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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another perspective on last night's shellacking

So, don't shoot me, but... I had fun last night. It was, in my opinion, a Fun Game to watch.

Sure, Dubie sieved it up, but given his last couple of games, were you surprised? KC did the right thing giving him a chance but man, you just can't do that.

But the boys did play hard, kept the puck away from Brusty most of the night, and made Climie work. I can't argue with KC's assessment in that regard.

And they got angry. And they let it out at a point where it just didn't matter any more. I'm okay with that. Once the score was insurmountable, it kinda made me feel better to watch them rack up some PIM, too. Get 'em, boys. I dig it. And not just because I got to hear my name announced over and over (10 minute Ms.Conduct, game Ms.Conduct).

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I have Google Alerts set to send me any mention in the news or blogs about the "Houston Aeros" (it will now send me this post) and I occasionally get one from the odd casual fan who has written about going to an Aeros game in their blog. It's their one or two games a season they go to. No investment in the team particularly, other than having a few beers, watching guys crash and bang, and if they win, so much the better but it doesn't really matter.

I relish those little nuggets, because they remind me that after all the fretting over goalie stats and playoff runs and personnel and scratches and what is or isn't being done about all of it: Hockey is just fun.

Hockey is fun. That's why we're all here. And I hope that somehow the boys can find a way to keep making it fun for them and for us once we're into garbage time. Take some chances, put Kassian on the top line, take the occasional between-the-feet-backhand-spin-o-rama shot and if it doesn't work, well, so what? What have they got to lose?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2/27/10 -- Aeros v. Stars -- Comfortably Numb Edition

Kevin Constantine looked defeated after the game tonight. He sounded defeated. Even when he was defending his team and their effort he just looked and sounded defeated. Perhaps that's because he is defeated.

Once again Wade Dubielewicz got the start in goal on a Saturday night. Once again he allowed three goals in the first period. And once again, the team just could not overcome the start. But at least he was perfect. He faced three shots, and three shots went in the goal before Barry Brust was sent in to damn the flow. But the damning of the flow came too late as the Aeros lost 5-2.

I'll let Constantine's words speak for themselves.

"Actually, I loved our first period," he said. "I didn’t like the score, but I loved the way we worked, competed, and got scoring chances. I thought, we as a team, played really, really good. We gave up a few things. And it wasn’t really entirely Wade’s fault, but we gave up a lot. We played really, really hard. I wasn’t disappointed with the effort of the guys at all."

The difference in the game was goal keeping. Primarily, Matt Climie faced an overwhelming number of shots and let in only two -- both of which were mistakes. Jean-Michel Daoust banged a shot off the post that found the puck rebound to Jamie Fraser in just the right spot, and Fraser took advantage to briefly tie the game. And in the third, with the game out of reach at 4-1, Climie went away from the net while the Stars were on the power play in order to play the puck. Jaime Sifers swiped the puck and was past Climie and scored an illogical sounding empty-net, short-handed goal.

As to the play of Dubielewicz, Constantine explained:

"It’s tough....He actually hadn’t played for awhile because of being with the Wild. So he hadn’t played for awhile with the Wild, and then Barry was on a bit of a roll, so that kept him out, and then he didn’t play for a week here. It’s very tough for a goalie to find a rhythm, but we wanted to give him a chance. Barry hasn’t been played bad, but Barry hadn’t won in a couple of games, and the other guy deserves a shot when that happens. We wanted to give him a chance."

*****************************
The team just seemed to lose composure in the third period, which resulted in a fight-filled mini-brawl fest featuring cheap shots and lots of stupidity on the parts of many. This made a seemingly endless game seem infinitely longer than it already was.

*****************************

I'm jettisoning my year long Beatles music theme. There's only one song that I can think of which describes the horror that was this game. So here's Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2/25/10 -- Aeros v. Manitoba -- We Need Some Help Edition

I'm short on time, so straight to the talking points from tonight's 3-2 loss to Manitoba.

Barry Brust took the loss on himself.

"I think the onus is on me. I’ve got to come up with a save. The second goal, they got a big break and hit our d-man’s stick and went right down the ice. The third goal, I thought I had it, but obviously I didn’t. That’s up to me. I’ve got to buckle down and be better."

But buckle down and be better is something that can be said of the entire team. It wasn't just Brust who lost focus after the tying goals. Those goals didn't just happen in isolation. It's been a season long problem that the team has to find a way to address.

*******************************

And speaking of season long problems, the injury bug hit again. Max Noreau took a shot off of his right ankle. He came back out to play, but I saw it after the game, and it was swollen. They're going to x-ray it tomorrow, and he's hoping that it's not broken -- if it is, you can probably kiss what playoff chances the team has left has nil.

As for why he came back out -- he scored the team's final goal -- he said that it was because they checked the ankle, and said that it couldn't get any worse if he played on it. The hockey boot keeps everything kind of tight. But we should know more tomorrow.

Constantine is hoping that Brandon Rogers can return this weekend, but he's suffering from a concussion, so the team isn't going to rush anything.

********************************

And for those of you who weren't following on Twitter -- shame on you -- the rumor is that the Aeros might be getting some help next week. The guys up in Milwaukee who handle the Admirals Short Shifts blog tweeted during the game that Tony Hrkac has signed a contract and is returning to the team next week. That will definitely increase the team speed from slow to even slower. Hrkac was a great presence on the team last season -- especially during the playoffs when the team was battling through tough playoff series after tough playoff series, and he showed that he still had some gas left in the tank. Hopefully, he can help the guys keep their focus on their games after they score a goal.

We checked with the Aeros, and all that we could get was a no comment.

The Aeros play in Texas on Friday, then host the Stars on Saturday night. With a record of 28-25-6-1 (63 points), they definitely need to get two wins this weekend.

And though I know I've played this song already this season, I thought it was apropos of the night. So here's The Beatles with "Help."

Risk/Reward in Goaltending

Okay, so let's talk about goaltending, shall we?

Being a goalie is just a heaping shitload of fun. You get to deny those bastards their goals, you get to make heroic saves, chicks dig you beyond reason (personally, I'm constantly getting hit with flying bras). It's the best position in all of sports.

Until you f**k up.

You can do your job perfectly, with flair, even go above and beyond with some slick break-out passes to your cherry-picking forwards, but the mistakes are what go on the scoreboard. Saves are just a number that pile up in the background--ephemeral and fleeting. But goals against? Those go down in bold print. And they can sully your whole night if you don't hang on to some perspective.

So, as much fun as goaltending is, a night like this, where you own the loss--where you fall on the sword as rightly Brusty did in his comments after the game--these are the nights that eat at you. You know you played well... except for... this, this, and this.

But here's the thing: I look at goalies a lot like I do investments. For every potential risk a goalie takes, there's an equivalent potential reward.

You have your goalies who don't play the puck much other than to cool it down behind the net or maybe a little pass up in the zone. Low risk, low reward.

You have, at the other end of the spectrum, your Brustys, Turcos, Thomases, who love to play the puck and 98% of the time, do so with a positive effect, at least pushing the play out to the blue line. At best, as Brusty did many times tonight, breaking the team out either into the neutral zone or all the way into offensive zone.

And then there's that 2% instance where, like tonight, he got caught behind the net with an opponent on either side and couldn't clear the puck but also couldn't free himself up to get back to the net. Oops. Goal.

