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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pics from the Miracle and (grumble) roster moves

Updates first: Dubielewicz has been sent down to Houston, which means Brusty has also been sent back to ECHL Florida. And the Aeros have recalled Brandon Buck from Florida. Guess I'm a Blades fan again. Awesome. *sigh*

Here's kind of a funny account of the game last night from a blogger in Peoria.

And here's the photos, all courtesy of Chris "Leadfoot" Jerina:

Disco Dobby


Here's a cool series of shots showing the 5th goal that was inches from happening, which Chris and Andrew both mentioned, and rookie Carson McMillan saved.

You can see the puck start on top of Anton's leg...

Then it falls off. Uh oh. Reach back Anton. REACH!


Never mind, Anton. Mac Attack's got this...

Clear it, Falker. Clear it!

Phew!

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The uprising begins...


Photos like this are why people think goalies are crazy. Noreau winds up a bomb.


I hate when some asshole skater sprays me in the face with snow, but man, it makes an awfully cool picture.

Anyway, thanks again to Chris for these fantastic shots. Here's the rest of them for your perusal.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I am still stunned at what transpired Saturday night in Peoria.
The Rivermen, however, ought to be used to it. Especially when the Aeros are in town.
Twice last season, the Aeros rallied from three-goal deficits in Peoria and got four points in two games that should have been losses.

But those games pale in comparison to what was accomplished in Peoria.
Unlike last year's miracles (and there was a third! the team did it IN Bridgeport last year, only to lose in a shootout) the Aeros only scored ONE power play goal during the rally and did not pull their goalie to score with the extra attacker.

As Chris Jerina said in one of his comments, the Aeros were inches away from being down 5-0. But they plugged away until they got the two points. I am not going to say they didn't deserve them, either. Any team that comes back from 4-0, and does it in the third period (on the road) deserves all the credit they can get for the comeback.

Ms. Conduct? I will thank you on the team's behalf for the scoring dust, or whatever you had sent to their sticks.

No matter what you think of this team's chances of the postseason (and they are not good at this point), you can't say they don't try, work or care. The bottom line this year, is that the Aeros play in the toughest division in the AHL, and the opposing teams just might be better in the end.

Speaking of playoffs....

I ran some numbers to show just how dire the Aeros situation is.
If the season ended today, Texas, Rockford, Milwaukee and Chicago would be heading to the playoffs, and deservedly so. Those are the best four teams in the West, hands down.

If all seven teams in the West continue playing at their current pace, the same four teams qualify come April. Barring any major surge or collapse, here is how it all shakes out in the end.

Texas 104 points
Chicago 98 points
Milwaukee 98 points
Rockford 94 points
Peoria 89 points
Houston 87 points
San Antonio 82 points

Again, this does not factor any collapse or surge. This is just simple math used taking into consideration how many points the team has this morning and what they will end up if they keep playing at their respective points percentage.

Honestly, with how good the West is vs. how bad the North is (save for Rochester and Hamilton), I don't see any of the top four teams not being able to hold on. Defensively, the Aeros are better than Peoria (and they have better goaltending) so if any team were to steal the last spot away from Rockford, it just might be the Aeros.

Just for shites and giggles, if the AHL did the playoffs like they should (Top 8 from each conference) the Aeros would be the 7-seed if the playoffs ended today. I am not saying that would hold up either, but, again, with how weak the North is 3-7, I think the Aeros would be a playoffs team.

Here is how the seedings would look if the AHL did a Top 8 from each conference:

1 Hamilton vs. 8 Manitoba
2 Texas vs. 7 Houston
3 Rockford vs. 6 Rochester
4 Milwaukee vs. 5 Chicago


How about that for crazy travel? Kidding. The AHL has a good point when it wants to keep the playoff battles intra-division to hold down on travel costs. But I am more for "fair" vs. "dollars" when it comes to playoffs, especially when just about every team loses money in the playoffs anyway.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Um. What, now? (Aeros 5, Peoria 4 SO)

I'll just drop this and let it soak in for a bit:

The Aeros were down 4-0 with 13 minutes left in the game against Peoria tonight.

And they still won.

I know. I know. It's a lot to take in, but sometimes you gotta hit this stuff like ripping off a band-aid.

Trust me, it's even more shocking when you've sat through the first completely futile 47 minutes of play. When you've watched ONE Peoria player, Derek Armstrong, who had all of 8 goals on the season, rack up FOUR goals in one game. A natural hat trick +1. (He also got the lone goal in the shootout. So make that 5 on the night.)

Armstrong might as well change his sweater to 30 because he's got Anton's number.

Anyway, so, here we are 7 minutes into the third and I've said during the second intermission to Chris Jerina, who was shooting the game, that he might as well shoot Anton's end because "it's not like the Aeros are going to score." After all, Khudobin appeared to be coming apart at the seams, earning 4 minutes of PIM (2 for roughing and 2 for delay of game--he played the puck outside the trapezoid) during the second period.

I guess I forgot about Anton's remarkable aptitude for regrouping and letting go of a bad game or a bad period.

But I'm pretty sure the comeback, starting with a power play goal from DiSalvatore 7 minutes into the period, wasn't something I forgot. It's something this team just hasn't done.

It still didn't feel like an uprising, though, until Rau potted his goal 3 minutes later and then DiSalvatore threw a propane tank on the fire by putting the score within 1 less than 1 minute later.

At this point, you figure Ben Bishop is officially strug-gl-ing and feeling some quicksand under his skates. Clearly Peroria had made the classic mistake of thinking they'd sealed this thing up.

And then BOOM, Noreau ties it up from the low slot, just beating a dropping Bishop.

Photo by Chris Jerina

From there, it was just tight play, back and forth, which kept up through regulation and the overtime period, until the teams were forced into a shootout.

As a testament to Khudobin's bounce-back-ability, he was terrific in the shootout. He let the first one in (Armstrong's), but stoned the next four shooters (none easy attempts) to get his first win since he shut Hamilton out on November 25th, 2009. When you have to add the YEAR, you know it's been a long time. That's two months of no wins, my friends. The Aeros surely have one SERIOUSLY relieved goalie on their hands tonight.

