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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And That's All, Folks!

The end had to this Aeros season had to come sometime. And it came tonight.

The Aeros lost 5-2 to the Barons, losing the series 3-1. I don't think anybody should be really shocked by that result. The Barons were just that good, the Aeros just that depleted. Mike Brodeur was in goal again tonight and Matt Hackett was scratched.

We'll all probably come in later with a few thoughts on this season just gone by -- I'll try to throw up more tomorrow. But this has been a really tough season for the team. Brodeur was the seventh goalie to start between the pipes for the team this season. It's not because the goalies were bad, but because they were either called up to Minnesota, disappeared to Europe, or were injured.

The team didn't have the offense it did last season, and once Casey Wellman was traded in mid-season the team's ability to score hit about 10 on the difficult scale. As it was, with the injury situation in Minnesota, and with the way that team cratered, most any Aero with any skill found himself with the Wild at some point, making it near impossible to getting any continuity with the lineups, which probably doomed the team more than anything. And frankly, I think the absence of Jed Ortmeyer and Warren Peters, who were key guys both on the ice and the locker room for this team were heavy factors in how this season ended up.

So that's it. The Aeros won't be playing into June this season, but if it means anything, there's this: the Aeros were the only one of the final four Calder Cup teams to actually make the playoffs this season.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Belated Woo! Aeros escape elimination with 1-0 win

Yep, our bad. I was going to post last night and saw Andrew had a draft of something started, so I assumed he was writing something on last night's surprising (at least to me) 1-0 win to avoid elimination.

My apologies for the delay, because indeed, the Aeros (and you guys) deserve a little snuggle for pulling out a win in what my Negative Nelly mind was certain was going to be a resounding sweep. I didn't think, even if the Aeros played their best, that the Barons would get shut out. But they did and that's what it took for the Aeros to win last night.

First, tremendous kudos to Brett Bulmer on his first professional playoff goal. He played 8 games during the Aeros' run for the cup last season, but had no points for it. This year, he has 2 points (1g, 1a) in just 3 games. Gotta love when a kid can come right out of juniors and make a difference like that.

You also have to love Mike Brodeur, who's played literally just 4 or 5 games this season due to recovering from hip surgery all year, coming in and pitching his first playoff shutout AND first playoff win. Bob Mason told me a few games back that they basically just took a flyer on him, not really knowing what kind of goaltending they'd get if he was called upon.

Well, as it did with Fallon, the dice rolled the right way and Brodeur basically saved the season with his 31 saves.

Not to give too much credit where it should actually be spread around better, because it is a team game after all, and the Aeros did a good job in the first two periods keeping shots close and respectable (11-11 and 7-9 OKC in the first two periods respectively). In the third, the Aeros got slammed with a full 2 minute, 5 on 3 to kill off, and then another 2 minute minor, so that tilted the shots in OKCs favor quite a bit in that period (3-10).

But Brodeur told Joe afterward that the boys kept shooters wide and the posts helped him out quite a bit, too. An inch in the wrong direction and I think we would have see a whole different outcome. Which is to say, the Aeros need to get penalties under control by Tuesday because the hockey gods are only so generous with the bounces.

Back at it at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, and the Barons are probably kicking themselves for missing out on the R&R they could have been having the next few days if they'd done their jobs Sunday. Do it right and you can golf AND be in the playoffs. Sorry, Oak City. (Not sorry.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aeros Lose Game Two, Face Elimination Sunday Night

Last night it was hard to tell just how much of the loss was on the Aeros not showing up to play the game, and how much of the loss was due to the Barons being the superior team. Tonight we know the answer.

The Aeros lost Game Two of this opening round Best of Five series to the Barons by the score of 4-1. Yes, the Aeros actually did find a way to score a goal on Yann Danis. And they actually appeared to make more of an effort, holding the Barons to only 37 shots tonight while totaling a stupendous 20 shots of their own. (Cody Almond scored at 3:48 of the third period.)

But though the Aeros effort factor was noticeably improved, it just didn't matter, so superior was the play of the Barons, proving tonight, perhaps even more than last night, why it is that they're the number one seed in the Western Conference.

Matt Hackett made a valiant effort to play tonight, stopping 19 of 21 shots. But he played injured, and whatever injury he suffered last night he aggravated horribly on the second goal, leaving the ice bent at his waste, not to return.


But even if Hackett wasn't injured, it would be difficult to see the Aeros finding a way to contend on Sunday and take this series to a fourth game. And frankly, if the Aeros were able to win Sunday and take it to game four on Tuesday, does anybody think they're healthy enough, or talented enough, to make it to game five on Wednesday?

