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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1/15/11 -- Aeros v. Griffins -- The Barry Brust Who Edition?

How about those Houston Aeros? As Andrew mentioned, Mike Yeo didn't think this was his team's best game, but even not playing their best game, they pulled off the 2-1 win over Grand Rapids to move into tie, points wise for third place, while sitting in sole possession of fourth place. Who would have thought that possible during December?

I'll get into more stuff further below, but first, a little photo essay, if you don't mind. After the first period, I moved back up to the press box, and took my seat next to Heather. About midway through the period there was this play which I captured in these three photos. And I swear, Heather hasn't reacted like this about anything a goalie has done since Barry Brust was at the top of his game. She was just blown away by Josh Tordjman's play right here.

In that same period, Grand Rapids goalie Jordan Pearce made the save below on a Casey Wellman shot. With this save, Heather was rather "meh" and felt it was nothing special.

Now on to my bullet points and discussion of the game, with, I hope, some choice quotes and stats.

1. The game's first goal came off of the stick of Patrick O'Sullivan, playing his first game since his demotion to the AHL. As you can tell from my earlier post of photos of the goal, it was a thing of beauty.

After the game, Andrew asked if there was anybody on the team happier about the O'Sullivan than Jon DiSalvatore as playing on a line with O'Sullivan gives him a high-skills player to compliment his skills and draw defenders.I think the photo right below gives a good idea of just how excited DiSalvatore was to have O'Sullivan around. (This is just after the O'Sullivan goal.)
2. Yeo thinks O'Sullivan will be good for DiSalvatore:

"When you have a guy like that to compliment a guy like Jon DiSalvatore – now [DiSalvatore] becomes more of a threat," Yeo said. "Not only is he going to get the puck to Johnny in better spots and key situations, it takes the focus away from Johnny as well. It’s easier to get lost for a goal scorer like Johnny when all of the focus all of the sudden they’re sending two guys on Patrick down in the corner, and that means that someone’s going to be open in the high slot, like Johnny was a couple of times tonight."

3. One such time was on the DiSalvatore's power play goal -- the game-winner -- in the second period, which found DiSalvatore up in that slot and ready for the shot.

4. A quick note about that second goal. The score sheet still says the goal was scored by Cody Almond on a tip-in of DiSalvatore's shot. This was after the original ruling was that DiSalvatore got the goal. After more consideration and review, the goal is being given to DiSalvatore with teh ruling that the puck hit off of a Grand Rapids player and not Almond. But with the way things go, this could still change about 20 more times.

5. We asked DiSalvatore what a guy like O'Sullivan means to his game:

"It’s great….I played against him when he was here his rookie year. A very dynamic player. A very smart player. Just to even talk to him on the bench. His vision is great. His idea and approach to the game is great. I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the future with him."

6. We talked to Yeo and DiSalvatore, and I talked to Max Noreau, about the team's play the past month or so, especially after the Christmas break. DiSalvatore spoke about the team really buying into Yeo's system:

"Coach Yeo is stressing the importance of what it means to be a winner," he said. "The whole system, and every learning experience that we’ve had, has been geared towards that. It was a huge commitment for the guys to make this big push as this point in the season right now. We knew that either we have to make this push right now in this chunk of the season or we’re going to be the odd man out. With the way our division is, we can’t afford to give up any points on any given night. So I think it’s just a top to bottom team commitment that’s really pushed us."

And Noreau spoke of how the team bonded together when they were going through that stretch on the road in December:

"I think one of the big parts was we were on the road a lot. It was easy for us to make excuses on why we were losing or winning, but we put our heads down and went to work, and now we’re at home. It’s a lot easier to play. There’s no excuses anymore.

"It built character on the road when we were flying in on the day of the game, or busing in the night before, and we were getting those wins anyway. We were saying, when we’re rested, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be winning those games."

7. I spoke a bit to Noreau after the game about being named to the All Star team again, and what he's been doing to improve his game this year. You'll have to read about this over in the mothership on Monday. But let's just say that Darryl Sydor has really grabbed his attention.

8. The three stars for the game were 1) Jon DiSalvatore, 2) Josh Tordjman, and 3) Patrick O'Sullivan. I argued for O'Sullivan as the number one, and lost, because my comrades thought DiSalvatore had the better game and was everywhere on the ice.

9. But I based my opinion on this. I spent the first period down in the corner with the back-up goalie for Grand Rapids. And I saw what O'Sullivan's presence did to him, and I can't help but think the same thoughts were going through the head of Pearce.

Essentially, right after that goal, I heard about how unfair it was that they had to face O'Sullivan because he was too good to be in the AHL. There was just a kind of awe in his voice that they were facing someone this good. (For what it's worth, he was amazed that Ortmeyer was also on the Aeros).

10. The win was the fourth in the row for the team. That's the first time they've pulled that off since winning four in a row from October 30 to November 6. They've also won five of their last six, six of the last seven, and seven of their last 10 for what is, undoubtedly, their best streak of hockey this season.

11. The team's record is now 24-18-1-2 (51 points) and they sit alone in fourth place. That's the first time the Aeros have been in fourth place since November 26 when they were tied, points wise, with Milwaukee, but were in fifth place by percentage points.

As of now, however, they're tied, points wise, with San Antonio, for third place while sitting alone, percentage wise, in fourth. And, knowing where they were in December, the team is only three points after first place and could, conceivably, be in a tie for second place after Sunday's game with Grand Rapids.

12. For those who keep track of such things, the Aeros are now 20-6-0-2 when they score first. They lead the AHL in that category, having scored first now in 28 games.


Ms. Conduct said...

Bahhhh, neverrrrrrr! Brusty'll always be #1 in my heart and in my crease. ;)

Forecheck said...

1. That Sully-"Del Salvator"-almond line was something!

2. Sully's goal was wicked - I mean that guy has stick skills. I haven't seen a guy with stick skills like that since 2006....

3. The Aeros deserved the shortie scored on them. They quit playing after "Del Salvator's" goal, which is also the time they ran out of gas.

4. Big problem today - Team's fourth game in five nights, and Tordjman's third straight night in net. But given the circumstances, 6 points out of eight in this stretch is really an acomplishment, so don't worry if we get hammered Sunday.

5. I too am actually enjoying gogin to the games this season. Apart from the playoff run two seasons ago, I haven't been able to say that in a couple of years.

6. Note to arena announcer - the city is called "Grand RapidS", not "Grand Rapid" as you so often say. Yes, there is an "s" on the end of it.