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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Practice Day at the Broome Closet

The Aeros and BSens both held full practices this morning and I got to see inside the very cozy Broome County Veterans' Memorial Arena for the first time.

It's a peach. I'm not sure you could have a more opposite building from the humid, sterile expanse that is the Toyota Center. It's like a meat locker, small, old, full of character and grime. I mean that as pure compliment.

The ice is hard and fast. And the ice sheet is small. The neutral zone is a postage stamp, the corners are shallow. It's a tight, tight sheet, but the Aeros think it benefits their style of game.

"I think we play a type of game that, number one, we create a lot of turnovers, and turnovers are a big part of playing on small ice," said Yeo. "I think that our speed is more of a factor on a small ice surface, and I think that with the physicality that we bring and as far as we want to get on their D as quick as possible, I think it’s 2-3 less strides to get there."

DiSalvatore agreed, also saying the guys are excited about the speed of the game on such hard ice.

"We’re just going to manage what we know, as far as where we’ve got to be smart with the puck and where our trouble zones are and how to avoid those," said DiSalvatore. "Ultimately, I think that the smaller surface is going to work to our favor, allowing us to get on loose pucks quicker."

The other theme from this building is how on top of the ice the fans are. And they use it to their advantage. Heck, they even booed Lehner and chanted "BAR-RY BAR-RY" at one point in the season when he was being played (and struggling a bit) instead of Brusty. So you KNOW they'll get after somebody else's goalie.

Yeo admits it's a challenge, but one the team can get excited about.

"If you don’t get excited about playing games like this, then you’re in the wrong sport, you’re in the wrong business," Yeo said. "We have a lot of guys that have played in the building for one thing and I, myself, have coached a number of games, coached in here in the playoffs as well, so we know very well what to expect."

"I think that certainly the crowd is going to be great here. They’re going to be getting on us and we’ve seen that in Milwaukee, getting on our goalie (Hackett). And he seemed to really rise to that challenge and enjoy that and feed off of it."

DiSalvatore had my favorite quote about it though:

"We’ve heard stuff about their fans, but we’re not really too worried about it. They going to be there to support their team and do whatever they can to lift them up and bring us down. So, it’s part of the game and I’m sure it’s going to be very loud, and it’s going to be a ruckus, but we’re here to quiet that."

Gotta say, Jonny D kinda always has this twinkle in his eyes and when he says badass, confident stuff like that, I tend to want to believe him. I'm such a girl sometimes.

Tomorrow night is going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait to share it with you guys.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In flight and photos from Game 2

Well, gang, the Aeros looked the other way while I sneaked into the luggage compartment of the charter flight they're taking up to Bingo. So, T3I will be with you all week, live in Binghamton, covering morning skates, games, and any other trouble I can find.

It's just Ms.C for now but John is getting in for the Friday and Saturday games and maybe Drew makes an appearance if we get lucky. I'll do my best to get you good info all week.

Credit to the Wild for stepping up for some nice travel arrangements. I saw lots of players' faces light up as they boarded the plane. In particular, one tall defenseman had the biggest reaction, even though he's spent plenty of time with the Wild flying just as swankily.

Just goes to show how much it's appreciated, but especially by the extra tall boys who would otherwise have their knees up by their noses in coach.

Anyway, without further ado, here are Chris "Beer Me" Jerina's photos of Game 2. If you want to see all of them, along with Saturday's morning skate, go here.

Okay, just ONE Brusty pic. Because... well... just look. *wolf whistle*
Awesome shot of Carson McMillan rendering his mouth guard useless
Bags doesn't get enough love here, but this is a nice shot.
Okay, back to goalies...
Oh my....
For the Locker fans...

Bunch more where these came from. In the mean time, I need a nap. Gonna be a busy week.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

View from the Press Box - B-Sens win Game 2 in OT

Well, it's 2003 all over again.


Save for three extra overtime periods, the Aeros are in the same spot they were in after two games in 2003 when they split the first two games in Hamilton.

They won the first game in regulation, lost the second game in (FOUR) OTs.

So before everyone starts bombarding us with comments about the game-losing goal or how bad the second period was, just think for a moment how this weekend could have gone had the Aeros been 100 percent.

I think they were extremely tired.

They are 1-1 in the finals, and they have not even played their best hockey yet. Fatigue has to be a factor right now, adn three days off is a God-send for the Aeros, who need to win one of the next three games to send the series back to Toyota Center.

The Aeros have played six games in the last 12 days and had travel mixed in with the emotional demons of having to worry about blowing a 3-0 series lead.

God, I hate to sound like a homer, but man, the Aeros should have had two to three more power plays in the game - especially early in the third period.

Not going to say much more about that; the Aeros had their chances to win the game, and I am looking forward to seeing what they can do on the road and in a building where the Senators are just 4-4 in the postseason.

I think O'Sullivan, DiSalvatore and Rau are going to have a fun week up there.

Anyway ... now ... what are your thoughts on the game?

Easily Amused: Photos

Angry face

Okay, okay, here are some real pictures, too, from Chris "I'm effing stuck in Atlanta" Jerina.

It wouldn't be right to not start out with a Brusty pic. I mean, this is The Dream after all.
Just stoppin' pucks. NBD.
This guy should always wear a beard. It works. Rawr.
The J.M. stands for "Crazy Eyes" in French.
Ortmeyer's shot on his game winner
And then the WOOOOOO!
And Ortmeyer's first goal.
Anyway, many more here if you want to look through them.

See you tonight!

Friday, May 27, 2011

View from the Press Box - Aeros rally to take Game 1

In front of the largest playoff crowd (8,018) since Game 5 of the 2003 AHL finals, the Aeros rallied with there third-period goals en route to a 3-1 win Friday night at Toyota Center.

The Ortmeyer-Peters-Gillies line was (by far) the best unit on the ice. Period.

(Hope you enjoy these two amazing photos by Chris Jerina, who went through travel hell to get here in time for Game 1.)

Other than a poor decision by Matt Hackett that led to the game's first goal, the Aeros systematically shut down the Senators' attack. The highest scoring team in the playoffs lost a game in which they scored first and they lost a game in which they led after two periods.

The Aeros found a new gear in the third period and other than a few tense moments late in the game, really outplayed the Senators, who were playing their first game in nine days.

The Aeros are not 3-0 in championship-round Game 1s. Tomorrow, they will get a chance to win a Game 2 for the first time every. Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst was pretty upset in the post game presser. Basically he said he had no IDEA which team that was.

I expect part of this to be fatigue, but this is the kind of game the Aeros play when the game is close in the second and third period. They never give up and they will come at you until the final horn sounds.

If you thought Game 1 was intense, just wait until tomorrow night.

Ms.C's prediction and the feeling from the BSens' room

Sorry, in my haste this morning, I failed to actually POST my morning skate post after I previewed it. Oops.

Anyway, hope you get a chance to look at that below.

There's a fairly unified message coming from the BSens room: The heat doesn't bother us, the ice doesn't bother us, we'll deal with their physicality, and if we stick to our systems, we're fine.

They are one seriously confident team and that's good for Houston, because I think when they hit the wall that is the Aeros, they're going to have to find a championship gear to shift into. The Aeros are already in that gear.

But the reason I picked Binghamton in 5 is because I think they do have that gear. Especially if the Aeros continue to turn the puck over and stink on the PK. They WILL capitalize.

Hate to be so negative. Consider it reverse jinxing or whatever if you need to. But Bingo's offense really does concern me and it concerns the Aeros, too. Which is good. Gotta respect scoring like that.

My apologies, as I meant to get some quotes up for you from Locke and Brust, but I can't find a quiet moment to do so. Will get something together one way or another before long.

View from Morning Skate

Quick update from morning skate where we're now watching Binghamton's morning skate. Or morning stand-around at this point.

