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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Game Delay In Houston

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Both teams have taken to the ice for warm-ups. I haven't seen any officials come out to check the conditions, though, so it's looking like we'll have a 8:30 start.

UPDATE: Pending the condition of the ice, warm-ups will be at 7:55 and the game will start at 8:30.

The compressor for the ice broke at Toyota Center earlier today, and though it's now working, ice conditions are still not good enough to skate on -- you can see the water on the ice from the press box. So the game is looking at a delay -- we're hearing at least 30 minutes.

Keep checking in with T3I here and on twitter and we'll try to let you know what's going on.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Last Night's Loss (In Some Photos)

First, here's my story in the Press on the playoffs slip slidin' away. Go click and leave a few comments if you want.

Now, what's that they say, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, here's about six or seven thousands words for you to look at from last night. These first three photos are from Lake Erie's first goal. It's hard to blame Hackett here. He follows the puck, as, it appears, do the Aeros, ignoring the Lake Erie shooters at the net. It's not until the third photo that we actually see Tyler Cuma anywhere near the puck, and by then, it's way too late.

I chose this photo below to illustrate one of the things Hackett had to deal with the entire night -- being screened, this time by his own team, and not being able to see a damn thing happening with the puck.

As for these final three photos, you can once again see him being screened by a Lake Erie player -- I call it putting the ass to his face. Heather suggested he should've used a few poke checks and shoves, I told her he did and that this was the best separation he could get it. The amazing thing, to me, is that he still blocks the shot though it had to be have been nearly impossible for him to see anything that was happening.

The Aeros have a lot of problems heading into these last seven games, but I think we can all safely agree that the goal tending isn't one of those problems. Whether it's been Joe Fallon, Scott Greenham, or Matt Hackett, the goalies have more than done their jobs. The defense, offense, and special teams, however, seem to have disappeared.

Thoughts (and a drawing) from a weird night at the Toy Box

For the first time in a long time, I'm having trouble letting this game go. It felt off-kilter from the start, some of which I blame on this being a travel day for the Aeros and they didn't seem ready to play until the second period.

And perhaps some of it was the sparse crowd. And actually that's a compliment to the Aeros that a sparse crowd felt strange. We've been spoiled by big, loud, energetic crowds much of the season, so a regular ol' Thursday night crowd was just lower energy in the building than I'm used to.

It was also odd having Hackett back. Even though it really hasn't been that long, the games since since he was called up have seemed so important that time drags a little bit. Anyway, it was nice to have a familiar name in the crease, and moreover, it was nice to see him playing a really amped game.

He was playing the puck confidently, drawing penalties, and getting into the game more physically than goalies tend to need to do. But it showed an engagement in the process that I know I liked and was missing at times this season (and I LOL'd at more than once because I just enjoy the hell out of a feisty goalie), but Coach Torchetti said he likes it, too, and felt like Hack was still focused on the right things when it mattered.

I'm not sure I agree with that entirely, but I also think, as John mentioned, defensive support was lacking on every single goal, and it's those details that will eat away at you. Wouldn't have put any of those goals on Hackett tonight.

Though I admit to being broken-hearted when Desjardins wouldn't accept Hack's invitation to a center ice tilt after that big scrum at the end of overtime (that Hack started by punching one of their guys in the face for some reason). I'm not really a bucket list person but seeing a goalie fight in person is way up there. I think Desjardins would have gotten the crap kicked out of him though, as cranked up as Hack was, so probably a smart move to just carry on.

I asked Fontaine after the game if all those great chances around the net not going in gets frustrating or if it fuels them a bit, and he admitted that it does get frustrating. But by this time of the year, they know if they just keep plugging, good things will happen.

Torch said he was happy with the point, and I tend to agree. The Monsters aren't the best team ever but they were off last night, slept in a comfy bed in Houston, had their regular game day routine, and frankly, had more on the line. Not really excuses you want to be making, but as much as people try to discount human nature, it's just there, my friend. No denying it.

Hamilton is Saturday's opponent and last I checked they were well out of the playoff hunt, so a win against them is important but not as important as beating someone immediately ahead of or behind them. Still, 2 points is 2 beautiful, much-needed points.

