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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tommy Thompson gets the axe

From the Minnesota Wild this afternoon:

Statement from Minnesota Wild General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, regarding Tom Thompson:

Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced that the National Hockey League (NHL) club will not renew the contract of Assistant General Manager, Tom Thompson.

“The Wild thanks Tom Thompson for his years of service and many contributions to the organization. We wish Tom future success,” Fletcher said.

The Wild will not comment further regarding this situation.

This is just sick, sick, sick ...

The NHL postseason so far has been absolutely outstanding.

Every series has a great story line, and the games themselves have been incredible.


Which first-round series are you following, and who do you think is going to win the Cup this year? Most experts are calling for a Chicago-Washington final. Hard to argue there, but there are always upsets.


Here is amazing goal by Alex Ovenchicken. Love typing that, by the way.

Listen to the commentator: "I don't care who the goalie is, they're not stopping that."




Thursday, April 15, 2010

My favorite KC quote

Constantine is a great quote. I wish I'd kept my favorites but I was cleaning out my microrecorder today and ran across this one again, which was from after The Darcy Kuemper Game a few weeks ago where he got his first pro start and the team played great and got the win at home.

It really resonated with me as an "athlete" and as a human, but is also quite representative of the kind of thought KC put into answering our questions, into the game, into his players. Stuff like this is why I loved talking to him after games.
“The beauty of the game is every new day and every game is another opportunity to perform and to display your talents. And we realize, at the end of the night, you have the unavoidable feeling of either satisfaction and pride--or a little bit of frustration and embarrassment. So, you have to go into the game knowing that, those feelings, one or the other is going to happen.”
As soon as they got a new GM in Minnesota, I anticipated that this was KC's last season here, so there's no surprise in this. But I am grateful for his time here, not only because he made this team immeasurably better, but as someone still learning the game, to learn from him in particular has been a real privilege.

So long, KC ... Thank you for three good years.

Just because you know all along something is bound to happen, it always sucks a little more when it becomes official.

Kevin Constantine's contract will not be renewed, and he has coached his last game for the Aeros.

While I understand all the reasons as to why he was dismissed, one thing we'll never know, for sure, is if there was anything KC could have done to keep his job in Houston.

I think his fate was sealed last summer. Money is probably the only reason (not having to pay two coaches (the fired one and the new one)) that he got another year.

Who knows?

I talked to Kevin this afternoon, and he told me that he is going to do some speaking engagements for USA Hockey in the immediate future. After that, I am sure he and his agent will be talking about what jobs are available. More and more of those will surface in the coming weeks and after teams are eliminated from their playoffs.

He said he was treated fairly by the Wild and that the conversation was cordial and to the point. He said the team just wanted to go in a different direction, and that was that.

Now, as to who will replace KC, that remains to be seen. There are some reports that Claude Noel could be in the mix, and there are a few other coaches with connections to Chuck Fletcher that will get a look. Troy Ward, according to Russo, is a candidate. John Anderson, who coached the Wolves to championships time and time again, also just got fired by the Atlanta Thrashers.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. This is going to be an interesting summer.

(Updated) Constantine has coached his last game in Houston

(here is the link from the Star-Tribune in MSP)

It all started last summer when the Wild kept Constantine and his team around after completely cleaning house otherwise. The fact that KC stayed, I think, is a huge testament to what he had done in the past with various levels of hockey talent. Russo in MSP said just as much a couple of weeks ago in his blog. Granted that was not attributed to anyone, but come on ... it's not a real big secret.

What KC did in '08 and '09 to get two completely different teams to the playoffs speaks for itself. The first team was very offensively inept and was buoyed by great goaltending. Last year, it was the other way around. This year, the division was just too good and too many times the team could not match the opponent in the first period. In other words, they played catch up way too much.

Constantine told me after the game Sunday that he didn't know what his future holds. He did say that Chuck Fletcher told him, no matter what, that he would not drag things out too far into the summer. He expected to hear something very quickly, and I expect that we will all know for sure that KC has been dismissed before any AHL team makes it to the second round.

By my count, only Dave Tippett and Todd McLellan have coached more games for the Aeros than Constantine. Those guys, as everyone knows, have done very well for themselves since then. What they had that KC never had, was an absolutely stacked team. Most of that is because the Aeros, like most other AHL teams, do not spend like Hershey or Chicago. That also has very much to do with the Wild having one of the worst group of prospects at the moment.

While I have no doubt that this will get better (only one way to go, right?) the next coach will have a challenge on his hands starting in September when camp opens for 2010-11.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

And In The End

Okay, my season wrap-up is posted at the mothership. Ignore the byline, I'm actually the one who wrote it. And leave them some comments over there to let them know you're reading. And mention me, by name, and how much you like the stuff, if you want.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The First Annual T3I Awards

We've decided to do some postseason items on the team. And I volunteered to do the Aeros awards for the season just played. So after consulting with the rest of the T3I crew, here are the winners for the T3I Houston Aeros Awards.

TEAM MVP: Max Noreau. There's a reason that Noreau made the second team All-AHL Team. He's that good. He tied for second on the team in points (18 goals-34 assists=52 points). He was named to the AHL All Star team. He was the team's most consistent offensive threat, even from the blue line. And he anchored a defense that was often full of holes due to injuries in Houston and Minnesota.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Chad Rau. Cody Almond was the big name coming into the season, and he showed flashes of brilliance, between injuries, call ups to Minnesota, and inconsistent play. But Rau played in all but one game, was one of the team's leading scorers (19 goals-19 assists=38 points), and never appeared to be out of his element. He didn't make stupid mistakes.

