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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aeros returning for 2011-12

Here is a quick look at a group of players that will definitely be with the Aeros come opening night:

AEROS

Defense (8):
Jeff Penner
Drew Bagnall
Sam Lofquist
Justin Falk
Tyler Cuma
Kris Fredheim (AHL deal)
Kyle Medvec
Nate Prosser

Forwards (11):
Carson McMillan
Jeff Taffe
Kris Foucault
Jon DiSalvatore
Chad Rau
Jarrod Palmer
Jed Ortmeyer
Warren Peters
Matt Kassian
Joel Broda
David MacIntyre
Cody Almond

Goalies (2):
Matt Hackett
Darcy Kuemper

This following is a group that will likely see time with the Wild. Some, of course, more than others.

WILD (4):
Marco Scandella
Casey Wellman
Colton Gillies
Jared Spurgeon

And these players are categorized accordingly:

Europe (1):
Dennis Endras

Back to Juniors (2):
Brett Bulmer, Colton Jobke

Free Agents (4):
Patrick O'Sullivan, Scott Campbell, Robbie Earl, Pascal Morency

Already Gone (5):
Jamie Fraser, Max Noreau, Brandon Buck, JM Daoust, Josh Tordjman

Ortmeyer and Bagnall back in the fold

The Wild have re-signed forward Jed Ortmeyer and defenseman Drew Bagnall.
Both will spend a good chunk of time in Houston, but they will get their chances to play in Minnesota, too.

I think Bagnall was a lock to come back, but Ortmeyer was probably a little iffy. Having Yeo in St. Paul probably helped that cause.

Bagnall is a two-year deal; Ortmeyer is for one.

Congrats to Fletcher, Jim Mill and Co. for getting these two back in the fold.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Aeros coaching finalist down to three

Got the news yesterday that, barring any real surprise, the next Aeros head coach will either be Trent Yawney, Gary Agnew or Ryan McGill.

If those names sound familiar, they should. No matter which direction they go, the Aeros will have a very good hockey person in charge of the team come October.

Yawney coached in Norfolk and is good friends with Todd McLellan, who coached the Aeros in their early AHL days. Yawney has been an assistant under McLellan in San Jose and is the former head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

I am a little less familiar with Agnew, but he was in charge of the Syracuse AHL team for many years and then was an assistant under Claude Noel in Columbus.

As for McGill, Aeros fans probably saw his coaching style with Omaha/Quad City Flames. He them moved up as an assistant with Calgary, where he has been since the team moved to Abbotsford.

I am reaching out to see what I can find out about these guys from colleagues who have covered their teams. My gut says Yawney is going to get the gig, and I really hope I am right.

He did a lot with some weird Norfolk teams and was completely hosed in Chicago.

Here is a quote from one of my peers, Trys Wykes about Yawney: "He was awesome. One of the best people I've ever dealt with. He can be a tiny bit grumpy in certain situations but I miss him tremendously. An amazing father figure to young players. Houston and Minnesota will be lucky to have him."


Yawney in Chicago

Wykes covered the Norfolk Admirals for many years for the Virginia Pilot. Read this article he wrote about Yawney from back in the day.


Ryan McGill

McGill comes highly recommended, too. From another colleague, Joe Clark, who is now the GM for the NAHL team in Odessa: "His teams were always competitive, and you know what ... they always, always worked their asses off. And he does not sugar coat anything with the prospects. Tells them what they have to do to get better. Kind of reminds me of Barry Trotz in that regard. He is really old school, but he is great at developing guys."

I will update this post if/when I hear back about Agnew. For now, I will go with this quote from Lindsay Kramer, who covers the Crunch in upstate NY: "He always had the knack for teaching and relating to younger players, identifying their strengths and putting them in a position to do well."


Agnew in Columbus

This is a great year to be in the market for an AHL coach. All of these guys will make a great head coach. It will be a tough choice for Fletcher, Mill and company. But again, I really hope that Trent Yawney is our guy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hockey? In Reliant Stadium? In September?

So Andrew posted the story on the "preseason" game to be played at Reliant Stadium. And while I like the idea of a preseason game in Houston, the idea of playing it at that lifeless hanger known as Reliant Stadium, in September, just strikes me as a monumentally bad idea.

I've got some thoughts on this, and I posted them over at the mothership today. Let's just say that I'm troubled at the lack of involvement from the Aeros, the venue, the lack of an agreement with Reliant, and the lack of involvement on the part of the Toyota Center and Les Alexander.

In the comments I was shocked to discover that Phoenix does actually have a fan, and that somebody thought it was my job to write positive PR for hockey so that the sport will grow. I think if you ask my editor at the Press he would probably say that I write too many positive things about hockey when he would much prefer to see me bitching about the Texans, Astros, or Rockets.

But just in case you, dear readers, don't know it: I like hockey. I want hockey to grow in Houston. I want the NHL here on a full-time basis because it bugs me that Dallas has a team and we don't. I just wish that this Coyotes/Stars game at Reliant Stadium made more sense to me because, right now, it just has "failure" written all over it which, in turn, will shine this gigantic negative light on the city of Houston.

But what do I know, right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NHL Preseason coming to Houston

This story is developing, but it looks like there will be a preseason game in Houston this year.

A game between the affiliates of the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage.


http://starsblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/06/stars-to-play-pre-season-game-at-reliant.html


Here is the Phoenix Coyotes press release:

http://coyotes.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=566563

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yeo to be named Minnesota Wild head coach

Russo is reporting that Mike Yeo will be announced as the new head coach of the Wild tomorrow. So, the Aeros are on the hunt yet again for a new coach.

Personally, I'm delighted for Mike. I really can't say enough nice things about him as a person and as a coach and he absolutely has earned the opportunity to be a head coach in the NHL.

And as a Wild fan myself, the last two years have been a dreadful experience, so I'm looking forward to watching the sort of team Mike puts on the ice. I will be rooting for him AND for the boys.

I think a good number of them will be guys he's coached down here, if they go for a youth movement up there, so it's a good transition for them, too.

But of course, it's always a bit pins-and-needles time when you get a new coach down here. So here's to the team making another good choice when they fill his big shoes.

All the best of luck to Mike. I hope Wild fans enjoy him as much as we have.

I'm sure we'll (and by we, I mean someone with actual quotes) be back with more before long, but I wanted to get it out there.

Max Noreau traded to Devils

It is official - Max Noreau has been traded to the New Jersey Devils for Dave McIntyre.

I will try to get more details on this, but trade has been confirmed by Aeros GM Jim Mill.

Quick thought - this is not a shocker with the number of dmen in the Wild system.
Also, MacIntyre is a center originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2006. He recorded 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 78 games for Albany last season.

Both teams pick up something they need with this deal.

Noreau was the "oldest" Aero in sense of his tenure with the team. He and his massive slapshot will be missed.

Best of luck, Max!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rumor Time!

OK,

I have to stir the pot a little bit; the offseason is already driving me crazy.
I do have a chat planned with Jim Mill next week. Just want to get his thoughts on the season and the team he built for that very exciting Calder Cup run.

How much fun was that?

Moving on ...

