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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Aeros on the teevee (sorta)

Just a heads up that Drew Bagnall and Mike Hoffman will be on "Not Your Ordinary Sports Show" at http://www.THEBUSTV.com tonight from 7:30-10:30 hosted by Eric Winston (the Houston Texans' resident hockey fan).

Sounds like a pretty entertaining show and sorta ties in to Monday Night Football.

I'd watch, but I'm stuck here in Hamilton, ON with wifi in the lobby only and where I THOUGHT there was a Bulldogs game tonight (there's not, I mis-read the calendar). Bah.

I can attest, however, that the Sheraton here isn't too shabby (it's where the boys stay when they play the mean and nasty Bulldogs). Seen several Abbotsford players wandering around trying to stay entertained without actually day drinking at strip clubs. Not that hockey players do that. No, sir.

Also, sorry, ladies, no Krys Kolanos sightings (though he was just named AHL Player of the Week).

Off to Detroit tomorrow to catch up with the Wild. And then Thursday I'll be coming to you live from Lake Erie to tweet/report that away game.  I sincerely hope the Monsters I saw last Wednesday vs. Syracuse show up. They were godawful.

Talk to you Thursday!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Win Is A Win Is A Win, No Matter How Ugly It Is

It's the night before Halloween. There was a scary looking guy dressed up in a clown costume behind the glass. And the Aeros (6-1-0-3, 15 points) put on a frightening display of hockey. But in the end, they got the come-from-behind 5-3 win over the visiting Charlotte Checkers (6-3-1-0, 12 points).

And that's all that matters. Right?

Both the Aeros and Checkers were playing their third games in three nights, and it clearly showed in a first when both teams played sloppy and choppy. It was the type of first period where, if you were attending your first game ever, you would look at a friend and ask why it was they said hockey was so great. The teams seemed to lack focus, and just weren't getting much done.

The Aeros did have the 1-0 lead after one, though, despite being outshot 13-5, thanks to Jeff Taffe rescuing a turnover on an Aeros power play and hitting the top bar from just under the blue line. But then came the second period. A period of hockey so ugly that one would be forgiven for thinking they were stuck inside a horror movie.

The Aeros actually grabbed the 2-1 lead at the 10:53 mark of Kris Foucault deflected a Justin Fontaine shot into the goal. And then things fell apart as, beginning with a Tyler Cuma roughing call at the 13:09 mark, the Aeros spent the rest of the period on either 5-on-4 or 5-on-3 penalty kills.

The Aeros weren't the victims of bad officiating either. Every one of the five straight penalties they received over the last seven minutes of the second period was deserved and earned. And head coach John Torchetti had no problem with the officiating.

"We're doing it," he said. "We've got a 2-1 lead. We throw a punch. There's no reason for that. Then we take a slashing penalty in the neutral zone. They can't score there. We have to be mentally tough. And I don't see that yet."

Torchetti wasn't happy with the team's mental approach, and he wasn't willing to let the fact that the team was playing the third game in three nights serve as an excuse.

"They [Charlotte] were playing three-in-three," he said. "They looked pretty good. There's no excuses. You can't give an excuse when you're playing four playoff games in five nights. They are, too. That's where we've got to be mentally prepared in our minds."

As has become the norm for this Aeros squad, they saved the best for the third period, if you classify the best as skating harder and making shots. They were still committing stupid penalties, and had to fight off one last 5x3 penalty kill late in the third. The good news was the stupidity also got to Charlotte, and at one point, both teams were skating three-on-three thanks to penalties.

With the threat of another overtime quick approaching, Casey Wellman flew down the ice and appeared to bang a shot off the post with 2:15 left in the game -- the goal light momentarily went off -- but the refs, who were in good position, immediately waived it off. And Carson McMillan never stopped skating. He forced a Charlotte turnover and then slipped the puck between the legs of Charlotte goalie Mike Murphy just five seconds after the Wellman shot to put the Aeros up 4-3 with 2:10 left in the game.

"I just tried to get a stick on puck and keep the puck in zone," McMillan said. "It popped out of my stick, and I just tried to put it on net, and it found a hole and I couldn't be happier."

David McIntyre sealed the win for the Aeros when he got the empty-netter to make it 5-3 with just 52 seconds left.

