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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Aeros make awesomesauce right at your table, whitewash MKE 4-0

That was a fun game once the bus legs (and apparently bus hands) wore off midway through the first period.

No sooner had I admonished them for not having a shot on goal did Charlie Coyle score the opening goal. He's second in the league in scoring first goals, for you stats nerds who like obscure gems, with 3 including one last night, too.

The kid is so much the real deal, I can hardly believe it. I honestly thought if San Jose was willing to trade him away, they must not think THAT highly of him. But geez. How could you not? Size, hands, vision, Superman handsomeness... possibly x-ray vision now that I think about it...

Anyway, Kuemper was so locked in, I asked him if he needed to sleep all night on a bus (as he did on the way back from OKC last night) for all his starts. He begged for that not to be the case, but it sure seemed to work for him.

And we can't forget to throw some love at Johan Larsson, who scored his first pro goal and boy did he ever do it up right! Jetting down the boards, sweeping across the crease forcing Smith to go down and protect the lower half of the net (most guys can't lift the puck from that close in AND on the move), and then sniping far top corner.

It's the kind of goal that all the goobers I play hockey against think they can do but it's only in their dreams. Of course, I think I can push across like Smith did, but I get stuck about 3/4 of the way across and they don't need to lift it. They can just tap it in. :)

Hockey's great, isn't it? Wonder and humility all in one swift, 3-second move. That was certainly a contender for goal of the year. I want to watch it over and over, but my inner goalie would die a little on the inside each time, so I'm not gonna.

That's it for hockey until Friday and Saturday AT OKC and then back home on Sunday when the big black skirt will be gone from the TC ceiling and we'll get to watch replays without craning our necks and squinting at the end screens! YAY!

Also, as far as injuries, Palmer is injured, too, hence the scratch tonight. So that's Zucker, Cuma, Fredheim, and Pahmah in the MASH unit right now. Given the search going on for Petersen's sticks after the game, I think he's headed back to Orlando for the time being, but stay tuned.

Aeros take down Barons, 6-4

(Oops! In my haste to get to bed, I never pressed publish on this post last night! Pretend you read this last night so I don't have to change all the timeframe references...)

The Aeros power play was the difference tonight, as two PP goals separated them from the Barons in the 6-4 final.

I didn't watch the game but followed along on the score sheet (from the hot tub... that's how dedicated I am, putting precious Siri at risk for a watery grave), eagerly watching the Aeros get the first goal from Charlie Coyle.

Then checked again to the disappointing news that OKC had scored twice, once on the power play. The lead didn't last long as Justin Fontaine scored his first of the night (PP goal) to tie it, but OKC scored their third of the period with 5 minutes left in the first and Matt Hackett got to take a seat in favor of Darcy Kuemper.
Fontaine's first goal of the night
Waved off goal for the Barons
Mikael Granlund (PP goal) and Carson McMillan scored in the second to take the lead, but Arcobello got his second of the night for OKC with just seconds left in the middle frame to go into the third period tied.
Game winner from Rau
The Aeros were the only ones to score in the third, with Chad Rau getting the game winner and Fontaine getting his second of the night for a little insurance.
Genoway playing hockey
Apparently there was quite an altercation with Brett Bulmer taking a pretty good licking (Chris said he got "mugged") from Teubert, and then Drew Bagnall and crazypants Dane Byers duking it out as the main event. Hopefully everybody's okay from that. Sounds like they are.

The boys head back home to tangle with Milwaukee here tomorrow night. We'll see you there!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game Day - Aeros at OKC Barons

Tonight, the Aeros will get their first look at the Oklahoma City Barons. Not quite David vs. Goliath as the Aeros are very, very talented, too, but really, on paper the Barons are ridiculous. They have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, they have Justin Schutlz, and they have ... who cares who else they have, as in most of the studs they had last year ...

They are loaded, and tonight the Aeros will get their first of many cracks at this AHL star-studded lineup. I am not for certain just how many of these guys will end up in Edmonton when the lockout is over, but the Aeros will play them a lot early in the season.

Call it dumb luck, but as an AHL fan, I am glad we'll get a chance to see what the Aeros can do against these guys. I just wish more of these games were at Toyota Center. Three of the Barons' next four home games are against the Aeros, and they won't make their first visit to Houston until late November.

I can only guess at the goaltending matchup based on trends. Olivier Roy looks to get the call for the Barons, as coach Todd Nelson has rotated he and Yann Danis. It's Roy's turn tonight. And the Aeros will probably counter with Matt Hackett. But, with two games this weekend, both goalies should play. Darcy Kuemper won his only start on the road at Texas last week, so maybe Torchetti alternates the two again that way.

We'll know for sure later tonight.

Here are some notes from the Aeros Press Office:

  • The first three meetings of the season series are at the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC. 
  • Friday’s game marks the first meeting since April 24, when the Barons finished off a first-round playoff series win over the Aeros. 
  • Oklahoma City is coming off a 4-3 win at home over Lake Erie on Wednesday night.
  • Aeros Center Mikael Granlund leads Houston in scoring with seven points through the first five games of the season.
  • Granlund is in the top 20 of the AHL for points and top five for assists. 
  • Defenseman Marco Scandella leads all Aeros with six assists, tying him for second in the league.
  • Right wing Jason Zucker is third on the team in scoring with two goals and three assists for five points in four games.
  • Defenseman Brian Connelly sits fourth on the Aeros roster with four points off a goal and three assists. 
  • Right wing Nick Palmieri leads the team with three goals in five games. 
  • The Barons rank 15th in the AHL on the power play converting five out of 24 chances (20.8%). 
  • As far the penalty kill goes, Oklahoma City sits 23 out of 30 teams, stopping 19 of 26 attempts. 
  • The Barons rank 26th out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just 13 minutes a game. 
  • Oklahoma City is averaging 3.20 goals per game, while allowing 2.80 goals per game.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Houston Aeros Weekly Report

Before the season opened Heather, a.k.a. Ms. Conduct, and I essentially traded places in regard to our Aeros coverage duties. She took over for me as the primary beat writer for the Houston Chronicle, and I signed up to take her beat on Wild's Hockey Wilderness (SB Nation) web site.

