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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aeros Embarrassed by Chicago, Lose 5-3

Okay, I know what the AHL website says, but seriously, I just watched the Aeros play tonight, and they did not look like a playoff team to me. They looked like a team that's been eliminated from the chase and just doesn't give a damn.

The Chicago Wolves took the 5-3 win tonight in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. They kicked the collective asses of the Aeros in every way imaginable. Matt Hackett was run midway through the second period -- not all entirely Hackett's fault as his defense and the penalty kill were non-existent, but he did lose his composure and Max Noreau and Warren Peters were not able to calm him down though they tried at various points during the game.

Mike Yeo was not very happy after the game. Yeo's usually mild and somewhat measured with his words after games (at least compared to Kevin Constantine), but despite his best efforts, his anger and disappointment with his team were evident.

So I figured, instead of me sitting here and describing what happened, why not just let Yeo do it. So...

ON THE TEAM'S HORRENDOUS EFFORT

"We had a handful of guys that were ready to battle the right way, but we had way too many that weren’t. I don’t think we put three good plays in a row together because of that. If one guy goes out and he’s working hard, and they’ve got five guys on the ice every time, you’re not going to be too successful. I just chalk that one up to not being ready to battle, not being ready to play with the type of urgency you need in a hockey game, especially against a team that’s playing for their playoff lives right now, and they showed it tonight."

HANGOVER FROM HAVING CLINCHED A PLAYOFF SPOT

"We were afraid of it, and we talked about it, but I said in the coach’s room before the game, I’m anxious to see how we come out tonight because your fear is we’re going to do exactly as we did. Having said that, we have to understand that we have things to play for. Just because there’s an “x” besides our name doesn’t mean all is good and right.

"It would have been nice to win this game and to go into Milwaukee and have the chance to play for first place. We’ve got to make sure we win hockey games to give ourselves a chance at home ice advantage. For me, again, the biggest thing is, I don’t want to keep playing hockey games like this and then try to flip a switch once the playoffs come. And that’s something the players have to understand. I’ve got to keep saying it, but at some point they’re going to have to believe me and start taking action or else we’re going to have to put it to test in the playoffs."


CONTINUED AWFUL PLAY OF DEFENSE AND PENALTY KILL

"Brutal. First of all, we’re taking way too many penalties. We talk about it before the game then we go out and take three straight penalties to start the game against a team, you give them power plays, they get into the game, they feel good about themselves, and I think we’re taking bad penalties, too. We’re taking lazy penalties. We’re not moving our feet. We’re hooking guys. We’re holding guys. We’re not going back for pucks. We’re slow on pucks. We’re just taking undisciplined penalties. That’s got to stop.

"Defensively it’s not even good enough. It’s not even close to being good enough right now. We’re giving up – what, have we given up 14 goals in the last three games, for a team that usually – pretty seldom gives up two in a game. It’s just a matter of commitment, of urgency, of battle level. Obviously the penalty killing is going to have to pick it up big time."


IS THIS A WAKE UP CALL

"It’s going to be interesting. We’ve been able to push that button a lot this year, but again, if it doesn’t come from within, if the players don’t see it as – if they don’t see a reason for us to start playing hard before the playoffs come, then it’s going to be more of this. More of this. And maybe we go hard tomorrow, and Saturday it’s the same thing. I really hope that that’s not the case.


"If we keep going like this, one good game, one bad game, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose in the first round of the playoffs, but it – you don’t set yourself up to give yourselves the best chance, which is what we want to do."


MISCELLANEOUS NOTES AND COMMENTS

1. The return of Matt Kassian to the lineup can't come soon enough. It's obvious that the rest of the division has figured out that the Aeros don't have an enforcer, and the play is getting really physical. Pascal Morency will fight, but he just doesn't have that physical ability to make a person hurt that Kassian does.

2. That said, Yeo told us that Kassian was being checked out by the doctors tonight, and if all goes well, he'll be playing with the team this weekend. He is definitely making the trip.

3. Nate Prosser lost some teeth when he got creamed in the first period, and he wore a cage over his face after he returned to action.

4. Forecheck, this is a note from me to you. I have tended to disagree with you about the officiating in the AHL. My thinking has been that you've got to expect some uneven officiating in a developmental league. But that said...my god, is there nobody in the AHL that knows how to officiate a game? I thought the crap I saw over the weekend was bad, but Jamie Koharski lost control of this game as soon as the puck was dropped to start the game, and he never made any attempt to regain control.

Yes, I like physical games, and yes, I like games that don't have a lot of penalties, but damn, this game tonight wasn't just physical, it was one team that was allowed to beat the crap out of another team without any fear of penalty.

5. Speaking of which, just what does it say about Jeff Penner's game tonight that he was called for three penalties in the first period? Do you know how hard it is to get Koharski to blow a whistle? But those penalties were so blatantly obvious that he had no choice but to send Penner to the box.

6. Mr. Hackett. I understand your displeasure with your defense, and with the officiating -- both have been sorely lacking recently. May I suggest you contact a family law attorney and see if there is someway you can sue for spousal support because they sure appear to have abandoned you.

7. If Robbie Earl, Chad Rau, and Jarrod Palmer don't show up tonight, just how bad is the final score?

8. If this is the first Aeros game you've attended this year, are you asking yourself how it was that the Aeros were able to win 44 games this season?

Max Noreau Named first-team AHL All Star

There have been several times this year when the three of us in the press box would have a 5-minute discussion on what is wrong with Max Noreau this year. I kid you not, we all have thought that at least one time this season.

Silly us, right?

But the offensive defenseman continues to impress, put up the points and make a very good case as to why he will sign with the parent club of the Manitoba Moose, Chicago Wolves or Hartford Wolf Pack sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Today, the AHL released their 2010-11 AHL All-Star teams, and yep, Noreau is on that list.
He is on their first-team in fact, and if they announce this tonight at the Aeros game, there better be a big cheer. Noreau is one of the best Aeros I have ever had the pleasure to cover,all in terms of his game, skill-set for his position at this level, and the gentleman-ly way he interacts with the coaches, fans and least importantly, the media.

Congrats Max! Below is a copy of the AHL press release from moments ago.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2011


2010-11 AHL ALL-STAR TEAMS ANNOUNCED


SPRINGFIELD, Mass.
... The American Hockey League announced today the 2010-11 AHL First and Second All-Star Teams, as voted by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the league’s 30 member cities.

2010-11 AHL First All-Star Team

G - Brad Thiessen, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (42gp, 32-7-1, 1.88gaa, .924sv%, 7so)
D - Marc-Andre Gragnani, Portland Pirates (63gp, 12+48=60pts., +22, 25 PP pts.)
D - Maxim Noreau, Houston Aeros (75gp, 10+43=53pts., 32 PP pts.)
LW - Alexandre Giroux, Oklahoma City Barons (66gp, 30+41=71pts., 14 PPG, 7 GWG)
C - Corey Locke, Binghamton Senators (66gp, 21+64=85pts., +15, 4 GWG)
RW - Mark Mancari, Portland Pirates (56gp, 32+32=64pts., +19, 4 GWG)

2010-11 AHL Second All-Star Team

G - Curtis Sanford, Hamilton Bulldogs (40gp, 22-13-2, 1.93gaa, .930sv%, 5so)
D - Andre Benoit, Binghamton Senators (70gp, 10+43=53pts., 24 PP pts.)
D - Viatcheslav Voynov, Manchester Monarchs (71gp, 13+33=46pts., +19, 6 PPG)
LW - Nigel Dawes, Hamilton Bulldogs (60gp, 38+24=62pts., +11, 9 PPG)
C - Keith Aucoin, Hershey Bears (49gp, 17+50=67pts., +12, 6 GWG)
RW - Darren Haydar, Chicago Wolves (71gp, 25+43=68pts., +9, 4 GWG)

Each All-Star Team member will receive a custom designed crystal award in recognition of his selection to the 2010-11 AHL First and Second All-Star Teams.