The first and biggest question on everyone's mind is will Mike Yeo and Daryl Sydor be back next year to coach the Aeros? Well, do the Wild want to go with an experienced head coach or do they want to take another chance on a rookie coach?

And if they do that, who comes to Houston to run the show for Season No. 18?

I think the Wild DO promote Yeo. I think he takes Darryl Sydor with him and I think the Wild make the playoffs in 2013. My hunch is based solely on the fact that I don't think the Wild want to miss out on Yeo. Talk around the league is that Yeo is a true up-and-comer. If the Wild don't hire him now, someone else will nab him.

This is not a new theory, and I am not claiming it as such. I am just saying that this is what I think will happen.

And for another bold prediction, let me tell you who I think will lead the Aeros next season: Terry Ruskowski.

Ruskowski was the modern Aeros first coach in 1994-96, losing his job in the middle of the second season.

Most recently, he coached the Laredo Bucks until he parted ways with that organization after last season. He was in town quite a bit during the latter part of the postseason run and even worked with the black aces.

He was on the road with the team in the finals helping out.

I am sure Mill will get a ton of resumes the second if/when Yeo moves on the NHL. Certainly Ruskowski will throw his name into the hat. What a story that would make if the former teacher replaces the former student?

Your thoughts?

Here are Ruskowski's stats courtesy of www.hockeydb.com

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Polaroids From A Season Past

Heather started this the other day when she went on about Pirate Radio and how it reflected her view of the season. That got me thinking -- which is always a dangerous thing -- and perhaps it was Heather's thinking, or perhaps it came from watching Elton John videos when getting the "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" post. But to me, this season represents Almost Famous, one of my favorite movies.

I don't know how many of you've seen the movie, it's one of my favorites, but it bombed at the box office way back in 2000. Anyway, it's about this kid named William Miller, based on Cameron Crowe, the writer and director of the movie. And it's the story of how this 15-year-old-kid lands an assignment in 1973 from Rolling Stone -- who thinks he's much older to write a story on a band called Stillwater. He joins the band on tour, and while it's supposed to be a short journey, he finds that he just can't get away from them, going from San Diego to New York City.

I've left out a lot of the nuance, and I've really simplified the story. But there's a scene about halfway through the movie where the band has a huge fight, and they find themselves in Topeka, Kansas and on the verge of breaking up. William and the guitar player, Russell Hammond, wind up at a party in a suburban neighborhood where Hammond takes LSD and calls himself a golden god before jumping off the house into the pool. William gets him to safety, back on the band bus, and they're off for the next venue.

Here comes the point I've been building to. And I'll post the clip at the bottom. But they're all gathered on the bus, all wondering what the future holds when Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" starts to play. And slowly, one by one, the entire bus breaks out, singing the song. And William says to woman next to him, Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson, whose character is sleeping with Hammond in the movie, that he needs to go home. And she looks at him and says, "You are home."

So what's the point of all of this? Heather talked about how there's nothing better to her than being on the press row during a game with Andrew and myself. And that's damn special. But for me, it was last Saturday night/Sunday morning. It's about 3:00 a.m. and I'm on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading to Philadelphia so that I could catch my flight home. I'm tired. I'm trying to find anything on the radio to keep me awake. There's no traffic. No traffic. And it dawns on me. It's me, but there's nothing better than this. On the road, covering a hockey team in the playoffs. Sure, Kate Hudson's not leaning her head on my shoulder like in the movie, and I'm not on bus with a bunch of folks singing "Tiny Dancer," but I'm home.

It's all over now. Next week I'm bag to my normal world of temporary legal employment. That world that pays my bills. But I know where my home is.

Now at the end of the movie, William has to write his story. Throughout the movie, he's been taking Polaroid photos, and as he writes his story, he looks at the photos. So I hope you'll indulge me a bit as I share with you, my "Polaroids" of the season.

1. I'll remember Jean-Michel Daoust putting on a pair of boots worn by the Dynamics -- he was in his suit -- after one of the Peoria playoff games. Heather was there, she saw it, too. And I remember after another playoff game, going through the media dining room to get the media room to write. And the player wives, girlfriends, and children were gathered in the room. And there was Daoust, a huge smile on his face, playing with the kids.

2. I remember the first time we interviewed Jared Spurgeon after a game, right before he got called up to the Wild. He looked so young, so tiny -- Daoust looked like a giant compared to Spurgeon.

3. There was Colton Gillies choking up, struggling to answer, as I asked about his memories of Derek Boogaard.

4. It's not so much the game seven game-winning goal against Milwaukee that I remember so much, but instead I still see Chris Jerina jumping up from his seat and banging the glass.

5. I remember being on the ice after game seven against Hamilton as the guys came out to the salute the crowd.

6. Jon DiSalvatore always had this little twinkle in his eye during the playoffs. It was like he couldn't believe how much fun he was having, and just how much he was enjoying his teammates.

7. There were the three games toward the end of the year against Oklahoma City. That beating that Patrick O'Sullivan took shift after shift, game after game. And I thought that those people who thought O'Sullivan was soft had obviously never really seen him play because I couldn't believe the punishment he was taking, punishment he was taking yet kept getting up from.

8. I think the biggest thing I'll most remember about this team is the same thing Jon DiSalvatore will most remember. It's the guys. The way they rallied around each other. The way they sacrificed the good of their game for the betterment of the team. It was a joy to cover this team, to be around this team.

9. And I'll remember the press box, table more like it, that I shared with Andrew and Heather every game. How's that awful old song from the early-70s go, "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun." It's hard to believe it's over. Thank you for allowing me to share a table with you.

10. I remember that game when Patrick O'Sullivan joined the team. And it became evident then just how special this team could be.

11. And I still can't get it out of my mind. Robin Lehner throwing his stick in the air and the Senators going into full on celebration mode as the Aeros sunk to their knees on the ice, not able to believe it was all over. And I'll remember the fans, applauding the team, applauding the Sens as the Calder Cup was rewarded to them and they passed it around.

And finally, some thank yous and acknowledgements.

Thank you, Rich Bocchini, for your assistance throughout the season. He took over the media relations position literally right before the season started. He was under constant pressure throughout the season, but whatever I needed, or Andrew, or Heather, he got us.

Thank you, Joe O'Donnell. You're a true professional who we're lucky to have here on your way to the big time.

Thank you to Dave Maxwell who helped with access, and with getting us the players we needed for interviews. He was a special help on the road during the playoffs when he was conduit to the locker rooms in Peoria and Milwaukee and made sure I got the players I needed.

Thanks to team trainer Jody Green for coming through with the sinus meds I so desperately needed in Peoria after game four. And thanks to the entire medical staff who so generously shared their spot on the corner with me after I tried the photography thing.

Thanks to the entire Aeros staff of trainers and equipment guys we talked to and bumped in to and got in the way of every night. Thanks to Gary and the rest of the security staff.

Thanks to Mike Yeo, Darryl Sydor, and Brian Wiseman for not treating me like the idiot about hockey that I truly am. And thanks to Jim Mill for that same reason. Maybe someday I'll know all of the ins and outs of hockey like I do of baseball.