The Aeros did a fairly quick skate geared toward getting the sticks and feet moving. Nothing much to report, other than Kassian skated with the Black Aces and Yeo says Wellman will start the game on the 4th line like he did in game 7 vs. Hamilton. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Compared to Binghamton, they run a fairly sober skate. Bingo has looked really loose both days I've seen them practice, even though yesterday was a pretty tough practice for them. Hard to judge though, since I haven't been to many other morning skates for Houston. Just thought it was interesting to note.

Yeo said after that he's excited. This is what you go through the 80-game grind for. This is what it's all about.

Stopping Binghamton's insane offense is obviously the biggest challenge. Yesterday, Bingo worked 3 on 1s pretty hard. Today it's 2 on 1s. You think they've got a bead on Houston's penchant for turnovers? Yes they do.

As Yeo said, even if you limit Binghamton's chances, it's not enough. "They don't need a lot of quality chances to put the puck in the net."

I'll have more from the Binghamton room later this afternoon, where we talked to Locke and Brusty (everybody swoon with me...) and coach Kleinendorst. Actually, Joy Lindsay, Binghamton's beat writer talked to them. I stood there and admired them. My job is awesome.

Y'all fired up? I'm excited. This is fun.

No so fearless prediction

Unlike my game-to-game results, my record in correctly predicting the Aeros' result in the playoffs has been fairly spot on this year.

Before every series, the Chronicle runs my matchup sheet and a prediction. Here is the one for this Calder Cup finals series against the Binghamton Senators. I have picked the Aeros to win in seven games, because I feel that with home ice advantage, they should be able to win three of four at home and steal on in New York.

I do think a win tonight is crucial, especially considering the Senators have not played in nine days. Remember that Game 1 against Milwaukee?

Since I took over the beat in 2002, the Aeros have played in 15 playoff series. They have been to the finals twice, and are 2-for-3 in the Conference finals round since then. In 15 tries, I have successful picked the series winner 10 times (.667 winning percentage for you stats freaks.) That record would be much better, but I was not a believer in 2009.

I had zero faith in that team because of the goaltending situation ...but as they say, they just wanted it more in seven-game wins over the Rivermen and Admirals.

As an unbiased member of the media, and one who has not seen Binghamton play one game this season, I think the Aeros are more prepared to win a championship. It is my opinion that the Eastern Conference was significantly weaker, and I don't think the Senators have been challenged (in the same ways the Aeros have) this postseason.

I came to the Aeros-in-Seven conclusion based on the fact that I see the Aeros splitting here this weekend, winning just one of three in New York and then coming home to win two straight for the title.

Although I do not cheer for the Aeros to win, I would like to see them skate around the Toyota Center with the Calder Cup trophy on June 9. I think they will be able to contain the Senators four lines of fury, eek out of few more close wins and close this thing out with a 3-2 win in game 7.

Here's to hoping my meaningless .677 winning percentage improves yet again.

2003 (4-0)
Aeros in five over Milwaukee (Aeros won in four)
Aeros in seven over Norfolk (Aeros in six)
Aeros in seven over Grand Rapids (Aeros in seven)
Aeros in seven over Hamilton (Aeros in seven)

2004 (0-1)
Aeros in three over Cincinnati (Mighty Ducks in two)

2005 (1-0)
Wolves in six over Aeros (Chicago in five)

2006 (1-1)
Aeros in six over Peoria (Aeros in four)
Aeros in seven over Milwaukee (Admirals in four)

2007 (DNQ)

2008 (0-1)
Aeros in seven over Rockford (IceHogs in five)

2009 (1-2)
Rivermen in Six over Aeros (Aeros in seven)
Admirals in Seven over Aeros (Aeros in seven)
Manitoba in six over Aeros (Moose in six)

2010 (DNQ)

2011 (3-?)
Aeros in seven over Peoria (Aeros in four)
Aeros in seven over Milwaukee (Aeros in seven)
Aeros in seven over Hamilton (Aeros in seven)
Aeros in seven over Binghamton (?????)

My Fearless Prediction

Even on the road and away from the team, I can see that I'm the only one around here willing to go on the record with a Calder Cup final prediction. And since all I know about the Senators consists of their barely making the playoffs, and of Corey Locke and Barry Brust being on the team, I'm going to go with the one thing I do know, and that's the Aeros.

So the Aeros win it all. But since it's the Aeros, there will be a lot of heartbreak and grinding of teeth. And since they don't do simple, I say they win in seven. And since I'm out of town for the next several games, I'll see all of you for game 4 from Binghamton.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some Final Hamilton Thoughts and Story Links

Look in the background at Mike Yeo's smile.

Here's some links to some news stories from last night's game. Here's my Press story. Here is Heather's story from Pro Hockey News. And here is the write-up in the Chron from Andrew.

Chronicle columnist Jerome Solomon was also at last night's game, and he wrote a very good column on the game that really captures the essence of this team. So go read his, after you read mine.

Here's the story from the Hamilton side, especially their view of the DiSalvatore goal.

I don't know what more to say about that goal, though I think Andrew's working on something about Hamilton was robbed on it. I had a bad angle. I put up my one good photo of the sequence. And it looked to me as if Terry Koharski was actually in a good position to see everything that was happening. However, there have been countless times during this playoff run where it's looked like Hackett or MacIntyre or Jeremy Smith had control of the puck and play should be stopped but instead the officials let the whack-a-goalie approach go on and on and on and on, so why should it have suddenly changed for this game?

It's a shame that this all comes down to the officiating, but in a way, I think we all suspected that the guys in the zebra stripes would have too much of a say in how it all ended, and I hope that the AHL will use these playoffs to reevaluate how they assess officials because countless goals calls were missed, and penalties were missed while phantom calls were made.

As I said last night, I won't be around for games one and two of the Finals because of previously booked vacation plans. But I've been informed that our Milwaukee Bureau Chief, Chris Jerina will be around, so it looks like there'll be photos of those games after all. But I've booked my flights, hotel, etc., and contacted Binghamton media relations, and I will be there for games four and five.

Notes, Quotes, Observations, And End Game Controversies -- A Fun Night In Houston

Sorry folks, this is going to be quick. They're doing electrical work at my apartment complex tomorrow and shutting off the power at 9:00 a.m., so I've got to get some sleep. But I wanted to throw out a few things, and answer some questions.

1. Some of you have wondered why Hamilton got so upset over the DiSalvatore game-winner, besides it being the game-winner. Hamilton was arguing that Drew MacIntyre was in control of the puck, so the whistle should have been called. This is an issue we've seen all series with the officials taking forever to blow the whistle, allowing players to play whack the goalie.

I was down at the other corner, but I checked my photos of the sequence. In most of them, I can't tell anything because there are too many players blocking my view of MacIntyre, but I do have this one photo below. And if you look closely under MacIntyre's pads -- click on the photo to enlarge it -- you'll see that the puck is free. This is just a split second before the goal is called.

Here's what Jon DiSalvatore had to say about the play: "The puck was thrown at the net. It was laying there between his pads. I think he may have thought he had it covered, so throw everything at him and see what happens. Sometimes that’s the way you’ve got to get it through that guy."

2. This next sequence of photos involves the very end of the game where we had the scrum in front of Matt Hackett and where it looked like some of the Hamilton players were going to kill the officials. The issue here, as I understand it, was that the Hamilton players felt one of the Aeros, and I heard Justin Falk's name, covered the puck with his hand while in the crease, thus there should have been a penalty shot called.

This happened just in front of me, so I checked my photos. If you look closely, you'll see the puck right below the "4" of Falk's sweater. You can't see the puck in the final photo as it appears that he's rolled over on it.

Three things. If you look at the photos, it appears that Terry Koharski is looking right at the puck and at Falk. Second, from these angles, I don't see how Falk could have grabbed hold of the puck. Third, in the final photo it looks as if Warren Peters was making a grab for the puck, but that's the best shot I have as chaos ensues in the photos I have after that.

