Thursday, April 30, 2009
As much as I didn't hit the panic button when the Aeros crash landed in game 1 of the Peoria series, I'm not ready to put helium in the balloons after tonight's win. There's still a LOT of hockey left to play and if you think Milwaukee isn't going to come with a plan on Saturday, you're delusional. You don't end the season with triple-digit points with a bunch of quitters on the roster.
But the Aeros did a lot of things extremely well tonight, so there are definitely some gold stars to hand out.
Of course, Dimples was Uh-May-Zing. I mean, he had some HUGE saves that he absolutely shouldn't have had, but did have. He was superfocused and played a big time game. Really good stuff from the kid.
How about Stoner, man? First of all... sweet jeezus what a hot dish he is with that playoff beard. Seriously, he should consider rocking that thing year round. Even getting the shit kicked out of him by Yonkers, he was just stunning. Wow.
Second of all, way to take one for the team, keeping the mittens on, drawing the extra roughing penalty. Not sure if that was all on purpose, but way to make it look like it was. This is why I've been saying since last summer that Stoner should be captain of this team full time. Glad it's at least finally happening when everything is amplified.
I had a feeling Mojzis was due for a power play goal. I was right.
Also, a shout out to the kids, Testwuide and Scandella, who never looked out of place out there, and that's a lot of pressure to get thrown into. To stay level-headed and make good decisions, that's worthy of some cookies.
I was awfully surprised (and will admit, a little disappointed) that Ryznar was a healthy scratch. I would have loved to ask Constantine about that tonight. Scratching a reliable forward to put in a converted defenseman, fresh out of college, having played only 2 games with the team? Really?
And Scandella was a perfectly solid replacement for the injured Albers. Darn him for being too young to make the Aeros next season. I think he's going to turn into a really good pick for the Wild.
Anyway, that's all the cookies and gold stars I have, but really, most everyone was great. Even Pouliot didn't make me want to stab my laptop screen to death. That's an A+ night for him!
Back on Saturday with Milwaukee having knocked the rust off and the Aeros having an idea that maybe this won't be so hard after all, then not showing up with the appropriate urgency.
Not that there's any precedent for this team doing that... like, say, every other game all season long...
The Aeros scored first. The scored a power play goal. They shut down the Admirals power play. Milwaukee outshot them. And the Aeros won 2-1.
It's only one game. But I liked the way the Aeros came out to start. I wasn't totally pleased with the third period. I thought the defense put too much pressure on Anton Khudobin and didn't help him enough. And I thought they were still too undisciplined at times, taking some more stupid penalties that could have hurt them worse than they did.
But never mind all of that. The Aeros won. And I don't care how they did it. As long as they win three more games like this I'll be happy.
Oh, and for those of you who are interested, you can find the game box score here.
And messages of love from Mitch Love aren't something that most other teams appreciate. Because those messages hurt.
All photos courtesy of Fred Trask.
Now the numbers.
As we all know, the Aeros were 3-1-1-1 againt Milwaukee this season, earning eight out of a possible 12 points while Milwaukee got only six out of a possible 12 points. And for what it's worth, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2006 when Milwaukee swept Houston in the West Division Finals.
Here are some things to watch for, from the Aeros side, as to how the game will break tonight. Most important, the Aeros are 3-1 in the playoffs when they score first. They are 2-0 when leading after the first period, and 2-0 when leading after the second period. They're 0-2 when trailing after the first, and 1-2 when trailing after two.
The Aeros are 3-3 when they get a power play goal, but they are 0-1 when they don't score on the power play. If they allow a power play goal, they're 0-2, but they're 4-1 when they don't allow a power play goal. Also, the Aeros are 0-3 in the playoffs when they outshoot their opponent.
During the season, Houston outscored Milwaukee 15-10 in their six games. And both the Aeros power play and penalty kill were in fine form as they were 8-for-35 on the power play against the Admirals while killing 32 of Milwaukee's 35 power play attempts. And the Aeros allowed the Admirals to score more than two goals on them only once.
Putting those together, you want the Aeros to score first. You want them to have the lead after the first. You want them on the power play, and you should have no fear when Milwaukee is on the power play. And no matter what, you want the Aeros to shoot less than Milwaukee. Thus, if the Admirals start scoring on the power play, if the Aeros trail after the first or second, and if Milwaukee shuts down the Aeros power play, then you'll probably see a Milwaukee victory tonight.
(From AHL Media Relations)
Most wins from start of postseason:
12 – Hershey, 1988 (went 12-0)
10 – Hershey, 2006 (Beat Milwaukee in the Finals)
9 – Rochester, 1996
9 – Cleveland, 1964 (went 9-0)
8 – Nova Scotia, 1973
8 – Springfield, 1961 (went 8-0)
8 – Indianapolis, 1950 (went 8-0)
7 – Providence, 2000
7 – Pittsburgh, 1951
But thankfully for us, the swine flu hysteria got in the way.
You see, my original post for today was one mocking the overreaction of the Texas University Interscholastic League for cancelling all high school sports in the state for two weeks. The mocking tone was along the lines of, well, if they're so damn concerned about the high school kids, then why don't they cancel school instead since, you know, there are more kids in school than at a track meet. I also mockingly suggested that the talk to MLB about cancelling the Houston Astros season because I get sick to my stomach watching the Astros play baseball.
