush Montoya, and Montoya, doing his best soccer player impersonation, dove face down to the ice, not moving for nearly a minute or so. But unlike in soccer, Montoya wasn’t carried out on a stretcher so as he could come running out minutes later. Montoya had to stand and retake his position in the ice.

That turned out to be a good thing as a rattled Montoya gave up a goal at 11:19 of the second while the Aeros were on the 5-on-3 power play. Max Noreau fired a shot from up around the blue line. Montoya appeared to stop the shot, but Jon DiSalvatore picked up the rebound, fired the puck to Peter Zingoni on the other side of the net, and Zingoni buried the puck to tie the score.

The Aeros coasted from there.

Newcomer Ryan Gunderson scored his first AHL goal at 53 seconds of the third to put the Aeros up 3-2. And after that, it was garbage time as the Aeros dominated the play.

“We started to discover as the game went that if we keep moving our feet, if we keep moving hard, they’re going to draw penalties,” DiSalvatore said afterwards. “And they’re going to put us at an advantage for the game, and that’s something we tried to continue to do throughout the game.”

Duncan Milroy scored a second power play goal at 9:17 of the third as he stuffed in the rebound of a DiSalvatore shot to make it 4-2, then Milroy ended the scoring at 18:56 when, with Montoya pulled and the net empty, Milroy was tripped at center ice but was able to aim the puck toward the San Antonio net where it settled to make the final score 5-2.

“The game definitely had momentum swings,” head coach Kevin Constantine said. “We were okay in the first and got a goal. Then they scored two quick, and that was a huge momentum swing for them. Then we got a little of it back on the power play at the end of the second. That was a key goal. It looked like one of those games where the first goal in the third might be pretty important, and Gunderson’s shot was really important.”

As for Gunderson, he was more happy about the win than he was on actually scoring the goal, saying that “I don’t really focus on it too much.”

So while Gunderson might have put the game-winning point up on the board, it was Al Montoya who probably played the biggest role in tonight’s victory. The win makes the Aeros 3-2-0-0 (6 points) on the season. They return to play on Saturday night when they take on the Texas Stars for the third time in this young season. This also means the probable return in goal of Matt Climie who was stellar in a losing effort for the Stars last week as the Aeros got the 2-1 shootout win.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The unheralded star of the night was Aeros goalie Anton Khudobin. Khudobin got beat for what appeared to be an easy goal in the second to tie the game, then gave up another tough goal just 11 seconds later to put San Antonio up 2-1. In the past, this kind of thing appeared to rattle Khudobin, but tonight, he was solid and San Antonio didn’t appear to come close to getting the puck past him.

And while this was the team’s third win this season, it was also Khudobin’s. And this fact doesn’t appear to have escaped the attention of Kevin Constantine.

“We started out the year and gave the benefit of the doubt to [Wade] Dubieliewicz just as an older goalie,” Constantine said. “They both got two games each of the first weekends. Once you kind of get through that, there’s got to be a performance factor in your decision making, and Anton had just won the first two games. We just decided that we’ve been real fair up to now, and gave everybody a chance, and now we have to factor in that Anton won and he deserved the right to play this game.”

And while saying that the goalie decision will still be a game-to-game thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Khudobin got the start against Texas. Constantine is the type who likes to play his hot goalie, and Khudobin at the moment, is that hot goalie. But as Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust can probably attest, once Khudobin starts to cool off, don’t be surprised to see Dubieliewicz back in the net.

*****************
The line of Cody Almond/Carson McMillan/Peter Zingoni just continues to really impress me. The line didn’t get any points tonight, but once again, they contributed some of the hardest hits and always appeared to be causing some kind of action at the San Antonio goal.

I spoke with Zingoni before the season, and he spoke of the energy and passion that he brings to the game, and watching him on the ice with the two kids, it appears that he’s delivering on that promise. He also appears to be delivering on his promise to deliver in the goal scoring department as tonight’s goal was his third goal in five games. Zingoni missed most of last season with an injury, and he appears to very much want to put that behind him. Zingoni was also one of the players that GM Jim Mill was most excited about bringing to the team, and at this point, it looks like Mill knew what he was doing.