GOALIE OF THE YEAR: Anton Khudobin. It was a tough year for Aeros goalies. There was the inconsistent defense. The almost nightly inability of the offense to score goals. The need to be perfect every night. Khudobin kept the team in contention the first part of the year. His record might only have been 14-19-4, but he was bombarded by shots every night, from nearly every angle. He was able to get four shutouts, and despite it all, allowed only 91 goals in 40 games.

DEFENSEMAN OF THE YEAR: Max Noreau. Brandon Rogers spent way too much time having to play forward. Clayton Stoner went to Minnesota and never came back. That left Noreau as the veteran of the bunch, and he ended up virtually leading the team's offensive attack -- what little there was of it -- from the blue line.

FORWARD OF THE YEAR: Jon DiSalvatore. DiSalvatore was not only the team's captain, but he was one of the team's leading scorer, finishing with 52 points after getting 21 goals, 31 assists, and a team high 11 power play goals. DiSalvatore didn't have a lot to work with as Kevin Constantine constantly shifted lines because of injuries, call-ups, and ineffectiveness. Yet DiSalvatore was always a constant.

THE SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: Jean-Michel Daoust. Neither of us press types knew anything about Daoust when he made the team -- and I admit to enjoying listening to the Toyota PA types change the pronunciation of his name from game-to-game. But damn, this guy played some hockey. He was the team's leading scorer (21 goals-34 assists=55 points), and I don't think anyone played with more effort or determination. I can't help but think that if the whole team would have played with the want of Daoust, this team would have found a way to make the playoffs.

BIGGEST LOST (PLAYER WISE): Andy Hilbert. Hilbert missed most of the season due to concussion issues. And without him, the offense just couldn't click. DiSalvatore was left alone as the team's go-to offensive option. It's hard to play the what-if game, but one can't help but wonder if things would have been different if Hilbert had been available the entire season.

WORST LUCK: Wade Dubielewicz. I can't think of one guy who had worst luck this season than Dubie. Who can forget opening night, against Manitoba, when the puck bounced high off of the glass behind the net, hit Dubie in the back, then bounced into the net for a goal. Then there was the Rockford game on January 10 that the Aeros lost 2-1 after Rockford's Mike Brennan took a shot in OT that was going to be wide of the net, very wide of the net, only it hit the knob of Dubie's stick and went into the net to win the game for Rockford.

WORST LUCK NOT INVOLVING WADE DUBIELEWICZ (TIE): Peter Zingoni and Barry Brust. Zingoni came to the team after an injury-filled 2008-09 season. He came out hot, then got injured. Nobody worked harder to get back, then he got hurt again. And he came back, and got hurt again. Then there's the strange case of Barry Brust. Andrew and Heather know more details, but the brass in Minnesota didn't seem to like him. Then he got injured in camp. He got stuck in purgatory in Florida, and when he got his chance in Houston, he got injured -- first an ugly leg slash, then injuring his foot again.

WACKIEST MOMENTS (TIE): A puck hits Dubie on the back and bounces into the goal. A puck hits the knob of Dubie's stick and bounces into the goal -- a shot that would have gone way wide. But the true wackiest moment was any game in which Dubielewicz was sitting on the bench. If you didn't see Coach Dubie on the bench during a game, then you missed out. He banged the boards. He shouted out instructions at the goalies, and the players. He encouraged his teammates. I think he got a bigger workout on the bench than he did when playing.

(That said, and as an aside, Wade was a very good guy to deal with in the locker room for us. He never shied away from answering questions. He always spoke his mind. He never threw anybody under the bus.)

WACKIEST MOMENT NOT INVOLVING WADE DUBIELEWICZ: It was tough watching Barry Brust suffer that leg slash against Peoria. But without it, there would have never been that moment when Jeff Crawford came skating out to goal as the first intermission came to a close. We didn't know the condition of Brust at the moment, so the entire press row thought that Crawford was going to have to play the rest of the game. What made the moment was watching all of the scouts on press row, and there were still a lot of scouts following the team on February 3rd, and they were scrambling through every sheet of paper on the tables trying to get any scrap of info on Crawford.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT: With the scouts scrambling to find out info on Crawford, the Peoria coach agreed to give the Aeros a few extra minutes, and as the clock ticked to zero, Barry Brust, who had suffered a deep slash of his thigh in the first period. He got about 30 stitches during the intermission, did a few butterflies to show he was capable of making the blocks and making the moves, then skated out to the ice and got the win, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he saw that night.

BEST ARENA ADDITION: Let's hear for the brass up in Minnesota for getting replays for every game played at Toyota Center, no matter when the game was played. In the past, we've been stuck with replays just on Friday and Saturday. But this year, we had them every game. So thank you.

WORST NON-TEAM DEVELOPMENT: For some reason, the number of Lady Dynamics dropped, and dropped, throughout the season. And I liked watching the Lady Dynamics. But I want to give my thanks to those young ladies who stuck it out for the whole season. Thank you.

BEST READERS: This is for the readers of T3I. Thanks for sticking with us all season. I apologize for not being around as much as last season, but hopefully the T3I supplied you with all of the information about the team that you needed, and wanted. Thanks for reading. We appreciate it.