Anyway, I wrote and submitted that post last night. Only to wake up this morning to find that numerous schools throughout the state are actually closing. Overreaction, that's what I think, but it kind of nullified the point of my post, so I asked to submit another, and they said send over an Aeros post.
Which I did.
So go click on the link and reward the mothership folks for allowing two Aeros posts to run this week.
It does appear they have 3 injured players, so they can bring a player onto the squad who is not on the Clear Day Roster. I mean, just HOW injured the third guy is, I'm not real sure so I reserve the right to call shenanigans, but nobody listens to me anyway.
Here's the scoop from Admirals Short Shifts (which I type wrong the first time, every time... Short Shits is a popular one... sorry guys).
Here we go:
Coach Lambert preaches to his players to “trust the system.” Basically, that means a heavy reliance on forechecking and playing below the circles. All three scoring lines can cycle the puck very well. The defensemen joined the rush a lot in the regular season (particularly Robert Dietrich), but they have reverted back to a more stay-at-home style in the playoffs… with great success. The Admirals get in trouble when:
- Their defenders get lazy and out of position
- The forwards get lazy and commit Stick Infractions (Hooking, Slashing, etc)
- The top-level talent tries to do too much alone (We’re looking at you, Mike Santorelli!)
Thuresson - Spaling - Maki
While the other lines have NHL-talent, this is the line that Coach Lambert will usually elect to start, and will usually be matched against the other team’s top offensive line. When Maki is playing well, he can be the most effective player on the ice. He’s still learning to be a power forward, but he is excellent on the forecheck. Spaling needs to work on his defensive zone face-offs…but he is a complete player (surprising for a rookie center).
Hornqvist - O'Reilly – Jessiman
This line can generate offense. O’Reilly is one of the most electric playmakers in the league. He sees the ice better than anyone I’ve watched at the AHL level this season. In fact, that’s his biggest downside: he looks to pass first, second, and third. We almost had T-Shirts made up that read “Shoot the puck, Cal!” He has a good shot, but doesn’t use it. O’Reilly is the complete opposite of Hornqvist. He doesn’t have a good shot – but he uses it… a LOT. Aside from an 8-game goal scoring streak late in the season, Hornqvist had one of the lowest shooting percentages on the team (Defensemen included). Built more for speed, a physical game can help to take this line out of the mix.
Jones - Santorelli – Ortmeyer
This line can be deadly (See Game 4 against Rockford: 4 goals and 6 assists); or this line can disappear (See Games 1-3 against Rockford: 0 points). The key to stopping this line is stopping Jones. Ortmeyer is an offensive afterthought, and if you can limit Jones’ space and keep him away from the net – Santorelli will try to do it all himself. While he is extremely skilled, that’s what gets him into trouble. This line is big, and won’t shy away from contact (unlike the O’Reilly line). What makes Milwaukee so dangerous is that the two top lines are rarely “off” on the same night.
Grant - Eizenman - Wilson
A prototypical checking line, Grant and Wilson play an agitated style of hockey. They will usually get about half the shifts as the top scoring lines. Any offensive production from this line is a bonus. Kelsey Wilson was fourth on the team with 15 goals in the regular season – but most of those came when he was skating on Mike Santorelli’s line. Wilson will sometimes flip-flop with Jessiman on O’Reilly’s line, as they are basically the same player. Triston Grant is a huge fan favorite and one tuff player – mostly because he plays hard every shift.
Franson-Matheson Yonkman-Ramholt Dietrich-Ford
I can’t really offer a scouting report on the defensemen, because I don’t know who these guys are. The defenders that we had in the regular season were all flawed individuals that had lapses in defensive judgement. This group of players, however, was nearly perfect in the first round. Robert Dietrich is short and German. Nolan Yonkman is the Captain. Scot Ford is the tuff guy. Cody Franson is the slick offensive defenseman. Mark Matheson is the positional sound guy. Tim Ramholt is… um… a mid-season acquisition playing by default?
PP Unit #1
Keep this unit off the ice. When Jessiman does his job and screens the goalie, this unit is deadly.
PP Unit #2
This unit changes a little bit depending on trends. Kelsey Wilson will see some time here; Thuresson will play if some folks are struggling. There is definitely a step down between the top PP unit and this one, although Maki and Jones can be very effective below the circles.
Cal O’Reilly, Ryan Maki, Nick Spaling and Jed Ortmeyer are the main penalty killing forwards… and they are excellent. Maki and O’Reilly are especially active on the forecheck, and are always a threat to create shorthanded scoring chances. Andreas Thuresson provides some solid support after the top four.
Scott Ford and Nolan Yonkman are the main PK defenders. Ford is very good, and both of them are adept at clearing the zone. You can get Milwaukee into trouble if you can get Cody Franson and Tim Ramholt on the ice in these situations.
Anyway, we've got a bit of a wager going on during the series, which you can read about here. Andrew suggested sending them a Whataburger wrapper as a teaser if the Aeros win one up there. I dunno if that will happen, but damn, I do know what I'm having for lunch today.
Keep tabs on their site throughout the series, as it's not quite as glorious as T3I but better than what most AHL teams have and pretty funny.
Also, recall that this is the team Matt Beaudoin may be looking to give a big middle finger to for not signing him out of camp. He's hot in the playoffs. Well, he's hot all the time. But you know... hockey-wise...