But Hamilton... this is more about a grudge match for me. I still blame their nastiness in the Conference Finals, and how that series dragged out to the most painful, exciting conclusion possible, for the Aeros just running out of gas in the finals last year.

And I hope the guys who were here last year are holding the same grudge and, not only aren't looking past this weaker opponent, but actually want to crush them like bugs. That would feel really good.

Couple of other notes: Sources tell us that Fallon's injury is a high ankle sprain. General a lengthy recovery on those, up to a couple of months, so I think that love affair is over.
Also, saw Kuemper after the game and he's not a happy Kamper right now (sorry, that was bad). Nice little shoulder immobilizing sling on his wing where he had surgery a few days ago. He's grounded for a few months and not feeling great. I would guess everything is difficult when you only have one good arm and the other one hurts like it's been sliced and diced (because it has been).

See you Saturday.

Aeros Lose Fifth In Row

Tomorrow's post in the mothership will be on the Aeros's playoff hopes seemingly slip slidin' away, to rip-off Mr. Paul Simon. The Aeros failed to win their fifth straight game, losing 4-3 in the shootout to the Lake Erie Monsters who jumped into seventh place in the playoff standings.

The Aeros gained a point, which moves them up from sixth to fifth place with 78 points. The Heat also lost in the shootout tonight, so they too have 78 points, but they've won more games, so they get the coveted fourth slot.

Frankly, I'm shocked the Aeros were able to get a point tonight. Matt Hackett didn't have much defensive help -- I was down in that corner for the Monsters second goal, and it seemed that he was screened by the entirety of both teams. And the team was inept in the shootout.

The season's not over, and the Aeros control their own destiny -- and bright side, damn it, they're in fifth place. But they have not done themselves any favors over the past two weeks. And it's possible that, come Sunday evening, the Aeros will have had several more teams leapfrog them in the standings.

Torchetti was happy to see the team get a point tonight, because, as he pointed out, they did everything possible to give away points. He made it very clear: if this team wants to make the playoffs, they have to start playing the system.

In other words, it's all in their control, and right now, it's just slip slidin' away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Aeros Lose Again, But Still In Fourth Place (Kind Of)

Just a quick note.  The Aeros lost again, 3-2 in OT against Milwaukee, to go 0-3-1 on the road trip. The Admirals got the game-winning goal with just over three seconds left in the OT. The Aeros return to Toyota Center tomorrow night when they host the Lake Erie Monsters.

Here's the interesting stat for the night: despite going 0-3-1 on the road trip, the Aeros are still, amazingly, in fourth place.  Sure, it's a three-way tie for fourth, but with 77 points, they're still in fourth place (if you're looking at wins, they place in sixth, behind Abbotsford and San Antonio).  And to me, this is the most amazing stat: only seven points separate the fourth place teams, with 77 points, from the Grand Rapids Griffins, who are sitting in 13th place with 70 points.

And we thought the playoff chase last season was tough.

Here's one more interesting note: if Lake Erie defeats the Aeros tomorrow, they leap from 10th place to 7th place, from out of the playoffs to making the playoffs.

The good news for the Aeros -- besides the fact that they're still tied for fourth place, is that seven of their remaining eight games are at home.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Aeros Lose To Rockford: A Comedy Tonight

Sometimes things get so bad that you want to cry, but instead, you just have the urge to laugh. Like, for instance, now. Things are just so damn bad with the Wild that it's no longer sad, it's funny. And things are just so bad with the Wild that the Aeros have started getting sad. But after today/tonight, it's not sad, it's funny.

The Aeros lost to the Rockford IceHogs tonight 4-1. That's the second loss in a row, and the second on this four game road trip. As Andrew and Heather wrote below, Joe Fallon's injured and Matt Hackett's with the Wild because the brittle twins that play in goal for the Wild are, as you guessed, injured.

The result was that the Aeros threw a guy just literally out of college between the pipes tonight -- he's got just two games of ECHL experience -- named Scott Greenham. Now it would be easy to put the loss on Greenham since Rockford did score four goals. But then you look at this stat: Rockford out shot Houston 41-18, including 16-2 in the second period. Yes, you saw that right, 41-18, and it becomes a wonder that Rockford only scored three times on Greenham -- the fourth goal was an empty-netter.