That is one helluva monkey to shed. And it was fun to watch the boys swarm him after the winning save. This was a big deal for him and they all knew it.

So, the Aeros win it 5-4, take home two points from an otherwise-brutal swing through the midwest. But they did it the absolute hardest way possible. Surprised? Yeah, me neither.

Update: Nice job by the Rivermen crew to get a highlights video up so quickly.



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I can't wrap this up without mentioning the fight between Cody Almond and Danny Richmond in the first period. It was, in my opinion, the fight of the year. Both guys were toe-to-toe (unlike Yonkman who wanted to fight with his back to Kassian in Milwaukee Friday night), and just throwing bombs.

Almond won decisively, but took a few good licks himself and just kep throwing. Both guys were just studs, but Cody showed that he's not one to be trifled with. It was the best fight I've seen in a long time. And Richmond is no cream puff, BTW. He's got 128 minutes of PIM so far this season.

I'm already high on Cody but I just got higher. That hockey sense, that offensive ability (more is coming, I promise), AND that toughness? He's a special player. Look out for this one.

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More photos tomorrow from Killer Jerina. Enjoy this win, folks. It was as unlikely, miraculous, and NEEDED a win as I can remember that wasn't a Game 7.

More pics from last night and some fairy dust

I guess the photographer should get to name his own photos, but I don't think Chris will mind if I call this one "Attack of the Neck Beard."

You gotta be pretty foxy to pull off that much fur. Dare I say, no problem for Brusty. Welcome back, big guy.


Goal.


This one is just cool. Irms stalking...


And here's one of many shots of the Aeros not scoring.
For more, see the full photo set.


All photos by Chris "Killer" Jerina

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Finally, because desperate times require some divine intervention, the Goalie Angel is back with some goal scoring dust for the boys and their gear. Shh. It's almost nap time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Aeros shut out 2-0 by Admirals

I only half-watched and half listened to the game but the boys over at ASS have a good recap, including the dish on why Kevin Constantine pulled Khudobin and put in Brust for a total of 3 minutes at the start of a power play during the third period.

You have to give it to KC for creativity. Not very nice to do to a cold goalie, but it was no harm, no foul.

There are pictures there, too, but I'm sure we'll have more to share later that are more Aeros-oriented.

Here's Andrew's article in the Chron for the Aeros side of things.

The Aeros need to get some wins here. Hell, they need to just score some goals and give their goalies some support. Maybe the Goalie Fairy will come by tomorrow in Peoria and sprinkle some goal scoring dust on their sticks. (Leave a back door open, equipment guys.)

What do you guys think? This team is drifting, nay rocketing, out of playoff contention. Do they make it in the end? And what do you think the team needs to lift them up and get over the hump?

The trade deadline is coming up, which is when moves will have to happen if they're going to happen at all. Gonna be interesting to see if rookie GM Jim Mill will find some moves to make that could improve the Aeros chances.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dubie up, Brusty up, and photos from Chicago

Busy day in Aeros land, particularly for the Goalie Express, which is filling the skies with rainbows of puck-stopping delight in a couple different directions today.

It starts at the top with the Wild's Niklas Backstrom having a stiff back. He's been shut down to rest it up for a few days, which means Harding needs a back-up for the Wild games tonight and Saturday.

Dubielewicz got the call over Khudobin this time. Russo seems to have been told by the Wild that this was because Khudobin is the starter for the Aeros in Milwaukee tonight. Problem with that is that the Aeros don't play in Milwuakee until tomorrow night. But maybe that's what they meant. Sure.

Anyway, now Anton needs a backup, and according to sources, this time Brusty gets the call instead of a proximity call-up like they did in Abbotsford. And as one person suggested to me, Barry did completely kick butt in Milwaukee last time he was with the team. Maybe he gets the start?

But eventually Khudobin's going to have to get a chance to sort himself out, so my prediction is that he gets the start. These are some biiiiig games this weekend though, so who know what KC's thinking will be. Personally, I'd play Brusty, but I think that goes without saying, nevermind the multiple interpretations. ;)

The other part of this, on the Wild end, is that Harding's also playing through a hip injury, and was in visible discomfort at times last night against the Red Wings. I've found that my physical world revolves around my hips and knees as a goalie, so continuing to play on hurting hips is not going to help them heal.

So it wouldn't surprise me if somehow Dubie gets some playing time before Backstrom has recovered. And I'm sure it would be pretty special for him if it came tonight, since he played for the University of Denver during his college career.

Ahhh, I do love me some goalie activity, especially when it's the upward-bound kind!

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Okay, enough of that and moving on to the fabulous, witty, and talented Chris Jerina's photos from last night's whoopin' in Chicago. Here's the full photo set, but I picked a few out below that I particularly liked.

Aeros lost 5-2 and it sounded like they just couldn't get it together. I only listened to the game (as opposed to watching it) after they went down 2-0. This team just doesn't come back from that.

First up, it's Red Anton and Green Anton

Okay, not really. Dubie is still wearing Anton's old mask (green). I think we need to start a friendly wagering pool as to when he'll finally wear a mask of his own.

Look who's back! Peter Zingoni! He's been out forevah!

Cody Almond interrupting the passing lane

JM Daoust tries to put Chris Chelios into retirement for good. Great facial expressions here.

Brandon Rogers launches the puck with his teammates on their feet behind him.


And just as a little goaliephile extra, this was Atlanta Thrasher Kari Lehtonen's second game back after being out all season and, I believe a good chunk of last season, with a couple of back surgeries. His first game during this rehab stint with the Wolves was shaky but it sounds like he's finding his rhythm now. Lucky Aeros!

Chris got some great pictures of him, but I'll just post a couple since he's not ours. They're just pretty to look at.



I don't know much about Lehtonen, but he must have the most, um, colorful pads in the league. They're so loud, it doesn't even matter that his Wolves gear clashes pretty badly. All you see is pads. My theory is that the Aeros were mesmerized by them.

ALL PHOTOS by Chris Jerina

Thanks again to Chris for getting these great shots of the boys on the road. And our apologies for sticking you with another crappy game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Houston Press on the Aeros

Click on over to John's story for the Houston Press, which takes a look at what's coming, what's happened, and other delicious morsels about the Aeros you won't want to miss.