And so ends another weekend of Aeros hockey. As bad as they played in the two games here at Toyota Center, they were still able to come away with five out of a possible six points. The entire six points would have been nice, but a for team that's not playing it's best hockey, one still has to be happy to escape with points because, at the end of the season, points gained at the start of the season are just as important as points gained at any other time.

That doesn't mean Torchetti's happy. And that doesn't mean he's not expecting this team to improve.

"When this team matures and understands what it's balance will be -- they'll be a godo hockey team," he said. "Right now, I think we're playing okay, but we still haven't played 60 minutes."

The Aeros return to action at Toyota Center next Sunday afternoon when they face the Toronto Marlies. Before that, they'll play the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland on Thursday night and the Hamilton Bulldogs in Hamilton on Friday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

View From The Press Box: Barons 5 Aeros 4 (SO)

The Houston Aeros played a better hockey game than the Oklahoma City Barons tonight. For two-thirds of the game, the Aeros put on a clinic in puck possession, defense, and keeping the opposition backing up and playing out of position. Unfortunately for the Aeros, they failed to show up for the first period of action tonight, and that failure was enough for the Aeros to get the loss.

The Barons (5-2-0-1, 11 points) scored three times on nine shots in the first period with every point coming off of a turnover, especially the embarrassing second goal which came off a turnover in the Aeros (5-1-0-3, 13 points) offensive zone when they were on the power play. Matt Hackett, who started the night in goal, didn't stand much of a chance on any of the goals, and he was pulled after that first period.

"It just didn't bounce the right way for [Hackett]," head coach John Torchetti said afterwards. "Hack's been our backbone, and we owed it to him. Sometimes you have to win a game for your goalies, too, because they hold us in. Sometimes you don't deserve what you get there. He'll be back."

Dennis Endras came in to start the second, and except a goal he gave up while the Barons were on a 5x3 power play, he kept them off the board, and he kept them off the board while making some spectacular saves. But it wasn't all Endras. An entirely different Aeros team skated onto the ice for that second period, scoring three goals and crawling back into a game they should have been blown out of.

"It's the first period that we have to throw back on film," Torchetti said. "It's disappointing. Our go-to-guys just didn't play as hard in certain areas. Just keeping it simple. We had the puck on all of the first three goals. We've got to communicate a whole lot more. I've got to find a way to definitely get us going in the first period. I don't know what it is. So we'll see. The boys fought back."

The first period is something the Aeros have had a problem with the entire season so far. And watching the team skate the later periods, it's kind of puzzling as to why they're such slow starters. But as we were discussing in the press box, the Aeros, for the last five seasons, have had a problem with playing a complete period. And it bit them tonight as they had to come back from so far down, that they were gassed toward the end of the third period.

And they seem to have developed a mental block in the shootout. It appeared from the press box that they were envisioning a blocked shot before they even took the shot, and they just seemed hesitant to shoot, giving the Barons goalie plenty of time to react.

But in the end, the Aeros were able to pick up a point in a game where it appeared they were going to be blown out after just one period. And while a team always wants to pick up the win and the two points, getting at least a point after the way they played the first period tonight has to be considered some kind of victory. Even if it is like kissing your sister.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

I'm still learning the new guys, but Justin Fontaine and David McIntyre are really impressing me. I like watching Endras in the net -- he made a couple of saves tonight that would have left Ms. Conduct giggling with glee.

***********************************8

I'm still trying to figure out why the refs, in the third period, after blowing the whistle and saying no goal for the Barons, had to confer with the goal judge to see if the puck crossed the blue line, especially if their original ruling was that it wasn't a goal because the puck crossed the line after the whistle blew. What was the goal judge going to say? That yeah, it crossed after you blew the whistle?

Then again, this is the AHL, right?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Aeros Take Over For 3-1 Win

A few thoughts and comments on tonight's 3-1 Aeros win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

1. This was the first game I've seen this year, so I spent most of it figuring out who the new guys were and trying to figure out which returning vets were wearing which new numbers. Still, on the third night of a three-in-three, I thought the team looked good, especially in the second and third periods.

2. The revelation of the game, for me, was Dennis Endras. He kept the Aeros in the game during a first period where it appeared that the Aeros were still playing in Charlotte. I know that Ms. Conduct was impressed as I heard her little cute goalie nice save giggle an awful lot. Coach John Torchetti gave credit for the win to Endras, saying that he thought he was the reason the Aeros were able to get the win.