They have a lot of passionate fans up there as you may well imagine, and because of the NHL lockout, there are more of them interested in just what the Aeros are doing.

My first post went live yesterday and included a few quotes from Torchetti about the first weekend and how they bounced back to take five of six points last weekend. There are a few other notables in there, too.

If you like keeping up with the Wild, register for free and get a Hockey Wilderness account.

And you can click here to see my Aeros report on there site today.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Aeros Lose 5-4 in OT to Admirals

It was a tough night for the Aeros as they lost to the Milwaukee Admirals 5-4 in overtime. The Aeros, playing the third game of a three-in-three, as were the Admirals, jumped out to the quick lead, going up 2-0 on the Ads early in the first period off goals from Chay Genoway and Kris Foucault.

But the Ads put up a power play goal with 20 seconds left in the first period, then tied the game late in the second period as they pretty much dominated play. The Ads outshot the Aeros 16-5 in the first period and 5-4 in the second, and the Aeros just seemed to be playing tired.

The Aeros took the lead midway through the third period on a Jonas Brodin goal, but less than a minute later the Ads tied it at 3-3. And Kevin Henderson put Milwaukee back on top. The Admirals appeared to have the game locked up, only to have Nick Palmieri tip in a Marco Scandella shot with under a minute left in the game.

The Aeros lost 51 seconds into the overtime as Mattias Ekholm scored on the power play to end the game.

Both teams really appeared to be fighting through exhaustion in the third, but Milwaukee appeared to handle the situation better. So while the Aeros held the very, very early momentum, the Ads got in when they needed it and held on to it.

"It's just one of those situations, I think, where we deviated from our game plan and we let them back in the game and got away from what was working for us and got us those two quick goals," Drew Bagnall said after the game. "Hopefully it's a learning experience. It's still early in the year, and those things are going to happen against good teams. Every night each team can beat you, so we've got to be ready each night

This game was an important learning situation -- the whole weekend was -- and hopefully, like Bagnall said, the team does learn from it. There are a lot of youngsters on this team who have never played three games in three nights before, and for the team to progress and keep winning, they're going to have to learn to handle this situation.

"I think it's just something they have to come to terms with," Bagnall said. "You can tell them -- the biggest thing is in practice, when we're in drills and really tired, that's when you have to understand that's what playing in a three-in-three is like, especially in the third period, if you're on the penalty kill or you're stuck out on the ice. You have to make the simple play, the right play, and it's not always the play that's going to result in a goal, but it's a play that's not going to hurt your team."

But it does need to be remembered that there is some positive news out of the weekend. The Aeros came away with five out of a possible six points this weekend. Bagnall said that's another big thing for the team to learn. They've got to learn to look at the big picture, and the big picture is that getting points is a good thing.

And Bagnall thinks the team took a big leap this weekend. He likes the play of the young skill players, and this weekend was a key step in their continued development in working together as a team and not just as individual players.

"I just feel that they are exactly that, very skilled," he said. "They see the ice really well. And for young players, they use their teammates a lot. A lot of young guys will try to beat guys one-on-one. And I think this weekend we kind of came another step towards developing as a team, playing within the system, and finding a way to score goals that way."

Let's hope the appropriate lessens are being learned because the Aeros are going to play a lot more three-in-threes before the season is over.

They return to the ice on Friday night when they play in Oklahoma City before returning to Toyota Center to host the Admirals one final time for this season on Saturday night.


Kris Fredheim, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, and Tyler Cuma were the scratches. Zucker and Cuma were definitely injures. Bulmer skated on the ice pre-game, so the assumption is that he was a healthy scratch.


We asked Bagnall about fighting, and about John Torchetti's desire to have Bagnall on the ice. Bagnall would prefer that as well, but he's not going to ask the rest of the team to do something that he wouldn't do.

"I just think that if I'm going to try and be in that leadership role and preach that we have to be a pack mentality, I can't go out there and expect guys to do something that I wouldn't do," he said. "In the same breath, I'm not going to fight twice in the same game every night. If I feel like someone's going to take advantage of our skill players, I'm going to step up and try to do something about it. Hopefully other guys fill that role, and they did throughout the course of the weekend."

Aeros sweep Texas, host Milwaukee tonight

The Aeros erased their 0-2 start with two fairly dominating wins over the Texas Stars. The power play was pretty good, rebounding nicely from the opening weekend. Coyle was the hero Friday, and Palmieri and Granlund lit the lamp twice each in Saturday's road game.

The Aeros celebrate one of their early goals against Texas Saturday night
Both goalies each got a win, and the struggling Milwaukee Admirals will come to Toyota Center today. The Aeros win, and they'll sweep a three in three for the first time in a long time. Lose, and it's back to being the same old Milwaukee Admirals slump-busters. Last year, the Aeros were probably the better team, but every time the slumping Milwaukee Admirals played the Aeros, the slumping team got a win. 

Last year is last year, but my point this time is to call attention to one thing the squad from a year ago lacked. The killer instinct. Yeah, it's cliche, but when a team can get a third and fourth goal after taking a 2-1 lead, that can go a long way down the stretch (Hey another cliche!)