That leads to the question of what happened to that offense we were bragging about just last week. There have been no roster changes. The lines haven't changed. But the Aeros can no longer score any goals. It's ridiculous, really ridiculous. What makes it more ridiculous is that the Wild's Matt Cullen broke a finger in tonight's loss to Buffalo (shocking, right? The Wild losing, and a Wild getting hurt) which will necessitate the Wild calling up one of the Aeros forwards, which in itself is funny seeing as how the Aeros forwards have forgotten how to shoot the damn puck.

However, despite the loss, the Aeros are still in fourth place. Yes, that's right, they're still in fourth because just about everybody below them in the standings also lost tonight. So for one more day, the Aeros hang on to fourth place with 76 points. The Heat, Americans, and Rivermen are tied for fifth with 75 points, and the Checkers are hanging onto the eighth spot with 74 points. The Rampage and Monsters are tied for ninth with 73 points, and the Admirals are in 11th with 70 points.

Yep, that's right, a total of six points separate the fourth spot from the 11th spot in the standings. And we thought it was ridiculously close last season.

The Aeros play in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. Peoria, Abbotsford, and Charlotte also play on Sunday. So it's conceivable that, come tomorrow night, the Aeros could be sitting in seventh place.

Like I said, it's so sad, it's funny.  Which leads to this video from a classic Broadway musical/movie of the 1960s called A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. So here's the opening song, "A Comedy Tonight."

(By the way, my apologies to Joe Fallon. I wrote about him in the Press on Friday, so of course he was injured.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fallon Out Indefinitely ... Aeros sign Mike Brodeur and some college kid.

UPDATE - The reason the Aeros signed two new goalies today is because Joe Fallon was injured late in the loss to Rockford on Friday. And with Backstrom tweaking his lower body before the Wild's trip, the Aeros will have to make do with Mike Brodeur and a college kid who Aeros fans hope isn't the second coming of Tony Quesada.

I posed a serious question to Wild/Aeros management: Why not send Brodeur to Buffalo and have him back up Harding on an emergency basis. While possible, the odds of Hackett getting in the NHL game tonight are rather low. Ordinarily, I'd say this is not the best option, but considering the Wild are out of playoff contention why not?

Wild management replied with, "No, Hackett will be with the Wild, and our goalies are as stated (Brodeur and Greenham)."

The only reason I even remotely question this decision is because the Wild don't need points, and every point for the Aeros is crucial. Maybe there is some sort of contract or rule constraint that I don't know about."

Either way, the Aeros are in serious trouble for the duration of their road trip.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

I didn't catch any of the game last night but Midwestern correspondent Chris Jerina tells us it was a quality effort for the Aeros, despite the 2-1 loss. Chad Rau had the Aeros' only goal, and Rockford scored on the power play late in the first and then again late in the second (even strength).

The Aeros put up 28 shots (half of them in the third period alone) to Rockford's 17, but Carter Hutton just flat out stoned them. Fallon was in net for Houston, with Hackett backing up.

The Wild play tonight in Buffalo, and Hackett is indeed IN Buffalo, for reals this time, and the Aeros have signed two goalies to PTOs: Mike Brodeur (no relation) and Scott Greenham (or Greeneggsandham if you're into whimsy).

Brodeur has been in the ECHL with the Vegas Wranglers (where Fallon was as well... should probably send those fans a muffin basket or something, eh?) and Greenham has been with Bakersfield for a few games after wrapping up his college career at U of Alaska-Fairbanks.


Trying to find out why two goalies, and if I hear back, I'll update this post.

Meanwhile, I wanted to chuck up some pictures from Chris of last night's game because there are some nice ones and I'm procrastinating getting in the yard and pulling weeds. Bleh.

Sexy toe save. No big deal.
Adore this picture of Sal during warm-ups!
Hutton finally got out of the way!
All photos by Chris "3-in-3" Jerina. Thank you, Chris! The rest of last night's are here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

UPDATED: Hackett up (maybe sorta?), radio news

Couple of little tidbits, one not so little, as we head into this 3 in 3 weekend:

Nik Backstrom's "lower body" is bugging him again, so he stayed home while the Wild headed off to Buffalo, and of course, that means Hackett is on his way to the Buff to meet up with them.