3. How about those kids? Justin Fontaine gave the Aeros the lead, putting them up 1-0 about midway in the second period. And Kris Foucalt's first pro goal was a beauty in the third, putting the Aeros back up 2-1. And veteran Jed Ortmeyer helped make the goal possible with a fantastic centering pass. David McIntyre finished up the scoring.

4. Torchetti was not happy with the team's start to the game. And it sounds as if he wasn't too happy with some of the starts he's been seeing. He does like the team's attitude, and he noted the great conditioning the guys get into that allow them to control and dominate third periods.

5. He's still working on getting everybody to pick up the system, especially the kids. What he's trying to make them understand is that, the sooner they learn their roles, the sooner they make the NHL.

6. Talked to Endras a bit after the game. He was happy to get the win, and he admitted that playing three games in three nights is something he never had to do while playing in Germany.

7. The Aeros are now 4-1-0-2 (10 points) on the season. And they were able to get five out of a possible six points this weekend. The play wasn't perfect, but sometimes, especially this early in the season, it's not about perfection, but is more about getting the points.

8. This is my fifth season covering the team, and I've learned from coaches Constantine, Yeo, and now Torchetti, is that it takes 25 game to get a real read on a team. That lets the roster gel while hopefully, during that time, the guys come to understand the system. It was at about that time last year that Ortmeyer and Patrick O'Sullivan joined the team and the Aeros took off. Also at that time, remember, it looked like the San Antonio Rampage were easily the class of the AHL West, and we all remember what happened to them. Still, it is nice to see the team getting the wins.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aeros escape with a point in 2-1 SO loss to Charlotte

Once again, a late -- and I do mean LATE -- rally saved Houston from a regulation loss tonight against the Checkers. Jon DiSalvatore scored with 41 seconds left in the third period (helpers from Ortmeyer and Wellman) to end Mike Murphy's 1-0 shutout and take the game to OT.

As extra minutes weren't enough to resolve the tie, the shootout went 5 round with no goals from any Aeros and only one against Hackett. But one was enough and Charlotte takes the bounce-back W to the bank.

The sugar frosted side of me is glad the Aeros took 3 out of 4 possible points away from the series. The nutritious shredded wheat side of me feels like these "skin of the teeth" wins are a prelude to an ugly slump. At least that was the pattern of this team last year, and it's a lot of the same dudes.

But I guess we'll see tomorrow what shows up at the Toyota Center against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Hackett was very good tonight and came up with several big saves and deserves as much credit for that overtime point as DiSalvatore. Maybe more. Hard to ask much more of your goalie as he stopped 34 of 35 tonight.

That said, we'll get our first in-person look at Endras tomorrow, one would have to assume. So, you know I'm excited about that.

That's all I've got tonight. I have sexy Saturday night plans of watching Stars v. Kings and eating an ice cream sandwich.

Hasta banana!

Aeros stun Checkers with late comeback, win 3-2

Sorry, gang. Had company over last night and couldn't listen to the game. In fact, one of my friends who was over was looking at her iPhone and said, "Hey, the Aeros won 3-2!"

Oh, right! The Aeros!

And while it was a good evening, the game sounded like one that was worth seeing or at least hearing.

Here's the write-up from the Charlotte paper: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/10/22/2712826/checkers-crumble-in-final-10-minutes.html

Deflated Chubby. Awww.
Judging from a Charlotte-based friend's tweets, it was a pretty chippy affair, too.

But the gist is that the Checkers were up 2-0 on power play goals by Zach Boychuk, until the final 10 minutes of the game. Then Casey Wellman broke the seal with a power play goal of his own, and Checkers goalie Justin Peters was injured trying to make the save.

So Mike Murphy came in cold at 9:59 in the third and surrendered the tying goal just 9 seconds later to Dave McIntyre.

And then with 4 seconds left in the game, ya'boy Jeff Taffe scored his first of the season for the victory. Taffe led the team in shots on goal with 5.

Judging by the shot count, Charlotte came out strong, with 16 shots in the first period, but the Aeros finished stronger with 17 shots in the third. Final shots were 38-35 for Houston.

Penner got the scratch for Bagnall's return. Don't know if he's injured or a healthy scratch. Mike Bartlett also made his Aeros debut in McMillan's stead.

