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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Khudobin traded to Boston for Defenseman, Winger

It's been a dull NHL Trade Deadline today but for Aeros fans, we've got a bit of a blockbuster.

Anton Khudobin has been traded to Boston (and will play for the Providence Bruins with former Aeros netminder Nolan Schaefer) in exchange for defenseman Jeff Penner and RW Mikko Lehtonen.

We'll have a guest post from a P-Bruins writer to introduce us all to Penner and Lehtonen but in short:

Penner (pictured) is a smallish d-man in his second year pro. He had 7g, 28a in 68 games and got 2 games with the big Bruins last season. This season, his offense is down relatively (5g, 14a in 57 games) and no NHL games.

Lehtonen is a 6'3" Finnish right wing who is currently playing in Europe for Skelleftea HC. Dunno that we'll actually see him.

Presumably Josh Tordjman will now be the Aeros second goalie for the stretch. Do you guys think this combo will carry the Aeros on the deep playoff run we are all expecting but not talking about for fear of jinxing it?

And also, lots of folks really love Anton, so I know this is a kick in the gut for some. Just want to extend a hug to you. I understand.... *pet pet*

UPDATE: Here's Russo's take on the WHYs of this trade, which people seem to have a lot of.

Drew Bagnall Status

Just a quick note: in a quick aside after the game yesterday, Yeo did say that Drew Bagnall hurt his hand after the fight, and his status for this week, at least as of last night, was unclear. Yeo was hoping he would be available on Wednesday, but we might not know until Wednesday.

Peters Back To St. Paul, Almond Back To Houston

One of the reasons that Warren Peters was scratched from the game yesterday was that he wasn't actually available to play yesterday in that it's my understanding he was already in St. Paul. That said, it's now official, Peters returned to Houston to play in Oklahoma City, and is now back to the Wild. In return, the Wild have returned Cody Almond to the Aeros.

However, it's my understanding that one of the reasons Peters went to the Wild last week was because Almond was injured. So who knows?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

View from the Pressbox - Disheartening loss in front of 10,000-plus

Ouch.

I have been covering these Aeros for a long time, but rarely could you "feel" the disappointment as much as tonight. The whole place was literally waiting to explode, but you have to tip your hat to Toivonen for holding his ground and keeping all of those chances out of the net in the closing minutes.

The Aeros wasted a big chance to get back into first place. They'll still have that chance this week with at least three games they should win. The Aeros are better than the IceHogs, Syracuse Crunch and the Abbotsford Heat, and they'll play them all next week, along with a Saturday jaunt over to Cedar Park.

The crowd was great, the effort was definitely there right to the end, but if you have to point your finger anywhere, it was the first goal of the game. Matt Hackett was lazy covering up the puck, allowing Potulny to strip the puck and feed it to a wide-open Taffe. That swung all the momentum over to the last-place visitors.

I know, I know, I am nit-picking. So while I am at it, Kris Fredheim didn't look very good on the third-period goal that ended up as the game winner for the 'Hogs.

There were a lot of bad moments, but a few good ones, too. Wellman scoring for the third straight game, and when was the last time the Aeros scored a three-on-five shorty? That was impressive, Colton Gillies. You deserve that entire pizza you got after the game. (Yeah, I am jealous. I was really hungry at the time.)

Here is an updated look at the standings. Aeros still in second, but they only have 17 games left. They better start another stretch where they win four of five or five of six. Click on the image for a closer view.





Sunday Matinee - Aeros vs. Rockford

The objective is simple today; the Aeros need to continue to beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and the last-place IceHogs are one of those teams. A win today gives the Aeros sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 77 points.

OKC plays Texas today, and Aeros fans should be hoping for a Barons win. If that happens, the Aeros will be five points clear of the third place team in the division. Those points will be crucial for that week in April when the Aeros don't play any games.

Hackett likely gets the call today after picking up his second shutout of the season, but that is not a certainty. Also, I think we'll see Peters for the first time since his brief stint with the Wild earlier this week.

Here is an updated look at the stretch drive. Click on the picture for a closer look.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Aeros wallop OKC 5-0

Now two-thirds of the way to sweeping the weekend, the Aeros absolutely spanked OKC tonight. The best thing, IMO, is while the usual suspects showed up on the score sheet, scoring came from some more unusual suspects.

Matt Kassian opened the scoring, with an assist from Brandon Buck. I didn't see the goal to know how it happened, but I know I feel a little worse about a goal when someone who isn't known for scoring gets it. Maybe that set up a little doubt in goalie Jeff Deslauriers' mind.

If it didn't establish doubt, Casey Wellman's power play goal with just 19 seconds left in the first period did the job of sending both teams to the room with the Aeros holding the momentum.

Thanks to AHL Live sucking, I didn't see much of the first, but shots were 12-4 for the Aeros, so I'm going to guess that they did that whole "come out strong, get them on their heels, wear them out early" thing that has become their calling card.

Jed Ortmeyer scored the first of his two goals midway through the second period, while shots evened up during the period.

Justin Falk got the first of his THREE penalties during the second (other two in the third) as well, leaving me with nothing to do but give him a stern look and a "tsk-tsk"....

Patrick O'Sullivan scored the fourth goal in the third, with Ortmeyer getting his second of the night about 6 minutes later, shorthanded during during Falk's third penalty.

After that it was just everybody holding their breath that Hackett's well earned (31 shots) shutout as he faced 16 shots in the third. And he did just that!

I'm waiting for some games to end to write about the standings after tonight, so I'll update with that a bit later.