It was an ugly day in Houston today. Massive storms that caused power outages throughout the city as the afternoon moved into evening. And the Aeros game tonight was just as ugly as the weather outside.

There's Ugly, Then There Are The Aeros In Game One

There's ugly, and there's ugly. And damn, there was this game one 5-0 loss to the Oklahoma City Barons.

Andrew covered it pretty well below. And I'll have more in the Press tomorrow, but let's just say this: if Matt Hackett continues to be the only player showing up to play, then the Aeros Calder Cup run ends on Sunday night in Oklahoma City.

Here's how bad it was. In just over 36 minutes of play, Hackett faced 37 shots. That's over a shot a minute. That he only let in four goals was, in my estimation, rather remarkable. And I know what John Torchetti said after the game -- we were all down there -- but it sure looked like Hackett got injured before the third goal, and he really had trouble moving around before the fourth goal. Then again, when you're having to carry an entire team on your back because they're refusing to play, you're probably going to feel some pain.

Torchetti put the loss on himself, saying it's his fault for not getting the team properly prepped to play. There might be something to that, but it looked like they didn't even give a damn out on the ice. And frankly, if the Barons hadn't of taken their feet off of the gas in the third period, I could've easily seen the final score being about 10-0.

They'll give it a go again on Friday for game two. Torchetti says that Hackett's healthy and that he'll be playing. But frankly, if the rest of the team fails to show up again, it's probably not even going to matter.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

View from the Pressbox - Aeros don't show for Gm.1

Well, what can you say about that?

If you are going to play one game that poorly, go ahead and get it out of the way, right? It's happened before, and we've seen it in Game 6 a few years ago in Milwaukee, and even though the score wasn't as bad, the Aeros played a couple of duds during last season's Cup run.

But they just didn't show up for Thursday's Game 1 against the OKC Barons at home.

Matt Hackett kept them in the game for the first period, but when the sorriness continued in the second, there just wasn't a whole lot he could have done to keep the puck out of the net.

And even though he was named the No. 3 star of the game and kept the Aeros from losing 8- or 9-0, I really cannot excuse his loss of temper after the fourth goal. When I thought he was injured, it seemed a bit OK to for him to crack his stick over the cross bar, break it and then kick the remains into the back of the net.

I get it; you're hurt and want to keep going ... and you're mad about busting your groin and being out for the rest of the playoffs. But when Torchetti confirmed that not only was he not hurt but that he was going to be playing tomorrow, I realized the only reason he did all of that is because he was mad.

Hackett is a fiery guy, he plays with passion and feeds off that. But he is going to see these kind of games again and again and again ... He's got to learn to control his emotions when the defense is nowhere to be found and Kris Fredheim can't find a loose puck the defenseman should have cleared.

Hackett will be an NHL goalie sooner or letter, and he needs to stay even and use a poker face when things are spiraling out of control both in front of and behind him. He's responded well to these situations in the past, and now he is going to have to do it again to save the Aeros' season.

The Aeros played three must-win games in the last two weeks (Peoria, San Antonio and Texas) and they won all three. They'll need to make it four in a row to give themselves a shot against the Barons in OKC.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hey Look, It's Playoff Media Day

Joined some of my fellow media members out at SLICE for practice today. For what it's worth, the guys looked loose, I saw laughs and smiles, and the beginnings of playoffs beards were evident all around, except for Jon DiSalvatore, who we discovered last season can't really grow a beard, and John Torchetti, who was clean shaven.

The Aeros were a team that struggled this season. They struggled at times because of injuries in Houston. They struggled often because of injuries with the Wild. The team's best scorer was traded at mid-season and not replaced. The emotional leaders of the team, Jed Ortmeyer and Warren Peters spent most of the season with the Wild (where they weren't quite appreciated by that team's fandom).

Matt Hackett was good in goal, when he was here, but he spent lots of hours on airplanes between Houston and Minneapolis-St.Paul. But amazingly, even when Hackett was gone, the goaltending excelled. And if the Aeros are going to make a run for it this season, the key is going to be the play of Hackett. The players know it, Torchetti knows it, and Hackett knows it.

"He’s going to probably be the key [the Barons are] going to focus on as well," DiSalvatore told us today. "He’s got to be a huge leader for us in the playoffs. We’re going to lean on him. He knows what it takes to get all of the way there. It’s not going to be a surprise for him. Maybe he’ll be a little more comfortable in that setting right now. He’s a guy that’s got to be determined to outplay [Barons goalie Yann] Danis, and I think he’s up for the challenge and excited about it. It’s another year of maturity for Hackett, so I think you can expect good things out of him."