BIGGEST T3I LOSS: Fred, we missed you this season. It wasn't the same without you around. I'm sorry I couldn't do more to help out.

Poor, unlucky bastards

Carson McMillan disappears in a fight vs. Gavin Morgan (Darren Abate photo)

Good morning on this gloomy, first un-hockey day of the summer.

For many, the NHL playoffs will provide a little relief until the real, LONG part of the summer begins in mid June.

And for non New York Rangers fans, at least the warmer weather will lead to a few other outdoor activities that also help the passing of time.

If you are a Rangers fan, how do you like that shootout rule now? Shouldn't there be an amendment to go ahead and play playoff-style OT if there are absolute playoff implications on the line? We could debate on this one for hours ... what are your thoughts?

As for the game yesterday in San Antonio, I was there. I watched every second of the last game and was very impressed with Anton's game until the last minute. Like the Aeros Saturday night against Texas, the Rampage just wanted this one more. One more game for the home fans, and the crowd there (7,000-plus) was behind them all the way.

One of our rogue commenters wondered aloud why a team could allow 50+ shots in a game. Well, S.A. fired from all over the ice. Many, many of them were harmless, but late in the first, early in the second and early in the third, Anton had to make several HUGE plays to give the Aeros a chance. He allowed a big, fat rebound on a shot by Boedker, and had JP Testwuide been able to clear the puck, Turris doesn't get it and slam one in the net from point blank.

Testwuide's miscue (to be fair, it was not a glaring error, but he did have a chance to clear, and he did not do it) is the only reason Anton did not have a shutout through 40 minutes. Had he stopped Turris, it would have been the greatest period, statistically, a goalie ever had as a Houston Aero.

I think the Rampage fed off the bewilderment of the missed too many men call. The officials covered up the missed call by telling the Aeros that S.A. was offside on the previous play, and that is why the faceoff went to the other side of the ice. The Aeros did not have complete focus on in the final minute, and then Anton made a huge, huge mistake on the tying goal. He stopped the shot, but didn't sit on it. Instead, he lifted his glove up for a split second, and either an Aeros d-man or Hoggan rammed the puck into the net. I could not see real well from where I was, and initially, I thought Brett MacLean got it in.

Anyway, you guys know the rest of the story. KC made the gusty call to pull the goalie and go for the regulation win. I cannot think of another time where I saw an empty net goal in a tied game. When Gavin Morgan buried the 160-footer on the last shot of his career, the Aeros just looked around and shook there heads. For a team that seems so very poor at winning faceoffs, pulling the goalie with the game tied seemed and proved to be futile. I think the Aeros all knew what was going to happen when the Rampage tied the game, and the hockey gods smiled on Morgan, who is now officially retired from hockey and will hopefully never haunt the Aeros again.

Despite be so severely out-shot, the Aeros could have had a 2-0 or 3-0 lead after 40 minutes. But as has been the case so many times this year, they just could not bury more than one of their prime Grade-A chances. I think a lot of this has to do with having too many guys on the team that had no desire to ever be on the roster, or just too used to being a complement guy instead of being thoroughly replied upon.

My c0-MVPs for the year are JM Daoust and Maxim Noreau. A close runner up is Jon DiSalvatore ...
T3I will announce an Aeros award schedule soon, and we'll break down the season a little more in detail before we start preparing for 2010-11.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A quick explanation: Aeros 2, Rampage 3

I didn't watch much of the game, so I'm not going to write it up properly (like I would anyway). I'd get on Khudobin for allowing that tying goal as he mishandled the puck as he was covering it with his glove... but he stopped a whopping 53 (!!!) shots in this game. He's allowed two goals against, I guess. ;)

And the game winner was an empty netter with :20 left in the tied game.

Folks freaked out in the chat on AHLLive at Constantine pulling Khudobin with less than a minute left in the game. Why would a coach pull the goalie in a tied game?

The reason is because the Aeros had 80 points, the Rampage had 82, which means the Aeros HAD to win in regulation to jump ahead of San Antonio in the standings. (Aeros get the tie breaker due to winning the season series between the two teams.)

So, don't flip out. He did the right thing. Alas, the boys couldn't hold 'em in and the Rampage nabbed the empty netter for the win, but the Aeros do finish at .500 for the season. Hey, that's better than all the other teams at the bottom of their divisions have done! Haha... Well, it's something.

The offseason has officially begun.

Some Thoughts From Game 79

I've sat awhile tonight, wondering what to write about this last game (home game) of the season. Maybe I should have sat on my deck with a beer, like Heather, then again, seeing as how I live off of Milam, not far from a bunch of bars and clubs, sitting here, watching my tape delay of the Astros game (I wanted to hear how Jeff Bagwell did in the broadcast booth) and working on an unrelated assignment for the mothership, I still find myself unsure of just what to say, so here we go.

It's been a difficult season to cover the team. Not access wise. And the guys have always been willing to sit after a game and talk. It's just that it has been tough to write about them this year. There's been multiple games this season that have ended with the close loss. A close loss resulting from goalies that were perfect for just 58 minutes. Or from Aeros shots bouncing off of a post. The game the Aeros won 4-2 tonight was, in many ways, a perfect example of the type of games the Aeros have lost the entire season -- see that second period where they got off 24 shots but could only score once, then saw Texas score on two of their first four shots of the third period to take the lead.

******************
I'll probably do a proper write up later in the week -- Andrew's going to San Antonio tomorrow for that purpose, and hopefully I can get some stuff from him to use in the mothership, and here. So for now I'll just reference some other things from the game, and just throw out some general thoughts.

