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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

AHL announces all-rookie team

No Aeros on this list.

Chad Rau is the team's top rookie this year, and he is on an AHL-only contract (as in not drafted by Minnesota).
Rau was originally selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 7th round (228th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

I like Chad's game, and he scored a couple of very nice goals against Peoria last weekend.
Hope he gets another deal for next season.

Here is the official All-rookie courtesy of the AHL:

2009-10 AHL All-Rookie Team


Goaltender: Alex Stalock, Worcester Sharks (56gp, 37-16-2, 2.63gaa, .908sv%, 3so)
Defenseman: John Carlson, Hershey Bears (48gp, 4+35=39pts., +37)
Defenseman: P.K. Subban, Hamilton Bulldogs (71gp, 18+34=52pts., +43)
Forward: Logan Couture, Worcester Sharks (42gp, 20+33=53pts.)
Forward: Lars Eller, Peoria Rivermen (66gp, 16+37=53pts.)
Forward: Tyler Ennis, Portland Pirates (69gp, 23+42=65pts.)

Rookie Darcy Kuemper will suit up tonight

Earlier this week, Anton Khudobin was called up to the Wild to back up Nicklas Backstrom.
Josh Harding, who probably needed surgery the last time he hurt himself, REALLY needs surgery now.
Khudobin will be with the big club for the rest of the year, and with Barry Brust on the shelf, that left the Aeros with no No. 2 netminder.

Thanks to the Red Deer Rebels getting eliminated from the playoffs, the Aeros now have a backup in Darcy Kuemper.
He will dress tonight, and even though it is unlikely, he could get the start against the Wolves tonight. Personally, I love Wade Dubielewicz, but he's had a rough go against the Wolves and he put two pucks in his own net Sunday against Peoria.

My gut tells me this guy is closer to Kyle Kettles than, say a Josh Harding, who was really good when he was with the Aeros. But we'll see. T3I has gotten somewhat of a scouting report from the Red Deer beat writer, and there was nothing to make me think the Aeros are getting a preview of their next No. 1 goalie. In fact, I think the general sentiment was that Kuemper would benefit from another year in the WHL.

In other news:

The Aeros will also get Marco Scandella for the rest of the year, but he probably will not get in town in time to dress tonight. Possible, but not likely. Look for him, though, to be in the lineup Friday against the Wolves.

Not really much to play for on the Aeros side as the team will look COMPLETELY different next year ... but, the Wolves. Man, they have to win these two against the Aeros, and expect them to do just that. The Stars are only six points back in the standings and are playing the best of any team in the division right now. The Wolves want home ice and are probably the favorite to come out of the division if they get it.

That is all for now. See you at the rink.

Andrew

Pictures from NASA night!

I remember this game from a few weeks ago (March 12 to be exact) ... but I had forgotten that it was NASA night.

The Aeros' front office has done their fair share of "nights" to get the Aeros out of their funk.

They brought in astronauts, former presidents and even Cardinal DiNardo.

I guess that is better than "Let's blow a two-goal lead" night!

For the record, the first George Bush is the only celebrity to have brought the team any luck.

Maybe, for John's sake, we can get Taylor Swift in the building before the year comes to an end.

Interesting piece on relocation

In my reading last night, I came across this piece.

It discusses the possible sites of relocation should an NHL team decide to move.

Houston is always in the mix, but, as per the usual, is in the second tier or so.

Give it a look and comment on what you think.

Tickets to NHL games in Houston would mirror those of what Stars fans are paying.
Would you support the NHL in Houston?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Moving right along: Aeros 3, Monsters 2

I almost forgot about the letter W, it's been so long and so rare that the Aeros have won.

A win is great and loooong overdue, but this one makes me a little bit sad. Hear me out:

The game was between two teams who are out of the playoff hunt, nobody really had much on the line, not much in the way of physical play. Not flat, but not mountainous either, if you know what I mean. Just a steady pace from both teams.

And then early in the third, the Monster's Philippe Dupuis checked Cody Almond into the boards along the Aeros bench. Together, they had enough forward momentum that they went down the boards shoulder-to-shoulder and Almond got his head creamed into the pad that covers the corner of the glass at the end of the bench.

They showed it a few times and man, he was lucky to leave the ice on his feet instead of a stretcher. Whip lash, bitches. Big time.

I was thinking, before I saw the replay, "Why isn't anybody going after that guy?" Well, it just took a minute. Danny Irmen stood up for his teammate on a shift not long after, though there wasn't much to the fight, but that wasn't the point. Dupuis kinda sorta had to answer for his actions, because this is hockey and that's how it's done.

What happened after that, though, is the part that makes me sad. Suddenly, the energy on the ice and in the building completely changed. The boys were FIRED UP. There was passion like I've rarely seen from this team. They were united; playing for each other.

Maybe I'm making up drama that wasn't there (wouldn't be the first time), but I don't think so. Gillies got a penalty shortly after all this and I've never seen the kid so mad in the box. Great stuff. And lots of chippiness from everyone until DiSalvatore tied it up 11 minutes into the third on a power play.

But here's what bums me out: Why did a key member of the team have to have his head lopped off for this team to suddenly find some unity and passion? All season long, they've been hard working, high character, tough to play against. All those things promised at the beginning of the season. But no passion, no spark.

So, I just have to wonder... if they'd been able to find that "playforeachother"ness that I saw tonight back in, say, December, I really think we'd be buying playoff tickets right now instead of renewing season tickets.