High risk, high reward.

It took me Barry's entire first season in Houston for me to understand. I would tear my hair out. In fact, I got so riled about it, my husband gave that wandering goalie move a name, "The Heather."

Mr. C: "Ohhh, Brust is pulling a Heather."
Ms. C: "Shut up. Dammit, get back in your net, Brusty!"

But then I started to understand the position more and appreciate the advantages (and thrills) of wandering goalies. As a fan, it's either an acceptable risk and the entertainment value and potential reward of that style of goaltending is worth a couple of forehead slappers each season, or it's not and you'd rather the defensemen do the puck handling and the goalie keep his ass in the blue paint.

I don't think it's any secret, I don't so much lean to that "high risk" end of the spectrum as I take it some place quiet, get it liquored up, and have my way with it. I love it.

But that doesn't mean I look at this game tonight and think, "Ah well, Brusty gets a pass because he's that's his style." Nope. Because the other goals weren't so hot either, either by Brusty or the team as a whole. Clearly when goals against are coming immediately after goals for, and it's as predictable as it was tonight, there's a chink in the mental armor.

I don't know who KC will play Friday against Texas. He does tend to show faith in Barry to bounce back from bad games, and doesn't seem to have much faith in Dubie.

It's been a tough year for the big guy, but dominant goaltending is the only thing that's gonna get this team up the standings. Apologies to Mr. Hrkac (whose name, I'm happy to realize just now, I can still spell without thinking) as I'm sure his arrival will also help, but it won't be enough on its own.

Focus is what the Aeros need right now. They need it from themselves. They need it from their goaltender. They need it from the coaches. Hell, they need it from the Zamboni drivers and the ice girls and the pretzel sellers. Not to go all "clap to save Tinkerbell" but man, every point they don't get, the closer we are to "good night, drive home safe, see you next year, enjoy the golf."

But no pressure, boys. What are you gripping you sticks so hard for? ;)

Time ... is ... running ... out.

It is just about March, and the Aeros are six points out of the last playoff spot. The Aeros trail Texas by six points, and both teams have 21 games left on the slate.

This is just an example, but if the Aeros were to go 14-7, if they win two-thirds of their remaining schedule, that means Texas would have to go 11-10 for the Aeros to get in. That is, for lack of a better phrase, a daunting task.

Joe O'Donnell said it best last week: The Aeros are not on life support, but they are at the doctor complaining of chest pains.

I am not going to make a prediction here, I am going to save that for next week. The Aeros have two games against the Stars this weekend and one against the Moose. The Aeros are going to make a prediction on their own fate this weekend.

The Stars, who have lost six of eight overall just to keep the Aeros alive, have three games in three nights as well, but they'll be fresh Saturday at Toyota Center, while it will be the Aeros who will be playing its third game in three nights. If the Aeros lost both games to Texas, they are done. If they win both, and pick up a win against the Moose, that would be very, very helpful. If they win two of three, they better hope the Stars lose two of three. They have to make up some ground this weekend, or they are done.

Here are some random, but telling stats for fans to ponder as we enter another three in three weekend.

  • The Aeros have 22 points (16 wins) when they are TIED after two periods. That shows a lot of resolve, and that is tied for the league high. Rockford also has 22 points when tied after two.
  • The Aeros WOULD have a playoff spot right now, if the AHL employed a top-eight-in-each-conference make-the-playoffs format. They are one point ahead of the Moose for that spot; A loss tonight, and they lose it.
  • We've said all along that they Aeros are very mediocre this season. They are the 15th best team in the AHL, points-wise. There are 14 teams better and 14 teams worse.
  • Their home power play is dreadful. Second worst in the league.
  • Their road power play is amazing. Second best in the league.
  • The Aeros' penalty kill is very good and quite consistent. It is fourth best at home, fourth best on the road and fourth best in the AHL.
  • Here is the stat that really irks me. This is why they probably won't make the playoffs: There are 29 teams in the AHL, and there are 28 teams that have more first period goals than the Aeros. They have 31 in 59 games. That means they barely average ONE first period goal every OTHER game.
  • Silver lining to above stat! When they DO score a first period goal, and leave the ice with a lead after 20 minutes, they are 11-1-3-0.
UPDATE!
Here are some good notes from the Aeros PR/Media Relations staff about tonight's game with the Moose. One GREAT note to point out. The Aeros are 9-1-1-0 against teams from Canada. Their only regulation loss? To the Moose on opening night in Winnipeg.

HEAD TO HEAD
Record - Aeros: 28-24-6-1 (15-13-3-0, Home),
Moose: 28-25-5-1 (12-15-2-0, Road)
Power Play - Aeros: 42-259, 16.2% (21st),
Moose: 34-257, 13.2% (27th)
Penalty Kill - Aeros: 199-231, 86.5% (4th),
Moose: 205-252, 81.3% (19th)
Goals Scored - Aeros:
2.64 (24th), Moose: 2.56 (25th)
Goals Allowed - Aeros: 2.69 (10th),
Moose: 3.00 (30th)
Penalty Minutes - Aeros: 16.10 PIM/gm (11th),
Moose: 18.08 PIM/gm
(19th)
Scoring First - Aeros: 20-3-3-1,
Moose: 16-9-1-0

AEROS NOTES

3-in-3 - The Aeros begin its third consecutive three-games-in-three-nights stretch. The Aeros travel to Cedar Park, TX tomorrow for a 7:30 p.m. showdown with the Texas Stars before the Stars come to Houston for a 7:35 p.m. puck drop Saturday night from Toyota Center. The Aeros have seven 3-in-3s this season as opposed to 15 last season.

Aeros vs. North - The Aeros are playing their 21st game against a North Division opponent and enter tonight's affair with a 13-6-1-0 record against the division including a 9-1-1-0 mark against Canadian based teams (2-1-0-0 vs. MTB). Houston hosts the Lake Erie Monsters Mar. 26 in its final game against a North division opponent this season.

Wild West - The West Division's top five teams are currently separated by 15 points. Houston sits in fifth position on the outside looking in six points back of the division's fourth and final playoff spot inhabited by Lone Star rival Texas.

Squadron Leaders - D Maxim Noreau scored a goal and added an assist to take over the club lead in points with 43 (15g, 28a). RW Jon DiSalvatore remains the team leader with 18 goals scored and LW Matt Kassian leads Aeros skaters with 113 PIM.

Home and Away - The Aeros are 15-11-3-0 on home ice, 16 of 136 (11.8%) on the power play and 99 of 113 (87.6%) on the penalty kill. Away from Toyota Center, they carry a 13-13-3-1 record and have converted on 26 of 123 (21.1%) power plays while killing 100 of 117 (85.5%) penalties. Houston's 76 goals on home ice this season is third lowest in the AHL (Adirondack - 61, Bridgeport - 73).

Milestones - RW Danny Irmen is currently tied with Dan Cavanaugh for third place among Aeros all-time AHL games played. C Nathan Smith is four points from his 200th pro/AHL point. Noreau is two points away from his 100th AHL/Aeros point. Kassian is nine PIM away from 300 AHL PIMs.

The Aeros travel to Cedar Park, TX tomorrow night to face the Texas Stars as the two clubs rekindle the State Farm Lone Star Faceoff. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Cedar Park Center. The Stars visit Toyota Center the following evening, Saturday for a 7:35 p.m. game to be televised live on Fox Sports Plus.