John Torchetti was big with the Hackett praise, as well: "He’s a big reason why we got in. That third period [Sunday], he won us the playoff spot. He was fantastic in every situation. And last year his experience, coming through as a rookie playing all of the way to the finals. And we all know what a hot goaltending can do to a team."

And Hackett gave his thoughts on taking what he went through last season and using this time around: "Playoffs are always the same. It’s always intense, everything’s a lot more amped. I played a lot last year. I played 24 games, something like that. I have experience. I know what to expect. Last year I was a little nervous starting off, but I’m sure I’ll be fine this year."

To a man, they're convinced that all of the roster shakeups during the season will play to their advantage. The young kids had to play in big situations, get big minutes they hadn't been expected to get. And with the rosters set, with the Wild unable to take anymore players away, the guys will get to experience some continuity.

"We’ve been talking about this all year," DiSalvatore said. "It’s been a struggle for guys that come in and out of the lineup to get comfortable. That’s what you have to do. You have to try to get guys as comfortable as possible. Guys that might not have played high-end minutes, they’re getting the opportunity. They’ve grown. We have a lot of guys who have grown and matured this year, so we feel like that experience is going to help them with this next level of pro hockey, which is playing in the playoffs. So we feel like that’s going to help them. And hopefully they feel comfortable enough, and they feel confident enough, that they can just go out and do their job."

"I just think that there’s been a lot of opportunity here this year," Drew Bagnall added. "We’ve obviously had to deal with a lot of injuries, most teams do, and we’ve had guys kind of benefit from it. They’ve been able to play in pressure situations that, maybe without those injuries they wouldn’t have been able to play in, so hopefully moving forward that can help them to contribute more in the playoffs when there is more on the line and they have to assume an even bigger role."

Bagnall also pointed to something that everybody senses. The guys love playing at Toyota Center, and they love the crowds, but as great as the crowds are -- more on that in a minute -- it's the conditions inside of Toyota Center which are the biggest help for the Aeros.

"Also, I think the fact that it’s a warmer building, it’s not an easy rink to play in, conditioning-wise, that might give us an edge, too," he said. "We’re used to it. We know the kind of preparation you need to have going in, and if we can get even that little bit of an edge on them – if they’re not ready, that could really help us. So we have to be prepared and take care of ourselves."

And the players are all depending on the folks in attendance to help out.

"I really like the fact that we got to play here at the Toyota Center," Bagnall said. "I love playing there. The atmosphere is great. We’ve had terrific support all year, and last year in the playoffs, it was almost deafening in the building, and for a  building that size to be that loud, it was really impressive."

"I think we have the best fans in the league," DiSalvatore said. "The support I’ve experienced here in Houston has been phenomenal. They are an extra player. I look at them as an extra player for us. They bring an energy to our team. They lift us up; they keep us going. We use them. It’s a major advantage for us to be able to start out at home and maybe jump out ahead in this series right off the bat."

 So I get the feeling they're hoping for a packed building tomorrow night.

My Fearless Playoff Predictions

Are you ready for some Calder Cup hockey? Are you still shocked the Aeros made it in at the very last moment? With the playoffs starting tomorrow, I thought I would throw out some Western Conference playoff predictions. So, here goes...

1.  I see Chicago taking out San Antonio in a sweep. The Wolves have been a steady team this season, and I just think they're more talented than the Rampage.

2.  Abbotsford takes out Milwaukee in four games. Except for Jeremy Smith, I'm not sold on the Admirals. Plus, I'll always pick a team coached by former Aeros coaches (Troy Ward's the head coach and Luke Strand's a assistant and both were assistants here to Kevin Constantine). Plus, the Heat have Krys Kolanos.

3.  Toronto sweeps Rochester. I haven't really seen these teams as often as I've seen the others, so I'm just basing this on the records.

4. And for the one all Aeros fans care about, I'm seeing the Barons taking out the Aeros in four games. I don't think the Aeros have the offensive talent of the Barons, and the Barons have the psychological advantage, having lost only one game in this season's series. But I do think the Barons will be a bit rusty, and Matt Hackett can keep the Aeros in every game. I think the Aeros win one of the two in Houston before losing the series in Oklahoma City. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong, because nothing's more fun than covering a team on the roll in the playoffs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Playoffs? Playoffs?

In which I share a few thoughts on the Aeros waiting until the last possible moment to make the playoffs. So please, go give it a read.

And one further note I thought I would share here (have to save something for you guys): the Aeros are the only one of last season's AHL final four teams to make the playoffs this season. Binghamton and Hamilton were eliminated pretty early on, and the Aeros win kicked Charlotte out.

So they've got that going for them.

I'll be back with my playoff series prediction later this week.