Untapped potential, unfulfilled promise: Always a bit disappointing. But I don't mean to be such a Debbie Downer. It was a spirited win and the boys deserve credit for figuring out to---for heaven's sake---shoot high on Weiman. Wow. Did you see that? Both DiSalvatore and Earl's goals about put a hole in the roof of the net. Weiman didn't even come close. But they were great shots, too.Can't deny that.

Anyway, the Aeros now have 71 points, thus crushing my dream of them ending the season with 69 points. I know it's incredibly juvenile but that's what happens when you're into garbage time. You start getting punchy with nothing new to say.

No John tonight, so this and the paper are as good as it gets for game detail. Sorry about that. Andrew might have some more for ya later, too.



PS... I also wanted to give props to the Aeros staff for changing the Stars of the Game on the fly when Earl scored the game winner. Normally the stars are chosen 5 mins before regulation is over which means with overtime and shootout dramatics, they can sometimes be a bit bewildering. So kudos for calling an audible and getting it right. All teams should do that.

An epilogue to the Garrett Gamble Story

The Montreal Gazette wrote a story about the death of Garrett Gamble and how his father, former Aeros and Canucks goalie Troy, is dealing with the pain of losing a son.

I wanted to share since it does contain some fairly powerful quotes from Troy.

Also, the writer explains why Troy never made it as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. For those of you wondering, I have included that graph if you don't want to go to the Web site and read the entire piece for yourself.

"Dedicated Canucks fans will remember Gamble’s goaltending career with the team was brief, in part because it was cut short by repeated concussions and also the emergence of Kirk McLean in the early 1990s. How good he could have been without the shots to the head or his difficulties with conditioning will never be known, but while he was in Vancouver he had Garrett with him."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sifers reassigned to Aeros

The Wild reassigned defenseman Jaime Sifers to the Aeros today. Brent Burns is good enough to go in St. Paul, and Greg Zanon, per Mike Russo, looks like he will play through that broken ankle.

The Aeros don't play again until Friday, but the Wild, I think, play twice before then. It's likely the Wild will suffer an injury or two before Friday, but I know the Aeros could really benefit from having a mostly complete team for the first time in a long time.

A win Friday gets the team back to .500.

3/21/10 -- Aeros v. Admirals -- The Carry That Weight Edition

My apologies for taking so long to wrap up this weekend’s games. I cover more than just the Aeros -- thus my absence the past several weeks -- and there’s been breaking news with the Houston Cougars I’ve been having to deal with. Plus, I’m once again unemployed from my primary profession, and I’ve been trying to hunt up some work. So, that aside…

It’s been about a month since I’ve seen the Aeros play in person. The last game I remember seeing was the game where the news leaked out that Tony Hrkac was returning. So yes, it’s been awhile. But besides the Aeros dropping to the bottom of the standings, nothing much has changed. The effort’s still there. The guys still seem to give a damn. But despite the return of Andy Hilbert over the weekend, they still can’t find a way to get the puck in the damn net; the stupid penalties are still prevalent at unnecessary times -- Brandon, really, did you have to pull a Matt Foy on Sunday? And the goalies, no matter the criticism they’re getting from unnamed people, are doing their best to keep the team in games, but the goalies this year just aren’t able to do a repeat of the Nolan Schaefer/Barry Brust season of 2007-2008.

There were two winnable games over the weekend, but nothing the Aeros did seem to work. Well, I do think Kevin Constantine throwing out a starting line on Sunday of Matt Kassian, Robbie Earl, and Carson McMillan brought a different energy to the team. But the team lost 3-1 on Saturday and 2-1 in overtime on Sunday to the Milwaukee Admirals to drop even further back in last place.

Anton Khudobin got the start on Saturday, and he put up a good effort on Saturday, only to find himself, once again, sabotaged by his defense and lack of offense. And Wade Dubielewicz found himself victimized in overtime by a shot that hit the pipe and bounced in.

“It’s tough,” Dubielewicz said after the loss. “We’re a young group, we’re working hard. It’s really discouraging right now. We’ve got to find away -- whether it’s a big game out of a goalie or a big game out of player -- we’ve got to find a way to get out of this little funk we’re in and try to get some wins together. You never know what’s going to happen to other teams. But right now we’re backed into a pretty tough corner. Something special’s got to happen for us. Somebody’s got to do something special for us to get out of it.”

Dubielewicz said it was his hope, before the game, that he would be the one to provide that special game. He wanted to give his teammates the win, but he just couldn’t do it. And if ever a game was the epitome of the Aeros season, perhaps Sunday was that example. The Aeros outshot Milwaukee. They even had some great shot attempts, but there was some good Milwaukee goaltending to stop some of the shots, then there were two third period shots that clanked off the pipes, but instead of bouncing in, as the Milwaukee shot did on OT, they bounced out.

“There’s no quitting here,” Dubielewicz said. “And I’m proud of that. But at the same time, this is professional hockey, and we have to make plays, and we have to make saves, and we have to score goals. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to be around hockey for a long time. It’s really disappointing on that level because there’s a lot of character in this room. I think with a break or two we could be a different story.”