-- HOUSTON AEROS --

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aeros well-represented in Vancouver

Maybe it is just because I have been paying attention a lot more this year, but the 2010 Olympic Hockey tournament has been absolutely fantastic.

We've seen a huge upset, lots of goals by the women's USA and Canadian teams. We've seen more blood per Olympics that we're used to. And last night, a puck went through the net. They needed video review to confirm the goal by Shea Weber. No, there was no hole in the net. It just went through. This time, though, Max Noreau was not involved.

There are nine former Aeros sprinkled throughout the men's rosters this year, and I got a little teary-eyed taking the trip down memory lane to see where the guys are now.

Without further delay, here are the former Aeros in the 2010 Olympics


Goaltender Tim Thomas, USA
Born Apr 15 1974 -- Flint, MI
Height 5.11 -- Weight 201 -- Shoots L

Thomas played in one game for the Aeros under Dave Tippett during the 1997-98 season. He allowed four goals in 59 minutes and took the loss against the Long Beach Ice Dogs on Nov. 6, 1997. He now plays for the Boston Bruins in the NHL.


Defenseman Filip Kuba, CZE
Born Dec 29 1976 -- Ostrava, Czech Rep.

Height 6.03 -- Weight 225 -- Shoots L


Kuba played for Ron Low's Aeros in 1999-2000 on loan from the Florida Panthers. In 27 games that year, Kuba scored three goals and added six assists for nine points. He helped the Aeros get to the West Finals before they bowed out to the Chicago Wolves in six games.


Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, CZE
Born Dec 23 1982 -- Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Rep.
Height 6.02 -- Weight 210 -- Shoots R

Michalek, affectionately known as "Z," played for the Aeros from 2002 through the 2005 "lockout" season. He's the most tenured Aero of all the 2010 Olympians, having played 193 game for the Aeros, all under Todd McLellan, who is now the head coach of the San Jose Sharks. He was a great two-way player, scoring 16 goals to go along with 43 assists. "Z" was eventually traded to the Phoenix Coyotes organization for Erik Westrum; Michalek has been in the NHL ever since, spending the whole time with the Coyotes.


Defenseman Sven Butenschon, GER
Born Mar 22 1976 -- Itzehoe, Germany
Height 6.04 -- Weight 215 -- Shoots L

Dave Tippett worked out a deal to get Butenschon and Sean Pronger in Oct. 1998. That was one of several deals that helped the Aeros win their first championship in 1999. Butenschon, a stay-at-home defenseman, played in 57 games during their Turner Cup run. He scored one goal to go along with four assists. He and Pronger were called up before the playoffs started, but the Aeros went all the way without them. Butenschon has spent most of his career in Germany since leaving the Aeros.


Forward Hnat Domenichelli, SUI
Born Feb 16 1976 -- Edmonton, ALTA
Height 6.00 -- Weight 180 -- Shoots L

Domenichelli was probably good enough to play in the NHL the year he was sent to Houston, but there was just not enough room on a Wild team that arguably had their best-ever roster that year. The Wild made it to the West finals after a stunning upset of Colorado. Because that team was deep at forward and was remarkably injury free (for a Wild team), the Aeros had Domenichelli for 99 percent of their second championship. He was very good in the AHL, too. In 62 regular-season games for the Aeros, Domenichelli scored 29 goals to go along with 34 assists. He had 14 points in the playoffs, as the Aeros needed two Game 7 road wins over Grand Rapids and Hamilton to hoist the Calder Cup. Domenichelli has played in the Swiss A league since leaving the Wild organization.


Forward Marius Holtet, NOR
Born Aug 31 1984 -- Hamar, Norway
Height 6.01 -- Weight 188 -- Shoots R

During the lockout year (2004-05), the Dallas Stars did not have an AHL affiliate. They sent their prospects to several AHL teams that year, and the Aeros picked up Holtet from their NHL neighbors to the north. In 54 games for Todd McLellan's Aeros, Holtet recorded 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and played in one playoff game. After three more average years playing for the Iowa Stars, Holtet left to play in the Swedish Elite League.


Forward Mattias Weinhandl, SWE
Born Jun 1 1980 -- Ljunjby, Sweden
Height 6.00 -- Weight 183 -- Shoots R

After 27 disappointing games for the Wild covering two seasons, Weinhandl was banished to the Aeros in the 2006-07. For those that need a quick refresher, that was the year that goalie Josh Harding kept the team in the playoff race in the first 45 games of the season or so. After he was recalled to St. Paul permanently sometime in February, the team was an absolute disaster. Weinhandl was the team's best offensive player from his mid-December demotion through the end of the regular season. he played in 48 games for Rob Daum's Aeros and scored 18 goals and added 27 assists. The Aeros did not make the playoffs that year and Daum was fired very shortly after that season ended.


Forward Mikko Koivu, FIN

Born Mar 12 1983 -- Turku, Finland

Height 6.02 -- Weight 205 -- Shoots L


There is only one reason that Koivu ever played in the AHL: The 2004-05lockout. He was a very good playmaker in the AHL and put up 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games that year. Koivu missed some time after needing an emergency appendectomy, but never missed a beat until the playoffs. He took a brutal hit at Allstate Arena in Game 1 or 2 and was a ghost after that. The Aeros split the first two games against the Wolves, and then game home and lost three straight games at Toyota Center. There was never any doubt that Koivu was going to be a great NHL player, but he lost the respect of several Aeros fans for his sheepish playoff series.


Forward John Tripp, GER
Born May 4 1977 -- Kingston, ONT
Height 6.02 -- Weight 215 -- Shoots R

In January 2001, Dave Barr found Tripp, then a Calgary Flames prospect, playing in the ECHL with Pensacola and signed him to a tryout. Tripp went on to have moderate success in the AHL and German leagues, but his brief stint with the Aeros left much to be desired. In 15 games with the Aeros in 2000-01, Tripp posted just six assists. He also played for the Hershey Bears and Milwaukee Admirals that year and did not have his "breakout year" at the AAA level until he scored 29 goals for the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2002-03. Tripp recorded 34 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings in '03-'04, but has been in Germany for the last three years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sparing you the gore, but photos from Chicago

Not that you want to relive it in photos, but hey, how often do we get pics of the boys anymore? Thanks Aeros!

So, here are Chris "IcyHot" Jerina's shots from the 7-1 slaughter in Chicago on Saturday.

Of all the pics of goals going in and sad goalies and happy Wolfies, this one makes me the saddest... that of the Aeros' most versatile defenseman/centerman, Brandon Rogers, in the stands with an injury. He's been super glue for the Aeros most of the season, playing wherever he's asked, doing whatever is needed. I haven't heard officially what the injury prognosis is, but I'm sure we'll find out on Thursday if he's not back on the ice.


Colton Gillies uses his big frame to protect the puck.


Cool shot of Sifers letting one rip and Sterling dropping to block it (and inside thinking, "not the face not the face not the face").


And because I'm me and Brusty's Brusty... O hai!


Okay, there are lots of other great pics in the set, but honestly, it was too miserable a game for me to want to relive in any depth. Still, much appreciation to Chris for shooting the Aeros.

ALL PHOTOS by Chris "Aeros all the way, bitches" Jerina

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Houston finds itself in Peoria: Aeros 4, Rivermen 1


Phew. Okay. Thanks boys.