Oh, one more thing: if you're wondering why the Aeros are opening at home, the answer is that's what the Barons wanted. In the five game format where several hundred miles of travel is involved, i.e., the higher seed in round one gets the option of starting with two home games then going on the road for three, or it can open on the road for two and play at home for the final three. The Barons chose to open on the road and close things out on home ice.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aeros squeak into the playoff

It came down to the wire, but the Aeros squeaked into the playoffs with the 2-1 win over the Texas Stars tonight. With a little help from Milwaukee, who spanked Charlotte 6-1, and San Antonio, who bested OKC 1-0, the Aeros clinched the 8th spot in the West.

It was literally the last result of the regular season, but we knew midway through the game, as the other two games wrapped up, that the post-season was 100% in the Aeros hands.

Matt Hackett, who was marvelous tonight, told us after the game that they didn't tell the players during the game what was happening around the league. And he preferred it that way. Focus on the job at hand, worry about ourselves, get the 2 points.

He and Coach Torchetti both described it as a character win, when the easy thing would have been to phone it in and go home for the summer.

"Diligence pays off. The kid (goalie Jack Campbell) played a great first period and it was going to take something, and it took (Broda) there. I think (the first goal) settled us down. It's a big win for us," Torchetti said. "What we went through this year, not to make the playoffs, being so close... character. We probably could have fallen down and said, 'Hey, we can make it another time' but that just shows you everything right there."

He was especially complimentary of Hackett, who was rock solid carrying a big load this 3 in 3 weekend.

"I haven't seen goaltending like that since, probably (Roberto) Luongo in my first pro win against Boston. I think he stopped 40 shots. I was like, 'Wow, thanks buddy!'" Torchetti said. "I'm proud of him."

Oak City, the Aeros first round opponent, and Houston know each other well, though as Hackett pointed out, he personally has only played them twice this season, having been up with Minnesota for several games against them. They're a skilled team with excellent goaltending (Yann Danis was voted AHL Goaltender of the Year earlier this week).


"I'm looking forward to it. We're just happy to be here. We're the underdogs," Torchetti told us. And indeed, the mood around the team was a lot of relief.

This team had a lot of promise to start the season, but the black hole in Minnesota really took so much away, in big swaths, in little bits, in ways that the Aeros aren't getting back (namely Ortmeyer and Peters, who were so important to the leadership and compete level of this team, and the Wellman trade, which was a huge offensive dent).

But the team just kept plugging and believing and maybe got some luck in there, too.  And here they are. Lots to be proud of in accomplishing that.

So, in 8th place, the Aeros will play OKC in Houston on Thursday and Friday (19th/20th). Then the series will move to OKC Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Hopefully you hadn't already made plans. :) See you Thursday.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Aeros win 5-3 (but it was closer than that)

Even without all the playoff implications hovering over this game, it was a thriller, wasn't it?

Though not exactly thrilling in the way you want.

After a first period where it looked like it was going to be one of those exciting, but low scoring, tightly played affairs, the Aeros flipped the script and punched three holes in poor Jacob Markstrom in the first 3:19 of the second period.

The Aeros did a great job getting pucks on the net and traffic in the crease. Two goals were rebounds just jammed right through Markstrom, the first of which was by Jeff Taffe, who brought his A-game most of the night, earning that goal and an assist.

The second goal was just a nice shot by Broda. Markstrom got the tip of his glove on it but it had the momentum to get past and in the net.

Goal #3 was another pretty shot from Foucault that just appeared to beat Markstrom clean and was in the back of the net before I could even get the tweet from Broda's goal out.

From there, Markstrom is pulled in favor of Dov Grumet-Morris, and things settled down, until Rau got another one of those jam goals a few minutes later, to get 4 goals in a period for the first time this season.

He'd been on the doorstep all night, and actually had a goal earlier in the night that the goal judge couldn't see because a player was in the way (yes, in the net) and the ref was in the wrong place to see it. Torchetti was pretty funny on the subject, but let's just say it's been a long season for him when it comes to officiating.

So the Aeros have a nice 4-0 lead and everyone's feeling groovy, right?

But then San Antonio scores with 30 seconds left in the second.

And John looks at me during intermission and says, "If I hadn't been watching this team all season, I'd be comfortable with this lead."

YEP.

And here they come with two Greg Rallo goals in the third to get within one goal with 4 minutes left. Awesome!

Lucky for the Aeros, with 1:30 left and Grumet-Morris pulled for the extra attacker, San Antonio got slapped with a slashing penalty, effectively neutralizing their extra man and taking the pressure off.

Fontaine picked someone's pocket and got an empty net shot off for the 5-3 win, but boy... a little too exciting for my taste.