So, those of us wringing our hands over poor Joe Fallon being cast aside in favor of Hackett can relax a little as it looks like the Aeros are squarely in Fallon's hands for at least a little while longer.

Additionally, Sunshiney Kuemper is on the shelf for 4-5 MONTHS after having shoulder surgery yesterday, so they'll have to get another back-up in for Fallon this weekend.

Or at least all the above is what Wild and Russo twitter would have you think. Joe O'Donnell is instead tweeting that Hackett is still in Rockford with the team and, while Torch wouldn't tell him who is starting tonight, it sounds like Hackett is certainly a possibility. 

As my grandmother used to say, "Heavens to Betsy!"

And the revolving door just keeps spinning!

In less important, but potentially good news, the Aeros announced today that 4 games coming up will be on ESPN Radio 97.5 here in Houston.

I dunno if it's because college basketball has pre-empted it on the usual station or if this is something planned or what, but it fills me with hope that some day the Aeros will be on a proper sports radio station that I won't be repulsed by if I accidentally leave it on for a while after the game.

From the team:
Joe O’Donnell will call the action exclusively on ESPN Radio 97.5 FM (Listen Now button in upper right) for games on March 28 (at Milwaukee), March 31 (vs. Hamilton), April 6 (vs. Chicago) and April 13 (at OKC).
 And there will be 15 minutes of pre-game vs. the usual 5, so that's cool, too.

That's all!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Down the stretch: Thursday 3/22 edition

The Aeros have not played since Sunday, and still own the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They are not going to catch OKC, but that's OK ... no one will. The goal for the Aeros has to be to keep the No. 4 seed and get the home-ice advantage in the first round. If they play San Antonio, they'll get home ice in a 2-2-1 format. If they play anyone else, they'll play a 2-3 or 3-2 format, and they'll get to decide whether or not to start on the road.

That could force some real interesting decisions given the new five-game, first-round series.

For those of you watching the scoreboard, I think this is down to a seven team race for five spots. Milwaukee, unless it just gets REALLY hot, has fallen behind Grand Rapids, who will try to keep San Antonio on the outside looking in tonight at AT&T Center.

I call this a must win game for the Griffins tonight, and tonight is a very big game for the Lake Erie Monsters, who host the Chicago Wolves at Quicken Loans Arena.

Win, and the Monsters jump back into the Top 8. Lose to Chicago, and the Monsters stay on the outside and stay on 72 points with a whopping 67 games played. The Monsters only have seven games left, and they probably need to go 5-2 and get a ton of help.

The Aeros are on their way to ChicagoLand, and will play four games in that area, three against teams that are currently not in the playoffs. With Matt Hackett back, he needs to play much, much better than the last time he got sent down. And with the consistency in the Aeros lineup, I think you'll see that.

No matter what, though, he is going to make a huge impression either way. After the Aeros play these four road games, they only have one left away from Toyota Center. That bodes well for Houston, which is 7-2 in its last nine home games and has points in nine of it's last 11 at home overall (7-2-1-1).

Click on the picture for a bigger image. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Joe Fallon Named Player of the Week

Congrats to Aeros goalie Joe Fallon who, today, was named the AHL's Player of the Week for that incredible stretch of games he just played. He went 4-0, stopping 120 of 125 of shots. That included Saturday and Sunday when he played 130 minutes of hockey and went 13 rounds in the shootout over the two games.

Meanwhile, in related news, Fallon may be getting some rest as Matt Hackett has been returned to the Aeros from the Wild.

And Andrew, seeing as how you enjoyed the last Barry Gibb Talk Show clip I included with a Fallon post, here's another. And don't forget, everybody congratulate Joe Fallon for an incredible week of hockey.

Power Rankings: Fallon helps Aeros back to Top 5

If anything, doing the power rankings today made me realize that I probably had the Aeros too low last week. It takes a lot to move up or down six spots in one week, but what Joe Fallon did this week for the Aeros cannot be minimized.