2010-11 AHL First All-Star Team

Brad Thiessen
, Goaltender (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins):
Second-year pro Brad Thiessen began his season with eight consecutive victories and has never looked back en route to amassing an AHL-high 32 wins (32-7-1) and a top-ranked 1.88 goals-against average through 42 appearances for the league-leading Penguins. A native of Aldergrove, B.C., the 25-year-old Thiessen is tied for the AHL lead with seven shutouts, ranks seventh in save percentage (.924), and has not lost back-to-back appearances all season long. He could become the first AHL goaltender to record more than 30 wins and fewer than 10 losses since Hartford’s Jason LaBarbera in 2003-04 (34-9-9).

Marc-Andre Gragnani
, Defenseman (Portland Pirates):
Coming off the least productive season of his career in 2009-10, fourth-year pro Marc-Andre Gragnani has bounced back in a big way to lead all AHL defensemen in assists (48) and points (60) while producing a plus-22 rating in 63 games for Portland. A native of Montreal, Gragnani is averaging better than a point per game since the calendar turned to 2011, including a 20-point showing (3-17-20) during the month of March. The 24-year-old has also appeared in four NHL games with Buffalo this season and earned his first NHL point with an assist on the game-winning goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the N.Y. Rangers.

Maxim Noreau
, Defenseman (Houston Aeros):
Montreal native Maxim Noreau has followed up a strong 2009-10 campaign with an even better showing in 2010-11, establishing career highs in assists (43) and points (53), both of which are tied for second among AHL rearguards. Noreau leads all defensemen in power-play assists (26) and points (32) along with total shots on goal (215), and he has recorded multiple points on 15 occasions this season. A Second Team AHL All-Star a year ago, Noreau has increased his point production in each of his four seasons with the Aeros.

Alexandre Giroux
, Left Wing (Oklahoma City Barons):
After back-to-back goal-scoring titles and Calder Cups in Hershey, Alexandre Giroux joined the Edmonton organization last summer and nabbed his seventh consecutive 30-goal season, tying a record held by AHL Hall of Famer Dick Gamble. The Quebec City native also ranks second in the AHL with 71 points in 66 games for Oklahoma City, and is tied for the league lead with seven game-winning goals. Currently 10th in AHL history in goals (338), Giroux, who also has a goal and an assist in eight games with the Oilers this season, has earned his third straight First All-Star Team nod, a feat accomplished by only two other forwards in AHL history (LW Pete Leswick 1948-50, C Art Stratton 1963-65).

Corey Locke
, Center (Binghamton Senators):
Leading a different team in scoring for the fourth consecutive season (Hamilton, Houston, Hartford, Binghamton), Corey Locke has sat atop the AHL scoring race virtually wire-to-wire and has matched a career high with 85 points in 66 games for the Senators, including a personal-best 64 assists. A Toronto native, Locke shows 21 goals – his fifth straight 20-goal season – and a league-high 30 of his 64 helpers have come on Binghamton’s top-ranked power play (22.1 percent). The 26-year-old Locke, a 2007 Calder Cup champion with Hamilton and a Second Team All-Star in 2009-10 , has authored scoring streaks of seven, nine and 12 games this season and earned his first career NHL point with an assist in five games for Ottawa.

Mark Mancari
, Right Wing (Portland Pirates):
Earning his first career postseason All-Star berth, sixth-year pro Mark Mancari has racked up a career-high 32 goals in 56 games for Portland this season, tying for third in the AHL in that category and placing eighth with 64 points. A native of London, Ont., Mancari piled up 10 points in the season’s first four games and has recorded three points on seven different occasions, including three hat tricks – two of them on back-to-back nights (Jan. 22 and 23). Mancari, 25, has also appeared in a career-best 15 NHL games with Buffalo, with a goal and five assists.


2010-11 AHL Second All-Star Team

Curtis Sanford
, Goaltender (Hamilton Bulldogs):
Curtis Sanford
’s season both began and ended with injury, but in between, the backstop from Owen Sound, Ont., turned in one of his more impressive performances to date. Sanford made his season debut on Nov. 2 and won eight of his first nine decisions, surrendering more than two goals only once. Overall, Sanford ranks second among AHL goaltenders in both goals-against average (1.93) and save percentage (.930) while putting up a 22-13-2 mark in 40 appearances for the Bulldogs. Sanford earned three shutouts in a four-start span in January and matched a career-high with five whitewashes on the year.

Andre Benoit
, Defenseman (Binghamton Senators):
A native of St. Albert, Ont., and a 2007 Calder Cup champion with Hamilton, Andre Benoit is tied for second among AHL defensemen with career-best totals in both assists (43) and points (53) through 70 games for Binghamton. The 27-year-old Benoit, who also needs one more goal to establish a career high in that category, boasts 12 multiple-point efforts on the year and made his NHL debut for Ottawa on Feb. 18, appearing in four games for the parent Senators this season.

Viatcheslav Voynov
, Defenseman (Manchester Monarchs):
Drafted in the second round (32nd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, 21-year-old defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov has blossomed as a third-year pro in Manchester, posting his best offensive numbers yet with 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points in 71 games. The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, leads Manchester with a plus-19 rating, and he made his second straight AHL All-Star Classic appearance after recording a point in 10 of 12 games during the month of December.

Nigel Dawes
, Left Wing (Hamilton Bulldogs):
After spending the past three seasons in the NHL, Nigel Dawes returned to the AHL in 2010-11 and has torn up the circuit for a league-high 38 goals (38-24-62) in 60 games split between Hamilton and Chicago. Dawes, who eclipsed the 35 goals he scored as a rookie in 2005-06, registered a four-goal game for Chicago on Jan. 5, and since his February trade to the Montreal organization, the 26-year-old has piled up 11-7-18 in 13 games for the Bulldogs and added two more hat tricks. The Winnipeg, Man., native has also played 13 NHL games for Atlanta and Montreal in 2010-11.

Keith Aucoin
, Center (Hershey Bears):
Well on his way to becoming one of the greatest AHL playmakers of all time, Keith Aucoin has battled multiple injuries this season but is nonetheless on track for his sixth career top-10 finish in the AHL scoring race with 67 points (17-50-67) in just 49 games. Aucoin burst out of the gate with a 10-game scoring streak, and the native of Waltham, Mass., shows 22 multiple-point efforts all told. In the AHL’s 75-year history, Aucoin currently ranks 10th in assists (491) and 21st in points (702) through 626 career regular-season games. This is the fifth postseason All-Star nod for Aucoin (Second Team 2006, ’07; First Team ’09, ’10), tied with AHL Hall of Famer Les Cunningham for the most career selections for a center.

Darren Haydar
, Right Wing (Chicago Wolves):
A former AHL rookie of the year (2003), MVP (’07), scoring champion (’07) and Calder Cup winner (’04, ’08), Darren Haydar adds to his list of accolades with his third career postseason All-Star berth (First Team 2007, Second Team ’09). A native of Milton, Ont., Haydar is tied for third in the AHL scoring race with 68 points (25-43-68) in 71 games for Chicago in his second stint with the Wolves. Haydar, who tallied a hat trick on Nov. 5 at Lake Erie and produced four points (2-2-4) on Nov. 27 vs. Grand Rapids, has 668 career regular-season points and is the AHL’s career postseason leader in goals (59), assists (76-tied), and points (135).

# # #


Contact:

Jason Chaimovitch
, Vice President of Communications
AJ Atchue
, Coordinator of Communications
(413) 781-2030

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aeros Officially In The Playoffs

Milwaukee defeated San Antonio 3-2 in the shootout tonight. That clinched a playoff spot for the Admirals. And with the Rampage loss, the Aeros are officially in the playoffs as well, so we're not all going to have to stress out during that long break between games next week. Now it's all about seeding and figuring out the opponent. The Aeros want the home ice advantage, so don't expect them to let up, though the Admirals have the edge on getting home ice in round two.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ortmeyer Factor

The Aeros don't play again until Thursday, and they only have four games left in this, what has become a most fun and enjoyable regular season. Unlike the teams from 1999 and 2003 that won it all (and were built to win and win big), nothing this team does for the rest of the time they are together will disappoint me.

They have achieved more than I, or anyone else in the AHL media world thought was possible. Some experts had them finishing dead last in the West, while some others saw enough talent to get them into the playoffs. I could be lumped into the latter of those two. I thought the runaway "favorites" in the West this year would be Peoria and San Antonio.