Heather referenced Carson McMillan's expression when he scored the go-ahead goal in the third. I spoke with him about that afterwards. What struck me about his response was that he wasn't trying to take credit for the goal. He thought it was a great shot by Jamie Fraser, and he wasn't going to take credit for the tip-in, but Duncan Milroy went up and told the officials that McMillan tipped it.

******************
Luke Strand was at the game, again, visiting with his friends Kevin Constantine and Troy Ward, and taking in the game. I talked to him a bit after the game, while the guys were out on the ice for the jersey auction. He was just amazed, after watching the team, that they were out of the playoffs. He just didn't see the quit that you normally see from a team that doesn't give a damn anymore. And there was the talk about what could have been as he noted the guys and goal scorers from last year's team that were no longer here, and just how different things could have been had they been here this year.

******************
Congratulations to Max Noreau for second team AHL. Maybe if certain people would have remembered to send the voting info to Andrew and myself -- as the guys in the past did -- he could have got up to first team. Still, Noreau's a class guy. He came up with a rocket shot, became a very good offensive defenseman, and this year worked on his defensive play. And just think of how bad the power play would have been without Noreau.

******************
The Aeros will finish the season with at least 80 points, and at least the .500 mark. And depending on what happens tomorrow, they might not even finish in last place. Not that that means anything other than the guys didn't quit.

*****************
You guys have indulged me all year with my Beatles obsession. So as the season ends, I can think of no better way to close out than with my favorite song of all-time. So here's The Beatles with "Hey Jude."

Home and Away: Houston 4, Texas 2

So, I'm sitting here on my deck on this cool April night drinking a beer, nibbling a tortilla, and trying not to let my husband see me fighting back tears in the glow of my laptop screen.

I'm also digesting the night, digesting the season. Hence the beer. I'm hoping some alcohol in my system will aid in digestion.

I hate the end of hockey season. I know there's one game left, but watching hockey via crappy video in a little box on my screen is doesn't count. For me, it's over, as it probably is for you, too.

And while I did find myself quite burned out after the playoffs last year, I'd be happy to burn right out again this year to make it last longer. I may finally have to bite the bullet and get myself this shirt.

Anyway, there's a lot to take in and sort through as we tackle our end-of-season, what's-next type stories. But tonight's game is worth talking about.

On the one hand, I thought Texas played quite poorly at times. Their rather passive defensive approach that allowed 43 shots on goal and their oodles of turnovers was just blood in the water for an Aeros team that will work their cans off in the zone if you'll allow them to.

Which is a shame, as their goaltending was terrific and Bachman deserved a better fate for how well he played. It was my first time seeing him play and I'm sold. He's small, and most small goalies make me nervous because they're like waterbugs in their crease. They move too much for my comfort. But his demeanor is calm, his movement is efficient, and he was unflappable.

Even with the Aeros first goal, where he was completely interfered with by Daoust, who ran him while trying to score and then lay on him as Hilbert scooped the rebound in the net, he came up appearing unphased. Maybe there's a rule I don't know about where you can have one player lay on the goalie while another scores, but I actually thought there was a specific rule against that. Anybody?

Not that I want to take any Aeros goals away. Lord knows they deserve a little luck here and there, but you know me. I'm a sucker for goalies.

Aside: Speaking of goalies, I saw Brusty after the game looking debonair in a giant boot cast thing and crutches. You can imagine what fun that is. But it was good to see him before it's all over. If I'd made a bucket list for the end of the season, check that one off. "Lay eyes on Brusty." Done. I dunno what I'm gonna do with the sudden rush of goaltending objectivity I'll have when he's no longer an Aero.

If you recall, there was one hand earlier before I got off track wherein the Stars didn't play so hot. But the other hand is that the Aeros did play quite well. Rau has really turned it on lately. Fraser has also started being more of the player I expected. Seems a bit late to be scouting at this point, though, doesn't it? I dunno.

Props to Danny Irmen for his empty netter. Normally I chalk those up to, "Well, they're just empty netters" but I've never seen a dude work so damn hard for the puck to get an EN shot. He was battling. He wanted that goal, and the eventual angle he had to shoot from wasn't exactly a gimmie, so good on him for winning the battle and sealing the deal.

My second favorite part of the night was McMillan's expression on scoring the game winner. It was 100% "OMGIJUSTDIDTHAT!!!!" shock and awe. Adorable. Nice job.

But my first favorite part of the night was the Falk to Smith goal. Maybe it's because I find Falk so endearing. Such a Great Dane of a guy out there. All arms and legs. Not exactly a guy who flies under the radar. So when he plays a pivotal role in a goal like he did there, I enjoy it. It was truly a beauty and there wasn't a damn thing Bachman could have done about it.

Anyway, it was nice to end the season on a warm fuzzy note, even though most of the season has been anything but. But we'll deal with that later. For now, me and my beer, my tortilla, and the many mosquitoes I've fed while writing this are just going to soak in the goodness of the season. That's what it's all about, right?

Thanks for being on the ride with us this year, for reading and contributing to the conversation with your comments, or talking to us at games or events, for being good fans who really care about the Aeros. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else doing anything else with anybody else.