-------
UPDATE:

Okay, so now the Aeros are alone in 2nd place with Milwaukee 1 point ahead of them and the Stars a whopping THREE points behind them. And then the Rivermen, Rampage, Wolves, and Barons are all within 3 points behind the Stars.

With a win tomorrow, the Aeros would jump over Milwaukee and into first, as the Admirals are off tomorrow. But the Ads will still have a pesky 2 games in hand, so there's always that big ol' but sticking out there.

Much like Friday's game against Texas was a "but it's just Texas" trap game, I worry about that same complacency against Rockford who sit out of playoff contention at the bottom of not just the division but also the conference. As bad as they are in the standings, they beat Peoria AND Milwaukee already this weekend, so the Aeros get another step ahead of the game if they can avoid that trap.

The good thing is, both will be travel weary, both playing their third game in 3 days, so it's a level playing field as far as that's concerned.

See you tomorrow...

Random Thoughts from Last Night

Is anybody else like me where at this point in the season, it's all sorta running together?

Never the less, that was one of the most exciting games I've seen in a while and I'd been wondering when this "rivalry" was actually going to start looking like a rivalry. With 3 fights and more boarding than an airport, I'd say we're getting darn close to this one getting as nasty as San Antonio, especially as they get more desperate.

Like I always say, "If you can't beat 'em, beat 'em up."

I know you guys might think I don't like Anton because I'm hard on him, but it's not true. I'm hard on him because I know he's a good goalie. But I'm gonna say something good about him, in spite of that abysmal first goal against: When he lands on his butt and rolls through the splits to get back on his knees/feet... well, that's just fantastic bendy goalie porn and I (and others, trust me) appreciate the show. The kid is cuh-razy flexible.

So, don't say I never said anything nice about Anton.

How sick is that DiSalvatore, O'Sullivan, Wellman line? Good gravy. I kinda would have thought that line would be too much "soft and handsy" without Almond's grit, but honestly, they battled through bodies and protected the puck just fine. Being small, quick, and slippery like Wellman is can work pretty well if you've got solid hockey sense.

And while his OT game winner was a thing of beauty (how's that for a "Honey, I'm home!"), his back handed pass to DiSalvatore on that gorgeous tic-tac-toe goal impressed me even more. Awareness and finesse. Man. Welcome back. Stay healthy!

Since the game was at home Tuesday, I dunno how many of you heard Joe's 2nd intermission interview with Kalus, but I had to leave early and heard it on my way down to Space City to stop some pucks.

Anyway, if you haven't noticed, Kalus has been a healthy scratch a lot this season, so I was glad to hear the interview. Sometimes we only want to talk to guys who have a happy story to tell, but Kalus really doesn't right now. I thought he had matured a lot last season, but maybe wasn't finding his niche on this team, though he said in the interview that Yeo's system suits his game well.

The interview made me sad for the guy, because he clearly just wants to play and said they haven't really told him why he's not playing nor what he can do to get in the lineup (other than wait for guys to get hurt or called up, which is how he got in last night).

One really honest bit that stood out to me was when Joe asked him how this coaching staff is working for him, Kalus said that's hard to answer. On one hand, their style suits him and the team is doing well, but on the other hand they don't play him. I don't wanna put words in his mouth but I felt the gist was, "Well, no, they're not really doing it for me, to be honest."

I would think it's tough to see everybody else buying in and having success while basically looking in from the outside.

Anyway, kudos to Joe for doing an interview that was bound to get a little awkward. He was in the Terry Gross zone there.

I just checked out my magnet schedule while I was making my decaf (ugh--I miss caffeine) this morning and, man, is there ever a LOT of home ice hockey coming up. Wee! Gonna be a fun month if the guys play like we know they can (and now EXPECT them to).

The O'Sullivan Hit (In Photos)

Andrew mentioned a third period hit on Patrick O'Sullivan that ended up leading to a goal that tied the game. He mentioned he couldn't really see the hit because of where he was sitting, and where the hit was. I had a great view of the hit, and here are the photos. (Note: I was shooting through the glass, thus the smudges, and I haven't edited or touched up the photos yet, so caveats aside, here you go).





Friday, February 25, 2011

View from the Pressbox - Aeros beat Stars in OT

The Aeros really surprised me tonight in two areas Friday, and I think this is the main reason why they were able to beat the Stars for the ninth time in 10 tries this season.

First, after Anton became disoriented in the first minute of the game and allowed a soft goal by Francis Wathier, the Aeros played arguably one of their best periods in a long time. Rebounding from that awful play was key. They grabbed the lead on goals by Nate Prosser and Jon DiSalvatore.

Then, after Jordie Benn scored a very pretty goal in the third to give the Stars its second lead of the game, the Aeros, again rebounded, and dominated the rest of the contest. I didn't see who did it, but one of the Stars crushed Patrick O'Sullivan with a great hit near the blue line. Moments after that, Sully started the play that is definitely one of the Aeros' five prettiest goals of the season. He fed Wellman, Wellman flicked a backhander between the legs of the defense, and DiSalvatore buried the one-timer to tie the game.

I guessed that the Stars would snap their losing streak against the Aeros Friday, but I got that wrong as the line of Wellman, DiSalvatore and O'Sullivan dominated Texas to the tune of eight points.

It was a big night in the division, too, with all eight teams in the division playing. The two teams ahead of the Aeros both lost, so they are back in second place. And Oklahoma City got a 3-2 win over San Antonio and jumped ahead of them in the standings. Below is an updated look at the standings after games Friday.