*****************
Danny Irmen’s goal at 14:10 of the first period was a beauty. Petr Kalus fired a shot toward the goal from on high which Montoya was able to block. But Irmen was in great position and appeared to fly over Montoya’s back to get to the puck and stick it in the net before Montoya could recover.

Irmen’s one of the really good guys in the locker room, and it’s always nice to see him have a good game.

*****************
Was it just me, or was the nonstop Michael Jackson music during the game just kind of creepy? None of it they played really seemed to fit a hockey setting. You would expect to hear "Beat It" or "Bad" or something like that to try to fire up the crowd, but no. That didn't happen. Maybe it's just me and my feeling that Jackson isn't really a guy who should be saluted. Anyway, it just seemed kind of strange.

I did like, however, Joe O'Donnell quizzing the players on Michael Jackson. And I really liked the dance the Lady Dynamics did to the Michael Jackson medley during the second intermission. And maybe it's just me, but please, could the team please make more use of the Dynamics.

Please?

*****************
Maybe Al Montoya was swept up in the Michael Jackson fervor which had nothing but Michael Jackson music being played during the game. So perhaps he just wanted to turn the game into a Thriller of some kind, or maybe he was just trying to Beat It himself. Whatever it was, Montoya just had an awful couple of minutes there in the second period.

The penalties were bad enough, but then there was the dive that would make a soccer play proud. On press row, it reminded us of Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian character that he used to do on Saturday Night Live back in the 80s. For you youngsters, Lovitz would play an awful actor who was really hamming it up for the audience, then at the end of the skit, he would shout out “ACTING!”

That was going to be my video for tonight, Lovitz doing his Master Thespian, but unfortunately, NBC and Saturday Night Live, who can seem to make every god awful Kristen Wiig skit available on the net have chosen not to offer up any of those Lovitz skits. So you’re going to have to be content with Lovitz doing a version of the character -- without the “ACTING!” tag -- on this Subway commercial.

Friday, October 16, 2009

10/16 - Aeros v. Rampage

Man does it ever feel good to get a decisive win, especially against a team that had yet to lose a game in regulation and has two NHL teams feeding it prospects.

He wasn't included in the stars of the game but the Aeros got an awful lot of help from a flopping, diving, penalty-taking San Antonio goalie, Al Montoya.

At one point, Weller bumped into Montoya and Montoya dropped like he'd been shot and was face down on the ice, motionless for nearly a minute. The replay clearly showed that contact was minimal. It was an Oscar-worthy performance.

John will be on later with all the juicy details, but the final was 5-2 Aeros.

Good-bye Morten Madsen

Morten Madsen has left the Aeros and will play in Sweden. (Sorry the site is not in English, but it says that Morten Madsen will play in Sweden.)

Madsen is likely never going to play in the NHL, although he was with the right organization if those dreams were to be realized. Players pull groins just getting on and off the buses in St. Paul, so he might have just been three or four more road trips away from playing at the X.

But Madsen just appeared to be miserable playing for Constantine's system down here. He never seemed to "get" it. He had a good couple of weeks with the Aeros last year, but (no pun intended) has been wildly inconsistent since making the jump from juniors.

Most people get raises when they do well at work.
Morten got a pay cut this year playing for the Aeros and now stands to make more money in Sweden. So, for someone that was apparently miserable here and making less money, this is a great deal.

I wish Morty nothing but the best overseas, and I know I will miss his great choice in head wear and post-win celebration dancing antics.

Tribute Night

Just a reminder. Tomorrow's night game with the Rampage is the Aeros 4th Annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Night. And in honor of that, the Aeros will be wearing pink in their uniforms and on their sticks.

Tonight's game is supposed to be a Tribute To Michael Jackson night. We have not been able to get confirmation on whether the players will be skating with just one glove, or whether they will be getting their skin bleached or setting their hair on fire.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Former Aeros beat writer Scott Kaiser, 49, found dead

The headline says it all.
Scott Kaiser, my former colleague who had a passion for covering the Aeros when it was his job from 1999-2002, is dead at the age of 49.

Attached are two articles from the Katy newspaper (this one might make you cry) that give some details. He lived in Katy with his wife, and he had a daughter from a previous marriage.

Scott was very popular with most of the players on the team when he covered the Aeros. He was the beat writer arguably the three craziest years the team ever had. Three head coaches, two leagues, and several soap operas that will make you laugh, cry and wonder aloud of that could really happen in professional hockey.