Friday, April 9, 2010

More Photos from Batting Practice

Tomorrow, we can get back to hockey.
But for now, here are a few more of the better pictures I took today at Minute Maid Park.
Some of them have the batting cage in them. Many apologies for the poor quality on those.
The comments I heard from several players all included lines about how nervous they were.
They were all cracking on each other's swings, but every one of them had a good time. Even KC took some swings in the cage, but I am not brave enough to put that video on the blog.

Enjoy!



A view of the pumpkin train from field level

If Mills were pointing the other way, he'd be showing KC
where all the Phillies hits would end up later in the day.

Irmen, Lannon and Hilbert getting ready to swing away.

Chad Rau going to hit; Marco Scandella just wrapping up

Zingoni had the most consistent swing of the three
groups I saw Friday. Lots of "would have been" hits

"Man, this guy IS throwing heat...."

Brusty playing shallow left field, rockin' the throwback

Justin Falk showed up with a Roy Halladay jersey on.
He is the best baseball player on the team.

Halladay, er Falker, posing for an artsy shot.

One more shot for Ms. Conduct, the
MVP of our little Web site here



Videos from today's batting practice

Here are the two interviews from today's Houston Aeros batting practice.
Enjoy!


Danny Irmen

Brandon Rogers

Takin' a little BP in the HOU at MMP

Ah it was just about a perfect afternoon, weather-wise, in Houston today.
With the day off, our local hockey team decided to do a little team-building at Minute Maid Park.

Tonight, they'll watch the Astros try to win their first game of the year.
But this afternoon, many of the Aeros got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take batting practice down on the field.

I was there, did a few interviews and took lots of pictures. I will try to get more of these up tonight, but I wanted to throw in a few of my favorite shots from the ballpark.

I stayed for about half the batting practice, but from what I saw, Pete Zingoni hit the best, at least on a consistent basis. Andy Hilbert was the first to nearly hit one out to left. Jon DiSalvatore had a good power stroke to that same part of the park, but just didn't get enough loft on his drives toward the short porch.

Most I talked to agreed that Justin Falk is the best baseball player on the team. And one member of the team said that Benoit Pouliot can really effin' hit the ball. Only he didn't say effin.


Kevin Constantine talks to Astros Manager Brad Mills


This is how a Barry Brust baseball card might look

Ray Edwards: “It's embarrassing to lose at home in front of 8,000 people."

There are two ways coaches tend to handle what happens when their team plays like the Rampage did against the Aeros Thursday night.

Ray Edwards took the literal approach. Tell it like it is. Here is a sample of his quotes after the game last night courtesy of the S.A. Express News:
“I'm not happy at all. I don't like not being in the playoffs; I don't like losing, and it's embarrassing right now. It's embarrassing to lose at home in front of 8,000 people. It's embarrassing the way we lost. There's a lot of guys in that room that should be embarrassed by the way we played tonight."

Wow.

In my time covering the Aeros over the years, I have dealt with Dave Tippet (as an intern), Dave Barr, Todd McLellan, Rob Daum and Kevin Constantine. They all have different personalities, and the only one of them that would tell it like it is "on the record) is Daum.

I don't have a problem either way, as I understand that most coaches like to chastise internally and talk in more general terms to reporters.

The Rampage were pretty lousy after the first period. I think when they were only able to get one shot by Anton in the first period, they got the attitude of "here we go again" and they were not willing to put in the work, especially against an Aeros team that has score one or fewer goals in 25 (25!!!!!) of their games this year.

Not to go too far off the path here, but if you told me at the beginning of the year that the Aeros would score one or fewer goals in more than 30 percent of their games, I would have told you you're crazy.

The Aeros how have two games left in their season, and I am REAL curious to see what Texas brings to the table Saturday. I am even MORE curious to see what San Antonio does in response to their game Thursday night.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Aeros make fool of T3I prognosticator!

Earlier this year I wrote a story about a game when the Aeros were supposed to play like X, but played like Y instead and won a game 6-2 when they woulda, coulda, shoulda lost by that same count.

Earlier today, I said that I don't make public predictions any more about this hockey team, but did so anyway. Now you know why I don't do that any more.

The rationale for my prediction of a blowout in San Antonio?
  • Several key Aeros either out injured or on recall to Minnesota
  • The Rampage outplayed the Stars in Cedar park Tuesday and took one on the chin, instead
  • A very good crowd of 6,000 + in attendance expected against the team's biggest intrastate rival
  • The Rampage score a lot of goals, crash the net and those are two things the Aeros don't normally handle very well

So what do I know?

Anton was outstanding in the first period and played well enough to get the Aeros back to .500.
Chad Rau (pictured above at Colorado College) continues his great rookie season with two more goals and just needs one more to get 20.
The "grind" line of Kassian-McMillan-Kalus teamed up for a very huge and pretty goal early in the third period to give the Aeros the lead for good.

If the Aeros can find a way to win at least one of their last two games, they'll finish at .500 and net 80 points in the standings. Those are two things you don't normally see from a team that was virtually eliminated a month ago (much less in last place!)

No more predictions from me on this blog for a long time :)

And like our rogue friend, Mr. IceVet, would say:

Go Aeros!

David Spina suspended tonight

From AHL Media Relations:

The American Hockey League today announced that San Antonio Rampage right wing David Spina has been suspended for one (1) game as a result of his actions in a game at Texas on Apr. 6.

Spina was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 29.1 (supplementary discipline).

Spina will miss San Antonio’s game tonight (Apr. 8) vs. Houston.