So far the Aeros have had a very nice weekend, so win or lose things are going in the right direction after just not being able to score very much opening weekend. The 5-3 scores are more of what I think you can expect from this team for the most part. Good offensive numbers, young defense and goalies who will give you a chance to win every night.

In closing, here are a few lines about today's opponent, the Milwaukee Admirals.

They are 1-2 on the year, losing two straight this weekend after winning their season opener. Last night they were blanked in San Antonio, 1-0. Jeremy Smith has played every game so far, so I'd have to think their backup will get the call today. Another great thing about the Admirals, is they have three players with the last names "Bang" and "Moore" and "Valentine."... You gotta think some radio guys will have some fun with that. (Not to mention some sophomoric bloggers)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Aeros Win, Aeros Win, The Aeros Win

I've been hearing about how bad the Aeros have looked this season. But aside from a couple of practices, I haven't seen either of the games. So I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw during tonight's 5-1 win over the Texas Stars.

First, here's Heather's gamer over at the Chronicle. It has quotes and everything.

The Aeros got the early lead, with Charlie Coyle putting the Aeros up early and with Marco Scandella Jason Zucker putting the team up 2-0 later in the first with a shot from the blue line (okay, I was down in the corner, so it looked like the blue line to me, but I didn't have a good view) tip-in of a Marco Scandella shot. The Stars made it 2-1 early in the third, but the Aeros put up three more goals and put this game out of reach.

The offense seemed to have a bit of a slow start early on in the game -- goal notwithstanding. It kind of looked as if the guys are still trying to learn each other and develop on-ice chemistry. But it looked like they began clicking as things moved on.

So here are some random thoughts.

1. I was impressed by Jason Zucker. It seemed to me, from my view down in the corner, that wherever there was action with the puck, you would find Zucker.

Zucker in action.

2. John Torchetti thought the most important thing for the Aeros was that they got a week off after losing their opening two games. It gave the team a chance to see what happens if they don't play the system. It also got him some time to sit the guys down with video so that they could watch their play. He said that this was the first time that some of the guys had ever seen themselves on video, and gives them a feel of what it'll be like on the next level.

Torchetti in action during the second period.

3. The win was good for the team, Torchetti said, because it showed the guys that the system does, indeed, work. And that if they play that system, the team wins. There's still a little too much individual play on the ice, but the improvement was notable.

4. Torchetti thinks some of the other guys have to step up and bring the tough-guy attitude. He likes that he's got Drew Bagnall -- Bagnall was in two fights during the game -- but he thinks it's better for the team if Bagnall's actually out on the ice instead of the penalty box for fighting. But it appears so far that Bagnall's the only guy who really wants to get physical.

5. The Aeros got over one hurdle by getting that first win. Now comes the team's first three-in-three. There are a bunch of guys on the Aeros who have never experienced anything like a three-in-three, and Torchetti says it's important the guys learn how to play on such days.

6. Brian Connelly was the quarterbacking the power play, and Torchetti wants him to start shooting the puck more than he is. Torchetti says that Connelly's used to being a pass-first guy on the power play, and he really wants Connelly to concentrate on taking his shot.

7. This is a big season for Matt Hackett who is hoping to make the leap to full-time action in the NHL (for the uninitiated, the NHL is supposedly the highest level of professional hockey that can be played. But the NHL has shut down the league once again. Frankly, I think the NHL is one of those myths, like Big Foot). Torchetti says the key for Hackett this season is consistency.

The team gives Matt Hackett the first of hopefully many celebratory head pats following the end of tonight's game.

8. And Wild fans, speaking of mythical beings, here's a photo of Mikael Granlund in action on the ice. Maybe someday.

Fight, Fight, Fight

A few words on the Aeros 5-1 win over the Texas Stars will come later. But first...

Drew Bagnall clobbered Antoine Roussel in the first period. And the fight was just in front of me, so...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Game Day; Aeros vs. Texas - 7:05 p.m. at Toyota Center

Tonight the Aeros play Game No. 3 in their 19th campaign, 12th since joining the American Hockey League back in 2001.

The Aeros have had a full week's practice since dropping their first two games of the season, and they'll get their first crack at Texas since losing to that squad back in the preseason. For starters, the Aeros will employ their "A" team against the Stars this time.

Click here for a take on the game from our friends at Hundred Degree Hockey.

I am not sure at which point Torchetti is going to give Darcy Kuemper a start, but my guess is that he goes with Hackett tonight. Just a guess, but I would think Hackett tonight and then again tomorrow if he has a good performance.

We'll see when we get to the rink tonight.

This is the first of 12 games against the Stars, a team that missed the playoffs a year ago and fired its coach after one season. The "experts" don't think Texas will be very good this year, but they've won every competitive game they've played so far, and it looks like they A) have great goaltending and can B) score.