Back at it again tonight in Charlotte, before heading back to Houston Sunday morning for an afternoon game at the Toyota Center. Woof.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Carson McMillan Suspended

Just a quick note -- I probably shouldn't blog while at work -- that the AHL just announced a bunch of suspensions for this week. And number one on the list is Carson McMillan who has been suspended for four games, beginning this week, for an illegal check to the head he delivered during Saturday's game against the Rampage.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aeros tripped up, lose 4-3 to Rampage

After tonight's game went back and forth allllll night long, it was only fitting that it took 11 rounds of shootout to settle it for good.

Unfortunately, it didn't settle in the Aeros favor as Angelo Esposito scored the goal that would send the Rampage home with the W, while the Aeros fall to 2-0-0-1 on the season, but still take away a point for their trouble.

The Aeros stayed out of the box tonight better than the last two games, but Torchetti said after the game that he's not happy with the balance just yet. And by balance, he means the ability to roll four lines all night.

That's especially tough when you're in the midst of a 3 in 3 and you really need to spread the load around. But he says they're keeping the lineup the same tomorrow, other than Endras getting the start in goal.

(Also, brief goalie update, Kuemper has been sent to the Ontario Reign so he can get playing time. As much as I'd have liked to keep him around here, he has GOT to play, so I'm glad they finally made a move. And after rolling in to Cali at 12:30 today, he already has his first win, ironically in an 11-round shootout.)

Speaking of goalies, I thought Hackett was very good tonight, though the wrap-around goal was one he probably wants back (looked like he just got his left leg hung up on the post and couldn't get over) and that turnover by his net that he sorta got frozen and then beat high... well... those aren't typical for him so I'll lump them in the "shit happens, learn from it and move on" category. 

He looked calm, patient, and increasingly confident in the shootout, which was nice to see. Also nice for my blood pressure that he's not chasing the puck behind the net as much any more.

Anyway, a few notes:

Wellman got his 4th goal of the season, while Fontaine earned his first pro goal.

Thought Palmer had a great game. I was convinced he'd score in the shootout because he was just on and in the mix all night. Really enjoyed his game. Lotta honey badger in that guy.

The Aeros dominated the first period but somewhere in the second, seemed to lose their heads a bit, weren't making good decisions with the puck, were reaching too much. From there, San Antonio was back in the game and shots (and momentum) moved back and forth between the teams the rest of the game.

But it was clear to me that San Antonio was going to tie it up. The Aeros were just allowing them to pin them in the zone for too long and the bells start tolling when that happens.

This game doesn't worry me, but I am worried about tomorrow. The boys will be driving through the night on a sleeper bus, not really getting proper rest, which sucks at the end of a 3 in 3. As Torchetti said, this will test the teams battle readiness.

Luckily, the Barons scored a week's worth of goals in their 10-1 win over Texas tonight, so maybe they'll be feeling fat and happy and the Aeros can skate out with a point or two.

Here's what I know:

If the world is about to end, I want to spend the final moments with Jed Ortmeyer. Seems like everything slows down when he's got the puck. Time seems to stand still for the time he has it, he's so calm. That seems like a valuable asset when your time on this planet is limited. Maybe Jed is short for Jedi and he's working some mind tricks. I dunno. These are the sorts of things I think when I'm driving home from hockey.

I'll leave you with this, which made me laugh out loud, but I have no idea what point is. Were people getting this wrong?




Friday, October 14, 2011

Aeros extinguish the Stars 5-2

Boy, if the Aeros ever figure out how to not get a bazillion penalties, it looks like they'll be sitting pretty.

But like Sunday's season opener, the guys got lots of penalty kill practice against the Stars tonight with 7 power plays in Texas' favor. That included a couple of 5 on 3s.

Add to that Warren Peters' 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct (abuse of an official, I hear), and the boys really racked up the PIM. Took a couple of seasons but these teams seem to have a solid dislike for each other. And this is just the first of 12 games against our friends in Austin.

Anyway, what matters is the scoreboard and you wouldn't know the team spent seemingly half the game short handed.

Newcomer Dave McIntyre scored twice in the outing to record his first two goals as an Aero, while Peters got his first of the season picking off a turnover and scoring unassisted with a bomb early in the second.

Wellman got his third goal in two games, while Ortmeyer nailed the empty netter to seal the deal in the closing seconds.

All the Aeros goals came at even strength, while both Stars goals came early in the first and second periods on power plays.

