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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Earl and Sifers reassigned to the Aeros

As the Aeros return home from a successful road trip, they'll get a few days to recover before returning to game action against San Antonio on Thursday morning.

They will also likely (barring another call-up) have the added bonus of the return of Robbie Earl and Jaime Sifers, who were both reassigned to Houston by the Wild this morning.

Presumably some of the Wild regulars are close to returning. But the Wild don't play again until Wednesday, and given the injury and illness problems up there, I wouldn't expect the revolving door to stop spinning. Per Russo tweet: "Sifers will be back if Zidlicky can't play Wednesday. Wild will figure out statuses of injured guys at practice tomorrow"

With any luck, it will at least slow down, as things are looking up for the parent club as much as for the farm team, which is good for stability at both ends of the organization. With regular line-ups, perhaps both teams can get some solid traction and take advantage of that mo-mo-momentum Andrew was talking about.

In case you missed it, here's Earl's goals a few games ago. His first two as an NHLer.



The Aeros have mo, mo, momentum.

Schedule-wise, December is going to be very kind to the Aeros. Eight of their next 10 will be at home, and the two road games will be played inside Texas (one at San Antonio and one at Texas).

The Aeros team that I thought would be lucky to win one of their three road games last week, just took two of three and has points in four straight overall. They are all alone in second place in the West division and have pulled within eight points of the Texas Stars.

Back to the OT win in Toronto. The win was filled with character and all sorts of fun warm fuzzies that should make you feel good about being an Aeros fan this morning.

Chad Rau scored an incredible goal to give the team a 1-0 lead in the second, but the Marlies tied things up with a goal in the third, a period they pretty much dominated.

Wade Dubielewicz was sharp when he had to be, and he was the topic of conversation after the game. Seems the Aeros felt bad for the guy, and not being able to, as Kevin Constantine said after the game, "give him much run support."

Dubielewicz won his first game since that amazing comeback shootout win over Hamilton on Oct. 27 at Toyota Center. Since then, a span of six games, the Aeros' backup has done nothing but allow two goals or fewer. And his goals against average has fallen from 2.77 to a very solid 2.18.

His November numbers are impressive. Sure, he had just the one victory. But his GAA for the month was 1.60 with a .932 saves percentage. Those are in line with what Anton Khudobin has put up all year.

"He played great in the third," said Constantine. "He gave up a goal, but he was really solid. That is what we needed. He has played really well this year, but we just have not been able to get a win for him. So I am sure just getting a win feels great for him personally."

I, and each of my colleagues that cover the Aeros, have been critical of Dubielewicz' play this season. There always seems to be an in-game let down. A lack of concentration that leads to the dreaded softie. As anyone who follows this team knows, one softie spells death with this offensively devoid hockey club.

But, despite the lazy play at times, and despite the ego hit of going to potential backup in Minnesota to rarely-used backup in the AHL, he attitude has been incredible. He cheers them on from the bench, pays attention to the game, and has been very solid when he's had to jump in and take over for the rare Anton bomb.

Constantine said it better.

"I did not know him as a goaltender and a person prior to this year. But now, from a leadership and character standpoint, he has been absolutely flawless," added Constantine. "He has had such a positive attitude, and he is very vocal. He is actually very astute on the game when he is on the bench.

"As a backup goalie, he is talking to the guys on the bench about what is going on on the ice. He sees the game like coach. He has been fantastic that way, and he has been a good goalie too. We just have not been able to get any wins for him. He has been great the whole year."

Miscellaney ...

The Aeros were able to save a crap load of money by flying to Detroit and then busing to Hamilton, and then to Syracuse and then to Toronto in the middle of the night for the Saturday game against the Marlies.

Constantine said the Aeros will bus back to Detroit Sunday (today) and then fly home Monday. The team will get the rest of that day off before getting back to work Tuesday in advance of the team's home and home series against San Antonio.

The Aeros should get a little more information this week on a few key players out with injuries.

"Right now, we don’t know exactly where guys like Testwuide, Hilbert and Almond are," said Constantine. "I would guess that Hilbert is the closest at this point. Hopefully Andy is back this week, but it might be a couple of weeks before we get the other guys back."

I then joking asked Kevin if he and the coaching staff prays before every Wild game because of the big club's horrendous luck with injuries this year.

"That is right because we really need them healthy too. It really does affect us," said Constantine. "Hopefully no one else gets hurt up there."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jaime Sifers recalled to Minnesota

The Aeros lost Jamie Fraser and Max Noreau to injury Wednesday night in Hamilton. Now, they'll be without Jaime Sifers, who was recalled to the Minnesota Wild today.

The Wild had to put disappointing forward Martin Havlat and slumping defenseman Brent Burns on injured reserve. Neither of them contributed all that much when they were healthy, so there is no rush to get them back on the ice.

Sifers is the latest Aero to get a chance to skate with the Wild. Robbie Earl is still in St. Paul, and joins Danny Irmen and Nathan Smith, who were both recently called up, but since have been returned.

Constantine sounded confident that Fraser should be able to go tonight against the Crunch, but Noreau's injury could keep him out of action for some time. I should get another report on that injury after the game this evening.

After this weekend's games against Syracuse and Toronto, the Aeros will get a nice break until next week when it plays a home and home against the Rampage.

Miscellaney ...

Speaking of the Rampage (who just got talented goalie Justin Pogge from ECHL Bakersfield) Aeros fans really need to cheer for the Admirals to keep that winless streak alive in the Alamo City. If San Antonio wins, the Aeros will be playing a talented Rampage team that will start believing in itself again.

But, man, if San Antonio loses against Milwaukee this weekend, that will be the team's second straight WINLESS MONTH of November. That just does not happen. You accidentally win two games a month ...

I have no idea how to explain what has happened there. That is too good a team to go o-for-11 in the win dept.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aeros leave Hamilton with a 1-0 win over Bulldogs

Maybe the Aeros *can* score one goal a game and still make the playoffs.

For the 14th time in 22 games this year, the Aeros scored less than three goals. At this pace, when the 80-game regular season is over, the Aeros will have 50 games in which they have scored two goals or less.

Folks ... that is scary. Not Texas Chainsaw Massacre scary. I am talking about forgetting your cell phone at home scary and being afraid your mistress is going to call while your phone is sitting next to your wife scary.

But what also is frightening is Anton Khudobin. He made 26 saves Wednesday and led the Aeros to a 1-0 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Aeros have scored two goals or less in six straight games, and amazingly, they have points (two wins) in three of those games.

Their next six games will feature teams that give up a few goals every now and then, so right now I am confident that the team will hit the previously unthinkable three-goal plateau. But I still can't say enough about Khudobin and the defense.

Neither can Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine.

"(When you are struggling offensively) you are only going to win by making sure you are not giving up a lot and giving yourself a chance," said Constantine. "Anton did that the other night against Milwaukee in the first period and in the rest of the game. And he did it tonight. He is a big, big part of us hanging in there right now until hopefully we get a little health here and the Wild get a little health here."

Speaking of health, the Aeros lost Max Noreau with an undisclosed injury. Constantine said he left the game shortly after assisting on the JM Daoust (his fourth) power play goal. Also, Jamie Fraser sustained a pretty bad cut, but Constantine said he would likely be OK to play, if needed, Saturday.

As for Noreau?

"Noreau is hurt, and I don't even know where," added Constantine.

I am no doctor, but unless Constantine was faking his tone when explaining Max' injury, my bet is that he is out for at least a week. We'll see.

Miscellaney ....

For the first time in several years, the Aeros will be spending Thanksgiving on the road. When teams are at home, they spend time in small groups, cook for each other and wind down. When they are on the road, in upstate New York, well, I guess you figure out where to ... play more hockey!