Here are some more notes from the Aeros Press Office:
  • The Stars and Aeros have played each other 36 times (12 per year)
  • Houston took the 2011-12 season series by going 7-2-2-1 (taking points in ten of 12 meetings)
  • The Aeros are 20-12-3-1 all-time against the Stars
  • Texas took the season series in 2009-10 by going 8-3-0-1, but the team is 8-11-2-1 over the last two years
  • The Aeros' PP is 15th in the AHL, converting two out of 15 chances (13.3%)
  • Houston's PK sits 27th out of 30 teams, stopping four of six attempts
  • The Aeros rank 29th out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just ten minutes a game
  • Houston is averaging 1.50 goals per game, while allowing 3.00 goals per game
  • The team is 26th offensively and 19th defensively
And some more information about tonight's opponent:

Texas returns 18 players from a team that posted a 31-40-3-2 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs. The Stars made some changes over the summer, replacing the coaching staff of Jeff Pyle and Jeff Truitt, in exchange for Willie Desjardins and Doug Lidster. The Stars roster currently carries seven rookies, including a group of five that were able to turn pro and play the final ten games of the 2010-11 season.  In all, there are six stars heading into their fourth season with the team. Forwards Colton Sceviour, Travis Morin, Francis Wathier, Luke Gazdic and Mathieu Tousignant, as well as defenseman Maxime Fortunus, are all back to play the Aeros for the fourth straight year. Fortunus is a former member of the Houston Aeros (2003-05).
There are numerous other skaters returning to play the Stars this season. Defenseman Brenden Dillon and forward Mat Fraser return for their second season with the club. Dillon enjoyed a solid first season pro, setting up 23 goals and totaling 29 points in 76 games played. Fraser finished second in the AHL in goals scored, leading Texas with a team-record 37 goals in 73 games played. Left wing Mike Hedden is back for his second full AHL season after scoring 19 goals in 2011-12.
Dallas has assigned numerous high-end prospects to Texas including Reilly Smith, Jamie Oleksiak, Alex Chiasson, Austin Smith, Jack Campbell and Patrick Nemeth. Smith played the final three games in Dallas last year after playing three years at Miami (OH) University. Olekiak was Dallas’ first pick (#14th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. At 6-foot-7 and 250-pounds, Oleksiak is the biggest player on the Texas roster. Jack Campbell is another Dallas first-round pick (#11 overall in 2010), who will split time in net with Cristopher Nilstorp. Chiasson and Austin Smith turned pro after completing college seasons last March. Patrick Nemeth comes to North America after playing in Sweden last season. The 20-year old defenseman was drafted by Dallas in the second round (#41 overall) in 2010.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Enough Said ....

According to Wild scribe, Mike Russo, the NHL and the players union made significant progress today toward getting their labor mess resolved.

It's significant in that they want to get something done so they can start a normal, 82-game season on Nov. 2.

There is still quite a bit to get worked out, but finally, there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

If you are interested, be sure to click here, and you can get a lot of the high-level details. As for what this means for the Aeros ... well, it means that you better get out to all of the early games if you want to see the likes of Granlund and Scandella.

There is no way the season gets wiped out, now. I'd really be surprised if they don't start on 11/2 at this point.

No Ortmeyer, No DiSalvatore ... No problem?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get every summer is "Which veterans are the Aeros going to sign to lead the team?"

Most savvy AHL fans know that you really need a perfect balance of young skill, great goaltending and savvy veterans to lead you team to a championship.

The Aeros had that formula two years ago and made it to the AHL finals. That was a fun year, and I thought they were going to win the whole thing until Kleinendorst and the Senators figured out how to stop Mike Yeo's system. I'd be a fool to say he was out-coached; fatigue played a huge factor in that, too, but I digress ...

Over the summer, the Wild knew they'd need time and space to play all their young guns down in the AHL, so the only "veteran" they went after was Brian Connelly. Not a bad pickup for someone to quarterback your power play. This could be Jim Mill's move of the summer if the young forward's pan out.

So here were are in the second week of the regular season, and the Aeros' two best veterans are on the other side of the puck. Gone are Warren Peters, and John DiSalvatore and Jed Ortmeyer. There is no Robbie Earl and others like that.

Heather asked Mill about the veteran situation during training camp, and here is what he said about going into the season with a bunch of rookies up front.

“You’re not always going to have a situation where you can go out and get Warren Peters and Jed Ortmeyer and Jon DiSalvatore," said Mill. We were, fortunately. We were fortunate enough that they wanted to come play in the Wild/Aeros organization and be a part of something great. You get those players to lead your team, but you also get those players, they’re not always there to carry your team. They’re there to nurture and develop other players around them, so that it rubs off on those players."

Aeros GM Jim Mill
The plan all along was to have those guys here last year for what probably would have been another good shot at the cup. As well all know, the Wild couldn't ... ever ... get ... healthy, and the team down here suffered because of it. Mill talked about that, too.

"When we weren’t able to get Petey and Orts down for the playoff run, it’s too bad in one way, they wanted to be a part of it," added Mill. "But in another way you don’t have those players around just to carry you all the time; you have them there to nurture and develop and help create new leaders and help cultivate new leaders in  your room, because the young guys learn. Everybody learns from somebody how to be a better leader, how to be a better player and person."

In the end, the Aeros just could not afford to have those guys around anymore. It's not just a money thing. It's a playing time thing and a development thing and a roster thing. In the end, having those guys around the last 2-3 years should help Chad Rau and Carson McMillan and other become great AHL leaders. And those guys will still be competing for spots with the big team.

Mill talks more about that here:

"So I looked at (the veterans) as more of, there are years where they led and carried, and there are other times where they mentored and helped develop leaders in our group. And that’s what having their presence was able to do, and now we have guys who have been around those types of players and it’s time for them to become leaders and step up and take on that added role and responsibility, so we have some homegrown leadership. That’s the goal."

So much remains to be seen, but if John Torchetti can get the Aeros rolling, it should/could/would be a fun ride, even when the lockout is lifted.

Now, check out this video of Mill from his ECHL days. This never gets old:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A word from your captain: Drew Bagnall

Now that the Aeros are closer to their next game than to their last game, it's time to take a look at the weekend ahead. The first three-in-three is staring them in the face, and unless they are perfect, they are still going to be below .500 when the dust settles on Monday.
Drew Bagnall (left) is the Aeros' captain this year. 

