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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Win Is A Win Is A Win, No Matter How Ugly It Is

It's the night before Halloween. There was a scary looking guy dressed up in a clown costume behind the glass. And the Aeros (6-1-0-3, 15 points) put on a frightening display of hockey. But in the end, they got the come-from-behind 5-3 win over the visiting Charlotte Checkers (6-3-1-0, 12 points).

And that's all that matters. Right?

Both the Aeros and Checkers were playing their third games in three nights, and it clearly showed in a first when both teams played sloppy and choppy. It was the type of first period where, if you were attending your first game ever, you would look at a friend and ask why it was they said hockey was so great. The teams seemed to lack focus, and just weren't getting much done.

The Aeros did have the 1-0 lead after one, though, despite being outshot 13-5, thanks to Jeff Taffe rescuing a turnover on an Aeros power play and hitting the top bar from just under the blue line. But then came the second period. A period of hockey so ugly that one would be forgiven for thinking they were stuck inside a horror movie.

The Aeros actually grabbed the 2-1 lead at the 10:53 mark of Kris Foucault deflected a Justin Fontaine shot into the goal. And then things fell apart as, beginning with a Tyler Cuma roughing call at the 13:09 mark, the Aeros spent the rest of the period on either 5-on-4 or 5-on-3 penalty kills.

The Aeros weren't the victims of bad officiating either. Every one of the five straight penalties they received over the last seven minutes of the second period was deserved and earned. And head coach John Torchetti had no problem with the officiating.

"We're doing it," he said. "We've got a 2-1 lead. We throw a punch. There's no reason for that. Then we take a slashing penalty in the neutral zone. They can't score there. We have to be mentally tough. And I don't see that yet."

Torchetti wasn't happy with the team's mental approach, and he wasn't willing to let the fact that the team was playing the third game in three nights serve as an excuse.

"They [Charlotte] were playing three-in-three," he said. "They looked pretty good. There's no excuses. You can't give an excuse when you're playing four playoff games in five nights. They are, too. That's where we've got to be mentally prepared in our minds."

As has become the norm for this Aeros squad, they saved the best for the third period, if you classify the best as skating harder and making shots. They were still committing stupid penalties, and had to fight off one last 5x3 penalty kill late in the third. The good news was the stupidity also got to Charlotte, and at one point, both teams were skating three-on-three thanks to penalties.

With the threat of another overtime quick approaching, Casey Wellman flew down the ice and appeared to bang a shot off the post with 2:15 left in the game -- the goal light momentarily went off -- but the refs, who were in good position, immediately waived it off. And Carson McMillan never stopped skating. He forced a Charlotte turnover and then slipped the puck between the legs of Charlotte goalie Mike Murphy just five seconds after the Wellman shot to put the Aeros up 4-3 with 2:10 left in the game.

"I just tried to get a stick on puck and keep the puck in zone," McMillan said. "It popped out of my stick, and I just tried to put it on net, and it found a hole and I couldn't be happier."

David McIntyre sealed the win for the Aeros when he got the empty-netter to make it 5-3 with just 52 seconds left.

And so ends another weekend of Aeros hockey. As bad as they played in the two games here at Toyota Center, they were still able to come away with five out of a possible six points. The entire six points would have been nice, but a for team that's not playing it's best hockey, one still has to be happy to escape with points because, at the end of the season, points gained at the start of the season are just as important as points gained at any other time.

That doesn't mean Torchetti's happy. And that doesn't mean he's not expecting this team to improve.

"When this team matures and understands what it's balance will be -- they'll be a godo hockey team," he said. "Right now, I think we're playing okay, but we still haven't played 60 minutes."

The Aeros return to action at Toyota Center next Sunday afternoon when they face the Toronto Marlies. Before that, they'll play the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland on Thursday night and the Hamilton Bulldogs in Hamilton on Friday.


Forecheck said...

Agree 100% with the title.

Well, I was happy to be leading after one, even though I thought Charlotte played maginally better in the first.

I have to disagree on some of the many, many penalty calls. The interference on Wellman was pure B.S. - Wellman was stopped and facing away from the Charlotte player who so convienently tripped over Casey's leg. Some of the other ones were ticky-tack stuff that wasn't being called both ways.
But I long ago stopped expecting to see competent officiating in the AHL. Like after the season we joined the league.

The guys do have a nice streak going, 10 points out of the last 12 possible. That's 0.833, people.

But like I said earlier, this could be a real crazy year, and the team that streaks out in front of the division in November could be in free-fall during January, and clawing back in during March. It all comes down to call-ups to the five parent clubs that failed to make the playoffs last season, and of course, injuries.

But so far, so good .... most nights.

John Royal said...

FC, I was referring to the 2nd period barrage of penalties. That was stupidity after stupidity after stupidity. The Wellman one was rather bizarre. Wellman stopped so as to stay onside, the Checkers player then ran into Wellman and Wellman, for some reason, was nailed for interference.

Forecheck said...

Understood, but some of the second period barage was pretty ticky-tack, and not called both ways.

Word verification "ikebenge" - when your benge has all sorts of gross stuff on it".

ICEVET said...

For fans who truly love the venerable Game of Hockey, Sunday's contest game was a bit painful to watch.

Assignment of two-referees to the last game of a 3-3 (for two "tired" teams) usually creates a "judgment and balance challenge" for officials. To be frank, Ian Croft (No 87) has not been kind to the Aeros over the past 2 years and followed FORM on Sunday, as he whistled most of the 20 penalty calls (for and against the Aeros).

That said, IMHO "competent Officiating" will always lie in the eyes of the beholder, and, with the speed of the Game, will always be perceived as less than perfect.

Go Aeros!!!

B2Bomber said...

I really miss going to the games this year. The wife is still unemployed and drawing unemployment. Joe does a great job of announcing on the radio and I haven't missed listening to a game yet. There was a glitch last weekend in Charlotte but I found the Checker's website and link to their broadcast.

Seems like the penalties in the second period were a little ticky-tacky by listening to Joe describe them. I'm glad the boys came back to get the win though.