"We don’t know what we are doing yet, and we have a four or five hour drive ahead of us to think about it," said Constantine. "We have not had a practice yet this week as a team. We gave them Monday off, traveled all day Tuesday and played today. We have not practiced in five days, so we might try to find some ice...."

Or ...

"We might just go out and make it just a team day. Just kind of hang out maybe a do some team building. We have not really made a decision on that."

Needless to say, the Aeros will get some time together as a team.
Their power play is getting better, their PK is No. 1 in the AHL, and Anton Khudobin can feasibly play every game for the Aeros until the Aeros play three games in three nights at Chicago, Rockford and Milwaukee Dec. 30 - Jan.1, 2010.

He'll get a day off before then I am sure ... but this dude is clearly the team's MVP right now. Argue that, my friends, and you'll lose.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Syracuse Crunch to *host* first-ever AHL game played outdoors

The AHL announced today that the Syracuse Crunch will host the Binghamton Sentators in the league's first-ever AHL outdoor game on Feb. 20, 2010, at New York State Fairgrounds.

This is something the league hopes will turn into an annual event, although they have not returned my call about when the Aeros would be able to host the event.

For those that want to be a part of history, here is how you can:

"Tickets for the Mirabito Outdoor Classic can be purchased starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25 by calling the Crunch office at (315) 473- 4444, calling TicketMaster at 1-800-745-3000 or by stopping by the Oncenter Box Office, located on the State Street Side of the War Memorial."


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Wild Trade Benoit Pouliot To The Canadians

Just a note for those of you who are interested. Earlier today, the Wild traded former Aero Benoit Pouliot to the Montreal Canadians in exchange for Guilliame Latendresse. Hopefully Heather and Andrew can provide more info on Latendresse if you're interested.

And my apologies. I can remote twitter from my iPhone, so I twittered this earlier today when the trade was announced. I cannot remote blog from my iPhone, and I'm working a temp job where they frown on any computer use that is not related to reviewing legal documents. So to any of you who don't get our twitter feed, I apologize for not getting this to you sooner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

11/22 -- Aeros v. Admirals -- The Hey Bulldog Edition

It was bring your dog day at the Toyota Center today, and for the first period, the Aeros themselves played like dogs on the ice as the Milwaukee Admirals took the 1-0 lead at 4:19 after former Wild prospect Ryan Jones continued extracting his revenge on the Aeros. But the Aeros were lucky. They were out-hustled, out-played, and just about out- everything in the first period. Thankfully, Anton Khudobin didn’t play like a dog and he was able to keep the Aeros in the game.

The Aeros showed up for the second period, and at 19:57, Petr Kalus tipped a laser of a shot from Max Noreau, who was way up high, into the net to tie the game at 1-1. And the Aeros, just like many games past, had many, many good opportunities to win the game in the third period. But the Aeros, as has been their wont, just couldn’t finish which meant they just couldn’t get the puck into the net.

“We could have won it four, five, six times in regulation,” Kevin Constantine said afterwards, but they didn’t.

The game went into overtime where the Aeros and the fans were put out their misery by Cal O’Reilly at 2:39 as O’Reilly just refused to let Khudobin keep blocking his shot, finally shoving it past him after Khudobin stopped several attempts to make the final score 2-1.

“We had, I thought, our worst first period of the year,” Constantine said. “We were just asleep. Whatever the reasons would be I don’t know. I thought Khudobin kept us in the game in the first period. Otherwise it might have been two, three-nothing and we would’ve never come back.”

As it was, the Aeros did come back. They just couldn’t do anything else once they got there.

“We’ve got to score more,” Constantine said.

But somehow, that might be easier said than done.

The Aeros now stand at 10-10-1-0 (21 points) on the season. The good news is, that despite their inability to score, they’re in a four-way tie for second place. The bad news is that they’re in four-way tie for fifth place. They next hit the ice on Wednesday when they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs in Hamilton. They’re play the Syracuse Crunch in Syracuse on Friday and the Toronto Marlies in Toronto on Saturday.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Brandon Rogers and Jamie Fraser were healthy scratches tonight. The primary reason was that Constantine actually had enough forwards on the roster to actually send 12 of them out on the ice for the same game. He also wanted to get a good look at Brandon Buck who joined the club on Friday night.

Constantine was pleased with what he saw from Buck, and the sense from our conversation was that Constantine would like to see him stick around on the club. However, he did make it clear that roster moves were above his pay grade.

And speaking of roster moves…there’s a possibility that there will be more of them tomorrow, depending, of course, on how the Wild’s practice goes tomorrow, and depending on who is actually healthy enough to play. So it’s possible that Danny Irmen, Nathan Smith, or someone else could be on their way to Minnesota tomorrow.

******************
Constantine is, of course, pleased with this goaltending and defense. And the play of both of those units, especially of Anton Khudobin, has been fantastic. Constantine’s not happy with his lack of goals, but he’s not displeased by the effort of his offense.

This isn’t like the offense that the team had two seasons ago. These guys are able to create on the offensive end, and you can see it happening. What isn’t happening, however, is the team putting the puck in the net. But what’s the solution? Well, if you have a solution, I’m sure Constantine would like to hear from you.

******************
And no matter how bad the Aeros might look right now, you should probably be grateful for one thing. You’re not a fan of the San Antonio Rampage. It seems like just last week that we were talking about San Antonio being, along with Texas, the class of the division.

But in the past several weeks, the Rampage have gone 0-8-1-1 to drop like an anchor to last place in the division. Meanwhile, in a complete turnaround, the Chicago Wolves, who were so bad to start the season that the head coach was fired, has gone 7-3-0-0 for its last 10 game to climb into the tie for second place.

******************
Now excuse me while I go off on a rant….

But someone needs to pay a bit more attention to the sound crew. On multiple occasions tonight the music was playing during game action -- it even started up once or twice during game play. It was bad enough that someone let Steve Vidal start shouting one of the quizzes during game action, but there’s no real excuse for the music. The Aeros might be a minor league team, but there’s no reason the arena atmosphere should be minor league.

******************
Now I’m going to play us out tonight with a song that is appropriate for two reasons. Tonight, after all, was Bring Your Dog Day -- we could hear Heather’s dog all of the way in the press box -- so I would think The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” would be a great song anyway. But then there’s the fact that the Aeros next game is against the Bulldogs, which makes it just that much better. So here’s The Beatles with “Hey Bulldog.”



Oh, and I just want to wish everyone reading us here in the States a Happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Irmen and Smith Return, For Now

Just a note that Danny Irmen and Nathan Smith are on their way back to Houston and should be here for tomorrow afternoon's game with Milwaukee. Wild beat Michael Russo is not sure if the injured Wild players are ready to return, of if this is a move by the Wild to save room on the salary cap since the Wild have four days off.

11/20 -- Aeros v. Admirals -- A Hard Day's Night Edition

The Houston Aeros are a team premised on smart play, execution, and energy. When one of those elements doesn’t fall into place, the Aeros lose. When two of those elements don’t fall into place, it’s a recipe for disaster. Yet despite some very stupid play by some who should know better, and some poor execution, the Aeros found some much needed energy to get back into the game.

Yet in the end, as 5672 people who witnessed the game at Toyota Center will tell you, the Houston Aeros still lost to the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 to fall to 10-10-0-0 on the season.

The Aeros were shorthanded to start the night as just before game time Clayton Stoner discovered that he couldn’t play because of an upper back injury. Nathan Smith had been called up to Minnesota earlier in the day, and the Aeros made the call to the Florida Everblades to get Brandon Buck. And Buck arrived at Toyota Center at 6:30, just in time to suit up and hit the pregame skate.