Always, it's important to let the Press know you love your hockey. Leave a comment. Spread the love. Share with your friends.

Aeros at Chicago Preview; Sykora not reporting

The Aeros and Wolves hit the rink tonight in the AHL's biggest game of the night.

And the game will not feature Stanley Cup Champion Petr Sykora (pictured at left (center), who has officially refused his assignment to the Aeros.

This was not an unexpected move by either team. Both are just formalities to make sure that A) the Wild don't have to pay Sykora another dime and B) Sykora can play for another team.


Here is the AHL's preview of tonight's Aeros game at Chicago:

Winners of three straight games, Houston invades Allstate Arena on Wednesday to face Chicago, which is 8-1-0-0 in its last nine contests overall and has won seven straight home games... Houston’s three-game winning streak matches a season high (Oct. 24-27 and Nov. 5-13)... Reigning Reebok/AHL player of the week Maxim Noreau shows nine points (3-6-9) in his last three outings for the Aeros and leads all AHL defensemen with 13 goals and 37 points in 45 games overall... Jon DiSalvatore put up five points (1-4-5) in Houston’s two-game sweep in Abbotsford last weekend... The Aeros’ second-ranked penalty kill (88.6 percent) has killed off 31 of 33 shorthanded situations (93.9 percent) in the last six games... Wolves forward Tim Stapleton has a goal in five straight games (5-4-9) and a point in seven straight (6-8-14)... All-Star forward Brett Sterling shows a point in nine of his last 10 contests (7-6-13) for the Wolves, and Joey Crabb has found the scoresheet in seven of his last eight (5-5-10)... Jason Krog has a team-high four points (1-3-4) in two games vs. Houston this season, both victories.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Updates from around the Aeros Universe

First off, a little update on Barry Brust who is being held hostage in the ECHL. Not that I have an opinion.

If you haven't been following my blog, just go here and get an eyeful of The Man, The Myth, The Legend thanks to our friend Bethani in Everblades Country, as well as updates on how he's faring.

Now, some might tell you he's down on a rehab/conditioning assignment, but by the time your goals against average is the best in the league and you've been awarded ECHL Goalie of the Week... call. me. crazy..... but I think it's safe to say you're healthy and well-conditioned.

And super handsome. But that's not the point.

The Blades are on a huge winning streak with Barry between the pipes. It's really been a remarkable turnaround for a team that wallowed in mediocrity and defensive "WTF?" the first half of the season.

Photo by Bethani Shilladay

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Second, the Aeros' own Max Noreau won AHL Player of the Week thanks to his 7 points in the 2-game series against Abbotsford over the weekend and league-leading scoring for a defenseman. Here's the release from the Aeros.

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Finally, here's a fun little story about temporary Aero, Andy Neilson, the emergency back-up goalie who practiced and kept the goalie spot on the bench warm in Abbotsford this weekend.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Aeros crush Heat in Abby-land

7-1 final tonight was indeed all Aeros, who tied their team-record with five power play goals.
Max Noreau is the first Aero to record five points (2G, 3A) in a game since Kirby Law did the same ting early in the 2005-06 season.

Wade Dubielewicz was solid and Jon DiSalvatore chipped in with three assists.

Now we'll see how the Heat respond in tomorrow's matinee.

Friday, January 22, 2010

An update from the B.C.

This blog has been known to make people smarter, and this post is no exception. Pay attention.

Tonight, the Aeros will play a game farther away from Houston than they ever have before.
Second place goes to Edmonton, when they played the Roadrunners during the lockout year.
Third, believe it or not, is San Francisco when the IHL featured the San Francisco Spiders in 1995-96.
Fourth is Manchester, N.H., where the Aeros have played only one game during the Rob Daum era.

Now that your IQ has been titillated, let's move on to the important stuff.

By now, everybody knows that Josh Harding got hurt keeping the Wild in their game against the Red Wings last night. (Below, you can see the replay of the save(s) Harding made when he got hurt.) Today it was announced that Harding will miss 1-2 weeks with the injury.

Anton Khudobin has been recalled to Minnesota, and Wade Dubielewicz will start the next two games against the Heat in Abbotsford. Now here is the good part. Due to the fact that Barry Brust is 2,662 miles away from the Aeros, the team chose to make one of those proximity signings that coaches always like to talk about.

In this case, a goalie coach from Calgary will be the Aeros backup tonight. If Dubielewicz gets hurt tonight or tomorrow, 41-year old Andrew Neilson (pictured left) will man the pipes for the Aeros.

Brust, however, will not join the Aeros for this trip, and that has to be very disappointing since Barry hails from nearby.

So not only are the Aeros playing further away from the Bayou City than they've every played, they will also employ the oldest goalie they've ever paid.

Thanks to Tony Hrkac, Neilson is not the oldest player ever to dress for the Aeros. I think it's pretty much safe to assume that record will never be broken, unless, you know, Tony gets a call again this spring.

Strong words from Playfair to his goalies

Now this is the kind of stuff writers dig, because it does not happen very often.

The Aeros opponent this weekend, the Abbotsford Heat, completed a stunning comeback in the last game over the Lake Erie Monsters.

They trailed 3-0 and won the game with four third period goals. Before the win, the Heat were 0-13 when trailing after two periods. (Does that sound familiar?)

Even after the win, Heat coach Jim Playfair had some strong words for his goalies.

Here is a link to the story
, but below is the great quote that I was talking about before.

"I'm getting sick of changing goaltenders," Playfair said. "I expect one of these guys to get real serious about their careers and to make a heavy push for wanting the responsibilities of the No. 1 goaltender. Other than Keetley in the Texas series (last weekend), I think both goaltenders have been average, and that's not good enough."

As for Keetley's emotional stick-snapping display, Playfair said it was a case of too little, too late.

"Show me some emotion, but do it in the game when you can do something about it," the Heat head coach said.

Brusty TV

Who knows where Barry Brust is going to end up in the next few days?
Right now he is in the ECHL ... but Josh Harding got hurt in the Wild's loss to Detroit Thursday, and the extent of that injury has yet to be revealed.