Upon learning of his death, I got the word out to Dave Barr -- who in three years Scott covered the team -- was an assistant coach, head coach and general manager. In other words, he got to know Scott pretty well. I sent an e-mail to Dave and he wrote back right away with some kind words. He will be missed by everyone he worked with. That much is clear.

Like many people that met him, I learned a lot from Scott about how to cover hockey ... Like what matters, what doesn't and how to describe the turning point in a period, game or playoff series. In my opinion, it is the best job as a sports writer you can have.

I know I am very fortunate to have known him, and in a completely serious way, I am glad that he decided to leave the beat in the late summer of 2002. He went on to do better things, and he even wrote a book, which was a dream of his. But he left an opportunity for me to do the one thing that brings me more joy than anything else I do professionally.

For that, I cannot thank him enough, and there is no way I possibly could.

Rest in Peace, Scott. Forever.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some Discussion With GM Jim Mill

I talked for a bit with Aeros GM Jim Mill before last Saturday's game. I know this is a bit delayed, but I've been busy with other matters. However, though some of this might be a bit dated because of news with the Wild lately, I still thought I would post. So...

As you know, this is Mill's first season as a team executive, instead of as a league executive. So I wanted to know what it was like watching a team that's he helped assemble as the season opens.

"It’s incredibly exhilarating," he said. "It’s exciting and it’s a totally different kind of pressure. That’s for sure. I went from the pressure of making sure everything goes just okay…and knowing that the referees don’t screw up or anything, to wanting to win every time."

But while he wants the team to win everytime, he was clear that building a team doesn't happen overnight, and as such, the Aeros are still a work in progress.

"We’re similar to what is happening in Minnesota where there’s some new systems and some new philosophy to some degree," he said. "The guys are trying to adjust. Specifically at the American League level, if you’re asking me or any other GM or assistant GM, scout wide or anybody else, they’re going to tell you that for that first month, you’re pretty much going to stay in flux. You’re trying to adjust to putting a bunch of new players together. That does take time. And that’s what we’re doing right now. "

Now I know that some of you are going to complain about that and believe that the team should be at top form right now. But that's just not how it works with the Aeros, especially in the now-three years that I've been covering the team. Kevin Constantine has stated over the years that he is never sure of what he's going to get from his team until a month or so into the season. And Constantine struggled throughout last season trying to figure out a team that wasn't as strong defensively as he was used to but which featured an offensive element he also wasn't used to. And the Aeros last season were a team that didn't really gell and come together until the playoffs got going. So don't go into a panic right now if the team doesn't look cohesive. Give Constantine some time to work his magic.

I spoke to Mill about some Aeros alum who are currently up in Minnesota. Mill credited John Scott with being the spark behind the Wild's open night come from behind victory. "He was pretty good wasn’t he?" Mill said. "It was opening night in Minnesota and he changed the game. You can’t say he won the game, but he changed it, and he gave us the opportunity to win that game. He changed the momentum by doing what he did. That was great. He was the difference maker."

Then there's the enigma known as Benoit Pouliot. During the playoffs last season, I made a habit of attending the morning skate, and Pouliot was always the first guy out and always one of the last guys off of the ice. So I know he works hard, and you can see the guy has talent. But he just hasn't been able to make that talent work to his advantage.

"I wish I knew the answer to that one," Mill answered when asked about getting Pouliot to play to his skill level. "Guys develop at different rates, and he’s obviously incredibly talented and skilled. He’s got great size and he skates and he shoots, everything that you want. Some guys take a little bit longer to figure out how to put all of the tools together to use properly."

But as was evident by some of Wild coach Todd Richards' comments about Pouliot last week, the team does appear to be losing some patience with Pouliot. Mill is just not at that point. Yet.

"Guys do develop at different pace. We hope that a guy like that, with all of that talent and skill and ability, figures it out and puts it all together."

Then there's Cal Clutterbuck, the hard-hitting wing who graced the Aeros with his presence for the 2007-2008 season. Clutterbuck, who was called up after only two games last season, quickly made his presence known in Minnesota, and he's become a fan, and management favorite.