For the first fifty-five minutes of the game the Aeros played stupid hockey and didn’t execute. About the only thing the Aeros were good at was fighting -- I didn’t think Colton Gillies had that in him when he took out Nolan Yonkman in the first period. Matt Kassian also came out with kind of a draw against Yonkman in the first. But the fighting hurt the team, more than it helped. Especially Peter Zingoni who ended up serving 17 minutes of penalty time in the second and third period after a fight with Ryan Jones.

Anton Khudobin was pulled early in the first after giving up two goals (one on a power play) on only four shots, and Wade Dubielewicz did what he could to keep the team in the game. But he gave up a goal in the third which made the Aeros up hill battle that much harder.

“We worked hard,” Kevin Constantine said. “We’re a four-line probably, more than anybody in hockey. We just roll people because we like to keep fresh and play with lots of energy. That’s why we play 12 forwards. So in a game like this, guys playing every third shift -- on some teams, that might be fairly normal, but on this team, it isn’t. So that’s probably the first time guys ever had to log that much ice time with that little rest in between. They kept going. We kept working. That was good.”

That was good. But not good enough. Especially with the early stupid play and the poor execution that found the Aeros, like usual, having several excellent opportunities at the end to knot the game yet not being able to pull it off.

These two teams battle again on Sunday afternoon. Who knows, maybe they’ll have a full roster. Maybe they won’t. That’s just how the puck bounces.


SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The Aeros didn’t know until close until game time whether Brandon Buck would be able to make it to Toyota Center in time. Constantine told us after the game that Nathan Smith didn’t get the call until 10:30 Friday morning to report to Minnesota. The Aeros were then left trying to find a player that was in position to pack a bag and get to an airport where he could then catch a flight that could get him to Houston in time for tonight’s game. And Buck didn’t get to the arena until 6:30.

No Buck would have left Houston with 17 players able to suit up. Until Clayton Stoner got injured which would have left the Aeros with 16 players. Luckily, Buck did arrive, and he played a decent game for a guy playing under those circumstances. And Zingoni’s penalty time didn’t help as it left the Aeros with only 16 skaters for most of the second period and the first part of the third period.

“There’s a couple of things you’ve got to think about,” Constantine said. “We were down one with Clayton not being able to go. And then we had a couple of fights, and then we had a guy [Zingoni] who got 17 minutes in penalties. So not only was it a game we started without a body, we had lots of penalties that kept guys in the penalty box instead of on our bench.”

So the fact the Aeros were actually able to make a game of it says a little something about the character of the team.

“Guys were tired,” Constantine said. Yet they found a way to perform.

“It’s been one of the things we’ve been focusing on all year,” Chad Rau said. “A hard working team. Especially when things aren’t going your way you have to make sure you are working hard and going as hard as you can.”

*****************
Constantine said afterwards that he thought that Clayton Stoner should be able to play on Sunday. But when asked if the team was going to try and bring someone else in just in case, his response was that we would have to talk to the bosses.

*****************
Once again the Aeros had to play defensemen up front. It’s not the best of circumstances, but Brandon Rogers seemed to make it work. I thought it was Jamie Fraser playing up front, too, but Andrew says it was Jaime Sifers. Whoever it was, the defenseman up front did their jobs.

*****************
According to the AHL stat sheet, the actual three stars of the game, as opposed to what Steve Vidal announced, were 3) Petr Kalus, 2) Ryan Jones, and 1) Mike Santorelli.

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In case you didn't notice, Peoria demolished San Antonio night. As part of the demolition, former Aeros fan favorite Mitch Love got his first goal of the gameseason.

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And seeing the day that Brandon Buck, and the team endured, getting to Houston, I can think of nothing better than The Beatles with "A Hard Day's Night."

Friday, November 20, 2009

View from the Pressbox - Aeros 2, Admirals 3

The Aeros played their hearts out Friday night and came up a little short against a Milwaukee Admirals team playing the first of six straight games in Texas.

The Aeros had only 10 natural forwards on the ice, including Brandon Buck, who made it to the rink about an hour before game time. Jamie Fraser (corrected) and Brandon Rogers played forward, and Clayton Stoner pulled up lame before the game.

(I think Sifers may have played some at forward, too ... but I will check Sunday and try to get some line combinations before the game.)

Down 3-0 early in the third period, the Aeros started playing desperate hockey, and played it well. They got a pretty goal from Peter Kalus, who was named the No. 1 star of the game. He might have been the best player on the ice, but I would have given the No. 1 nod to Ryan Jones, who scored the game winner 65 seconds into the third period.

Anton let in two softies and only played eight minutes. Wade Dubielewicz was good in relief, and made a spectacular save in the second period.

The power play scored again, but the Aeros, who have the No. 1 penalty kill, allowed another power play goal.

The thing that bugs me just a little bit is the fact that the Aeros keep playing defensemen at forward. That means two things. Either the Aeros' defensemen are better than any forward they could find in the ECHL or CHL, or the Aeros are just REALLY hoping both they and the Wild get better fast.

We asked Kevin Constantine after the game that very question ... and he pretty much said there's not really enough time, especially tonight, to get bodies here in time for game.

So we asked him again, if there were plans to get forwards, who have played forward their whole lives, in for a game or two until the locust infestation makes its way out of St. Paul.

Kevin said we'd have to talk to the bosses about that.

That was about 15 minutes ago, so guess what I am going to do tomorrow.

Have a good night all. The Aeros are only going to go as far as their goaltending takes them. But they are fun to watch, and their work ethic is as good as I have ever seen for a team wearing the bomber gear.

Here is a list of the seven regular players, yes seven, that the Aeros were missing Friday in their 3-2 loss against Milwaukee.

Clayton Stoner - late scratch, sore back; should be able to go Sunday
J.P Testwuide - week to week with a shoulder
Cody Almond - few weeks away with a broken wrist
Andy Hilbert - few weeks away with a sprained knee
Danny Irmen - on recall to Minnesota (-1 in today's win)
Robbie Earl - on recall to Minnesota (even in today's win)
Nathan Smith - on recall to Minnesota (CORRECTED...PLAYED vs. NYI)

Brandon Buck To Aeros

Sorry, I twittered this earlier, but I forgot that not everybody follows the Twitter feed...

To take the place of Nathan Smith who was called up to Minnesota, the Aeros are bringing in Brandon Buck from Florida, and he should be suiting up with the team tonight. Actually, if he doesn't, the Aeros are going to have some problems because they had trouble putting a team out on the ice Wednesday night.

What the hell is going on in San Antonio?

Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal-Star reports today that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks have apparently ended their affiliation with the Rampage

This is terrible news for a San Antonio team that has lost nine straight games and has fallen to last place in the division. 

Three players were re-assigned to the Toronto Marlies and another to an ECHL team. 
San Antonio, reportedly, signed four ECHL guys to fill that void. The following is straight from the Peoria article:

"It also appears as though NHL Anaheim has pulled its affiliation with San Antonio.

Phoenix is San Antonio’s NHL parent club. But Anaheim had no AHL farm this season, and worked out a deal with Phoenix to assign players to San Antonio.

On Tuesday, Anaheim abruptly pulled out left wing Matt Beleskey and right wing Troy Bodie — two very good players — and defenseman Brett Festerling and sent them all to AHL Toronto. A fourth player, Ryan Donally, was sent to ECHL Bakersfield.

Whether Anaheim was unhappy with the ice time its players received, or the direction of the San Antonio team — or both — was unclear."


The Minnesota Wild toilet flush

With Marty Havlat out for the Wild game against the Islanders, Nathan Smith has been recalled to the circus that IS the Minnesota Wild. 