Milwaukee is always good, and I thought Chicago had just enough offensive firepower to make it work. The rest of the division, I thought would be battling it out with Chicago and Milwaukee to get the last two or three spots.

Now just look at the standings.

Milwaukee can't lose on the road, the Aeros can't lose at home and the Texas Stars, despite all the call-ups to Dallas, have somehow remained near the top with no superstars. The race for the last one or two spots will be epic, and I am not even going to begin to predict that outcome.

We'll provide a playoff primer after the regular season, but I did want to take the time to talk about one ... huge ... x-factor in Jed Ortmeyer (pictured above in a shot by Chris Jerina).

After the loss at Rockford on Dec. 30, the Aeros were 18-17-1-2. They blew a 1-0 third period lead, and I remember thinking to myself that the Aeros just didn't have enough firepower to get into the playoffs. Their leadership group was decent, but they didn't have that emotional guy to make them hate losing enough. Then, the Rampage release Jed Ortmeyer from his AHL deal. The Wild saw value in him for a two-way deal.

He has been with the Aeros since (including one call-up to Minny) and since then, the Aeros are 26-9-0-3. Now consider the other side. When San Antonio released Ortmeyer, they were rolling along at 23-10-1-0. Since his departure the team has lost its best players to Phoenix and has spiraled down to seventh place. Their record since Ortmeyer left? 15-20-2-2. That is fifteen wins and 24 losses.

I am not saying Ortmeyer's departure is the reason San Antonio might not make the playoffs, but I am saying that he is one of the reasons the Aeros are now a virtual lock. His fiery personality coupled with the addition of Patrick O'Sullivan and his amazing offensive skill set have been a can't miss if you are handicapping the teams that are likely to do well in the postseason.

Ortmeyer, I believe, has done wonders for players like Carson McMillan and Colton Gillies. I firmly believe that any of those guys could go to the Wild right now and make them better. O'Sullivan, I believe, is living proof that AHL teams need to spend money on at least one bona fide money scorer to take their teams to the next level.

O'Sullivan has made Jon DiSalvatore play way better; he makes Chad Rau look better. That took the pressure off Robbie Earl somewhat, and now even HE has a career-high 21 goals. Speaking of guys that hate losing? Welcome back Warren Peters.

Not all the news is rosy.

There are some players grumbling about playing time. Not complaining-grumbing mind you, but this is the time of year where these things come up because of past injuries. OF COURSE you want to be playing ...When things are going as good as they are, of course you want more time. I think it would be far worse if the opposite were true. Also, the defense took a hit when both Scandella and Cuma went down with long-term injuries. The PK really, really struggled against OKC, but when those three things are all you can really complain about at the moment ... things are pretty OK in Aeroland.

The last four games are about getting home ice locked up for the first round against Texas. This matchup is going to happen, and that's a little bit scary considering the Dallas Stars won't be going to the playoffs this year. Richard Bachman has been a very pleasant surprise for them this year, and even though the Aeros went 9-3 against them this year, they are still very dangerous.

Texas will close the regular season with seven games in 10 days. The Aeros have just three in that span and will be well rested entering the playoffs. They have achieved more than anyone could have guessed to this point. Here's to what we all hope is another three months of hockey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank you.

Thanks to John for the game recap even though he had a laundry list (that included laundry) of things to do tonight. I had the pleasure of going home, finishing packing, and driving to Austin after the game.

I don't enjoy long drives but with a bag of Bugles, Beaver Nuggets, and a giant Sprite, along with my husband to keep me company in my ear for certain stretches, it wasn't too bad.

In fact, it was kind of a relief after such a chock-a-block weekend of hockey. I was pretty tired of this series by the second period on Saturday, so if I weren't such an absolute whore for hockey, today would have been pretty tedious.

Even so, I was glad to leave the Toyota Center today and clear my head. I still haven't learned to parse a game the way Andrew and John can and pick out what the important stories are when they're as chaotic as these games were. Especially not within minutes of the game ending.

The drive, however, gave me a chance to sift out the noise and get down to what mattered to me about these games.

Sure, I could dwell on officiating (which was unspeakably awful to the point of dangerous, from Hebert to the guy Saturday night and back to Hebert again). I could pick away at all the things the Aeros did wrong. I could get on Hackett and Tordjman for soft goals.

I could also just say, "Hey, the result is what matters and they got every point they could."

But what I really want to say is, Thank You.

Thank you for your heart and your hustle and your sacrifice. Thank you for getting it together when you needed to, for picking each other up, for believing in the team and the system and "the process" we hear so much about.

Thank you for screwing up sometimes and then having the stones to own your screw-ups and demand more from yourself on the next shift or the next play.

Thank you for blocking shots, even when you know full well it's going to hurt like a motherfucker. Thank you for clearing rebounds, even if you have to dive into traffic to do it.

Thank you for screening the goalie (a dangerous proposition). Thank you for fighting, punching, being punched, and coming back for more.

Thank you for digging deep and finding that place inside, after three straight grinding days of hockey, that says, "You are NOT tired. You WILL find that extra gear. THIS is important."

Thank you for being leaders; for standing up in front of your peers and saying, "Come on, boys, let's DO this," and then going out and doing it yourself.

Sure, it's just a game. There are a million things more important than what a 6 oz rubber disk is doing on a sheet of ice. But it all comes down to the human spirit. Regardless of the particular adversity in life, the magic that keeps us going is witnessing the triumph of the spirit. To struggle and overcome is how we grow as people. And sports is such a basic way to engage in and celebrate that process.

So, thanks, boys. Give those tired bodies a rest and know that you've done well at something that means an awful lot to a lot of people.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Few Quick Items

The Aeros got the 5-4 win over the Oklahoma City Barons to sweep the series. Milwaukee beat San Antonio again, so points wise, the Aeros are still tied with Admirals for first place. And thanks to our pals in Rockford, who beat up on Chicago yet again, the Aeros, by our best calculation, are just two points away from clinching a playoff spot.

A few quick notes.

1. Patrick O'Sullivan did not play in the third period as a precautionary measure. He got the crap beat out of him over the weekend by the Barons -- who put him in their target -- and by some inept officiating that let him get beat up on. He was cramping and dehydrated during the second intermission, so it was decided to have him sit out. Robbie Earl suffered as well, and his third period ice time was also way reduced from what it normally would have been.

2. This weekend made it very clear that this team needs Matt Kassian healthy and back out on the ice. Pascal Morency might like to fight, but the team needs Kassian out there because Kassian's the kind of guy who can do to opposition scorers what the Barons were doing to O'Sullivan.

3. How great was it to see Nate Prosser back out there on the ice today? He saved some bacon numerous times in the game today, and Yeo was very complimentary of his game and very grateful to have his steadying influence back out on the ice.

4. Both Yeo and Jed Ortmeyer were very clear after the game that the team doesn't just want to make the playoffs. They want to keep winning and earn the number one seed.

5. Let's hear it for Ortmeyer. He played his 500th pro game on Friday night. And he was a huge influence in every game this weekend. The guys really seem to respect Ortmeyer, and when he's out there giving it everything he has, then they're going to go all out, too.

6. They next play on Thursday night when they host Chicago. And this game could be the one where they finally clinch a playoff spot in what has to be one of the toughest, most jumbled, most bizarre, most tight, playoff spot hunts ever.

3/26/11 -- Aeros Make Peons of Barons in SO, Win 6-5.

I wasn't going to write anything tonight -- I've been sick, which is why I missed Friday's game and I told Heather and Andrew I was going to skip tonight -- but I got some good quotes after the game, more than I'll be able to use for the mothership, and some photos. So here's a little something real quick so I can get to bed and try to recover from whatever has made me sick.

First, the important news. The Aeros got the 6-5 (SO) win over Oklahoma City tonight. And with those two points, the Aeros moved back into a tie with Milwaukee for first -- we all need to send a thank you to Rockford for the nice work they've been doing knocking around the playoff competition, tonight defeating the Admirals in OT -- and kept four points ahead of a rapidly charging Texas team in third place. Along with the win and moving into the tie with Milwaukee, the two points gave the Aeros some more cushion as they're lead over Peoria, Chicago, and OKC is now nine points while they've moved 11 points ahead of the rapidly fading Rampage.