They say your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and Hackett certainly seemed up to the task tonight and probably should have gotten a star for his 34-save effort.

I only listened to Joe on the radio because I'm not ready to give AHL Live my money just yet, but it sounded like, yet again, the only major kink in the works is all these penalties. But hey, a W is a W.

The Aeros will bring that 2-0 record home tomorrow night against San Antonio at the Toyota Center. Should be pretty neat getting to see the Western Conference Championship banner unveiled. I'll be wearing waterproof mascara. :)

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If you want some fun reading, check out AGirlInTheSouth's first post on learning to love hockey: http://aeryssports.com/intermission-report/agirlinthesouth-talks-about-her-first-time/

She's a baseball nut and writes about the Astros for Aerys Sports, but needs something awesome to watch in the off-season, so she's learning hockey and writing about it from a new-to-the-game perspective.

Should be good stuff all season long! I'm sure she'll be addicted by April...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Deja vu all over again

John's in Vegas so you'll have to put up with my half-assed version of what he does tonight.

I like Andrew's advice against planning the parade, but gosh if it didn't feel like we just stepped back 3 months in time; like they hardly missed a beat over the summer. It was all very "I love it when a plan comes together" wasn't it?


Anyway, as Forecheck mentioned in the comments on Andrew's post, plenty to work on. Lord have mercy, the penalties, for one. As Torchetti said after the game, you should be getting bench penalties maybe once every 40 games. They got two tonight. Plus 7 others. Though I question a couple of them. I mean, that delay of game on Genoway for holding the puck was pretty silly, IMO. Let 'em play.

Hackett was impressive, especially after a relatively light first couple of periods, where he didn't have to make many saves. They were important saves, though, because the rest of the team was like the Keystone Kops for the first half a period.



But the three penalties in a row that they had to kill midway through the first seemed to snap them into gear and from there it was Casey Wellman haunting poor Matt Climie (again!) and a full on blitz from every other line.

Andrew mentioned that Ortmeyer goal, but I'm going to mention it again. Holy...  that was.... wow. I want someone to make a GIF of that so I can watch it over and over and over. And really, several of the goals tonight were pretty enough for all of us on press row to be looking at each other in disbelief.

I also enjoyed seeing little bursts of what some of the new guys are about. Foucault with some sick hands around the net at one point... give that kid some room and look out. I'm gonna wager he's a hot shot in the shootout.

Taffe, of course, was skillful and solid like you expect him to be. And Nystrom did a good job setting aside the disappointment of even being in Houston instead of Minnesota and was excellent defensively. That leaping hit midway through the game was just so random and hilarious... It might have gotten him Shanabanned in the NHL, but nobody got hurt so it was okay in the A.

Best of all was the long-lived bad blood between these two teams. Always fun when there's real emotion there. Even more fun when you can best a team of scoundrels like the Wolves. (Kidding of course, lots of respect for those guys.)

Anyway, Torch seemed pretty happy with the game, while acknowledging some downfalls. And Wellman said they wanted to carry some momentum from last season and felt like they did a good job of it. But, he said, they have a 3 in 3 next weekend so I get the feeling that will feel more like a litmus test than tonight's one-off game did. 

Wasn't able to get anything out of the team as far as roster moves, but Torch likes what having extra players does for not only motivating the guys who ARE getting the ice time, but also keeps the pace up during practice without wearing everyone out. With 3 in 3 this weekend, if there are still some spots to be won, maybe things get shaken up a bit.

That's all for tonight.

Thanks everybody for coming out in the awful weather. It was the second best turnout for a home opener since the team moved to the Toyota Center. And in that deluge, lesser fans might have stayed home, but the ol' barn felt pleasantly full, with parts of the upper bowl open for business even.

Next game, bring your tissues because I dunno about you guys, but I might get a little dust in my eyes when they reveal the Western Conference Championship banner. Hope there's room for it next to all of Climie's jocks...


Aeros 4, Chicago 1 - View from the press box

OK, before we all get too excited, remember this. That was just one game, a season opener at that. The Aeros are about .500 in season openers, and usually they are crap shoots. Our old friend Kevin Constantine used to tell us that there are very few games that you don't have at least a feel for. Opening night, especially when they are at home, is among those conditions.