Thanks to Jon DiSalvatore for always being willing to take questions, even after painful, difficult losses. And thanks to Jed Ortmeyer for that same reason.

I want to thank Fred Trask for being with us, and me, in spirit. I was afraid that Fred would be upset with me for trying to photograph the games, because Fred should have been the one doing that. But Fred offered me advice on what cameras to purchase and gave me tips on what I should try to doing to make my work better. Thanks, Fred. I'm just your temporary replacement, and I hope that someday I can relinquish back to you the role of T3I photographer.

Thanks to Chris Jerina, our Midwest Bureau Chief, for so willingly traveling all around Illinois and Wisconsin and other parts to provide us with photography and news.

Thanks to Andrew and Heather. And thanks to everybody for reading.

Who would have thought in December that this season would have gone like it did? Who would have thought then that everybody would be so disappointed? It was a special season for the Houston Aeros, and it's one that I'm happy that I, in my own way, was able to participate in. That we all, in our ways, were able to participate in.

And as promised...

And JM Heads for Europe

The season is over, so it's time for players to start signing new contracts, changing teams, etc. And today the first Aero departed for greener pastures as JM Daoust signed with the Straubing Tigers of the DEL.

Good luck Jean-Michel. I enjoyed watching him, even when he wasn't on the ice as he seemed, from my eye, to be one of the chemistry guys every team absolutely needs to have. And read the Google translation story that I linked to you because there you'll be amazed at what Dauost was able to accomplish weighing only 75-pounds.

Wiseman accepts Assistant Coach gig at Michigan

Aeros assistant coach Brian Wiseman had homecoming of sorts this season, returning not only to hockey after a 5-year break, but to the Aeros, where he played in his pro days.

After one season with the Aeros, he's now returning to Ann Arbor and his alma mater, the University of Michigan, as an assistant coach.

Here's the story from the Michigan web site.

Best of luck to Coach Wiseman!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And The New Coach of The Admirals Will Be...

While we're all still wondering if we'll have Mike Yeo around next year, or whether he'll be rewarded with the top job with some NHL team somewhere, comes the word that Milwaukee head coach, and former Aero, Lane Lambert is being promoted by the Nashville Predators organization. The word is a press conference has been scheduled for tomorrow in which it will be announced that Lambert's been hired on as assistant coach to the Preds, which means the Ads will be in search of a new coach.

Just a reminder that, while the actual hockey is finished for the year, hockey itself is not finished. There'll be more coaching moves to come. AHL/NHL affiliations will be shifting around. The Moose are moving to St. John's, Newfoundland and we're waiting for the AHL to figure out which conference/division in which to place them -- my guess is that the AHL finds a way to keep them in the so-called Western Conference, North Division because the teams in the Eastern Conference don't want to be bothered with all of that far-flung traveling the teams in the Western Conference have to deal with.

There'll be roster changes throughout the league, more coaching changes, and don't forget, the league's moving to a 76-game schedule next year.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

This is, I think, the hardest post to write that I've ever done here. The interviews were hard to transcribe, listening to the inflections in the voices of Mike Yeo and Jon DiSalvatore, the emotion, the passion, the disappointment, the feeling that they had just let down not only themselves, but the fans, especially the fans.

This isn't how the Aeros wanted this season to end. Not losing game six on home ice after having a 2-1 lead in the third period. Not losing a game on a desperation play by a Binghamton defender coming from nowhere to block a Patrick O'Sullivan shot that appeared to be a sure goal with about 50 seconds left that would have sent the game to overtime. Not after they finally got their power play working. Not after they left everything they had out there on the ice.

In the end, the Aeros just couldn't go any further. All of the game sevens. All of the physical play. The injuries. In the end, it was just too much. Especially with a 19-year-old rookie goalie named Robin Lehner playing out of his mind.

The better team won last night. The Senators getting the 3-2 win to win the Calder Cup in front of 10,000-plus screaming Aeros fans. So, for one last time, lets get to the notes, quotes and observations from game six.

1. First, here's the link to my game story in the Press. I know you're sick and tired of my pushing this, but this will be the last time for awhile. I don't know what the status of Aeros coverage in the Press will be for next season, but they've indulged me for four seasons, so go over one last time this year, read the story, leave some comments. Let them know you care (and damn, what do you know, people from Binghamton are already bitching about it though I say nothing but good things about the team).

2. Despite the Aeros loss, this was easily the best game of hockey I've seen in a long time. Perhaps it had something to do with Terry Koharski not being around, but David Banfield and Jean Hebert did an excellent job of officiating this game. They kept the scrums to a minimum. They called the penalties that needed to be called. They didn't get in the way of the flow of the game. Perhaps the league listened to Mike Yeo, perhaps they didn't. But still, nice job of officiating.

3. I think the bravest person around last night was Jon DiSalvatore. It's Mike Yeo's job to talk to us media folks, win or lose. But DiSalvatore could have said no. I don't think any of us would have objected. I think we would have all understood. But the guy's the captain. He's been the go-to guy for a comment all season. So we asked for him, and he came out, and he talked to us. You could tell it was hard. You could tell he was dying inside. Dying for himself, his teammates, the fans. But he stood there one last time and answered our questions.

There was a reason the guys elected him to be the captain. And we've seen it many times out there on the ice. But his performance after this game, standing there, facing us, after this, that's why he was the captain.

4. "If I can say right now, thank you to all of the fans," DiSalvatore said at the very end. "I do want to thank them. They were tremendous. They showed up tonight, and they were great. We really appreciate that support. We’re upset that we couldn’t bring a championship, but we appreciate all of the support that they’ve given to us, and we hope that they’re back next year for sure."

5. The crowd last night was fantastic. The Aeros are a minor league team in a major league town. They battle for attention with the Astros, the Texans, and the Rockets. The Dynamo probably get more attention. They're there with the Cougars and the Owls. But despite that, they went out and won games. They demanded attention, and the fans, the city paid attention. There were over 10,000 folks inside Toyota Center last night banging their thundersticks and clanging the cowbells. I was down there in the corner in the third period, and you could feel it.

6. "It was an interesting year for me, coming back here," Mike Yeo told us. "We had some amazing, passionate fans, but I think things kind of grew as the playoffs went on. Those passionate fans, I’m really happy for them that they got awarded with a long playoff run, and I wish we could have delivered to them what I believe that they deserve as well. I think our fans are the best in the league. I also think that with the help of the media – the media was great for us throughout the playoffs, and I think that picking up – I think we picked up a lot of new fans along the way. I think people got a chance to see what it’s all about. The passion that’s out there. The energy level that’s out there. The speed and intensity of the game. And our crowds were just unbelievable. Again, I wish in front of that crowd tonight, to see how classy they were, to see them cheering on right to the very end, I wish that we could have delivered a different outcome."

7. About that outcome. What a punch in the gut. Binghamton played great hockey. But the injuries were the doom for the Aeros. Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon were probably, along with Colton Gillies, the team's best penalty killers, and they couldn't play. Jon DiSalvatore said the special teams were a wash -- each team had two goals on the power play -- and that it was the five-on-five that did the Aeros in. And perhaps he's right. Once again, going to the injuries to the Spurgeon and Almond.