Anyway... go check 'em out and give 'em some Texas Friendly in the comments. ;)
Milwaukee in 5.
As much as I believe in the power of Kolanos, he is one man and hockey is a team sport. One man is just too easy to shut down, and while Krys is truly as dominant an AHL player as I've seen, I believe he can be shut down.
Of course, what is it taking away from covering other players to shut him down? Maybe that's the key to scoring. Kolanos as bait? I don't think that's enough.
But here's your smiles and dimples, my darlings: This series goes to the Ads because of goaltending. End of story. Dimples isn't good enough. I adore the kid, I'm awfully proud of the way he rebounded from a couple of bad games in round 1, but I don't think he withstands the onslaught that Milwaukee is going to bring to his doorstep.
I want to be wrong, and I usually am about nearly everything, it seems, especially at 2 a.m. but my gut says the series and the season end on the 8th or 9th in Houston if he's in goal.
Now... if Schaefer is magically healthy, or Brusty even more magically so... this changes my thoughts entirely. But I'm going with what I know right now, and that's
Dimples + Milwaukee = :(
Despite having three high-octane scorers in Krys Kolanos, Corey Locke, and Jesse Schultz, the Aeros are a better speciality team unit than they are a five-on-five unit. They're a team that has trouble holding a lead, but they're also a team that has shown an ability to come back from behind and defeat anybody. They play better tired than well-rested.
It's a team that Kevin Constantine has been unable to figure out this entire season.
With the prelims out of the way, I figure I better go on the record and make my prediction on who wins this series. And I've got a bit of conflict with which to deal with also.
After Monday's game, I was in the Peoria locker room talking to Kevin Constantine. And I got Andrew on my phone so he could talk to KC. And though it was on speaker, he was hard to hear, so Constantine just put his ear to the phone and answered Andrew's questions, which I couldn't really hear. And at the end, Constantine handed me the phone and goes, "so you're the optimist of the group, I hear."
Now that's strange because I consider myself a realist. I see Andrew as the pessimist, Heather as the optimist and Fred as the angry bastard (I love you, Fred). But now the team thinks I'm the optimist. But I promise, that has nothing to do with my prediction. A prediction which has the Aeros winning in six games.
Here's the big problem I have. I haven't seen the Aeros play Milwaukee in this calendar year. All of the games in Houston against the Admirals were back in 2008. I had had an overload of watching the Aeros and Rivermen play before that series, so I felt a bit more confident in making my prediction of the upset then than I do now.
But I'm still confident.
And here's why. Krys Kolanos.
I was in the locker room after Monday's game and interviewing the guys. And they're happy and shouting. And there's Krys Kolanos. He's got a smile on his face. He's happy for his teammates. But there's something else about him. He doesn't ramble in the answers he gives. He gives straight forward assessments of how the team played.
And I see it. He's not happy with their play. He's not happy with his play. Sure he scored the game's first goal. Sure, by the force of his will he was nearly the only guy to play to his ability in that second period. But I'm talking to him, and I see it. He doesn't care about beating the Rivermen. Sure, it was nice to get to win, but that win is only a necessary step. He wants to win it all.
The Aeros are a different team when Krys Kolanos is on the ice. They all seem to have this confidence that with him there, they can score at any time. Corey Locke can rack up the points, and he can be fun to watch. But he can't create on his own like Kolanos. And Kolanos knows he can do this, and the team seems to know he can do this, so it's like they play looser when he's out there, which helps everybody.
So that's my key. My thing. I'm sure Andrew will come along with stats to back up his prediction. And I'm sure Heather will talk about smiles and dimples. But I'm going with Krys Kolanos. I just think the guy wants to win, and nothing is going to stop him. And nothing against Drew MacIntyre, but if Manny Legace couldn't stop Kolanos, I don't think MacIntyre will have much luck either.
There you have it. The upset again. The Aeros in six. And Milwaukee, you better hope this doesn't go to a seventh game, because then another factor comes into play. The Kevin Constantine coaching an underdog on the road in Game Seven Factor. Because Constantine coached teams don't lose Game Seven's when they're the underdog and on the road. But it's not going to matter. Not with the Aeros winning in six.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I read the press release from the AHL yesterday, and I read some news stories on that press release, and I called BS on Austin actually having a franchise for next season. I thought it would probably happen, but I had some doubts. Most of the doubts were based on a poorly written press release and an interview I did with the AHL commissioner last month.
The commissioner was clear that Edmonton wouldn't sell it's franchise to Dallas even though Edmonton refused to field a franchise. The commissioner stated that the AHL would not, and could not expand.
So when I saw the words "limited membership" and a year to purchase a franchise, I saw that as Dallas having a year to purchase a team and put in Austin, but not yet having an actual team to put in Austin. And nothing that I read yesterday contradicted that reading.
That's because the one thing that could contradict that wasn't published until after I posted my piece. And now it makes sense.
Edmonton is not activating it's team next year. They'll continue to play in Springfield. But Austin will have a team. For one year Austin gets to have a team while Tom Hicks, who hasn't been able to convince anybody to sell him their franchise despite his best efforts, gets to keep trying for one more year -- though it's kind of hard to have faith in Hicks making a best effort at this while he's going into default on debts and trying to sell large shares of his ownership in the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars.