A break or two. That’s the been the team’s story the entire season. A break or two. And that break or two is something that they have yet to get. With just 11 games remaining in the season, the 29-30-7-4 Aeros should probably just forget about getting that break, unless, that is, you count as a break the opportunity to go home and erase this once-promising season from their minds.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Andy Hilbert returned to action this weekend for the first time in months. The Aeros season was probably doomed to failure by Hilbert’s concussion, and the injuries to Peter Zingoni, because they were probably the guys with the best set of offensive skills on a team that desperately needed offensive skills. And while they missed large parts of the season, and guys like Nathan Smith spent time in Minnesota, the Aeros were just never able to put together a sustained offensive effort. But Kevin Constantine doesn’t want to use that as a crunch for what happened this season.

“You try to look at the fact that everybody goes through injuries,” he said Saturday night. “You try not to rely on the injury totals, or call-ups, to dictate -- if you look at guys called up through over the last three years, we haven’t really been a team that’s been completely dependent on certain injuries and call-ups. Other guys have managed to win.”

And Constantine has a point. Then you look at other things. For instance, Krys Kolanos was generally the guy called up to the Wild last season. And Kolanos’s trips up didn’t help the team. Then again, Kolanos wasn’t the team’s only offensive weapon last season. Corey Locke was putting up big numbers. So was Jesse Schultz. Marco Rosa put up good numbers. Things might have been different last season if Kolanos were to have been up with the Wild and Locke and Schultz were injured and unable to play for most of the season, but that didn’t happen.

And the team before that didn’t have much in the way of offensive talent, either. But Schaefer and Brust were both putting together incredible seasons that were beyond special, and which are not the type of numbers generally put up by a tandem because. And the primary guy who spent most of that season in Minnesota was Erik Reitz.

I appreciate what Constantine’s trying to get at. He’s not trying to use an excuse to explain away the season. But Zingoni and Hilbert were supposed to be key members of the offense, and with their extended absences, nobody on the front line has stepped up to take their place on a consistent basis. Max Noreau has tried from the blue line. And no one can discount the effort and hustle of Jean-Michel Daoust.

Well, you get my point by now, I hope.

***************
Okay, I know I’ve been away for awhile, but what happened to all of the Lady Dynamics? I saw five at each of the games, the same five. What happened to the rest? Did they bail on the team, or something?

***************
My Beatles selection tonight is dedicated to the goalies, Anton Khudobin, Wade Dubielewicz, and Barry Brust. Too often this season, it seems that they’ve had the weight of the world on their shoulders as they’ve tried to single-handedly carry the Aeros to victory. Thus, I bring you the final melody of side two of Abbey Road (the greatest album ever recorded), which just happens to feature the only drum solo ever performed by Ringo Starr as the drummer of The Beatles. So here’s “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Aeros lose 2-1 in OT to Milwaukee

Oh, I'm sad. I asked my new Brusty bobblehead before the game if the Aeros would win and he was definitive in his affirmation. "Yes yes yes yes yes," he said.

Alas, I think the results were skewed by his inability to shake his head. But the boys held out pretty good and got a point out of the game. Shame they can't donate these points to a charity that could use them. Like the Binghamton Senators.

Not a lot to say about this game except that a) Dubie didn't get pulled and actually played... well, he kept the puck out of the net, stopping 26 of 28 shots b) the boys still played hard and showed a lot of gusto even when, really, there's only pride to play for at this point.

I loved the Earl, Kassian, McMillan line. And starting them? Haha. Cool.

Anyway, I think John will be on later with less nonsense and more real stuff.

But I do have pictures!

Ladies? You feelin' it? Oh yeah. Hot.

Earl's goal and Kassian's ass. Not sure which I like more....

Game winning goal from Dietrich and Max's ass. I KNOW which of those I like better...

Aeros lose 3-1 to Milwaukee (now w/ photos!)

You used to losing yet? I kinda am. Not that it's fun or anything, but if I'm remotely entertained by a game, it's a win. And so far, really, since the boys have fallen out of realistic contention, I can't complain. The games have been entertaining.

I used to love fights when I first started watching hockey, but they don't excite me too often any more. However, the one tonight between Straub and Grant was pretty damned good. Both guys were just throwing bombs and it was like, "Where'd THAT come from?" which are kinda my favorite fights. Just, like, spontaneous hatred. Great stuff.

Also, it does seem Grant lost a tooth in the ordeal. The story in the press box is that that's what Daoust was handing to Grant in the penalty box, but it seems like they'd have sent him to the doc, right? The toughness of hockey players seemingly has no bounds. Not sure if I'm starting a myth by writing about this here, but maybe one of the guys knows more. (Okay, so maybe none of that happened, but it's a damn good story, so I'm leaving it.)

Other than that, what's worth mentioning tonight? The one 5 on 3 PP goal by Daoust from a rebound off a Noreau Special was nice. The 47 times they whiffed or missed a pass in front of an open net... not so nice. There's a theory that you create your own luck but I think that's bullshit. These guys created some amazing chances for themselves tonight and had no luck at all. No bounce went their way all night long, at least when it came to getting the puck in the net. A foot off here, a foot off there. It should have been 10-3 for how many times that puck should have gone in.

Credit to Dekanich though, he kept 'em out. Wasn't pretty, but doesn't need to be. On the other hand, I was a little bothered by some of Khudobin's reactions tonight, just from a "goalie scout" standpoint. I was getting a lot of frustration from him and lots of body language that seemed rather petulant to me. I expect a better mental game out of him at this point.

I'm sure there's more... and we will have pics from Chris "Breakfast Tacos" Jerina later...but, dawg, I am tired and going to bed now. See you tomorrow. 3:05 p.m. puck drop!