"I thought he would be a great guy in the National Hockey League," Mill said. "He uses speed. He does great things by using his body and keeping it simple. He skates well. He takes the body. He does all of the little things that you want. He keeps that intensity level up, and he creates things because of how aggressive he is. It’s not a big surprise at all [his success]."

Of course, Clutterbuck is currently on the injured reserve after spraining his ankle on Saturday night in San Jose. And as anybody who remembered Erik Reitz's struggle to recover from his high ankle sprain back in 2007-2008, you know that that's an injury that doesn't heal quickly. But if the Wild are to have any success this season, then the timing of Clutterbuck's return might be the most important element of all.

Buck sent to Florida

It appears the Aeros have sent another guy packing to some place where he can get playing time. This time it's Brandon Buck who is headed to the Everblades.

He is on an AHL/ECHL contract and I don't believe he ever dressed for the Aeros.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bye-Bye Andy and Nathan, For Now

According to the mighty tweet of Michael Russo, Andy Hilbert and Nathan Smith are on their way to join the Wild in place of the injured Cal Clutterbuck and Petr Sykora.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

View from the Pressbox

Welcome to the first installment of T3I.info's View from the Pressbox.

The credential around John's neck is about the size of the moon, and I look like I have not slept in about three weeks. But overall appearances be damned, we bring you our take on the weekend, especially Saturday's 2-1 win over the Texas Stars. (I mean really, this is the random screen shot provided by You Tube. There is NO need to adjust your computer.)

Still no word on which Aeros will be called up as a result of the Wild being unable to stay healthy just three or four games into the season.

We want to know what you thought of the first two home games of the season. Did you like what you saw on the ice? What did you think of the game presentation by the Aeros crew?

Enjoy the video, and I promise (next time) to shave, sleep and try to at least dress a lot less like a homeless person.

Why lie, though. I need money for booze.

Minnesota Wild Injury Update

Just a follow-up to my post below. Michael Russo has tweeted that Clutterbuck's injury is to his ankle, and that it appears to be serious. Sykora suffered an injury to his groin. Andrew and I were kind of tossing this around after the game, and my first inclination was that Craig Weller and Andy Hilbert would be the two guys called up to the Wild. My thinking with Hilbert is based on my opinion that he would not have agreed to the two-way contract if he did not get some kind of assurance that he was going to be one of the first guys recalled to the Wild.

Andrew was thinking Weller and Colton Gillies, though my thinking is that Gillies is still unable to play because of the broken nose. And Heather read somewhere while we were talking that Danny Irmen could be in the mix.

Who knows? I haven't really gotten a handle on all of the new players yet, nor have I gotten a handle on the team. I've only seen three of the four games, and one of those games I watched on the internet. Also, I'm not really sure of what Todd Richards is looking for with the Wild.

10/10 -- Aeros v. Stars -- The Celebration of Newbies Edition

The Aeros and Stars battled tonight, in front of 5736 at the Toyota Center, and just as Friday’s game between the two was close, so was this one. So close, in fact, that the game went to a shootout before Jon DiSalvatore hit the lone goal for either team, giving the Aeros the 2-1 victory and increasing their record to 2-2-0-0 (4 points).

Tonight’s game belonged to the newbies, especially the fourth line which featured Peter Zingoni anchoring the wings of Cody Almond and Carson McMillan. While several of the lines featured some energy, and while DiSalvatore and Nathan Smith -- two more newbies -- had several opportunities to get scores, it was Zingoni who scored the one Aeros regulation goal, virtually shoving the puck past former Aero playoff hero Matt Climie to put the Aeros up 1-0 at the 17:26 mark of the first.

“It was a great forecheck from my linemates Cody Almond and [Carson] McMillan,” Zingoni said. “They stayed hard on the puck and got the puck to the net. [McMillan] gave me a nice little pass crossing…[Climie] made a nice initial save, and I just kind of buried my head and just kept working on it.”

The Stars tied the game at 5:11 of the second when Brad Lukowich’s shot hit off of one of Anton Khudobin’s defenders and deflected past him. But after that, Climie and Khudobin kept the offenses in check even though the Aeros had several good chances in overtime to get the score. Smith was working Climie so hard at about the 2:34 of OT that it looked like the two were going to come blows, but alas, the Aeros were unable to get the score.