3. We get lots of access to these guys during the season, so we get to know them. And as much as advancing to the Calder Cup means to all of these guys, I think it means more to Jon DiSalvatore than it does anybody. He's spoken in the past about never winning a playoff series, and about how special this group of players is, and how much he wanted this. And now he's got it.

"You can go around the league and find maybe more talented teams than our team, just on paper," he said after the game. "But character-wise, top to bottom, the depth that’s on our team, the coaching staff. Everything has just come together so nicely and we’ve grown so much. Guys have brought into the process of maturing as people and as athletes. You see that all come together in 20 minutes of a hockey game. Everything that we battle through to persevere and come out. That’s what makes it so special. We put in all that extra time throughout the year just for a moment like that. And that’s why this team’s so special."

4. This couldn't have been an easy night for Casey Wellman. Wellman's struggled throughout out the playoffs, and tonight he was on the fourth line after having started the playoffs against Peoria on the top line. So playing on that fourth line, Wellman went out and had his best game of the playoffs, scoring the second and third goals of the game.

"This series has been a struggle," Wellman told us. "Obviously we went up three games, and lost three in a row. And personally, it’s been kind of a struggle for me. But these are the games you dream about, game sevens, and I’m glad I was able to step up for our team."

5. And we asked Mike Yeo about the move, and Yeo responded: "It’s a response by him. It’s a tremendous response, and that’s what you’re looking for, and that’s how we got to this point, really. I give Casey huge credit for the way he responded tonight…."

6. And let's hear it for you fans who were attendance. That was the loudest I've heard Toyota Center in years. There were 6,000-plus in attendance, and your presence was felt every moment. You have no idea how much it meant to the players, and how they fed off of it. That's what home ice advantage is all about.

"We haven’t been a team to go to center ice and salute the crowd before. I think it’s a great tradition, and it’s something that I would like to see," Yeo said. "But the guys thought it was appropriate tonight because that crowd was unbelievable. I thought that just the game, the excitement value of it, just the energy that the crowd brought to the game and the life that they brought to our players was phenomenal."

That's it. I'm out of here. I'll try to post a link to the mothership story whenever it goes up, providing I can find some power and a wireless connection somewhere. Also, some bad news. I'm not going to be at games one and two because of previous vacation plans, so there won't be any photos. Maybe Heather will nice enough to bring out the pen and paper and do us some stick figure drawings, though I'm sure all of her attention will be focused on Mr. Barry Brust. But the good news is that I will be in Binghamton for games four and five.

Goodnight everybody. It's been an incredible evening.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

View From The Press Box -- Aeros Take Down Hamilton

Wow. Just wow. Right? What else is there to say, but Wow.

The Aeros did it. They defeated Hamilton 4-3 in a tough game that saw both teams playing some of their best hockey of the series. They were both playing desperate, neither wanting to go home, and in the end, it was the Aeros who were most desperate as Jon DiSalvatore fought like a mad man to shove a puck past Drew MacIntyre with 1:13 left in the game.

I'll try to post some quotes later. And Andrew said he would try to throw some stuff up, and I encourage you to read our bits in the Chronicle and the Press and Pro Hockey News.

But I just wanted to get some stuff up so you'll have a place to leave comments. And I thought you would want to see some photos. But I didn't think you'd care about action photos, I thought you would be interested in these photos from the game ending, and the handshake, and the players coming out to salute the 6,000-plus who made the Toyota Center a really loud place, and finally, this photo of JM Daoust and Matt Hackett, skating off the ice.

The Aeros now play Binghamton and former Aeros Barry Brust and Corey Locke for the Calder Cup, and the action starts this weekend in Houston. Game one is Friday and game two is Saturday. Game three is in Binghamton next Wednesday, as are games four and five, which will be played on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4. If they're needed, games six and seven will be in Houston on Tuesday, June 7 and Thursday, June 9.

And once again, wow. Just wow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

And Our Game Seven Refs Are...

According to reports, aka Jason Iacona, the AHL has decided that the refs for game seven tomorrow night will be Terry Koharski and Ghislain Hebert. Which leads me to ask this of the AHL: don't you have any competent refs you can send down to Houston?

And I know the AHL is a developmental league not just for players, but for the officials. To which one has to say, if these guys are really the best the AHL has to offer then the quality of officiating in the NHL is doomed.

Notes, Quotes & Observations from Game Six and The Brink of History

Before you do anything else, or after, go read my story in the mothership. Please.

Heather handled the doom and gloom below. But I wanted to throw out some quotes from Yeo and DiSalvatore, and maybe offer up a little analysis. So...

I've had the pleasure, the past couple of years, of getting to know Tom Franklin. Tom's the radio voice of the Houston Cougars, and he's a mainstay of the Houston media -- he also did some PA work for the Aeros when they first started back up in the 1990s. But if Tom's best known for one thing, it's for being the radio voice of the Houston Oilers during their final stretch of glory in the early-90s.

Those Oilers, despite the gaudy stats, the good records, and the numerous playoff appearance, aren't necessarily viewed through of prism of fondness. And the reason for that is, despite an ability to run up the score and win big in the regular season, they just could not find a way to win games in the playoffs. And they didn't just lose games in the playoffs, they LOST games in the playoffs.

They would storm out to big leads over the likes of the Broncos or the Chiefs or the Bills, but despite the size of the lead, they would find a way to lose, a way that inevitably meant a last-minute drive led by a John Elway or a Joe Montana that the mighty Oilers defense suddenly couldn't stop.

I did a story in the mothership on Tom, and I asked him about the infamous Buffalo Bills playoff game of January 3, 1993. You know the one. The one they show over and over and over and over on the NFL Network. The one where the Oilers jumped off to the 28-3 halftime lead before increasing it to 35-3 early in the third. Yeah, that game, where the Bills were led not by Jim Kelly, but by his back-up, Frank Reich. Yeah, that one, the one the Oilers lost 41-38 in OT. The biggest come from behind victory in NFL playoff history.

And one of the things we discussed was when he knew the Oilers were going to lose that game. Read the answer here.

All of that's a long way around to getting to this point: the Aeros are on the verge of history, and it's not a good kind of history. Before yesterday, there had only been two occasions when a team, losing 3-0 in an AHL playoff series, had forced a game seven. Now there are three occasions. And on both previous occasions, that team coming from the 0-3 deficit won game seven.

So yeah, the Aeros jumping out to a 3-0 series lead and becoming only the third AHL team to find themselves having to then play in a game seven after having squandered the series lead are, roughly so to say, on the verge of joining the Houston Oilers in the epic annals of Houston sports misery.

1. You know, both Andrew and I predicted this would be a seven game series. And that the Aeros would win it in seven. But neither of us predicted it would get to game seven because the Aeros were choking away a 3-0 series lead.

2. I was in Milwaukee after game six, and I spoke to several of the Aeros, and to coach Yeo. I spoke to them again after yesterday's game. And though they're putting on the brave face and saying the right things, the tone in the voice was different. Game six in Milwaukee was also a loss in OT, but the team just seemed to feel that things would be fine and that of course, a series with Milwaukee was going to go seven.

But yesterday, there was just this despondent sound in the voices I didn't hear in Milwaukee. Perhaps it's just the nature of that game, and the crappy officiating, and finding a way to score two goals to send it to OT that just really deflated the team more than normal.

3. For instance, maybe I'm reading too much in this statement from Jon DiSalvatore, but I haven't heard him say something like this before. And while the players are unnamed, he just never goes about throwing guys under the bus. Until last night.

"Obviously this loss kind of stings," he said. "But there’s a lot of great things that happened in that game for our team tonight. We showed how resilient we are, being down two goals and bouncing back. Obviously out-shooting them, I think that we controlled and dictated most of the game. But obviously it just goes to show you, one play’s the difference. I’m not blaming anyone, but one play is the difference in situations like this." Emphasis mine.