Please click on the picture to get a better view:



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Playoff Picture Update

Let the scoreboard watching begin.

Last year, this is about the time when the toilet began to flush for the Aeros. They had a very favorable home schedule in December, and that is about the time when Anton began his eight-week stretch of being unable to steal a crucial win.

By late Feb, early March, Constantine was still saying the team needed to put together a stretch of seven wins in eight games or better to get back in it. That never happened, and the team never did win four in a row at any point.

Wednesday night, there were three games of significance. Milwaukee, the best team in the West, crushed OKC on the road. Peoria stomped all over Texas, and the Wolves squeaked out a win against the IceHogs, who have officially given up on their season. Rockford will be playing spoiler from here on out. They have 15 games remaining against the Top 7; Texas only gets to see them once, everyone else gets at least two cracks at them.

The Rivermen leap-frogged the Aeros for second place, and OKC just looked dead against an Admirals team playing its fifth game in six days. I think they are going to fade down the stretch, leaving a Top 6 vying for the five playoff spots. (NOTE - the North is getting better! The West may beat up on itself just enough to allow four teams in the that division to squeak in. We'll keep an eye on that for you, too.)

All 7 teams play games Friday and Saturday, so there is sure to be a ton of movement this weekend.

The updated graph is below. Please click on the image for a better view:



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Complaint Box Is Open

Well supposedly I'm a management shill -- though I think the person accusing me of such should actually bother reading the archives. I'm not a management shill, but frankly, I'm tired of reading complaints about the business/marketing/ticket office in post after post after post.

I can't speak for Andrew or Heather, but this blog was established to discuss the Aeros, the AHL, the Wild, and how what the Wild does affects the Aeros. It wasn't meant to be a forum for dealing with the ticketing folks or your complaints with them. It was to discuss hockey.

That said, I, and I alone, have opened up the door for that discussion time and time again as I have made my displeasure with certain things known time and time again, like the game in St. Paul, or moving the game day in St. Paul after people had made flight arrangements. I've made my displeasure with the morning kiddie games known, and I noted that I didn't like some of the season ticket plans they came up with after lots of other season ticket holders had already renewed.

But apparently I'm just a puppet for management. So, tell you what...

The complaint box is open. I want to hear your actual complaints about the ticket office/business office/marketing office. I want specifics. I don't want any of this stuff like they don't respect us, or they don't treat us like they used to. I want specifics. What is it that they used to do that they don't do now? Or what is something they're doing now they didn't do in the past? Did they screw you on a deposit? Did they make you change seats? Did they pull a bait-and-switch? Throw in the stuff about the game in St. Paul, or the kiddie games. Put all of your complaints here. Just give me some damn specifics. And yes, you can throw in the lack of Ice Girls if you want.

Let me hear them. I can't promise anything, but let me have the complaints, and I'll see if I can get some answers. But I need something specific to work with.

Ortmeyer, Prosser On Way to Wild

This just in...Jed Ortmeyer and Nate Prosser have been called up to the Minnesota Wild. Not sure if this is a short term thing, or if it's long term, and haven't heard about recalls from ECHL. But that could hurt the Aeros this weekend.

Oh, and to fend off the conspiracy talk, remember, Houston is a minor league team that serves to fill the needs of the Wild during the season, not vice versa.

Aeros Choke Away First Place

Here's my story in the mothership on last night's ugly, ugly loss to Milwaukee. There's a few quotes from Yeo in this story -- was just too busy and tired to include in last night's post. Even when the team was up 4-2 and seemingly cruising early in the third did Yeo think his team was in control of its destiny for the game.

And as I said last night, I've never waited so long for the Aeros locker room doors to open up -- not even Constantine kept them locked up this long after bad losses. We asked Yeo to give us a bit of an idea regarding what he said to the team, and he politely refused to talk about it beyond saying that they've got to bounce back and get back to the team they were.

So there you are. Comment away, but comment away over there if you wouldn't mind.

2/22/11 -- Aeros Sunk By Admirals, Lose 5-4

Milwaukee celebrates the first score of the game.

I'm not going to waste a lot of space on this game, a 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals that came about after the Aeros had a 4-2 third period lead. Mike Yeo kept the team locked up in the locker room for a long time after the game -- he kept them locked up way longer than Kevin Constantine ever did after a loss, and Kevin had a bit of a reputation for ripping into players.

So here are a few brief observations...

1. Patrick O'Sullivan pulled off a Krys Kolanos tonight, and that's not meant as a compliment. He had two goals -- one on a beautiful breakaway off of a good defensive play by Justin Falk -- and he assisted on Warren Peter's goal in the third. However, O'Sullivan forget to put forth much, if any, effort on defense, and he drew several really stupid penalties in the third period as the team was melting down.

2. It's easy to look at the score and say that Anton Khudobin had a bad game. It's easy, but that's not totally accurate. Milwaukee's second goal came about after Jamie Fraser got his stick on a puck and deflected a shot past Khudobin. Milwaukee's third goal came from Falk screening Khudobin. The fourth goal came after Khudobin blocked a shot, only to have Kris Fredheim get in the way and have the puck bounce off of his chest and into the net. And Khudobin blocked the fifth goal, only to have it rebound past him and just kind of rest on the line while Aero after Aero flailed away hopelessly at the puck.