This first photo is just one of Jon DiSalvatore. I'm including it because he's in a position he was so often during the night, screening the Baron goalie. I made the argument in the third period that DiSalvatore deserved a star because goals three and four wouldn't have been possible without the great job he did of blocking the goalie's vision.

"That’s part of the job of being up front," he said after the game. "You might not get the goal or anything. It’s part of the job, and you’ve got to get there and get a good screen so the goalie can’t see those little flutters some times."



And while it was nice to see the Aeros get the win, this game tonight was one that they should have lost, and probably deserved to lose. I'm still not sure of what was going through Chad Rau's mind there in the closing seconds of the third with the empty net. Instead of taking the shot, he tried to pass it off to Patrick O'Sullivan, and OKC recovered the puck, scored the goal, and sent the game to OT.

That was just one of the many things that Mike Yeo was unhappy about after the game, and he made it clear that that would never happen again.

"We’ll address it, and we’ll make sure it never happens again," Yeo said. "I think that just kind of goes to – we seem to, when we have somebody down, want to let them up right now, instead of stepping on their throat. I think that’s just that killer instinct that we have to find, and again, it’s being a little bit na├»ve. You can’t do that. You have to make sure, whether you’re up 3-1 or if you’re up 5-4, whatever the situation, you can’t let your urgency level drop."

If there's one person that the win can be credited tonight, it's Jed Ortmeyer. Yeo and DiSalvatore made it clear after the game that it was Ortmeyer who took charge during the second intermission and told the team they were going to get it done.

"He was the guy who stood up in the locker room before we went out for the third period, and said, ‘we’re going to go do this. We’re going to win this game,'" Yeo said. "But it’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to go do it. And you could tell, right from the first shift, he went out and had a huge hit at center ice, and really woke the guys up. And with the way he was blocking shots and paying the price there, you could tell he was all in for his teammates."

And Ortmeyer also tallied the game's first goal, which is what happens in the photo below.



"You have a guy like that, who’s been around, who’s played a lot of NHL games, who’s been around winners, it speaks a lot," DiSalvatore said about Ortmeyer. "It speaks a lot to where guys need to put their minds going out. We were down by a goal going into the third period, and we needed to focus on winning a 20 minute period, and if we won a 20 minute game, so to speak, we were going to be in a good situation, either going into overtime or potentially winning the game outright. So for him to draw our attention to that, just before we go out, is huge for young guys, even for older guys, we all feed off whatever we can bring to the table to put ourselves into the right mindset going out in the period."

This next photo is Patrick O'Sullivan after he got leveled with a shot to the head in the first period. To me, he seemed a bit off for the rest of the game, though Yeo told us after the game that he was fine. Yeo said that's something a guy like O'Sullivan has to live with, however, as he's the kind of guy, with his scoring ability, that teams are going to target.



Speaking of Patrick O'Sullivan's scoring ability, here he is working his magic in the shootout to put the Aeros up. This was a huge shot to Yeo which he told us when we were asking about Josh Tordjman's game.

"He was great in the shootout," Yeo said of Tordjman. "Obviously I think it helps if you can get that early goal, and we got a couple of ones there. I think that puts a little bit more pressure on their shooters, but certainly he stood tall. It was a tough game for the goalie because we gave up way too many chances. We gave up way too much ice and space and way too many shots tonight. We have to make sure we’re a lot better there."



And here's Casey Wellman scoring in the shootout.



Oh, and just two final notes. This was the first game this season that the Aeros won after having surrendered more than four goals. And in returning player news, Nate Prosser has been reassigned to the team.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One down, Two to go: 4-1 Aeros over OKC

That game was exhausting to watch. I don't know why, but my shoulders were up to my ears the whole game. Maybe it's the fact that this game had just a mountain of implications attached to it.

The game set the tone for the entire weekend, and both teams need as many of the 6 available points as possible. From the score to the physicality to the (horrible) officiating, this game not only determined who took the first two points, but it established the foundation on which both teams will game-plan for the rest of the weekend.

One thing Yeo emphasized after the game was that, while he was happy with the first period and most of the second, one of the things he wants the team to learn from this series is a powerful playoff lesson: Once you have the upper hand, no matter how big the upper hand, never give the other team hope. Never let them see daylight.

Well, the Barons definitely saw daylight in the third, so he was grateful for the 4th goal to sink them a little deeper into the shadows. The Aeros were definitely sloppy in the final 4 minutes on the double minor PP. As has often happened this season with a lead, they showed a little too much mercy during the power play chance handed them during the double minor in the final 4 minutes of the game, turned the puck over with regularity, and there was that daylight.

It seems clear this team can be oppressive and suffocating when they're clicking (the return of Warren Peters certainly had a positive impact) and Yeo wants to see 60 minutes of the Aeros pressuring the life out of the opponent.

It helped that Jeff Deslauriers was badly off his game in the first. Bryan Pitton came in for the second period and stood on his head or this game would have been 7-1. He plays well in the building, so you have to think we'll see more of him.

Hackett was good, and also lucky at times. The team did a great job of clearing rebounds into advantageous places that set them up to establish a rush. And there you have the Aeros' game, right? Possess possess possess. It's glorious.

A few items: Daoust was a healthy scratch tonight for Peters, and Tordjman is most likely in net Saturday night. And what do you guys think about Morency's "Mitch Love-esqe" role? I think he adds a spark that's fun to watch. Is it valuable? I don't know, but on a basic level, I like it.

Plus, this game had my head spinning so fast, the fights gave me a few minutes to catch my breath and put the fire on my keyboard out.

Andrew was trying to explain the "magic number" stuff to me tonight but my brain was fried by game's end and it might as well have been trigonometry. So when I heard this song on the way home, I knew I had to use it here:

View from the Pressbox - Aeros crush Barons

The Aeros are getting very close to clinching a playoff spot. They helped themselves a great deal by playing a very good first 40 minutes against the Barons. Then, they let up and got outshot 15-2 in the third period.

The Barons were desperate for a win tonight, and Saturday night the Aeros better be ready for a team that has something to build on with the way they controlled the game in the third period.

But Matt Hackett was a cool cucumber and kept any more pucks from slipping past. He was really good when he was bored, and he was great when he had to be sharp in the last 20 minutes.

What they have to have in order to make a great postseason run is good special teams and even better goaltending. Tonight, they got both of those with three power play goals and a strong PK late in the second and into the third.

We're going to see Hackett one more time this weekend. If he plays like he did Friday, the Aeros are going to be in good shape to take two of three against the Barons.

It was good to see the Aeros score in the first period, something else they have failed to do in about seven games. But man, they are really battling hard, even after they give up the first goal of the game. Remember when they used to score first all the time? What a distant memory. Good teams battle back when they are down, but good teams also score first more than half the time. I'd really like to see them turn that around before the end of the regular season.

As for the rest of the playoff picture, we can send a big middle finger up toward Grand Rapids for blowing that 3-0 lead against the Stars. Of all the teams in our division, that is the one that I think can get the Aeros in the first round. I really hope the Aeros TC of B and get home ice, especially if they have to play the Stars in the opening round. Remember that comment about giving up the first goal? Well, do that to Texas in the playoffs, especially with the way Bachman has been playing, and it is going to be real tough to win.

Milwaukee won to stay a point ahead of the Aeros, but Peoria and Chicago lost and are getting further and further back all the time.

Here is a look at the updated playoff picture. The way the North is going and how the West just keeps beating each other up, I don't know that the crossover is going to apply this year. We'll see. Click on the image for a better/closer look.

This Is The Playoffs


UPDATE: Warren Peters has been reassigned to the Aeros.

*******************************

The Aeros are playing their next-to-last three-in-three of the season this weekend. And after this weekend, there are four games left in the regular season. Coming into the games, the Aeros are in second place, one point behind Milwaukee and four points ahead of third place Texas.