Many of you know that Drew Bagnall was named captain. Perfect logical choice, since he is the most seasoned AHL veteran at this point. While there is tons of young skill, the Aeros don't have that 5- or 6-year player than can take over a game and will the team to win. Bagnall, like John Torchetti for that matter, is under the microscope with this team.

Last weekend's 0-for-2 performance, to me, was most disturbing because they only scored three goals 'with all that talent.' I don't know why, but I was expecting much higher scoring games. Maybe we'll see that this weekend. Defense is great, though. If Matt Hackett continues to allow two goals a game or less, the Aeros should be just fine.

But how long DOES it take for a new team like the Aeros to come together. For the answer, we asked Bagnall.

"I think that it really is a function of your leadership," said Bagnall. "A lot of times leaders are only as good as the followers, too, and the more that we can get those young guys to buy into the systems that we play, the talent is there without question with these young players."

Nice to see Bagnall put the onus on himself and the other more seasoned players. Many of you commented on the disorganization - especially on the power play - at the home opener, and I think Bagnall touched on that a bit when he said this:

"The question is just what they do without the puck, and the more accountable we hold them in practice and that comes from the coaching staff and us older guys, the better off we’ll be moving forward," added Bagnall. "We still have to toe the line, too, and contribute what we can."

Bagnall is not here to score goals; he's here to help Hackett and Darcy Kuemper keep the puck out of the net and to provide leadership. I think he'll make a great captain, but he'll only be as good as the team's record in the eyes of many fans. He knows that and wants to make sure the boys right the ship and get off to a better start.

"The biggest thing is coming together as a group," said Bagnall. "And the more you do things together, the quicker you’ll all come together.” 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ah; sweet progress and a new proposal

According to Wild scribe, Mike Russo, the NHL and the players union made significant progress today toward getting their labor mess resolved.

It's significant in that they want to get something done so they can start a normal, 82-game season on Nov. 2.

There is still quite a bit to get worked out, but finally, there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

If you are interested, be sure to click here, and you can get a lot of the high-level details. As for what this means for the Aeros ... well, it means that you better get out to all of the early games if you want to see the likes of Granlund and Scandella.

There is no way the season gets wiped out, now. I'd really be surprised if they don't start on 11/2 at this point.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Aeros from around the Web

Thanks to this new invention called the "Inter net" Aeros fans can find out just about anything about their team in just a few clicks and searches.

As most of you know by now, the Aeros' opening weekend was quite the flop. Two games, two losses and ... three goals. They'll enter Week 2 as one of seven teams without a win on their schedule.

Here are a few links that will get you caught up.

First, here is Heather's Chronicle Story from the home opener on Saturday.

Here is a link to the recap I did for the Charlotte Observer. My deadline was five minutes after the game ended, so I was not able to hit the locker room for any quotes.

Here is a recap on Hockey Stop, the Aeros and hockey blog on the chron.com

And here is a link to some photos from Opening night. What did you think of the jerseys?

On Sunday, the Aeros lost 3-2 at San Antonio.

Click here for a YouTube video with highlights from the game. After you watch this, you'll see why the Rampage goalie stole two points from the Aeros Sunday.

Here is a link to the San Antonio Express News story. 

And here is a link to the recap on the Chronicle website. 

And you can always go to Aeros.com for updates. From what I understand, they are going to get a lot more videos up for fans to enjoy.

The 0-2 Aeros have a week to think about it.

Matt Hackett makes a save against the Rampage on Sunday.
-- photo courtesy of San Antonio Rampage
When you are lucky enough to work more than 500 games as a sports reporter, you start to notice trends after awhile.

One of those trends for me is how teams react to losses, streaks and other parts of the game that non sports people may view as trivial.

Many times over the years, when a team I have covered loses a bad game, a player has stated his desire to want to get right back out there and "put it behind him."

In other words, players generally like when there is another game right away for the chance to make amends.But when you lose on a Sunday in the AHL, many times you have to wait at least four days for another crack, and that is the case this week for the Aeros.

They are 0-2 with two regulation losses for just the third time in franchise history. Two other times, they've lost both games to start the year, but they at least got a point in one of the games by getting to overtime.

Prior to this year, the Aeros started 2-0 in three of the last four years, so Aeros fans had been spoiled recently with good stars. I guess the good news is that 0-2 starts are very rare for the Aeros. The bad news is that the other two 0-2 Aeros teams failed to make the playoffs.

Those two teams each needed seven games to record their first win, and I think it's very likely the Aeros will win at least one of their games next weekend. Right now it would be silly to hit the panic button. You can wait to do that next Monday, if the results don't pan out this week.

Not surprisingly, the most common two-game start for the Aeros is a win and a loss. That has happened 10 times in 19 years. The perfect 2-0 starts have only happened four times, which is as rare as two losses (two in OT) to start the year.

I know the Aeros wish they could get right back out there and try again, but they'll have a few practices to work out the kinks before they take on the perfect 2-0 Texas Stars.

And on another note, I continue to detect a lot of unfair criticism toward Matt Hackett. In no way can he be blamed for the two "Ls" this weekend. If you lose a 6-5 game, you can blame the D and the goalies, but Hackett only gave up four goals in two games. The second goal he gave up in San Antonio was entirely his fault, but other than that, I thought he played quite well this weekend.

This is a big year for Hackett, who wants to be in the NHL full time next year.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

View from the Pressbox: Aeros fall short on opening night.

If you were at Toyota Center on Saturday night, surely you noticed that big, black ugly curtain covering the new scoreboard over center ice.

It's not quite ready yet, and the Rockets are going to debut that baby in a few weeks. After they do, Aeros fans are going to love that. There are even going to be a few of you who will sit at the bar in the club level, drink and watch the game on that baby.