It was immediately clear that the boys were focused and ready to win tonight. Frankly, as much as I love to watch him stretch, Peoria goalie Ben Bishop isn't setting the world on fire, and I felt like if there was a night to get the scoring going, this was it.

The first half of the game, the Aeros were a different team, controlling the puck often, keeping a lot of pressure in Peoria's end, wearing them down, if not scoring.

But Peoria was the first on the board 15 minutes into the first with an odd-man rush that honestly, I was surprised Brusty didn't stop, but it happens. And from there he stopped everything else for 31 saves on 32 shots.

Meanwhile, Chad Rau tied it up 6 mins into the 2nd with, of all things, a penalty shot. He was hauled down on a breakaway, and Bishop "strategically let go" of his stick to prevent Rau scoring in an empty net. Unfortunately, for some reason, the feed from Peoria showed the fans in the stands rather than the actual action on the ice during the entire penalty shot. I was so distracted by that, I didn't really even listen to Joe's call other than to hear that he scored.

For perspective, apparently the last time the Aeros had a penalty shot was back when Joel Ward was with the team. So, that was pretty exciting, even if we couldn't see it.

Then, about 10 minutes later, Cody Almond was set free from the penalty box and joined a rush started by Brusty with a huge outlet pass, that resulted in a 3 on 1 and Gillies scoring the eventual game winner.

And just to prove they can score every which way, Milroy scored in a scramble in front of Bishop's net 5 minutes into the third.

Peoria pulled the goalie at the end and it got pretty hairy, but Brusty made some huuuuge saves and kept it a 2 goal game, until Irmen put one in the empty net to get it to 4-1. Bob's yer uncle. Game over. Drive home safely.

Couple of fights worth mentioning: Mitch Love and Matt Kassian dropped the mitts 5 minutes into the game and man, Mitch is a smaller guy, but I think most of us who know them would expect it to be a fairly good match-up. It definitely was, with both guys landing lots of solid punches. Frankly, it looked pretty painful for both guys, but I'm sure their teammates appreciated the energy it brought the game.

Then midway through the second period, Nathan Smith and Cam Paddock went toe to toe in what looked like it was going to be a hug-and-falldown kinda deal, but they ended up swinging for a good long while. One of the longest fights I've seen.

Probably wasn't the most necessary thing ever but maybe there was a score to settle there.

Okay, gotta head to my own hockey game, but I do so with a little more love in my heart.

But also admittedly, a little bit of nervousness. Three goalies. I don't see 3 sticking around. Florida has been playing with 1 goalie for 11 games now waiting for Brusty to come back. Kinda hate them for it, if I'm being honest. Circling vultures.

But I understand. He's worthy of being in demand. But shouldn't the Aeros have the best goalies IN Houston? Bah. We'll see, I guess.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Aeros give up 6 in 1st period, lose 7-1 to Wolves

You ever make a new friend and you think, "They're a little wacky... but I like them." You invest a little in them, they know a few of your secrets, you kinda ignore the red flags because you find them amusing or whatever.

And then they confess to you that they have another family in Michigan and they need you to lie to their local spouse for them.

Uh oh. They're f**ked up!

That's kinda what this game was for me with the Aeros. Like, I was never particularly married to them, but you know, they've got a few charming ways, right?

But now. Yeesh. You're way more screwed up than I realized, Aeros.

*backing away slowly*

Unfortunately, Chicago is one of those cities whose AHL Live feed is basically the center ice camera that never zooms in. And no replays. So, I have no idea how good or bad any of the goals were. I'm guessing it's a mix.

Dubie was in for the first 3, which he allowed in the first 5:30 of the game. Then Brusty came in and let 3 more in. Then Dubie was back in for the final 2 periods and let in one in the third.

I guess if you want a silver lining, Noreau scored on a power play late in the first. I know. Whatever.

I think we can safely say that if you wanted to make plans in mid-April, you can go ahead.

Silver lining: Pretty pictures

I know some won't find this to be particularly redemptive of last night's goose egg, but as usual, our mid-westerner behind the lens, Chris "Not Lusty for Brusty" Jerina did a great job capturing the game and making it look not nearly as painful as it actually was.

I feel slightly less hateful after looking at them. Though that could also be from spending my morning taking it out on all the frozen-dead foliage in my back yard. Gardening is therapeutic.

Let's eat our veggies first:

Sorry Smitty. It was hit in with a high stick, according to the ref, so No Goal. I still don't understand how, if MY defenseman hits it in with a high stick, it's still a goal against me, but if my opponent does, it isn't. But that's another story.


How the hell does this not go in?


Would love to be a fly on the cage here... Kinda wanna blocker the smug right off Santorelli's face.
True Fact:
Goalies are allowed to use blocker as a verb. "I blockered it into the corner." "He ran my crease so I blockered him right in the jewels."


Welcome to everywhere BUT the inside of the net, puck.


ROBBED! Have mercy, Dex...


Okay, on to the pretties:

*shudder* Yes. Just like this.

CRRRRONCH!


Me, too, honey. Me, too.


And finally, my favorite of the bunch. So many intense faces. Love it.


Here's the full photo set. There are plenty more great ones where these came from.

All photos by Chris "My Girlfriend is Awesome" Jerina

Friday, February 19, 2010

Aeros blanked again: Admirals 2, Aeros 0

Okay, so the dark arts obviously don't work.

Or perhaps the cement went in the wrong skates.

But whatever the case, the Aeros were terrible tonight. They're playing like a team with no leadership, even though apparently the room is full of leaders. I'm not seeing it, folks.

They're letting the frustrations get to them. They're gripping their sticks, shooting everything wide. They're fighting needlessly. Yeah, it's good to drop 'em strategically, but this was too much and hurt them in the end.

Never ever should Max Noreau get himself into a situation where he's off the ice for 7 minutes straight. If there aren't enough tough guys on this team, then get more tough guys, but Max is the team's second leading scorer, the top scoring defenseman in the AHL... we know you WILL do stand up for your teammates, Max. But don't.

You too, Almond Joy. Sometimes you just need to be a Mounds bar instead and go try and put the puck in the net.

Credit to Milwaukee for smelling the blood in the water and being opportunistic. When guys are skating into their offensive zone with the puck dangling 10 feet away off their stick (when did Pouliot come back? and why is he skating funny?), turning it over (and over and over) that says to the opposition that they've got a bunch of guys who don't wanna get hit. A bunch of guys who don't want to pay the price to protect the puck and hold the zone.

Dekanich was good, but not terribly challenged outside of a few scrambles. And of course, got lucky with the non-goal that was waived off due to coming in off a high stick, though my all accounts it was a legit call.

On both Aeros goals against, the defense was trying to do Brusty's job for him rather than covering his backside where he really needed him. Look boys, he's good at this. Let him see the puck. GTF out of his way, get where you can clear rebounds and protect the back door. It's ridiculous that there were TWO guys tightly flanking Brusty on that first goal when it was just a straight on shot and there was a rush coming down the other side at an open net.

*deepbreath* Here's the gamesheet if you want a sense of the senselessness.

Chris "Remind Me Why I Like the Aeros More That the Ads?" Jerina will have some pics to share tomorrow, I suspect. Apologies to him as he is stuck with this team one more night in Chicago. You're a real trooper, man. Thanks.

