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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aeros Checkmate Checkers

It's been so long since the Aeros have played a game at Toyota Center that I just kind of figured they'd up and relocated to Des Moines already -- what, too soon? But the wounded warriors returned to Toyota Center tonight and matched the checkers move for move, getting the 4-1 win on the first night of a three-in-three.

Marco Scandella put the Aeros on the board at 11:24 of the first with a pretty shot he was able to get off and sneak between the goalie and the post as he was falling to the ice. Zach Phillips knocked in a rebound for the second goal, on a power play, at 12:16 of the first, then at 17:27 of the first, Justin Fontaine finished off the scoring with a shot from inches away which saw Charlotte's starting goalie, John Muse pulled from the game for Rob Madore, who got his first ever AHL action. (Carson McMillan got the empty-netter in the final minute for the final score.)

"It was a big win," head coach John Torchetti said. "Everyone stood up and they did a good job."

The Aeros have 14 regular season games remaining, and 10 of those 14 are at home, so let's hope the Aeros can take the time to rest up and get healthy as they make the final push for the Calder Cup playoffs.

And I know it's been awhile since we've seen the team, and had the chance to talk to John Torchetti, but he I don't remember him being as effusive and free with the praise as he was after tonight's win. But he knows his team's beat up, and he was thrilled to get the effort that he got out of a tired bunch of players. And most of the effort, most of the attitude the team's showing out on the ice, is the result of the veterans that were added to the team over the past couple of months, primarily Paul Mara, Jake Dowell, and Stephane Veilleux (who missed tonight's game due to an injury).

"Veilluex, Dowell, Mara have really changed the attitude in the building," Torchetti said. "Just working hard, holding guys accountable, telling them, hey, listen, this is the play. These guys play. Mara has 12-plus years. Jake has several years. Veilluex has nine years. They’ve got experience, and they’re bringing it. These guys are workers. That tells you a lot. We’re very fortunate to have guys that want to come down. They could be in a bad mood because they’re not being called up, but they’ve done a great job for us, and I’m really happy that they play for us."

Everything wasn't perfect for the team tonight. The team hasn't played since Friday, and he thought they looked really sluggish out on the ice. But he was trying to give the team some rest -- he worked them really hard on Sunday and Monday. And after the long road stretch where the team was seemingly playing every other night, he needs the team to get back into a rhythm.

He also wasn't happy with the penalties the guys got, and have been getting.

"We’ve got to stay out of the box," he said. "We’ve got to be smarter, especially with offensive zone penalties. It’s gone a kill us. We were short a guy…[Rau was out on a suspension] We're down to four [penalty] killers. I think Jake [Dowell] got into a fight to get a breather…."

"We’ve got to cut this out," he continued later. "But our past four or five games, we’re averaging five-plus [penalties], and that’s going to kill you one night. We’re wasting energy, and we’ve got to have better poise."

But tonight the Aeros got the win to improve their record to 32-22-4-4 (72 points), and five points behind Charlotte for the second spot in the South Division. They face the Barons in Oklahoma City tomorrow night, then they're back at Toyota Center to host Rochester on Saturday. So until then.


Could whoever is doing the sound at Toyota Center please learn the volume control knob is located on the sound board. Please? I don't think the sound was even that loud for Eric Clapton's concert last Sunday. And can somebody please tell me why Joe O'Donnell's radio broadcast was being broadcast in the seating areas? His pregame show was louder than the anthem.


ICEVET said...

Tonight's opponent (the least penalized AHL team) was most notable for the absence of Five 20+ point players (recalled by the Hurricanes). Scratches of Zac Dalpe and Jerome Samson, together with the absence of both regular goalies, only added to the Checkers talent disadvantage.

The Aeros penalty problem kept the TEAM from capitalizing until the nifty (thread-the-needle) goal by Scandella (following a 5-3 PK) assisted by Granlund and the Sunshine Kid.

Kuemper registered another strong performance to add to his AHL-leading stats, offsetting the disadvantage of frequent Aeros penalties. Indeed, his consistency and durability will be needed against OKC and Rochester over the next 48 hours.

Hopefully, hockey fans will come out in numbers for this final opportunity to see live hockey in Houston over the next 45 days.

Go Aeros!

Mark B said...

Playing joe in the lobby area was a bad idea. I couldn't hear myself think.

Ms. Conduct said...

While we're bitching about in-game experience, I'd like to request a cowbell-free zone in front of the press box. Talk about not being able to hear yourself think...

Forecheck said...

It's been so long since the Aeros have played a game at Toyota Center...

Ah, one week?


Could whoever is doing the sound at Toyota Center please learn the volume control knob is located on the sound board. Please? I don't think the sound was even that loud for Eric Clapton's concert last Sunday. And can somebody please tell me why Joe O'Donnell's radio broadcast was being broadcast in the seating areas? His pregame show was louder than the anthem.

Amen. We also don't need music and hums during game play either.

In general, who is running the on-ice ops these days? It can't be OJ. That had to be the worst attempt at an intermission entertainment in the history of the Toyota Center. It was certainly the only one ever booed by the fans. At this rate, they can be messing up Chuck-A-Puck by next weekend.

A much needed win by the guys tonight. I'm wondering if the three first period goals were more a function of the Aeros play or bus legs by the Checkers. Probably a bit of both. The Charlotte defense was awfully soft.

