I've got a new blog post up over at the mothership on the Aeros at the quarter mark of the season. However, unless people actually start reading the hockey posts over at the mothership, there might not be many more posts at the mothership because the numbers are awful. I don't care if you leave a comment, but click on the link because that lets them know you're reading. I really don't want to go back to writing stupid top 10 lists.
Tim Stapleton is a great AHL player and has been snatched up by the Atlanta Thrashers organization. He was on a AHL-only deal with the Rampage, who will have a hard time finding someone to replace this talent.
They are still, by far, the best team in our division.
By the way, I think the Thrashers might be the only team in the NHL that draws fewer fans than their AHL affiliate.
Every now and again, we get surprised with something. As Craig Biggio used to say over and over and over about baseball ... "that's hockey."
To me, the best part about getting to cover the team, is the surprises that pop up every now and again. I am a pretty emotional dude, and yes, there have been times when I've teared up during a great comeback or when the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Anton after that playoff win two years ago.
The 5'10" f0rward played for St. Lawrence University and, more recently, in the AHL with Syracuse and Hartford.
I was impressed with his tenacity and overall offensive awareness. That goal he score in Friday's loss to San Antonio was a beaut .... He held his own up here, and I wish him nothing but the best.
I think he will be back in the AHL before too long, but I don't know that we'll see him again in Houston. With how well he played for the Aeros, he may get snatched up before his services are needed here.
Sorry this is late -- I've been having to transcribe Rice football postgame quotes and write that story. And I'm tired, so don't expect a lot, but...
The Aeros 2-1 shootout win tonight against the Milwaukee Admirals was much, much better than last night's 5-3 loss to San Antonio. The effort and urgency was clearly there from early on, it's just that the Aeros ran into a tough goalie on a hot streak in Milwaukee's Mark Dekanich -- the guy was only allowing about 1.68 goals per game, so the Aeros getting a goal in regulation play was something of which to be proud. And to top it off, the regulation goal was from Jared Spurgeon who went five-hole on a really pretty shot. Then after Casey Wellman made a Corey Locke-esque type shot in the first round of the shootout, it was Spurgeon who again came up big to score in the last round.
And Yeo was much, much happier about his team's effort tonight.
The Aeros are off until Thursday's kiddie matinee against Rockford. Their record is 11-9-1-2 for 25 points after 23 games, and they're tied, points-wise, with Milwaukee for fourth place, though Milwaukee has the better win percentage.
1. I'm liking the defense combo of Max Noreau and Jared Spurgeon. They don't make for the tallest or biggest duo on the ice, but the effort's there every night, and they're going to hit. Plus those two are turning into quite the offensive tandem.
2. Spurgeon got off a pretty shot in the third period to put the Aeros up 1-0. Milwaukee disputed the goal, but it was clear to us in the press box that it went five hole then hit off the cross bar and behind the blue line before bouncing out. As for the goal, Spurgeon said it was just a by-product of the team attacking the net and he was just trying to get a rebound for either Casey Wellman or Brandon Buck to handle.
3. "In all honesty it was just putting pucks on net," Spurgeon said afterwards. "We’d been throwing them to the net all night, and we were getting opportunities. We had a three-on-two there coming on the rush, and I was just trying to get a rebound for the other guys. It just happened to go in. Good things happen when you put it on the net."
4. As I said, Yeo was much happier with his team tonight. He realizes that there are going to be losses and mistakes made. What he cares about is the team's actions when the losses and mistakes are being made.
5. "If we a lose game, it’s going to be fine," Yeo told us. "Tonight for example, if we lost that game, it’s okay because the intentions of what we were trying to do was pretty clear that everybody was all in. The work ethic was there, and guys were committed to playing the system in the way that we want to play it. In each and every game we’re going to make mistakes. I make mistakes, and everybody’s going to. At the same time, it’s evident when a guy’s going out there and doing what he can for the team. And that was clearly the case tonight. The guys were all in for each other, and the result was positive."
6. Things are looking up for the Aeros health wise. Chad Rau is waiting only medical clearance to return to action. Tyler Cuma and Peter Zingoni have received medical clearance and are getting back into game shape. Marco Scandella is suffering a lower body injury, but Yeo doesn't think he'll be out for long.
7. I normally don't say nice things about the National Anthem singers, but I thought tonight's anthem was exceptional. Of course, the singer was one of our regular readers, but that has nothing to do with it. She was very good. I wish they were all that good.
8. Some strange goings-on before the game. Apparently, the Toyota Center computer system crashed, especially their system that allowed them process the ticketing. Toyota Center requested the Aeros delay the start of the game for 15 minutes as a result. While the Aeros were willing to work with Toyota Center re this -- though not to the tune of 15 minutes -- the Admirals said no and demanded the game start on time.
9. That's why scratches weren't announced since it wasn't known until it was time for the lineups to be announced as to when the game would start. That's also why the Aeros hit the ice before Milwaukee -- everybody was messed up on the timing.
10. The Aeros do not play again until Thursday. Yeo plans to use this time for practice. He feels some of the recent problems the team has been having is due to a lack of practice time due to the scheduling.
11. Tonight's video has absolutely nothing to do with the game, or with any theme arising from the game. It's just I'm an Elvis Costello fan and he's got a new album out called National Ransom and the video is of him performing the title song on Letterman. And if you know someone who's a music fan, then I think this album would be a great Christmas gift.
With some teams, it can be difficult to tell whether or not "A Game mode" is being applied. The Aeros are not one of those teams. When they are on, they look on. When they are off, they don't look on.
Last night, they did not appear to be on, but they found the net first with a 5-on-3 goal. It has already been mentioned that the Aeros gave up the lead really quick, later tied the game with another 5-on-3 goal and then faltered going away.
One commenter mentioned that they were lamenting Yeo's frankness when it comes to expressing his disappointment in the team. I am OK with it, and from my perspective it helps me to better understand the team. The team is capable of so much more, so when they come out flat and get drilled when the game was there for the taking, he should be able to talk about disappointment.
Tonight, the Aeros get a chance to make things even on the homestand against a Milwaukee Admirals team that shut out Texas Friday. Dekanich will be tough to dent tonight, so I think we'll see a very low-scoring game. It did not work this way last night, but whoever scores first, I think, will hold on and get the "W."