We saw way too little of Spurgeon this season. That's because he was up with the Wild way before he was supposed to be up with the Wild, and he stayed up there because of just how good he was on defense. And Cody Almond had been a key piece to making the chemistry of the first line just right, providing the grit to go with DiSalvatore and O'Sullivan.

8. One of the things that Yeo and DiSalvatore have spoken about all year is the character of this team. About how they've banded together, become a family. Maybe it's kind of a cliche. But for this team, it worked, and Yeo says that why this team went as far as it did.

"You know what, when you see a guy go out and put his own agenda aside, and do everything he can to help the guy next to him, to help you, to help his teammates, that’s when you know that guy’s a winner. That’s a guy you want to go out and do the same thing for. That’s what we have with this group. It’s a group that cared an awful lot about each other. I think that that came from each guy giving everything he could for the group. It was a very special group."

9. Jon DiSalvatore was asked what that one thing, above any other thing, would be that he remembers about this season. He didn't mention a game, or a goal. He mentioned his teammates.

"It’s always going to be the guys," he said. "It’s us in there. We go through everything together. You experience different relationships with guys. You battle, and you grind, and you challenge each other, and at the end of the day you guys are all fighting for the same thing. And you come together – you learn so much about the character of guys, and what it took for what guys to get to this level, and how guys are experiencing pro careers differently, and how we all become part of it with each other. These relationships that you build, especially going this far is – they’re a lifetime. They become lifetime friends, and warriors that you’ll just go to battle with any day."

10. In the end, Binghamton was just the better team last night. Particularly Robin Lehner. "He’s fantastic. He was fantastic," Yeo said. "Certainly in the second period we had great chances. We could have extended our lead. We couldn’t get that third goal. He’s huge. He’s a big guy. He covers an awful of lot net. He was great."

11. It was tough to see the Aeros lose last night, to lose the series. It was tough to see Binghamton celebrating on the ice while the Aeros skated in a daze, trying to grasp what had just happened. But despite all of that, I had a slight tinge of happiness. Not so much for the Senators as a team, because I don't really know that team. But I do know two of the players, Barry Brust and Corey Locke.

Barry Brust was my money quote, my go-to-guy for three years in Houston. He'd always give a great quote, win or lose, especially if he had just lost a game. He's a good guy, hell, he's a great guy. And Corey Locke was only here for one season, but that season, two years ago, he was a star. He was Mr. Dependable. The guy just had, still has, this ability to put points on the board. And while not as great a quote as Brust, he would always talk and do his best to give us what we needed.

So as tough as it was to watch the Aeros lose, to see the guys I've been covering and getting to know this year lose, I want to congratulate Brusty and Corey and their teammates.

12. Finally, it's been awhile since I've posted a video. But there's this song that's been running through my head since the game ended last night. Perhaps it's because of the way Yeo and DiSalvatore kept trying to apologize to the fans and to each other for letting everybody down. Perhaps it's because the song is used in Slap Shot, one of my favorite movies. But it just seems to fit the mood I'm in, so here's Elton John with "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word."



I'll be back later this week with my thoughts on the season and a whole bunch of thank yous.

Thoughts on a season ending...

There's a great movie that I recommend you all put on your Netflix list called Pirate Radio. It's about a rock and roll radio station that ran on a big ship in the ocean off the coast of England in the 60s, because the government banned rock on the BBC.

It's about the guys on that boat who put their heart and soul into the cause of delivering entertainment to their listeners, risking a certain amount of peril, but also getting lots of hot chicks, to do it. Sound familiar?

Anyway, there's a scene in the movie that struck me like an anvil when I saw it and it came back to me as I drove home tonight, trying my best to see the lines on the road through my tears.

Carl: You okay?

The Count: Yeah, just... You know, a few months ago, I made a terrible mistake.

Carl: Really?

The Count: Yeah. I realized something. And instead of crushing the thought the moment it came I... I let it hang on and... Now I know it to be true. And I'm afraid it's stuck in my head forever.

Carl: What was the thought?

The Count: That these are the best days of our lives.... It's a terrible thing to know, but I know it.

Carl: I don't know about that.

The Count: Well, yeah. Yeah. Maybe you'll be lucky. Maybe you'll have better days, but I doubt it. We stood on top of the mountain, compadre. It's a long way do-be-do-be down.
And that's pretty much how I feel tonight. This season was special. It was special in a quiet, determined way that, I dunno about you guys, but it sneaked up on me. And I don't think it's ever going to be this good again.

Personally, it was extra special for me. Every day I got to hang out with John and Andrew was such a pleasure. Every game on press row... there is no happier place for me.

Used to, when I had to go to my happy place, it was on a hammock, gentle ocean breeze rocking me into a serene bliss. Now, my happy place is right there at the top of 108, watching hockey, writing about hockey, simply awash in things I love.

And I did grow to love this team. There isn't a guy in the bunch I can say a bad word about. In fact, most of them, I can't even begin to express my appreciation and admiration for their efforts, their leadership, their strength--both mental and physical.

And Yeo... gosh. Well, I already wrote about him for our friends over at Hockey Wilderness, some serious, some not so serious. But what I didn't say was how much I appreciated his generous and even-keeled interaction with the media all season. He literally could not have been nicer to us without actually bringing us flowers and giving shoulder massages.

The guy just flat out gets it, and if he's here next year, I'll be surprised and delighted. If you weren't already aware of how lucky we are/were to have him, please believe me when I say we were VERY lucky.

Lastly, Rich Bocchini has just been amazing to work with all season. Taking over the gig just before the first puck dropped, he jumped in and immediately made sure we had what we needed to do our jobs. And he's been a pleasure all season.

The disappointing thing about sports is that you run into an awful lot of egos in the front offices, so when you find a PR guy who literally says, "Whatever you need, I will try and get it for you." and then he goes and does it, you know you've got a keeper.

I don't want to leave people out, but I could go on too long if I don't. Needless to say, the hockey ops folks, the docs, Joe, everybody I've gotten to know or know better this season, are just grade A folks. Thanks for letting me tag along in Bingo. It was an unbelievable experience.

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

In the end, this series goes back to those 9 days Binghamton had off. The Aeros ran out of gas after having to battle to 7 games in rounds 2 and 3. It was evident how much they wanted it, but Bingo had the jump in their legs all series, except for their rusty first game.

To me, that break was the difference in the series. Sometimes that's just how the puck bounces though.

Lehner was a pleasure to watch, though if they'd actually wanted to make this a REALLY fun series, they would have played both back-up goalies and just put me in picture-in-picture up on the Jumbotron. But nobody asked me. That great idea will die with the 2011 season.

Thanks to all the fans who support the team with all your hearts and minds and wallets, and extra thanks to those who do that AND support us so kindly here at T3I. 

We stood on top of the mountain, compadres. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words

What's that they say, pictures are worth a thousand words? Well, I'll throw up some words and some quotes later. But I think the photos say all that there really is to say.