4. But these one plays have been making the difference, yet game after game it seems that, at least two or three times, Hamilton has an odd-man rush on Matt Hackett because somebody's turned the puck over and there's no defense around to help out. And while it would be nice if Hackett were able to pull a Drew MacIntyre and stop 57 of 61 shots in one game, it's hard to put all of the blame on the goalie when he's dealing with breakaways and odd-man rushes time and time again because of poor puck handling.

5. The Aeros can win on Tuesday. But to do so, they have to come out and play a complete game. They played a good first period. They played a good second half of the third period. And it was during those stretches that they pressured MacIntyre with shot after shot after shot.

6. "Just keep doing it. That’s all you can do," Mike Yeo said about dealing with MacIntyre. "Obviously you look at video and you look for weaknesses. And certainly the more traffic you can get around him the more you’re going to make it difficult for him to see the puck and control his rebounds. Having said that, you can’t try to get too precise with your shots. When you do that, that’s when you start missing the net. That’s when you don’t get them off because you take that extra second, and that’s when – that opportunity when the puck gets to the net and we’re banging in the rebound, that opportunity’s lost. We have to make sure to just continue to shoot pucks and go to the net. Certainly, when you’re in tight you want to go in upstairs. We have to put pucks in places where he’s kicking out the rebounds. But otherwise, just keep shooting."

7. Dear Aeros, yes, the officiating sucks. It's beyond suck, if that's even possible. And putting both of the guys named Hebert on the same crew and having them work a playoff game was just beyond stupid. But damn it, you've got to forget about those bastards. I know they're missing obvious penalties that are happening right in front of them while inventing phantom calls to nail you with. But don't let that affect your play on the ice.

The game was lost for the Aeros during a five minute stretch at the end of the second period and the start of the third period. It began when Colton Gillies got called for doing something to the goaltender that nobody in the entire building not named Hebert could see. Then Jed Ortmeyer is somehow about to start up on a rush and he's interfered with, which is great because it would be 4x4 hockey. Instead, the Heberts don't see the interference, play goes on, and Hamilton gets a goal on the power play to tie it at 2-2.

And things just went downhill from there with Hamilton scoring shorties right before, and right after, the second intermission. Yes the Aeros got back into the game and sent it to OT, but it was the loss of composure at that time in the second that cost the Aeros this game.

8. Game seven can be won. DiSalvatore said afterwards that the team needs to wipe away the negatives, focus on the good things, and come out and play.

"We have to try to forget about the pain that we’re feeling right now, the sting of the loss right now," he said. "But we have to recognize and see what we did so well this game. I think, it’s just when we get away from the details of our game that we give them opportunities. And I don’t think that we made a tremendous amount of mistakes tonight, but they were just opportunistic. You give them credit, but I think we can feel really good about a lot of things that we did tonight, and we can build a lot of confidence off of what we did tonight heading into game seven for sure."

9. There's the word from DiSalvatore. Details. Focus on the details. When the Aeros execute, they score. When they execute for a complete game, they win. But when they get sloppy, when they make bad passes or lose composure or miss on a hit, they fall apart.

10. Yes this is only the AHL. There's no AHL Network to replay historic losses over and over again. The Aeros losing this series could never, to the populace of Houston, hurt the way the Oilers losing to the Bills did. But damn it, going in the history books for the wrong reason hurts, no matter how large or small the impact. The impact on the city will be small, but the impact on the team should they lose, well that's going to be huge.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Watching The Dream slip.... and being okay

So, for all the people who were going, "WTF is her problem" when I was going crackerbananas about that craptacular game 4.... I rest my case. It's a slippery slope, babe.

But the Aeros have gotten a smidge better every game since then, so, you know. Maybe they win, maybe they don't.

As frustrating as all the turnovers were tonight (and the turnovers WERE the reason they lost... not the officiating, even though it, too, was a joke), most guys on the team really left it all out on the ice.

Now, I didn't see who tipped that pass right into Dawes' loving embrace for the game winner, so if one of these following guys I'm about to praise did that, don't rip me up. I'm sad enough already.

Here goes: I think Jarod Palmer deserves some unsung hero love. He was all over the place, protecting the puck, going to the dirty areas, and just in general being a huge honey badger. He's one of those guys doing the little things right who doesn't get much recognition for it.

Prosser is another one, though he got some sweet, sweet scoreboard luvin' tonight and that makes it even nicer and easier to point out another guy whose steady game goes so unsung.

I know some folks might want to get after Hackett, but I thought he played a good game tonight. I could quibble, goalie nitpick-style, with a few things he did but none of those things bit him. It was turnovers turnovers turnovers.

And frankly, kudos to him for keeping his composure. Then again, when chances against are so good and your team is being sievy like this, sometimes it's easier to let go of goals. It's crap goals that are all on your head that are hard to shake.

The usual suspects were also out of the world. Ortmeyer was off the chain, and Gillies and Peters followed suit. DiSalvatore has really grown on me in the playoffs. I was never all that sold on his willingness to battle and pay the price, but he really does.

That said, I don't understand what his BFF Sully is doing out there a lot of the time. I guess he's trying to draw guys to him to open up space for a linemate and then pass it, but.... it's not really working IMO.

Maybe he's still dinged up from that hit a couple of games ago, but I don't understand the unwillingness to take the shot, get to the net, and the excessive dicking around with the puck, etc. I dunno.

On the other side, Hamilton is absolutely ferocious in the way they clamp their jaws down on these turnover chances. I worry about that for Binghamton, if The Dream Dies, because they can be KUH-RAZY porous defensively sometimes. But anyway....

And finally, dumb ol' Drew MacIntyre... I can't even make fun of his ugly gear any more. He's really good AND his gear is sharp. That's super annoying. He's making it look ridiculously easy out there, and his composure is unreal as much as the Aeros are up in his kitchen, working him over physically. No retaliation. Just puck stopping. That takes a lot of discipline.


I still think the Aeros can win this and we've established what they have to do to get there. But this whole Binghamton vs. Houston for the cup thing added a level of OHMYF**KINGGOD to this playoff run, and this series in particular, for me.

Even just a couple of months ago, I figured Bingo would get MAYBE through one round of playoffs and then their defense would be exposed and they'd go home.

So, the fact that it's even gotten this close to a Brusty Homecoming absolutely blows my mind. The prospect of it has brought me a huge amount of joy, and no matter what happens Tuesday, it's the Aeros who made that happen on this end. They, too, have been better than I realized they were.

My goal for Tuesday is just to appreciate the amazing ride these guys have taken us on. Win or lose (PLEASEWINPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE), it's been an honor and a pleasure.

Having Binghamton here, whom I've watched from afar all season, really does feel like a dream, so if it stays a dream, I guess that's okay, too. Really proud of what those guys have managed to do, too.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. See you Tuesday.

View From The Brink: Aeros Poised To Make Very Bad History

The game winning goal from Nigel Dawes.

Only twice in AHL history has a team come back from a 3-0 deficit to force a game seven. Before tonight. Tonight the Hamilton Bulldogs became the third team in AHL playoff history to force a game seven after being down 3-0 when they defeated the Aeros 5-4 in double OT. And here's the bad news, in each instance, the team that forced the game seven went on to win the game seven.

It would be easy to blame this loss on the officiating. The Heberts were so bad I was longing for Terry Koharski -- and no, the Heberts are not related though they suck so damn bad that it's easy to imagine they're brothers. And there's some truth to that as the Aeros fell completely apart after a fanthom call on Colton Gillies and a missed call on Jed Ortmeyer and quickly surrendered three goals within four-and-a-half minutes, including two short-handed goals.

It would be easy, but it would be wrong. The Aeros found a way to get back in this game. And they had multiple, excellent opportunities to win the game in OT, only Drew MacIntyre came through big and stopped the Aeros.

No, the Aeros can blame this loss on one thing, and one thing only. Crappy puck handling. It's been their problem throughout this playoff series, and it doomed them tonight. The shorties came off turnovers. And the game-winner came off of a turnover at center ice.

They dominated the Bulldogs for the most part tonight, 61 SOG compared to 38. But when you're sloppy with the puck, bad things happen. And tonight, bad things happened.