So I was wrong. Austin gets to have a hockey team in the AHL for next year. After that, well that's still up for debate. But maybe Edmonton will get off its ass and actually do something about that inactive franchise.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2009
GARRITY JOINS ASTROS FRONT OFFICE
Named Senior Vice President, Sponsorship and Ticket Sales
HOUSTON, TX —Tom Garrity has been hired by the Houston Astros as their Senior Vice President, Sponsorship and Ticket Sales, Astros Business Operatons President Pam Gardner announced today.
Garrity, a 20-year veteran of professional sports marketing and corporate sales, joined the Astros this week.
“We’re excited to have Tom join our team,” Gardner said. “We know his experience and leadership will help us achieve greater heights.”
Garrity, 45, has worked for a number of professional sports franchises, recently holding dual team president titles for the Houston Aeros minor league hockey team and Minnesota Swarm professional lacrosse team. In 2007 and 2008, Garrity was named the National Lacrosse League’s “Executive of the Year” while overseeing substantial increases in the Swarm’s attendance figures.
Garrity’s leadership was also instrumental in the Aeros seeing an increase in attendance in his first four seasons with that organization (2003-2007). Prior to joining the Aeros in 2003, Garrity had been President of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks since 1999. Earlier in his professional career, Garrity, a Minnesota native, served as an executive for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and as Sales Director for the University of Minnesota Athletic Department.
In August of 2008, Garrity and his wife Gina launched Quan Sports Marketing, LLC, a consulting company that provides various marketing and sales services for professional sports teams. The couple has four children.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The deal has one huge contingency. The Dallas Stars still have to purchase a franchise and move it to Austin. Absent that, there will not be a team in Austin because there is no team to put in Austin. But the deal is rather unique in that it is a member of the league without having a team and it will purchase the first team that becomes available for purchase. This will allow Edmonton to keep its inactive team.
Now I fully expect to see hockey in Austin next season. The AHL is doing everything possible to get this deal done, and AHL Commissioner David Andrews was pretty clear last month that there would be AHL hockey in Austin come next fall. But I'm also sure that, at the time, David Andrews didn't know that Tom Hicks was going to start going into default on his debt service involving the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers.
I hate to be going all negative here because I really look forward to a triangle series next year. And I fully expect it to happen. But there are still some big items on the check list that need to be handled. And I just didn't want anybody to forget.
Now how about those Aeros?
April 28, 2009
AUSTIN, ABBOTSFORD, GLENS FALLS JOINING AHL IN 2009-10
AHL affiliates of Stars, Flames, Flyers find new homes for next season
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League Board of Governors convened for its Spring Meeting today in Chicago. AHL President and CEO David Andrewsannounced the following:
- The Board approved a limited membership to Hicks Cedar Park, LLC, to allow for the operation of an AHL team in Austin, Texas, for the 2009-10 season. The limited membership is conditioned on Hicks Cedar Park, LLC, completing the purchase of an AHL franchise within one year.
- The Board approved the relocation of the franchise owned by the Calgary Flames from the Quad Cities to Abbotsford, B.C.
- The Board approved the transfer of ownership of the Philadelphia Phantoms franchise from Philadelphia Phantoms, LP, to a newly formed entity known as Phantoms Hockey LLC, owned by the Brooks Group. Subsequently, the Brooks Group was granted approval to relocate its AHL franchise from Philadelphia to Glens Falls, N.Y., beginning with the 2009-10 season.
The Texas Stars will begin play as the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars at the brand-new 6,800-seat Cedar Park Center in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park this fall. The Abbotsford club will serve as the Calgary Flames’ primary development team and play at the new state-of-the-art Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. And the Philadelphia Flyers’ new affiliate will play in the Glens Falls Civic Center, which was home to four Calder Cup championship teams during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 85 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marks the eighth consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America. Eight clubs remain in the hunt for the league’s coveted championship trophy as the second round of the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs gets underway tonight.
# # #
Lookit... Channel 12 may love you, Milwaukee:
But Channel 6, 7, 25, 26, 30, 36, 44, 84 and all the rest of them are gonna kick your ass.
Though on second thought, it really looks like only 6 and 30 want to kick your ass. 25 is just somber and sympathetic. 84 is serious in a "You're wearing THAT?" way. And the rest look like you just offered them some ice cream (but 7 and 26 don't like the flavor).
So, I dunno who's really gonna be kicking whose ass here. Yeah, I totally suck at false bravado.
Here is the Aeros after Mitch Love's empty-netter with two seconds left to make it 5-2.
And here the guys start to gather on the ice as the clock hits 00:00.
And more of the guys join the group.
And here comes the last of them.
Which Houston Aeros team would show up. The one that attacked Manny Legace and got off 14 shots on goal in the first period. Or the one that played it safe and got off zero shots in the second period. The one that roared off to a 2-0 lead. Or the one lucky to limp off of the ice tied 2-2.
“We just knew going into the third that it was going to be the most important period of the year,” defenseman Max Noreau said after the game. “So the guys were pretty pumped up…”
“We just knew we were tied 2-2 and had the chance to be in the game,” said forward Corey Locke. “We wanted to come out in the third like we did in the first and not like we did in the second.”
“The first period tonight looked exactly like the first and second periods on Saturday night,” coach Kevin Constantine said We played two great periods Saturday, and we played a great first period tonight….So it didn’t surprise me at all that they came back in the second and we sat back and let them come back. It didn’t surprise me that this series went into the final period with the two teams tied because that’s the way the whole series has gone.”