Taffe spoke to us after the game and said it's normal to want to sit back and protect a lead like that, but that's when bad things happen. It's a truth in hockey that proves itself out pretty much every time.

But as Torchetti said, "I'll take whatever you give us right now. It's a good gut-check for us."

Tomorrow against the Stars, who have absolutely nothing to lose, will be the gut-check of gut-checks. And with a couple of the games that influence the Aeros' chances starting at 3 tomorrow, we should have a good idea of what the chances are early in the match.

Keep your phones set to @3rdintermission on Twitter for updates throughout the game.


View from the Pressbox - Aeros save their season (for now)

Oh, what fun tomorrow is going to be ... John had it covered before. Aeros Sunday need to:

A) beat Texas
B) get a Milwaukee win in regulation (or)
C) get a Charlotte win in regulation (or)
D) get a Oklahoma City win in regulation

(for your convenience, B-D are ranked in the order they are most likely to happen. Milwaukee is at home, and OKC is going to be resting people. No chance San Antonio blows their chance at home.)

And that is all possible, basically because of a great second period where the Aeros did just about everything right to get that 4-0 lead.

Now in true Aeros fashion, they allowed a late period goal to let the Rampage think it had a chance to win. And they nearly tied it in the third period before Justin Fontaine iced the game with an empty-netter.

The Aeros are basically two for two at home in must-win games in the last couple of weeks. Hope there is enough left in the tank tomorrow to get another win.

Not too much else to say right now, as Heather is going to give us a few more thoughts and quotes later on tonight. I was impressed with the Palmeiri/Bulmer/Almond line, and I thought Joel Broda had one of his better games in a long time.

Drew Bagnall was great on defense, and for some reason, I kept a closer eye on Cuma than I normally do. I think he is really improving and has played well since (and really, even before) his NHL callup.

Aeros also went 3x4 on the power play, and that will have to be huge tomorrow. Jeff Taffe told us tonight that if they are able to get into the playoffs, power play and penalty kill have to step it up for them to even have a chance.

Well that is all for now. I think it is good that the two games that the Aeros care about start two hours and 90 minutes before the Aeros do. We'll ALL know quite a bit before the puck drops

But think about this, Milwaukee and Charlotte could conspire before the game to ensure there is a tie after three periods. If they do that, they're both in and the Aeros would have to rely on OKC actually giving a damn in San Antonio tomorrow. They've already wrapped up the No. 1 seed, and will be resting their skill

If you see a 2-2 game in the third period in Milwaukee, you're right if you think that was intentional. Now come on, do you really think anyone in the AHL would do such a thing?


I'm Only Happy When It's Complicated (The Playoff Picture)

Hopefully Andrew and/or Heather will come on later with a game story -- the Aeros defeated San Antonio 5-3 -- but I've been tasked with the playoff scenario update post.  So to quote the band Garbage, "I'm only happy when it rains, I'm only happy when it's complicated."

And yes, I'm happy because it's damn complicated.

With the win tonight the Aeros record moved to 34-25-5-11 (84 points). And with the win the Aeros are in 10th place in the AHL Western Conference playoff standings. Lake Erie's in ninth, also with 84 points. But Lake Erie's season finished tonight, so they're officially eliminated.

Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Rochester all won their games tonight, which means that Peoria is now also eliminated. Oklahoma City is now officially the number one seed, Toronto is two, and Chicago will be the three seed. Abbotsford has clinched the fourth seed.

So much for the certainty.

With the win, Rochester leaped up to the fifth seed with 86 points. San Antonio, even with the loss, is in sixth with 85 points. Milwaukee's in seventh with 85 points, and Charlotte is eighth with 85 points. Lake Erie is in ninth, ahead of the Aeros due to tiebreakers, and then the Aeros in 10th with 84 points.

So can the Aeros still make the playoffs? Yes. Follow...

Step number one: the Aeros have to defeat the Stars tomorrow.

Step number two, one of the following must happen: Oklahoma City beats San Antonio in regulation, or either Milwaukee or Charlotte wins in regulation (the Admirals and Checkers are playing each other).

That would have the Aeros finishing the season with 86 points. They'd get in to the playoffs because San Antonio would finish with 85 points with a loss, and Milwaukee/Charlotte would finish with 85 points the loss. The Milwaukee/Charlotte game starts at 3:00 tomorrow, and the San Antonio/OKC game starts at 3:30, so the Aeros might have idea of their chances by the time they hit the ice for the game at 5:00. And needless to say, if both games go to OT, the Aeros are out.

But no matter what, no matter what happens, the Aeros need to win. If the Aeros don't win, it doesn't matter what happens in the other games.