I'll be back with some quotes later night, and I think Andrew will throw up some other thoughts as well. We'll see you on Tuesday. Let's just hope we're not writing about the Aeros being on the wrong side of history.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Aeros lose 4-2, series heads back to Houston for G6

This one's for Icevet:

Lost again. One more chance, then do-or die.

Go Aeros!!!

(For a proper game write-up, see my story on PHN.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

AHL Franchise Shake-Up

The word out of Winnipeg is that the group that owns the Manitoba Moose has purchased the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and will be moving the team to Winnipeg.

The Thrashers have long been one of the NHL's failing franchises, and they've been propped up by an ownership group that, along with owning the team, also owned the arena and were willing to keep them so as to keep the building occupied. But the losses have just been too much, and nobody in Georgia has expressed any interest in buying the team, thus the Winnipeg group has swept in and purchased the team.

The deal isn't official -- there's no announcement from the NHL yet -- but Gary Bettman will probably be banned from Canada should he attempt to stop this deal. It's also not sure when the team would actually move to Winnipeg, whether to start the upcoming 2011/2012 season or if they would hold off for the 2012/2013 season.

This does, of course, mean that the AHL could be down a franchise at some point, kind of like how the Edmonton Oilers held onto the ownership rights of their Edmonton AHL franchise but refused to actually put a team on the ice until placing their franchise in Oklahoma City this past season. So the Manitoba group could just not field a team, they could move the Moose to another city since they will still own the rights to the franchise, or they could sell the rights to another group.

The odds are the Moose will be relocating, it's just a question of when or where. And once that happens, we'll probably see more division and conference shake-ups.

UPDATE: Okay, according to True North, the group that is supposedly buying the Thrashers, this is not a done deal.

As go my hormones, so go the Aeros

So, one of the really shitty things about being a gal is having PMS. For some, it's cramps or bloating or headaches.

For me, it's one day a month of a venom charging through my veins that's potent enough to take down a grizzly before he can even say, "Someone's been eating my porridge."

Well, today was that day. The day where, in spite of my blooming irritability, I nervously envisioned both Binghamton and Houston winning and then my happy ass writing the series preview: Aeros v. BSens. Oh, it was going to be rainbows and unicorns and sunshine and chocolate ice cream! Brusty's coming! Brusty's coming!!!

The Aeros did WHAT NOW???? Hang on while I sharpen my claws.

So to say that the Aeros 8-1 implosion in Hamilton tonight didn't sit well with me is a gross understatement (nor did the repeated "Hey, it's just 3-1" or "It's just a game" or other attempts at logic that made me want to start throwing knives).

My logical brain is still there. It says the same things everyone else is saying. Hey, it's 3-1. Still plenty of hockey. Resilient team. And hey, Binghamton advanced with a 4-3 OT win to sweep the Checkers. So, you're happy for Brusty and Locker and beautiful, beautiful Cody Bass, right?

And the hockey player side of me is saying, Hey, they're human. We all have bad games. Pressure gets to you. You get it back next time. That's the beauty of playoffs. Another chance is just around the corner. And maybe Ryan White will break his leg.

But logic, when I'm in this venomous state, is irrelevant and makes me want to punch in the face anybody who thinks a little, "You should be happy they're up 3-1!" should insta-fix my bitter demeanor.

So, before I attempt to shed some light on this thing, can I get a, Hell yeah, Ms.C, that game effing sucked! And while I still believe in this team, I'm really pretty annoyed, too! *fist bump*?

That's all I want. 

Deep breath.

Now, what to take away from this that would help us be less annoyed without being condescending and minimizing my massively out of line feelings of disappointment....

Well, the Aeros ARE, in fact, up 3-1. Teams in all sports of all talent levels occasionally shit the bed and it doesn't mean anything in the long run.

We have seen Hackett's resiliency (resilience?.. help me out, grammar police) over and over and over this season. He's been very good and, honest to god, nobody's as good as he's been every single day. Particularly not when you're facing back-to-backs, tired legs, tired minds, and that inner pressure that says, "FINISH THEM" rather than saying, "STICK TO THE PROCESS."

I thought the Aeros looked tired. The want was there, but the legs and bodies and minds were just sloppy in the execution. A good rest tomorrow should do wonders.

Good things that happened:
  • Tordjman wasn't any worse than Hackett, sooooo... okay, maybe that's not a good thing as much as a push. But maybe there's an eventual upside to finally getting him in a game for the first time since April 1.
  • The 5 minute major penalty on Gillies was beautifully killed. 
  • The boys played hard to the end, at least the parts I could still stand to glimpse at near the end.
  • Falker punched Ryan White in the face. If one of you guys is reading this, can you please give him a hug for me for that? Seriously. Nobody deserves a punch in the face more. White's the worst.
That's about it. The boys sound really resolute and ready to step up Friday in their post-game audio clips. They're obviously not angryPMSbitches, which means you can trust them.

Also, just because I'm in pity party mode, I got peed on at the dog park today and I have jury duty tomorrow. So... there. Pity party complete. I promise I'll make up for this Debbie Downer shit when they advance. I mean, BRUSTY, y'all. BRUSTY!!!! Ohhh, my lovely goalie...

So, anyway, we'll get after this on Friday when I will hopefully have found my sense of reason, probably covered in dust and dog hair and popcorn kernels under the couch.

In the meantime, keep the faith, sacrifice a donut to the hockey gods, and avoid PMSing red-heads carrying big sticks.

(P.S., If you've been resisting Twitter, it might interest you to know that our very own Matt Kassian is on and lovely as always. Follow him at @kassassination right after you follow us: @3rdintermission)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Aeros Take 3-0 Series Lead

The Aeros just defeated Hamilton by a 3-2 score and lead the series 3-0. Jon DiSalvatore and Max Noreau scored in the first period, and DiSalvatore scored on a power play in the second period for the game winner. Matt Hackett stopped 25 of 27 shots.

Game Three Lineup Notes

Okay, I'm not listening to the game at the moment -- yeah, I know, I'm a bad person. But checking the linescore -- Aeros up 1-0 early in the first on a Jon DiSalvatore goal by the way -- I did notice that Carson McMillan was not able to play tonight, and that J.M. Daoust took his spot. I'm not sure if this caused a big line shake-up. But I really doubt it, so I expect that fourth line is Palmer/Kassian/Daoust. However, if you've heard Joe O'Donnell say something different, please be sure to leave a note in the comments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Derek Boogaard photo gallery on chron.com

One of my employers, the Houston Chronicle, has put together a really nice picture gallery/tribute to the late and great Derek Boogaard.

Here is a link ... Be sure to check it out and drop a few lines in the comment section talking about your favorite Boogeyman memory.


While I have a minute, I will leave mine.
I think it was the fall of his first year in Houston, maybe his second year, and the Booster Club invited him to speak at one of their meetings and a BBQ place off 59 in Houston.

Ken Double was supposed to emcee, but had to cancel and I got the call. Needless to say, I put something together real quick and when I introduced him to the fans, I started reading all of this negative garbage scouts had written about him that I found on the Internet.

So I turned to ask him what he thought about all of that as he made a successful move from the ECHL to the AHL, and he quickly turned it on me.

"What do you think about all that, you're a hockey reporter ... " he said.


I still have no idea what I said, but I remember what I was thinking. Back then, I really did not think he would make the transition to a real NHLer. Boy was I wrong. Boy was I EVER wrong.

R.I.P. Boogeyman.
Thanks for all the memories; they are all great, and I wish your lovely family much peace and all the love in the world.

Notes, Quotes & Observations from Game Two, Houston v. Hamilton

Do photos of the guys celebrating after a win ever get old?

QUICK: Before reading further, click on the link and check out my game story in the Press. There's some quotes from Colton Gillies on his game-winner, Mike Yeo on the team's play this weekend, and I include a nice quote from Matt Kassian on Derek Boogaard. And remember, I was there in the locker room long before the guys with the TV cameras started hanging around.