Another thing needs to be mentioned. Aeros captain Jon DiSalvtore's play of late has picked up. He has seven points in his last eight games and seems to be creating more and more around the net. He got hot last December, so fans can only hope he just got an early start this year. He's about a .60 point per game for his career, and has been very streaky thus far in an Aeros uniform. But now with the power play statistically better, he should start racking up a few more points.
And one other thin I wanted to talk about ... It has been great chatting with Mike Yeo after each game. I aways get a good sense of how he feels about the team. He doesn't mince words when it comes to expressing disappointment or favor (when that is warranted), and I never have to worry about wondering what he thinks "needs fixing," so to speak.
With Todd McLellan, who was great a motivating his players with psycology, he rarely said anything negative about the team. He was great about breaking down the key play or the turning point in the game.
With Rob Daum, I always got a great quote (most of which I could not use in the paper) and he was always quick to tell me that he thought I interpreted something the wrong way. He never said "you are wrong" but he would say, in his words, "I disagree and here is why." And he always thought I was misquoting him. Maybe that is why he wanted to make sure I understood everything. His two teams were very schizophrenic, and without his help, I don't know that I would have done even an adequate job covering the team.
Kevin Constantine was a good teacher with the media. I think there were times when I would miss deadline because KC would take the time to explain why this was that and why he did it that way. Sometimes coaches hate it when you use hindsight or second guess, even when your intentions are good. Kevin would answer those questions and do so without hesitation. I learned more about the game during his three years that I did at any other time. He did not give the best quotes (meaning the most damning or funny), but he could be humorous at times.
And with Mike, like I said, I just get a good sense of what he is thinking as the team's leader when I leave the rink.
If he can figure out how to get his team to play a little more consistently, he just might be able to sneak this squad into the playoffs.
I should write up the game tonight, a 5-3 Aeros loss to the San Antonio Rampage. But I just don't feel like putting in the effort. Kind of like the Aeros tonight, as they really didn't seem to give a damn about putting any effort into the game.
Think I'm being harsh? Well how about this from Mike Yeo: "I was very disappointed in the game. I’m very disappointed with the way we started, and the lack of urgency in our play. We talked about it in the morning about what a great opportunity it was, a great challenge playing against a first place team, and I thought right from the start we were making soft plays. There was no desperation in our game. We were losing every loose puck and battle – every one on one battle. And ultimately we got what we deserved tonight."
And trust me, there's more where that came from. But frankly, my sense of urgency for getting this written is kind of on the same level as the team starting the game. So let's just say the Aeros got the 1-0 lead. Quickly gave it up. They let the Rampage take the 2-1 lead in the second, tied it again, then quickly surrendered the lead. Yeah, it was just one of those nights.
A few quick points:
1. Both of the Aeros goals came on the power play. When's the last time the Aeros only goals in a game came off the power play?
2. Instrumental in both goals was the game's third star, Max Noreau. Noreau set up Casey Wellman for the first goal, then Noreau got the second goal on one of his patented laser shots, of which we've seen far too few of this season.
3. "One of the biggest keys is we’re shooting the puck a lot now," Noreau said of the power play. "We’re not looking for the pretty play all of the time now. It doesn’t have to be a tap-in goal. It could be a point shot with guys in front of the net shot. I’m thinking that’s our bread and butter so far, so just keeping doing that. When teams see that we’re shooting the puck a lot, we’ll try the pretty plays."
4. Mike Yeo wasn't happy with the power play. Then again, Yeo wasn't happy, rightfully, with much in tonight's game.
5. Yeo's not throwing the goalies under the bus. He put some of the problems that Hackett tonight on the play of the defensemen, especially those plays which found Hackett trying to field the puck and getting plays started.
6. "I’m not going to sit here and say Hack played great, that’s for sure," Yeo said. "Probably I think what we’re doing for right now is a game where we don’t play great, but a goalie wins a game for us. But having said that, a lot of the stuff that was happening, especially as far as playing the puck, was on the defensemen more than him. We have a plan for how we’re supposed to retrieve plucks, and that plan wasn’t executed too well. It’s a matter of going back and communicating with your goaltender and wanting the puck is ultimately what it comes down too."
7. What this game was missing tonight was Mitch Love. Or a Mitch Love type player. The team was down and not exerting much effort. The crowd was down, stuffed with too much turkey. This was the type of game that, when Love was here, sensing the lack of energy amongst the team and crowd, that Love would go out and get some action started that would ignite the team and the crowd.
8. Cal Clutterbuck was also good in this role in his one season with the Aeros. Clutterbuck had an ability to level a hit that would get the crowd and the team engaged in the game.
9. No video tonight. This game didn't deserve one.
When I was a kid, I thought "laurels" were another term for butt cheeks when I heard the term "resting on your laurels." In fact, even long since knowing the etymology of the phrase, I still get a mental picture of someone resting on their ass when I hear it.
Whatever mental picture it conjures, Coach Yeo is pretty cheesed about the pattern of laurel-resting he's seeing from this Aeros team. They put together a string of success and then they stink for a few games. And then they hit bottom and pick themselves up and succeed again.
Tonight, there was a loud hissing sound in the building (we thought maybe they were preparing to drop the big board at center ice on Terry Koharski so he'd quit calling so many penalties and let the game have some flow -- Love you, Jeff Smith! *mwah*). But I'm hoping now that it was the sound of the Aeros hitting bottom in this game, because this was not a fun game to watch.
From top to bottom, any cohesiveness ended with Wellman's early goal (beauty, BTW) and I felt like Hackett didn't have his head together in nets.
I was particularly frustrated by his weak puck movement. I know I have a high standard there, but I'm of the opinion that puck playing for a goalie can be so dangerous that if you aren't pretty damn good at it, you should take the safe option.
Yeo put some of that back on the team tonight though, saying there's a prescribed way defensemen are supposed to deal with that stuff and it wasn't happening. So... I kinda take that back, Hack, but kinda not, too. I dunno.
The team very kindly gives us Time On Ice stats now and I'm looking at them tonight and wondering if Scandella is hurt. I need to get into Russo's habit of counting the bench every so often, but Scandella only had two shifts in the second period and none in the third. Unusual.