The final countdown

I will keep this short and sweet.
Tonight marks the first of the Aeros' last three games of the regular season.

The four teams that are in, are in ... and they just about have the order wrapped up as well.
I think the Admirals COULD catch the 'Hogs, but Chicago needs just one more point to secure the division crown.

That would be good news for Aeros fans, because I'd have to think the Stars would rest some guys for their season finale Saturday night.

As far as the Aeros go, they need to win all three games to get above .500 for the season.
If they do that, I believe they will get themselves out of the cellar, too. No way that happens, though, with all the call-ups and injuries right now. Fans really should pull for just finding a way to win that last home game.

Tonight could be real rough as the Rampage are a very high-scoring team and are coming off a game that frankly they dominated and lost at Texas Tuesday night. Couple that with Anton (possibly) getting his first start since March 27, and look out.

I gave up the public prediction business awhile back, but I will go on the record and say S.A. nets at least five against the Aeros tonight, and it could be more like seven. San Antonio is the most porous team in the division, so maybe the Aeros get a few on the board, too.

If I had to give you a score right now, I would say 6-2 Rampage. Too bad, for this reason, the game is on TV ... but Andrew Monaco will do a great job on the air tonight. He does TV for the Rampage games, and used to be their radio guy back in the early Rampage days.

But I digress ...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Noreau to the Max

Word from on high is that the best offensive defenseman in the AHL to never have played an NHL game is finally getting the call.

Max Noreau is headed up to Calgary, where the Wild are playing tomorrow night. It's not for sure that he'll play yet, but for heaven's sake, just even a few days of show dough is a swell bonus for a guy who has been a bright light in the fog this season.

Sure, it sucks to lose him, but I think it's clear he was overdue for this call and the Aeros aren't doing squat anyway, so he might as well get a taste of the ol' NHL salt lick for a few days. Great for him.

I'm pretty jacked for the guy. So jacked, the first thing I thought to do was churn some butter. I really am that white and stuck in the early 90s.

Nice Guy Matt Kassian

If you get the chance, I've got a story on Matt Kassian, enforcer, humanitarian, and all-around nice guy posted over at the mothership. Go give it a read.

Aeros Lose Again, The Baby's In Black Edition

The Aeros lost to Rockford tonight by a score of 3-1. That's nothing new. Nothing about this loss was new. The god awful first period. Yep, we've seen that before. The shoddy defense. Yep. The power play that turns into a short-handed goal? Yep.

I went down to the locker room after the game. I've got quotes from Kevin and Jon DiSalvatore. But really, there's no need to transcribe them because there's nothing new. DiSalvatore's upset about the first period. The team's better than this. The guy's care. They haven't given up. But just plug in a quote from him or any other player from one of the losses this season, and it will fit in. Same thing from Kevin.

It all kind of reminds me of a Beatles song -- yeah, shocking. "Baby's In Black" has a lyric that goes "Baby's In Black/And I'm feeling blue/Oh, what should I do?"



That's what it's like in the locker room. Heads are down. The silence is deafening. Guys just sit there, wondering what to do, feeling blue.

The season's over. Sure, there are still three games left. But the season's over. It's almost, looking around, like they can't believe it. Like this shouldn't have happened. That they're better.

That's it. I don't know what else to say.

TWO MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

The grandparents were in the house tonight, the grandparents being Chuck Fletcher and Jim Mill. And I don't think they were happy by what they saw. They were here looking for someone to take back to Minnesota with them. I don't know if they found anybody. When asked, Constantine said that having the brass around sometimes gets in to the heads of the guys and they think too much and don't just play. This is sometimes known as the Doug Riseborough effect as the guys always played like crap when he was around.

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Kevin said the goal that came when Darcy Kuepmer got knocked over was a goal, to him and to the guys on the bench, and it was a goal without a doubt. In case any of you were wondering.

Pigs with Guns: Aeros 1, Ice Hogs 3


Andrew tweeted that sentence after the game, and it made me giggle and required a stick figure. Angry pigs are fun to draw. Why didn't I figure that out earlier in the season? BACON!

I'm not gonna make any ham bones about it... that was a shitty game. I can't imagine how hard it is to get up for these last few games, but when ALL the bosses are watching up on press row, boy, I sure think I'd find a little extra something, right?

Also, the unfortunate reality is that tickets aren't any less expensive just because the team is out of it. Fans deserve a better effort than they got tonight.

Justin Falk was the only one I saw bringing it hard all night and he looked terrific. The Daoust goal was one of those as a goalie that just make your stomach flip and think, "Jerk." But it was a beauty, and he's not a jerk, I don't think, so it's not personal, JM. You get a cookie, too. Incredible patience waiting out Crawford there. Jerk. (Still kidding.)

As frustrating as it probably was for him, I'm glad young Kuemper had a night like this before the season ended. Until now, his experience with the Aeros has been pretty smooth and the team has played well in front of him.

Tonight? Well, this is what it looks like in the AHL when your team is half-assing it for most of the game. Nights like this, on a team with so little scoring talent, you have to be nearly perfect. Ask any of the other 3 goalies with this team how fun that is. But until the Wild can draft some scoring talent that isn't immediately sent north, or until they open up the pocketbook to buy some talent like they did last season, that's how it is playing for the Aeros.

Anyway, that's all. See you Saturday for The End (at home, anyway).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Kid Speaks, And Other Things

That's a nice post from Heather, below. I thought I would share some of the quotes from after the game, and discuss some other matters.