The Aeros of the first period came out to play in the third. They only got eight shots in the third. But they made those eight shots count, getting three goals to get the 5-2 upset Game Seven victory over the Peoria Admirals last night.
The game got off to a quick start for the Aeros as Krys Kolanos shoved the puck past Peoria’s Manny Legace at 1:39 of the first period for the 1-0 lead. Max Noreau’s phantom goal came at about the 6:00 mark, but the score was still 1-0, and Anton Khudobin had been lucky to not give up any goals to the Rivermen.
But at 9:30 of the first, Tomas Mojzis went to the penalty box to put Peoria on the power play. And at 11:01 Ronnie Earl stepped in front of a Peoria pass, got the puck and put on a burst of speed not often seen from a player wearing the Aeros green. Marco Rosa took off after Earl which was a good thing because while Earl got off a great shot, Manny Legace stopped it. The puck rebounded out to Rosa who was in just the right spot to push it past Legace and give the Aeros the 2-0 lead off of a short-handed goal.
Another Aeros team showed up for the second period. A team that didn’t quite believe in pushing the puck up the ice or in hitting the opponent. A team that got off zero shots. ZERO shots. It was a team that didn’t protect Anton Khudobin, and as the period ended, the Aeros were lucky to be tied 2-2.
“We had a great start. A great first period,” Noreau said. “I think maybe that gave us too much confidence. We let up in the second and gave them much skating room. And they got way more chances than we did. So we wanted to come out hard again in the third.”
And Krys Kolanos was blunt in his assessment of the team’s second period play. “We put too many pucks in the middle and let them gain momentum with their transition game,” he said. “I think that was a mistake on our part. And we took a couple of unnecessary penalties. So it was a discipline issue as well.”
Then came the third period. A third period that, for most of its first half, was pretty evenly played. But Matt Beaudoin, one of the few players to have a good second period (along with Krys Kolanos and Clayton Stoner) got off a shot at Manny Legace. A shot that rebounded way out to the top where Max Noreau was stationed. A rebound that found Noreau in just the right spot to fire off a shot that Legace didn’t stand a chance of stopping.
“The puck came bouncing out,” Noreau said. “I think Legace made a good save on the first shot and then their guys kind of went down when I faked the shot and I just walked around them. I saw traffic and I tried to put it high because he’s a smaller goalie and it’s been working for us. It’s the same place I went at last time [his Game Five overtime game-winner].”
The game stayed tight and the defense stepped up, helping Khudobin keep the Rivermen out of the net. Peoria several times tried to pull Legace so as to get the extra attacker, but each time, the Aeros were able to get the puck back in Peoria’s zone before Legace could clear the ice. But then, when Legace did get clear, the Aeros took advantage. First Corey Locke iced the game at 4-2 with his empty-netter at 19:37, and then with two seconds left in the game, Mitch Love got the empty-netter to make the final score 5-2 and to send the Aeros into a match-up with Milwaukee Admirals.
“It was a huge relief. Just kind of we did it,” Locke said of his empty-netter. “That they can’t come back from two goals in 25 seconds. I know that anything’s possible but we were pretty happy.”
The Aeros get to be pretty happy tonight. But it won’t last long as they’ve play again on Thursday night in Milwaukee.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Max Noreau told Joe O'Donnell on Saturday night that he's never won a playoff series, and that he thought he might be getting a stigma attached to him because of that. So in a way it's fitting that Noreau hit the game-winning goals in two of the team's four wins.
"It’s unbelievable," Noreau said about his goal, and the win. "When that puck went in I was ecstatic. And I’ve never felt this before. This was huge for me and I’m just glad we’re going on to the next round."
And then there's the case of Mitch Love. Love, who's become quite a fan favorite in Houston was playing in his first playoff series. And he chose the last seconds of his last game of his first series to get his first ever playoff goal. But anyone who's talked to Love knows that he's not much for basking in glory. When I asked him about the goal, he immediately changed the talk to the great play of his teammates.
"It’s just a credit to the guys," he said. "We just stuck with it. After that tough second period where they were kind of all over us, it just kind of showed the character we have in this locker room and the experience to come out in that third period and get three goals."
I was sitting next to acting Wild GM and current Aeros GM Tom Lynn for the phantom Max Noreau goal. And Lynn couldn't believe that there was no goal. According to Kevin Constantine, the ref basically acknowledged that there was a goal, but that no one actually saw the puck go into the net and as such, they couldn't give the Aeros a goal.
"Tonight we scored a goal," Constantine said. "We scored a goal in the first period that went right through the netting. But the refs and the linesman couldn’t say they knew that a hundred percent. They said the guessing and the angles and the physics and everything else say yeah it was probably in. But because none of them saw it actually go through the netting, they couldn’t allow it."
Neither Tom Lynn nor Kevin Constantine are sure of the status of Jesse Schultz. He hurt his ankle at the end of Game Six, and he was a scratch for Game Seven. Constantine doesn't think they'll know much about his status for another day or so. But I saw Schultz after the game, and he said he was in pain and he wasn't confident about playing anytime soon.