Also, Kassian was reassigned to Houston after the Wild game today, so hopefully we'll see him tomorrow. Having him back might inject some much-needed energy and hustle.
Anyway, another disappointing night, but the beautiful thing is that they get a chance to do better tomorrow. And talking to Max Noreau after the game, he feels sure they're going to bring it tomorrow night. I wish I shared his conviction.
Several Aeros players are going to have some solid vacations this summer thanks to the air miles they're racking up going back and forth to Minnesota and elsewhere.
In the last couple of days, the Wild have sent Casey Wellman back to Houston (#7 in case you forgot) and called up Matt Kassian and Justin Falk.
The Wild play the Flyers tonight, so Kassian isn't particularly a surprise. Never hurts to have some extra muscle against those guys. Falk is up as an injury replacement, if needed, according to Russo.
Might also interest folks who haven't heard that the Wild picked up Patrick O'Sullivan off waivers from Carolina yesterday. If you've been around a few years, you remember what a stud Sully was for the Aeros in 05-06 as a rookie with 93 points. Since then, however, his career hasn't really lived up to expectations.
The current plan is for him to start with the Wild, which he will do tonight as #19, but certainly he seems to be looked at as a temporary fix for the loss of Guillaume Latendresse to hip and sports hernia surgery.
There's always a chance he could get waived down to Houston if things don't work out up there or the needs change. He's on a 2-way deal and would only have to pass through waivers.
Tonight, the Aeros are in Cedar Park and sit two spots ahead of the Stars, but the Stars have 4 games in hand. So it's important for the Aeros to keep the pedal to the floor on this team, particularly while ubergoalie Brent Krahn is out with an undisclosed lower body injury.
Then they're back home Friday and Saturday vs. San Antonio and Milwaukee respectively.
If we don't post again before tomorrow, Happy Thanksgiving! I know I'll be giving a word of thanks for the Aeros being out of the basement. So much more fun to cover a happy team! Heck, it's just a lot more fun to watch a happy team.
Anyway, be well and safe travels to anybody hitting the roads.
Raise your hand if you watched the first 58 minutes of tonight's game and thought, "Ugh. No way we get outta here with a win."
My hand is up. It was a tough game to watch most of the way. Kludgey first goal from Anton, who woke up and was very good the rest of the way. Texas' goalie, Beskorowany, was making his AHL debut and looked nervous at times, but at 6'5" is simply so big, it was just difficult to score on him.
Credit to Andrew, he called the game winner by Jarod Palmer with a minute and a half to spare. Palmer found a little open space just outside the mass of bodies in front of the crease, Spurgeon got it on his stick and boom. Bob's your uncle. That sucker was rattling the water bottle.
With John out of town, you're not getting a big mess of quotes, but I'll give you the gist of Yeo's post-game chat with us. He was really pleased with how the team responded to adversity. Tough travel schedule with 3 games in 48 hours is a grind of the highest order.
You don't want to make excuses about that kind of thing, but they're humans and it does have an effect. After a long stretch of Texas hammering away in the Aeros, maybe you noticed Khudobin just stay on one knee for as long as the play was safely away from him.
I was worried he was hurt at first and then I put on my goalie brain and realized, the dude is bound to have some seriously tired legs and even without tired legs, that was a tough stretch. Okay kid, catch your breath.
Yeo gave Anton a lot of credit tonight for standing on his head when the team wasn't up to the task. And that favor was paid back, in particular a great save by Spurgeon as the puck danced on the goal line behind Khudobin.
We talked to Palmer, too, who said the team is really playing for each other and helping each other out and everyone is taking their turns pulling the load. Said the attitude in the room is really positive and chemistry continues to build.
We're pretending I didn't ask him how surprised he is to be at the top of the scoring chart for the Aeros. But it suffices to say he's "very surprised" to be there but gave all the credit to his linemates who create great chances for him. I'm guessing most every guy in the top 10 scorers on the team would say the same and it wouldn't be the usual hockey player cliche speak. It really does seem to be a lot of teamwork that makes the goals happen.
And all superstitiousness aside, the pressure at the top isn't that heavy because the top scorers all only have a point or two between them. This team scores by committee and whether it's DiSalvatore or Noreau or Palmer or whoever at the top, it's not particularly relevant in the grand scheme of things. It will likely change in a game or two anyway.
But for a rookie from whom we didn't really know what to expect, what a nice surprise!
Speaking of nice surprises, Yeo said Kassian has been one for him. He said he didn't know much about him when the season started but he had nothing but good things to say tonight. He added that the fight fired the boys up as much as Anton's great play did, and that guys all feel a little bigger when he's in the line-up (which he always is, and that's not something most enforcers can say... I think he's a lot more than that to this team now).
I kinda feel bad that Warren Peters didn't get a star tonight, so I'm throwing him the honorary 4th star. He's really become the hub around which a lot of good things happen on the ice and probably doesn't get enough outright credit for it. But it's not going unnoticed.
There's probably more to say, but dude, I'm dog tired. :)
I didn't see the game and really, when you talk about a loss, what can you say if you haven't seen it?
I know Khudobin was pulled midway through the game after allowing the third goal in 9 shots.
I know Michael Ouzas, the emergency back up goalie, got his first career AHL minutes in relief.
I know the Aeros avoided a bigger embarrassment by putting two goals in in garbage time.
I know Chicago is pretty happy to get their slump busted. Who isn't?
But whatever. The beauty of pro hockey is that redemption, a chance to do better, is around every corner. And today, with a bevy of dogs in the stands, the Aeros have a chance to put some bite behind their bark against the Stars. (And per the tweet that just came across, they might get to do it with Marco Scandella back in the line-up as the Wild have sent him down.)
To whet your appetite, we've got some fantastic pics courtesy of Chris "Hoss" Jerina, who went to the game last night in Chi-town.
My absolute favorite, because the whole "goalie's cross paths as one gets pulled" can be so awkward, and I think he captured that perfectly here.
Ouzas allowed 2 of 15 shots, so better than Khudobin and not bad for coming in cold to his first AHL game.
I don't know what happened to him, but here's DiSalvatore having an "I should have been an accountant" moment and trainer Jody Green tending to him.