3. The Aeros really melted down in the third period and it sure looked like, from the press box, that they just lost their composure. If I had been the coach, I would have called a time out after that fourth goal, the one that bounced off of Fredheim, and tried to calm the team down. I thought of asking Yeo about this after the game, but, well, after the long wait, I just wanted to get some general comments so I could go up and get my story written for the mothership.

4. The lines have changed. Carson McMillan/Jed Ortmeyer/Colton Gillies were the starting line. Patrick O'Sullivan/Jon DiSalvatore/Warren Peters were the second. Robbie Earl/Chad Rau/Jarod Palmer were line three, and Matt Kassian/JM Daoust/Brandon Buck were the fourth.

5. The team was incredibly hot in January. It was inevitable they would cool down and lose a few games. So I wouldn't stress out, yet. This happens to all teams -- after all, the Aeros would have never risen up the standings, no matter how good they played, if the teams in front wouldn't have lost a few. That said, the Aeros can't afford to go into a prolonged slump.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

View from the Pressbox - Admirals 5, Aeros 4

Don't worry, folks, the blown two-goal lead tracker was updated late in the third period when the team officially gave up. Tonight's game was a perfect case in point as to why the Milwaukee Admirals are the best team in the West division.

It was a weird game from the get-go, and the Admirals showed poise even after Patrick O'Sullivan scored a pretty breakaway goal in the third period, followed by a scrappy goal by Warren Peters. Milwaukee tied the game less than a minute later, and I don't even think the Aeros had five shots after that.

Several players stood out to me with poor games tonight, but Anton wasn't one of them. He wasn't great or good, just incredibly unlucky as three of Milwaukee's goals went off of Aeros players. I think the only real poor goal was the game-winner as he lost sight of a rebound.

Anton fell to 1-6-1-1 all time against the Admirals, and this was the first time he ever received four goals in his favor. Bad things just happen when he plays against this team in the regular season, and tonight was just another example of that.

The team is a lot more fun to cover when they win, so I sure hope this three losses in four games is just a fluke. Mike Yeo held the players for more than 20 minutes after this game and politely declined to give specifics on what was said.

I guess we'll see if any of it hits home Friday against Texas.

Here is an updated look at the down the stretch standings for the rest of the regular season. Please click on the image for better look.

Aeros vs. Admirals - 2/22/11

Some pre-game thoughts I would like to share with you ...

I sent a note over to Mike Yeo asking if he'd tell me who he planned to start in goal tonight against the Admirals. If I were lucky enough to make such decisions, I go with Hackett. He has been decent of late, and I would like to see how the kid performs in a third straight, high-pressure situation.

But that is not the main reason I want to see him. I don't want Anton on the ice on the other side of the Milwaukee Admirals. His luck against Milwaukee has been atrocious. Sure, he won four of seven in the playoffs in 2009. I give him credit for that. He was very good in the four wins (4 GA), but he was very poor in the three losses (the Aeros were outscored 16-4).

I am sure Yeo knows this, but Anton has just one win in eight regular-season appearances against the Admirals (1-5-1-1). That victory came via shootout earlier this year. But most of these seven losses were not exactly HIS fault. In his last six regular season appearances against Milwaukee, the Aeros have scored just five regulation goals. That is why I say he has just had incredibly bad luck against Milwaukee.

Now for some good news: in four of those losses, Dekanich has been the opposing goalie. That guy will be in Columbus tonight for the Blue Jackets' game against Nashville. The Admirals have to choose between a guy that literally stole two points from the Aeros last Friday (Jeremy Smith) and a guy that has played just four times since the middle of December (Anders Lindback).

My rotation for the Aeros this week would be Hackett tonight and Saturday; Anton Friday and Sunday.

I just got a note from Yeo; Anton is getting the nod tonight against the first-place Admirals. To be fair, he has played well against Milwaukee. He has never allowed more than three goals against them in the regular season and six of the eight have been decided by one goal. History suggests that he'll win if he allows one or fewer. He better be on his game tonight.

It all starts tonight against Milwaukee

I hate the Milwaukee Admirals. I know I am supposed to be impartial, etc., but I hate them because they are always good, they have a great coach, excellent goaltending and Nashville is probably the smartest team in the NHL when it comes to evaluating young talent.

And, the Admirals are going to enter the playoffs as THE team to beat out of the Western conference.

Tonight, the Aeros start a stretch against those Admirals where they will playing outside Texas just once in their next 18 games. For the next month and a half, they'll play three sets of three in threes, but seven of those games are at home and only once (this weekend when they go to OKC) will they have a disadvantage due to travel.

The Aeros passed all the tests they needed to pass to set themselves up for a very nice finish. In their last 14 games at Toyota Center, the Aeros are 10-3-0-1 (21 points). If they can duplicate that between now on the end of this 18 game stretch, they're going in as a No. 1 or 2 seed. If they win eight of them, I think that will be enough to get them into the playoffs.

But it won't be easy.

We have an intelligent, yet rogue commenter by the name of ICEVET who continues to point out how poorly the Aeros are on the power play and how they are near the top of the league in allowing shorthanded goals.

ICEVET is right in that the PP is very weak ... The PP needs to improve, if not thrive during this stretch of games.

Also, the Aeros have had a TON of success against both Texas and Oklahoma City this year. Trends and the law of averages suggests those teams are due for a few wins against the Aeros, and they play those two teams a combined six times during this stretch.

The Aeros will have to keep beating those teams and find a way to score more power play goals. And ... they are going to have to get better goaltending.

The team does seem to have those "intangibles" going for them so far. While not particularly great in any one area, they do enough to keep themselves in games and get two points. They have a great record in OT and shootouts and the Jon DiSalvatore/Patrick O'Sullivan combo has been very good.