Now calling this weekend series the playoffs might be stretching things a bit, but according to the players I spoke with at SLICE yesterday, the playoffs is how they're viewing this weekend series with the Oklahoma City Barons. First, this is a three game series against the fourth place team in the standings -- they're just six points behind Houston. And the Aeros are telling themselves that the best way to treat this game is as if this is the first round of the playoffs. So they've got to win to advance.

"It’s pretty much a playoff series," Robbie Earl says. "It’s like a regular first round match-up against whoever we would be playing. Obviously it’s some big games coming up. We’re going to treat them as must wins, and we definitely need to capitalize on the six points at hand."

And team captain Jon DiSalvatore agreed with Earl.

"We’ve already discussed this, and we’re approaching it like it is a playoff series," he said. "I think it’s important for us. And I think we learned the last game that playoff hockey really is here, and the expectation and the coach and the mentality, everything needs to rise to another level. We’re treating this series like it’s a playoff series. We need to win, and we need to prepare for ourselves – obviously if we win this series we put ourselves in another good spot going into the final two weeks of the season. So that’s our approach. It’s a key series for us, and it’s time to raise our level to that playoff-like mentality."

Now lots of us are worried about the big break in games coming up after next week, where the Aeros are off for more than a week between games 79 and 80 while the rest of the division plays multiple games that can move them past Houston and send them out of the playoffs. But the Aeros themselves aren't worrying about that break because as far as they're concerned, if they take care of business this next week, including this weekend, they'll be getting points and as long as they get points, the pressure is on all of the other teams to keep pace. In other words, the Aeros feel that they control their own destiny.

"I think we’ve done a good job in terms of the last 35 games, or whatever it may be, to put ourselves in a position where we do control our destiny," DiSalvatore said. "Where we don’t necessarily – even though we will be watching what happens that next week because our division is going to be so tight regardless – we do have a situation where we can control our own destiny. And that’s the situation that you want to be in at all times."

And Mike Yeo doesn't want the team worrying about that break. He wants their focus on this weekend and on next week because if they focus on themselves instead of worrying about the other teams and the scheduling break, they should be fine.

"That’s exactly it," he said. "We can’t sit here with 88 points and think we’re in a playoff position right now because we’re not. We’re in a position where we might not have to win as many games as some teams, but the reality is we still have to win games. And we have to get points. And we shouldn’t be satisfied with that anyways. We should try to give ourselves the best opportunity to finish as high as we can, and put ourselves in the best position to get in the playoffs and hopefully get home ice advantage."

One of the things discussed was just how crazy tight not only this division, but this conference is, when it comes to the playoff hunt because, with the cross-over, what happens in the North affects what happens in the West. As of right now, there are 13 teams battling over the eight playoff spots -- the sixth place team in the North is only three points behind the fourth place team, but because of the cross-over rule, the North's fourth place team would currently be sitting home with Chicago crossing over.

Mike Yeo said he's never seen anything like this in his career as a coach or a player. And he uses this as another reason why the team should just concentrate on getting points because, if they get points, they take care of business.

"This is as close as I’ve probably ever been involved in a race," he said. "Quite often you’ll have two or three teams jockeying for position, maybe you’re playing for second or third, or maybe a couple of teams are playing for that final playoff position, but to have – there are so many different scenarios right now that it’s quite interesting. Again you just can’t get caught up in it because if we sit around and look at what’s going on in the [Western Conference] and then the rest of the teams within our division, we’ll drive ourselves crazy. We would be much better served to put all of our thoughts and focus on ourselves and making sure that we’re ready to go for [Friday]."

So that's the mentality of the team as they head into the series with Oklahoma City tonight. If they go out there and play hockey and do their jobs and get points, things are going to be okay. But you should also know this. I was at SLICE for practice yesterday, and the players were having fun because this is the kind of hockey that every player wants to be playing.

"I feel like it’s been like this since December," DiSalvatore said. "It’s been tight, it’s been musical chairs as far as the standings have gone. It’s fun. It’s fun knowing that every single time you go out there you’re playing for a different position in the standings. It could be scary, us putting pressure on teams that needs point right now. It’s exciting that we get the chance on a nightly basis to play for first place, and we take pride in that, and we look forward to the challenge every night."

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Here's a little something for you trivia buffs, courtesy of the team's unofficial historian, Andrew Ferraro. This is the first time in the history of this incarnation of the Aeros that the team has played a three-in-three at home against the same team. The Aeros have, on four other occassions that we can find, played four three-in-threes at home, but each one involved two different opponents. The Aeros are 6-6 in these games, 1-3 in game one, 2-2 in game two, and 3-1 in game three....Also, the word is that one of the four Aeros currently up in Minnesota, but eligible for the Aeros playoff roster, will be returning to the Aeros today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aeros Lose To Texas

Aeros got beat up on by Texas tonight, losing 3-0. Matt Hackett was bombarded, facing 36 shots while the Aeros were only able to get off 20. Meanwhile, Milwaukee beat Oklahoma City in the shootout, so...

Standings as of now...

1. Milwaukee 38-19-5-8 (89 points)
2. Houston 41-26-1-5 (88 points)
3. Texas 37-24-4-6 (84 points)
4. Oklahoma City 36-26-2-9 (82 points)

Chicago, Milwaukee, and San Antonio were off tonight.

That's a nice set up for this weekend when the Aeros host the Barons for three games.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Playoff Contemplation

I saw this buried in the comments to one of the below posts, and thought it deserved it's own post. And hopefully, Mr. Playoff Scenario, Andrew, can follow through with some more at some point. But I think it's a good look at the playoff scenario, though, frankly, I just can't imagine Abbotsford sneaking into the third spot. But otherwise, nice work Forecheck.

And thanks for the Onion link.


Ready for a little extrapolation?

As per last week's method, here is the projected finish. Main thing is that Chicago has cooled off a little, the Aeros remain just as hotas before. In the North, Grand Rapids is just as red hot, but Lake Erie is tearing things up too.
(Strange, since I just saw where Cleveland has banned all pro sports...)

OK, here;s the West :

Milwaukee Admirals 99
Houston Aeros 98
Chicago Wolves 93
Texas Stars 92
Peoria Rivermen 91
OKC Barons 90
San Antonio Rampage 89
Rockford IceHogs 76

And the North since it is important for Peoria in this scenario:

Lake Erie Monsters 95
Grand Rapids Griffins 95
Abbotsford Heat 94
Manitoba Moose 91
Hamilton Bulldogs 89
Toronto Marlies 86
Rochester Americans 75

Soo too bad for the Rivermen, they would need 92 points in this scenario to cross over.

Oh, yes for more on Cleveland's decision to ban all pro sports - see
http://www.onionsportsnetwork.com/video/suffering-cleveland-bans-all-professional-sports,19701/

The Complaint Box Is Closed

That's it. No more. I read Heather's post below on the game yesterday, and went to check the comments. And for some reason that I can't even begin to fathom, the comments were about the attendance in San Antonio. And all I can wonder is: what the fuck is wrong with you people?

So that's it. No more. There are to be no more comments from anybody bitching about anything at Toyota Center or about how the poor season ticket holder feel dissed. No more unsolicited comments about the PA. No more unsolicited comments about how the crowd acts, or how you don't like the daytime kid games. No more comments about how loud the music volume is, or anything that doesn't deal with the game on the ice. I don't want to see any more comments on how great is was under Chuck Watson.

No more. The comments will not be approved. If one slips through, I will delete it.

Now one caveat: if I or Andrew of Heather should mention about the games op we didn't like, or mention something that should open the door to a comment, then it gets through. But there is to be no more of this crap like the post below where, instead of commenting on the game, you comment on how San Antonio counted attendance.

Think of it like this. Imagine you're one of the players who read the blog. After you've just won an important game, one that's put you into first place, you come over here and see that there's a post on the game. Now how would you feel if you went to the comments and there wasn't one damn comment on the actual game, but just a bunch of crap on how San Antonio didn't let you get seats in the section you wanted?

Aeros take first place in 3-2 win over Rampage

Hopefully most of you got to watch yesterday's game in glorious HD from San Antonio or were on the road trip with the team. Props to those who went as the post-goal cheers were very clear on the broadcast. I'm sure San Antonio fans absolutely hated you. :) Well done.