Something about this shot I just love. Maybe because I have a special place in my heart for trainers. So much crazy shit happens in hockey and the boys put their bodies on the line and just have to trust that the trainer will take care of them. It's a relationship in the locker room that you don't hear much about, which naturally means I'm interested in it.
Here's Gillies' goal at 12:33 in the third:
And here's Kalus admiring his own handiwork at 15:28:
And here's a lady who mistakenly thinks an uprising is afoot. Don't worry, ma'am.
On to less happy things, this kinda sums it up. Mama said there'd be days like this....
Wooo! Look at the 'stache on Gillies! Nice upper lip work there, kiddo.
Anybody know what's depicted on Ouzas' mask here? Pretty neat paint job. (Thanks to reader Steven... it's a Hangover theme... the movie, not the condition. Knew I should know it, but couldn't place the "short guy"... oh yeah, the baby.)
Anyway, you can see the rest of them as there are a bunch of nice ones, over here. Many thanks for the shots, Chris.
Oh, and bonus video from Binghamton for my fellow Brusty fans:
For those of you wondering why Josh Tordjman wasn't brought up yesterday instead of Mike Ouzas, who was signed to a PTO, the answer is simple: Tordjman is serving a 6-game suspension for physical abuse of an official.
And my apology for not following the ECHL Transaction wire more carefully.
And here is a good recap of what happened.
Sounds like he actually has a good beef, but you can't throw your stick.
After Wednesday miscalculation, I'm afraid to say this was a good game. Is 5-0 good enough? :) Just teasing, Coach.
Honestly, AHL Live was jacked up so I saw about 4 minutes of the game total and that was in 15 second bursts. So let's do something different and look at this game by the numbers:
6 - Career shutouts for Anton Khudobin
91 - Penalty minutes in this game
1st - Aeros penalty kill ranking across the league
24th - Aeros power play ranking across the league
11 - Fighting majors + Roughing penalties tonight
1 - Emergency back-up goalie, Michael Ouzas (Matt Hackett has been called away on family matters)
2 - Potential concussions. Spurgeon was hit nastily from behind at the end of the second period by Derek Meech. He returned to the game was is okay as far as we know, but Meech got 5 minutes and a game misconduct for checking from behind. Then Joel Broda got a boarding penalty. Not actually sure if there was a brain-collision there but they don't usually give boarding penalties for shoulder ouchies.
3 - Points for Noreau (2 g, 1 a) as well as for DiSalvatore (1 g, 2 a)
3 - Games in Aeros current win streak
4 - Number of teams in the West Division tied at 21 points (including the Aeros, who are at the bottom with a 0.583 win percentage)
4 - Number of goals Spurgeon was on the ice for, even though he only got one point. Shame 3 of them were PP goals or he'd have a whopping +4.
#19 - Palmer leads the team in scoring and +/- with 11 points and a +7. He also ranks 15th in the league in rookie scoring.
6 - Number of points Noreau has in the last 3 games.
1 - Assists for Brusty vs. Hershey tonight. Just saying.
Back at it tomorrow night against Chicago. We'll keep you posted on the goalie situation as we know more. Khudobin CAN play 3 days in a row but it's certainly not ideal.
No, no, I am not talking about that little bit of extra love around your waist. There is no way I will be forgetting mine this weekend ... Sunday is "bring your dog to the rink" day at Toyota Center, an event that has become an annual affair at several of the sporting events around town.
The first time I attended one, an Aeros game in San Antonio two seasons ago, I thought it was a dumb idea. But the animals were well-behaved and it really did bring out a few fans that had never been to a game before. As to how many of those would come back sans their "best friend," I don't know.
But what can it hurt? The Sunday games are on the lower end of the attendance chart, and the building can more than accommodate. Fox 26 News did a piece in advance of this event recently. Here is the clip from that.
My friend Megan, with whom I have worked for the last five years, has never been to an Aeros game. She went to Amerks games in Rochester all the time as a teenager, but is too busy to make the trip over. She also lives far north of the city, and enjoys spending her free time with the dogs.
I sent her a link about bringing her dog to the game, and she already has a ticket ... that is a win for the Aeros, and that is a win for the rest of us who want as many people as possible to enjoy the game of hockey.
So it's about midway through the third period tonight, and I remember that there's a NFL game tomorrow night, which means that I have to get my lineup submitted for one of my fantasy leagues that demands the roster be submitted the night before the game. So I start grab my iPhone and I start working on that. Heather hits me in the arm and tells me I'm missing a good game.
Cut to post game, and we're down there waiting for Coach Yeo, and Heather is still going on about how she couldn't understand how I could work on my fantasy football lineup while I was missing a good game. And out comes Yeo and guess what he starts with: "It might have been our worst game of the year, to be honest with you. Right from the start you could tell. I think the energy level wasn’t where it needed to be."
Now if you didn't see the game, and you were going only by Yeo, you would think the Aeros got blown out. But then you think on Heather's comment and realize that, with 14 minutes left in the game, the Aeros were up 3-0, and the Wolves were doing their best impersonation of the Aeros from last season. The Aeros went on to get to the 3-2 win, and were never really challenged. So I tend to think both Heather and Yeo were exaggerating just a bit.
Truth was the Aeros didn't play that exceptional of a game, but it definitely didn't look like they were playing the worst game of the season. So, the hail of bullets:
1. There seems to be a pattern to the Aeros this season. They come out aggressively and take a lead, then they just start half-assing it and do everything they can to lose the game.
2. "I think we weren’t that bad to start, then we got the lead and then we started to get too cute," Yeo said.
3. Good game by Petr Kalus. He got the game's second goal, and it was his work on the boards digging for the puck that set-up the team's third and final goal. That's why he was the number one star.
4. In a change of pace, I was the one arguing for Matt Hackett to get one of the three stars. Normally Heather argues for the goalies, but she was falling all over herself praising Kalus and making sure he wasn't ignored.
5. Here's some more Yeo comments: "That was ugly [the game]," he said. "It was difficult to snap ourselves out of. To be honest with you, it was game that I was worried about yesterday. I tried to address it…We had an average practice yesterday, I felt, and kind of carried it in today. It’s okay – there’s going to be times when you’re energy level’s not there, it’s not 100-percent, but you have to upgrade in other departments, and I felt our execution within our system was not very good. It led to too many odd-man rushes. I thought our puck management was poor.'