UPDATE: Here's photos from last night.

Hasn't been enough of this, but it's nice to see:

Toe save, bitches:

Photos by Chris "I thought Houston was hot!" Jerina

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pre-Game update....

The Aeros announced today they got Dubielewicz back from Minnesota. Don't expect him to start tonight. The defensive corps(e) (pun!) is very depleted right now, so the team signed Brandon Straub from the CHL Allen Americans. Straub has seen a dozen or so games (in the last two years) with the Quad City Flames and the Lake Erie Monsters.

He was also a teammate of Chad Rau when the two were at Colorado College back in 06-07. The infamous Jimmy Kilpatrick was also on that team. I knew that name sounded familiar, so I did some research ... and, as it turns out, Straub was in training camp for the Texas Stars during the preseason. He is the guy that floated a lazy shot from the blue line that clipped off Dubielewicz' glove and went into the net for a soft goal and a 1-0 lead. The Aeros eventually won that game 3-2 in the shootout. (Do you remember that? This team used to win those.)

Switching gears, Andy Hilbert has been practicing and could make his long-awaited return after being out since December with a concussion. D-man Ryan Lannon, also out with a concussion, is not close to returning.

See you at the rink tonight.

Aeros sign Straub; Hilbert could go tonight

The Aeros announced today they got Dubielewicz back from Minnesota. Don't expect him to start tonight. The defensive corps(e) (pun!) is very depleted right now, so the team signed Brandon Straub from the CHL Allen Americans. Straub has seen a dozen or so games (in the last two years) with the Quad City Flames and the Lake Erie Monsters.

He was also a teammate of Chad Rau when the two were at Colorado College back in 06-07. The infamous Jimmy Kilpatrick was also on that team. I knew that name sounded familiar, so I did some research ... and, as it turns out, Straub was in training camp for the Texas Stars during the preseason. He is the guy that floated a lazy shot from the blue line that clipped off Dubielewicz' glove and went into the net for a soft goal and a 1-0 lead. The Aeros eventually won that game 3-2 in the shootout. (Do you remember that? This team used to win those.)

Switching gears, Andy Hilbert has been practicing and could make his long-awaited return after being out since December with a concussion. D-man Ryan Lannon, also out with a concussion, is not close to returning.

See you at the rink tonight.

Weekend Round-up

The Aeros are back home tonight for Clutterbuck Bobblehead Night, Kids Weekend, Tough Guy Night, etc etc. Should be a decent crowd, especially for a team deeeeep in the basement of its division.

Luckily, we might just have a couple of decent games on our hands here, as Milwaukee is in the fourth spot in the division and trying to make sure they secure that playoff position. You know they're watching Peoria, 3 points behind them, and know they MUST take some points out of this weekend.

The Aeros, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to lose and are in a position to really put a hurting on Milwuakee's season if they can get it together. Of course, that's a big if, because they're not in the basement for lack of trying. They haven't gotten it together much of the season and now they're tissue paper thin on the blue line. And have been off for almost a week. They're gonna be rustier than a box of wet nails.

The defensive woes look to stick around, too, as Justin Falk earned himself a concussion in his first NHL game last night with the Wild. Poor kid. And on an apparently dirty play, too. Welcome to The Show, where headshots "won't be tolerated."

I guess if you have to get your bell rung, you might as well do it making "show dough." Buy yourself something nice, pumpkin. Just not a book or TV or exercise equipment... Maybe a really nice pillow so you can sleep this thing off.

In other news, Sifers and Earl were both put on waivers Friday, but the way the Wild are getting injured, and the fact that the team can keep a waived player on the roster for another 30 days after they clear, I would anticipate them staying up.

Also, Wade Dubielewicz was reassigned to Houston this morning, so presumably he'll back up Khudobin this weekend.

Elsewhere, in case you missed it, a little bit of AHL history was made last night as Binghamton Senators goalie Chris Holt scored a goal for only the 10th time ever in the league.What's more, he was only the 6th to do it directly, as opposed to an own goal by the other team where the opposing goalie was the last to touch it.

I've been keeping up with the news on it (and hope to have good quality video on it this morning sometime) over at InGoalMag.com.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reports from the weekend w/ photos

It's always interesting to me, after a long season, to get a fresh perspective on the team. I think we're pretty fair, but we do see these guys an awful lot and it's easy to get into a rut.

So, it's cool when a Wild fan goes on a bit of a road trip and checks the guys out and gives a thorough report with fresh eyes (but still some knowledge about the players).

If you're interested in a first hand account of Saturday and Sunday's games, check out Bozak's Random Hockey Thoughts. I think you'll find his takes as an "outsider" worthwhile.

-----------------------
He's promising pictures later, but I'll give you pictures right the heck now, thanks to Chris "Leavin' on a Jetplane" Jerina.

Our Man in the Midwest is gonna be here this weekend for the Milwaukee games, so if you see him running around with his camera Saturday and Sunday, be sure and yell obscenities at him. Kidding. Kidding. Be nice.

Kassian, with a rather nice beard going, gets his fists of fury on.

Falker Scores!

 
Go-ahead goal for Rockford

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Caption Contest Winner

There were some good ones (see the comments), but this took the cake.

The best defense he

(Unfortunately, no actual cake was had in the making of this LOL.)