OK, so who am I kidding ... ?

That curtain might as well have been covering up the real Aeros, too. These guys have skill, and they are just going to have to learn to play at this level and with others that have the same kind of talent. The first period was a typical opening night period.

But Charlotte is mostly intact from a year ago, and they fed off a chemistry that the Aeros don't yet have. It is going to take a few weeks for all of that to come together, and when it does, you are going to see things at Toyota Center with a hockey puck that you have not seen since Westrum, Law and O'Sullivan.

Matt Hackett was solid, and really the only truly disappointing thing to me was the power(less) play. It was atrocious.

They were great getting the puck down the ice, and then BOOM disaster between the circles.

Charlotte knew what the Aeros were doing, and they stopped it. And when the Aeros did get something going they turned the puck over.

Congrats to Brodin, who gets the Aeros first goal of the season. It will probably be Game No. 2 tomorrow before they get their first real goal. Brodin's shot went off a Charlotte defenseman and into the net.

Have to give Rau a little stick tap, too, for keeping with that and causing a little trouble over there.

That is all from Toyota Center tonight. I do with the more than 8,000 fans could have gone home a little happier. We'll see how it all works out next week when Texas pays a visit.

What were your thoughts on the game?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tomorrow ... Opening Night is just a day away.

The Aeros are kickin' it old school this weekend
Tomorrow, the Aeros will open what very possibly could be their last season in Houston. The organization, for the last five months has been very good and consistent with their message - "We are committed to keeping the team in Houston."

I believe that, but I don't know if the building they play in seems the same way. I think they are both more committed to what makes better financial sense for each entity. Who wouldn't be? In the end, it's all about money. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

But enough of the doom and gloom; hockey season starts tomorrow when the Charlotte Checkers visit Toyota Center at 7:05.

They'll wear some old school jerseys to honor the first WHA Aeros team from 1972. (Can you believe that was 40 years ago?)

I used to have a lot of fun with predictions, but there are a lot of readers that are really bothered by predictions, so I won't drive those folks away with my own. I think the Aeros have a team capable of making the playoffs, and the Aeros two goalies are going to be a big reason why they will or they won't.

But Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) wrote a piece for ESPN Insiders that picked every team in the AHL and placed them from 1-30. I will link here to that article, but I won't post it here. I just don't think that'd be right, but I will break it down a bit for you.

He basically gives a few sentences about each team and ranks them from top to bottom - all 30 of them. I will make it easy on you and give you his predicted order of finish below. Please take these with a grain of salt, folks. The guy did this based on what each team has on paper on opening night. Every year, somebody does this for some hockey publication, and they are never even close to being right.

This is what he said about the Aeros:
Houston Aeros (Wild) -- John Torchetti's group is also loaded and as good as Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are, the development of the young prospects in Houston will determine just how successful the Wild are under GM Chuck Fletcher. This group features forwards Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips -- all former first-round picks. In an exhibition game last week against the Barons, Granlund scored four goals in a sign of what's to come for the Wild.

Here is his predicted order of finish for the Western Conference (overall # in parentheses):
Red = South Division / Blue = North Division / Black = Midwest Division

1) OKC Barons (1)
2) Houston Aeros (2)
3) Toronto Marlies (5)
4) Chicago Wolves (7)
5) Rochester Americans (8)
6) Charlotte Checkers (9)
7) Milwaukee Admirals (13)
8) Rockford IceHogs (14)

9) Grand Rapids Griffins (15)
10) Abbotsford Heat (20)
11) Texas Stars (23)
12) Peoria Rivermen (25)
13) Lake Erie Monsters (28)
14) Hamilton Bulldogs (29)
15) San Antonio Rampage (30)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Aeros announce opening day Roster

I will definitely share some more thoughts tomorrow, but the Aeros just released their opening day roster.

There are no surprises here, and I hope a lot of you get to attend as many games as possible this season, especially early because there is some good offensive talent on the team right now.

Other teams have it too, and by no means are the Aeros the favorite to win the division. But they will be up there, if their D and goaltending is anything at average or above.

That is all for now, but here is the roster straight from Aeros.com:

2012-13 Houston Aeros Roster:
G – Matt Hackett
G – Darcy Kuemper

D – Drew Bagnall
D – Marco Scandella
D – Kris Fredheim
D – Brian Connelly
D – Steven Kampfer
D – Jonas Brodin
D – Chay Genoway
D – Tyler Cuma

F – Charlie Coyle
LW – Kris Foucault
LW – Jason Zucker
LW – Brett Bulmer
RW – Jarod Palmer
C – Chad Rau
RW – Johan Larsson
F – David McIntyre
C – Carson McMillan
RW – Justin Fontaine
RW – Nick Palmieri
C – Zack Phillips
C – Joel Broda
F – Mikael Granlund

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You will be able to hear the Aeros on the radio this year

Aeros/KNTH hook up for ninth straight year.

You can read the entire press release below, but the Aeros will be on the radio again throughout the 2012-13 season. They'll again be on 1070 KNTH for the ninth straight year, a great run for any team and radio affiliate. Hats off to those that got this done.

Generally these agreements go year-to-year now, so if the Aeros are still playing in Houston next year, you can expect another agreement sometime before opening day 2013.

The text below has some very nice notes about the Aeros play-by-play man, Joe O'Donnell, who will start his fifth season in Houston this year. It is hard to believe that it has been that long since Jason Shaver did his one year behind the mike. The Aeros have been quite lucky with the talent of all their announcers, and Joe is no exception.

I have to admit, I questioned his hiring after his first season; I thought he was a little raw, and his Northeast accent cut in to his delivery a little bit.