DiSalvatore has points in five straight (2+3=5) and 14 of 16 (6+12=18) to lead the way. O'Sullivan has points in 13 of the 15 games he has played since joining the team (9+7=16) and has kept the power play from sliding all the way to the league's underbelly.

Since December, I have said if the team can just hang in there until late Feb. they'd be going to the postseason. Beyond losing a couple of key guys to injury or call-up, I still feel that way. They did what they needed to do to set things up for them. It's all there for the taking.

Now they just need to get it done. And it all starts tonight against Milwaukee.

(Click on the image below to see a schedule breakdown of the seven teams in the West fighting for five playoffs spots)






Sunday, February 20, 2011

Scandella reassigned, photos from last night

So, as you might have cleverly guessed from the subject, Marco Scandella has been cleared by the docs to return to game action. He was hit in the ear/side of head with a puck a while back in Minny, and it rung his bell a bit.

Now that Zidlicky is healthy and Spurgeon has, for all intents and purposes, cemented a spot up there, Scandella's the odd man out. But with Cuma out, the timing is fantastic and I'm sure the team is grateful to get a guy with his talent back on the blue line. Um, sorry #4.

Pictures from last night's 5-3 win over Rockford, courtesy of Chris "Baby Got Back" Jerina.

The face of hockey right there, folks. The dentist who fixes this when his playing days are over will be able to buy a new boat on the AHL's dime.
Peters screening the goalie but Toivonen's got his eye on it.
Never realized how annoying Peters is to goalies. It's a dangerous proposition from the back and the front, if you notice where that puck is headed....
Bang. Hackett gets his stick on it. Cool shot.
Kinda love this little cat and mouse game goalies and skaters play around the net.
Rau's reaction to his goal. Neat shot with the ref signaling in there.
Check out the rest of the photos, particularly on page 4, where you can see a series showing Ortmeyer battling for that empty net goal. Cool stuff. Thanks again, Chris!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ice Pigs bust the Aeros slump in 5-3 win

No thanks to AHL Live, I think you pretty much had to be there in person to see the game tonight. Luckily our Eye on the Midwest, Chris Jerina, was there shooting the game.

He told me the Aeros played "their game" the full 60 minutes and there were some tremendous efforts by various players.

First was DiSalvatore's goal to get the Aeros on the board first. He said it was a Bobby Orr type of diving goal and he wasn't kidding. Assists to Prosser and O'Sullivan. Here's his pic of it:

It's goalie porn, too! Way to multitask, Chris! Shazam! (Photo by Chris Jerina)
Falk tallied 5 minutes later with help from McMillan and Gillies. And then with just a few seconds left in the first, the Hogs got one past Hackett.

No problem though, as Noreau scored just one minute into the first, from Earl and Palmer. Unfortunately, the Hogs answered 3:30 later to put it 3-2.

Rockford tied it at 5:50 in the third and from there, I thought Andrew was going to be right in his prediction that this game was going to land in the Blown Lead Tracker to the right.

But Chad Rau called shenanigans on that nonsense (helpers from Earl and Falk---I have to wonder if this is Falk's first 2 point game?) and nabbed the game winner midway through the third. Rockford pulled Toivonen for the extra man, and Ortmeyer, through an apparently Herculean effort, potted an empty net goal to seal it up.

The Icehogs tweeted: "All the fans seem to be heading to the bathrooom?" at this point. Haha. Okay, it's over.

Anyway, good to get the win, and the Aeros remain tied in first place, but now it's with Milwaukee, who shut out Peoria tonight. But it's even better to hear that the boys played like we (and they) know they can.

But it's against the division's basement dwellers, so while it counts for sure, Tuesday's home game against Milwaukee is going to be huge for both teams. HUGE, I tell ya!

(AND I'M GONNA MISS IT!!! Don't be like me. Be there!)

Bye-Bye, Cody

Due to an injury with Mikko Koivu, Cody Almond has been called up to the Aeros. And according to Michael Russo, Almond was told to bring his warbrobe because it's going to be a long stay.

Pics from 1/18 Milwaukee game

Okay, a fresh day and a good 12 hours since I was yelling obscenities at my laptop screen... maybe I can say a few things.

One thing Chris Jerina, who shot the game for us, pointed out to me was that Buck was in for Daoust last night. I haven't checked with the team to see if this was a healthy scratch or not, but I'm going to assume it was, since he played the night before. (Artandhockey says Joe might have said he was injured last night...)

Even though this personnel shift didn't have an effect on the scoreboard, I believe it was overdue. JM was good enough last season to earn a 2-way NHL deal, but for whatever reason, is not the same player this year. I'm always hesitant to unload both barrels when I see this happen because maybe there's an injury or something going on.

But what I see is Robbie Earl setting him up time and again and Daoust just not doing anything with it. I see him throw a few hits a game, usually after plays like this, and I feel like they're just to make it look good. I dunno. JM's such a nice guy, I don't wanna be a dick, but he was thisclose to a "Dear JM" letter from me. I'll put it in my back pocket for now, but I hope we start to see Earl's hard work rewarded by his linemates sooner than later. It would make tremendous difference to convert on some of those opportunities.

/difficult talk

Anyway, here's pics from the game, courtesy of Chris "I Got Your Credential Right Here" Jerina. Thanks as always for the great stuff, Chris!