Curtains! Binghamton Wins first-ever Calder Cup at Aeros' expense

The Aeros just ran out of gas in the third period. You could see it as precious time ticked off the clock in the final 20 and ultimately on their magical run.

The jump they had in the first period was gone, and the power play that tripled its production in the second 2o minutes of Tuesday's game was nowhere to be found early in the third period.

The two calls against Scandella and Earl were unfortunate, but legit. The tying goal by Bobby Butler was just a result of too much space in the middle of the ice. And the second, what can you say? What a shot ... Ryan Keller had about the size of a hockey puck over Hack's shoulder to shoot at ... and he nailed it.

Two of the Aeros best penalty killers (Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon) were injured, and I think that made a huge difference when the Aeros really needed to stay out of the penalty box in the third period.

I thought for sure Patrick O'Sullivan was going to tie it up with 50 seconds left in the game. He settled a rolling puck and fired a shot that was going to land in the back of the net. But Geoff Kinrade did what you are supposed to do in the playoffs. He dove in front of the net and saved the game from going into OT.

I know John and Heather will have more later on tonight or tomorrow - there is still much to digest from this series and wonderful season.

But here is my take on the game and on the series - What a series by 19-year old rookie goalie Robin Lehner. The Aeros did not put more than two past him in any game (empty netter in Game 1). Throughout the playoffs, the Aeros won series after series; and they only scored more than four goals ONCE in 24 games. Read that again. The Aeros got to within two wins of a championship and only scored more than four goals one time.

That in and of itself goes to show just how good the Aeros were at grinding out wins in the playoffs. And it adds to the incredible statement Robin Lehner made in the last three games of the series.

He deserves every accolade, and maybe one day he will be known as a great, top-line goalie in the NHL.
But for now, he'll be known as the rogue crime-fighter that stopped the Aeros dead in their tracks.

Like the sign says in the picture above; who needs Batman when you have Robin?

Really?

I guess someone should tell the City of Binghamton to google "Dallas Mavericks + 2006 + Miami Heat+ Mayor + Parade"

Why?

Cuz, check this out!

To be completely fair, this is not coming from the BSens organization. I bet there is a Senators PR person in Houston right now that is fairly displeased with what can only be a complete lack of communication. But this is never, ever a good thing, especially in today's fast-moving electronic age. Why? Because every player will see this at least five times before the warm up tonight.


And here is a jpeg for you to click on just in case someone decides to go ahead and pretend this didn't happen today:

The Morning Skate - Game 6 vs. Binghamton

It's been awhile since you've heard from me. Maybe more on why after the season is over, but please forgive me ahead of time as this post will be all over the map.

Today, while driving back from the morning skate, after seeing all the seats (every one of them) covered with white thundersticks, after talking to Mike Yeo, Nate Prosser and Jon DiSalvatore, I realized why I love covering playoff hockey so much. No matter the circumstances that surround the series, these guys, the players, coaches, front office, PR staff, even the league PR staff, are working hard toward one goal. And that is to make this a fun, memorable and successful event for everyone involved.

If you are a fan, you want to see hockey. Great, great playoff hockey.
If you are a coach, you want your players to play their game and give it their unrelenting best.
If you are a player, you want the guy next to you to do everything he can do FOR you.
If you are a reporter, you want good notes and for God sakes, no triple OT games.
If you sell tickets, you want to see the rink filled to the brim and know that Sunday you gave up was well worth it.
If you are in PR, you want everything to go just how you planned it; no surprises either way.

The Aeros are right; this is a special team. And no matter what happens tonight or Thursday, the will be able to still say that long after the trophy goes to a new team next Spring.

Win, and they make history ... it's been a very long time since a team rallied to win the last two games of the Calder Cup Finals. Lose, and you know what? Hats off to Robin Lehner, who quite frankly deserves the MVP of this series so far. In fact, you can make an argument that Lehner deserves that no matter what the Sens do, save for an 8-1 game in Game 7.

At the morning skate this morning, the Aeros were the same as usual. Up-beat, loose and they skated hard through a high-tempo practice with a lot of laughter, cheers and "alrights" ... it's fun that they don't take themselves too seriously. The team in 2009? Remember them? They were fun to watch, but for the most part, it was like going to a board meeting every time after the game.

Today, I loved watching that dump and chase drill, and I really like watching the faceoff exercise, where the center takes several draws in rapid succession. Even at the end, when Josh Tordjman was taking one-timers from Wiseman and Sydor, the team was still having fun as they were heading back to the locker.


(the faceoff drill)

When we were done with our interviews today, Colton Gilles, DiSalvatore, Earl and others were giving each other the business about day-to-day stuff and other things SO not associated with the biggest game of their lives.

It was just so nice to see that, and they all commented on the inspiring letters and pictures fans have sent in to have taped to the walls outside the dressing room. Every one of the players can't wait to get out there tonight, to see the fans with 10,000 thundersticks.


(pictures and letters, right outside the locker)

Brutally honest time ...

I am so nervous for them, and yet I still cannot wait for tonight. I am unbiased and will not cheer, but (deep down) I really do hope the Aeros force a Game 7 with a convincing win. I want to see how all of this comes together. I want to see this unique group of guys, who will never again all play together beyond Thursday night, do something so magical that you cannot go a day over the summer break without thinking about it.

When I get to the rink tonight, I want to hear the fans scream, and I want to hear that goal horn four, five or even six times. I want to see the guys hug each other at the end and skate over to rookie goalie Matt Hackett and tap his pads for a job well done. That is what I want to see. More importantly, that is what I want YOU to see.

I know all their hard work over the course of the season is well worth every second no matter what happens. But I want to see them rewarded for it, so we can do this all over again in 48 hours.


(There are two thundersticks on every seat)

Catching Up With JM Daoust


JM Daoust celebrates after scoring on Saturday night.

One of the key pieces of last season's Aeros team was Jean-Michel Daoust. Often times, it seemed, he was about the only piece of the team that seemed to be working as well as was needed. This season though, things just haven't seemed to work. He was often a healthy scratch, and when he played, things just didn't seem to happen.

He was placed on the Clear Day Roster, but it was clear that he wouldn't be seeing much, if any ice time, during the playoffs. And through the first two rounds, that was the case. He was out skating at every practice, and observations of him around the locker room after games seemed to reveal a guy who, though not playing, was having a good time, often serving as a kind of comic relief after some of those tough games the Aeros were playing against Milwaukee.

He first saw action toward the ends of the Hamilton series, becoming a key component to a fourth line that, through injuries and ineffectiveness to other lines, was seemingly changing personnel night after night. He's become a regular on the ice in this Binghamton series, and it was his hard work in front of the goal that earned the Aeros their only two goals in Saturday's 4-2 game five loss, in which Daoust found a way to score twice in the first period.

"You know that at one point, I knew that I would have to be in," Daoust said after practice yesterday. "When you go on a long run in the playoffs, there’s always injuries. Mainly what kept me motivated to keep working in practice and training and going to the gym was obviously my teammates. You saw them playing on the ice. They worked their backs off. I see them working, and doing that, and you don’t want to let them down if you go in. That was my main motivation."