Tackling an important weekend


H/T to Chris "Idle Hands are the Devils Playground" Jerina

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nice feature on a former Aero

Here is a good read about former Aero Hnat Domenichelli, who is currently playing for Team Suisse in the 2010 Games.

He was a dynamic part of the Aeros 2003 Calder Cup Championship.

Enjoy!

Also, the Aeros have 24 games left, and they need to go AT LEAST 16-8 the rest of the way to have a good shot of making the playoffs. If the Aeros go 16-8 (.667), that will give them 94 points. That means Milwaukee needs to go 13-9 (.541) the rest of the way for the Aeros to have a shot.

You can start marking them down now; if the Aeros get to nine losses before the end of the season, they are done.

Andrew

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Couple of things for you

First off, John has a new Aeros post over at the Press looking at the dire straits the Aeros are in with regard to the playoff push. Please go check it out, leave nice comments, etc.

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Also, our very own Chris Jerina has seen the light and started a Photo of the Day blog to show off his fantastic photos that just don't get used for whatever reason between A.S.S. or T3I or wherever else. Of course, they're not necessarily Aeros photos but they're all good stuff.

Have a look. It's only on day 2, but it's worth throwing on your Google Reader list so you can enjoy some great hockey photography every day. Or at least when he feels like it.

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Finally, fellow Aeros (and other stuff) blogger, Blog 4 That, has a cool report from a locker room tour over the weekend. Looks like a fun excursion!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Alternate Jerseys

For those of you who didn't make the game, here's an iPhone photo of the Aeros alt jerseys that they wore today. The only thing, in my opinion, that ruined these jerseys was that stupid Aeros logo. I know I'm in the minority, but I just don't like the team's logo. But the colors looked great.

Well That Sucked -- The Weekend In Review

That was a pretty pitiful weekend of hockey, if you ask my opinion. The Aeros, with a chance to gain some ground in the playoff hunt, found themselves playing not only some uninspired hockey, but some stupid hockey.

There were numerous defensive breakdowns throughout the entire weekend, and if not for Barry Brust's play in goal, there's no telling how bad the losses would have been. And twice over the weekend the Aeros gave up short-handed goals. I see the stats, and I know the Aeros are supposed to have a good power play, but when's the last time we've seen a power play goal from this team at Toyota Center?

Kevin Constantine defended the team's offense tonight, saying that while the team wasn't scoring, it was getting good chances, and that all that you can ask is for a team to get good chances. The problem, as I saw it, however, was that the right players weren't getting the good chances. Some of today's best chances came from Brandon Rogers. I like Rogers a lot, but he's not the guy who should be having the best scoring chances.

And I know the played three games in three days and that they were tired. But I hate that excuse. The Chicago Wolves were playing their third game in three days tonight, all on the road, and they were missing some of their best players. But that didn't get to them. And not to go off on a rant, but I'll tell you what's hard and tiring. Try being so damn desperate work that you have to take a temp job that demands you work 11 hours a day, five days a week, and wants you to work weekends -- and where they make you ask permission to go to the doctor if you're having problems with your hearing because you didn't request that time back last month before the job started. That's hard. That's tiring.

I'm going on too long about something that has nothing to do with the game. I'm just disappointed, and I know that I didn't see the team play on the ice like they're capable of playing.

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One further note: Peter Zingoni was reinjured in Friday night's loss. I saw him Saturday before the game, and he wasn't in the best of spirits, and I can't help but feel for the guy. He was just trying to make a play on offense, trying to get off on a breakaway, and he went to hit a guy in front of him, and just like that he was hurt. You can just see not only how pained he is by the injury, but how pained he is by not being able to play.

He missed most of last season with an injury, and he came to Houston hoping to prove that that season was a fluke. He got off to a really hot start, and teamed up with rookies Cody Almond and Carson McMillan, he looked to be having a break out year. Then he hurt his knee, and he's been in-and-out, mostly out, for the season.

That's it. Thanks, as always, for reading us here at T3I. We do appreciate it.

Bend but don't break: Aeros 1, Grand Rapids 0

It was Texas Lottery night at the Aeros game. I missed the intermissions so I have no idea if someone won a million bucks or whatever, but I do know that 55 seconds into the extra session tonight, the nearly 7000 fans in attendance tonight saw 20 guys who looked like they'd just won a million bucks.

Kevin Constantine called it playoff style hockey and said the team has to be able to play these tight games. Well, play they did. It looked like another team out there compared to the night before with odd man rush after odd man rush beating both goalies down mentally and physically in the 7-2 loss to the very same Grand Rapids Griffins.

Mainly the defensive play was the big improvement. Fewer turnovers, incredible, crisp work around the net, getting sticks in the right places, clearing rebounds, etc. But improved goaltending was the other side of the coin.

Constantine said the decision to play Brust again after being "average" last night was a tough one. But he said he went that route because he deserved the chance to redeem himself, and great athletes will do that.... after a lousy, er, "average" appearance, they have that bounce-back-ability.

He made 22 saves en route to his first shut out of the season, and showed yet again why he's one of the better "back against the wall" goalies in the league. He was seeing the puck well, great lateral movement and positioning, challenged shooters. Just great stuff.

I found this on the floor outside the visitors' locker room tonight:

But like I mentioned in my post on Ms.C this morning, as much as it undermines your confidence as a goalie to see your team floundering from the get-go, it instills that much more confidence when you see them clicking well from the start. And it goes full circle. A confident goalie means the team doesn't feel like they need to overcompensate for them, so they just do their jobs.

It wasn't a perfect game for sure, but the penalty kill was very good, which it needed to be due to a few lapses in discipline. The power play, on the other hand, was pretty weak. The Griffins are excellent at shutting down advances into their end, clogging up the neutral zone, and just making life difficult, and that applied to the power play and pretty much the rest of the game.

By my estimation (and keep in mind, I was at the other end of the rink the whole time), seems like probably half the shots on goal for the Aeros were just gritty work around the net trying to jam a rebound in, not from necessarily spending a whole lot of TIME in the Griffin's end.

And that's exactly how Daoust's OT game winner went in. Just one of those go-stand-in-the-dirty-area-and-pray kinda goals, off a shot from Noreau that scrambled around a bit and finally punched in. That was Daoust's 17th goal of the season, third game winner, and Noreau's 41st point of the season.

That also makes Noreau the #2 scorer on the team, one point ahead of DiSalvatore. Pretty impressive for a d-man. You have to start wondering when he gets a sniff up in Minnesota, right?

Anyway, the Weebles wobbled but they didn't fall down, and in an 80 game season, that's just kinda how it has to be sometimes. Great story of redemption tonight.

John's off having a well-deserved bender, so I'll be your DJ tonight. How about a little Zombie action:

Friday, February 12, 2010

2/12/10: Aeros vs. Griffins: Well, That Sucked Edition

Sorry, I've got no comforting words after this one. The final score might have been 7-2, but trust me, it wasn't that close. Barry Brust didn't appear to have his best game tonight, but then again, his defense didn't appear to have its best game either as both he and Wade Dubielewicz, who played the last part of the third period, were both hit repeatedly by odd-man rushes and breakaways.

Kevin Constantine wasn't in the best of moods afterwards. He was disappointed by his team's non-thinking on the ice. He was very displeased about how the team played a chance at a potential 5-3 power play into being on the penalty kill. The defense wasn't good. The offense didn't take advantage of their chances. There's just nothing good to say.