Our winner is anonymous, so the grand prize of a beer on me (not literally, unless... oh, never mind) at the Maple Leaf Pub will go in my belly instead. Too bad, sucka!!!

Thanks for playing though, and thanks to everyone for their great suggestions. Also, thanks to Brusty, who is always a great sport, for letting us have some fun with him. Rock on.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heartbreaker: Peoria 4, Aeros 3

As passionless as this season has felt, this game finished with as much passion as I've seen out of this team all year.

The Aeros were up early thanks to two goals from JM "I'm little but I'm clutch" Daoust, until late in the first when Lars Eller scored for Peoria.

What sank the team was a really abysmal 2nd period that left me wondering what brand of vodka they were drinking in the second intermission. Just a messy, messy period. And Peoria capitalized with a goal by Drazenovic to tie it up.

All was well and honestly, Khudobin was unreal... until Porter blasted a shot that hit his pad, hit the inside of the post, and in. All goals suck as a goalie, but goals like that especially suck. I felt for him after having played so well, but you have to stop that.

The Aeros buckled down hard and played some seriously inspired hockey to try and get that goal back, particularly DiSalvatore, who created opportunities left and right. But then basically caused the game winner by coming on for the pulled Khudobin and whiffing on a pass attempt that resulted in a turnover and empty net goal.

Doh.

It was a thriller to the finish though, as the Aeros did actually make up one goal in the two-goal deficit with 33 seconds on the clock thanks to Nathan Smith, but the 33 wasn't enough to get 'er done.

It was, for me, the most heartbreaking finish of the year. As I tweeted, I literally had to fight back tears. Granted, it was too little too late and that second period and sketchy goal killed them, but it was the first time I really FELT something from this team. Know what I mean?

They wanted it. They just didn't want it bad enough soon enough.

I didn't talk to KC after the game but it looks like Andrew and I are cross-posting, so I'm sure he'll have more for you. This chair is making my butt hurt, so I'm going home.

Division doormat

Let me first apologize up front for being a little long-winded tonight. But after watching the team lose they way they did tonight, I think I needed to take a good, long look at the big picture.

I promise you though, that if you get through this you'll be a little smarter. If not, well, let me know, and I will put on some Stetson and make myself (and a few others) feel better than way.

When the Aeros get home from Chicago O'Hare Monday morning, it is very likely that the team will have a very nice grip on the basement in the West division standings. Right now, whether they admit it or not, the other teams on the Aeros schedule and circling "HOU" as two points. Just about every one of those teams still has a chance at making the playoffs, so these last dozen games are so will be just like the playoffs. Every game you see from here on out will have some sort of postseason implication, and the Aeros are going to get their opponents best every ... single ... night.

Friday's game carried the same theme as many of the Aeros games have had in recent weeks. That theme being blowing it late with a soft goal or two. It's easy to blame the goaltending on a last-place team, so I will back this up with a few facts.

Let's rewind a bit.

2/25 vs. Manitoba: In a close game, the Aeros tie it late. After allowing just six shots on goal in the third period, they lose with 3:24 left on a late Moose goal.

2/27 vs. Texas: Aeros allow Texas three goals on their first three shots and never recover.

3/3 at San Antonio: Aeros have a 3-1 lead in the third period. They allow seven shots after taking the lead, two of them go in and they lose in a shootout.

3/6 at Texas Stars: Down 3-1, the Aeros rally with two big goals in the third period. They allow just five shots in the third period, two of then go in and they lose 4-3.

3/12 (tonight) vs. Peoria: The Aeros race out to a 2-0 lead, they allow just 21 shots in the game (several fewer than that when it mattered) and Anton Khudobin allows a very soft goal by Nicholas Drazenovic.

What is the pattern in all these losses? Well, for one thing not enough goals ... but in several cases here, they are enough. Enough to at least get a point. Enough to at least get a good third period and hold on.

The Aeros goalies just aren't stopping enought pucks when they need to. Sure, who am I to criticize goaltending? Well ... I have seen enough goaltending, though, and here is one thing I do know: statistics.

Entering play Friday, the Aeros were the NO. 1 team in the league in shots allowed per game. At 25.85, they are the only team allowing fewer than 26 shots per game. Divide that by three. That averages out to less than NINE shots per period. Nine (wish I could make that flash).

The Aeros saves percentage by period is as follows:

  • First - .900
  • Second - .895
  • Third - .893

It goes down every period, even though (and especially recently) they are allowing fewer and fewer shots as the games go on. My point to all of this is that their goaltending has not been very good. It has not been clutch, and with a team that struggles to score goals (yes, they are damn near the worst team in the league in that regard) the defense and the goalies have to find a way to limit opportunities and to make big saves.

Even with a huge mental lapse or two every period, their shots against numbers ARE good enough. Even with above average goaltending, the team should be winning more.

Maybe I am just being a little hard on the goalies tonight because of how the Peoria game ended. That was a terrible goal, so maybe I shouldn't be calling the guy out. But that is why I looked up the stats. From here on out, the goalies need to realize that there is a whole lot more to play for than any silly notion of the playoffs.

Barry is done this year due to injury, but I think his body of work warrants someone in the AHL giving him a shot in 2010-11. He also has four of the last six wins in net.

Wade Dubielewicz is rusty beyond belief right now, but I seriously don't think he is coming back to the Wild organization next year. If and when he gets any minutes down the stretch, he is playing for next year. If he has a European contract lined up for next year, I don't know about it. Wade has been a stand-up guy, too, win or lose, and I think he very much cares about how the rest of this season will turn out.