There is a good chance that he will just stay in Florida, but if the injury to Harding is going to require a trip to the injured list, then he might be back with Houston by next week.

The Naples newspaper did a "get to know" Q&A with Barry recently, and below is the result for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Inspire the Aeros

Now this is crunch time.
No more talk about "this is just another game."
That time has come and gone and since the Aeros did almost nothing with their favorable schedule in December, they are going to have to play some very good hockey in the next 3-5 weeks to make a move.

Schedule wise, they have Five in a row on the road, and then five of seven at home. That is 12 games, and frankly the Aeros need to win about 7 of them.

What can inspire the Aeros?
Post your encouraging words here after my offering.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Did you hear that Brent Krahn and Matt Climie?

I remember reading a lot of foo-foo stuff earlier this year about the Stars and their plethora of goaltending talent inside the organization.

Last night, on his blog, Russo said the Dallas Stars could be a potential suitor for Josh Harding at some point. Interesting thought ... and obviously this is just one guy talking. But the thing that I really laughed out loud about was the following quote (see especially the part in bold) from Russo:

"Dallas is one team that may be interested in Harding at some point. I'm told the Stars like Harding, and it's becoming more and more apparent that Dallas' future will be without Marty Turco. There's not really a goalie of the future inside the organization right now."

Monday, January 18, 2010

AHL Teams; What's in a name

Random off-day posting for you here.
I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to write a similar column.

Mine might have been done a little differently, but this is a pretty funny read from a columnist in Winnipeg. Enjoy!

Houston Press' Max Noreau Feature

Here is a direct link to John's Max Noreau All-Star feature.
Catchy title, too: "Aeros' Max Noreau: From Nowhere To All-Star"

Good quality stuff as always ...

Good luck to Max and Anton tonight and tomorrow at the AHL All-Star festivities.

Here is my favorite quote from the article about getting to where he is from being an undrafted free agent:

"It was a lot of sweat and tears," Noreau said of his efforts. "It wasn't always easy, not getting drafted and not signing with Minnesota right away. They put me to the test, and I'm grateful for that. They gave me a chance. It's going to be a fun week at the All-Star Game."

You'll have to read the rest ... and be sure to leave a comment (compliment) to let John's editors know how much you apprecaite his work.

AHL All Star Skills Competition: Live Chat

I though it might be fun to host a live chat during the All Star festivities this year. Last year I kinda just talked to myself on my blog, but I think this will either be a lot more fun or a total disaster. So, let's see what happens!

I'll kick 'er off at 7 p.m. Central tonight (Monday) right here on this post for the Skills Competition.

The game will be shown on Fox Sports Houston, though if you get the full sports package, there are some HD options that you might enjoy more. Here's the full broadcast shizzle.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1/16/10 -- Aeros v. Toronto -- The With A Little Help From My Friends Edition

Here’s the deal. I’ve got a bad cold. Bad. Heather and Andrew will attest to the large amount of medication that I had sitting in front of me tonight -- as will one of my lucky readers who saw me at the Walgreens buying said medication. So let’s just say I was rather doped up for this game. And that doping up probably, more than anything, explains what I saw tonight.

Not only did the Aeros, at times, resemble a competent offensive team during tonight’s 5-2 Aeros win over the Toronto Marlies, but there were major offensive contributions from Matt Kassian and J.P. Testwuide. I had to imagine Kassian faking out a goalie and getting a goal on a good shot after a pass from Testwuide, right? That was all just part of my drug-induced imagination, right?

I guess not.

Talking to the players after the game, it was clear that they were not happy with what happened in Rockford. They thought the effort was there, but not the result. And tonight they were out to make sure the result matched their effort.

The first period was rather normal for the Aeros. They scratched a goal when Jean-Michel Daoust does what he does best. Be in the right place. This time in front of the goalie as he was able to get his stick on the puck and direct past Toronto’s starting goalie Joey MacDonald at 17:21 with assists from Nathan Smith and Max Noreau.

Then came the second period when the cold medication took hold of me. Matt Kassian got out on a breakaway, and with a pass from Testwuide he faked out MacDonald and got off a nice shot to put Houston up 2-0 at 2:12. Then Nathan Smith stuffed it in at 5:01 to make it 3-0, which brought about MacDonald’s removal in favor of Andrew Engelage. But just over two minutes later, Smith scored off of a rebound to make it 4-0.

At 17:19 of the third, with the Aeros on the penalty kill, Danny Irmen went flying down the ice with the puck. Testwuide followed, Irmen made a nice pass, and Testwuide got the goal to make the score 5-2.

The Aeros are now off for the All-Star break, and they will return to play on Friday when they play the first of two games in Abbotsford against the Heat.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Thanks to the losses in Rockford, the Aeros had a bit of a free-fall in the standings. Milwaukee, at 24-13-1-4 (54 points) is in first. Texas, 23-13-2-4 (52 points) is in second. Rockford, thanks to Houston, is in third at 23-18-2-3 (51 points). Chicago at 23-16-0-2 and Peoria at 22-15-1-3 are tied for fourth with 48 points. Then comes Houston with a record of 20-17-6-1 (47 points).

The Aeros aren’t out of the playoff chase. But they know that the Rockford games hurt them, and they knew the importance of getting a win tonight.

“Obviously a big win for us,” Nathan Smith said. “We thought our effort deserved better than what it got on the road trip…take a look at our division and we need the points. Obviously a big win for us heading into the All-Star break.”

J.P. Testwuide agreed: “We went into Rockford, and we were doing a lot of things right. We realized that, but it was frustrating. We couldn’t get the goals. Their goalie stood on his head. There were all of these excuses that we had to kind of battle through. Tonight, it kind of paid off. It was a good win.”

But the win tonight is useless if the team doesn’t find a way to carry it over after the break.

“You always talk about points in November are important,” Kevin Constantine said. “But the reality is, as the season wears on you have less and less games to play, you’ve got less and less of a chance to catch up. We have to play catch up. That’s just the way it’s going to be here.”