Texas went first, and Khudobin easily stopped Kevin DeVergilio’s attempt. In fact, he easily stopped all of the Texas attempts, and if not for DiSalvatore getting it past Climie on the Aeros first shootout attempt, this game might still be underway.

Khudobin said after the game that the shootout was one of the best parts of his game when he was in Russia, but that it has suffered here. Tonight, however, he was solid. “I was sure I was going to stop the pucks [in the shootouts],” Khudobin said. “I was focusing on the pucks.”

The Aeros, as with last week, lost the first game of a weekend series, but came back to the win the second. And head coach Kevin Constantine noted how tough that was this weekend against the Stars.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “They’re on the road playing, and they haven’t lost a game in regulation out of four. They don’t give you much room. Getting pucks to the net is hard. We’ve got to give them some credit. They’re a very good team.”

As for his team’s play tonight, Constantine noted that they were more consistent tonight, and that while they might not have had the intensity at the start of Friday’s game, neither did they sink to the depths to which they sunk on Friday.

The Aeros will return to action next weekend when they take on the San Antonio Rampage for two games at Toyota Center on Friday and Saturday.

SOME MISCEALLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The Aeros are still, at this point, a team in flux. The lineup for tonight’s game had some big changes, and Constantine and his staff are still trying to find the right mix of players. GM Jim Mill noted during the game that the Aeros are carrying a big roster, but that several players had been released. And Constantine told us after the game that the roster would be thinned come next week.

“We purposely held guys around longer than normal just to be real thorough in evaluation of who we want to play and who should make the team,” he said. “There’s a negative to that as it’s kind of hard to become a team and work with individual guys. The positive of that is that your decisions are better.”

Released before the game were right wing Simon Ferguson, left wing Gregg Johnson, and right wing Matt Fornataro. Mill noted with Ferguson that this really had nothing to do with his play, but just that there are a lot of veterans on the team, and that they did not foresee the Wild sending Craig Weller and Andy Hilbert down to the team. Mill stated that he liked Ferguson and that Ferguson would be one of the first guys he contacts should their be an opening on the roster.

What I don’t think either Mill or Constantine intended was that the team would be losing players to Minnesota. However, during tonight’s game in San Jose, the Wild, according to tweets from reporter Michael Russo, lost John Scott, Cal Clutterbuck, and Petr Sykora to injuries. The severity of the injuries isn’t yet known, though while Scott had returned to the bench, Clutterbuck and Sykora had not.

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Once again, I was impressed by the play of the rookies. Chad Rau had a nice game on Friday, and Almond and McMillan were nice surprises. They were hitting, they were attacking the net, and they brought an energy to the game that was kind of like what Clutterbuck used to do, and kind of like the Love/Ryznar/Kassian line last season.

Peter Zingoni, the veteran who played with them, was impressed.

“We did a great job, and I give a lot of credit to them,” he said. “It’s their first pro game. They did an awesome job….It was a lot of fun playing with them….they gave a good impression for the coach and the staff.”

And just as Rau got his first professional point on Friday, McMillan got his first professional point tonight when he assisted on Zingoni’s score. Also, note, that the score sheet is wrong. Almond, not Nathan Smith, was on the ice with Zingoni and McMillan when Zingoni scored. Zingoni even credited Almond, and Almond could easily be seen behind Zingoni on the replay.

Also, my apologies to McMillan. I believe that on the little video discussion with myself and Andrew that I said Corey McMillian instead of Carson. That was a stupid mistake on my part.

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I’ve got a problem, again, with the people who decided on the three stars. I’ve got no problem with Zingoni’s star, though I would have made him the third star. Matt Climie was a deserving star, but I would have made him two instead of three -- he did stop 30 of 31 game shots and four of the five shootout shots. And though Jon DiSalvatore did a nice job to get the shootout goal, I fail to understand how Khudobin, who stopped 23 of 24 game shots and all five that he faced in the shootout, could not have been given his proper recognition.

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As for our video to play us out tonight, I just can’t think of anything better than “Under Pressure” from Queen and David Bowie as a little salute to the excellent goaltending from Climie and Khudobin.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10/10 - Aeros v. Stars

Much MUCH better showing by both teams tonight in the 2-1 shootout win for the Aeros. While Houston generally outshot the Stars the whole game, there were only brief stretches where the game actually felt lopsided.