But since then, he's been great, and I always enjoy listening to him in the car when that is where I am when the team is playing. Another plus with Joe is his interviews. He mixes things up for pregame shows and asks useful questions without getting too technical. That goes a long way for the non hard-core fans.

The only thing missing now, to me, is a great analyst to work with him on home games. I know former pro hockey players are few and far between in Houston, but if one falls out of the sky this year, I hope he gets on the air.

Maybe we can get new Aeros PR guru Josh Fisher on the air with him for the intra-division road games. For those of you who don't know, Josh was the play by play wizard for the Texas Stars for the last three seasons.

He, too, is very talented. And fans are going to like what he has in store for the Web site and from a PR perspective.

Boy, this sure does sound like some serious ass-kissing, but I wanted to take the time to compliment these guys for the work they do. They do terrific work, and this team is a whole lot better with them on board.

Here is the Aeros press release on the new radio deal:

50 Regular Season Games Will be Live on 1070 AM and Web Stream

Houston, TX – The Houston Aeros, in conjunction with KNTH 1070 AM, announced on Tuesday a broadcast agreement for the 2012-13 season.
The Aeros return for their ninth season on KNTH 1070 AM. The “Voice of the Aeros”, Joe O’Donnell returns for his fifth season of Aeros hockey. O’Donnell called the Aeros 2011 Run to the Calder Cup Finals. In his eight seasons of hockey broadcasting, the Havertown, PA native has made an ECHL All-Star Game appearance and called the Idaho Steelheads run to a Kelly Cup title in 2007. For his efforts, the University of Delaware graduate was named the ECHL Broadcaster of the Year in 2007.

At least 50 games will run live on KNTH airwaves throughout the 2012-13 campaign. There is potential for more games to be added based on programming. Every Aeros broadcast will be available on the AHLlive.com or on the station’s webstream www.1070knth.com.

“KNTH started on the air in September of 2004 and the Aeros have been there from the beginning”, said KNTH General Manager Chuck Jewell. “We are starting our ninth season with the team and we are extremely proud to be the voice of the Houston Aeros at home and on the road.”

KNTH 1070 AM is a conservative news/talk station featuring Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt.

The American Hockey League announced that regular-season AHL action will be heard live on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, beginning with the opening night of the 2012-13 season on Oct. 12. SiriusXM NHL Network Radio will carry the Houston Aeros home game on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 5:00 p.m.

SiriusXM NHL Network Radio can be found on Sirius 207 and XM 92, providing more than 20 million subscribers in Canada and the United States with groundbreaking 24/7 hockey talk. This marks the eighth consecutive season that AHL action will air on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, including the annual AHL All-Star Game, the Calder Cup Finals and other regular-season and playoff games. 

The Aeros open the 76-game regular season this coming Saturday. The home portion of the schedule commences on Saturday, Oct. 13th at 7:05 p.m. with the Charlotte Checkers at the Toyota Center. The game will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Aeros game played by the World Hockey Association (WHA) team in 1972.

Aeros season tickets start as low as $9 per seat and may be purchased online at Aeros.com by placing a $100 deposit. Once your order is processed, an Aeros ticket representative will contact you to choose your exact seat location, as well as discuss the payment options. Information on season tickets and mini-plans is also available on the team website at www.aeros.com.  Groups of 15 or more receive a discount on all tickets, to book your group outing to an Aeros game please call 713-974-PUCK (7825).

-- Houston Aeros --

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Aeros 1 for 3 in pre-season

As you've probably heard by now, the Aeros split the weekend with the Barons, losing 4-0 on Friday night and winning 6-2 last night.

Not sure what clicked for them last night, but I would speculate that the Aeros were doing a full dress rehearsal last night. As Coach Torchetti told Andrew via text after Friday's game, they were purposely putting young guys in tough situations on Wednesday and Friday to give them a taste of where they need to be.

Perhaps last night, they played the special teams they plan to run with in regular season. Both the PK and the PP were clicking, with Mikael Granlund earning a whopping 4 of the 6 goals and linemate Charlie Coyle potting the other 2.

But as one Twitter follower said (paraphrased): Big deal. It's pre-season. And it's the AHL.

Well, yeah, the one thing to keep in mind with OKC is that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle were scratched, so that's OKC's version of Granlund and Coyle. This might be closer to the OKC we'd see if the lockout would ever end, but not the one the Aeros can expect to face in regular season.

Still, if it were a piece of cake to score 4 goals a game in the AHL, pre-season or otherwise, errbody'd be doing it. Granlund is special, no doubt about it. I'm so jazzed for Saturday, I can hardly stand it, and I gather you guys are, too.

The only other piece of news is that goalies John Curry and Mike Brodeur are off the camp roster, as Curry was released from his tryout and Brodeur is off to Orlando. So it sounds like that's the last of the cuts and who's left is your team.

See you in 7 days.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Aeros Camp Roster Moves

The Aeros roster is loaded. Loaded with guys who are just here for camp. Loaded with guys who'd normally be on the roster once the season started. Loaded with guys waiting for the lockout to end. That means there are too many guys in camp, and when there are too many guys in camp, people get cut, so...

So...assigned to Orlando (ECHL)...

D Kyle Medvec
F. Josh Caron
F Nick Petersen
D Sean Lorenz
D Corbin Baldwin
C Ryan Ginand
F Rob Mignardi

Reassigned to Regina (WHL)...

D Colton Jobke

Released from tryout/Reporting To...