I've got a lot more stuff. But I'm dead tired right now. You've got no idea how long a day it's been. So I'll try to get more of it up come Tuesday night or Wednesday as I'm looking at another long day on airplanes and in airports on Tuesday.
But instead of ending with a video, I'm going to end with something else. As any of you who read my ClownVision Chronicles blog are aware, I have this thing for Heidi Klum. Specifically, I like posting SI Swimsuit photos of Heidi Klum. So when I got on my Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit early on Monday morning, I took it as a rather good omen when I picked up the in-flight magazine to find this cover.
Sure, it's not Heidi Klum in a swimsuit, but it's still Heidi Klum. And as Heather, Fred, and Andrew will attest, I sent them this photo from Detroit and said that this was a good omen. So if I start posting photos of Heidi Klum over here, I'm now sure that you will understand why.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I think we now know which Aeros team came out.
The final score was 5-2 Houston. Though that score doesn't do justice to just how close this game was. Maxim Noreau scored late in the third to put Houston up 3-2. Peoria was attacking with under a minute left, they'd finally been able to pull Manny Legace, and pow, Corey Locke and then Mitch Love got the empty-netters. And just like that, Game Seven was over and onto Milwaukee it is for the Aeros.
I'll have much, much more later tonight, as I've got interviews to transcribe and a story for the mothership to prepare first. But from the start of the game it appeared that Krys Kolanos wanted this victory, and you could tell by his effort on the first goal. You could also tell from the start that Anton Khudobin was going to have a rough night, which he did. But luckily, his defense stepped up to keep him and the team out of trouble.
It was basically a story of two games. The first and third periods which saw the Aeros constantly attacking the net, constantly attacking Legace, and the story of the second which saw the Aeros trying to play it safe and not screw up, resulting in them getting absolutely zero shots for the period.
And one more thing, I didn't see the disputed Max Noreau goal of the first period. I arrived and got into my seat at the press box next to Tom Lynn just as the puck dropped. I saw the Kolanos goal, but I was trying to get situated, and I was scribbling notes when suddenly Lynn jumped up screaming about how could they miss that. All that I know is that replay showed the net move. And as you'll see later when I've got the interviews transcribed, Kevin Constantine said that the on-ice officials thought there was a goal, but they didn't see it, and since the goal judge didn't indicate there was a goal, then there was nothing they could do.
But it doesn't matter now. The Aeros win. The Aeros win. The Aeros win.
My personal three stars of the game are 3) Clayton Stoner. I don't know if you could tell on the radio or by watching on AHL Live, but Stoner was delivering some serious hits and keeping Peoria honest, 2) Matt Beaudoin didn't make a goal, but he had one hit off of the pipe in the second and it was his shot bouncing off of Legace that set up Noreau's game-winner. And when the offense disappeared in the second period, Beaudoin was one of only two Aeros who kept trying to apply pressure, the other is my number 1) star, Krys Kolanos. Kolanos got the game going on the right foot with his first period goal, and he and Beaudoin were the only two Aeros who kept the pressure on the Peoria defense and Legace throughout the entire game.
And courtesy of Patrick Armstrong, the Aeros PR guru, comes this tidbit of information. Game One is in Milwaukee on April 30. Game Two is in Milwaukee on May 2. Game Three is in Houston on May 5. Game Four is in Houston on May 7. Game Five (if needed) is in Houston on either May 8 or May 9. Games Six and Seven (if needed) are in Milwaukee on May 11 and May 13.
Now I've got to unpack and pack. Transcribe some interviews. And write some stories.
Go check them out at his gallery here. You won't be disappointed. Here are a few to wet your whistle (click to make them bigger).
All photos: Chris Jerina
Thanks for sharing these with us, Chris. Great work!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Anyway, I will be in the building for Game Seven and will get quotes from the guys, win or lose, after the game. I doubt I will send any in-game updates, but you'll have a game story from me tomorrow night.
Unfortunately, there won't be any of Mr. Fred's photos. But hopefully my actually being on the scene will make up for that.
But at least I skipped the margaritas and avoided making a jackass of myself. Oh, man. Me and tequila...
First off, the Aeros confirmed that Tony Hrkac was not a healthy scratch, and that he will be a game time decision on Monday.
Secondly, it was really nice meeting some of you at the Leaf tonight. Glad we could bring some internet that actually worked, so a few of us could huddle around my husband's computer and watch the game with relative fluidity.
Though I found there were some die-hard Aeros fans there who didn't know about the site. Next time I'll be prepared with business cards. Tell your friends, eh?
Third, shame the boys lost their f**king minds in the third period. Darn shame. Seemed to me that the ref missed a few tripping fouls against the Aeros, too, but I'm not one to blame the refs. You avoid that Penalty Box Parade and you have a chance tonight for sure, and that's the theme of the game, without a doubt.
Finally, our friend Josh ran the stats and found that the Aeros are 1-4 all time on my birthday, so I'm gonna suggest to the team that they try REALLY hard not to schedule games on my birthday anymore. I'm starting to feel cursed.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Once again, I apologize for missing that earlier this week when it came out. I'm assuming this means that he's out for however long the rest of the playoffs will be. But I still haven't seen anything regarding the status of Nolan Schaefer's injury.