Joe Fallon won all four games for the Aeros last week.
He said he lost about 7 pounds per game, too. 
He stole probably three points the Aeros did not deserve on Saturday and Sunday, and he was great when the offense was clicking on Tuesday and Friday. A perfect 4-0 week moved the Aeros all the way up to the No. 3 team in the conference and the No. 7 ranked team in the AHL overall. Obviously, because of the playoff rules, the Aeros cannot be seeded 2 or 3 if they finish behind the OKC Barons.

The Aeros magic number is down to 10, and they'd really have to fall off the wagon not to at least snatch one of the top 8 seeds for the postseason tournament.

The Aeros get some much-needed rest this week before starting a tough four-game road trip in Rockford on Friday.

As for the rest of the league, OKC is back on top. Toronto was unimpressive against the Wolves, and they really needed a weekend sweep to stay on Top. Speaking of Chicago, they are bag atop the Midwest and Charlotte has really hit the skids.

San Antonio and Lake Erie fell back, too, after bad weeks, but both of those teams are right in the middle of the playoff chase.

Don't go anywhere, fans - things are getting REAL interesting now.

2011-12 Western Conference Power Rankings
Edition 8, March 19, 2012

For the record …
Back on top to stay
Just 16-16 on the road this year.
O’Sullivan – 9pts in 5 gms.
Back in control of Midwest
Hackett re-joins from MIN
Lost 5 of 6 overall.
Tough loss vs. SYR Friday
Offense has gone dark
6 of next 7 at home
Tough schedule will be a test
Relishing spoiler role yet again 
Running out of time
Sarcastic thank-yous to Detroit
Here’s to next year
Rookie help on the way

Down the Stretch - Monday update

After a big weekend of games, the Aeros moved all the way up from 10th to 3rd in the overall points totals. They cannot be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs as the top three spots are reserved for division winners.

The Aeros best hope is for the No. 4 seed and home ice advantage in the first round, best of five.

Milwaukee and Rochester - and even San Antonio to some extent - are in trouble. The first two are going to have to go on some incredible runs just to get in, as they've played more games than everyone else. San Antonio picked the wrong time to see its offense go cold at home. The Rampage have a favorable schedule for the next six games, so they better win 4 of 6.

Power Rankings come out later ... and here is a look at the AHL's playoff primer. Also, here is a reminder of 100 Degree Hockey's playoff projections. Lots of good data here for you to digest.

Please click on picture for better image. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fallon Keeps The Train Rolling

Both the Aeros and the Barons were playing their third game in three nights, and at times, especially in that third period, it looked like it. And of all of the guys who have played in these three games for the Aeros, none has put in the minutes, been under the pressure, as goalie Joe Fallon. And for the third night in a row, Fallon delivered, backstopping the Aeros to their third straight win (the second in two nights to go to the shootout) by the score of 2-1.

Earlier this month, when the Aeros were dying on the road, and Matt Hackett was called up and Darcy Kuemper was too injured to plays, the panic seemed to set in. Especially at the thought that two ECHL goalies were now tending goal for the Aeros. But after this weekend, after this past week, after this six game homestand, is there really any reason to worry?

The Aeros took the early 1-0 lead on Oklahoma City as David McIntyre, fresh off his shoot-out heroics from last night, scored 1:55 into the game on what appeared to be a mistake shot that kind of floated past the Barons' Yann Danis -- I would try to offer up a better description of the goal, but Toyota Center only showed replays of nonsense for the night, when they could be bothered to show replays, but refused to replay any of the goals in the game.

The Barons tied it at the 18:47 mark of the second period when they scored on the power play. That came after the Barons dominated the period, outshooting the Aeros 12-4. John Torchetti attributed that differential to the Aeros being sloppy with the puck.

"Every turnover probably brings you a shot-and-a-half," he said. "So if you have nine, you’re looking at 13 shots. That’s the difference. We’ve got to make sure to get better puck control. You kind of get away with a little bit at home because you’ve got your match-ups, and on the road you don’t. That’s the detail part of the game."