So it was Darcy Kuemper's first win on the AHL level. And of course, we talked to him.

"It’s a great feeling," he said about getting the win. "I didn’t even know if I would get any playing time when I got called up, and I go in and get my first win. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m on cloud nine."

The kid really does look young. But he held his composure pretty good, especially considering that Colton Gillies and Justin Falk were playing around with him and trying to make him break.

And a positive for him, last night, probably, was just his general ignorance of the league, especially his general ignorance of Chicago. Sure, he saw them, and faced them, on Wednesday, but he just doesn't realize how good they're supposed to be.

"I haven’t seen them [Chicago] play until now, but I heard they’re a good team and have a lot of offense," he said. "I’m not nervous, but in the third period I really realized that I can play at this level. I really calmed down and just played my game. I knew when we got that second one -- to go up 4-2, get the two goal lead -- I knew we were going to win it."

He knew that his play wasn't perfect, and there were some things that he wanted to set right, like that second Chicago goal which came off of a rebound he didn't handle properly. But unlike some young kids, and lots of veterans, he didn't let that goal get into his head.

"I would have liked to have that rebound back," he said, "but it came through traffic, and I was just like ‘you know what, we still have the lead here, we’re in good shape. I just need to play my game and stick with it, and we’ll still get the win.’”

He also gave credit to teammate and fellow goalie Wade Dubielewicz. If you ever watch the Aeros bench on a night when Dubielewicz isn't playing, and you'll note that he's the most vocal coach that you'll ever meet. He's always shouting and encouraging everybody and making suggestions. And during the timeouts last night, he was always confering with Kuemper.

"He’s been great," Kuemper said of Dubielewicz. "I owe him so much. Since the moment I got here he took me under his wing. He taught me a lot about the league, and he keeps teaching me. He’s really helped to calm me down and feel at home."

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If you thought the team was playing harder last night than they have recently, then you're right. Kevin Constantine noted afterwards that part of that had to do with protecting Kuemper. But he also noted that a lot of guys figured out that they're now playing for next year, i.e., contracts. And scouts are in the building, so they should probably be trying to impress.

***************
Speaking of next year, Heather noted that there will be a lot of roster turnover. And Andrew will probably deal with this later, like after the season. But for those who are curious, the following players are under a Wild/Aeros contract for next season:

Colton Gillies,
Marco Scandella,
Max Noreau,
Carson McMillan,
Justin Falk, and
Cody Almond.

The following are restricted free agents:

Anton Khudobin,
Jamie Fraser,
Robbie Earl,
Danny Irmen,
Petr Kalus, and
Matt Kassian.

The rest of the roster will be unrestricted free agents, are here on AHL contracts.

So take from that what you will.

Avoiding the sweep: Aeros 4, Wolves 3

I guess one of us should write something about last night. I know how hard it is to write about this team when there's no "future" so I can't imagine how hard it is to get up for games as a player.

Obviously, as Constantine spoke to us about last night, there are still scouts coming to the games and a large portion of the team has next year's contract to play for, or will be trying to make it to the Wild. And of course personal pride of effort to play for.

As he said (and this struck me because I've learned this personally from playing goal), you're gonna go home after a game either feeling good that you did your best and gave an honest effort, or you're gonna go home feeling like poo because you didn't. There's not a lot of middle ground there and by his estimation, the team was a little embarrassed by Wednesday's 4-0 drubbing.

So, another enjoyable, but meaningless game in the books. Nice to avoid a season series sweep by the dominating Wolves, but thanks to several of their ringers for being out with injuries. No question that helped muffle the Wolves offense.

Of course, I'm still trippin' on the new goalie love for Darcy Kuemper, and wrote some more about it for one of my other gigs over at InGoal Magazine.

It was a real joy to speak with him after the game. He was about to go supernova, he was so excited, and it really epitomizes why I love covering this level of hockey.

BTW, the Wild are swapping Dubielewicz for Khudobin today as they are headed for a couple of games in Canada. So, Anton will be back with the Aeros for a few days.

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What's with the oddball refs lately? The guy last night, who is the son of NHL ref Kerry Fraser, really made me miss the low-interference of Jeff Smith. Long discussions after several plays and lots of penalties really affected the flow of the game IMO.

Honestly, the whole game felt a bit odd, but perhaps that's because the guys were playing with purpose like they haven't for a while. It was revealing watching the Kings vs. Canucks Thursday night because, between the Aeros and Wild, I've been mostly watching hockey from teams who have no playoff interests. There's a definite difference.

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Only two more, gang. Unless you plan to get to Austin tonight or San Antonio for Game #80 on April 11th. But April 10 will be the last time we see this team. As I mentioned, we went through the roster during a break last night and there are lots of UFAs and guys with AHL contracts on this roster, so it will look very different next year.

What I would love to see is the occasional guy come back. I know other teams do this, but the Aeros haven't for a while. I suppose it's a testament to Kevin Constantine and his staff that so many guys play well and the Wild/Aeros simply aren't willing to shell out for their increased market value.

I think Daoust is a guy they should try to get back. And Rau seems like a good fit, too. But we'll talk more about the changing state of the Aeros roster after the season. Andrew will probably have some good stuff there later on.

Meanwhile, Happy Easter, if you celebrate it. Otherwise, enjoy 75% off chocolate at your local CVS or Walgreens on Monday! See you Tuesday when Rockford, who clinched a playoff spot last night, comes to town.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Friday: A few little updates

The AHL is releasing its regular season awards this week, starting with the All Rookie team, on which the Aeros had no representation but I can't really argue with the picks.