It was one of those games where the Aeros didn't look "all in" and didn't match San Antonio's urgency, but this team just happens to be good enough to make that work occasionally. Matt Climie didn't make it easy either. He was right where he needed to be all game long and the two goals against were just opportunistic.

He was coming off the flu, too, so I have to think there was some fatigue setting in by the time the game rolled around to the shootout. The SO goals by O'Sullivan, Earl, and Rau... well, they made it look easy on a goalie who has typically been money in the shootout, allowing only 5 goals in 32 attempts until last night.

Shots were wayyy lopsided in the first. 4-12 for San Antonio. Partially due to the 5 minute major Gillies got for boarding. It was an ugly hit, too, and the guy was lucky to skate off on his own. I know Gillies knows HOW to pull up and avoid these vulnerable hits. He has to do it.

That said, the boys (and Hackett) were fantastic on the kill and it worked out okay. Though I feel sure #18 is etched in the minds of that whole roster. It'll come back eventually.

Back to goalies, Hackett was also very good. One goal was on his defense. The other was tipped in. Neither one should he feel badly about.

Also, while I'm on Hackett... He's now the 5th ranked goalie in the AHL. And the top rookie. Snack on that, Jake Allen! Hackett's season is a great story that superstition prevents me from writing just yet, but I'll do it eventually.

And the Aeros get to enjoy first place for a full day as the entire league is off today, including Milwaukee one point behind first. They both play Tuesday night (Houston at Texas and Milwaukee hosting OKC) and both should reasonably win, but the Aeros have to respect Texas' position. Those teams from 3rd to 7th place are pretty damn motivated to climb over each other in the tight standings.

Aeros Making The Final Playoff Push

I've got a new story up over at the Press [link fixed] which sort of recaps the weekend's games. But along with that, it discusses the importance of the weekend. That importance being that the Aeros were finally able to get some much-needed cushion between themselves and teams three through seven in the division playoff race.

So go give it a read if you get a chance.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Roughhousing At the Toy Box (In Photos)

Here's a few photos from Saturday's Aeros/Rampage game. There were two fights in the first period, won by the Aeros in my opinion, and then Dane Byers decided to pull a sneak attack on Drew Bagnall at the very end. Both Byers and Bagnall got 10 minute unsportsmanlike misconduct penalties though I don't recall seeing Bagnall throw any punches.

Before we get started, here's a photo of Jeff Penner, on the ice, during the game, to show that he really exists. And he had a good game tonight, in my opinion.

Here's the first fight of the game, with Cody Almond ending the the tussle with Bracken Kearns by throwing him to the ice.

Now here's Jarod Palmer, fist cocked, getting ready to unload yet again on Jeff May.

And here's the final altercation, towards the end of the game. Like I said, I didn't spot Bagnall going off on anybody during the melee, but then again, I might have missed it.

Aeros/Rampage on TV

Just a note from our friends Joe and Rich. Today's game in San Antonio will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest, so be sure to check your cable TV listings in order to find it.

3/19/11 -- Aeros v. Rampage -- The Separation Edition

The Aeros needed the win over San Antonio Rampage tonight. They needed the win to get points and stay close to Milwaukee, but more importantly, they needed the win so that they could start to get some separation from themselves and the clubs below them. And they needed to start sensing the kill and putting opponents out of their playoff misery.

And with a convincing 5-1 win over the Rampage tonight, before a huge, electric crowd of 11,273, the Aeros did everything they needed to, and more. Mike Yeo, getting some players back healthy, did some line shuffling, and saw a huge payoff, and Carson McMillan scored two goals within 19 seconds to put the Aeros up 4-0 late in the second period and put the final nail in the Rampage coffin for the night.

So let’s get to it.

1. Important stuff first: Milwaukee lost 3-2 to Lake Erie, so the Aeros moved back to a point out of first place. Bigger than that, Rockford beat Peoria 4-3 and Oklahoma City beat Chicago 4-3. And with Texas not playing tonight, the Aeros are finally getting some of that mythical separation between themselves and the teams behind them in the playoff hunt. Separation that’s going to be important that last week when the Aeros are off for eight days while everybody else plays multiple games.

The Aeros are now five points up on Peoria and Oklahoma City. They’re six points up on Texas, seven points up on Chicago, and eight points up on a San Antonio team that is fading, and fading quickly.

2. The game tonight was scoreless after one period. But the Aeros controlled the action in a fight-filled period and set the stage for a second period where they lit up the Rampage for four goals.

3. The goals in the fourth period were all things of real beauty. Patrick O’Sullivan got the first goal, a sick little number made possible off of a Jon DiSalvatore play down in the corner. O’Sullivan got the puck in the slot and just did what he does. San Antonio’s Joe Fallon never stood a chance of stopping the shot.

The second goal saw Robbie Earl, from about the same spot as O’Sullivan’s, flipping the puck over the Fallon’s stick off of a pass from Cody Almond. And like O’Sullivan’s goal, it was just one of those goals that make you go “WOW,” even when you’re sitting in the press box and you’re not supposed to be cheering.

Then it was the Carson McMillan show as at 16:55 he took a shot from the left circle and lifted it over Fallon and right under the cross bar to put Houston up 3-0. And just as everybody was settling down, he struck again, getting a pass from Jed Ortmeyer as he crossed in front of the goal, where he tipped it past Fallon.

4. McMillan’s been a key guy for the Aeros this year. He’s been doing all of the gritty stuff that doesn’t really get the notice because it’s not glamorous, so nobody was happier for McMillan tonight than Yeo.

“I’m happy for him,” Yeo said. “The thing is, he doesn’t need to score to have a great game. He understands that. That’s one of the reasons why I think he’s really put himself on the map as far as being a prospect in this organization this year. He’s a guy that – he’s just a great role player. Whatever his job is he’s going to go out and do it that night. The reason I’m happy for him is, he’s been a guy who’s moved up to top lines and moved up in the lineup, and he’s scored some goals and he’s got some points, and the next thing you know he’s back on the fourth line. But whether he’s on the fourth line or the second line he’s equally as important to us. I was happy to see it. Every time he’s handled it with unbelievable attitude and I was happy to see him get rewarded.”

5. Yeo was happy about his team’s play for the entire game. Especially with the way they came out and stuck to the game plan and executed and dominated. We asked him about that second period after the game, and he said the second period happened because of the play in the first period.

“That’s the way you draw it up right there,” he said. “I thought the first period was good, too, actually. We had a game plan, and the guys were committed to it right from the start. We didn’t bury pucks in the first period, but we started to tilt the ice, and when you do that, you put yourself in a position to do what we did in the second period.”

6. Colton Gillies returned to action tonight, and his play was noticeable throughout, especially early in the game when the Aeros were on the penalty kill. But Yeo also thought Gillies did a great job throughout of the night of wearing down the San Antonio defensemen, and by making them look for him throughout the night every time they tried to make something happen throughout the game.

7. With the return of Gillies, and with Scott Campbell joining the team out of college, the Aeros did a bit of line reshuffling. Cody Almond rejoined the top line with Patrick O’Sullivan and Jon DiSalvagore, while Casey Wellman joined line two with Robbie Earl and Chad Rau. Carson McMillan moved up to line three with Jed Ortmeyer and Colton Gillies while the new guy played with Jarod Palmer and Jean-Michel Daoust.

Yeo thinks this gives the team really good balance on the main two scoring lines, and he likes the added threat that now comes from the third line.

8. The team also saw defenseman Jeff Penner take the ice for the first time tonight, and he looked good. Which is important seeing as how Marco Scandella broke a finger playing for the Wild today and Nate Prosser was recalled to join them.

9. The Aeros did try to get McMillan his hat trick tonight. The Aeros got a 4:00 power play to end the game, and McMillan was out there, in front of the goal, for most of it. He told us after the game that Ortmeyer made sure that Mike Yeo knew just what the stakes were, and that McMillan got out on the ice, and McMillan then told us that Jon DiSalvatore did everything within his power to set up the goal.