That was also pretty much the story in the third period, yet both teams appeared to have trouble standing on their skates, so tired did they appear to be. But Joe Fallon stood tall, stopping another 12 Baron shots and sending the game into overtime where he made one of those saves that's just so special you can't find the words to describe it, so spectacular was it -- essentially Fallon went one way, the puck went across him to the other side on a pass, the shot was made and looked to be the game-winning goal, but Fallon was able to reach back and grab the puck in the air and save the game (tip of the hat to Drew Bagnall who was able to tip the shot and slow it down).

"Let’s just hope next time that my feet are working more so I can get over into position better," was Fallon's basic response to the play.

The game went to the shootout where the Barons made their first two shots. But Fallon shut them down from there while the Aeros came to life. Jon DiSalvatore went top shelf in the third round, Jeff Taffe banged it in the fifth round, and Joel Broda sunk the game winner in round seven.

But exciting as that shootout was, it wouldn't have happened without the excellence of Fallon. And here's the thing, Fallon played all three games this weekend, meaning he played 190 minutes of hockey and went a total of 13 rounds in two shootouts.

"I tell you what, he’s come in and given us a lot of confidence," Torchetti said. "He’s played with a lot of confidence. It just goes to show you, that’s what it’s all about, I think. Giving people chances, and he’s taking advantage of it. He’s got experience. He’s come in and done a fantastic job for us. He likes a challenge. I’ll tell you what, he’s done a great job."

And nobody should argue with that fantastic job bit, especially after this weekend. As to why Fallon went back out today and didn't get any rest, well, as Fallon assured us after the game, that's the way he wanted it.

"Torch asked me if I wanted to go again, and I said, yeah, let’s do it, let’s keep the train rolling, and it paid off today," he said.

In this past week, the Aeros have gone from sitting in 10th place to sitting in fourth place with a record of 32-20-3-9 (76 points) with 12 games to play. The Rivermen sit in fifth with 73 points, percentage points ahead of the Heat who also have 73 points, but fewer wins. The Checkers have dropped down to sixth place with 72 points, while the Americans and Monster are battling it out for eighth with both have 71 points, but Rochester having the better winning percentage. The Rampage are now the tenth place, and they have 70 points.

So while the Aeros were able to make up ground and get some slight spacing on the teams behind them, this season's not over by a longshot. They've got the week off from games (but not off from practicing) before a three-in-three this weekend with two games in Rockford and a Sunday game in Chicago -- hopefully our Midwest Bureau Chief, Chris Jerina, will be able to get some photos and make a report for us from there.


Tyler Cuma was a late scratch from the game. He skated pregame, but had a slight lower body injury. While he could've played, Torchetti said they decided that it was better that he sit out and get the extra rest time....Kris Foucault was a healthy scratch, allowing Nick Palmieri, freshly arrived from the Wild, to play....Also, it is expected that, sometime soon, Matt Hackett will be returning to the team as it's appearing that both Wild goalies will actually be healthy.

Also, I apologize for taking so long to get this posted, but I wanted to post a video honoring Joe Fallon, who had me thinking of Jimmy Fallon, so I went into Hulu watching old Jimmy Fallon skits from Saturday Night Live. And that led me from one video to another to another, and so on, and so on, and so on.  Anyway, for your enjoyment, here's one of my favorites, The Barry Gibb Talk Show.

The post where I swoon about the awesome goalie

There are times in the life of a hockey fan where a player can enter your sphere of interest for only a brief period, but still find themselves a permanent place in the messy Locker of Affection in your hockey heart.

For me, Kurtis Foster is a guy like that, after coming down to Houston for a conditioning stint after breaking his femur, and being just a joy to watch, great attitude, and a huge help with his bomb of a slapshot at a time when the Aeros really needed that lift to get into the playoffs (the Locke/Kolanos season).

Another is Matt Climie, who swooped in during that same playoff run where goalies were dropping like flies, battled through dehydration and cramping to get the Aeros some important wins.

Now, you can add Joe Fallon to that list. To get the Ms.Conducty stuff out of the way first: Oh gosh, y'all, he's really cute. And really nice. And you could have punched him in the face after tonight's game and I don't think he would have quit smiling. I wanted to hug him and bake him cookies and stuff.