Here's the thing, Heather picked the Aeros in six. Andrew and myself picked them to win in seven. I don't remember seeing Heather's winning sequence, but mine had the Aeros winning games one, four, six, and seven while Andrew's, I believe, had the Aeros winning games two, four, six, and seven. So seeing them come out and win these first two games is just not what I was expecting. This wasn't because of the Aeros, it was because of Drew MacIntyre in goal for Hamilton and the fact that the Bulldogs are a very good team. So I just figured they find a way to get a split. But the Aeros, despite not playing their best hockey, figured out a way to get it done. And that's how it's done in the playoffs, right? You find a way to get it done.

1. Now I'm not expecting that the Bulldogs are going to roll over. The Aeros are on their way to Hamilton as this is posted, and I can guarantee that there's not one person associated with this Aeros team that thinks this series is over.

"I think the feeling, and you can ask any of the players, is we haven’t won anything yet," Gillies said yesterday. "Still a lot more games to be played and we’re just going to stick to the game plan that got us here."

2. Speaking of Gillies, who out there isn't enjoying his game in the playoffs? I asked Mike Yeo about Gillies yesterday, and about how it seems he's elevated his game. And as Yeo was quick to point out, this is how Gillies has been playing all season, the only difference is that he's now finding the net.

"He’s elevated his game, obviously, by putting the puck in the net," Yeo said. "But really, what he’s doing is going out and doing what he’s done for us all year long. He brings momentum for us when he’s out on the ice.

"I think the most important part is that line’s going out there against top lines. And they’re shutting them down. Quite often when you do that, then the other lines are going to get frustrated and you’re going to generate some opportunities off of the rush, or in the offensive zone because they’re a little bit more focused on the offense, especially when they’ve had to try to battle through all game. And they’re not getting much.

"Now he’s in a position where he’s doing all the things he’s supposed to do as Colton Gillies, but he’s capitalizing on his chances and he’s elevated his game."

3. But what does Gillies have to say about this? He's just doing what needs to be done. But he's not the hero. The entire team is responsible for where the Aeros are at at this moment.

"For me with playoffs, I’ve been going to the net a lot harder," he said. "I’ve been going to the net and trying to make sure my presence around the net is known. You can ask anyone of the players in the dressing room, including myself. It’s not about the goals, we’re here to win the game. If you score, good job, you get to be the hero for the night. But there’s a lot of guys in that room that do little things that don’t get noticed that deserve to wear the cape."

4. Now we talked to Matt Kassian after the game. I had him brought out because I wanted to ask him about Derek Boogaard. But then Andrew decided to ask some non-Boogaard questions, and the way he answered these questions goes to just what a classy, team-oriented guy Kassian is.

He wants to be playing. And it hurt to know that he was the guy who was going to have sit once the Milwaukee series started. But there were more important things than his feelings because he couldn't let his feelings impact the team.

"It’s not an easy thing," he said. "I don’t think people understand how difficult it can be on you mentally and emotionally, as well. When you’re here the whole season, you want to play and you want to be a part of it, but at the same time, you’re here to be a good teammate. You can’t bring any kind of that negative emotions that you feel about it into the dressing room. You really just have to have a good attitude and work through it.

"That’s difficult. It’s tough. You want to play, you want to be part of it. I’m the type of player who, if you play me four minutes I’m going to want to play five. If you play me five I’m going to want to play six. You play me 19 I’m going to want to play 20.


"You never like to see an injury, especially to a young guy. It’s never good. And he’ll [Bulmer] be back, and it’s not too serious….At the same time, it’s an opportunity for myself to get back in there and be consistent and try to do what I in the first series. Just be consistent in the room and be consistent on the bench and the ice, too. Just play hard and make their [defense] hear footsteps and chip pucks out and that kind of thing."

5. Then comes Matt Hackett's play these first two games. Hackett said after game seven in Milwaukee that one of the problems he'd had was that he wasn't seeing enough shots, but that he thought he had adjusted to that problem. Well that hasn't been a problem in this series so far. We were talking to Kassian when Hackett came out and talked to the TV guys, so I don't know what he said. But if he keeps playing like he's been playing, the Aeros aren't going to have to worry about his play.

6. Jon DiSalvatore said an interesting thing about Hackett after the game, and how he'd been challenged after game six in Milwaukee to elevate his game, and how he's begun to understand the importance of goalie play in the playoffs. It's not clear from DiSalvatore's statements if this challenge came from Hackett's teammates, or if Hackett challenged himself. But this follows on what guys like Jed Ortmeyer said on Friday night about Hackett elevating his game after that sixth game in Milwaukee.

Here's what DiSalvatore said: "I think after game six in Milwaukee – in that Milwaukee series, a lot of guys were challenged, and that game six, Matt Hackett was challenged. And the kid has responded tremendously for us. He has really – I think he won us the first game of this series. And just the way that he’s kind of matured and accepted the true responsibility of how significant goaltending is in playoffs has been tremendous. We’re very proud of him, and we hope that he continues to strive to be better. He’s been excellent so far since that game six. Absolutely."

7. And since I've been following around the team a lot the past month or so -- I'm really sorry I can't make it to Hamilton -- I've seen a lot of Colton Gillies dealing with Hackett. After game four in Peoria, I was asking Hackett about some tough stops, and Gillies popped out from nowhere and went on about how Hackett saw everything.

And when asked about Hackett yesterday, Gillies was just as effusive in his statements: "Hackett, he’s a great goalie. That’s pretty much it. He’s definitely had a good series for us. He’s had a good season. With Milwaukee, he didn’t see a lot of shots for long periods of time, which could have been hard on him. But he’s playing well right now, and he’ll keep up. I know he will."

8. The defense had another good game. And after being really down on Justin Falk during the Milwaukee series, I think, like with Hackett, we're seeing a guy who has elevated his game. And the defense as a whole, has been good -- man, you've got to wonder just how good this team would have been with Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella around all year, and man, are we going to miss them next year.

"[Falk] in particular, but I thought the entire group was again very good," Yeo said. "[Hamilton] is a team, if your defense is not sharp, then they’re going to make them look bad. They’re committed to getting every puck in behind your defense and making them turn and go back. And they put them under heavy pressure.

"The way that we executed, not only were we able to relieve that pressure, we were able to get to our game a little bit more effectively. We were able to generate some speed off the rush and off the attack because of the way those guys went back and executed."

9. The officiating, as it's been throughout the playoffs, was atrocious. I'm still trying to figure out how Max Noreau was the one who got the four minute minor for roughing in the third period. Whether it's a blind Terry Koharski waiving off pucks that are goals, or Jean Hebert and Francis Charron yesterday who just seemed to have their heads stuck up their asses, there's just no way to explain it. I also don't know why the linesmen thought they were required to hold onto the puck for 20 minutes in the face off circle before dropping the puck to start action.

I'm working on a separate post/rant about the officiating, but the AHL should just really be ashamed by how bad things have been. And not just how bad they calls have been or not been against the Aeros. The officials have been equal opportunity offenders -- see Koharski blowing a goal call against Milwaukee in game seven -- and it's just a pity to see great series being dragged down by their awfulness.

10. And I just want to add that the crowds at Toyota Center have been fantastic and only getting better since the playoffs began. The crowds in Milwaukee were almost non-existent in Milwaukee last week -- there were just under 3000 for game six and, I think, about 3500 for game seven. But the Aeros have been getting some big crowds, and those crowds have been loud. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

"The crowd’s been awesome, especially the last couple of games," Yeo said. "I think it’s been building as this playoff run has gone along. It seems like with the intensity that increases in the games, it’s increasing the atmosphere and the playoff vibe that we’re feeling right now.

"Right from the start of the game you can tell that the crowds are jacked up, they’re excited, and they’re feeling it. And because of that, it brings a little bit more life, and little bit more emotion to our guys."