Peter Zingoni left the game in the first with a lower body injury. Constantine played only three centers in the second period, then he moved Brandon Rogers up front in the third.

The Aeros needed this win tonight -- they just about need a win every time they play. And they looked awful. Not sure of what else there is to say. So I'm out going to wrap it up. Let's hope tomorrow night leaves us with a better result.

Apologies, again, for the short post. I've got to get up at 5:00 a.m. for the temp job -- I'm should get about 65 hours this week and I have decided that sleep is overrated. Hopefully Heather or Andrew can add some more words of wisdom than I'm capable of at the moment.

Aeros .5, Griffins 47 (okay not really, 2-7, but still)

So, when I play like shit, my teammates just kind of keep their distance. I'm not stupid. I know I sucked. I don't need a lecture. I do, though, get a lot of looks like the Goalie Angel was dishing out tonight:
But to be perfectly honest, it only makes it worse. And in fact, a word or two... a tap on the pads... would do wonders for me when I'm in quicksand up to my ears.

So, my dearest Aeros... Here you go:

"Hey boys. Get it together. You're letting them under your skin. " *tap tap*

Back to front, this team is so much better than it was tonight. KC didn't really have an explanation for it. It's just one of those, "Don't do it again" kinda nights.

John will pick it apart a little more for history's sake, but really.... maybe it's best to just pretend this didn't happen and get a do-over tomorrow. That feels good to me.

State of the Union, Aeros Style

Big big BIG week of games coming up for the Aeros. A very beatable Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday, and a tougher Chicago on Sunday, and then a mid-western swing of the Aeros closest competitors.

The Aeros have lost Cody Almond to the Wild, but the en fuego 20-year-old will get his first NHL start against Atlanta tonight. Pretty exciting for the kid!

In return, the Aeros get Robbie Earl back, who played well for MN but had cleared waivers and his time was running out to come down before having to clear again. Further, coach Todd Richards said his play had "slipped" lately, so that seems to be why Almond is getting a cuppa joe in his stead.

It also appears that they're keeping Khudobin up and letting Josh Harding's bum hip rest up, which means the Aeros will be relying on Dubielewicz and Brust through this 3-in-3 weekend home stand.

Also, Brandon Buck was sent down... got a hat trick for Florida... and has been recalled again. Maybe Bucky should get a sniff of a scoring line if the scoring lines aren't getting it done? Kid's got some goods!

Presumably, unless something odd happens, I would expect the dominoes to fall the other way come Sunday night when the Olympic break starts for the NHL.

Almond and Khudobin will head back to Houston and... well... *sigh* Brusty goes back to the muggy, bug-infested swamp. I mean... to Florida... which I'm sure is lovely. Even though he's the winningest goalie on the roster.

But yeah, send that one down.

*big sigh*

Let's just enjoy the weekend, shall we? Yes.

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Here some media to get your blood pumping for this weekend's games.

First up is John's article for the Press, all about the rotten egg Brusty's season has been thanks to injuries and a crowded roster.

Then, here's the video from last night's segment on ABC 13 on Mr. Crawford's wild ride last week as the Aeros emergency back-up goalie.










Finally, here's an article from AHL prez David Andrews that touches on the franchise shuffling that's going on in the AHL.

So far, Edmonton is resurrecting their franchise in OKC and the Albany River Rats (Carolina's AHL team) is moving to Charlotte (which has a trickle down effect in the ECHL, too, as they'll replace the popular Checkers franchise there).

There's a lot more coming down the pipe and it's intensely interesting (at least to me) to watch it all shake out. Anaheim still needs an affiliate -- Springfield needs an NHL team. Texas still needs a franchise -- Iowa HAS a franchise. Seems like some natural fits here, but I'm probably missing something as to why it's not that easy.

It makes my head hurt to try and puzzle it all out, so I'll wait patiently on the edge of my seat while people who know more do the figuring...

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I think that's it. Goalies tonight and tomorrow are McCollum and Larsson. Just so you can practice telling them they suck before you go. ;)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

OKC is now official

OKC is in, and Edmonton will be moving it's affiliation from Springfield (the home of the AHL) to Sooner country. In fact, there is a naming contest for the new team, but I fully expect the Blazer name to revive itself (unless there is some law or other legal issue in place to keep that from happening).

Tomorrow, the league will announce that the Carolina Hurricanes will move it's franchise from Albany to Charlotte.

As of right now, this is what I think I know. Please feel free to add to or correct.

Anaheim is the only NHL team with out an AHL team at the moment.
Springfield has a team, but no affiliation. Technically, so do the Iowa Chops.
Texas does not officially have an AHL franchise (last year, they were granted a special exemption ... and they will will purchase the first affiliate that is available for a move)
I guess at the moment, that leaves Springfield and Iowa as available for moves.

In the end, I think you are going to see a lot of switches this summer, and I have no idea how the AHL will meet its goal of getting 30 AHL teams (one per NHL team). Your thoughts?

Update: Here is a good article that kind of summarizes all that is going on.


Here is the league press release regarding the OKC deal:

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OKLAHOMA CITY JOINING AHL IN 2010-11
Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate to play at Cox Convention Center
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the league’s Board of Governors has approved the relocation of the AHL franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers from Edmonton, Alta., to Oklahoma City, Okla., to begin play there in the fall of 2010.

The Oklahoma City club will hit the ice for the 2010-11 season as the Oilers’ top development team and will play their home games at the newly renovated Cox Convention Center. Renovations such as a state-of-the-art scoreboard and sound system will complement other improvements including terrace suites, exclusive lounge areas and new locker room and workout areas at the downtown arena.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 6.5 million fans per season have attended AHL games across North America since 2001.

Crazy day for two (three, really) ECHLers

I meant to write about this the other day, but crap happens.

The Aeros needed two extra players Saturday because of a hip flexor injury to Fraser (he could/should be ready to go this weekend) and the suspension of Gillies. They literally picked up two players on their way to Grand Rapids.

Here is the story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune from the backup Wild beat writer:

Link

[The Cyclones had a game that night in Kalamazoo, Mich., which happens to be on the way to Grand Rapids -- Houston's opponent Saturday -- from Milwaukee. A plan was set to pick up Pierce at a local hotel, and have him in an Aeros uniform 15 hours later.]

As for the two players, Matt Pierce and Brock Sheahan, they both did their jobs and played well in the Aeros' come-from-behind win. Constantine told me those players were in a tough situation, but got through the game holding their own. He was very complimentary of both.

On a side note, with Ryan Nie (K-Wings goalie) having to back up Brust in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo got into a bad situation Saturday night. Their backup (Jeremy Duchesne) was having a bad game, but with the emergency guy backing him him, he had to stay in the game and take one up the you-know-where ... Duchesne gave up 10 goals to the (appropriately named) Wheeling Nailers.

Hate to spread rumors, but this is a blog!

OKC gets a team, and now the Charlotte Checkers are moving from the ECHL to the AHL.
Albany will lose the River Rats ... for now.

Here is a link to the rumblings ...

Things are getting very interesting!

Monday, February 8, 2010

AHL-to-OKC annoucement tomorrow

You see them all the time.
A press release is called to discuss the future of something in some place at some time.