But it real hard not to get excited. The penalty kill was aggressive, true to form and Matt Hackett was a stud early in the game and in the third period when the Aeros were outshot 12-4. Koharski and Croft called a good game; both teams were penalized for the mistakes they made, and you could definitely tell that this was an early-in-the-season game.

(I do think both refs missed an obvious high-sticking call on Ortmeyer with time running out, but that was the only real bad miss for the guys in stripes)

It's good to get the first two points out of the way, and next weekend will be the real test with the first three-in-three (all in three different cites, two on the road).

Man, and it will be hard to top the goal by Ortmeyer. That. was. beautiful. We may got 37 more home games and not see anything close to that. Spin-o-rama pass by Foucault, backhanded centering pass from Peters and a one-time snipe from Ortmeyer ... looked like they've been playing together for years.

After the game, Wellman said to keep an eye on that line. I believe we will ...

That is all from me for now ... What are your thoughts on the game?

HI HOCKEY!!!

I went to bed last night with that feeling in my chest that I got as a little kid on Christmas Eve. That "slightly too excited to sleep, but also know if I go to sleep, tomorrow will happen sooner" feeling.

Luckily I'm old and fall asleep easier than I did when I was 7 years old. But I did wake up at 6:30 this morning and wished I hadn't so I wouldn't have to wait for all the fun parts of the day. Why couldn't they play at 11 this morning?

Anyway, I went and checked out practice yesterday morning. It was fun watching guys take pictures with fans as they exited the ice, and the guys seemed to enjoy it, too.

Also, Mike Hoffman is enormous. (And crush-worthy, ladies.) Also, hide your pizza from him. Dude is a Hoover.



Per the team, there are 26 players on the opening night roster. With 14 forwards and 9 defensemen, I'd expect to see two or three of those guys move to the ECHL soon. The ice seemed pretty crowded at practice yesterday.

Also, the team is carrying 3 goalies still. Hackett had his own net while Endras and Kuemper shared a net, so the team has a tough decision to make.

Endras has fairly high level pro experience in the German league and in international competition, so he's a good safety net in case something happens to one of the Minnesota goalies (as it often seems to do).

But Keumper is everything you want in a young goalie and I think he's shown he can hold his own in this league. While he'd learn a lot in a lower league, frankly, I'd just straight up be a sad panda if I didn't get to see him play this season. Y'all know me. Big heart for my goalies. It's hard to be objective.

Maybe I can find out more about what's going on there today.
----------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, the Wild played their first game last night and won handily in a 4-2 decision over the Columbus BJs. Funny thing is that they looked just like our Aeros did last year, but with NHLers executing on Yeo's strategy. Works out pretty well, apparently. Congrats to Mike and the whole team for kicking off the season the right way.

I know it's a dream come true for Yeo, but also for a bunch of former Aeros like Marco Scandella, who scored a nice goal, and Brett Bulmer, who made his NHL debut at a mere 19 years of age.

----------------------------------------------------

Finally, I've taken a new gig this season contributing to the new Backhand Shelf blog on theScore.ca. My friend, Justin Bourne, is editing the site and doing most of the writing, so you know it's good. He's very knowledgeable and very funny and told me, "Just do your thing. Write about goalies, hot boys, whatever you want. Oh, and here's some money for it."

LemmethinkaboutitYES.

So, my regular feature, Tea with Ms. Conduct, runs every other Sunday with a few other things thrown in irregularly. (If you don't get the tea reference, you need to rent the cheesy hockey classic Youngblood ASAP.)

If you're a hockey fan in general, I think you'll enjoy the blog. Lots of writing from Justin and from several other writers with a variety of backgrounds and interests. Tons of humor and great knowledge.

Anyway, here's my first piece, hot off the press: http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2011/10/09/tea-with-ms-conduct-the-bunny-conundrum/

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And with that... see you tonight! Welcome back to Houston, hockey! (Or is it Welcome back to hockey, Houston!?)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Hockey


Hey Milwaukee, Revoke This

Hey folks, are you ready for some hockey? Now I don't know what Andrew's talking about in the post below, but I'm not planning on going anywhere. I've just been extremely busy. But I picked up my credentials today and I'm ready to start blogging about another season -- that might have to wait a bit as, since the schedule was late as usual, I got tickets to the Lindsay Buckingham concert on Sunday night and booked a birthday trip to Vegas next weekend, so I'll be missing the first two games.