Goaltending is a funny business. It's hard, it's painful, it's embarrassing at times. But when it's good... man, there is nothing better in life. Feeling good in goal is such a phenomenal place to be, I'm not even sure how to describe it.

It's like, "just had great sex" and "my hair looks freaking awesome today" and "these jeans are comfortable AND make my ass look amazing" and "the bills are paid with some left over for, not just beer, but GOOD beer" and "it's Friday night of a 3-day weekend." That's how great it is. Life is pretty much perfect when you're having a good streak in net.

And to have come to that feeling after a rough start here, having spent the season in the ECHL, and to have fought through it and elevated his game to this level is the kind of stuff that makes me love love love watching hockey at this level.

Watching guys get choice opportunities like this and just GO TO TOWN with them is an honor to witness. And for it to be happening at a time when the Aeros really need it to happen is even more special.

He was funny after the game, when John asked him about that insane OT save where he stuck his glove out behind him to swipe that puck out of the air before it made what appeared to be an inevitable trip to the back of the net... he basically admitted to being out of position and that he hopes he doesn't have to make too many like that as his game improves.

Talk about humility (and, well, honesty... but still what a save!)

He also said he hopes to work this week on the defense being able to work with him on outlet passes, which thrills my heart because I love me a goalie who's confident and competent moving the puck in meaningful ways. Still, I have to wonder how much more we'll see of him as it sounds like Hackett may be back this week.

But I won't worry about that for now. At the moment, I'm content to bask in the reflected glow of a goalie playing out of his mind, exceeding everyone's expectations, as well as enjoying the benefit that has for the team I care most about. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

View from the press box: Joe Fallon steals the show

The Aeros improved to 4-1 on their homestand with a 1-0 shootout win over the Heat, and you can read more about their dazzling performance in Heather's recap below.

She was spot on about Fallon and his great game, and how, even though the Aeros were plagued with turnovers, they still found a way to get the extra point in the standings.

Big picture wise, this was a big game. The Aeros jumped all the way to No. 4 in the standings. And they've won three in a row for the first time in ... a long time. Since that awful four-game losing streak, the Aeros are 6-3.

After tomorrow's game against OKC, the Aeros will hit the road for four straight, including games against the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals.

And here is another weird note for you - after the game against the Barons, the Aeros will play nine straight games against teams outside their division.

I honestly don't know what to expect tomorrow; the Barons just pounded the Stars in back to back games, and the Aeros have not scored a goal in four plus periods.

Big win for the Aeros tonight, and a win tomorrow would give them a sweep of the weekend home three in three.

We'll see what happens and who Torch decides to start against the Barons. It was really, really warm down on the ice tonight, and Fallon has be to drained after a game like tonight.

But man, he sure has been good on this homestand.

Aeros cool the Heat, win 1-0 in the shootout

With Houston and Abbotsford tied in the standings, this was as close to a playoff game as you can get in the regular season. Both teams played a careful game, which translated to super-defense and no scoring in regulation and overtime.

The sleepiness of the game was maybe a surprise after 44 minutes of roughing and fighting penalties in Tuesday's match-up, but these were some of the biggest 2 points the teams have played for so far this season.

Both goalies were fantastic, but Fallon in particular saw 15 shots in the third period and a whopping 6 in OT. He made a handful of game-changing necessary saves and you can see the trust he is earning from the guys in front of him. This has to be one of the best, most important games in his AHL career. There's no way the Aeros do this with a goalie whose head isn't in it right now.

And McIntyre, who's been fairly quiet on the score sheet the last couple of months, was super clutch scoring the lone shootout goal in 6 rounds of shooters.

It certainly wasn't the Aeros' best game recently. Loads of turnovers and just unable to keep pressure in the offensive zone, but they won the battles down low in the defensive end, swept away lots of scary rebounds, and just generally honey badgered their way out of it.

If I had to pick one thing that has really gotten this team back on track is simply consistency in the lineup. The Wild have stabilized in their suckitude and call-ups are less frequent or enticing. The focus in Houston is now HOUSTON and less about the parent club and their needs.