And Anton. Man, I love that kid. He always talks to the media... good or bad. He usually gives a pretty honest and candid assessment of his performance and his care and want to are very contagious in the locker room. But he, far more than anyone else, needs to have a good last few weeks.

The Wild are going to make some big decisions this offseason as far as where to take the team, and Anton needs to know that he is not penciled in the No. 2 or No. 3 spot on the depth chart going in to next year. They will bring someone in to challenge for that job, and Anton needs to find some clutch to go along with that great personality and go-get-'em attitude.

There is less than one month left to watch this hockey team. I hope I gave you something a little extra to look at next time you check them out.

Garrett Gamble killed in Afghanistan

It has not been a good month for former Aeros and their immediate families.

Recently, the daughter of former Aeros forward Jeff Christian was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Today, the DOD announced that the 20-year old son of former Aeros goalie Troy Gamble was killed in Afghanistan earlier this week. According to the Houston Chronicle, Lance Cpl. Garrett W. Gamble (pictured left) died Thursday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Troy played for the Aeros their first two years in Houston (1994-95 and 1995-96) and did home radio and TV commentary with several broadcasters after that.

I believe Troy has been living and working in the Middle East the last few years, but I have seen him at a few games during the Kevin Constantine era. For those of you who know Troy, he is a very likeable person, and his kids adored him.

Say a prayer for the Gamble family ... And Garrett, thank you for your service to this country. Despite our many issues politically, and otherwise, we still live in the greatest country on Earth, thanks to men like you.

Rest in Piece, brother, and I hope the Aeros make time tonight for a well-deserved moment of silence.

Troy Gamble in action for the Canucks


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Name that caption contest, Brusty style

Our friends at A.S.S. have done this before, and now it is our turn.
On the very bottom of this post is a picture, and we want you to turn in your caption that you think should go along with it.

We'll keep this open though the end of the weekend, so put on your thinking caps.

Now a little background ...

Sunday, I had a nice, relaxing (rare) day off, so I decided to take my son to a ball game. Rice was playing the TCU Horned Frogs at Minute Maid Park. We got there in the third inning with the Owls leading 1-0.

(Be sure to read John's recap and thoughts of the ENTIRE weekend here!)

After the Owls took a 3-1 lead later in the game, I decided to take my son, Caden, around the park to do a little exploring. So we get out to the bullpen, and lo and behold, there are several Aeros out there having a good time.

We chatted about baseball, and Danny Irmen was giving the bullpen catcher some good tips on *cough* life and stuff while one of the Owls' relievers was warming up. Barry Brust was kind enough to pose for this picture with Caden.

Barry Brust and Caden Ferraro

Barry, as always, was sporting one of his vintage NFL jerseys. In this case, I did not see the number,but it LOOKED like a Denver Broncos jersey.

After I took some crap for wearing a Detroit Tigers hat, we went to back to our regular seats to finish the game. The Owls scored two in the ninth to win the game, letting Irmen off the hook for helping the Rice reliever blow a key save.

To be fair, it was all in good fun. College baseball players get WAY more crap from the fans when they play at Olsen Field in College Station, even though Irmen would give them a good run for their money.

Now to our featured photo! In the game, Brust nearly caught a homerun ball with his hat. I saw the play happen from my seats down the third base line, but when Barry told me it was him, I had to find out if anyone took a picture. Well, here it is ... and it's very good.


Is this the last action shot we'll see of Barry Brust in Houston, Texas?
Now see, there is my entry for a caption ... what is yours?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brust to undergo foot surgery

Hang on while I get some tissues...

*sigh*

So, it appears we've seen the last of Barry Brust with the Aeros this season. That stubborn foot pretended to be fixed, and it got him through 31 games this season between Houston and Florida, but it wasn't all better and started bugging him again recently.

And now, says Brusty, it's surgery time. They've told him he'll be out 6 weeks, which means he could possibly catch some playoff action in Florida if everyone's game for it. And who wouldn't be game for Brusty?

Anyway, so it sounds like they'll be doing the surgery in the next week or so here in Houston, so hopefully we'll still see* him around the halls before the final horn on this season blows. <---spot the subliminal message

Of course, we wish him a successful and speedy recovery, some good drugs, and may that foot never utter a peep of discontent for the rest of his playing days.

*And by "see" of course, I mean "stare lustily at"

Photo by Fred "another guy we really miss" Trask

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Aeros get a win at long last: 3-1 vs. San Antonio

Let's drop the puck and get it on!!!

Oh, we already did that. Well, I'm watching the replay on FSNorth. NOT in crystal clear HD like it was on Wednesday but I guess beggars can't be choosers, can they?

We'll see if anything jumps out at me but it was, bottom line, just a good, smart, solid game from top to bottom for the Aeros.

First off, I want to give a cookie to Jaime Sifers for dropping to block a shot. That aspect of defensive sacrifice that's been missing from this team, particularly from guys who haven't been playing Constantine's system the last couple of years, has been painfully apparent and grew even more so on the losing streak of late.

Good solid shot blocking has been a trademark the last couple of seasons but nearly non-existent to any notable degree this season. I wouldn't wanna do it either, frankly, which is why I'm a goalie. I love to get hit with pucks but only because I have 40 lbs of gear keeping it from hurting TOO bad. It still hurts, believe me.