I had a post over at the mothership today, trying to give a quick primer on the changes made with the team, and the league, since that game six Calder Cup loss to Binghamton. There are some good quotes from John Torchetti on his thoughts about the season, and what he wants, so give it a read.

What I didn't have room for in the story, and what ended up not really working, were some quotes I got from GM Jim Mill, so I thought I would share those here. Primarily, I asked his thoughts on having come so close last year, and whether he was able to enjoy what happened yet, or whether he was still suffering.

"I’ve only gone through it in my mind about a million times, and I still get chills thinking about it," he said. "When you get that close to one of the goals you have in life, it’s really difficult to describe into words the disappointment. There are lots of people that told me, after you reflect on it, you will be able someday, to know how great it was. And I do understand that. When you’re one of four teams playing in professional hockey, and you’re in the second best league in the world, and you’re two wins away from the ultimate goal – obviously it’s a hard pill to swallow, but you have to take all of the good that comes out of that. And know what a great group of players we had, and obviously a great coaching staff we had, and the fan support we ended up having at that end….

"I guess what you take from it is what you can do better. And that’s what I’ve really tried to think about and analyze. What could I have done, or what could we have done better to make us better, to make us – as close as we were, how could we have had two more wins. That’s where I’m at with the process, still trying to figure out. I have a few ideas on how to get better, and how I could have handled things better and how I could have helped manage everybody better, but at the end of the day, it was a very, very special and a rewarding experience….

"That was one hell of a run."

One hell of a run it was, indeed. But now it's time to start a new season. So welcome back everybody.

Random Thoughts ... Including the Devil's Game

Only in Texas
Happy Friday everyone ... Houston hockey returns on Sunday. I hope everyone is excited as I am. As it appears this blog is riding off into the sunset, I wanted to drop a few thoughts in here before the real games begin.

First, the Wild officially assigned Nystrom to Houston after he cleared waivers earlier today. I expect he'll be ready to go on Sunday, but we'll see. At some point, the Wild could put him on re-entry waivers and another team could have him at half price. No one claimed him at full price, so it will be interesting to see a) how he plays back in the AHL and b) if anyone wants him later at a discount.

Also, I printed off my scoresheets for the games this season. I always do this at once to make sure I have all of them done and I don't have to worry about it in the middle of the season. When I do that, I always make a note on the cards where the Aeros will hit the quarter pole, when they will play their last game, etc.

This year, I noticed that the Aeros will be the first team in the last 10 years to play Game No. 666 in back to back seasons.

They'll play The Devil's game on Thursday, Feb. 12, at Toyota Center. Last year, they played Game 666 at Lake Erie and won the match 2-1. When the Aeros hit the ice that night, they'll surpass San Antonio Rampage as the all-time AHL leader in Game 666s played.

It's always fun when you can help prove conspiracy theories. There are many of us that cover Western Conference teams that think there is a slight East Coast and Canadian team bias when it comes to coverage and publicity from the league office.

While I do think that is true, I have no problem with it. That is where most of the teams are after all. But since 2005-06, not one Eastern Conference team has hosted game No. 666. In fact Binghamton is the only Eastern team to even participate in a Game 666. (Syracuse did play at Chicago in the 666 game back in 2006, but they were in the West that year.)

Even funnier? In 2009-10 there was NO game 666! That's right, the league assigned Game 667 after Game 665 to the Rockford IceHogs. So technically, again, another West team played the 666th game that season.

The last time an Eastern Conference team hosted Game 666 was on Jan. 31, 2004. Manchester beat Worcester 5-3 in that game.

OF COURSE I am kidding about this being a conspiracy theory. I just thought it was interesting. So far the Aeros are 1-1 in Game 666s; here's to hoping the Aeros give the Devil his (wait for it, wait for it) ... his deuce.

*Ducks and dodges the first of 100 rotten tomatoes*
*Is hit by the second of 200 rotten tomatoes*

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Breaking down the Roster

One of my favorite things to do before opening day is to break down - or dissect - the Aeros' roster.
Thanks to a few injuries in Minnesota, it's not complete and I am pretty sure this is not what it will look like by the time the team hits magical game No. 25. (That is the point at which you pretty much know for sure what kind of team you are looking at***).