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One thing this team needs, what with all of the injuries and call-ups, is for every player on the team to be making a contribution. Nathan Smith had two goals and an assist tonight, Jean-Michel Daoust had a power play goal, and Max Noreau threw in two assists. But it’s guys like Matt Kassian, with a goal, and J.P. Testwuide, with a goal and two assists, that the Aeros are going to need continuing contributions from if the team is to succeed.

“[Matt Kassian] has had his best month by far of his pro career in the last month,” Constantine said. “Two goals [this season]…he’s played the best hockey I’ve seen him play over the last month of his entire pro career….We’ve got so many banged up bodies and bodies gone to the Wild, that everybody has to contribute. Because we’re a not a team that’s going to depend on one or two guys to carry us.”

Constantine is hopeful of having Peter Zingoni, Andy Hilbert, and Jaime Sifers back from injuries when the team returns to play in Abbotsford on Friday, though it sounds as if Zingoni is the closest to returning. It will be big for the Aeros if they can start getting some of these guys back from injury. I can't remember when Zingoni last played, but I do remember that at the start of the season he was really meshing with rookies Cody Almond and Carson McMillan. He wasn't, however, sure of the extent of Jon DiSalvatore's injury.

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The Aeros just missed out on several hat tricks tonight. Nathan Smith was a goal short of the regular hat trick. And with his assist, he was a fight short of the Gordie Howe hat trick. Matt Kassian had a fight early in the first to go with his goal in the second, leaving him an assist short of the Gordie Howe. And Testwuide, with a goal and two assists was just a fight short of the Gordie Howe.

And it was the near Smith hat trick that got a joke out of Constantine which came about after Smith got 10 minutes on a misconduct call in the third.

“I don’t know what Smitty was doing, removing himself from that game for ten minutes at the end,” Constantine said. “I thought he was going to go for the hat trick, but I think he wanted the Gordie Howe hat trick instead.”

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Chad Rau got hit with a five minute major for boarding when he delivered a hit on Toronto’s Joe Ryan in the second period. Ryan was down on the ice for a long time, but the hit didn’t look to be intentional on Rau’s part.

“Take a look at Chad Rau’s stats,” Nathan Smith said. “And he’s not a guy who’s going to try and injure anybody.”

But after Carson McMillan’s four-game suspension earlier this month, it’s probably wise to wonder about what might become of Rau.

And this hit leads to my Douche Of The Game, which is the Toyota Center sound crew.

Seriously, when there’s a player down on the ice, and the medical staff is out on the ice working on said player, and his teammates are surrounding him and everybody is wondering about just how serious the injury is, you really SHOULDN’T be playing “The Chicken Dance.” You shouldn’t be playing any music, but especially not “The Chicken Dance.”

Try having some class for once.

And now that think about it, I'm kind of shocked that some of the people who roam the Toyota Center shouting into microphones during games didn't decide to start making some of their own contributions during that time.

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Since the Aeros were talking about everyone having to pitch in and help out, I thought it was only appropriate that I play The Beatles "With A Little Help From My Friends."

Duke goes Down: Aeros 5, Marlies 2

I love when guys who aren't supposed to score score. Even better when they start to make it a habit as Kassian and Testwuide seem to be doing. (No pressure, guys.)

What's funny is that the three guys pictured below were one event away from hat tricks: For a Gordie Howe hatty, Kassian just needed an assist and Testwuide just needed a fight.

For a real hat trick, Smith needed another goal (if he hadn't gotten himself that 10 minute ms.conduct, maybe he would have gotten it).


I'll be honest, when I went to the game tonight I was a) sure the Aeros were going to stink it up and b) didn't really want to be there. Last night's game was just so crappy, and then they spent the day traveling. Bleh.

But I guess one characteristic that held over from last season is a penchant for doing exactly what you think they won't.

Kudos (or is it Khudos?) to Dubie for bouncing back from a bad start in Rockford last night and looking sharp most of the night. That second goal was all goalie though. And I still contend that whatever superstitions he has, well, I want to know what they are for myself, because they freaking work. He is so lucky at times, I can't even believe it.

And now the boys head off for a little break, except for Noreau and Khudobin. Gotta point out that your all-star goalie isn't even your #1 goalie right now. Awkward.

Goalies are funny though. Last year, Brusty went to the All Star game in the midst of what was truly a crisis in his shootout performance and being sat a good bit in favor of Schaefer... and he shut all 6 shooters down in that portion of the skills competition.

So who knows. Those things just can't be much fun for goalies, but somehow I figure Anton will have fun anyway. Represent, boys!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

View from the Press Box - Aeros 5, Marlies 2

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but the Aeros 5-2 win over the Marlies Saturday was a lot closer than it should have been.

I will attribute that mostly to playing a team that got really frustrated and started playing cheap in the second half of the game.

The only other negative thing I will bring up other than that disappointing and very long 5-on-3 power play in the second period was the fact that team captain Jon DiSalvatore left the game with a leg injury and did not return. He could not even skate off the bench after the horn sounded to congratulate Dubielewicz and the rest of the team.

Now for the positive stuff:

Daoust scored the first goal by doing what he does best. Going to the net and cleaning up the garbage.

Kassian's second goal of the year was a beauty. KC said he has had the best month of his professional career, and he was not being a smart ass. Kass, going in 2-on-1 in the third minute of the second period, tried to slow down to make it look like he was going to fake a pass.

"But I was going (shot) all the way," said Kassian.

Hey, I was fooled and so was Joey MacDonald, who got yanked after Nathan Smith scored his first goal of the night three minutes later.

Smith tied his career high with three points and J.P. Testwuide did record his career-high with three points.

Max Noreau had an incredible game (two helpers), and he might win the hardest shot contest Sunday in Portland. I bet he is the only guy in the league that has put a puck THROUGH the next twice without breaking the twine.

And Dubielewicz. The trucker just keeps on winning.
He used every trick in the book to keep the puck out of the net in the first period and allowed the Aeros to get the big lead and hold on.

With Anton struggling so bad right now, I wonder where the Aeros would be if he was off his game right now.

That is all for tonight, Heather and John will have more later.