6. Yeah, hard to believe the Aeros won the game.
7. I kept wondering why the breaks were so long, then I remembered the Aeros were playing Chicago, which meant that the game was on TV.
8. Can anybody remember when the Wolves were so bad?
9. Was I the only one who heard it announced in the arena that the starting center tonight was Colton McMillan?
10. Andrew had to head out to Chicago at the last minute, so Heather was handling his Chronicle story. And she basically had the thing written and just needed a celebratory quote from Yeo to wrap it up. You should have seen the expression on her face when Yeo started talking about this being the team's worst game of the season. I wonder if she's done with the re-write, yet?
To play us out, in honor of the Wolves, and in honor of their playing the exact opposite of this song's title, here's Duran Duran -- the band so nice they named it twice -- with "Hungry Like The Wolf."
I think the Aeros made a good move when they signed veteran defenseman Bryce Lampman to a PTO Tuesday. What can it hurt? While it may take him awhile to get going, he should be servicable sooner vs. later assuming the guy has been working out.
Lampman (pictured right in a photo by our boy Chris Jerina) is a solid two-way guy with a heavy shot that should definitely help out on the power play. He was a fourth-round pick by the Rangers and has appeared in 400 professional games, registering 117 points (33-84-117) and 298 penalty minutes (PIM). The 6-foot-1, 201-pound defenseman played in 10 NHL games, all with New York, recording two penalty minutes over three seasons.
Lampman, 28, played in 57 games for the Peoria Rivermen last season and collected 20 points (7-13-20) along with 22 penalty minutes (PIM).
Aeros head coach Mike Yeo said Lampman would not be out there tonight, but could be "maybe this weekend."
"(We) want to give him a fair shot to get into game shape and get his timing," said Yeo.
Is it a trap?
Tonight is a quick home game, and then it is back on the road for two more in the Midwest.
There are several trap games on the schedule this year, and this is one of them. First game home after a long trip and couple that with a quick turnaround; these are the tough games ... hard games to win. To be fair, Sunday was one of those trap games, too. Last game of a long trip? That is a situation that many coaches know poses a big challenge to the group. They stepped up, battled hard and hit one out of the park in that game. Let's see if they can go 2-for-2.
Scouting the Wolves
Man, oh man ... what have we here? These impostors dressing as the Chicago Wolves have dropped six in a row and are coming off quite the shellacking in Cedar Park last night. They have not scored more than two goals in any of those losses, and they are THE worst team in the West. They had an off year a few years ago, but I don't think I have ever seen them in last place.
They still have a decent offense, but they have allowed a Conference-high 66 goals in 17 games. That works out to 3.88 per game, and that is just not going to cut it (even in the ECHL). A win tonight, and the Aeros are back to two games over .500 for the first time since they were 2-0 after the OT win at Oklahoma City.
I am not going to make a prediction on this one, as I don't really have a gut feeling one way or the other. If they Wolves have yet to hit rock bottom, the Aeros have to hope that doesn't happen for two or three more games. If so, this could be a break out game for Krog, Haydar and company.
So, I posted these tweets this afternoon as I was preparing for the Aeros second game in as many days against Peoria:
Well, Jake Allen finally looked not only human but rookie human (and was pulled for Ben Bishop after the 4th goal), and the Aeros found their goal sticks during the second period and converted on a bunch of those "almost" chances for a 5-2 win. You're welcome for the reverse karma.
This would be a feat in and of itself, as all the goals were scored in the second period (and I mean ALL the goals, for both teams) and it was the best period for the Aeros this season. Further, it was the largest margin of victory for the Aeros since they beat OKC 6-1 in the first game of the season.
But it's even bigger after Peoria shut the Aeros out Saturday 3-0. I can't comment on that game too much because I only saw part of it before I had to go practice my own lousy goaltending. What I saw, the effort seemed to be there, just not the finish. However, our friend Chris Jerina was there and has pictures for us! I'll put them in a separate post after I finish this. There are some nice ones.
The camera loves Kris Fredheim. Just sayin'.
Anyway, lots of guys got points tonight. Noreau took home the first star for his goal and 2 assists. McMillan and Spurgeon both got a goal and assist each (first pro goal for Spurgeon). You can see the rest of the score sheet here.
Interestingly, Peters and McMillan got a goal EXACTLY like they did a few games ago at home. Beautiful 2 on 1 rush while shorthanded, a pass from Peters, and McMillan just gets a stick on it and pots it. Really nice.
Another notable: The Aeros are second in the league on the Penalty Kill, trailing only OKC.
Anyway, a nice one for the Aeros as they head home for their first meeting with Chicago this season. I think you can pretty much set your watch to the Aeros getting a point if they score first.
Enough words. Let's look at pictures.... coming up...
Maybe I misunderstood Aero Joe tonight, but he said something at the end of his broadcast that really rubbed me the wrong way tonight.
In case you missed Team Three Stooges blew another two-goal third period lead. The formula is rather impressive. Score first, score again and then figure out how not to do what other hockey teams have been successful at doing for, I don't know, the last 50-75 years. And Joe O'Donnell said something to the effect of "the Aeros are probably leaving the rink tonight again feeling like they should have come away with two points."
I totally disagree. I think they got exactly what they deserved tonight. Anton bailed them out many times in the third period and then, on a fluky shot from center ice, the Heat tied it. Hey, thems are the bounces. But to think they actually deserved an extra point in the standings is ludicrous. You can't think that when anytime you get more than two goals on the board it's an absolute fluke.
But maybe I am just extra cranky tonight because it's 12:15 or whatever. What do you think? Do you think the Aeros deserved to win? Maybe Joe meant this, though: "They Aeros are going to walk out of the rink tonight knowing they should have had two points tonight, but they blew it."
See, that is what he left out that he probably can't say: They. Blew. It.
Two weeks ago, when they blew a third period lead against Lake Erie, Mike Yeo said enough is enough. Then they blew another third period lead against Toronto, but still found a way to win.
Then, after beating OKC on the road, they blow two straight third period leads against what amounts to a very offensively weak Abbotsford team.
Yeo said enough is enough four games ago, yet they have done the same thing three of the four games since then. They have points in ALL of those games, but these missed points will haunt them in April.