10. This was a really physical game that at times, especially late in the third period, threatened to escalate out of control as San Antonio seemed to be taking their frustrations out on the Aeros.

“I think frustration was a big part of it,” Yeo said. “I also think that the fact that we play them tomorrow and they want to put up a fight and say hey, we’re not going to roll over and die. I don’t mind that stuff. We have guys that can handle themselves. I love seeing another get frustrated and doing that stuff because it means we’re getting to them. And I’d love to see it happen again tomorrow.”

And Yeo expects more of this type of play from the Rampage tomorrow.

11. It might just be me, but it seemed to me that the Aeros were sensing it tonight. They were sensing that playoff spot, and they were sensing that the Rampage are about down for the count. There are still nine games left, but the Aeros are finally getting some separation between themselves and the teams below them, and they really seemed to be playing with confidence and a great sense of purpose of tonight.

But who knows what will happen tomorrow.

It's been a while since I've played a video, but there's this song that's been going through my head lately -- and is kind of stuck on my iPod repeat, that I think just gets the proper attitude of tonight's game. It's kind of sassy, with a 70s soul vibe and lots of sax and keyboard. So here are Fitz and the Temptations with "Money Grabber."



And I'll try to get some photos up later.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Letters from the Heart...

Dear Dane Byers,

What the hell is your problem with Houston, son? Every time you come in our barn, you act like a jackass. You need to get a grip on your shit and settle down. 

Last time you were here, you pounded Benoit Pouliot's face into the ice after punching his teeth out. To hear me talk while he was here, you'd might think I'd approve of that, but it made my stomach turn to watch you be so ragey and out of control.

At least you didn't actually hurt anyone (though whoever you sucker punched would probably like to argue that point) tonight. I hope the league gives you some time to think about the kind of player you want to be and whether jumping players out of frustration is really it.

Get outttt,
Ms.C

-------------------------------

Dear Carson,

I like you. You remind me of Clutterbuck when he was here, minus the irritation factor. Flashes of a great shot, willingness to grind and battle and sacrifice. You're the kind of player whose efforts so often go unheralded that it's extra nice when you have a game like tonight where you do get the spotlight for a while.

One of the things I look for as an AHL, ahem, "specialist" is improvement year over year. If I don't see improvement from a guy's rookie season, I get worried. The guy isn't getting it. But you are getting it. I see tremendous growth in every aspect of your game this season. Offensively, certainly, but you also just seem more confident with and without the puck, take fewer penalties while not sacrificing grittiness, and one of the big things is that you're versatile. Throw you on any line and you'll get the job done (again, another Clutterbuckian quality).

Can't wait to see where next season takes you. 

Sincerely, 
Ms.C

-------------------------------

Dear Hack,

I hate to talk to goalies who are playing well, so I'll keep this brief. Whatever it has done for you to be The Man in goal for this team (vs. competing with Khudobin, who appeared to have checked out about half the time) is a good thing. 

You look loose, like you're having fun, taking some chances and succeeding with them, like the air around you is lighter. It's really a joy to watch.

Now, forget I said anything and just keep doing whatever you're doing.

Pad taps,
Ms.C

------------------------------------

Dear Cody Bass of the Binghamton Senators,

How YOU doin'? 

*Wink*,
Ms.C

-----------------------------

Dear Colton,

My feelings are best expressed in song:


I totally did not understand your contribution to this team until it no longer had it. I still don't quite understand it, but whatever it is, it's critical to this team's success.

Welcome back and be well,
Ms.C

View from the Press Box - Aeros wallop Rampage 5-1

First off, hats off to the fans tonight! More than 11,000 in the building to see one of the best (one-sided) games of the year. San Antonio just had no life in this game, and the Aeros made sure they never got anything going.

  • O'Sullivan goal = Sick.
  • Earl goal = a beaut.
  • McMillan's first goal = wow.

Nothing but good things to say on a night where the Aeros probably lost Nate Prosser for the rest of the regular season to the Minnesota Infirmary. The Rampage will come out hard Sunday, so the Aeros really need to be ready for a first period blitz at the AT&T Center.

Mike Yeo said he is not sure as to who he will start in goal Sunday, but it sounded like he was leaning toward coming back with Hackett. The rookie just did not get a lot of work tonight, and he was won three straight ... so I say roll with it. We'll see tomorrow.

The Aeros are now a season-high 15 games over .500 and are 10 over .500 at home. They finished this season-high five-game homestand with a record of 3-1-0-1 and are now five points clear of third-place OKC and Peoria.

I am sure John and Heather will have more later, but here is a look at the updated playoff picture. The Aeros are getting closer to the six-to-eight point cushion they really need going into that week where they don't play any games. This team is good enough to get the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, as it would be quite nice to have home ice in the first round.

Click on the image below to get a closer look:

And Today In Wild Injury News...

Marco Scandella broke a finger in the Wild game this afternoon. And some other Wild D are suffering from lingering injuries. So Michael Russo is reporting that the Wild are calling up a defenseman from the Aeros this afternoon. Which is kind of surprising in that I don't think the Aeros have that many extra defensemen lying around.

But that's the news. No word on who the call-up will be. But I'm pretty sure that the Aeros are going to desperately miss anyone called up. And some advice, if you're a player called up to the Wild, make sure that all of your insurance policies are updated.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Say Hello To The Twins

Say hello to Kristen and Kirsten, or is it Kirsten and Kristen. These young ladies, along with being twins, are members of the Aerodynamics. I did a quick interview with them before last Sunday's 6-3 win over Manitoba, and if you click over to the mothership, you can see the story.

Just a couple of quick notes. The Dynamics actually have two sets of twins, I prefer the term twin twins, but I didn't get the chance to talk to them. Also, this isn't in the story, but if you're wondering how they do the dance routines on the ice, well, it's a bit of a cheat. They're not wearing ordinary sneakers, but are instead wearing special sneakers that have a special grip on the soles.

Sure it's a trifle, but hey, I thought it would be nice to break up the tension of the playoff race. See you all tomorrow night.

Photos from Tuesday's OT win

Sorry for the delay on pics from Tuesday's game. The trade-off of having Jerina in town to shoot the game was that he had to finish his trip before we could get the pics.

It's worth the wait though. Have you seen a picture that sums up the second half of this season better?


The start of Buck's funny breakaway attempt. Well, maybe not funny to him, but I thought Dekanich coming out and challenging (as you can see by the ice markings) at the top of the circles was funny. Then that MKE d-man getting a stick in there and tipping Buck's shot JUST wide of the post. Just a crazy play full of grandiose effort on both sides.

Earl's OT game winner cele. Just another day at the office, right?


Earl gets mobbed by a bunch of happy guys. Is that Buck with the kissy face there? It's okay, man. I think we all wanted to pucker up for Earlsy after that goal.


Stickless Cody Almond prepares to sacrifice his face to the puck. Dude.


Finally, our boy Torch got himself an Aeros-themed mask that's pretty sharp:


Honoring his Bakersfield Condor past...
Never mind that he's not actually #39 here.
All photos courtesy of Chris "Tip of the Churro to Ya'!" Jerina. You can see the rest from this game right here. Muchas gracias for the photos, Chris!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

View from the Press Box - Aeros win OT thriller over Admirals

It is hard to believe there are just 10 games left in the regular season.

It is also difficult to fathom that the Aeros could still, possibly, not make the playoffs. No need to go down that negative road today when you've got great things to talk about like the season Patrick O'Sullivan is having in Houston. Forget all the collapse talk when you've got Robbie Earl snapping a month-long goal drought with back-to-back games winners in crucial home games.

I had a good feeling about the game Friday for the same reason I had a real bad feeling about the last time the Aeros played in Cedar Park. One team was due to win against the other. My old friend Rob Daum used to challenge my law of averages argument. "What IS that, really," he used to ask. I'd change the subject by telling him, "Well, you're team is only as good as the starting goalie for your next game." Considering he had Tony Quesada and Miro Kopriva manning the pipes ... well, let's just say that is the end of the conversation.

Seventy down and 10 to go ... and speaking of laws of averages; the last four two-game winning streaks have been stopped with a regulation loss. If you like patterns, you can say the Aeros lose Saturday. If you like the law of averages argument, it's a win hands down.