I really hope she is cooking up a good stick figure for tonight.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Aeros 2, IceHogs 3 - Best overall game in awhile

Everybody knows by the now the Aeros came up on the wrong end of a 3-2 score Wednesday night in Rockford.

They were outplayed early, and then just when it looked like they were ready to turn things around, they allowed a goal with less than 30 seconds left in the second period. That goal killed them.

They were also screwed three times in the third period, and thankfully one of the "screwings" got unscrewed. Sorry about all the screwing there. Won't happen again on THIS blog.

First, referee Shaun Davis (at least 35 feet away from the play) waived off a goal by JM Daoust because he ruled that Daoust interfered with IceHogs goalie Corey Crawford. It was a bang, bang play, but after watching the replay and seeing the picture here (above) by Chris Jerina, it is obvious that Daoust was pushed into Crawford. That goal SHOULD have counted.

Later in the period, and eerily similar to what happened in the playoffs last year, Max Noreau had a shot go right through the net. At first, play continued, but after talking to the goal judge and talking to each other and talking to both captains, Davis and his crew got it right and awarded the goal.

All photos by Chris Jerina

With time winding down and Khudobin on the bench for an extra attacker, the Aeros had a one gasp left when JM Daoust looked to break free setting up a possible shot on goal. He was hauled down by the IceHogs and the game ended. I was thinking penalty shot, and Daoust was thinking penalty shot, as he had a lengthy discussion with Davis well after the game had ended.

Of the three plays, the last one was most questionable. I can see why Davis would not want to award a penalty shot with five seconds left in a game, but he sure could have.

Don't get me wrong, the Aeros did not lose this game because of the third period.
They lost the game because they did not match the IceHogs intensity in the opening minutes and they allowed a last second goal to put them down 3-1 at the end of two.

The Aeros are awful when they trail after two periods, and they sure aren't very good when they allow the first goal of the game. Both of those hurt them Wednesday, but I would like to think that how they finished the match (and what Davis missed in the 3rd period) will inspire the Aeros to a big win Friday night in the rematch.

Another loss, though, and they'll creep closer and closer to last place.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jean-Michel Over At Press

For anyone who is interested, I've got a post on Jean-Michel Daoust over at the mothership. Give it a read. I hope you'll like it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aeros On Television

I would have told all of you this awhile back, but I couldn't get anybody to go on the record, and I got in big trouble the last time I reported something like this without anybody going on the record (my source was someone who was supposed to be on the TV crew). Anyway, the Aeros finally announced that they will have five televised games this season -- part of a six-game television schedule featuring the trumped-up I-still-don't-give-a-damn-about-it Lonestar Faceoff.

Two of the games, Texas on February 27 and San Antonio on March 5 will be played in Houston. And the first three of the six games will not air on Fox Sports Houston -- you will have to have Fox Sports Plus for those (that includes the February 27 Aeros/Stars game and the March 3 Houston at San Antonio game).

So to those of you who were interested regarding television games, there you go.

Monday, January 11, 2010

View from the Press Box - Aeros 1, Rockford 2 (OT)

The quotes that stood out to me after Sunday's 2-1 OT loss came from Kevin Constantine and Wade Dubielewicz. KC was asked about the injuries and he said it was the team's "low point of the year" in that regard. Lots of regulars out of the lineup, and it could be that way for the forseeable future.

The other great quote was from Doobie (has anyone else pointed out that the Aeros goalie's nicknames are Doobie and Dobby?) He said that Mike Brennan's OT goal was a one-in-300 proposition. From where I was sitting, that sucker was going three feet wide. But when you have a major problem playing 4-on-4 hockey, those kinds of things are going to happen to you.

Right now the Aeros are a bad 4-on-4 team. That needs to be fixed and fast, because playing with six regulars out of the lineup this week could produce more OT games, especially on the road.

Another troubling trend is the Aeros' home record to this point. They are 11-9-3-0 at Toyota Center. Technically, that puts them over .500 at home, but really, they are 11-12. When someone asks you who won the game, you can't say, "The Aeros did."

The West Division is a grind right now, and Milwaukee is now the overall points leader in the division. In less than three months, they have erased a 15 point deficit to rise to the top. And there are a lot of team right behind them because the Texas Stars have only played well against the Aeros since about Dec. 9 (2-1 against the Aeros, 1-8 against the field).

The Aeros start a stretch Wednesday that will have them on the road for seven of eight.
When they get back from Peoria on Jan. 30, they'll have played one more road game than at home. There will be 31 games left on the slate to close out there, and if they survive the next three weeks, they'll be in a good spot to get into the playoffs.

Milwaukee has the best schedule the rest of the way and should be able to lock up one of the four spots. Texas, I have to believe, will right the ship soon, and will be the other team to get it. As for the other two spots, who knows? The West is very tight from top to bottom and even San Antonio, a team that lost 11 in a row (and 16 of 19!!) at one point, is still very, very much a part of the playoff picture.

The team will be in survival mode this week, the last three games before the All-Star break. Then, just maybe, they'll get a few guys back when the team makes their cross-continent trek over to Abbotsford.

If the Aeros can steal three points against the IceHogs and Marlies this week, a moral victory will be acceptable. After that, though, the clock will be ticking.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

1/10/10 -- Aeros v. Rockford -- The No Song Edition

Here’s the deal. I’m tired. I’m temporarily working, and it’s a schedule that involves me waking up at five everyday. I’ve got a cold. I’m cranky. So I’m not much up for writing one of my long rambling fill in every single blank that happened during the game post.

So you’ll get this.

The Aeros lost to the Rockford IceHogs 2-1 in overtime. Yes, the Aeros losing in overtime. Shocking. I know. The Aeros one goal came at 4:28 when Jean-Michel Daoust knocked in the rebound of a Chad Rau shot to make it 1-0.

“All I remember was that it was a shot on net,” Daoust said. “And then there was a rebound on my blade and I just put it in.”

The Aeros kept that lead until 3:57 of the second when Rockford’s Kyle Greentree took the cross-ice pass from Akim Aliu and buried the puck past Wade Dubielewicz. And the score stayed tie at one until 2:12 of the overtime when Mike Brennan fired a shot that was going wide of the net, but was deflected in for the goal when it hit Dubielewicz’s stick to give Rockford the win.