Wee! Love a good snow shower. 
Noreau throwing a pretty hip check (channeling Cuma?), but unfortunately got a penalty for it. Second time this season I've seen AHL refs call a penalty on a clean hip check. Maybe it's a dying art because guys are tired of going to the box for it.
Love this. Shows how damned hard it is to be a goalie in the AHL, but also I admire Smith's restraint for not just nutting Almond right there. So effective, but so verboten.
Earl's shootout goal. You can see the puck in the upper glove side corner of the net. Also, Smitty... nice and bendy. Rawr.
The shootout shot that made steam come out of my ears. Straight up the middle, knew right where it was coming. Can of corn for Smith. And it wasn't the only shot like this from the Aeros.
Oh look! 
*grumble*

Scouting note on Smith: He's just teasing you with that 5-hole. Get him moving.

Couple of glamour shots because I like those:

McMillan warming up. Cool perspective.
Your mother and I wish you'd wear more neck protection. Just sayin'. 
Anyway, here are the rest of them for your viewing pleasure. Some fun ones in there. Thanks again, Chris!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Knowing when to shut up is a virtue

So, the Aeros lost in a shootout to the Milwaukee Admirals. The tight game was 1-1 until the Aeros lost the shootout 2 goals to MKE's 3. Joe O'Donnell, which is what I'm calling Patrick O'Sullivan now because his name comes to me more readily, had the only goal.

I watched the last few minutes plus OT, plus the shootout. But I was so annoyed by offensive effort in the shootout, I can barely type. Which tells me I'm wayyyy too much in irrational fan mode to recap this game appropriately.

Let's just say, Aeros shooters may want to try shooting in the space around the goalie rather than right into his belly. I don't think Smith even had to move to on two of the last 3 shots.

Anyway, the Aeros walk away with the Thanks for Playing point and maintain a tenuous grasp on first place, tied with (but behind) San Antonio, who beat Syracuse 4-2 tonight (in Ray Emery's first game back).

That is all! Happy Saturday!

And In The Houston Press

What if they played a hockey game and nobody came? Well, for those of you who stayed away, here's my game story from the Houston Press. Give it a read and leave your thoughts, if any.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aeros Lose Again, Try To Prevent Slump

It's no story around here that the Aeros are in a tight fight for a playoff hunt. There are six points separating the Aeros, who are in first place, from Chicago, who is in seventh place. Yes, you read that right, six points between first and seventh place. So the Aeros are at a stretch in the season where they can't afford to go off on a long losing streak.

But today, in their 3-1 loss to the Wolves, the Aeros resembled more that team we came to know and loathe in early December than the team we've come to know since Christmas. They came out slow, with absolutely no energy or focus, and things never improved. Sure, they outshot Chicago 35-17 -- the Wolves took only four shots in the second period and one shot in the third period -- but that was not so much the Aeros defense as it was Chicago just focusing on defense.

And while Anton Khudobin didn't have the best days -- he did let in two pucks on just four shots in the second period -- he was most definitely not the cause of the loss. At least he, at times, appeared to be trying to focus. So...

1. The Aeros got off to a slow start. They got off to a slow start on Sunday. And apparently, according to Mike Yeo, they got off to bad starts in the wins over Rockford and Peoria. So while two losses does not a trend make, four slow starting games in a row do.

2. "I think, certainly, you could see it the last two or three games of that six-game wining streak," Yeo said. "You could see that we were starting to get away from who we are a little bit. As it happens, when things are going well for you, you can get away with it. In order to turn things around, and get things going well for yourself again, you better be honest with yourself and approach the game the right way. And make sure, number one, that the work ethic is there, and number two, that you’re committed to playing the type of game that we need to play to be successful."

3. Jon DiSalvatore agreed with Yeo, saying that this is something the team's been struggling with the past week or so, even though they were winning games.

"I think the same reason we were having so much success with our starts was focus and execution, and that’s the same reason for some of the woes that we’ve been having over the past few games is just our focus and execution" he said. "Sometimes you have a tendency, when things are going so good, to forget what got you there. And that’s obviously slipped away from us a little bit these past couple of games. But we’re a team that’s always found a way to rise up to challenge, and right now we’re facing a little bit of a challenge. I’m confident that we’ll bounce back from this."

4. The Aeros need to bounce back from these past couple of games, and they need to bounce back quickly. That's because, as I wrote above, there are only six points separating the Aeros from seventh place Chicago. And with only 23 games remaining in the regular season for the Aeros, a prolonged slump of any kind could possibly doom them.

5. "Every point is crucial," DiSalvatore said. "You really can’t go into any game and feel like, okay, we’re in a comfortable situation. We’re never in a comfortable situation in this division. We’re in a playoff mentality right now where from one night to the next you can move four spots in the standings. It’s crucial to look at every game and every point, as a must win, and a must need point. That’s something that we know, and we’re going to apply to everything that we do in preparation."

6. Still, it seems strange to worry about a team, go into stress over, a team that's 16-6-0-1 since Christmas. But we all knew that the team couldn't keep up that level of play for the rest of the season. The play has been spectacular, and during the stretch, especially in January, they were doing just about everything perfectly. The hope was that, at some point, the rest of the division would start slumping. And for the most part, this hasn't happened. Each team let up just enough for the Aeros to catch up -- and the Aeros have had the number of the Stars this season -- but the Aeros, while catching up, haven't been able to put any space between them and the opposition.

7. We asked Yeo after the game whether he considered pulling Anton Khudobin from the game after that third goal, which came less than a minute after the second.