It's the end of the worst kept secret in town.

Well, tomorrow morning an announcement is expected in Oklahoma City.
They will be talking about the future of hockey in that city.

Long have been the rumors about yet another team in the Southwest.
Well, it looks like we'll get some solid information this week.

All I know is that this is going to create quite the fun trying to determine what they are going to do with division re-alignment.

There are several potential scenarios, assuming that all the current AHL cities keep hockey in their cities (and Charlotte being added to make a 30th team), and here is one of them:

Break the league up into six, five-division teams. The West would look like this, with the top eight teams making the playoffs (the way it should be done, anyway)

West/West:
Houston, Texas, San Antonio, OKC and Abbotsford
West/Central:
Manitoba, Chicago, Milwaukee, Rockford, Peoria
West/Great Lakes
Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend wrap-up and Photos

The boys in the bomber sweaters survived (barely) another rough patch in the schedule and head home for a few days of recovery before getting hit with 2 weeks in a row of weekend 3-in-3s. Luckily the first one is at home. The next one, however, is another swing through the midwest.

Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of the midwestern teams. Can we get Abbotsford back? :)

After Wednesday's game, many of the guys were pretty well beat up. A few were missing, such as Colton Gillies, who got a 2 game suspension from the league for his hit on Peoria's Lampman Wednesday, and Max Noreau, who's home resting up that banged up arm.

Against a tough Milwaukee team Friday, it was just too heavy a burden. Sliced and Diced Brusty was on the bench in favor of Ryan Nie, the call-up from ECHL Kalamazoo, who was out of his league, allowing 5 goals on 19 shots. I'd say more about the game but honestly, I didn't watch most of it. But the ASS guys were there, obviously, so you can read their report.

And of course, being in Milwaukee, Chris "Tell It Like It Is" Jerina has some fantastic photos for us. If you pretend real hard, you can't tell how bad the game was.

Let's just get the ugly out of the way: Here's Nie getting scored on. Also, honestly, it's time to get the red paint out, Milwaukee. Save the dinged up nets for rec leaguers and practices. Have some nice ones for game time. Ya look like a slob.


Petr Kalus scheming on some mischief


Mmmmm, garlic bread sticks! And Ryan "Son of a" Gunderson!



Kassian puts a hurting on Guite
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Now, on to last night's game in Grand Rapids... GR is, quite simply, beatable. Sometimes you can have a less than stellar goalie, but make up for it to some degree with great defensive play. But really, GR has neither and the even-more-tired Aeros were able to take advantage of that and come back from a 2 goal deficit for the win.

Brusty was back in net and still looking a little gingerly with that sliced leg in the first. He seemed to settle in as the game went on, and the guys in front of him battled despite the fatigue and kept the load fairly light at 22 shots.

It was just a good solid team win last night, and a great chance to get a feel for GR, as they are in Houston Friday and Saturday for the rematch.

I'd love to go into the whole "what does the outcome of this latest batch of games mean for the playoffs" but to be honest, that's just not my bailiwick. I'll give it a shot, but don't expect it to be Ferraro or Royal quality.

I can tell you the Aeros are a measly 6 points out of first place and a sweep of Grand Rapids could be a real boon, but more important are the 2 games against Chicago, and then one each with Peoria and Milwaukee coming right after that.

I don't see Texas falling much from the top of the division, especially when they get Brent Krahn back later this month (he was out with a sports hernia, had surgery, and is back skating now).

Rockford is good and sitting at #2, but they've played 55 games meaning Texas has 4 games in hand on them at the moment. But below them is where the battle for the last two playoff spots will happen. Milwaukee, Chicago, Houston, Peoria.

San Antonio could surge, and they do have only 50 games played so far, which means games in hand with which to surge.

But clearly we're down the the final 25-30 games where all that first half of the season spent building chemistry, finding an identity, learning The Constantine Way, etc. have to start coming together consistently. They've won 7 of their last 10, so that bodes pretty well.

Hey, you know who's an amazing "crunch time/back against the wall" goalie? Some guy named Barry Brust. How about it, Jim? What else does he have to do?

Okay, just saying my peace there...




Oh and before I close this out, Khudobin had his first NHL start last night and was spectacular, stopping 38 of 39 shots in the win over the Philly Flyers. He was #1 star of the game and landed in some pretty elite company in the 3 stars of the night for the whole NHL. The spunky little Russian is hot hot hot!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nie to start for Aeros in Milwaukee tonight

Well, Josh Harding's injury finally opened a door for Barry Brust to stick with the Aeros for a spell, but it looks like his homecoming will entail riding the pine, at least for tonight (though I'd guess tomorrow night, too).

The laceration on his leg from Wednesday, which required 30-some stitches, is just too sore for him play. As such, the team has signed a PTO with Ryan Nie, who has played 21 games this season for the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings, earning a 2.80 GAA and .91 save percentage in that time.

He's even faced Brust in the ECHL this season and ended up winning the game off a 9-round shootout in which only 1 goal was allowed of the 18 shots. Awwww. Git out. That's a tough one.

T3I has confirmed that Nie will get the start tonight, and Andrew will be on a little later with more info, so stay tuned.

As an added note, Max Noreau's x-rays came up negative, so while he won't be with the team this weekend, he also won't be out for 6-8 weeks healing a broken arm. That would have been a devastating blow to this team, so drink your milk, kids, and keep those bones strong.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First-hand account of Khudobin's first NHL game/win

If you follow the Wild, you may already know this but to catch everyone up:

Josh Harding's been having hip problems, Nik Backstrom's been barfing his guts out and has a bad back, and so Dubie and Anton have been up with the Wild.

Tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, Harding says he's okay to go and feels good (and I'm thinking, Yeah right.... even small hip strains take forever to heal and if a hockey player is complaining about pain, it ain't because it's a small one... know what I'm sayin'?) Coach Todd Richards has Khudobin backing him up instead of Dubie.

Midway thru the third period, Harding surrenders the tying goal to put the game 2-2 and is shoved awkwardly into his net. Gets up very slowly but continues. Then with about 8 minutes left, he makes a HUGE diving save and from there... doesn't get up again without assistance and can't put any weight on his left leg.

Hey, guess what, Dimples! You're UP!

He was fantastic. Made 9 saves and looked perfectly cool and collected. But a friend of the blog wrote me an email and gave me the story as he saw it from his seat at the Xcel Center tonight and it's just too great not to share with you guys.

You have to promise not to take away his Man Card for getting "sappy" as he said, but I think if you don't get sappy about seeing a kid we've all watched grow up in the Wild organization finally make his NHL debut, there's something wrong with you.
Just getting home from the game. I did not wear my Aeros jersey, but I should have...

You heard it on TV, but the crowd was absolutely going nuts for Harding when he went down and down hard the first time. When he didn't get back up from that massive, spectacular save, he was getting a standing ovation. I know that sounds weird, but the save he made was amazing, and the crowd knew he was down and not getting back up and showed the respect.

When Khudobin made his first big save, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and that place was LOUD. I mean, I've been there when it's been loud, but the only other time I can remember it being louder was last seasons four minute 5v3 kill against the Canes. Everyone was just *screaming*.

Props to John Scott for helping his good friend off the ice. The look of total concern on the big boys face as he was propping up Harding reminded me of why I absolutely love this sport. You just don't see a collective "we care" holding of the breath as you saw in the team tonight when Harding wasn't getting up. I say props to John Scott, but every single member of the team would have been there to help Josh off.