Both goalies put on a clinic, turning away plenty of tough attempts, including in the eventual shootout. There were few "easy" shots in the shootout, and Khudobin in particular was absolutely oozing confidence the entire game.

And he knew he'd done something special with the final shot of the shootout, and his fist pumping celebration looked like this:

You might have gathered from our Twitter feed tonight that I was impressed with Cody Almond. He was a fantastic surprise. You hear guys are good in junior, but until you see them at the next level, it's tough to put much stock in that, but he was terrific in his first pro game tonight. Fantastic hockey sense, big time hustle, strong on the boards... great stuff.

Daoust is a little spitfire, too, though maybe a little too much fire (or is it too much spit?) tonight with an inopportune unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the tied game.

Personally, I feel better tonight. Last night's game left me unsettled. I wasn't happy with the goaltending. I wasn't happy with the "too little too late" compete level. It reminded me of frustrating teams of the past and I really came out of pre-season thinking they were a much better team than that.

And I just flat out hate being wrong.

But tonight I feel less off base with my general expectations for the team. Khudobin only made me wonder where the nearest defibrillator was one time, and in an hairy game like this one was, that's pretty good. His rebound control was greatly improved and he was calm and confident the whole way.

Moreover, he was just working his can off, which was a nice thing to see.

Okay, that's it from me. Video from John and Andrew, as well as write-ups are coming!

It's Question Time

I'm probably nuts for doing this, but...

I'm going to take a little time tonight to talk to GM Jim Mill on the record. I really want to focus on some of the guys who are up with the Wild right now, like Cal Clutterbuck, John Scott, and Benoit Pouliot, but I thought I would offer a reward to the readers. Send me questions. I'll pick one I like and ask him. One caveat: Jim Mill is the general manager, and he works on the hockey side, not the business side, so leave T3I and our problems out of it. Give me a hockey question regarding personnel, style of play, stupid penalties, etc. And as I said, I'll take my favorite of the questions and ask Jim.

Thanks.

10/9 -- Aeros v. Stars -- The Matt Beaudoin Is Not The Second Coming of Wayne Gretzky Edition

I find it hard to write about the kind of game that was played tonight. The Aeros came out hard, and fast, and physical. They took the 1-0 lead after Clayton Stoner fired in the puck from the blue line at 17:29 of the first. They left their intensity in the locker room for the second and most of the third periods, but trailing 3-1 late in the third, the Aeros still found a way to make it interesting before losing 3-2 in front of 8514 fans inside of Toyota Center.

There’s just not much to say.

Stoner put the fault on the entire team, saying that “we were turning over pucks at the blue line going into their zone and just giving up odd man rushes the other way. Then break downs in our own zones. I think pretty much we just handed them everything they got.”

In many ways, he is correct. But without the play of Texas Stars goalie Brent Krahn, Texas loses this game. The Aeros won the shot battle 35-20. They outshot Texas 12-4 in the first period. They hit Krahn with a six-man rush late in the third. And he made the stops, especially when it counted.

Still, the Aeros could have, should have won this game. But despite the massive off season roster turnover, this Aeros team played like year’s team. Consistently inconsistent. They came out strong, trailed off, then came back at the end.

“We’re a mature group,” Stoner said. “A lot of older guys. If we’re down a goal or two we can always come back.”

But head coach Kevin Constantine doesn’t want to hear comparisons to last year.

“There’s a lot of newness here,” he said. “New management, new players, getting used to things. It’s so much change, our style of play, you would think we would be fairly similar to last year once we all adjust to how we’re going to play. I would summarize the game with saying we had a good start. We had a lot of energy. We had a good first period. We had an average second period with a little too many turnovers. And didn’t manage the puck very good, and let them back into the game because of that.”

The Aeros and Stars go at it again tomorrow night, 7:35, at Toyota Center. And the Aeros will attempt to even up their record at 2-2. Something which Stoner thinks is possible. “I think we need to come out with a bit of an edge,” he said. “We can’t be happy with the way we handed them the game. We’ve just got to come out with an attitude and play like we deserve to win.”

MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

I’ve got to admit to a little disappointment from tonight’s game. After reading the comments here over the summer, I was convinced that Matt Beaudoin was the second coming of Gretzky and Crosby. Instead, all I saw tonight was the Beaudoin I saw during much of the regular season last year -- nothing. He’s a good guy. He was good in the locker room. He was very good in the playoffs. But you guys have got to get over him already. Mitch Love and Tony Hrkac played as important, or bigger, roles with this team last year than Beaudoin, and I can’t understand the adulation that has been coming his way.