Russo reports in his blog that Havlat was looked at by doctors. And now, based on the Wild announcement that Smith has been recalled, he's a definite no-go. 

For those of you who do not read Russo regularly, you're missing out. He truly keeps the fans connected with the NHL and Minnesota Wild. It is very hard to get close to the players at that level, and I think Russo does a great job of conveying what is going on at the rink ... both at practice and in the game. 

What he is also good at -- and I don't know if he does this on purpose or not -- is showing just how much of a sad hockey team the Wild is this year. And it is not for lack of effort or professionalism. The big club has that, I know, because people I talk to all the time, including scouts, always compliment the team and owners. But what I mean by "sad" is the combination of mediocre-at-best-talent, zero luck and a season-opening schedule that most AHL teams would laugh at. 

If it could go wrong for the Wild this season, it has. If it can go wrong for the Wild this season, just wait ... it will. 

There are five forwards out of the lineup in Minny, and Russo reports that players are getting frustrated with the lack of results ... and they are also probably very frustrated knowing that no matter what, they will probably lose at least 60 percent of the time based on personnel alone. 

The fact that they have won as many games as they have surprises me ... and I would like to see what this team can do when fully healthy. But you know what? As soon as one guy comes back another one will get hurt.

The Wild is missing several key ingredients that could make Todd Richards look a little bit better in his debut season as a head coach. And until he is able to cook with those, look for more of the same in St. Paul. 

That being said, if I am on the Aeros, I go out there and play my freaking ass off every night. Look at all the rewards dished out this year. Hilbert, Smith (now twice), Earl, Irmen and Khudobin. (Did I miss anyone?) This is what AAA hockey is for, and the Wild is a (sexual reference deleted) dream for guys playing at this level. 

Just because all the Aeros' best talent is in the NHL right now, doesn't mean fans are going to see a team full of quitters down here. There is plenty to be motivated about, and after every game players are starting to reflect that to me with their post game comments. 

The Aeros are motivated to win, for sure; no one likes to lose. But they are also motivated because, for some reason, St. Paul is the place were heads, groins and other upper body parts go to die. 

Getting to Know the Enemy: Milwaukee Admirals

Our friends at Admirals Short Shifts, who became wonderful frienemies during our playoff runs last season, have kindly provided us with a look at the state of the Ads as we approach a two-game series here in Houston this weekend.

ASS's very own Ryan Miller (not the goalie) put this together, while I provided them with a (much less thorough) Aeros update for their site. Here we go:

When you last saw the Admirals, it was game 7 of the divisional semi-finals, as the Aeros were victorious in the game (don't forget -- it was John Royal's presence in Milwaukee that put them over the top!).

What has happened since then for the Admirals? Not nearly the makeover that Houston has gone through. And just looking at the roster, you'd think that the Admirals should be a little bit better than 6-6-1-2. But there are two things that have kept the Admirals from being better -- The Nashville Predators, and goaltending.

The Predators had a slew of injuries that have led to more callups in the first month of the season than in all of last year. Chemistry has been hard to find, as coach Lane Lambert has had to shuffle his lines a lot more due to roster changes than in previous years. There was one 12 hour period where he lost three forwards -- Peter Olvecky and Andreas Thuresson to callups and Ryan Maki to a broken leg. Oh, and they had to fill a roster for a game that night in Rockford.

The other thing that is stunting the Admirals growth is their goaltending situation. Mark Dekanich was our #2 guy last year, and actually had himself a nice season in the games that Drew MacIntyre didn't play in. Drew signed with the Atlanta organization, and Dekanich has been thrust into the #1 goaltending slot with less than spectacular results so far.

As of Wednesday night, Dekanich ranks 42nd out of 50 goaltenders (with at least 300 minutes played) in the statistic of save percentage. We have seen soft goal after soft goal, and seen a goaltender that does not look comfortable in the crease. Dekanich has given up a first period goal in all but one of his starts so far this year, and the Admirals have spent a lot of the season playing catch-up as a result.

While Dekanich has been getting the majority of the minutes, rookie (and former 1st round pick) Chet Pickard has started only three games so far. Game 1 was a disaster, game 2 was a solid win, and game 3 was a game where he was beaten by some tough deflections. While his play is improving, Dekanich's doesn't seem to be, and it wouldn't surprise us if you'll see him one night this weekend.

But that's not to say that there aren't things that are going right for the Admirals. Center Cal O'Reilly is back and picking up right where he left off. Peter Olvecky has been a great addition so far, and frankly, I'm surprised that he hasn't spent more time in Nashville. He has shown that he has the ability to shift into a gear that most skaters don't have, and there have times where he has been the best player on the ice.

If he could do that 5 shifts a game, he'd be in Nashville. Defenseman Robert Dietrich has shown some great strides, and is deservedly now a major part of the power play.

Ryan Jones has fallen out of favor with Nashville for some reason, and for now, that's our gain. While he hasn't been lighting up the scoresheet, he continues to be a presence/nuisance in the crease area. He still draws a ton of penalties, and the goals are going to start coming again.

There may also be help on the horizon -- The Houston Aeros fans may be the first AHL fans to see Preds rookie Colin Wilson play at this level. Wilson has been recovering from a groin injury, and Preds coach Barry Trotz has said that when Wilson is ready to play, he'll spend some time with Milwaukee to get himself conditioned. Now the Ads are on a 6 game Texas trip, and it's entirely possible that we won't even see him play in Milwaukee. But we'll see how things go.

The Admirals have played the least amount of games in the league, and the least amount of home games too. So while it's tempting to hit the panic button after this ho-hum start, we need to keep reminding ourselves that it's a loooooong season. A strong showing in Texas over the next two weeks will go a long way in getting things back on track.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11/18 -- Aeros v. Rivermen -- The Help Edition

Tonight’s 1-0 Houston Aeros victory over the Peoria Rivermen wasn’t the most exciting of games. But with the Aeros down three players due to injury and with Robbie Earl and Danny Irmen up with Minnesota, the Aeros weren’t exactly looking for excitement.

They were looking for the win.

So while the small crowd might not have gotten everything they wanted from the game, the team got everything they wanted. They got the win.

The Aeros dominated the time of possession in the first period, but came away with very few shots and no goals. They seemed to spend most of the second period on the penalty kill, which for the Aeros is almost always a good thing. And for most of the third period, it appeared that the two teams were going to head into overtime with the game tied at zero-zero. Then the miracles of all miracles happened. The Aeros scored on the power play.

Jon DiSalvatore fired a shot into the chest of Peoria goalie Ben Bishop and Jean-Michel Daoust pounced on the rebound to put the Aeros up 1-0 at 11:05 of the third.

“That was a grade-A chance,” Daoust said. “And I had to put it in…I’ll take one every game.”

From that point on, it was just up to Anton Khudobin and the Aeros defense to continue shutting down one of the highest scoring teams in the AHL. Which, of course, the team did. And that, Khudobin partly attributes to good luck.

“No goalie, no one goalie can play without luck,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

The penalty kill was, once again, the team’s strong point, drawing compliments afterward from Khudobin and Kevin Constantine.

“We just have to stay in our house,” Khudobin said. “We have to block the shots. And play our style. What coach Constantine says to us we have to do.”

And after 19 games, the Aeros now have a record of 10-9-0-0 (20 points). Amazingly, the Aeros now sit alone in second place of the West Division, but a staggering 10 points behind the first place Texas Stars. They return to action at the Toyota Center on Friday night at 7:05 against the Milwaukee Admirals.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

For just a moment, before you do anything else, look at the Aeros record. Through 19 games, they have yet to lose a game in overtime or the shootout. And think back to last season. I exaggerate a bit, but wasn’t their record at this point last year something like 4-6-3-6?