At some point, the Aeros have to learn to adjust to the referee. They can handle the Jeff Smith-type refs easy because he doesn't call penalties. But when they have a guy who blows the whistle, they keep playing like it's Jeff Smith out on the ice. And the worst offenders were Benoit Pouliot and Corey Locke. And yes, I watched the game, and I saw Locke get knocked about at the end of the game with the result being no call, but with just about two minutes left in the game and your team down by a goal, you don't wait until the puck is heading in the other direction and you're nowhere near the puck to slash a guy in retaliation. So as much as it hurt the team, Corey Locke fully deserved those four minutes in the box. And that, of course, killed the Aeros chances for the night.
I've got no complaints with Anton Khudobin's play. I liked how the team worked and dominated in the first two periods. The team had chances, especially Krys Kolanos. And John Lammers nearly made a shot storming out of the penalty box in the third that would have tied the game. But that didn't happen.
Game Seven will be Monday night, and it's also in Peoria. And let's hope Kevin Constantine gives the boys a good shouting out, because they deserve it for that awful third period play. And hopefully, Jesse Schultz wasn't as injured as he looked while he limped off of the ice at the end of the game. And if he is, let's hope Mitch Love gets a little chance for some retribution.
As it is, back when this series started, I predicted the Aeros would win in six. And this is Game Six, so I'm sticking with that pick. I don't know which Aeros team will show up tonight, but it would be nice to see them take it to Peoria from the very start and just dominate the game all of the way through. I did sense a confidence from the team when I was down in the locker room after Game Five, and though they've said the right things all year, they seemed to really believe it this time.
The big problem as I see it is that this team has just been so damn good with coming from behind, that I can see them letting Peoria jump out to the lead again while they wait to kick it into gear in the third. But they know they can score on Legace -- I think they're over their awe of that guy -- and I think a fully healthy Krys Kolanos can kick them into gear early.
I'm not worried about Anton Khudobin. Maybe I should be. But I've come to grips with Khudobin. He's not had a lot of AHL time this year, and he's been thrown into the fire. Does he have his faults? Yes. But the key to the game will be the play in front of Khudobin. If the defense is tight and keeps Peoria away from the goal and keep the ice clear, then I think Khudobin will be okay. And if the offense spends the whole game pressing and keeps Peoria backed up, I think that will help also.
I'm not predicting the score. But I'm sticking with my choice of the Aeros winning this thing in six games. And look for Kolanos to have a big game.
Anyway, here's his write-up today. As well, here's Andrew's game preview for the Chron.
I'm told by the team that Khudobin and Climie are the only goalies traveling with the team currently, but that Brust and/or Schaefer could join the team on the road trip if it continues to game 7.
Crazy times, folks. Gotta love the playoffs.
Afternoon Delight: Throwing a link to Joe O'Donnell's Tour de SLICE, which is pretty interesting. I have yet to figure out how the goalies get dressed in such a small space. But then they aren't getting dressed out of a bag like I do, so maybe that's the trick.
Also, we learn that Paul Albers is the waffle master and that there's a never-ending supply of ice cream in the lounge. I could make a joke here but I won't.
But first, some information for Aeros/Rivermen Game Six.
The good news is that the Aeros are 7-3 when an opponent faces elimination, and they are 5-2 in such an instance when in the opponents building. The Aeros are also 5-1 in their playoff history when leading a series three games to two. (This needs to be clarified. The Aeros's aren't 5-1 in Game Six situations. They are 5-1 in series in which they have held the 3-2 lead. I'm sorry if I confused anybody.)
The come-from-behind win was the third time this season that Houston's done this against Peoria. And the victory was the first time in this playoff series in which the team that scored first didn't win the game. Coming into that game, and going back to the 2006 playoff matchup between these two teams, the team that had scored first had won eight straight games. So it looks like that streak is over. And despite the team's overtime record during this past regular season, the Aeros have now won six straight playoff games to go into overtime.
The Aeros have outscored Peoria 14-13 in the series, and as proof of how they've dominated the third period this series, they've outscored Peoria 8-5. Peoria, continues to outscore Houston in the first two periods. But to show how important scoring first is, the Aeros are 47-14 all-time in playoff action (26-6 in Calder Cup) when getting the first goal.
The Aeros leading scorers are Corey Locke (3-3=6) and Matt Beaudoin (1-5=6). All six of their points have come on the power play. Tony Hrkac, the old man, is tied for second in scoring with Krys Kolanos. Both are 1-4=5.
And in case you didn't read the link from Heather's post early yesterday, then you missed that the Rivermen will have a new backup to Manny Legace. The St. Louis Blues, who were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs earlier this week, returned Ben Bishop to Peoria. Chris Holt will remain with the team, but he will be joining his fellow scratched teammates up in the stands.
The Milwaukee Admirals will be the team facing the winner of the Aeros/Rivermen contest. The Admirals swept the Rockford IceHogs, winning 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, and 4-1. Milwaukee goalie Drew MacIntyre stopped 105 of 109 shots to move to 10-3 for his playoff career. He's got a career playoff average of 1.53 goals allowed and .947 save percentage. And for the season he was 34-15-4 with a 2.30 goals allowed average and .921 save percentage.
The Manitoba Moose will be playing the Toronto Marlies in Game Six of their series. Manitoba leads the series three games to two. Manitoba goalie Cory Schneider stopped 58 of 61 Toronto shots in games four and five to help put Manitoba in the lead. Game Six is tonight is in Winnipeg, and the Moose have already sold 8100 tickets for the game and are opening the upper deck to the MTS Centre.