So job well done. Now it's white-knuckle time as the guys head off for three games at Hamilton.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

View From The Press Box -- Aeros Take 2-0 Series Lead on Hamilton

Colton Gillies with the game winner.

The Aeros played an overall better game tonight in defeating Hamilton 3-2 this afternoon. Matt Hackett played another good game, and the Aeros were able to find more ways to get the puck past Drew MacIntyre, which was supposed to be impossible.

The Aeros aren't out of the woods yet. They now have three games to play in Hamilton, and they're looking a bit beat up. All that's known on Brett Bulmer was a cryptic "he's out" that I got from the team before the game. But whether that was just for the game or the series is a question mark, though after seeing him on crutches after the game, I'm not expecting him back on Tuesday.

As for Carson McMillan, your guess right now is as good as mine. Mike Yeo didn't know and said that they were awaiting the results from the medical tests.

I'll try to get back later tonight with quotes from Yeo, Jon DiSalvatore, Colton Gillies, and Matt Kassian, but since I want you to read my Press story in the morning, don't expect too much ;-) But since we had to fight through a gaggle of TV cameras to get our stuff after the game, you better bet I'll get something posted.

If you're curious, the Press story tomorrow will have a quote from Matt Kassian on Derek Boogaard, but I was also able to get this from Colton Gillies, who was Boogaard's teammate for a season in Minnesota.

"He was a really good guy," Gillies said. "It’s not a good thing."

And I didn't press it further since Gillies seemed to get choked up over the matter.

Bulmer Out/Kassian In

A brief injury update. Brett Bulmer is out today, and Matt Kassian is in. We couldn't confirm the seriousness of Bulmer's injury -- the Aeros wouldn't give out that info -- but I'm guessing that it's more than just one of those day-to-day things.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Notes, Quotes & Observations from Game One, Houston v. Hamilton

Brett Bulmer on the ice after being injured.

Aeros dominated the first half of the game. Hamilton controlled the second half. Matt Hackett was fantastic throughout. And the Aeros got the 2-1 win despite being out-shot and take the 1-0 series lead.

1. According to Mike Yeo, Brett Bulmer wasn't injured as seriously as was first feared. He is, however, day-to-day, and we're not really sure, beyond what Yeo said, as to just how bad Bulmer was injured.

2. If he can't go on Sunday, my best guess is that Matt Kassian will play. But I've been wrong way too much, so who knows who will really play if the situation comes to that.

3. Jed Ortmeyer attributed Hackett's play to Game Seven in Milwaukee.

"I think that Game Seven, he bounced back," Ortmeyer said. "His confidence, you could see it in him. He was on the top of his crease. He was battling through traffic and getting to rebounds and making sure that he could see pucks. It was a big boost for him and for our team last series, and he played great tonight."

4. And Hackett told us he was just having fun out there on the ice.

"It’s just fun," he said. "It’s why I picked to be a goalie. It’s all the pressure at the end there. It’s what makes the position fun. I was glad to make a couple of big saves there for the boys."

5. While the Aeros didn't play their best game, and while they let Hamilton dominate the third period, Mike Yeo said he's not much of a believe in momentum carrying over from game to game. Yeo also believes that this game was something the Aeros needed, and for more than just the win.

"Certainly we gave them momentum in this game," he said. "We gave them confidence going into the next game. At the same time, I think – I don’t believe in the whole we got momentum, they got momentum. I think that the next game is a completely different animal. I think that there’s an understanding on our part, and guys felt it on the bench. And they could see that we weren’t doing the right things, and that was keeping us from getting to our game. And it was helping them to get to theirs.

"I think we needed this. We don’t have a rivalry or hatred with this team, or even necessarily the respect factor that we need to. The quicker that you can get those things into your game, the more urgency you’re going to play with, shift in and shift out. And you can understand that whatever the situation, whatever the score is, you have to go out and play a certain way."

6. I liked the attitude of Ortmeyer and Hackett after the game. Both guys thought it was important to get the Game One win, for obvious reasons. But to both of them, Game One was over and the important thing is Sunday.

"It’s huge," Ortmeyer said of the win. "That first win secures us the home ice. Their goal is to come in here with a split. To get that first one is huge for us. We know that they’re going to come hard. It’s a win for them to get a split here. So game two’s going to be even more important now."

And Hackett added: "The first game’s always huge, obviously. But Sunday’s a big game. We don’t want them to get a split. We want to go into their barn up two-nothing. For sure, it’s a bigger game on Sunday."

7. For the curious, out in the Eastern Conference, Binghamton took the first two games from Charlotte, in Charlotte, and now the teams will be heading to Binghamton for three games as the Senators need to win just two of the possible five remaining games.

8. Now seeing as how the AHL only awarded the Aeros one of three stars after the Game Seven win over Milwaukee -- the Admirals were given the other two stars which is kind of strange seeing as how they like, you know, lost, it's going to be interesting to see if they award any to the Aeros in the Saturday Morning Skate. I'm guessing that Sens goalie Robin Lehner will get a star since he pitched the shutout and stopped 35 Charlotte shots. I think they'll probably give another to the Sens Ryan Potulny since he scored two of the Sens' three goals. One would think that Hackett would be a lock for the other star, seeing as how he stopped 38 of 39 shots while leading his team to a 2-1 victory. But this is the AHL office we're talking about, so I'm guessing the final star will go to Hamilton's Mathieu Carle since, of course, he scored and prevented the Bulldogs from getting shutout.

9. That's it for now. See everybody at the Toy Box on Sunday afternoon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

View From The Pressbox: Aeros Defeat Bulldogs, Take 1-0 Series Lead

Jed Ortmeyer beats Drew MacIntyre to put the Aeros up 2-0 early in the second period.

This was a tale of two games. The first game saw the Aeros dominate Hamilton and do just about anything they wanted. Drew MacIntyre was getting hit with shots from all over the ice and at the 2:59 mark of the second period, they were up 2-0 and seemingly had this game in hand.

Hamilton seemed to rebound about midway through the second period, and it was their turn to dominate the game in the third period, out-shooting the Aeros 21-4 and making everybody in the arena really feel the tension after finally breaking through against Matt Hackett and scoring with just under a minute left in the game. But Hackett stood large and stopped Hamilton the rest of the way, giving the Aeros the 2-1 win and the 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.

"I think the best part about it was we won a game where I don't think we played our best hockey," Mike Yeo said. "I thought they got stronger as the game went on, and I thought we did a lot of things to help push them in that direction. It's funny how you can win a game when our goaltender was as outstanding as he was tonight."

Hackett was outstanding, playing perhaps the best hockey he's played in the playoffs. And he needed to be outstanding tonight, especially in the third period when a desperate Bulldog team attacked with everything they had.

The Aeros got a power play goal in the first period from Chad Rau, and Jed Ortmeyer got out and scored on a breakaway in the second for their goals.

We know that this is going to be a tough series, and the Aeros were able to accomplish one thing they really wanted to do, which was to protect home ice. The pressure is definitely on Hamilton right now as they're going to want to get at least one win in Houston before going home for three games.

The Aeros weren't too happy with their overall game tonight. But they were happy with Matt Hackett, and they were very happy to get the win and get the 1-0 series lead.

TRIVIA NOTE: This was only the second game of the playoffs in which the Aeros have been outshot by the opponent, with Hamilton get the shooting advantage 39-28.

Aeros 2-1 -- Photos of Matt Hackett

The Aeros got the 2-1 win over Hamilton tonight in a game in which they dominated the first 30 minutes or so, then had a let up that neither Mike Yeo or the team was too happy about in the second half.

But Matt Hackett stood tall tonight, stopping 38 of 39 shots, including 20 of 21 third period Hamilton shots -- Hamilton didn't score until there were 50 seconds remaining in the game. Admit, we've all had our worries about Matt Hackett, but if he continues playing like he did tonight, we might not have too much to worry about.