********************
Fielding a full roster was a bit of a stretch for Constantine tonight. J.P. Testwuide, Cody Almond, and Andy Hilbert are still out with injuries. Danny Irmen and Robbie Earl are with Minnesota.

“We played every healthy body we have tonight,” Constantine said. “Including two natural defensemen at forward between [Jamie] Fraser and [Brandon] Rogers. So it’s just kind of all-hands-on-deck.”

Constantine thinks one or both of the guys up with the Wild will be back soon, but Testwuide, Almond, and Hilbert are still probably out until the end of this month.

********************
Tonight’s game was a meeting between one of the league’s best plays with Peoria (17-72 coming into the game) and one of the league’s best penalty kills with Houston (64-68 coming into the game). And the Aeros killed five Peoria plays to win the battle.

“I thought the turning point was when Nathan Smith lost his stick, broke his stick, and was out there, and helped,” Constantine said of a second period penalty kill. “But the other three guys had to kill it on their own…I thought that was the biggest turning point of the game.”

*******************
Being as the Aeros were running out of players. And being as how players were playing out of position. And being as how Khudobin said every goalie needed some luck, I thought The Beatles song for tonight was obvious. So here’s The Beatles with “Help.”

11/18: Aeros 1, Peoria 0

Two little things this team seems to have an unpleasant knack for: getting "too many men on the ice" penalties and whiffing on grade A opportunities around the net.

To be fair, they also do lots of things well, like kill penalties in their sleep (how rocking was the PK tonight? It looked absolutely effortless against one of the best power play teams in the league) or blocking shots. But those two little things have been a consistent problem.

So much that I wanted to ask the equipment guys after the game if the sticks were too short or the skates were too tall, causing the stick-to-ice distance to be a little different than what they're used to.

The too many men is really rather inexplicable though. I haven't looked back at the score sheets to see how many times they've gotten this lately, but why is this so hard? I've never seen a team get that penalty so often in a stretch. Luckily, the PK is so good, it hardly matters, other than it's more time they're NOT getting to whiff on pucks at the other end.

Personally, I'm kinda numb after that game. I know a W is a W, but well, maybe it's my fault for splitting my attention with Brusty's game in Florida. (Like you'd expect anything else from me?)

Very quiet with shots only 12-11 for Peoria in the first two periods. The Everblades game, even on the fuzzy little B2 feed online, was more engrossing, at least until the third period where Brusty sat out due to what I'm told is a minor injury.

But things picked up midway through the third with Daoust's power play tap in off a Bishop rebound 11 minutes into the third.

The boys did a great job of holding down the fort and blocking a ton of shots to hold the shutout for Khudobin. I KNOW Peoria got more pressure on them than the official-but-piddly 4 shots on goal in the third indicates.

Anyway, congrats to Khudobin on his shutout, always a special accomplishment. The team played beautiful defense on top of Anton just being on his game and stamping down every little fire in his crease. He should get an endorsement deal from... oh, never mind. That joke is too gross even for me. You're welcome.

I'm going to miss Friday's game against Milwaukee, at least in person, but I WILL be there Sunday, dog in tow (though I'm thinking he's probably not allowed on press row, so he and Mr. C will be hanging out over in the dog section). Can't wait for that! See you there.

Catching Up With Mitch

So by now you've read the post on Mitch Love in the mothership. But I had a lot of left over material, so I thought I would write some more over here.

What I didn't write for the mothership -- damn space limitations -- is that I consider Mitch Love to be one of the biggest subtractions from last year's team. The work of Kolanos and Locke, etc., wouldn't have been possible without Love around to protect them. And the Aeros didn't want him to leave, but Kevin Constantine told T3I on Sunday that he and Love talked about the move to Peoria, and it was an offer that Love just couldn't pass up.

And speaking of Constantine, one of the thing that struck me after talking with Love was how much he likes and respects Constantine. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Kevin in junior and pro,” Love said. “I owe him a lot for what he’s done in my career.”

But not only that, he credits Constantine and his system, for the team’s playoff run last year because every guy on the team bought into Constantine’s system. And he credits his play on the ice last year and his ability to play his role on the team because of the trusting relationship he’d built up with Constantine.

“I think it's important finding that trust relationship with a coach,” he said. “Especially in the role I play. I wasn't out there to score to many goals but had to try and allow the guys who did score to do their job every night and that's something I take pride in. Having the respect of your teammates and coaches is as important as anything in the game.”

That reminds me of various things Constantine said to us last year. The fourth line was generally Mitch Love, Jason Ryznar, and Matt Kassian. It wasn’t a glamorous line, and it wasn’t a line that was going to score points. But what the line usually did was steady things down a bit on the ice. Constantine liked the line because he could rest the “stars” for a bit and know that there wouldn’t be stupid turnovers and penalties. He also appreciated the line because while they weren’t exciting on offense, they brought energy to the game, the players, and the crowd because they were aggressive when it came to hitting and getting back on defense.

“My history with [Love] is why I wanted to get him last year,” Constantine said. Love had been the captain of Constantine‘s first Everett club, which was an expansion team. “Because I knew he was a great person and a really competitive guy…he would do anything he could to help the team. I’ve always respected that.”

I used this quote at the mothership, but I like it, and I think it’s important. We thought of Love as an enforcer. Love doesn’t quite like that term.

“I think enforcer is a interesting term,” Love said. “I'd like to call it a good teammate. Someone that picks the right time to spark his club, stick up for a teammate and set the tone for a game. I've always been a guy who enjoys playing the game honest and on edge which sometimes leads to a fight here and there. I think last year I just did what I thought was good for the team, we had other guys like Kassian, Stoner, and Scott that all did the same thing in regards to this role.”

Love is, of course, playing for a new team this season. And he’s played on numerous teams throughout his career. Danny Irmen said earlier this season that he enjoyed the new influx of players into the locker room. Love doesn’t quite call it an enjoyable experience on his end, but it’s one that he’s becoming accustomed to.

“I've had to join a few new teams in my career so it's seems to get a little easier every time,” he said. “We have a great bunch of guys in Peoria. It was a little weird joining a team that we had such a battle last year with in the regular season and playoffs…”

His goal, of course, is the NHL. And he’s aware that guys sometimes have to jump around to fight the right fit. It’s not easy, and he realizes that there’s one factor that’s beginning to work against him. But it’s one he thinks he can hold off a little while longer.

“I think anyone one will tell you that their goal is to play in the NHL and mine isn't any different. For some guys it may take a few organizations to find a place that might give them that chance one day to playing in the NHL. This is my third NHL team and I'm not getting any younger so I'm still going to work everyday working my hardest to get better and help the young guys along in their journey to the NHL.”

And when it comes to helping out guys, he’s got a few words of wisdom for Brandon Rogers who has been making the move from defense to center this season.

“My best advice for [Brandon] would be watch as much video of himself and his teammates -- guys who have been playing forward for their whole lives. That’s the best way to learn the position. Not many guys make a transition like this, but for myself I think it was the best move I’ve done and I kind of wish that I had done it earlier in my career.”

And for those of you who followed us last year know, Love does a blog about his life as a hockey player for a TV station in Seattle. The person responsible for the blog is Su Ring, and it came about last year after she was singing the Canadian Anthem at an Everett hockey game, and fans shouted the word “Love” really loudly. So she investigated, and she discovered that this was done in tribute to Mitch Love. So she tracked him down to Houston, told him the story, and asked him to start blogging for her.

And as popular as he was in Houston, just wait until here about his popularity back in Everett.