And if you missed the news, Manitoba coach Scott Arniel was named as the AHL's coach of the year.
The winner of the Manitoba/Toronto series will face the winner of the Grand Rapids/Hamilton series. The Griffins lead this series 3-2 with Game Six set for Grand Rapids on Sunday.
Over in the other conference, Hershey destroyed Philadelphia, sweeping them in four games, and the Bears will now go up against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a battle of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre won it's series against Bridgeport in five games.
In the Hershey series, the Bears penalty kill held the Phantoms to 0-for-20 on the power play. The Phantoms had finished the season with the AHL's eighth-best power play, whereas Hershey finished with the league's worst penalty kill. So Hershey really turned it on in the playoffs. In the Wilkes-Barre series, the Penguins won all three of Bridgeport's home games, including two games that were played in Long Island due to a scheduling conflict with Bridgeport's arena.
And in the Atlantic Division, the Providence Bruins, who dispatched the Portland Pirates in five games, are awaiting the victor of the Hartford/Worcester series which Worcester leads three games to two. Worcester, which like it's parent club San Jose Sharks, lost the first two games of the series, but Worcester has won the last three games in Hartford, fueled by the return of Brad Staubitz who was suspended for the first two games of the series. The Bruins series win was clinched by Peter Schaefer, the brother of Aeros goalie Nolan Schaefer, whose only goal of the series turned out to be the game-winning goal of Game Five against Portland.
Friday, April 24, 2009
First of all, if you're into checking out the IIHF World Championships in Switzerland, AeroFinn points us to some places online to watch and Fred figured out how to watch over the air. No tech support here, just giving a kick-start.
Apparently the games are showing in the US on Universal Sports, which almost nobody anywhere gets, but apparently it's on the over the air station 39.2. Last time I watched TV over the air, there were no decimals in the channel numbers, so I have no idea what that means or how to access it. All I know is my DirecTV ain't got it.
For Olvecky: all the Slovakian games in here http://www.stv.sk/live/?3Here's the schedule of games. I don't really understand it but maybe you do.
And most other games(also SVK) through here:
You can find several options through the latter, had to try a few before I got one working.
Starting times at 9:15am and 1:15pm Houston time.
Just a reminder that the game in Peoria Saturday night starts at 7:00 p.m.
Listen on the radio, pay $8 to watch on AHL Live, or head to the Maple Leaf Pub in beautiful midtown, and buy me and my beautiful new Clutterbuck jersey a birthday beer while we watch the boys take on Peoria. :)
From the Wild:
McMillan, 20 (9/10/88), recorded career-highs with 31 goals, 41 assists, 72 points and 93 penalty minutes (PIM) in 68 games during his fourth season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2008-09. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound native of Brandon, Manitoba added seven game-winning goals, five power play tallies and four shorthanded goals helping lead Calgary to a 59-9-3-1 regular season record. He has tallied eight points (2-6=8) in 12 playoff games this season.Of course, Cody Almond, who was signed a couple of weeks ago and will also likely be an Aero next season, plays for Kelowna, so there could be a baby Aeros match-up in the WHL Championship. We'll have to keep an eye on that.
The Hitmen are undefeated in 12 playoff matches and will play either Kelowna or Vancouver in the WHL Championship series. The winner of the WHL Championship series will advance to the Memorial Cup.
Anyway, looking forward to seeing both of these guys next season as they're coming out of juniors looking like pretty solid picks by the Wild. I've even seen McMillan compared to Clutterbuck a little bit, so that should be good for some fun if it's true.
It's amazing to me how much the tone of this series has changed over its course. If you look back at the article in which Stastny is rather smug to today's piece... wow.
Of course, we know what the Aeros tend to do with momentum... *fizzle*. Hopefully knowing they can put this thing to bed tomorrow night, come home and get a few days to recuperate before Milwaukee, will be incentive to not wait until the last 5 minutes. Plus a fully healthy Kolanos should help. Seems that his energy level is contagious... when he's got his intensity turned to 11, so does the rest of the team, and vice versa. He's like the Pied Piper.
The other thought I have is that this team does tend to get their shit together better when the light at the end of the tunnel is brightest. Whether it's game 4 of a 4 in 5, or the last game of a long road trip, they have tended to come through with a win.
It makes sense that such a tendency would go hand in hand with their "comeback" personality, since both scenarios are all about digging deep and giving it everything when you really don't have a lot left to give. But as I said, this team does tend to play worse when they're carrying momentum from a previous game, so who knows?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Anton Khudobin got the win but he looked unsteady at times. Here he came way out for a poke check on Trent Whitfield that was a near disaster. Gotta love the effort though.
Khudobin came up huge on this stop of Yan Stastny. The Rivermen were shorthanded when Stastny got the break away on the Aeros power play unit.
Here you can see the kind of juicy rebounds Anton gave up all night. This puck went back out almost to the blue line.
Mitch Love dropped the gloves with Tyson Strachan after a Aeros "near goal" in the 2nd period.
The Rivermen were unable to score but Anton still gave the crowd heart attacks by continuing to cough up juicy rebounds and failing to control the puck. But he did the important thing and kept the puck out of the net.
Finally Max Noreau shoots the game winning shot. Here you can see what it looked like for Manny Legace and Maxime Noreau.