It will be interesting to see how they close up the road trip. Sunday is an automatic loss, but maybe they find a way to rebound in the Saturday game against the Rivermen.
And maybe this team finds some leadership sometime between Western Canada and Peoria. Because right now they have a bit fat zero in that department.
Flying high on a 4 game win streak, the Aeros went into Abbotsford last night and almost kept it alive. If not for a scrambly goal in the final 30 seconds with Heat goalie Leland Irving on the bench for the extra attacker, it would likely have stretched to 5 games.
Or, if the referee hadn't waived off a goal by Jamie Fraser early in the third period, it would likely have stretched to 5 games.
I'm never one to blame the refs. Shit happens to both teams all the time and I figure in the grand scheme of things, it ends up a wash. Every team gets screwed and every team gets lucky, so there's no sense in being a ref hater.
But it does suck when it comes down to a call that, by every account I heard, was incorrect and left the door open for a comeback. Here's how I understood it to happen:
Irving came out almost to the faceoff dot to play the puck up the boards. He shot the puck but it didn't clear the zone. Matt Kassian was coming in to try and intercept Irving's shot, he missed, but then changed direction to get in position by the net when the puck was obviously staying in the zone.
Somehow in the process of Irving heading back to his net and Kass heading for the net, he and Irving, who was still well out of his crease, collided. Meanwhile, Jamie Fraser got the pass off the boards and one-timed it into the empty net.
The refs said it was goalie intereference, waived off the goal, AND threw an angry Kassian in the box for 2 minutes.
Now... I have a soft spot for refs because they carry a lot of power in terms of protecting goalies. But in this case, if the goalie is coming out to play the puck and screws it up... well... too bad.
So, I dunno. I was driving home from my drop-in (which I rocked, TYVM) and only heard Joe's description and then asked about it in the AHL Live chat when I got home. The consensus was definitely that it was a lousy call and incredible luck for Abby.
Maybe it earns the Aeros a make-up call tonight, but it's hard to make up for a goal waived off erroneously.
Anyway, the Heat went on to win it in the shootout. The Aeros didn't put one single shootout shot on the net last night. No joke. Daoust came closest, hitting a post, but he faked Irving out so well that he had half the net open, so that sorta double sucked.
Hackett stopped 2 of 4 in the shootout and played well in regulation, to which the 2-2 game somewhat attests.
BTW, all 4 goals came during a man advantage. Three power play goals and one pulled goalie goal. And DiSalvatore and Scandella had the helpers on both Aeros goals, the first from Almond and the second from Daoust.
And with the loser point, the Aeros moved up another spot in the division to 5th place. Get your "We're Number 5!" chant on...
In other news, Jared Spurgeon was injured in practice yesterday morning when McMillan accidentally got a stick up on him, according to Joe. So he was out of the game last night.
Russo also reported yesterday that Chad Rau is out with a broken jaw and is expected to return in early December. Cuma is out with a stress fracture in his foot. Having suffered through the nightmare of Brusty's foot troubles, I don't feel very good about that, but hopefully he'll be back on the ice sooner than later.
Also, the Aeros assigned Rylan Kaip back to Bakersfield yesterday.
The Aeros won their 4th in a row tonight in Oklahoma City with a 4-2 final. I almost don't want to draw anyone's attention to it for fear of scaring the streak off... or at least for fear of scaring off whatever is making it happen.
I didn't get to watch the game and the archive isn't available yet, but clearly Jarod Palmer is settling in nicely now. He got assists on the first two goals and then scored the game winner on the power play, his first goal of the season. An awfully big game for his young pro career. All this after turning Juicy Rynnas inside out in the shootout Friday night.
Also worth noting, Palmer is +5, the best +/- on the team. At the bottom? DiSalvatore and Bagnall both a -6.
Earl got the insurance goal tonight and now he and Palmer lead the team in scoring. Carson McMillan continues to produce as well, scoring the second goal of the night. Noreau continues his 3 game point streak with the assist on Earl's goal.
And congrats to Brock McBride, who got the first goal of the game and is clearly busting his hump trying to stick here. Guy plays hard, so it's good to see him rewarded.
There was lots of bellyaching Friday night about how the Aeros won in spite of themselves. Not sure how tonight's game compared in that regard but reading the OKC paper, it sounds like the Barons weren't thrilled with the way they played. So I dunno if it was a matter of OKC giving it away or the Aeros just being hot right now.
Either way, a dubya's a dubya, the Aeros are out of the division basement (Texas and Rockford are below them now), and away they go to Abby for games Monday and Tuesday night.
BTW, I'm not sure if they're joining the team (dunno why they wouldn't unless there's a passport issue or something), but Cody Almond and Matt Kassian were reassigned to Houston after tonight's Wild game in Columbus. If the guys they're replacing aren't better when they return from a 4 day break, they (or someone) could go back up.
Watching the archive now. Just figured I'd describe the goals.
HOU1 - Barons turn it over in Houston's end and Palmer's pass up ice catches McBride on a "jailbreak" as Joe called it. Great description. He was just hauling up the ice and went right to the net with two Barons trailing. Beauty.
HOU2 - Palmer rims it around to Kalus as the Aeros enter the offensive zone. Kalus works it down behind the net and makes a quick pass from the edge of the net to McMillan who's just waiting in the weeds and one-times it over Deslauriers, who can't react in time.
OKC1 - Bad camera angle, but sounds like OKC won a face off in the Aeros end and passed up to the point who just ripped it past Khudobin.
HOU3 - :36 into the third period, on a 5 on 4 PP, Daoust skates in on Deslauriers and takes a shot that hits JDD's pad but he can't control the rebound. Palmer gets a stick on it in the scramble and punches it in.
HOU4 - Similar to the Palmer goal, Peters was behind the net and passes it out front where Earl is parked weak side and just slams it home.
OKC2 - And because it was working for Houston, OKC finally got the same kind of goal. One timer into the low slot that just got jammed in past Anton in a scramble.
Wow. Did the Aeros come through for me and correct my crummy day yesterday or what? Thanks, boys. I'm feeling inspired again. :)
Andrew summed the game up better than I could (as usual) because I really got fixated on Anton Khudobin last night. His performance had all the elements that a goalie junkie like me loves in a game, and I wanted to give him his props here.