And perhaps its that attitude, more than anything, that the team needs right now. The team easily got past Peoria, but the series with Milwaukee, Hamilton, and Binghamton have been more physically bruising and mentally draining than the other. And then you see Daoust, this short guy full of energy and with a huge smile and you know that he wants nothing more than to play hockey and make his teammates proud.

Tonight is game six, a do-or-die game for the Aeros. Another must-win in a season of must-wins. But Daoust has perhaps the best perspective for handling the game.

"It’s an important game, but it’s a hockey game," he said. "You don’t have to put too much pressure on yourself. You have to be ready and bring your best game. Obviously if you play well like that, we’ve got a good chance to win."

And then there's the most important thing of all. Something that several people have stated. The Aeros are playing hockey in June. In mid-December, when the Aeros were in that spiral that would carry them to seventh place, who out there thought this team would be playing hockey in June, two victories away from capturing the Calder Cup?

"It feels great [to play in hockey in June]," he said. "Especially in Houston, it’s so warm. It’s a fun feeling. We’re the remaining two teams in the league, and it’s always an accomplishment to get that far. So it’s obviously fun."

Obviously fun.

See everybody tonight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Some Monday Afternoon Thoughts And Quotes


Sign taped to the glass at SLICE.

Headed up to SLICE for the Aeros skate/practice today, and everyone appeared to be in good spirits with no feel of impending doom and/or destruction. So that's a good thing. The guys are ready to play, they're confident in their ability to win the game, they're having fun playing in June, and Mike Yeo is still a little peeved about the officiating on Saturday night.

First things first...it appears that the only people reading/commenting on today's story in the mothership are the people from Binghamton. It's another take on the officiating, and I also state my firm belief that the officiating is not why the Aeros lost games four and five, but that the Aeros and how they played are the reason they lost games four and five, but when you have a coach supporting what you've been writing the whole postseason about the officiating, then of course you're going to lead with that, right? Anyway, click here and go read.

And some other things before getting to the heart of this post. To the commenter claiming there's some kind of conspiracy to keep Matt Kassian from playing and how the use of Pascal Morency is in clear violation of the Clear Day Roster rules, I thought I would try to offer up an explanation.

Each team is allowed a Clear Day Roster with a maximum of 22 players. These are the only players who can play in the playoffs, with a few caveats. Amateurs don't have to be part of the Clear Day Roster, and once their seasons end, they can join the team and play, as happened with Brett Bulmer. The other caveat is if there is an emergency situation, such as a call-up to the NHL, a suspension, or an injury.

With the injury to Cody Almond on Friday night, the Aeros Clear Day Roster consisted of 21 healthy players. Thus, it's an emergency situation and they can add a player to the roster. Thus, Pascal Morency, who was not on the Clear Day Roster can be added to the playing roster and play on Saturday night. With the injury to Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night, I would expect to see the Aeros adding Kris Fredheim to the roster, though I expect Jeff Penner to get Spurgeon's playing time.

So, I hope that satisfies though of you who have been asking about the use of Morency.

Now on with the notes from practice.

There were no real surprises. Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon didn't skate, and it appeared that Pascal Morency and Jeff Penner were skating in their spots -- Morency with Daoust and McMillan as he did Saturday night, and Penner teamed up with Marco Scandella. Jed Ortmeyer did not skate, but is fine. Matt Kassian, Brandon Buck, and Kris Fredheim were also out skating with the regulars -- Buck took Ortmeyer's spot so the third line could get in some practice.

Mike Yeo spoke to the assembled media after the game, and I'm sure many of you have seen the video clips the Aeros posted, or the snippets that will be on TV tonight. But for those who didn't, well, I was there.

I asked if he was going to ask the guys to skate a bit more cautiously given the uneven officiating and how the penalties are being called. The question elicited this response, which I'll give in full:

"We have to watch our discipline for sure. We’re going to do that. Obviously those statements [on Saturday] are made to hopefully make other people take notice. Even when I went back and watched the game again, I stand by my words. I think that there were some things that should have been called in the third period when we were taking the play to them that weren’t called especially. But we can’t – that’s over and done with. Those statements were made to hopefully draw some attention to it, but for us, we can’t think about it any further. It’s all about tomorrow and making sure that we play disciplined, but at the same time, we can’t change our game. We have to be playing hard, and we have to be playing that aggressive style that we do."

So yes, he's still a bit bothered by the officiating, and no, he's not going to have the guys change their style of play, aside from asking them to be a bit more disciplined, thus no obvious tripping penalties please, Mr. Gillies.

The majority of the questions from me and my brethren to Yeo and the players were about how to approach a game six, and what it's like to play in such a game when you know a loss means the season is over.

"This is a game seven for us obviously, it’s only game six, but we’re approaching it with that mentality," Yeo said. "We’ve been pretty strong in those games. When we’ve been faced with our back against the wall situations, when we’ve come out, we’ve had strong performances. We’re real excited about getting in front of our home crowd and doing everything we can to keep this series going."

Warren Peters faced a similar situation last year with the Texas Stars, but he thinks what he dealt with last year is irrelevant to anything. He instead offered up the following.

"We definitely haven’t made it easy on ourselves, not that you plan on doing that. The conference finals was a lot more stressful than maybe it needed to be, but again, that’s in the past. [Binghamton] deserve some credit in making it 3-2 and getting a win on home ice, which was big for them, obviously. They did a good job in getting that done. Now it’s our turn to respond.

[SNIP]

"We’ve had our backs against the wall a couple of times in the playoffs, and we’ve responded well. I expect the same thing from our team and the guys in our room because we’ve been doing it the whole second half of the season for sure."

Everybody seems to be focusing on how they handled the game seven situations in Milwaukee and here against Hamilton, and applying that approach to tomorrow's game six. That makes some sense, and it gives the team a semblance of confidence in that they know that, with their backs against the wall, facing a win or go home situation, they've responded by putting together a good game and getting the win. Yet tomorrow is somewhat different in that this is a game six, they've got to win this game just to get to a game seven.

Now Mike Yeo did face a somewhat similar situation as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won the Stanley Cup, and he sees some similarities to those Penguins and these Aeros.

"I think the biggest thing is, the similarity between that and this is that our group has confidence. I think that if you look at a series as a whole, and the way things have panned out, then we’re down 3-2 but it could easily be a different series with a couple of bounces here or there. I think that for the most part we’ve out-chanced them, we’ve out-shot them, and for the better part of most games we’ve been, I believe, the better team.

"We had that same mentality [with Pittsburgh] in 09 when we were faced with having to win both games and one of those was being game seven on the road where we get to both at home. But I know that that team, this team, both believe in themselves. And we believe in ourselves, and that doesn’t necessarily guarantee us anything, but certainly it makes things a lot more possible for us."

The Aero with the longest tenure with the club is defenseman Max Noreau, who joined the club early during Kevin Constantine's first season at the helm four seasons ago. And yes, this game does mean a bit more to him because of his time here.