“Mitch played for the Silvertips between 2003 and 2005,” Ring said. “He ended his junior career as Team Captain. No matter where he plays during the season, he always comes home to Everett during the summer. He coaches camps. He takes part in auctions. He is always available to kids. There's still a billboard up at Comcast Arena that features a photo of Mitch pitching some insurance company. Fans still walk around wearing 'Tips jerseys with Mitch's name and number (2) on the back.

“In short, Mitch is still well-LOVED, nearly five years after he graduated out of the WHL. I think Aeros fans probably feel the same way.”

Love is continuing with his blogging duties this season. It’s something he enjoys doing, plus he’s already thinking of post-career options.

“Yup the blog is back this winter,” he said. “I'm putting it out every 2 weeks this year. I really enjoyed it last year and just like to show people that don't really understand what we do on a weekly basis. There's a lot that goes on in a pro hockey players life beyond the boards we play in. I've always liked the media aspect of sports and someday, maybe when I'm done playing getting into that field.”

But he has still got this season to play. And once again, he’s playing for the fans.

“Peoria is a great hockey city,” he says. “It has been for a long time. Like any sports city the fans here want to see a winner and well try to do our best to give them one this year.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mitch Love Day

Our old friend Mitch Love is coming back to Houston tomorrow for the first time since signing with Peoria, and here's a couple of pieces to read to get you ready for it.

First up is John's article for the Press, which you can check out here. Some great quotes from Mitch and others in there. He clearly wanted to be back here as much as most Aeros fans wanted him here. The business end of hockey is really the business end sometimes.

And second is Mitch's second blog post for KING5 in Seattle, which you can read here. The picture of him cracks me up. As tough a son of a gun as he is, I picture him in my mind with a smile on his face. But he's quite serious there. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

11/15: Aeros v. Chicago Wolves

Unfortunately this is one of those nights where we're already short staffed, Andrew has a ripping headache, and I've gotta head to my own hockey game.

Here's hoping I play half, or even a quarter, as well as Khudobin did tonight in the Aeros 2-1 loss to the Wolves. I know I often give a lot of credit to the defense, but tonight he was truly the difference. Yeah, he let a couple in but man, he stayed confident in spite of his team turning over the puck many times right at his doorstep. I can tell you, that's a difficult thing to not let into your head.

Luckily, he and Kalus had the freshest legs on the ice and at times, it showed. Unfortunately, everyone else was pretty tired, it appeared. And both teams were in the third day of a 3-in-3, so it was a tired game all around.

Chicago is just a darn good team right now. And the Aeros scoring touch has left them again. Don't worry. The Goalie Angel will pop in on Wednesday during naptime and try to work her magic again.

Props to Matt Kassian for just being a mfing badass. That fight was one of the toughest ones I've seen in a long time. Both guys just throwing bomb after bomb. I have mad respect for guys who can wake up in the morning and think, "Alright, I'm probably gonna have to get punched in the face repeatedly today." I'd never get out of bed.

I'd say the boys are safely off the schnide with regard to the power play, but now the penalty kill is getting dinged. Hopefully that's just a factor of 3 in 3 fatigue. This is the first one of the season, so maybe it takes one to know one, if you know what I mean.

It would also help if the officiating wasn't so... let's call it "bizarre." Lots of Wolves calls missed and lots of strange Aeros calls. And half the time nobody seemed to really know what was going on, the penalties were so convoluted.

I apologize for no stick figure tonight and for the absence of John's fantastically detailed game reports. I just don't have the patience. Read the paper. :) But I really do have to get going to my game.

However, I won't miss this chance to play DJ. I don't think this game indicative of anything about this team other than, most of the time, they just can't get the puck in the net more than the other team. Constantine even said, he doesn't feel like consistency is the problem. They just can't score.

Maybe they just need a little bit of resolve.

Game Day - Aeros vs. Chicago Wolves

The Aeros open up a four-game homestand today against the Chicago Wolves. The theme all season has been tough schedule against tough opponent, and Sunday is more of the same for the Aeros who will host a red-hot Chicago Wolves team that tied the powerful Texas Stars with less than a minute left in regulation and then stunned the crowd just 27 seconds into OT for the winner.

Brett Sterling (picture left, scoring in the NHL!!!!) is the next Darren Haydar, and the Wolves are reaping the benefits. Sterling will never, ever be a good NHL player, so his future involves a ton of AHL sweaters before he finally decides to go over to Europe or Russia in a few years to, you know, take care of his family.

But so long as he is in Chicago, he will continue to terrorize the AHL just like he did Saturday in Cedar Park. He scored the game-winner and, oh yeah, some 47-year old guy named Chris Chelios assisted on the play.

Since their awful start, they've fired their coach, brought in a new staff and have done nothing but win. Their nice stretch of hockey started on Oct. 24 with a 7-1 win over Abbotsford. They have won six of eight and that gets them to .500 for the first time this season.

Sterling has scored the game-winning goal in their last two games, and Drew MacIntyre has started five games in a row since Manny Legace left for the Carolina Hurricanes organization. I would be really surprised if anyone other than MacIntyre got the call today as the Wolves had a week off before starting this three-in-three Tour de Texas.

Special teams may not play a factor in this one as both teams have terrible power plays and great penalty kills. Statistically, the Aeros have the edge in goal, as Anton has the third best GAA in the AHL, although MacIntyre's numbers might be a product of the team's horrible start.

Last year the Aeros were 5-1 against their long-time rivals, and they are 16-12 against them in the last five years overall. I can't begin to tell you how much those stats surprise me, but the Aeros are usually very good against the Wolves at home.

As for the Aeros, who have scored power play goals in three straight games, their power play numbers are finally above 10 percent!! Sorry, got a little excited there, but wow ... 10%. Point of reference here: The Aeros have scored eight power play goals this year. Hartford's Corey Locke and P-A Parenteau have seven, and six, respectively for a total of 13.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

11/14: Aeros v. Monsters

Aeros seemed to have lost their intensity, and certainly their dominance, when faced with a determined and angry Lake Erie Monsters team today.

To be honest, the first two periods were freezing constantly on AHL Live (they got it fixed in the third) but it certainly seemed like a role reversal (though with better defense in their own end for the Aeros) from yesterday's game.

There's so much that's mental about hockey and I can't help but wonder if between the 6-0 drubbing and Kalus's behavior, the wind was maybe out of the Aeros sails a bit. I dunno. Just a theory. Probably full of merde again.

Regardless, goalie Tyler Weiman was certainly back to his usual form and redeemed himself nicely, as did the rest of the team, really showing character to man up after a tough loss yesterday.

The boys flew back after the early game and will be on home ice tomorrow at 4:05 against Chicago. Apparently Chris Chelios was being scouted by Phoenix this weekend. He got two assists in the 4-3 OT win. (And in a display of massive homerism... and yes, I see that the tying goal was made after the stars were chosen, but still... check out the three stars.)

Brusty update: He didn't play tonight contrary to some conjecture, though it never really made much sense to me that he'd play back to back in his first start in 7 months.

However, the Everblades are on a 3 game win streak since he arrived. You know who could use luck? Houston. Just saying.

Next game for Florida is Wednesday against Brusty's former ECHL team, the Reading Royals.

Word count for dummies

Saw a comment from an earlier post about the Chronicle not printing 10 words about the Aeros game in Cleveland Friday night.

To end any confusion or argument, the story was actually 360 words, which is actually much longer than some home game reports.

Here is a copy of the article:

CLEVELAND — The last time the Aeros were on the road, they scored just two goals in three straight losses to Grand Rapids (twice) and the Texas Stars.

Friday night in the first of back-to-back games against the Lake Erie Monsters, the Aeros tripled that output in a single game with a 6-0 shutout win at Quicken Loans Arena.