Anton looked VERY shaky nervous when he took the ice. He didn't face much in the way of a decent shot until that first big save which had the crowd on their feet. We were in Row 17, right at the goal line. My wife and I could see him shaking on every face off near him. He was NERVOUS like you wouldn't believe.

Yet, when push came to shove, he was there. Yeah, you could tell he was nervous, but he was *focused*. I mean, the type of focus where you can tell he is thinking over and over in his head; "I will not let my team down. I will not let my team down." He always had his eye on the puck, he tried to play it but got caught a bit on one and was bailed out by Johnsson (i think).

Needless to say...

Very fine moment to witness.

It's moments like that which remind me why I love this sport.

I thought you would like to know our first hand account.

Oh, and my wife is going to buy a Khudobin Aeros jersey to commemorate it.

*grins*

You can't show more respect than that, in my opinion.

--tim
Honestly? *tears* This is why I LOVE the AHL, to watch these guys go up and live the dreams they've been nurturing here with us is such a gift.

The game moved me but your account moved me even more, Tim, so I really appreciate you sharing it with us. Might want to get the wife a Khudobin WILD jersey.... :)

Here's video of his two bigger saves:





Oh, and here's the cutest interview ever. Come on. Anybody who gives me shit for calling him Dimples... LOOK AT HIM! Adorable.



And here's some links:

Russo's post-game blog
Star-Tribune's game article

About Last Night

Real quick, before I get in trouble...

Here's the mothership post on last night's game, with lots of quotes from Brusty, Jeff Crawford, and Kevin Constantine.

As to Peoria's Bryce Lampman. Sources tell me that he suffered a mild concussion, ten stitches in his eyebrow, and some stitches in his lip.

Later.

The first cut is the deepest

Well, gang, that was a pretty wild game, but I'm sure I'll forget half of it because, well, Brusty was in net and that kinda gives me amnesia about everything else that happened.

I'm just gonna go random-style hitting the high/lowlights for me. I watched the whole game from the corners, by Brusty's net (because as usual, who knows how long we've got him? Must soak it all in. And also, press row was one seat short... or possibly had one scout too many and I figured I'd "sacrifice" and let John and Andrew have the seats... haha).

But that means I didn't see any of the goals for except on replay and had a pretty distorted perspective of most of the offensive play.

I do know that Falk getting a goal was kind of a big deal, right? And in fact, I thought he had quite a good game defensively as well, as did most of the rest of the team. It seemed like most of the failed efforts were happening in the neutral zone, but the boys were great around their own net, as Brusty's near-shutout can attest.

Not to say Brusty didn't play an incredible game, particularly through such challenging circumstances as, well, a giant gash in his leg from a skate.

He got cut with about 5 minutes left in the first period, and was clearly injured. I could tell it was something around the knee, but he kept looking at the outside of his knee and normally if you do something internally to your knee, you don't need to keep making visual inspections. So I wondered if he might have gotten sliced.

Now, think about the mental focus required to play knowing your leg has a big, bleeding gash in it. Not that he had a choice, considering his back-up (no offense, Mr. Crawford) and frankly, Brusty has something to prove with every game he plays in the AHL. I think he proved it tonight.



Though I gotta tell ya, I've never quite been quite as "OMG" as when I walked out of the visitor's tunnel tonight at the start of the second to see back-up goalie Jeff Crawford skating around the net... or quite so relieved to see Brusty finally skating toward the net (amid quite a buzz in the crowd).

I was really just like, "What now?" And actually even started thinking about what other goalies I knew were in the building for the Houston Hockey Series game and whoever else might be there. Weird.

I saw Crawford outside the locker room after the game and really wanted to stop him and say, "Man, you lived so many beer league goalie dreams tonight." I think he knows it though. Just to even open the gate for an AHL team, much less get out there in front of the net for the start of a period and almost get to play? Amazing.

KC made it sound like the plan is to get a local guy to back up again when they head to Milwaukee this weekend, rather than calling up someone the team knows, like Brett Jaeger in CHL Texas. Not sure I agree with that call given the extent of Brusty's cut (30 stitches! OMG!). I know Brusty's in a situation where he really would have to probably have his leg cut off completely before he'd leave a game, but still. Having someone who COULD play a reasonably good pro game sounds better than beer league goalies.

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Also, I wanna give props to Danny Irmen for being in on 3 of the prettiest goals of the season. He had another one tonight. His role in them isn't always super pretty, but he's right there with them on the pretty plays, setting up, going hard to the net. Great stuff!

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It was tough to watch that Gillies hit and ensuing human damage up close tonight. Apparently Gillies was hurt on the play, too, but he'll have plenty of time to heal up while he serves whatever suspension the league hands down.

It looked like the guy he hit is going to be okay, but it's always terrifying to see a player in a motionless heap on the ice like he was. Poor EMT was eating his dinner, too. Somewhere some french fries go wasted.

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Okay, I've gotten about 6 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours. I'm gonna go play dead for a few hours.

2/3/10 -- Aeros v. Rivermen -- A Few Quick Notes

Some quick notes from tonight's game because...I lost my quotes when I sent my story to the mothership and I don't feel like re-transcribing and I really need to get to bed.

The Aeros got the 4-1 win in a must-win game, but it could prove to be very costly. Max Noreau blocked a shot with his left forearm in the second period, and he did not return. He'll be getting X-rays on Thursday. He will not be traveling with the team to Milwaukee on Thursday morning, but he hopes to be able to join the team if the X-rays come out okay. However, if he got a break, he'll probably be out 4-6 weeks.

Jon DiSalvatore missed the game because he was sick. He might travel to Milwaukee. Or might not. Kevin Constantine told us after the game that he has no idea of who'll be on the plane. Colton Gillies is probably facing a suspension. And I saw him come out of the trainer's room, but I don't know the extent of his injury.

Speaking of injuries, the Aeros got lucky with Barry Brust. It looked from the press box like he hurt his right foot, but he got slashed on his thigh right above his right knee. It was really deep and nasty, and he took about 25-30 stitches before he could get back out on the ice. As it was, he needed more work on it after the game. Constantine said that the ref and the Peoria coach gave him an extra two minutes when they didn't have to so that Brust could get back out on the ice.

Jeff Crawford got the call from Troy Ward at about 1:30 asking if he could suit and back up Barry Brust. Crawford said this was a once in a lifetime thing, and that he didn't know that Brust was going to come back out for the second period. His goalie experience has come during Aeros practice where he has filled in at goal when Dubielewicz and Khudobin have been sick or injured. Brust said that, after the season's he had, there was no way he was coming out of the game. And Constantine gave Brust the credit for the win, saying that this was one of those games that was dependent on the goalie to win.

Constantine does not yet know what the team is going to do about a backup goalie in Milwaukee. There's a chance that either Dubielewicz or Khudobin will rejoin the team. If not, Constantine said they would make some calls and check around on who is available in the Milwaukee area. I would suggest they give Tony Hrkac a call and see if he has any recommendations. He also does not yet know what will happen with the forwards, and whether he'll need to find someone along the way.

I have not heard anything further on the condition of Bryce Lampman.

(And please check the mothership tomorrow for quotes from Crawford, Brust, and Constantine).