And to end it, here's Garbage with "I'm Only Happy When It Rains":

Monday, April 9, 2012

Power Rankings: Admirals are hot, hot, hot

So yeah, if your nickname is Admirals, you've got to be feeling good right now. The Norfolk Admirals have won 25 straight games to obliterate any and all records, and the Milwaukee Admirals went from 9th to 5th in the Western Conference playoff standings with their shootout win over the Aeros.

Oh, say can you see the Milwaukee Admirals in the playoffs?
Milwaukee is up to 7th in this weeks power rankings, the biggest jump in the polls. They crushed the reeling Charlotte Checkers and then won the first two games of their three-game trek through Texas. They have an absolutely huge game Tuesday against the San Antonio Rampage, who dropped one spot because of how well the Abbotsford Heat have played of late.

If the Rampage win on Tuesday, their magic number goes down to four. If they lose to the Admirals, they are going to have sweep the weekend or get some help from the teams. The Aeros are in the same boat.

Let me just say that this has been an absolutely amazing playoffs race. The Aeros have lost eight of nine overall, but they are still capable of finishing as high as fifth in the standings. Milwaukee on the other hand looked left for dead after some struggles against the Rockford IceHogs.

Now, it looks like they are lock, needed just two wins and a loss by either the Aeros, Rivermen or Lake Erie Monsters this weekend.


2011-12 Western Conference Power Rankings
Edition 10, April 9, 2012

PR
Team
Record
Streak
Last
+/-
For the record …
1
TOR
44-23-4-3
6-0
3-0-0-0
  +1
Back in the top spot
2
OKC
43-21-4-5
0-2
1-2-0-0
   -1
In danger of losing 1 seed
3
CHI
40-26-3-3
2-0
2-1-0-0
-
Magic number down to 1
4
ABB
40-26-3-5
5-0
4-0-0-0
   +1
Will be tough out in playoffs
5
SAT
37-28-3-2
0-1
1-1-0-0
   -1
HUGE game vs. MKE Tues.
6
PEO
39-31-2-1
0-1
2-1-0-0
   -1
Lost to AHL sched on Saturday
7
MKE
38-28-2-4
4-0
4-0-0-0
   +4
Points in 9 of 10 overall (7 Ws)
8
HOU
33-24-5-11
0-1
1-1-0-1
    -
Tied AHL mark for SOLs.
9
LEM
36-28-3-7
3-0
2-0-0-0
   +2
These guys just won’t die
10
RCH
34-26-9-4
2-0
2-1-1-0
-
Need help to make playoffs
11
CLT
35-28-3-6
0-4
0-4-0-0
-5
Basically gave up Sunday
12
RFD
34-31-2-6
0-2
0-2-0-0
-3
Nice little run is over.   
13
GRR
32-29-7-4
0-2
1-1-1-0
+1
End of Curt Fraser era?
14
HAM
32-34-2-5
0-3
0-3-0-0
-1
Price is Right Loser Horn
15
TEX
30-38-2-2
0-3
0-2-0-0
-
Could really hurt SA and HOU

Some More Thoughts On Last Night

My new post at the Press is up, and it expounds more on some thoughts I had after last night's game. In short, I think the loss of Jed Ortmeyer for most of the season and the lack of a reliable scorer like Patrick O'Sullivan have really hurt the team this season. I think the team's tired and the constant round trips from Houston to St. Paul and back to Houston time and time again for several of the players has worn them down.

Plus, it's just unrealistic to expect the goalies to keep pitching shut out after shut out after shut out. I know some people like to bitch and bitch about Matt Hackett, but Hackett and the rest of the goalies have done some fantastic work keeping the Aeros in games this season.

That said, the season's not over. There are still three games left.

P.S.: It was asked and answered in the comments to the post below, but...

Marco Scandella was a late scratch last night. He did skate pregame, but apparently tweaked something in his lower body and is day-to-day. And Matt Hackett did appear to get hurt during the game last night, but he was able to continue playing. I would think he'll be available for this weekend's games.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Aeros Lose 2-1 (SO) to Milwaukee

These posts are tiring to write, so...

The Aeros didn't win for the eighth time in nine games. This time, they lost 2-1 to the Milwaukee Admirals in the shootout -- yes, I know, shocking. The shootout loss, they're 11th of the season, ties an AHL record. And except for Brett Bulmer getting his first goal as an AHLer, there's really not much positive to say.

The AHL website says the Aeros are now in sixth place. Aeros PR is saying the Aeros are in eighth. I'm going with Aeros PR. There are three games left in the season. Will there be a post-season? Who knows? But even if they make it into the Calder Cup playoffs, do you have any confidence they'll get out of the first round?