Sometimes goals look bad to the untrained eye when really they aren't that bad, but that first goal was bad. He tried to make the save on a high shot by letting the puck hit him while he was standing up, but he didn't quite get ahold of it. It fell to the ice and by the time he found it, he couldn't get down and over before Toronto took a whack at it and put it in the net. Easy goal.
We all knew it was bad and he CLEARLY knew it by the way he reacted afterward. His body language was full of frustration.
I tweeted after that goal that it would be interesting to see how that goal affects the rest of his game. He used to be known as a goalie for whom a bad goal would open the floodgates. But tonight he showed the mental strength he's gained over the last few years as he's matured.
Something seemed a little different about Anton tonight though. Maybe it was that bad goal and he was playing with more determination? I wish I'd interviewed him after the game but I needed time to think about what I saw.
Anyway, he was playing with lots of emotion for whatever reason. The second goal wasn't even his fault. It was a hard shot that hit a shin pad on an Aero in front of him and deflected just a tad bit more than he could adjust for. He almost had it, but it sneaked under his left pad, I believe. And he visibly reacted to that goal, too, though not as strongly.
Then near the end of the game, he went all Hextall-slash on the back of a Toronto player's knees after a stoppage. I guess the guy ran him a little bit, but man, he whacked him hard. Either the officials didn't see it or they were cool with the goalie defending himself.
He faced 13 shots in the third and 7 in OT, both of which seem low to me. But perhaps the quality of the chances was so high, it just seemed like more shots. I'd give anything for clip of two unreal save on Nazem Kadri (who, if you're unfamiliar, was a Maple Leaf's #1 draft pick and has some unbelievably sick hands).
Anton's strength and flexibility just shone on the first save during OT as he stayed with Kadri all the way across the goal mouth, pretty much in the splits. I'm not sure how he got across, actually, unless his initial push had enough momentum to carry him in the full splits all the way beyond the other post. Kadri tried to lift the puck over Anton's outstretched leg pad, but Anton batted it down with his glove and covered it up as he was sliding across.
The other fantastic save, again on Kadri, who was first up in the shootout, was a similar move, but Anton caught the puck this time and somehow ended up going from full splits to being up on his skates. Like, physically, I can't fathom how he did that.
The guy is just spring-loaded. I've never seen anything like it. Not only was the strength and flexibility there, but reading the play, knowing exactly what Kadri wanted to do, pushing hard enough across to stay with him while tracking that puck into his glove, and then popping up to his skates from a full split? What the....
The more I think about it... I'm fanning myself and blushing again. Needless to say, it made up for that lousy first goal, no question.
Just a huge amount of compete from him last night. A big-hearted victory that he can be very proud of in spite of the stinker. Throw that out. The real test of a goaltender's mettle isn't whether he never lets in the odd bad goal. It's how he bounces back from a bad goal, a bad game, frustration.
And I'd say from last night's performance, he proved his mettle. Clutch Anton is back and the Aeros are lucky for that.
P.S. Just to turn this around a little bit, how good were the Aeros shooters last night, too? Shootouts happen at both ends, and I can't recall seeing a more successful shootout from an Aeros team in a long time. That had to give Anton a lot of confidence as well, to see that his back wasn't up against the wall. Good on Palmer, Sal, and Gillies for making Juicy Rynnas look silly.
BTW, here's a couple of articles on Cody Almond, who made his season debut in a win for the Wild last night. One from the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald.
The first period was their best first period (at home) of the season and I thought it was going to be a 5-1 win going away. Not so fast.
The second period was even, but that is when you started to see that Toronto was clawing its way back in the game. Instead of the Aeros going for the kill, the Marlies took it up a notch and the Aeros were unable to match.
The third period was a wreck, just as third periods have been a wreck at home for the first part of the season. The tying goal was a fluke, but Anton was the only reason the Marlies did not pick up two points in regulation.
I don't think I am the only one that has figured out the team just does not have a whole lot of team speed. But I was concerned that conditioning may have been a factor, so I asked Mike Yeo about that right after the game.
“This is not a conditioning thing. If there was a team that should have been tired coming into the third period, it was them. I know the conditioning with our guys is not an issue. It’s a mental thing. You can’t get comfortable. It’s not an easy thing to build. It takes time, and that is what winners do.
When you get up by two goals, you have to come with more urgency and you have to expect the other team is going to make a push. You have to be ready to be ready to match that desperation and you have to be committed to playing the same way."
To me, that was the key. When Toronto made its move, the Aeros didn't match and it cost them down the stretch.
Now what I do know is Mark Lemelin did not have a good night ... game got out of hand and Anton saved the day. He is the only reason the team went home happy Friday night.
I asked Yeo if Anton was the difference.
"Clearly he was the difference. Especially on some of those late penalty kills. He was huge for us. He really shut the door for us and his play in the shootout was awfully big"
Tonight, the Aeros will open their fourth week of the 2010-11 season, and to no ones surprise they are having a little trouble putting the puck in the net.
Based on the hard schedule they were "blessed" with out of the gate, I had them with one more win than they do now, so I don't think this team has over or underachieved by any stretch.
At 4-5-1-0, they are still very much in the division race and just about every one of their games came against the top talented teams in the Western Conference (San Antonio, Peoria and Oklahoma City).
Mike Yeo (pictured left in 1995) I think is doing an admirable job so far at the helm of team that does not have any sure-fire AHL superstars at his disposal. The players listen to him, they respect what he brings to the game, and they are fighting for every point. They've only had one truly pathetic game, and that was the 8-2 drubbing against OKC. They just gave up after make it 3-2 at one point.
Carson McMillan, Cody Almond, Marco Scandella and even Joel Broda have been fun to watch. Anton Khudobin, I think, has been solid even in defeat. Hackett, I'm afraid, needs a dose of steady playing time in the ECHL before we see him to return to his week 1 and 2 form. He literally stole win No. 2 for the Aeros, and has been merely pedestrian since then.
If he plays poorly on this trip to OKC, ABB and PEO, look for the Wild/Aeros to make a move. Josh Tordjman has been great in the ECHL and would provide a nice backup for Anton, who quite frankly needs to be playing four out of every five games. That way, he will be sharp *when* Backstrom gets hurt in MSP.