Still in spite of not a lot of significant shot blocking, the boys did a great job defensively. Good anticipation, good positioning, sticks in the right places, and plenty of hustle when it came to clearing rebounds. As KC said after, for him, success starts with playing hard. Smarts flow from that. And there was plenty of both tonight.

Khudobin was excellent, too. It's hard to stay focused and get in a rhythm when you're not seeing a lot of shots and in spite of not seeing a lot of shots, he had to make some really big saves. Of course, San Antonio shot wide about 37 times, too. That helps.

Seems like games (I almost typed "fights") with San Antonio aren't as nasty as they have been in years past but tonight there was a bit of a line scuffle that turned into a full on beating by Falk on superfox Stu Bickel (not the face! not the face!). Never really seen Falk look so pissed before, which was actually pretty cool. His judicious use of his mean streak is a good thing I think, and makes it all the more interesting when he lets her rip.

First goal was a nice set up on the power play by DiSalvatore and Milroy that Smith banged under the pads of a scrambling Tordjman.

The second was even prettier on a 3 on 2 with a give and go that inexplicably didn't get broken up by the San Antonio defense who were just mesmerized, I guess, and Smith again had the money shot off a juicy rebound from Tordjman.

And a very happy DiSalvatore picked up his second point of the night when he scored off a really, really.... REALLY.... sexy feed from Fraser through about 5 guys' feet. Fraser is really rocking the scoring touch lately. Thank you, sir.

That third one was one of the prettiest goals of the year. If only all opposing defensemen would stand around thinking about beer or dinner or boobs instead of breaking up the Aeros attack. You just can't let teams connect passes clear across the bottom of the slot like that.

And in saying that... While the Aeros were much improved, San Antonio's defense needs to own their share of the loss. They were bad. But at least Stu Bickel is hot. Did I mention that? Oh come on. Let me have my fun.

Anyway, that's about it. Other than Miika Wiikman, who was just traded from Hartford to Phoenix on Tuesday, made his debut with San Antonio in the third period as Tordjman was pulled. Odd stance he has, I thought, but nothing else really significant about it.

Oh yeah, San Antonio scored somewhere in there. And honestly, it was about 5 minutes left and I'm thinking, "Uh oh... Wednesday redo?" But no. They held on. Phew. Just good to get a win after a looooong time of not getting any.

Sorry for the lack of tweeting and lack of stick figure tonight. And probably lack of accuracy, detail, proper sports journalism, etc etc. here on the blog. John is off covering some college baseball thing, so we were a little short staffed at T3I tonight and my computer wasn't connecting to the wireless in the arena. We'll try and do better the next time.

Going off the board a bit on tonight's song. Just feels right. Aeros are realistically out of the playoff hunt, but there are 16 games left to play the spoiler. Still mountain to climb. Sing it, Kelly!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

To help an old friend...

Well, I am sure many of you have heard by now. A member of the Aeros 1999 Turner Cup Championship team, forward Jeff Christian, is preparing for the battle of his life. It has nothing to do with hockey, and it's far more serious.

Christian, the only Aeros I believe to ever put on the sweater No. 72 (he was also named the comeback player of the year that season), found out recently that his daughter (Ryan) has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. As someone that can personally attest to getting some pretty awful news about a child, I implore you to stop by the Booster Club table Friday night and donate whatever you can to help out.

The Tailgunners will be raffling off an autographed Aeros jersey with the proceeds going to help Jeff and his family. Tickets are one for $5 or three for $10. I would really, really love for the booster club to be able to send $1,000 up his way. I know we can do it.

Jeff now plays in the CHL for the Missouri Mavericks, and is truly one of the guys that plays for the love of the game. He is one of the league's stars, but I assure you any and all help will be forever appreciated.

Below are some links to a few stories about this situation.

The initial story
Follow up (the Aeros' booster club is mentioned here, so let's not let them down!)
Story from KC Star

Let's be sure to show Jeff that he and his family are well-supported down in the Bayou City.

Andrew

Aeros slip-sliding down the drain

Although Wednesday's game was entertaining - especially in the third period -- it was equally heart-breaking for the Aeros, who are now the team everyone is circling as the "sure-fire win" on their game schedules.

I think the worst thing about last night's game was that the team lost after doing things that usually garner wins (scoring first, leading after first and having a multiple goal lead in the third period.)

SA Express-News recap
Houston Chronicle Road Report

I thought the Aeros played great defensively in the first period; they kept a lot of shots from getting through, and when they did Anton was in position to make a big save or two. The Aeros got on the board with a nice wraparound by Colton Gillies.

The Rampage tied the game in the second on goal by Brett MacLean, and the Aeros, I thought, were lucky to go into the intermission tied. In the third, the Aeros scored the next two goals, dominated play, and then completely left off the gas when they had the two-goal lead.

When San Antonio made it 3-2, the Aeros panicked and it was only a matter of time for the Rampage. Well, that time came with 13 seconds left in regulation after they held the puck in the Aeros zone for a full minute with Tordjman on the bench.

I did not see anyone trying to block a shot, and I did not see anyone getting in the passing lanes. The Rampage just moved the puck at will, and I don't think Anton had a prayer on the shot by Boedker that was deflected by Stefan Meyer and into the net.

Overtime was fairly even, and after Boedker scored in the first round of the shootout, it was over as the Aeros failed to get anything by Tordjman.