Last year's team was special. This year's, not so much. I expound on this for tomorrow's post in the Press (stop bitching, I have to give them some decent stuff), but Jed Ortmeyer and Patrick O'Sullivan aren't around for the Aeros this season -- I'm still not understanding why Ortmeyer couldn't come back, but I'm slow -- and the Aeros just really appear to miss their presence out on the ice.

Oh well.

That didn't suck: Aeros win 4-2 over Peoria

First the bad news: Peoria was at the end of a 3-in-3 tonight, so they were a weary bunch. The Aeros' whopping 46 shots on goal were evidence of that, for sure, but how much of the Aeros success was a tired opponent and how much was the team stepping up?

The good news is that it did seem like the team responded from an embarrassing loss Friday night that really felt like the last straw. Another weak effort tonight would have said, at least to me, that they'd checked out just as much as I have. But nobody's paying good money to watch me write, so...

Lucky for Peoria that Jake Allen was both good and lucky tonight in goal, often getting something in front of shots, not always knowing where the puck was after the fact. His defense did a good job clearing those out, but left him hanging several times, letting the Aeros toy with him on a couple of those goals.

Frustrating for a goalie for sure, but how about poor Hackett, making that HUGE paddle save on what was otherwise an open net, and then still getting scored on. I felt for him there. That blows to make save like that and then an easy goal. Bahhhh.

Also a difficult game for Hack in terms of how few shots he saw. It's made a bit better by the fact that even though he didn't see a ton of shots, there were good periods of activity around the net to keep him warm and in the game and moving with purpose.

Torchetti on the goalies: "(Jake Allen) played incredible tonight. He really kept them in the game. I was sitting there watching and the shots were 28-6, and I was like you have to be kidding me. But we battled; that was a tough game for Hack to play in. I think he is ready to get on a roll for us."

Funny story from Torchetti regarding Chad Rau, who Torch said he did not include in the heavy message to his veteran players Friday night:

These are the situations where you learn about the kids. This morning, we were talking and I asked him how his game was last night (vs. Chicago), and he said, 'You know what, I stunk.' And then I was like, 'Oh, I didn't want you to be that hard on yourself. I just wanted to ask you how you played.' He told me, 'Don't worry, I'll be better tonight.'

And that is the difference between a guy who wants to be a pro ... and that's him, and then I told him that I only saw him like that twice all year. He's been so consistent for me. He's a little man that plays like a big man, and he's definitely ... if you're a fan, you definitely love watching this kid play hockey.

Tomorrow, per reporting from Russo, the team will have Nate Prosser back in the fold. They're going to talk to Marco Scandella about coming down and, I presume, let him have some say in that decision. He's turned into a real stud for them this season, so it's a nice little show of respect to do that.

We talked to Drew Bagnall after the game, too, and while he praised what the younger guys have done for the defensive corps, the veteran presence of a guy like Prosser, who's been to war with all these guys already, has a calming effect for the team.

Torch, on the other hand, said he'll believe he's got Prosser back when he sees the whites of his eyes. Spoken like a guy who's had his roster jacked with about 30-too-many times this season.

For those scoreboard watching, which is apparently everybody BUT Torchetti, the Aeros are in 8th place, tied with San Antonio at 81 points. But Milwaukee, Sunday's opponent, would sure like to rise out of 9th to beat the Aeros, as they're only 1 point behind.

More Torchetti: "We need 86 or 87 points, I don't know ... All I am doing is worrying about us. We've got four games and we just need to keep playing good. I am proud of our guys and even though we have not played our best as of late, we've got a group of guys that are hanging in there right now."

Unfortunately, we don't have an update on Sean Lorenz, who left the game fairly early after getting pushed and slamming his face into a goal post. Blood and difficulty skating and a trip straight down the corner tunnel to the doctors' office was the result of his 2nd-ever pro game. Bless his heart. 

See you tomorrow, full of ham and scalloped potatoes. Yum.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Aeros Lose To Wolves, Now 0 For Last 7

Let's keep this short and sweet. The Aeros led the Wolves 2-1 with 5:49 remaining in the game. They ended up losing 4-2. They're now 0-4-2-1 for their last seven games, and they're now in ninth place in the playoff standings after a win by Lake Erie which catapulted the Monsters from 10th place to seventh.

It was the same story for the team. Good start with no follow through. Torchetti told us after the game that it's time the veterans stood up, which is something we've been hearing for awhile now.

There's five games left in the season for the Aeros, so it's never over until it's over, or for you Animal House fans:  "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" But with games against Peoria tomorrow and Milwaukee on Sunday, the season could be almost over.