Though, on the plus side, this did give me and Heather a fun way to waste time during the game as we were making “Matt Beaudoin is so great, how great is he?” jokes throughout the game.

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The Aeros have really got to let those of us sitting on press row pick the stars of the game. There’s just no justification for Texas goalie Brent Krahn not being the number one star of the game. Hell, he wasn’t even a star. I often asked myself this same question last year: are they watching the same game that I am?

I also think that they ought to turn over game scoring duties to those of us on press row. Heather, Andrew, GM Jim Mill, and myself all correctly identified Clayton Stoner as being the one to score the first period goal as soon as it happened, and verified it by way of replay -- thanks Jamie Spencer for that as, if I remember right, we didn’t always have replays on Friday games last year. But the stat crew gave it to right wing Jean-Michel Daoust. That mistake was corrected during the first intermission.

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The Aeros do not have a captain this year. They are using a system of rotating Alternate Captains, which is shared by the veterans, and will rotate among those who are not having to sit out during a particular game due to the Veteran Rule. Tonight's Alternates were Clayton Stoner, Brandon Rogers, and Ryan Lannon.

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I was impressed by rookie Chad Rau. He got the team’s second goal, late in third period, and he always seemed to be around the puck for the whole night. And Clayton Stoner was again delivering some quality hits during the game.

And I was impressed by P.A. guy Steve Vidal for correctly pronouncing new goalie Wade Dubielewicz’s name throughout the night. I think I would have nightmares every night if I had to pronounce it on a regular basis.

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And finally, before I go, it’s time to play DJ. So I thought I would bust out this little beauty from The Pretenders. First, because it gives me a chance to watch Chrissie Hynde. Second, because it’s a good song. Third, because the first line is the “reason we’re here” which allows me to remind you that, despite everything that’s happened, we here at T3I are here to give you the best game coverage possible. And fourth, as my dedication to Mitch Love who is off in Peoria this year (also, though he probably won't like it, it's also for Mr. Fred).

So here’s The Pretenders with the “Message of Love.”

Friday, October 9, 2009

10/9 - Aeros v. Stars

In a very uneven game that started with the Aeros looking like they might never even allow a Stars shot on goal, but ended with the Aeros scrambling to make up a 2 goal deficit, the Texas Stars took home the 3-2 win tonight in the first ever regular season meeting between the teams.

Clayton Stoner opened up the scoring when he ripped a shot from the point past Stars goalie Brent Krahn, during a first period in which it took over half the period for the Stars to finally get a shot on goal. The Aeros dominated; the Stars must have given up 15 turnovers in the neutral zone. It was the kind of period where you're glad you're gonna see this team 11 more times this season.

But two different teams came out of the locker rooms at the second. The Aeros were flat and lacked the energy of the first. The Stars looked like they'd gotten a talking to in the room and were ready to make amends for a sorry first.

And make amends they did. Shots were almost exactly the reverse of the first period with the Stars gettin 11 to the Aeros 4, but they capitalized one extra time with goals from Rallo and McCulloch.

The McColloch goal was off a nasty rebound into traffic and the bouncing puck hopped past the pad of Dubielewicz.

The Aeros started the third on the power play, but it was Texas who scored first when Korostin popped the puck 5-hole on Dubie midway through the period on what looked like a bad play defensively for the Aeros.

With about 4 minutes left in the period, Constantine pulled Dubie from the net and the Aeros went to work with 6 men. Amazingly the Stars were unable to get the puck in the empty net, but had several good chances as the Aeros organized their man-advantage.

Though it was too little too late, rookie Chad Rau scored his first professional goal after the Aeros had been storming Krahn's crease for nearly 3 straight minutes. But the boys in the bomber sweaters were unable to get another puck past Krahn, who was truly outstanding in the final minute of play, stopping a whopping 18 of 19 shots.

Which leads us to the stick figure of the night:

Folks, Stars goaltending is out of this world. Climie is just as good as Krahn. The mere 4 penalties in this game indicate that it's not a rivalry yet, but give it time.