Very disappointing evening for the Aeros, who just keep losing and losing. They are not going to make the playoffs, and they really need to get on a small streak here just to stay out of the basement. These are the times when playing can me, as my five-year old son would say, "not so very much fun."

Deep down, I know the team isn't losing on purpose, and I know they want to win. But there are some key guys on the team that have been very disappointing upon their respective returns from Minnesota. There does not appear to be enough intensity, and it just (to me) looks like guys are playing for the bigger picture as opposed to giving all they can to generate wins "down in Houston."

What do I know? I am just a writer that tries to re-create what happens in a game so those that can't attend will have at least some idea of what went on during the game(s). I have never played hockey, and I am still learning the X's and Os all the time.

But I can say, with high confidence, that I can tell when a team is focused on winning and doing everything possible to extend its season. These Aeros are not doing that. As for why, I have some pretty good ideas and am starting to put a few of those puzzles pieces together. But I don't have enough yet to make a big deal out of that. If I start calling out guys on a blog, then I better damned sure-have my facts straight.

A lot of you see as many games as I do. Why do you think the Aeros are falling apart during crunch time?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wild recalls Robbie Earl

The Wild have recalled Robbie Earl today.
Why?
They want a body in Calgary just in case they trade a player before the deadline.

Robbie works hard, and is the fastest player on the team, but I don't think he's been at his best since his initial recall to the NHL. I was going to ask him about that Friday, but I don't know that I will get the chance at this point. Russo believes that the Wild is close to trading Eric Belanger, and if that happens, Earl could be in St. Paul for the rest of the year.

For those of you hoping or thinking the Wild will get some help for the Aeros, don't bet on it.
Tony Hrkac is likely the only deal they are going to make. From what I understand, since Jon DiSalvatore has dibs on No. 14, Hrkac will sport No. 25 when he eventually plays for the team.

As far as when that when will be, I would have to think he'll make his Aeros 2010 debut on 3/12 at home vs. Peoria. We'll see.

I do believe the Aeros/Wild tried to make a deal for a forward via trade ... and I guess we'll see if any teams changed their minds later on today.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday afternoon pick-me-up

I recently got two huge compliments from two Aeros players about our blog. With out me asking them, they told me that it was by far the best AHL blog they'd seen. One of them said it was because we do not take ourselves too seriously and that it can be "very funny" at times. The other said they like getting three different takes on things that are happening to the team.

Well, that was the whole point when I got the grand idea to combine the great talents of John Royal, Fred Trask, Ms. Conduct (and SO without bragging) myself.

John put his take on the season earlier today and claimed the Aeros dead in the water.
Another writer did this with a Houston sports team five years ago, and wow, did they look silly four months later.

And for another one of those perspectives, here is mine:

They still got a pulse (and I guess they need to read the book pictured above).

Last week I think I said they were at the E.R. complaining of chest pains. After last week's debacle, well they have officially had a major M.I and got quadruple bypass surgery. Things are not great, by any stretch, but with a healthy diet and an official change in lifestyle, they can still get it done. But if they keep with the same diet (too much smoking, fried foods and leaving their goalies out to dry) they are going to need a heart transplant and will likely not survive due the lack of a good insurance plan. (I will let you use your own imagination has to what I mean by that.)

Here is why I still give them a shot at the postseason: Kevin Constantine has never missed the playoffs in years that he was not fired. I don't think he is going to get the boot between now and April 10, so there is somewhat of a streak at stake here.

Another reason? Well, there were three teams on the outside looking in this time last year that made it to the postseason in 2009.

The Worcester Sharks, Philadelphia Phantoms and Peoria Rivermen all jumped from the land of the dead to the land of the living in the last six weeks of the regular season. The Phantoms were eight points back last March 1 and Peoria was seven points back at the same time.

The Aeros need to make up a 10-point deficit in the last 18 games to get it done. That is highly unlikely, but not impossible. Of those three teams that rallied, Worcester got 24 points in their last 21 games, Philadelphia got 28 in their last 21 and Peoria got an amazing 32 points in their last 20 games to get a No. 2 seed.

First of all the Aeros need to win at least 12 of their last 18 games to even HAVE a shot. If they can do that, they are going to need one of the teams ahead of them to collapse. The Texas Stars are right in front of them, so we'll start there.

If Texas goes 7-11 down the way, the Aeros likely need 24 points to make the playoffs.
If Texas goes 9-9 through the end of the year, the Aeros will need 28 points to get in.
And if Texas goes 11-7 in their last 18 games, the Aeros will need to go 16-2 in their last 18 games.

Of the three teams that choked in 2009, the Wolves were the biggest "ahogo-ers" ... in their last 17 games last year, the Wolves only got 12 points. Peoria took their spot with an amazing run, but were still knocked out by our Aeros in the last round.

As you can see, it will make a mini miracle, and the playoffs are not likely. But I can't call them dead just yet.

For those of you wondering, last year's team got just 20 (9-8-1-1) points in their last 19 games and moved up from fourth place on March 1 to third. Injuries and that great Peoria run cost them a first-round bye, but I think things worked out for them.

No, no, it's resting!

John's piece for the Houston Press is out today and, well, he suggests that the prognosis is not good. Like, rigor mortis not good... Like, round up some pall bearers not good... Like, "honey, where do we keep the embalming fluid?" not good...

John says the only thing he regrets not including in his post is a statement that the Aeros are deader than a dead parrot. But even without it, it's a good piece, so go check it out. Leave comments. Let the Press know you care.