And frankly, at this moment, I just don't have much left to say. If you've got anything to add, please feel free to do so.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Playoff picture update - Thursday edition

The Aeros are the only team in the very thick of the Western Conference playoff chase that has to play three games in three nights twice to close out the season. While that may seem bad, if they get on a roll again, that could be a good thing. And five of those six games are at home, where the Aeros have been very good for the last two months or so.

Last night, though, they did not get any help. Rochester earned a point in an OT loss at Abbotsford and San Antonio beat Chicago.

The Rampage finished the season 4-0 against the Wolves, winning all four games by a single goal.

The Aeros are still in 7th and have at least a game in hand on the teams around them, so it's all on them as to whether or not they want to play in the post season.

My take is that they need six points to get there. That will pretty much get them at least the 7 seed, I think. If they can go 4-2, they might sneak up to sixth and a 5-1 or 6-0 run would get them even higher.

Ideally, I think home ice is out the window for the first round, but stranger things have happened. That is their goal, and as long as they are shooting for it ... you just never know.

Their three opponents this weekend are Chicago, Peoria and Milwaukee. They are 2-7 against those teams this year, and I think they have a six game losing streak against them. They have single wins over Chicago, but lost both games at Allstate Arena. They have a SOL point against Peoria, and they split the two games at Carver Arena.

And they have zilch against Milwaukee this season. 0-for-3 against a team that calls the Aeros their slumpbusters. I think that changes this weekend.

It has been a great week of scoreboard watching. Now we'll see how the Aeros do as they play catch up with three games in three days ... all at home. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Power Rankings: Lots of movement in the middle

Just two weeks ago, I really thought the Peoria Rivermen had that same mojo the Aeros had in the second half of last season. Great mix of vets and young talent, and they just added Patrick O'Sullivan, one of the best AHL snipers around.

They started winning, and then did it with timely scoring and defense. And now it looks like that offense has gone a bit dark, and the team is perhaps overworking Jake Allen a bit. Peoria dropped from three to seven in my rankings, but the the 4-7 sports are really 4a, 4b, 4c ... well you get the picture.

I moved the Rampage up to four this week and I really think that is where they are going to end up at the end of the season. I really, really like their team, and I think Rampage fans are going to get to cherish what it's like to win a playoff series.

The Abbotsford Heat have really turned things around too in the last few weeks and I have them neck and neck with Charlotte, who was slumping badly the last time I did the power rankings. I have the Aeros, their six-game losing streak and all, in the No. 8 spot, and I think that is exactly where they are going to be on April 16.

Also, can you image the IceHogs if they had started their run about a month earlier? They, the Monsters, Amerks and Bulldogs have all turned things up a notch lately, and right now it is a good thing that the Aeros and Rivermen and Heat got a decent leg up on them earlier in the year.

I don't think there is enough time yet to see any of these guys sneak in ... but if one of them were, I'd have to think Rochester has the best chance, thanks to a favorable schedule.

And Admirals fans ... you have had the pleasure of slump-busting it against the Aeros recently, but because your team had so many late games against Rockford, that might be the single reason your team will not make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

It was a nice run.


2011-12 Western Conference Power Rankings
Edition 9, April 3, 2012

PR
Team
Record
Streak
Last 2
+/-
For the record …
1
OKC
42-19-4-5
0-1
3-2-0-0
-
First in the West to clinch
2
TOR
41-23-4-3
3-0
5-1-0-0
-
Have won 8 of last 10
3
CHI
38-24-3-3
0-1
3-1-1-0
+1
Just about a lock for No. 3
4
SAT
37-28-3-2
0-1
4-2-0-1
+4
Markstrom started six of last 7
5
ABB
36-26-3-5
0-1
3-1-0-1
+4
Points in 7 of 8 overall
6
CLT
35-24-3-6
2-0
3-2-0-1
-
On track at the right time
7
PEO
37-30-2-1
1-0
2-4-0-1
-4
Fallen off considerably
8
HOU
32-23-5-10
0-6
0-3-1-2
-3
Lost six straight overall
9
RFD
34-29-2-6
1-0
5-1-0-1
+2
Just on unbelievable run 
10
RCH
32-23-8-4
0-3
1-2-2-1
-3
Like Aeros, OT loss kings
11
LEM
34-28-3-7
1-0
2-2-0-3
-1
Put up 8 spot against the Stars
12
MKE
34-28-2-4
0-2
3-1-0-2
-
IceHogs have killed their season
13
HAM
32-31-2-5
2-0
5-2-0-0
+1
Just came on too late
14
GRR
31-28-6-4
0-1
3-4-0-0
-1
Maybe next year
15
TEX
30-36-2-2
0-1
3-4-0-0
-
Finally, officially eliminated