“It’s unbelievable,” Dubielewicz said. ‘I thought I was going to be able to break the overtime bug. I don’t think I’ve lost one yet to now, but that’s unbelievable.”

Following the loss, the Aeros record dropped to 19-15-6-1 (45 points). The good news is that they’re now in fourth place in the West Division. The shocking news is that Milwaukee is now in first at 22-12-1-5 (50 points). Texas has dropped into second with a record of 21-13-2-4 (48 points), and Rockford is now in third place at 21-18-2-2 (46 points).

The Aeros return to action on Wednesday night when they play the first of two in Rockford. They’ll play in Rockford on Friday night, then host Toronto on Saturday night.

A MISCELLANEOUS NOTE:

The Aeros are a really banged up squad right now. Kevin Constantine says it the low point for the team this year. They’re not yet sure of how badly injured Jaime Sifers is. Ryan Lannon is also out from an injury in Friday’s game. Brandon Rogers suffered back spasms after Friday’s game. Constantine believes that Rogers might be able to return on Wednesday. It’s slightly possible that Andy Hilbert will be able to return, but Constantine didn’t seem confident regarding that prognosis. There’s no timetable on Peter Zingoni’s return. Carson McMillan has two games remaining on his suspension.

But today’s roster listed Barry Brust with the defensemen and forwards, and not the goalies. So maybe Constantine can use him to help out. Of course, Brust is in Florida with the Everblades at the moment, so that might be kind of hard to pull off.

To help handle the injuries, the Aeros brought up left win Trent Campbell from South Carolina of the ECHL. He earlier played for the AHL Worcester Sharks this season. And they also brought up defenseman Ross Rouleau from Texas of the CHL.

Sunday Special - Rockford vs. Aeros, Part Deux

Less than 20 minutes after watching his team dispatch of the Rockford IceHogs, Kevin Constantine kind of hinted that either the IceHogs or the Aeros would make the playoffs ... probably not both.

To be sure, he did not say that directly, but when asked about the importance of taking the most points in this four-game mid-season series, he answered with this:

"Both teams have been dead even for about two weeks in the standings. Always hovering one, two, three, four games over five hundred. Somewhere in that range. They’re both good teams. They both might make the playoffs, but maybe only one of the two teams will make the playoffs of the two. So it’s kind of just a mini-playoff series."

Talking about the playoffs, at least that specifically, is usually not something a head coach will bring up in early January. He kind of left it open-ended, but I kind of laughed when I realized that he was thinking the same thing I was. The West division is as close now as it has been since the second week of the season. The Stars lost its lead on the division to Milwaukee last night and only nine points separate first place from last place. It is quite possible that all seven teams in the division finish with 40 wins; that means three decent hockey teams are going to be golfing at the end of 80 games.

The point of this post is to reiterate just how important this stretch of four games against Rockford is to both teams. The Aeros have the edge so far, getting the first two points, and they have the advantage tonight in regards to the schedule. The IceHogs will be playing their fourth in five today after Saturday's 2-1 loss against the Rampage.

Wade Dubielewicz won his eighth game in net Friday, and too, admitted that both teams were treating this stretch of games against Rockford with a little more intensity.

“That is what we are talking about, I guarantee you that is what they are taking about," said Dubielewicz. "Not that we expect it, but a four game sweep either way would be detrimental to either team. Tonight we got game one, and we are happy about that.

"That is the team that we are chasing, and now we are going to re-group, go out there Sunday and try to take Game 2. We’ll take a look at the tape of the game from (Friday) find the holes in our game and find a way to give a better 60-minute effort."


Ah, the full 60-minute effort. Something that has escaped this team for much of the year. They have shown the ability to blow two- and three-goal leads and they have stolen points when they didn't deserve them.

Matt Kassian, one of the best talkers on the team, was great Friday. He talked about his annual goal and he, too, mentioned this four-game mini series against the IceHogs.

"It really is just like a little playoff series, and you don’t even want to give them one point," said Kassian. "Every game is a like a four-point game, so if you can come out on top with three or four wins in this series, then it’s really going to help us out and get us into a good spot."

As for what happens in today's game, that remains to be seen. I expect the Aeros, knowing what's at stake by their own admission Friday, to come out and throttle the IceHogs while they are down.

Anything less, though, that a complete and cerebral effort, will be a disappointment. Rockford would love to take full advtange and even the four-game mini series.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Aeros v. Rockford: The Ballsy Prediction Edition


I didn't so much feel like Matt was going to score tonight as I felt like Corey Crawford was going to have a shitty night. But I figured, I'll throw the prediction out because we might not see a goalie struggle like this for some time to come and what more likely time for Kassian to finally bend the twine?

Not sure why I knew Crawford was vulnerable, but boy did I nail that precognition. But I just had a feeling, watching him in warm-ups, that he wasn't all there, wasn't sharp. And whaddaya know, it was Toskala-esque the way every bad bounce went in on the guy. You could see it in his body language in the third period. He looked frustrated and I think he would have stopped the Kalus breakaway if the prior unlucky bounces hadn't gotten in his head a little bit.

Meanwhile, the exact opposite was happening to Dubielewicz at the other end. That was one of the luckiest goaltending performances I've ever seen. And I appreciated reading his comments after the game wherein he basically said as much, and acknowledged that the shot count was high like that because he was a rebound machine.

But I understand, that's just how it goes sometimes. Some nights every bounce goes against you and some nights, it's all posts and whiffs and good defense. I thought only the third goal, basically in garbage time, was a bad one for Dubie.

What else could the stick figure be tonight than big Matt Kassian finally getting his goal. I did not cry, however, but I did whack John in the arm. He gets that a lot. Sorry John.


Anyway, another fun game by the boys. Really nice to see these chances going in and it must be really gratifying for the work to be paying off on the scoresheet.

See you Sunday!

1//8/10 -- Aeros v. Rockford -- The Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds Edition

The Houston Aeros defeated the Rockford IceHogs 5-3 tonight before 4504 people inside of Toyota Center. This wasn’t just a normal hockey game. It wasn’t even a normal hockey game for the Houston Aeros. Any game that sees Matt Kassian score a goal can’t be called a normal game. But perhaps the most surreal thing about this game was just how dominating Rockford was through the first two periods.