You can spin just about anything, any way.

But I digress ...

I asked Robbie if the Aeros just wanted it more, did they perhaps will themselves to a win. "Well the game went to OT, ...I think both teams really wanted this one," he said. And I think that speaks volumes. That is how it is going to be for the last 10 games. Every mistake, every goal for and against will be under the microscope. Just as Forecheck said in a comment, "Welcome to the playoffs! "

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aeros stun Milwaukee in 3-2 OT win; join them in first place

Well, how about that snoozefest, huh?

Okay, maybe not. I think the Aeros 3-2 OT win over Milwaukee looked as much like playoff hockey as... playoff hockey. Hard hitting, fast, focused, and fun to watch from top to bottom.

Both goalies were fantastic in general, except for the incredible brain fart on that second goal against Milwaukee where Dekanich literally just stood there as O'Sullivan looked to be dumping the puck into the zone from center ice, but ended up putting it on net instead.

Poor Dex. I don't think I breathed for a full minute after this. He's a really good goalie. Just goes to show you how tough the position is that someone this good would space out like that.

At least, I'm calling it spacing out. He tracked it right into the net. Maybe he was screened but still. What a shock.

And what a momentum shift. The goal came just after Milwaukee took the lead on an iffy goal and you could feel a bit of a slump in the building because Dex is playing so well and how the hell will they get another goal? But then BOOM. Sully evens it up and maybe embarrasses the Ads a bit.

The game stayed tight the rest of the way, so I wouldn't say the momentum shifted TO the Aeros there, but it certainly came back to neutral again.

Credit to Andrew, he picked the Aeros to win right here today. And early in the game he called Robbie Earl with the GWG. How money is that? It seemed like it happened almost in slow motion, too.

Lots of guys had really good games, from my perspective. I feel like Daoust is playing like I want him to now. Falk looked great. Rau with two first assists. He reminds me of Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Maybe it's just me.

BTW, I think the Wellman, DiSalvatore, O'Sullivan line needs a name. Put your suggestions in the comments. They are a scary trio and my inner goalie just hates O'Sullivan. He just finds these holes, and he's so damn handsy and dangly and slick. Damn it. But keep it up dude.

Anyway, I'll wrap up with some quotes from Yeo who talked to us outside a locker room so jubilant, I think there might have been some monkeys in the room.

On staying even keeled and focused:
"It’s really important right now not to get too wrapped up in everything. We could have lost the game tonight and then you’re looking at the other teams and you feel like you’re at the bottom and you feel like the world is about to end. The opposite is we can’t get too excited either. The reality is we just need to win games. We need points. We got 2 points and that’s good but we’re going to lose another game along the way probably and we have to be able to react to it and it’s just a matter of going into each game and understanding that you go out and play your best game that night and you let the chips fall where they fall. That’s what we've been doing the last couple of games."

On the penalty kill that hasn't exactly been knocking it out of the park lately and allowed 2 PP goals on 3 chances tonight:
"I think we’re probably overusing some defensemen right now, just because of the inexperience of Fritche back there. You could see that the first goal that they scored was just fatigue on our part. We got caught on a long shift out there; those guys were out there almost 2 minutes.

Are we missing Peters? Are we missing Gillies? Yes, but it has to be better. These guys are capable of being better and I think there shouldn’t be any doubt in our system and what we’re trying to accomplish out there right now and it looks like at times there is. We have to work on it because that’s got to be a staple of our team. Because when we’re doing it well it well that’s a penalty kill that builds momentum for our group."

Finally, some general positivity about the current state of the team:
"I give our guys a boatload of credit because we haven’t been as fortunate with getting the first goal but we've stayed with it. I think our guys have been focused on playing a great game because of that, we've been able to bounce back from that."

The Aeros are now in 1st place with Milwaukee, who have FOUR games in hand on Houston. But as Yeo told us, the key right now, no matter who they're playing, is to get points.

Storylines to make you giddy - Mr. Sunshine edition

I kind of talked about the "heavier" side of tonight's game in the post below. There are only 11 games left, and this is a HUGE hockey game. The Aeros have Milwaukee two more times this year, and they need to beat them twice if they want a shot at the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs.

But if you aren't excited about tonight's game, you're just not paying attention. Here are some nuggets that ought to make you smile about paying your good hard-earned money to see a minor league hockey game:

  • The Aeros are just coming off their latest must-win game, a 6-3 win over Manitoba. They scored six goals in the third, a 17-year old franchise record for goals in a period.
  • Houston is 28-17-1-1 vs. West Division teams, and guess what, the Admirals play in the West.
  • The Aeros are 20-8-0-3 since Jan. 1. Few teams in the AHL can match those numbers.
  • Matt Hackett is going to start tonight; here's to hoping he finishes and allows two goals or less. All 38 of the Aeros' wins have come when the team allows three or fewer goals.
  • Hackett (16-13-4) is second among AHL rookies and sixth overall with a 2.25 (overall) goals-against average. At home, Hackett is 8-4-2 with a 2.33 GAA and a .916 saves percentage.
  • Patrick O’Sullivan is the main reason why the Aeros are 20-8-0-3 since Jan. 1; He has points in 11 of his last 12 games (6-13-19) and points in 20 of 26 as an Aero this season (14-19-33).
  • Look at those numbers up there. That is effing crazy.
  • Speaking of crazy numbers, look at what the arrival of O'Sullivan has done to Jon DiSalvatore.
  • Jon DiSalvatore (22-29-51) has matched his career high in goals thanks to a 14-15-29 (29! points!) spurt since O’Sullivan joined the club.
  • More on O'Sullivan - He is now fourth on the team in scoring with 14 goals, 19 assists for 33 points. Sick.
  • And remember, even if the Aeros lose their last 11 games, they still finish above .500!
  • (That last one was a positive nugget for Forecheck)


Aeros GameDay - Milwaukee visits for pivotal game

The last time the Aeros hosted the Milwaukee Admirals, they had a chance to leave the building all alone in first place. On Feb. 22, they blew a two-goal lead in the third period, one of the worst meltdowns of the year, and are still chasing Milwaukee today. Had they won that game, they'd still be in first place, as it turns out, but they get the same chance this evening at the Toy Box.

Win, and they're in first place all alone. Lose, and the Admirals keep their grip on the West.

The Aeros have lost three straight in the season series and have played four one-goal games against Milwaukee. They are equal in many ways with a top-ten goalie on either side and enough offense to get the job done most nights. The Admirals have some of their top skilled guys either out or in Nashville (Blake Geoffrion, for example), and the Aeros will still be without Warren Peters, who is still in Minnesota.

A loss tonight won't kill them, but it will speak volumes about the team in general. It will prove they cannot beat the team directly in front of them in the standings. It will show the coaches and team officials that they have not been able to take advantage of a very fortuitous schedule and, quite frankly, it should make them doubt whether or not they are good enough to make the playoffs.

I think they win tonight. I think they play with the kind of desperation (and discipline) they need show in a playoff race that has not had an equal since the team joined the AHL in 2001.

The Aeros have 11 games left, and I think they need 94 points, maybe 95 to secure their right to play for the Calder Cup. That means they need to go 6-5, maybe 6-4-1, just to qualify. That kind of a record will send them on the road to start the playoffs. I'd love to see what they can do with home ice advantage for the first time since ... God, when was the last time they had home ice? 2006, I believe!

The teams behind them are not playing well, so even this minor slump of late has not cost the Aeros. Texas has fallen back, Peoria is depleted beyond belief and Chicago's defense is so leaky, well even Peoria with six or seven ECHLers stole two or three points from them last week. San Antonio, once the king of the division is three or four games below .500 since New Year's, and OKC has the most brutal closing schedule I have ever seen.

It is there for the taking. If the Aeros can't win six or seven of their last 11 games, they don't deserve to have home ice. If they cannot win tonight, they don't deserve to call themselves one of the best teams in the AHL.

If they can't beat Milwaukee tonight, everyone that following the Aeros will just end up hoping, praying that nobody makes a big run during the eight long days where they don't play.

Here is an update look at the playoff picture. Click on the image to see a larger version.