How about Scandy's "Bobby Orr" goal? Beauty, eh?

Looked like a few guys were coasting in the second and Torch can't be happy with that. The goal should not have happened. If the officials were doing their job, they would have cvalled the interference on Charlotte that happened a few seconds before Phillip's marginal cross-check was called. Maybe this is why the interference was not called on the Aeros' empty-netter at the end.

At least the third wasn't entirely played in the Aeros' end this time.

Aeros should be on pace to finish 5th and challenge for fourth, especially with all the Checkers' call ups.

AerosFan said...

The Aeros played at Toyota Center last Thursday? I was there and we won.

If everyone is set on the Aeros leaving when the Sports Authority agreement says the Rockets have to give the Wild a Fair Merket value lease at the Toyota Center, what's going to be better in Iowa? I think they'll resign another 5 yr after the season just like last time. It makes the most sense for everyone involved.

But if not you'll never catch me at another rockets game or concert at TC.

John Royal said...

Forecheck: I was trying (poorly) to note just how few games the Aeros have played at home since the Super Bowl. And yes, it was rather amazing to hear the booing of the intermission entertainment.

Forecheck said...

AerosFan -

I agree with you to an extent.

I don't think a decision has been made one way or another, and I assume both sides will take as much time as they can. That of course leaves us in that wonderfull state of not knowing we experienced in 2001 and 2008.

However, keep in mind that "fair market vakue" of the Toyota Center is probably more than the fair market value of an 8-10K arena someplace. Then again, a move to a smaller city would be off-set by a 33% or so drop in attendance (the Aeros are in the top third, if not quarter, of league attendance the last few years).

I also don't buy the "taking all the good concert dates" argument. There just aren't that many concerts. The Aeros only play half the year, and are in town half the time when they are playing. There is also a lot of vennue competition in Houston for concerts.

I doubt these concerts pack the Toyota Center, either.

My guess is we are a month from hearing something, and if the Aeros leave it is because the Wild want a cheaper place to play even if they take a hit on attendance. Remember, less than a year ago they spent $140 million to get just TWO players.

The fact that another city has not been rumored in the press is encouraging. We heard about Des Moines awfully early last time around. Nothing so far, except for Internet speculation (which was totally wrong about Hamilton).

Houston is an attractive AHL market long-term, especially as the AHL recenters westward. If the Wild leave,look for another team to move in in another year or two which is affiliated with a California team or the Coyotes (whom I think are staying put).

ICEVET said...

For those sanguine fans who think "fair market value" might be a factor constraining Mr. Alexander's decision-making, forget it.....he is a TRADER and will do what is best for his business and ego-centric interests, the HSA notwithstanding.

Further, Mr. Alexander has always thought BIG after acquiring the Rockets in 1993, attempting to buy / relocate the Edmonton Oilers (1998) and buy the Houston Dynamo (2012). Thinking BIG has made him a Billionaire.

Simply put, at age 70, he wants more...and could afford to wait for the opportunity (with interim cash flow from concerts, etc) to relocate an existing NHL franchise to Houston or persuade the NHL that Houston is, in fact, the most populated metro location without an NHL franchise and a better "strategic fit" than other (more qualified on paper) sites for the USA-flip-side of a prospective 2-team NHL expansion.

Conversely, should Mr. Alexander bargain that it will take X-number of years to get what he wants, he might be inclined to give the Aeros 1-2 years (not 5) to fill the time gap..... with "additional restrictions" on dates available to AHL schedulers. During this "interim" period, Mr. Alexander will have cut his deal, and the Aeros will be history in Houston.

With the 10-year CBA deal done, this Humble Fan thinks that Mr. Alexander (very well-respected in the professional sports world) will do everything possible to bring a NHL franchise to Houston on his watch and surprise us all.

Anonymous said...

I think if the NHL powers to be agreed with this thought process there would already be a team or at least groundwork set for one.
Pro sports owners in this city have really given us a black eye with specific reference to out basketball and baseball franchises.
Hoping against hope we will still retain our Aeros.

Anonymous said...

If Les is a hockey fan the Aeros are his best option. If he is a smart business man the Aeros are his best option. I don't see the support or team here for the NHL anytime soon. I also don't think he'd get any richer off a new NHL team in Houston or see much return in his remaining lifetime.

I would like to see the Aeros give the season ticket holders a price cut, move them all to lower attack and defense and sell the upper attack and defense/corners at $10 a pop/ upper deck seats $5 for every game. That would boost attendance and revenues with additional concessions/merchandise/parking and build a huge base of regular fans who want professional sports at easy to afford prices.

Anonymous said...

Not to change the subject, but anyone else see where the Hallmark Channel is airing Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story based on his comeback with the Aeros to play along side his sons. Will air on May 4.


Anonymous said...

Found a few stills from the The Gordie Howe Story movie here:


Forecheck said...


Les Alexander is not a hockey fan.

Les Alexander is first and foremost a Les Alexander fan.


Alexander bringing an NHL team to Houston wouldn't be a shocking suprise. The team lasting longer than three years would be.

Checkers said...

The Gordie Howe Story movie posted above by "anonymous" is really good.

If anyone skipped over it I'd recommend giving it a watch!