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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aeros power past Heat, move to 10 games over .500

After the Aeros went up 2-0 on the Abbotsford last night, Heat coach Troy G. Ward called a timeout. After that stop, the Heat outshot the Aeros close to a 2-1 margin for the rest of the game, and the 4-1 final was a lot closer than the score indicates.

Yes, the Heat defense was atrocious. Yes, their PK was even worse as the Aeros scored twice and generated close to a dozen Grade A scoring chances with the man advantage. 

But the Heat kept coming and coming and coming, and when Darcy Kuemper wasn't making difficult saves look easy, he was lucky as the Heat mis-fired at least two open nets and several other prime chances down 2-0. 

Even when Zack Phillips made it 3-0 (and Oh, what a pass by Larsson), the Heat kept it up and never quit until Lamb scored Abbotsford's only goal of the game with 14 ticks left on the clock. 

While it would have been nice, Kuemper didn't really lose the shutout in hearbreaking fashion. His performance was spectacular, and one garbage time goal doesn't take away from what he did in the last 40 minutes as the ice seemed tilted toward the Aeros goal. 
Aeros D Brian Connelly- Photo by Morris Molina, Houston Aeros
Big-picture wise, the win gets the Aeros 10 games over .500 for the first time this season, and with 70 points, they are six points clear of the team (Milwaukee) with the 9th best winning percentage in the Western Conference. 

The Aeros have 16 games left. If they win just eight more games, they'll finish with 86 points, and the Admirals would have to go about 12-5 to catch them. While the playoffs certainly are no lock, I think the Aeros are more likely to be a 5 or 6 seed than they are a 7 or 8 seed. The Aeros "magic number" to clinch a spot in the top 8 is down to 29, and 11 of their last 16 games are at home. 

This is the toughest part of the season, so there are no promises. 

It was nice to see a big crowd at the game on a Thursday. Nearly 6,500 see the Aeros put on quite the show. Connelly was great, and I thought Paul Mara and Marco Scandella were good on the power play. Mikael Granlund sees things happen before they happen, and having him in Houston is going to be a real treat for ever how long he "has" to stay down in the minors. 

The penalty kill has turned away 21 straight shorthanded situations. They are perfect since that third-period meltdown in Abbotsford two weeks ago. 

If they keep that going - hey, they are not going to stay perfect - they are going to be real tough to beat in the playoffs. 

Tonight, they visit San Antonio, who just lost two straight at home to OKC. They did get one point in shootout loss on Wednesday, but they pretty much have to win out just to have a chance to make the playoffs. 

If the Aeros bear down and score first, they'll be tough to beat. They also need to be a lot more disciplined than they were Thursday. I think all the penalties were just a product of how the game went. 

Where is referee Jeff Smith when you need him?

Here are some misc. stats from the game last night: 
  • The Aeros now have a plus-9 goal differential on the season. They are plus-10 in the 2nd period. 
  • The Aeros finished the season series 3-1 against the Heat, outscoring them 14-8.
  • Houston scored 7 power play goals against the Heat on 21 opportunities. 
  • The Aeros went 16-for-18 on the PK against the Heat this season. 
  • Houston has scored at least one PP goal in 5 of their last 7 games overall
  • Mikael Granlund has points in six straight games as an Aero (3g+5a=8pts.)
In closing, it was not a good night for our long-time friend Barry Brust. He has really struggled - right along with the Heat - since his magical shutout streak from earlier this season. Abbotsford has fallen from a Top 4 team to a squad that will very, very likely miss the playoffs. 

It was Brust's first game at Toyota Center since leaving the organization three years ago. He was on the bench as Robin Lehner led the B-Sens to the 2011 Calder Cup Championship. As an opponent, he's only played at Toyota Center twice. 

As a member of the Manchester Monarchs, he beat the Aeros in OT back in Oct. 2005. He allowed just one goal, a shortie by Kirby Law. Before Thursday, his last game in the building was mop-up duty against the Texas Stars on Feb. 27, 2010. After Wade Dubielewicz allowed three shots on three goals, Brust came in a stopped 13 of 14 as the Aeros comeback fell just short. 

I hope I am wrong, but I think we just saw Brust's last-ever game in Houston. He has been tremendous to fans and media alike, and I know I am not the only one who'd put him in the Top 5 of all-time Aeros goalies.
Brusty makes a save - Morris Molina, Houston Aeros


Mark B said...

Where was Jeff Smith...Ha! That last goal was my fault. I mentioned to a fellow fan, please hold on to the shutout for Darcy...and 15 seconds later, with 14 seconds left in the game... I RUINED IT!

ICEVET said...

One of the best TEAM performances by the Aeros @ TC this season...and a very entaining game.

The return of Brian Connelly and Mikael Granlund brought some welcome energy and discipline to the PP.....while the Sunshine Kid's presence in goal gave the Defense the confidence it needed to get stops agsinst key Heat scoring opportunities. His two point-blank saves on Kolanos snipes in the Third were, undoubtedly, frustrating to the ex-Aero.

The OUTLIER of the night was Akim Aliu, the irascible Nigerian power forward who has become a pariah to many fans across North America hockey venues, with an expanding history of game misconducts, instigator and fighting penalties. His lack of self-control on display, again last night, speaks for itself.

Go Aeros!

Forecheck said...

This game had a certain amount of weirdness to it.

First. the pre-game international incident where O' Canada ended early.

Second, the hand bell choir for the National Anthem. Not that you could hear them across the arena.

Third, and we are not even to the hockey yet, the music which spontaneously started several times during game play.

Fourth, the Aeros dominating the first period. I can't remember them being so dominant in a game in a long time.

Fifth, the officiating. Some strange calls and non-calls, but this is not unusual for the AHL.

We also had a 2-minute misconduct and a 2-minute game misconduct. Is it too much to ask that the Aeros use an in-arena annoucer who actually understands the sport he announces?

Kris Kolanos was a non-factor on offense in this one, his non-factorness admittedly enhanced by Kuemper. Kolanos was, as usuall, a non-factor on defense. His defense still seems focused on getting the break-out pass from a d-man.

Aliu makes Mara look mellow by comparison. What a hot-head.
"Abuse of officials" is a sign you are not keeping your emotions in check.

The one part of this game which was too familiar was the third period being played almost entirely in the Aeros end. This almost has to be a coaching decision by this point - if so I have to ask why. Isn't it better to protect a lead in the offensive zone?

The second goal was an absolute beauty. Rough night for Brusty. Is it just me or is he starting to take on a Norm Maracle appearance?