Six different players scored and Jon DiSalvatore recorded three assists. Anton Khudobin made 17 saves as the Aeros (9-7-0-0) won their third straight game and jumped past Peoria for sole possession of second place in the West Division standings.

The Aeros scored the first goal of the game late in the opening period when Nathan Smith took a pass from DiSalvatore and beat Monsters goalie Tyler Weiman with 1:36 left.

With three goals in the first eight minutes of the second period, the Aeros blew open the game and chased Weiman from the net.

Danny Irmen scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season 99 seconds into the period, and Clayton Stoner made it 3-0 when he scored his third goal of the season at 5:46.

Less than three minutes later, Max Noreau beat Weiman after taking a pass from Duncan Milroy at 8:10.

Noreau’s goal spelled the end of the night for Weiman, who blanked the Aeros 1-0 last month at Toyota Center.

Peter Kalus did not light the lamp in his first 14 games with the team, but he has scored goals in back-to-back games. The Aeros have scored at least four goals in a season-high three straight games.

The Aeros played the game without winger Robbie Earl, who was recalled to Minnesota on emergency conditions and played 5:21 in the Wild’s 3-1 loss at Washington Friday. Earl will likely be with the Wild and will miss tonight’s game against Lake Erie and Chicago on Sunday.

Also, Aeros goalie Barry Brust was assigned to the Florida Everblades earlier this week on a conditioning assignment. Brust made 34 saves as the ‘Blades beat the Toledo Walleye 4-3 in a shootout.

Brust will play tonight in the rematch.

Aeros v. Lake Erie: Today at NOON (CT)

I'm finally fully saturated in Brustydom and ready to move on to cover the team I actually cover. *sheepish*

So, I'm watching the archive of last night's 6-0 plastering of the Lake Erie Monsters, and I hear Joe say "these two teams meet up at noon tomorrow." Huh?

Yeah, way to keep up. Apparently, the boys meet up at the unusual time of noon (CT) today. So, if you planned to listen and are as oblivious as me, here's your heads up.

I'll go ahead and post this and then come back and add some comments about last night's game. Check in just before game time and hopefully I'll be done. Some interesting stuff from the game that sets up some intrigue for today.
---------------

Okay, the Aeros scored more goals in the last 3 games then they did in the previous 8 games. Have the Aeros just run into cold goalies or did the Goalie Angel's magic goal scoring fairy dust actually work?

It helps to have that whole power play nonsense behind them, as they score on two of four power play opportunities last night. They're still in the basement for that particular stat but last time I checked, the W stat is the one that matters. And they've still only allowed an incredibly stingy 2 power play goals in 16 games. Think about that. That's a pretty sparkly feather in the cap of this Aeros defense and penalty kill.

And last night was no different, as the Aeros were rock solid defensively. Khudobin had some good saves in his 17 stops for the shutout, but the defensive play in front of him that not only kept a ton of shots away from him, but also cleared his rebounds to safety, was the real first star IMO. Watching that game with goalie eyes, I think Anton owes some steak dinners to a few guys.

Nathan Smith got the first goal on the power play in the first period. Then, in the second period, Danny Irmen got goal number 2 when he collected a pass from DiSalvatore (three assists on the night), who was behind the net, and just kinda tossed a shot almost behind himself and Tyler Weiman was just a little off angle for it.

Third goal came from Stoner off a rocket from the point that must have gone through about 5 guys. That one had eyes for sure. And less than 2.5 minutes later, Noreau got a great feed from Milroy and just sniped a beauty past Weiman, who then got the hook in favor of Trevor Cann.

Apparently, Weiman, who is actually a very good goalie, having shut out the Aeros for over 122 minutes until last night, was coming off a bit of a flu bug so maybe that accounts for some of his struggles. Then again, sometimes it's just not your night.

The Aeros 5th goal came just prior to the buzzer at the end of the second period when Brandon Rogers potted the second power play goal of the night and his second goal of the season.

The biggie though, was the Aeros 6th goal, scored by Petr Kalus off the breakaway. He didn't get the shot off but he kind of kicked Cann's leg back as he was being harassed by a Monsters defenseman, and the momentum of the puck just carried it right into a gap between the goalie's leg and the post.

The goal was kind of a greasy one but even greasier was when Kalus skated to the Aeros bench with his hand behind his ear and one leg up, basically saying, "I can't hear you" to the silenced Lake Erie bench and crowd.

A real douchebag move and he got a 10 minute misconduct for it, which I think was a gift from the refs to keep him from getting murdered on his next shift. In the video, you can even see Noreau shaking his head and telling him to knock if off as he gets to the Aeros bench.

The team was embarrassed by the move and made no bones about it later with the local reporter in the room. This is one of the best game stories I've read all season. It goes into Kalus' idiocy, the embarrassing score, and Weiman's tantrum after he got the hook. It's like a friggin' soap opera, so go read it. Great stuff.

We'll see if Kalus plays today, though you can be sure the players on the Monsters bench won't soon forget what he did, so even if Constantine keeps him out to minimize the distraction, that move is gonna come back to bite him eventually.

This Monsters team is mad and embarrassed and will be loaded for bear today. So either the refs will call it tight in order to keep the peace resulting in a boring, penalty-laden affair, or the Monsters will turn the Aeros physicality around on them and it will be a hootenanny. 15 minutes until we find out.

Flashing your Brusts ...

Ahhh, it's good to have friends in swampy places! Fred may not be able to take pictures for us at Aeros games, but he just happens to have a fellow photographer friend, Bethani Shilladay, who shoots the Everblades and was kind enough to share her shots of Brusty with us.

Thank you Fred and thank you Bethani! Beautiful shots!!



The new pads actually look pretty good with the special camo sweaters the Blades were wearing last night (they were auctioned off after the game). Would look better with an Aeros uni. Just sayin'. That's a lot of gold there, Brusty! :)

POKE CHECK! Haha... awesome. This is the one in the shootout.
Brusty's right... how'd he not see that coming? From this shot,
doesn't look like it's gonna work, but it does.




The best part of a win outside of the 2 points... Goalie nuzzles!



Was the fighter pilot mask deemed bad luck?
He's back in his Texas/Houston themed mask.

"You remember that time you played the puck so far up the ice it was almost icing? That was AWESOME!"

"And remember the time you whacked that screen with your stick? That was AWESOME!"

All photos: Bethani Shilladay

Friday, November 13, 2009

BrustyWatch 2009: Well worth the wait

I'm not gonna make any bones about wearing my reporter hat here. I'm just a huge fan of Brusty's and seeing him play all of about 4 times in the last 10 months has really sucked.

I know it's sucked for him. It's just godawful being injured and worse having to sit on the sidelines while your team makes an epic playoff run. And then getting re-injured. Twice. Augh.

But it also sucked for those of us who love to watch him play. His aggressive style is shared by few other goalies at the elite levels of the game, so when one comes along who can play that way and be successful at it, AND they play for your team, you have to savor every heart-stopping moment of it.

Tonight,though, Brusty was back and in fine form 5000* miles away in Southern Florida for the Everblades, and his performance met every expectation and exceeded others.



It was just a balls out game, from the time he shoved his first screen in the back to move him out of his way, all the way to the monster diving poke check and slick glove save to win the shootout.

I'll be really candid here and say that I actually got a little choked up on that poke. You just knew at that point that he had this shootout in hand and they were going to win it. I mean, he dove to the ice and poked that thing clear to center ice. It was some seriously gutsy goaltending. And with a big fist pump, the Blades skated off with a 4-3 win.