"My plan was to play Matt [Hackett] tomorrow," Yeo said. "Anyway, so unless something happened – I didn’t think that it was Anton’s fault, and changing the goalie at that time was really going to change the momentum of the game. I thought that it was a little unfair to pull Anton in that situation, given how the team was playing front of him."

8. And Yeo made a good point. Khudobin didn't play that great a game -- he did give up three goals on just 17 shots -- but he played a tremendous game when compared to his teammates.

9. The Aeros didn't seem to have much oomph on offense. We noted during the game that Robbie Earl seemed to be setting up his line mates time and time again with good opportunities, but nothing would happen. We asked Yeo about this after the game, and he admitted that he's worried about the Earl/Daoust/Rau line as well as the Almond/DiSalvatore/O'Sullivan line.

"We need some production from that line, there’s no question," Yeo said of the Earl line. "Even Almond’s line, the last couple of games, five-on-five, we haven’t been generating much. I think it’s a matter – it’s nice to go out as a line like that, they know what their identity is and they know that they’re supposed to score goals. Having said that, you’ve got to respect the process. There’s far too many turnovers from both lines. And far too little commitment as far as getting to the offensive zone and doing it the right way, and doing it the way that we’ve had the success with. And once we get that back, then I think that those guys will see that the results will start to come."

10. The one thing I noticed, and it's probably just me, was that the Aeros were having their best starts when Colton Gillies, Warren Peters, and Jed Ortmeyer were the starting line. I don't know what the starting lines were on the road, but these guys seemed to provide the right tone when it came to starting the game. They weren't going to score goals, but they were going to get the energy level on the ice up.

11. The crowd was non-existent today. There were supposed to be a ton of HISD high school kids at the game, but most of them bailed out. It's my thought that they bailed out because, after cancelling classes for the Snowpocalyse two weeks ago, they couldn't justify pulling kids out of school for a hockey game.

12. And Aeros, a favor. The next time you have one of these daytime matinees, please coordinate things with the Hilton and the George R. Brown Convention Center because parking in the Toyota Center parking garage was virtually non-existent for those of us attempting to get to the game because of some kind of convention that was going on.

13. The good news is that, though the Aeros lost today, since this was the only game played, the Aeros are still in first place.

14. I haven't played any videos in awhile, but since I've discovered another reader who is a fan of Juliana Hatfield, I have to play some Juliana Hatfield before I end this post. So here's the Juliana Hatfield Three with "My Sister," just because.

What If They Played A Hockey Game And Nobody Came?

This is what Toyota Center looked like at the start of the game. And no, it didn't get any fuller. Note, official attendance was 2515. But I think they exaggerated just a bit. Perhaps this will mean a reduction of these type of gimmick days next year?




Yes, that is Heather. But she's not working. She's playing around Twitter.

And the press box.

Aeros Lose To Chicago

Sorry for the lack of story or pics at the moment. Let's just say I'm having computer issues and will try to get something up later tonight. Needless to say, I won't be saying anything nice as the Aeros lost 3-1 to Chicago in a game where it appeared the Aeros did the same thing all of the school students did who were supposed to be at Toyota Center today -- they didn't come.

Very disappointing game. Their worst since early December in my opinion. Could have been worse if not for Anton Khudobin, who though not having his best game, at least appeared to be giving it a bit of an effort today.

Like I said, more later, promise. Including some quotes from Mike Yeo and Jon DiSalvatore.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pics from Saturday's Wild Game

I know not everybody is interested in the Wild over here, so I put pictures from that game over at Ms.Conduct. Just to whet your appetite, I'll post one here. Chris called it "something for everyone" (with everyone meaning John and Me).

Pretty ice girl and stretching goalie in one shot. If she plays hockey, too, then count me in as hot for both of them...

Ice girl and Niklas Backstrom. Photo by Chris "Aim to Please" Jerina

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pics from Aeros v. Rivermen

Thanks to Chris "Hello Kitty" Jerina, we've got pics from the game Sunday! And trust me, the still pictures > the actual game on this one. By a lot. These are some of my favorites, but you can see the rest here.

Let's just get this out of the way: Oh. My. God. Ben. Bishop. Do that.
Setting the scene: Player introductions before the game
Doesn't matter how many Dear Anton letters I have to write, he's adorable.
Oof. 
Anton makes a save
Max and a puck in the air
If you can't get the puck in, try levitating in front of the goalie
Sully attempts a wrap-around

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good lord, boys, get back to Texas

Hopefully you were able to watch the game today online, or followed along with T3I on Twitter, because if you did, you are all set to appreciate how infrequent games like this 3-1 loss to Peoria really are for this squad.

This was the worst game I've seen them play at least since the new year. All that great puck possession, winning battles, compete-compete-compete.... none of those were there in any useful amount today. They looked like--god forbid--last season's Aeros. Apart from maybe 3 or 4 shifts where they looked like the Aeros you and I know, it was just sloppy hockey.

Nate Prosser talked to media after the game and said he didn't think it was nerves rattling the boys, but Yeo was pretty definitive in his opinion that it was.  I tend to agree with Yeo, or I should say, both of them. Even if there weren't more conscious nerves than they usually get before games, they just seemed to be trying too hard to be pretty all game and losing battles all game long.

But I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were a bit worn out, both mentally and physically. I can imagine the attention and busy schedule for the guys when they're in Minny for such a short time is challenging, especially at the end of a road trip. And Prosser said he, Rau and Palmer, all Minnesota boys, were particularly innundated with interviews and, I'm sure family and whatnot. Lots to cram into 2 days.