"I think it means a lot to me because of that run we had two years ago. We lost in the semi-finals. We were so close, but didn’t quite get it done. Now we’re in the finals, and we’re down 3-2. It’d be nice to get it done this time. I have a lot of belief in this team. Everyone does. We had a great meeting today, great practice. Seemed pretty upbeat. Nobody’s really down. We’re coming home. We have great fans; they’ve been really good to us in the playoffs this year. We’ve just got to stick with it and get the two wins this week."

And then Noreau came out with the really important stuff. It's the stuff we hear from the team a lot, and have heard from the team a lot when they're down, and though it's rather cliched and simplistic, it has worked for the team. They've got to forget about everything and just follow the process.

"We had a big talk about that today," he said. "The main focus was, focus on the process, and focus on the little details you have to do, whether it’s getting a puck deep or getting a shot on net. Don’t focus on whether you’re going to score the goal or block that shot or whether you’re going to win the game for us. Just focus on the details. Do the right thing every time you’re out there. And if you focus on that process, the result at the end, we’re going to get the win. It’ll take care of itself."

Without any doubt this has been a physical series which has seen the Aeros lose Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon to injury. Noreau thinks this could be part of the Senators plan, but he noted that it's been tried before, and that those other teams that tried it failed.

"I think they’re a pretty skilled team, but I think that at home they definitely upped their intensity," he said. "Whether it was because of their fans or they just completely changed because they thought that that would work, they came at us definitely a lot harder the past three games. But I think we’re by far the most physical team of the two, we’ve just got to get back to doing that.

"It’s been a grind for us, a couple of game sevens, Milwaukee was a pretty physical team. So was Hamilton. And mentally it’s been tough for us, too. We were up three-nothing and [Hamilton] came back, so I think we’ve learned a lot in the past month or two. We’ve got to put all of that together and bring it together tomorrow."

And despite the importance of tomorrow's game, Noreau had a great perspective: it's June and the Aeros are one of the very few hockey teams still playing.

"It’s pretty special," he said. "To know that it’s only us and maybe the two NHL teams left, you might be only the last four teams left playing the in the world. It’s a pretty good feeling. We’re pretty fortunate. We’re pretty lucky. We feel lucky to be here. But at the same time, I think we deserve to be here. We worked really hard this year, and all the guys poured their hearts out. It’s do-or-die. We’ve got two games, but two games away from the Calder Cup. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. It’s a pretty big honor."

I've talked to JM Daoust a bit, and I'll throw that up in a post for tomorrow, as he's always a fun guy to talk to. But before I end, the guys offered up their thoughts on what they're expecting from the fans tomorrow night.

"Just what they’ve been doing is fantastic," Yeo said. "We’re hoping for a great turnout. Binghamton was well-represented. When we get back home, we’re playing in front of our home crowd. I know that they’re going to be loud; I know that they’re going to be into the game, and they’re going to crank up the energy level for our guys. We’re hoping that it’s a big crowd and ready to come out and cheer us on, hopefully setting us up for a game seven here."

Warren Peters was a bit more precise: "We hope that they’re loud. We came from a chaotic building, and we’d like ours to be as loud and as noisy as possible"

And then there's Noreau who once again put things in a proper perspective. No matter what the crowd is like, it's still up to the Aeros to do their job out on the ice.

"Just some enthusiasm, some energy, but the bottom line is it’s our livelihood right now," he said. "It’s do-or-die tomorrow and whether the fans are upbeat or not, we’ve got to go out and produce. I know the fans are going to show up. They’ve been there the whole playoff run. They’ve been unbelievable. It’s up to us. It’s going to start in our room and it’s going to finish on the ice."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some Game Five Photos and Additional Notes

For those of you who decided not to give your hard-earned bucks to AHL Live so that it could fail for you again, I thought I would share some photos from the game. But first, a few notes.

1. You'll be pleased to note that some Binghamton fans consider the Aeros to be the dirtiest team they've played this year. Good for them, because if that's what they think, they wouldn't have been able to handle some of the teams the Aeros have handled this year. And I'm sure that if you ask many of the Aeros fans, they're not going to want to say too many nice things about the Senators style of play.

2. There was a comment below on Pascal Morency and the Clear Day Roster. And no, Morency was not on the Clear Day Roster. But AHL rules allow players not on the Clear Day Roster to play in the playoffs in case of an emergency situation, such as the injury to Cody Almond. Morency has been with the team since the playoffs started, and he's been skating with the Black Aces.

3. If Jared Spurgeon can't play on Tuesday, I'd expect his replacement to be Jeff Penner, who played during the Peroia series because of the injury to Marco Scandella. I haven't heard any updates on Almond or Spurgeon. I'll go out to to the skate tomorrow to see if I can get any information, but I doubt I'll get anything definitive.

4. Now for the photos....


This is Jared Spurgeon on the ice as Jody Green works on him. And it was at this point that the arena was screaming out taunts at Matt Hackett.


This is a photo of the Binghamton mascot being lowered from the arena rafters. The picture doesn't do the absurdity of this event justice because the mascot primarily just hangs there as he's lowered -- I got him moving his arms -- and it kind of looks like he's being lynched.


Here is JM Daoust getting the first goal of the game for the Aeros. He just did his standard hang around the net and be a pest thing.


Here's Daoust's second goal. You can't really see it in this photo, but I thought Robbie Earl deserved an assist because just before this it was like Earl and the goalie were wearing the same uniform, so smothered and screened did Earl have him.


And here's Hackett making a heroic effort to stop a shot. He can't quite stop it though, as Binghamton scores its third goal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Notes, Quotes & Observations from Game Five, Houston v. Binghamton: Or The Someone's Going To Get Fined Edition

If the Aeros would have played in game four like they played game five tonight, then it's quite possible the Aeros would be the Calder Cup champs right now. Instead, they're down 3-2 and coming back to Houston tonight on what has to be a rather depressing charter flight.

The Aeros dominated the action in every single period of the game, outshooting, outhustling, and outplaying the Senators in just about every aspect possible. Yet tonight, playing an outstanding game, the Aeros still lost by the score of 4-2. But along with losing the game, they possibly lost Jared Spurgeon for the rest of the series with a hit that saw him prone on the ice for several minutes while trainer Jody Green worked on him.

Corey Locke put the Senators up at the 9:19 mark of the first when the Senators took advantage of, you guessed it, a turnover. Jean-Michel Daoust tied the game at 11:08 when he scored on a wraparound, but at 12:17, Binghamton went back up awhen Erik Condra got free on a breakaway. But Daoust came through again, punching the puck past Robin Lehner at the 19:54 mark of the first period.

The Aeros would not score again, though they had numerous chances. But the Aeros fell victim to some questionable officiating as well as their own stupidity, and when they fell behind 3-2 on a Zach Smith power play goal with nine seconds left in the second period, it was obvious the Aeros were going to lose.

So now the Aeros return to Houston down 3-2 and having possily lost two key players, Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon, to injuries for the rest of the series. But it's doubtful the Aeros are going to play any more stinkers like they did in game four. The question though is whether the Aeros are going to be able to take this to a game seven. And that's a question we'll get the answer to on Tuesday night.

Now on to fun the stuff, notes, quotes, and observations.