First two goals against were scored 5 on 3 as the Blades were having some discipline problems. There was even a third 5 on 3 but it was shorter and they held them off that time. Hopefully if he's in net tomorrow, they'll play a little tighter game and he won't have to turn away 34 shots like he did tonight.

But... if you're sending a guy off to test his foot, knock the rust off, and get back into game shape, I guess nothing is better than trial by fire. En fuego, bitches!

Brusty said after that the foot felt "great" so that's excellent news, and may that continue to be the case.

Of course, this is all well and good for the Everblades fans. Selfishly, of course, I'd rather this be happening here in Houston. But clearly, the Aeros have one too many goalies, so who knows how it will all shake out. I would make some predictions but they'd just be wrong.

I'll add links to local media coverage here when it's available, and a little bird told me we may even have some photos coming. Actually, I might put all that follow-up stuff in a new post. Check back!

For now, here's some fantastic quotes in the Naples News write-up. Says he felt awkward, but it didn't come across watching.

Oh yeah, the Aeros won something like 32-0 against Lake Erie tonight. More on that later. Helluva night of hockey, gang.

* Real Feel Miles, not actual miles

I Am He As You Are He...

Bad news. You're going to have to get through this weekend's games, especially the Sunday game against Chicago, without me. That's right, there's not going to be a long meandering post making absolutely no sense after Sunday's game.

There's not a problem. I'll just be out of town and I'll be back for Wednesday's game -- speaking of which, I'm working on something for the mothership on Tuesday that's related to Wednesday's game, so watch this space. Meanwhile, I'm going to be in L.A. this weekend pitching a reality show to a reality show producer friend of mine -- I'm thinking Real Doc Review Attorneys of Harris County.

I'm not sure that either one wants it, but I'm turning over Sunday DJ duties to Andrew and Heather. Which means you probably won't be getting any Beatles songs as a video -- I'm making it a quest to see if I can connect a Beatles song/video to the rest of my game posts for this season. It's my working theory that The Beatles have a song that fits most situations.

So enjoy the games this weekend.

And because I can't, at the moment think of anyway that "I Am The Walrus" will ever relate to any Aeros game, I'm playing it here. See everybody on Wednesday night.

Robbie Earl recalled by Minnesota

The Wild's Chuck Kobasew was injured in last night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so the team has called up LW Robbie Earl to play in Washington tonight. His number will be 38 if you're planning on watching.

Robbie has 9 NHL games under his belt with the Maple Leafs. He currently leads Aeros scoring with 5 goals and 3 assists and a +1. Earl had 9 points in all of 33 regular season games last season with the Aeros, so he's clearly on pace to have a career year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Barry Brust en route to ECHL Florida (With Updates)

Barry Brust has been with the Aeros for awhile, so he is like family. He's a good goalie on the ice and an even better person off it.

His foot injury last year was devastating at the time as it forced the Aeros into a rotating goalie situation to close out the regular season. The team barely made the playoffs, but a 10-10 showing got them to the Western Conference finals on the back of Anton Khudobin.

Nolan Schaefer was hurt, too, and even Khudobin could not finish the playoffs healthy.

To make matters worse, Barry hurt he same foot during training camp this year and has not played a minute. That will change Friday night at Germain Arena in Florida where he will take the ice for the first of two ECHL games with an alligator on his sweater.

(Growing up in Canada, you just know that is what all the boys brag about .... wearing an alligator on your uni.)

Seriously, though ... Barry needs minutes and this will give him a chance to test the foot and get into some sort of a rhythm. Before Christmas last year, he was on fire ... and that is the kind of netminder Barry can be at the AHL level. But in order to get there, he will need to see some shots, and this is the perfect chance for him to get that.

Barring the unforeseen, he will play Saturday in the second of back-to-back games against the Toledo Walleye. (Yes, I know ... it will be the gators vs. the fish in the all-marine affair. Anyone hungry?)

T3I will stay on top of Barry (not literally) and we'll post links to the game sheets and stories from the local newspapers.

Update: Here's a link to the Everblades beat writer's blog. Also, he'll be tweeting the games this weekend, so you can follow his Twitter here.

Another Update: I spoke with Aeros GM Jim Mill this afternoon. This is a rehab move to get Brust some solid playing time. Something more than practice. He needs game action to shake off the rust and to test his foot.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

11/07: Aeros v. Rampage

As this team has revealed itself to those of us on the outside of it, this is the kind of game I've come to believe is in them.

And I mean that with both the good and the bad. The bad being that terrible few minutes at the end of the second when, suddenly, everyone in a bomber sweater just. stopped. skating. and Khudobin was having some pretty rotten puck-luck being the only one on the ice still playing. As I tweeted, that period just couldn't end fast enough.

The bad also being nearly 13 minutes of the third period without a single shot on goal. And usually we see the shot count doing something unusual and think, "Oh, the shot counter is asleep at the wheel, right?" But not last night. It seemed accurate, which is pretty scary.

But the good, and what is really at the heart of this team, is the resiliency and maturity to not panic, not grip, and not get discouraged, but instead, to regroup in the second intermission, continue to take advantage of chances, even if they were few and far between, and keep working together and standing up for each other.

Moments that stood out to me as critical:

The Power Play Goal
As Andrew said, it had to happen eventually, so you know it's coming, but it still feels really good to get it done. And carrying over from Thursday, it was especially nice that it came from Noreau's shot from the point that Zingoni deflected in the net. Noreau is on a monkey-shedding spree!
DiSalvatore's Goal
With no shots for 13 minutes in the third, there are a couple of options:
A) San Antonio finally pots the tying goal when the Aeros and Khudobin just can't withstand the onslaught any more.
B) SA goalie Tordjman gets flat and bored not seeing any shots and isn't sharp when he finally does see some shots.

Luckily for the Aeros, the universe gave them option B and DiSalvatore got the insurance goal and, if you're like me, you started to think, "Okay, maybe this team isn't going to choke away a 3-0 lead like SOME teams *cough*lastyearsAeros*cough*"

Kalus's Goal
So, Kalus sweeps across the front of the crease with the puck knocking a Rampage defenseman into Tordjman. They both end up in a pile to one side of the net, Tordjman on his butt, presumably waiting for the goaltender interference whistle that never came. Kalus picks up the puck and just wraps it around the other post while Tordjman and his d-man sit there in disbelief.

You're looking at the ref waiting for a wave-off or something, but nope. I'm no ref and I'm no expert, but gosh, how is that not goalie interference? At least, if I'm the goalie there, I'm expecting a call (but hopefully have the wherewithal to still play to the whistle). Are we not talking about this because it's the Aeros who prevailed there? Or because I'm wrong?

But at that point, it's over and you can see it in San Antonio's body language. Stick a fork in 'em.

Fights
Did the Aeros lose any of those fights last night? Punch of the night had to be Stoner's clocking of Bodie. Hard headed guy, that Bodie. His running around didn't help his team too much, I don't think. Might want to just play some hockey next time. But then again, the rivalry blood was boiling at a good clip last night, so maybe it's just one of those things.

Anyway, good win, if a bit sketchy at times. John's quotes from Khudobin were great and really reflect what I saw in his game. He was so good in the third and deserves props for having the mental fortitude to come back and be a wall after a couple of quick goals at the end of the second. Always good to get a little break to regroup after something like that.

Looking Ahead
Aeros are @ Lake Erie Friday and Saturday and then turn around and head home to play an afternoon game against the Chicago Wolves (special guest stars Chris Chelios and Manny Legace) on Sunday. Five days off is never good and Lake Erie and Chicago are no slouches, so this will be a great test of where this team really is.

Assuming I don't get a better offer, I'll be tweeting the games on Friday and Saturday for those who don't have AHL Live, so be sure you're following @3rdintermission on Twitter.