And yes, there have been tremendous disappointments so far. Max Noreau is not Max Noreau, Jon DiSalvatore can't seem to find the right chemistry with his linemates and has been held to just two or three points. And until Warren Peters kind of broke out last Sunday against Texas, he was the biggest disappointment of all.
We talked to him after they lost to Lake Erie, and he IS putting in the effort. He said he and his 'mates have just struggled putting it all together (with it being the chemistry and systems that have to work together for a team to be successful).
If the Aeros can get Noreau, Sal and Peters going, this team could be fun to watch. With the exception of that Lake Erie game, they have played very, very well with the lead and when scoring first. Problem is, they have to GET the lead to hold on to one. Noreau, Sal and Peters can make that happen ... and I think they will.
Peoria, I think, is still the best team in the division, with San Antonio a very close second. (I wonder if Jim Mill wishes he had been able to sign Beaudoin before Matt signed that one-year deal with Dallas.)
Oklahoma City is very talented, too, but the rest of the division will be a dog fight, and I truly believe the West will send five teams to the post season.
The odds-makers in Europe have Toronto as slight favorites tonight. I like Anton tonight, though, and I think he gives Mike Yeo a tough decision going into that game against Oklahoma City. I don't know what Coach is thinking, but Matt has played VERY well in OKC so far. We shall see, eh?
I was startled awake at 5 o'clock this morning from a dream that a black widow spider was jumping at me. And in the hour and a half I've been awake, my day has only gotten peachier.
So, here's hoping a depleted Aeros team can rescue the bad start to my day with a win over the Toronto Marlies tonight. That would be nice.
Just some updates to set the stage for tonight's international showdown:
Lots of injuries in Minnesota mean Wellman is still up. They sent Gillies back to Houston, but called up Matt Kassian in his place. And Cody Almond was the latest sacrifice to the NHL gods with a call-up yesterday.
This all kinda sucks for the Aeros. The Marlies are coming off a huge 6-1 win over San Antonio two nights ago. I was going to say they've been enjoying warm Texas weather for a few days, but really, it's been pretty cold since they got here, so.... neener.
That said, the Marlies are 3-6-0 at the bottom of the North division just like the Aeros are at the bottom of the West division, so it might actually end up being a really good match-up. Basement cat vs. Basement cat.
That said, I can't say when I've been happier about a guy making his NHL debut as Kassian will be doing tonight against Calgary. He just seems like one of the good guys to me. And he's been a good soldier for a lot of years in this organization. He's worked his way up the system, made improvements where he needed to in order to become a consistent contributor and not just a 3-minute-a-game enforcer.
I'm sure he sees the bold writing on the wall: That breed of hockey player is dying. You have to be able to play regular shifts now and contribute to the overall game.
And this call up is a nod to the effort he's put into rounding out his game. Here's an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune with some good quotes from him.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a couple of links from me to you. First is a little bit on Carson McMillan who already has 5 points in 10 games after having only 8 points in 56 games last year. It would certainly provide some unexpected offense if he were to keep up that pace.
Second, my Pro Hockey News piece came out this week giving a wrap-up of the last (or should I say first) 10 games. You guys already know all that stuff because you read T3I (and thank you for that) but just in case you can't get enough about the Aeros, give 'er a look.
The Aeros got the 4-2 win over the Texas Stars tonight, improving their record to 4-5-1-0 in the process. There was some good defensive play. Anton Khudobin gave up two goals, but seeing as how he faced nearly 40 shots, that's a pretty good average. So on with the hail of bullets.
1. Did someone at Toyota Center forget to pay the A/C bill? It was ridiculous how hot the arena was. It was uncomfortable in the stands, so I would hate to think of how miserable it was for the players.
2. Was that a nice pass by Warren Peters to Carson McMillan for that third goal, or what? McMillan gave all of the credit for the goal to Peters. But think about it, how many times have we seen an Aero whiff on a supposedly easy, can't miss shot like that? But McMillan buried the shot, so he deserves some credit as well.
3. Andrew called the Nate Prosser goal in the third period, the one that made it 4-2. He made a comment about Matt "Gretzky" Kassian with the assist before Prosser even had the puck off of the pass. I just wish he would give me the damn lottery numbers.
4. Kris Fredheim's goal in the first period was a rocket of a shot -- one of those Max Noreau-type things. It was also Fredheim's first professional goal.
5. Marco Scandella -- I don't really know what all to say. He made numerous good plays on the defensive end, and he even got an assist. I don't remember who we gave the stars to -- but I argued that Scandella deserved one for his defensive play.
6. Guess what, the Aeros are on a winning streak. Sure, it's only a two-game streak, but a streak has to start somewhere, right?
7. Mike Yeo said the team had a good weekend -- there will be quotes in the mothership tomorrow. The team might have lost to San Antonio on Friday night, but he liked the team's play in the first period that night, and he was encouraged by how the team worked through the heat, the third game in three days, and letting Texas tie the score to come on strong and win the game.
8. He was happy to get the home win, especially because he thought you, the fans, deserved the win for sticking with the team.
9. The team's not out of the woods. He's going to spend this week working on focus while continuing to work on their understanding of the offense.
10. I don't know about you, but maybe the Aeros should just start declining power play chances. I don't even think the Aeros were this bad on the power play last season, and they were bad last season. My solution is to just stick four guys down by the net and let Noreau fire away from the blue line. But that's probably why I'm not a coach.
11. Here's a stat that won't surprise you. The Aeros are 4-1-0-0 when they score the first goal. Of course, their primary problem this season has been just scoring a goal at any point.
12. The Dynamics "Where's Waldo" Halloween costumes just didn't work for me, though I kind of liked the glasses thing.
13. I want to apologize for the delay in getting this posted -- I'm working a temp job at the moment (hoping that it goes permanent) and I had to do some work for it when I got home, along with writing a story for the mothership.
14. That said, I won't be around for Friday's game with Toronto. I'll be covering the Houston Cougars/UCF Knights game at Roberstson Stadium for the mothership -- college football gets bigger readership numbers.
15. Things go better with a win, don't they?
16. Do something about the air conditioning. Please.
17. In honor of Halloween, here's a Craig Ferguson clip from Friday night -- I think he's one of the funniest guys on television.