F Eric Lampe/Las Vegas (ECHL)
D Mike Montgomery/Allen (CHL)
F Ryley Grantham/Allen (CHL)
F Brennan Vargas/Allen (CHL)

Aeros blasted in preseason opener, lose 7-2 at Texas

Before we get to the bad news, please check out this link to Heather's Houston Chronicle story. I'm pretty sure this is her first official story as the Aeros beat writer. The article is about Mikael Granlund and how the Aeros should benefit from his presence during any extended NHL lockout.

Nice job Heather; we look forward to many more great stories from you at Chron.com and in print.

Texas 7, Aeros 2 (from the Cedar Park Center)
The only take I have from the first preseason game last night is that the Aeros allowed an AHL team-record seven goals in their loss to the Texas Stars. And that's bad.

For many years, Aeros fans got a steady diet of San Antonio only in the preseason, and I have to say it is nice to see the team able to mix it up a bit with the close proximity of now Texas and Oklahoma City.

But last night, even for a preseason game, it was a forgettable performance. Many coaches will tell you its a chance to see where you're at in terms of special teams and line combinations (and fitness levels, too). Based on all the twitter chatter I saw, the penalty kill was absolute atrocious.

But again, it is only the preseason; these games don't count and don't read too much into the final score. Right now there are just too many bodies in camp, so the coaches have to play somebody. Even the folks over in Cedar Park know not to read too much into last night's blasting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Torch and Bagnall From Day One at SLICE

After a weekend spent at the Xcel Energy Center, the Aeros held their first workouts at SLICE today. It's going to be a bit of a different looking team for Aeros fans. Several fan favorites are gone -- Jon DiSalvator, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters -- and there are a bunch of exciting looking youngsters just waiting to play their first games in Aeros colors.

And while the talent on the team looks incredible, it might not pay to get attached to some of these guys since they'll be playing in St. Paul as soon as the NHL owners fire Gary Bettman and bring in a non-idiot commissioner and players come together on a new labor deal and the lockout is lifted.

As for now, John Torchetti likes his team: "I like our mix. I think it’s going to be a good mix here."

Torchetti should have some fun with this roster, and he's promising that the fans are going to like what they see once the young guys have become adjusted to the speed of the game at this level and have gotten used to the team's system. And he's also promising that he's going to let players like Mikael Grunland have a little fun out on the ice.

"He sees the ice incredibly well. He’s very poised," Torchetti said about Granlund. "One thing I think you’ll notice about our team, we’ll be more of a puck possession team. He’s going to hold onto it. And once everybody understands the system, and it slows down, we’re going to be more puck possession. We’ll be more poised with the puck. We’re not going to force plays."

Drew Bagnall says the team is incredibly deep, talent-wise. But that means there are a bunch of guys who would normally be seeing lots of playing time who aren't going to be seeing playing time, at least at this level, but if everybody buys in, then watch out because this team is going to be something special.

"We’re going to have just an abundance of skill here," he said today. "We have guys that without a doubt should be on the majority of NHL clubs in the league playing for us here in Houston. Obviously it’s great for us as a team, but it also creates a situation where you have guys that are American league players, have been in the past, or should be right now, if there was an NHL, that won’t be able to be in the lineup each and every night. So the problem then starts to lie in coming together as a team, and not putting yourself ahead of it. You have to understand you might not get to play in every situation. You might not be on the power play, but you’re still part of the team, and you do whatever you can to play as a team."

It looks as if Bagnall will be taking on the old-man daddy role on the team this season, that role held on this team in years past by DiSalvatore and Ortmeyer. It's a role he's held before, he said, and he also believes that some of the others having moved on is good for some of the younger guys because their progression into leadership roles has been blocked.

"That’s kind of the situation we’re in this year," he said. "I’ve been in leadership roles in this organization and in the past when I was with Manchester. There’s no secret that we’re young, but we also have guys who have kind of not had to step into those roles because of the age that we had. We had Warren Peters and [Jed] Ortmeyer and Jon DiSalvatore, Jeff Taffe. Those guys are in place to try to build those leadership qualities in the younger guys. And they’ve had that time to kind of soak it up from those guys, and now it’s time to use it. They’ll step and come to the forefront. We’ve had guys who have played four seasons in this league, and I think they’re ready for this opportunity."

And Torchetti agrees, saying that he expects guys like Chad Rau, Carson McMillan, and Jarod Palmer to move into the team leadership roles.

But the Aeros aren't the only team that is going to benefit from the lockout. There are lots of teams in the AHL with an influx of NHL talent on their rosters, like the Oklahoma City Barons.

"It’s probably going to the best hockey in a lot of years ever in the American league," Torchetti said. "I’m on my 29th year coaching, and this is the strongest I’ve seen this league. It’s going to be a lot of fun hockey, especially for the fans to come out and see what a group that we have."

So there you have it, from the first day at SLICE.

A Quick Chat With Mikael Granlund

Thanks to the NHL lockout, there are a bunch of guys who just showed up in Sugar Land today who would normally not have come anywhere near the place. One of those guys is Mikael Granlund from Finland. So we took the chance to chat with Granlund for a bit earlier this afternoon at SLICE.

He's close to fulfilling a dream, the dream of playing in the NHL, which has been his dream since he was a kid. And he's really looking forward to playing some actual hockey in a competitive situation tomorrow night, even if the competitive situation is merely an exhibition game.

"It’s always been a dream since I was a kid to play here in North American, and maybe someday in the NHL. I am so excited," he said. "Now I’m here and just waiting for games.

He thinks his biggest challenge will basically be dealing with the smaller ice surface here in North America: "That’s maybe the biggest thing. You don’t have that much time and space on the ice. But still, it’s the same game and everything’s the same."

But basically, all that he's got to do, he believes, is just his play his game.

And in a short amount of time, we'll see just how easily he makes the adjustments.