I don't see this game as a big deal though. This team has proven what it can do over and over again at this point. They'll be fine when they get back in their regular routine. I think they know that, too. Prosser seemed very at ease and in good spirits after the game and knowing the character of the team, I'd guess that's the vibe in the rest of the room.

The only thing that should leave anybody with a lasting heavy heart is the awful-looking injury to defenseman Tyler Cuma. Russo is reporting tonight that he tore his ACL and will have to undergo reconstructive surgery. Out 6 months.

It was an awful looking thing, too. Here's a pic of him after taking a shoulder, going airborne, and then basically just falling in a heap to the ice. His upper body was moving so you knew it wasn't head or anything. But he was deliberately not moving his legs.

Tyler Cuma takes a hit and ends his season. Photo by Chris Jerina
If you'd seen the Kurtis Foster broken femur incident a few years ago, I defy you to watch the Cuma injury and not think of that. It was almost as gut wrenching.

I'm not a crier but I had to fight back tears. Not only because I feel all maternal about these young guys, but also because, as Yeo said, Cuma in particular has had so much adversity due to injuries in his short career, was coming along really well, and now this.

You just hate to see it. And it's not like he plays a recklessly physical style. He's just a good, solid, stay at home d-man. With terrible, terrible luck.

And while I'm on pictures, here's a shot of the lone Aeros goal scorer today, Cody Almond. Houston had 7 power play chances, including two 5-on-3 chances, and that was the only conversion.
Cody Almond, goal scorer. Photo by Chris Jerina 
The PP was a total mess at times (allowing one shorthanded goal), but it was just a carry-over from the rest of the game. All the regular offensive guys looked like they were playing with the wrong sticks or were afraid of getting hurt (even before Cuma was injured).

It wasn't any chippier than usual against Peoria, but there was a fight early on between Kassian and Peluso. They're so similarly sized, though, that neither could get much traction on the other. I'd say Kassian landed more clean blows, plus he's ours, so he earned the win.
Big Matt Kassian lands a punch on big Anthony Peluso. Photo by Chris Jerina
Lastly (there will be more photos later), here's a pic of some Aeros fans (comment if it's you!) riding the... whatever that thing is... during intermission. I hope everybody who came up had a great time, even if the game didn't turn out so hot. At least the Wild game the night before was great fun and the girls got to swoon over Ben Bishop's stretching. That boy is a tall drink of bendy.... mercy.

People you may know riding a hollowed out Zamboni. Photo by Chris "Boom Boom" Jerina

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cody Almond Sinks Peoria

The Aeros just pulled out the 4-3 win over the Rivermen in the shootout with Patrick O'Sullivan getting the first shootout goal and Cody Almond getting the game-winner. The win is the sixth straight for the Aeros, and it keeps them in sole possession of first place with a record of 32-19-1-3 (68 points).

The three stars of the game, per the Peoria media, included just one Aero, Nate Prosser, who scored the Aeros first goal of the game. I'm kind of surprised that Anton Khudobin didn't get a star. Sure, he gave up three goals, but then again, he faced 45 43 shots for the entire game and stopped 42 40, so that sounds pretty damn good to me. Then again, I didn't watch the game, so he might have looked like crap on the three shots that got past him.

Nate Prosser got the first goal, giving the Aeros a brief lead in the first. Jean-Michel Daoust and Robbie Earl had the assists. The Aeros trailed 2-1 after one period as the team's penalty kill collapsed. Patrick O'Sullivan tied the game in the second -- assists from Cody Almond and Jon DiSalvatore -- and Colton Gillies put the Aeros up 3-2 in the third when he nailed a penalty shot.

This was the fourth win in a row for the Aeros away from Toyota Center, and it was the team's sixth in a row overall as they maintain the fiery pace they've been on since Christmas. And here's the note of the day: the best record in the Western Conference, not just the division, but the entire conference, belongs to the Aeros.

The Aeros play the Rivermen in St. Paul on Sunday, then return home for the second of this year's kiddie games on Thursday morning at 11:05.

NOTE: It's my understanding that Heather and/or Andrew will be in St. Paul on Sunday, so hopefully one of them can actually file something on T3I with some actual quotes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slaughterhouse 4-1

Can you believe these Aeros? I really can't. Personally, I'm sorta holding my breath until they get past Peoria this weekend, which is a much better test than Rockford or Texas. I'm still not 100% sure where to set my expectations for this team.

Someone asked me the other day if they are overachieving or just finally playing to their level and I didn't know how to answer. I think there's a bit of both going on. A perfect storm of confidence and chemistry and skill and hard work. Sometimes it seems so tricky to make all that happen, that even if each guy is playing up to his potential, it still might not work out this well.

I dunno. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, though, right?

Anyway, here are pics from last night, courtesy of Chris "Dollar Hot Dog" Jerina, who is playing with some new lenses in anticipation of shooting the Aeros at the Xcel on Sunday. Should have some good stuff for you and I'll be tweeting the game live and in person from St. Paul.

JM Daoust and the boys have their whoop-ass faces on as they head to the ice.
Bohmbach is a bad goalie. Prosser had a great 2 point night.
A peek inside the Rockford arena. Cozy barn.
Sal's lucky. If I were the goalie, my stick wouldn't be on the ice.
Gillies shows off his pretty chicklets.
The amazing O'Sullivan being amazing
GOAL
Yay! Happy boys!

Okay, that's enough. You can see the rest by clicking here. Thank you again, Chris!!