  • Right now, there are 27 players on the roster 
  • There are 14 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies
  • Of the forwards, there are six centers, two left wingers, six right wings and zero liberals. (Ha?)
  • As of 10/4, there are 13 Canadians, 11 Americans and one German
  • I am pretty sure the Aeros have never had more than 10 Americans on their roster *patriotic tear*
  • There are six veterans: DiSalvatore, Taffe, Hendry, Peters, Hoffman and Ortmeyer
  • Two of the veterans did not play in the AHL last year; Hoffman played in Europe/Hendry in the NHL
  • Of those that are considered league vets, four of them are at least 30 years old: DiSalvatore (30), Taffe (30), Hoffman (31) and Ortmeyer (33)
  • At 27, Hendry is the youngest veteran player
  • Right now, there are five rookies on the roster: Medvec, Foucault. Fontaine, Genoway and Kuepmer
  • There are three players on the team born in 1990. Foucault (12/12/90), Cuma (1/19/90) and Kuemper (5/5/90)
  • Most of the 27 players are on a two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild; there are six players on other types of contracts. Hendry is on a PTO or tryout contract; Fredheim is on a standard AHL contract, while Fritsch, Bartlett, Boogaard and Hoffman are on Free Agent/Tryout contracts.
  • Really the only names I can think of that will likely be added to the roster in the short term are Matt Hackett and Matt Kassian. Kassian is banged up and I don't think has been officially assigned. Hackett will return when Harding is cleared to play again.
  • Jim Mill (Pictured below) did not sign himself to a PTO. Maybe he should have; even a 90-year old scored on Hackett today.
    Jim Mill stopped a few pucks this week in Minny

(*** Exceptions include, but are not limited to, the 2010-11 San Antonio Rampage and Adirondack Phantoms)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aeros release 7; Hackett recalled to Minnesota

The Aeros announced their first round of cuts today.
No real surprises here, but the team is getting closer to the 23-25 players that will be on the roster by Sunday's opener. One name that is NOT on this list is Aaron Boogaard. He is still an Aero today.


Per Aeros.com, the cuts include:


Forwards
Mike Kramer
Matt Marquardt
JP Martignetti
Greg Stewart



Josh Harding
Defensemen
Tysen Dowzak
Sam Lofquist
Wes O’Neill



UPDATE - The Wild also announced that it has recalled Matt Hackett from the Aeros. Unsure if there is any injury to Backstrom or Harding, but this could be just to have him bond with the big club. We'll post more if we hear anything.


Man, I just found out about Harding. Russo said a couple of times that the guy just can't catch a break. He was being nice. Harding was one of the most fun goalies Aeros fans ever got to watch live, but man, he is so unlucky, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near that guy. Black cats, broken mirrors and No. 13s have nothing on Harding. 


Someone once told me they thought that Harding milks every injury for what it's worth and more so that he can continue to collect NHL money with minimal effort. Either way, it's a small miracle that he is still on the Wild roster. I am not sure his stats, performance or attitude support his cause. I also find it curious that we never really hear Wild fans chirping about Harding. Maybe it is just because he is a backup goalie. 


I would love to hear the opinion of those that follow them more closely.

Aeros wrap up preseason with shootout win

Jon DiSalvatore - Photo by Ron Byrd
I wasn't there, but I heard it wasn't pretty. But that is the preseason. Time for working on chemistry, systems and just getting to know the coaching staff.

The Aeros finished the preseason with a 3-2 shootout win over Texas on Sunday, getting goals from Joel Broda and Warren Peters. In the shootout, Carson McMillan, Jeff Taffe and Jarod Palmer scored to give the Aeros the imaginary extra point.

Warren Peters - Photo by Ron Byrd
Matt Hackett, from what I understand, looked great ... and there were three fights. Looks like the rivalry with the Texas Stars will carry over from last season. The Aeros dominated the season series a year ago, but they needed overtime to win a lot of those games.


Speaking of Broda, that is something else to keep an eye on this week. Last year, he made the team out of camp and put the puck in the net early on. There is no question he is offensively gifted. But he's got to work on his whole game. Frankly, he's got to play defense well enough to justify his stay with the team. That just wasn't there last year. We'll find out soon enough if he was able to improve that part of his game.

Also, what do you think of the new jerseys? This is the first time I have seen them on a player. At first glance they look a bit busy, but I do like the grey on the road sweaters. I think I like them,but I want to see them in person before I endorse ...