1. The AHL, as I discovered today, likes to throw fits when you criticize the competence of the officiating. So I'm not going to slam the officials. I actually thought they called a better game tonight than last night. But just because I was a bit more happy with the zebras doesn't mean that the Aeros were happy with the officiating.

Mike Yeo's generally a pretty levelheaded guy, and he doesn't generally make statements that can be seen as criticisms of other teams or of officiating. But someone removed his filter tonight.

"If you didn’t ask me about [the officiating], I was going to ask you if you wanted to ask me about it," he said. "But certainly we took some penalties we shouldn’t have taken. But at the same time, I think that some were either called that shouldn’t have been called, or I think that there were some penalties that should have been called that were not called.

"The one thing that you ask is don’t just manage the game. As soon as it’s 4-2 in power plays you know that they’re going to call one. At the same time, we’re dominating puck possession time, and I think that, minus last game, we’ve dominated puck possession time in the entire series, yet they have 21 power plays to our 17. And we’re not known as being an undisciplined team. That’s not because we’re being undisciplined, they’re doing the same stuff after the whistle that we’re doing, both teams are doing that stuff. But the play between the whistles, when you’re actually playing, when you have the puck that many times, your team should be on the power play more than it should be short-handed."

But wait, there's more. Here's what he had to say being asked about Jared Spurgeon's injury in the second period.

"That’s one we’ll have to watch again and see if that was worthy of a call. If we lose a defensemen there, that’s tough. Same thing with Prosser in the third period when a guy leaves his feet. If it’s a penalty it’s a penalty. Doesn’t matter the situation, call it."

2. Jared Spurgeon's injury looked rather ugly to me, worse than Cody Almond's last night. I didn't see the hit. But even after he was down along the board it appeared that one of the Senators kept going at him. He lay on his stomach for awhile, then was able to turn over on his back, which is how he stayed for awhile while Jody Green worked on him. He eventually stood and was essentially pulled off the ice by Green and one of his teammates as he didn't really skate and really appeared to be favoring his left leg.

And of course, it was at the time of this injury, when the injury was obvious because the trainer was out on the ice and looking him over, that the Binghamton fans chose to start shouting out their taunts at Matt Hackett. A real classy move. We noted this on twitter, and we were informed that "hey, we clapped when he went off the ice."

3. The officiating isn't the reason the Aeros lost this game. They lost for the old familiar reasons. Turnovers and good goal tending from the opposition. Who knows what can be done about the turnovers? That just seems to be the team's modus operandi. And for the most part, Yeo was happy with the team's play, being really upset only about Binghamton's final goal.

"I was [happy with our play] up until about seven minutes left in the game, and then their fourth goal is a result of us forcing a play and not paying attention to detail the right way," he said. "We gave them that one. Otherwise, I think you could see five-on-five, we play that way and they feel pretty confident ourselves.'

4. DiSalvatore is confident in the team's ability to win this series. Especially if they keep playing the way they played tonight.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," he said when asked if they could win the Cup. "We’re extremely confident right now. More so now that we put forth a good effort again. After we felt like we kind of let go a little bit in game four. What we did tonight was just another affirmation that if we put forth a good effort, we dominate. We felt like the balance was more to our favor as far as chances were going tonight. So we feel like if we do that, we’re going to have a 70-30 game as far as game six is concerned. We have the utmost confidence that we can bring this thing home."

5. The stars of this game were the fourth line of J.M Daoust, Pascal Morency, and Carson McMillan. Daoust first saw playoff action toward the end of the Hamilton series, and Morency saw his first action of the playoffs. But together with McMillan they set the tone of the play, controlled the action, and made pests of themselves.

"Those guys are a tough line to play against," Yeo said. "They’re looking for every opportunity to finish every check. They’re going to force you to go back – they’re d-men to go back – that’s the type of game that we play. That’s the type of game that we want to play. Over and over and over again. They pay attention to detail, and when it’s time to defend, they defend the right way. But when they get the puck, it’s a matter of how quick can we get to the defensive zone and how many times can we make their D go back and force them to play in their own zone.

"When they get to the offensive zone, I like the way that they manage the puck. I like the way that they get the cycle game going. Again, they don’t have a mentality where I’m going to turn every touch into the goal. Because of that, they end up getting a lot of scoring chances. They manage the puck well. They force their team to defend, and that’s when you end up getting the good chances."

6. The Cody Almond injury forced some line shuffling. Casey Wellman was moved back to the first line with Chad Rau joining Robbie Earl and Jarod Palmer on the second line. The third line stayed intact, and then there were Daoust, McMillan, and Morency.

Yeo was adamant after the game that the shuffling was totally due to Almond's injury, and would not have come about because of the game four result.

"It was a direct result of Cody’s injury," he said. "Last game – we knew last game what it was, we didn’t show up, plain and simple. So we were comfortable with the lines we had, and we were going to give those guys a chance to respond. Cody couldn’t go, and when you’re looking for answers you go back to previous experiences and those guys had played together before and they’d done a nice job together, so we put those guys out."

7. The fourth line was outstanding tonight. There's no question about that. And while the overall effort was there, some of the Aeros still appeared to have a bit of an off-night. Yeo was asked his thoughts on Jed Ortmeyer and Patrick O'Sullivan and whether he could get more out of them than what he's been getting.

"You know what? Those guys have gotten us here. I’m not going to sit here and point fingers at anybody because those guys have gotten us to this opportunity. All our focus is on is winning the next game because if we do that, we’re playing in a game seven.

"And those guys again, not only their on-ice contributions, but when you’re dealing with young kids like we have year, their leadership, the way they help them prepare, the way they help them deal with the ups and downs, our leadership group and our core group has been phenomenal up to this point."

8. And unlike in Hamilton, where the Aeros had the series lead, this time, they're time they're the team fighting to stay alive. But DiSalvatore said that doesn't matter.

"At the end of the day, it’s still, you’re playing for your lives," he said. "We’ve put in two situations where we’ve played for our lives before, so we know how to handle that situation. What it comes down to is all of the preparation we put forth the entire year, that all comes to the forefront right now. We close our eyes, we see, we visualize what our game is, and we go out there and do it. That’s all we’ve got to worry about. We’ve got to manage our emotions, and we’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all year."

9. I saw on Twitter today the Aeros have already sold over 7,000 tickets for game six. That's great news because there's nothing like a packed and loud arena for hockey. But one thing, let's keep things in check. I wasn't at game two, but I heard that a beer was tossed on the ice at one point. Let's not do that, especially not after the Binghamton fans littered their ice with trash after game three. And folks, this shouldn't need to be said, but if there's an injured opposing player on the ice, don't taunt. Be respectful.

10. And I've got a message from Jon DiSalvatore for those of you who will be turning up at Toyota Center: "Bring it! Bring it as loud and as crazy as you can bring it. We’re excited to get home and play for them. They’ve been great all year, and we expect them to be a huge boost for us coming home."

That's it from Binghamton. I've got a 7:50 a.m. flight out of Philadelphia, which means that I need to leave Binghamton in about two hours if I want to get there in time to deal with the rental return and the security line hassles. So everybody get some sleep while I deal with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I'll see everybody on Tuesday night at Toyota Center for game six.