I'll post some quotes and a more in-depth story later, but until then, here are a few photos of the star of the night as the Aeros take the 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

RIP Derek Boogaard

We hate writing things like this, but sometimes we just have to sit down and do it. It has been confirmed that former Aero and Wild and current New York Ranger Derek Boogaard, age 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by his family this evening.

Not many more details are known, and I'm sure we'll learn those as the day pass. But on behalf of those us here at T3I, I extend our sympathies to the Boogaard family.

Prediction Time

Just a brief programming note...If Blogger should once again screw up and go down, our friends at Hockey Wilderness have graciously offered to let us post Aeros items there. So, if it looks like we haven't done anything in too long awhile -- say there's nothing here by Saturday morning on tonight's game, click on the link and check out Hockey Wilderness. Hopefully Blogger's got it's act together, but who knows.

Okay, it's time for me to go on the record. And I'm picking the Aeros in seven. Andrew and Heather have laid out a pretty good analysis in their respective posts here and elsewhere, so I won't go into that. Let's just say I think the Aeros can pull it out in what will be a very, very tough series.

As for the other side, I know that Charlotte is that feel-good story and all that, but I hate being told I'm supposed to cheer for a team because they're a feel-good story. Instead, I want Binghamton to win, and I want it for solely my own, selfish wishes. Playing the Senators will give me the chance to see some former Aeros play. It'll give me a chance to watch how Heather reacts to Brusty playing for the bad guys. And finally, Binghamton is only about an hour-and-a-half drive from Cooperstown, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I have always wanted to go to the Baseball HOF, so this would be a great chance.

For those reasons, I'm picking the Aeros and Senators to match-up for the Calder Cup.

P.S.: I will not be making a trip to Hamilton for this series as I just can't justify the costs. Flights to Toronto are going for about $950. It's about $550 to Buffalo the last time I checked, and then I have to deal with layovers in various airports, and I don't want that. Detroit's cost is just under $500, but there's a four hour drive. Cleveland's a closer drive, but the cost is more expensive. And I can fly to Chicago for about $225, but then there's an 8.5 hour drive that I just do not want to take.

Maybe Heather or Andrew will find a way to make it their for one of the games. But since the Press doesn't reimburse me for these little ventures, I'm not doing it this time. I will however, make at least one of the Calder Cup games because prices to New York City are usually semi-reasonable and because I'm not missing a chance to make a side trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

As for the rest of us on predictions, Andrew says Aeros in seven and Heather says Aeros in six.

This Is A Test

Hello, hello. Anybody out there?

Blogger, which is what we post on, has been down since early yesterday afternoon. It appears to be back now, so we'll be trying to get stuff up throughout the day before the game.

But if Blogger goes down, we'll try to find a way to post stuff somewhere.

Beat Drew MacIntyre ... and advance

See the title to this post?
In case you don't want to shift your eyes for a second, it says "Beat Drew MacIntyre ... and advance."

Even though Jeremy Smith was lights out during the West Division finals, the Aeros were probably pretty lucky that Mark Dekanich was out for the postseason. I can't imagine him playing any better than Smith did, but Dekanich is a better goalie overall. If the Admirals had just one or two more saves in Games 5 and 7, the Admirals would likely be playing the Hamilton Bulldogs tonight at Bradley Center.

But they didn't; the Aeros prevailed, and now they have a shot to play for the Calder Cup. And to do that, they are going to have to beat only the No. 1 goalie during the postseason - Drew MacIntyre (pictured here when he played for Chicago last year).

If the name sounds familiar, it should. The Aeros have faced him 22 times over the years and were the team that played MacIntyre in his first AHL game WAAAAAY back in 2004. He got called up to the Griffins that year, and the Aeros quickly introduced him with 49 shots en route to a 4-1 Aeros win at Van Andel Arena.

Over the years, the 27-year old goalie from Prince Edward Island has stayed in the Western Conference. After his stint with the Griffins/Red Wings, he jumped over to the Vancouver Canucks/Manitoba Moose. Then he went to the Milwaukee Admirals for a year before signing with the Atlanta Thrashers/Chicago Wolves. Then earlier this year, he was traded to Hamilton/Montreal and he and Nigel Dawes (another name Aeros fans should fear right now) to the West Division finals against the Aeros.

For those of you who participate in the "He shoots, he scores ...." chant, know this. In 22 games (21 starts) against the Aeros, MacIntyre has been amazingly consistent. He's saved more than 91 percent of the shots the Aeros have thrown his way, and his goals against average against the Aeros is a stout 2.24.

The Aeros have fared well, though, against MacIntyre, even though they don't seem to be able to blow him out. They have beaten him 13 times (against eight losses), but have never scored more than four goals against. Seven times, he's faced the Aeros in the postseason, all with Milwaukee two years ago in the second of three Kevin Constantine seasons. The Aeros won that series in seven games; MacIntyre let in four goals in Game 7, but anyone who saw/remembers that game will tell you that Milwaukee played a very poor *team* game that night. It was the complete opposite of Tuesday's Game 7 in the same building.

If the Aeros can keep the Nigel Dawes Aaaron Palushaj line from going absolutely nuts, they can probably beat the Bulldogs with three goals a game. History says getting three goals past MacIntyre will be more than enough to get to the win.

Prepare for another series where the opposing goaltender definitely has the edge over Aeros rookie Matt Hackett. MacIntyre was acquired when Curtis Sanford needed shoulder surgery and was lost for the season. MacIntyre's experience was needed to get the Bulldogs to where they are now. He, I feel, is the key to this series and the Aeros chances of playing for the Calder Cup trophy against the (team of destiny) Binghamton Senators.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts From Airport Hell

First, I'm stuck in the hell that is O'Hare Airport as United/Continental has messed up another of my flights, but here's my Houston Press game story. I point you to it because of the quotes from Wellman, Yeo and Gillies. http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2011/05/aeros_celebrate.php And because I'm posting by iPhone -- I'm not paying for internet access -- I had to paste the link. I hope it works.

One final thing. I didn't see what Matt Hackett did to supposedly offend the
Milwaukee fans, but they were giving it to him pretty good in games six and seven, so it was probably just a natural reaction.

P.S.: if anyone in charge at O'Hare is reading this would you please turn on the damn A/C in Terminal One/Concourse B down at Gate 2 where those little fans you put out just aren't cutting it.

Photos from a game 7 victory

It was difficult last night to push this game out of my head. I started my game with the knowledge that they went to the 1st intermission with Gillies having just scored the tying goal.

But it was a tremendous relief to learn (after hoisting a championship trophy on my own... well, my team's own... WOOOO!) that I had two reasons to celebrate. And boy did I. Please to stop spinning, room....

Anyway, enjoy this now but there's a LOT of work that lies ahead. It only gets harder from here. Now begins the task of figuring out Hamilton. And praying to the deity of your choice that Binghamton also beats Charlotte in the Eastern Conference Finals. #BrustyTime!

So, here are my favorite pics but go to the link at the end as there are a TON of great ones. Many thanks to Chris "Suck Minus" Jerina for the shots.

Gillies goal at the end of the first. The puck is right behind Smith's stick.
Hackett needs an extra jersey made up that says "SCOREBOARD" on the back for these folks. ;)
I dunno. Seems pretty unsucky to me. Nice snag.
Oops! Aeros second goal. How many times did this "goalie stuck behind the net" goal almost happen to Houston? Cannot believe it didn't. Yet.
McMillan's face is priceless here.
Here's Wellman's goal. Based on this and the pic Andrew posted, it looks like Smith's weight was a little too far back and he fell backwards a bit when he butterflied. If he'd kept his torso and butt up, I think he would have had that. So thanks to the hockey gods for giving him a little shove in the chest....
Sully and Spurgeon do their best NHL 94 celebration

"You were awesome. Also, I think I may need a body guard next time I come here."

You can see the rest of the 6 pages of photos (phew!) right here. Thanks again to Chris for all his great work this season. Maybe we can convince him to travel a bit and shoot a little more... :)