The Aeros got the early lead at 10:57 of the first when Jamie Fraser scored a goal (his first of the season) on a shot that appeared to bounce off of two Rockford players before getting past IceHog goalie Corey Crawford. Rockford’s Jack Skille tied the game at 9:20 of the second when he got his stick on Brian Connelly’s shot at deflected the puck past Wade Dubielewicz for the score.

Rockford dominated the second period. They got off 21 shots, but were only able to get one goal. Yet it appeared that the Aeros were going to be lucky to leave the ice for the second intermission with the score tied 1-1. But at 17:34, Jean-Michel Daoust fired the puck toward the Rockford goal. The puck hit off of somebody -- there was a dispute as to who it hit - and was deflected past Crawford once again to make it 2-1 as the period ended.

And surviving that second period seemed to power the Aeros the rest of the way as they took control in the third.

“I think, as a group, it was a big step for us, that third period,” Dubielewicz said. “We came out and really took it to the next level.”

That next level included out-shooting Rockford and seeing Jon DiSalvatore knock in the rebound of a Cody Almond shot at 9:58 to make it 3-2, then saw Petr Kalus on a breakaway that brought back memories of Krys Kolanos to make it 4-2 at 12:00, then the moment that Aeros fans had been waiting for all year with Matt Kassian getting a goal on one of those strange shots that bounced over the back of Crawford then rolled into the net at 15:16 to make it 5-2.

Rockford got a goal with 37 seconds left to make it 5-3, but by then, there was just nothing they could do as the Aeros were just solidly in command.

The win moved the Aeros into a three-team tie for third place in the West Division. Texas (21-11-2-4) is on top with 48 points. Milwaukee (20-12-1-5) is in second with 46 points. Peoria (20-13-1-3), Houston (19-15-5-1) and Rockford (20-17-2-2) are all tied with 44 points. And when the Aeros next play, on Sunday afternoon, they will be facing the IceHogs again.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

This was a night of firsts. Jamie Fraser got his first goal of the season with his first period goal. But the talk of the night, in the stands, the bench, and the locker room, was Matt Kassian getting his first goal of the season -- and his first since February 8, 2008 when he scored the final goal in a 6-3 win at Chicago.

“Guys were pretty jacked on the bench about that goal,” Kevin Constantine told us after the game. And Kassian was still jacked after the game.

“It was probably the prettiest goal of my life…or not,” Kassian said. “It helps the team out, and anytime you can chip in it’s good, and it’s a great feeling to kind of get that in there. And finally to have one go in when you have so many chances and so many bounces that just haven’t gone your way to kind of get a lucky one to get the first one -- it’s a pretty good feeling. I’m definitely happy about that.”

Constantine told us that this goal has been coming because he thinks that Kassian is on the best stretch of offensive-oriented hockey since he’s been with the team.

“I think over the last 10 games, if you looked at maybe eight games, he’s actually had a quite a few scoring chances over the last eight games,” Constantine said. “If you looked at any segment of eight games since he’s been here, I’d bet the last eight, he’s had the most, been part of the offense more than he ever has since he’s been here.”

*******************
The second period was a tough one for the Aeros, and it was surviving the second that helped power the Aeros through the third. Wade Dubielewicz had his problems through the night -- he wasn’t exactly what one would call steady -- but he was able to hold Rockford to just one goal during that second period barrage.

“I had 20 shots, but I don’t know…at least eight or 10 of them were because I was kicking them straight back out,” he said. “As a goalie, it was just one of those nights where everything that hit me hit me really solid, and nothing stuck to me. But as a group, we were doing a good job of winning those battles 15 feet in front of the net. I made the first save and they were doing a good job of clearing that second puck out.”

One thing that Dubielewicz had to face in the second was a penalty kill shot by Jack Skille after a penalty by Nathan Smith.

“That guy made a good move, and he made a good play. I forced him to put it up high, and he put it up too high…” Dubielewicz said. “I didn’t get a piece of it. I forced him to go high at least, and he missed the spot. I got a little lucky there. I got a few breaks tonight, and you need some breaks to be good sometimes.”

Kassian said it was a matter of the Aeros holding together and not breaking during the barrage.

“They obviously came out in the second period with a lot more fire than we did. They definitely outplayed us in the second period. So really for us it was about a bend and don’t break….“ he said. “But we didn’t break. We did bend a little bit, but that’s okay, and we were able to kind of reset and refocus, and we know our second period wasn’t the best, and we knew that in the second intermission and we just all kind of came together and pulled it out like we needed to in the third.”

****************
Robbie Earl and Clayton Stoner are in Minnesota. The team brought Brandon Buck back up from Florida. Still, the one thing couldn’t afford was injuries. Which is probably why the team got hit by injuries to Jaime Sifers and Ryan Lannon during the game -- injuries which kept them from returning. Constantine had moved Brandon Rogers up to forward for the game, so he was luckily able to shift him back to the defenseman position.

We talked to Constantine about the injuries afterward, but he said he still didn’t know what their injuries were other than upper body injuries. He thought that Sifers had injured his shoulder -- ala Colt McCoy -- but he was told after that the game that it wasn’t the shoulder.

J.P. Testwuide was a healthy scratch, and Rogers can be moved back to defense, so the team can play with a full compliment of defensemen. But with the injuries to Andy Hilbert and Peter Zingoni and the suspension of Carson McMillan, the Aeros are not only short on forwards -- something they have been all season it seems -- but they’re actually short of a full squad of healthy players. So it should be interesting to see what happens on Saturday.

****************
I don’t know if it was discussed on the radio, but Barry Brust was not on tonight’s roster, so I can only assume that means that he’s on his way back to Florida. I’m sure that that’s something Heather and/or Andrew can discuss with a little more authority later.

****************
I thought tonight’s game was kind of surreal, what with a penalty shot and first goals by Fraser and Kassian. So continuing with my Beatles theme, I went looking for a kind of surreal song. Thus I give you “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

I’ll see you on Sunday.