Yesterday, they announced the first and second All Star teams for the season. The Aeros' own Max "Defies the Laws of Physics" Noreau was voted to the second team for his amazing offensive numbers and general badassery this season. Here's the release from the AHL. Note that 8 of the 12 are eastern conference teams, which seems a little bit skewed to me, but what do I know?

Congrats to Max, who has certainly had a season worthy of such accolades.

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I write occasionally about the Aeros prospects over at a site called Wild Nation, and of course, with a new baby goalie in the house Wednesday, I had to give a little update. So if you want my take on Wednesday's game, Kuemper's debut, and the general sense of "what's next?" I'm feeling as the season winds down, go check it out.

To me, it seemed the defense played their stones off in front of Kuemper in the third period, in stark contrast to their play the first two periods. And if protecting the baby goalie is enough to light a fire under this team to play to their ability, I might take a chance and play him against Chicago tonight if I'm KC. But I'm not, of course.

He had a great first experience, and now it's time for a taste of reality. :) Get the full pro experience, right? But I guess we'll see tonight at 7:30 when the boys hit the ice.

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There apparently was some hope in Florida that they might get Brusty back for the end of the playoffs, but according to the team, they're not putting him on the playoff roster because his recovery from foot surgery is going to take longer than they anticipated. Of course, Coach Cameron also said he had the surgery a week before he actually had it, so... take it all with a grain of salt.

BrustyBobble stares blankly, but pleasantly, at this news. Probably wondering where his goalie stick is and hoping nobody aims for the face.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just A Slight Favor, If You Don't Mind

I hope Andrew, Fred, and Heather, will excuse me for what I'm about to do, because I didn't ask for their permission, but this is for my niece, and I'll do anything for my niece.

My niece Hannah is autistic. She's lucky. She's got a mild form of autisim, and is highly functioning. She's eight. She's in mainstream second grade. She's very outgoing. She makes good grades. She has lots of friends. But at about age three, she suddenly lost the ability to speak, she wouldn't eat, and she was terrified of children her age. My sister-in-law tells the story here. My brother and sister-in-law, Hannah, and her brother and sister, were lucky in that Hannah was diagnosed pretty quickly, and they were able to get her the proper care and treatment that she needs. And since she's got a very mild form, you wouldn't even know she was autistic.

But they're lucky. There are lots of children with autisim. And many of these children don't get the proper treatment because doctors don't spot it, or the insurance companies won't pay for the treatment because they don't consider it to be a medical problem, or the child has a severe case. It's a cliche, and most aren't that bad, but the Dustin Hoffman "Rainman" character is not far off for lots of autistic kids. The TV show Parenthood is doing a good job of having a child with a mild autism and having the family adjust after they get the diagnosis.

Now for the reason I'm writing. My brother and sister-in-law live in Austin. And they're getting together people to take place in a charity walk in October. I'm not asking for people to drive out to Austin and walk. You can if you want, and I'm sure that there'll be one in Houston. But if you don't mind, if you can spare it, go to their site and donate a few bucks to the charity so that people who aren't as lucky as they are can get the treatment they need for their kids, and maybe, just maybe, some kind of cure can be found.

Sorry for the interruption from our normal programming. And take out your anger on me, not Andrew, Heather, and Fred, because I didn't tell them I was going to do this.

3/31/10 -- Aeros v. Wolves -- Everybody Hurts

After being absent recently because of other, somewhat more pressing mothership duties -- I was off covering the NCAA Regional Finals (aka the Sweet 16 and Elite 8) -- I returned to Toyota Center for last night's Aeros game versus the Chicago Wolves. And let's just say that I don't think I've missed too much as the Aeros lost 4-0.

I had three highlights.

Number one: I generally bitch about the audio guys and their music selections a lot. But last night, they had a genius moment. After the third Chicago goal -- one on which Wade Dubielewicz appeared to be screened by his entire team -- the sound guys busted out R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts." It was just serendipity. It was perfect. Kismet. Never has a song so matched the moment. And as Heather said, someone is so getting fired.



Number two: during the first intermission, there was a group of kids singing "God Bless America." Right in front of those kids, there was another set of kids signing "God Bless America." Heather, who was in her own world, looked up from whatever she was doing, saw the kids, and wanted to know why they were doing "YMCA" during "God Bless America."

Number three: I talked to Matt Kassian last night about his being team's Humanitarian of the Year, which makes him the nominee for the league's award. I remember talking to Brandon Rogers when he got this last year, so I know how much this stuff means to the players. And Matt, who is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, gave me some really great stuff for a story I'm going to write for the mothership.

That Kassian story was going to be for today's mothership story, but the Houston Cougars interfered last night and decided to name a new coach for the men's basketball team, so the Kassian thing will run next week.

Do I have any thoughts on the game? Are you kidding, did you see the game? I don't think there were any highlights. Because the wireless was screwed up yet again, I spent the third period down in the press room, writing my mothership post on the Cougars, so I didn't get to see the young kid, Darcy Kuemper, play. I'm sure Heather will contribute some words on that later. Andrew talked to him after the game, while I was with Kassian, and he says Kuemper looks to be about 13.

The Aeros give it another try to tomorrow night. So maybe they'll have some better luck. Hah, who am I kidding? Did you see them play last night?