It's that time of the season, thank god, where the Aeros can kinda get out of the Wild's dismal shadow and bloom a little. At least I hope that's what's happening. They may lose 6-0 tomorrow and I'll feel like an ass for being so optimistic. But that's the fun of fandom, isn't it? I mean, unless you're Forecheck. :)

Anyway, fun night tonight.... eventually. Nothing like a little history being made.

Aeros Honor Jon DiSalvatore

The Aeros did a really classy thing tonight, honoring Jon DiSalvatore for his play with the team. He was awarded an aluminum hockey stick, modeled after his own stick, down to the curves, engraved with his name and celebrating his scoring 20-plus goals for nine straight AHL seasons. He was also honored with a crystal puck, and with the game puck from the game where he became the Aeros all-time leading scorer (AHL seasons only).

 We here at T3I get the honor of dealing with DiSalvatore on a nightly basis, and he truly is a good and classy person, as a player, a teammate, the team captain, and in his off-ice activities. So we're offering our congratulations, as well. And below are some photos from the pregame ceremony (featured in the photos are Joe O'Donnell, team president David Burke, GM Jim Mill, DiSalvatore, and his wife and children).

Friday, March 16, 2012

View from the Press box: Holy blankety-blank ... Aeros win, Aeros win again.

So there I was, high above the ice writing my recap for the Chronicle. I had this nice story written up about Fontaine and Joe Fallon. And even though I still could have gone that way, I decided to change my tune because the 'Hogs scored two late to make Friday's game a lot closer than it needed to be.

Fallon, to me, was the hero, as he saved the Aeros' bacon twice in the closing seconds after Fontaine missed the empty-netter. And Fontaine, who recorded the first three-point game of his career, was really good, too.

Turnovers led to about seven or eight shots after it looked like the Aeros had the game well in hand in the closing minutes. I guess when you let up mentally, you let up physically. The Aeros should know by now that Texas, Rockford and the Hamilton's of the world are not just going to roll over. This is not the IHL, where bad teams just traded all of their good players to the Chicago Wolves in mid March.

But a win is a win, and the Aeros shot up to a tie for fourth place in the standings. Peoria and Chicago were idle, and San Antonio had a bad third period against the Heat.

Enjoy this one while you can. The Aeros have won five of their last seven home games, and there are still two more on the homestand. Their next two opponents, Abbotsford and OKC, both won tonight, so the Aeros are going to play their two toughest games in the next (fewer than) 48 hours.

So what did you think about tonight? Great first period, so-so second period, and they had to really hold on to keep that game from going to OT.

Good teams find a way ... and the Aeros certainly did that Friday.

Game Day: Aeros vs. Rockford

Tonight, the Aeros have a chance to jump all the way to fifth place in the standings. With the Rockford IceHogs in town, they will  play the first of three games in three days all at home. And they get to do it against three different teams. That in itself is quite rare.

I was going to devote a significant portion of this post to Carter Hutton and the magnificent job he's done in Rockford. For the second year in a row, the IceHogs are coming back from the dead ... and Hutton is a big reason as to why that is. He and Brandon Pirri have been remarkable, and you can read all about that right here. 

But, Hutton got called up by NHL Chicago today, so the Aeros will face either Alexander Salak or Alec Richards. I am going to bet the house on Salak, who came in for Hutton in Tuesday's loss at OKC and played really well.

Here is a look at Rockford's stats. They've still got their top guys in house, but they've rebuilt the roster fairly extensively since the last time they played the Aeros. Technically, the IceHogs are above .500 on the road, and like a lot of other AHL teams, they have not been very good at home.

Unlike most teams, the IceHogs are not dominant when scoring the first goal. They've done that 28 times and have just 15 wins in those games. By comparison, the Aeros have 25 first goals and have 18 wins and points in 21 of those 25 games. Overall, the Aeros have the better power play and penalty kill, but Rockford has shown an uncanny ability to comeback on the road.

On paper, this is the most winnable game of the three in three for the Aeros. On paper means nothing, and the Aeros, led by team captain Jon DiSalvatore, know this. If the Aeros score first and take a lead into the second period, they should be able to get the two points tonight.