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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Down the Stretch - Post Iowa Update

The Aeros played their last game in Des Moines tonight and absolutely crushed the Chops 6-2, scoring four unanswered goals down the stretch. Three shorties - albeit one was an EN - but are you kidding me? Raise your hand if you can figure this team out. Quoting Mr. T, "I pity the poor fools that try to use video and rational thinking to try to figure out the Aeros as an opponent."

This team is nuts, and I am done with predictions or even worrying about where they will end up or who they could play in the first round. It does not matter.

As for tonight, just look what they had to overcome ... Best goal scorer gone? Check. No. 1 and No. 2 goalies now hurt and/or extremely rusty? Check. Just when it looked like the team was destined for another letdown, the close out the roadie by scoring six goals in a building they might as well call home.

After tonight, the magic number for a playoff spot is down to six (and really it's five if you count tiebreakers). Click on the chart below to see a complete breakdown of the final two weeks.

Who to cheer for tomorrow?
Chicago over Peoria, Lake Erie over Rockford and Milwaukee over Quad City.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Wild Update on John Scott

Here's a nice little peek at how Scotty's doing up in Minnesota these days. Sounds like he's having a helluva time and they're pretty happy with his performance.

Great to see the big man doing so well up there. Who'da thunk it this time last season? Not me.

Here's to that NHL experience helping the Aeros when he returns.

UPDATE: Here's another video on Wild.com talking to John a bit.

Crazy goalies are awesome and Tuukka Rask is their king

This has made the rounds, but it's worth sharing here in case you guys haven't seen it.

Providence Bruins v Albany River Rats. Shootout.
Rask appears to touch the puck on a poke check, stopping forward progress, but ref counts the ensuing goal. Then, presumably rattled, Rask comes uncorked on the next goal (which he seems to be disputing as possibly having hit the crossbar and gone out). Take a look:

Apart from some YouTube notoriety (what happened to the myth of the even-keeled Finnish goalie anyway?), there was no punishment from the league. Per the Providence Journal via Howlings, AHL Commissioner David Andrews felt like the display wasn't directed at officials and, therefore, not warranting of a suspension.

BTW, if you're a goalie hound like me, come check out In Goal Magazine. I've recently started as the editor of the AHL News section, in which I round up all the significant goalie news and transactions around the league and publish it each day.

It's a relatively new site but catching on big, with great interviews with mask makers and artists, news from all levels of the game, and much more.

Because we love goalies and we love Fred's photos, here's a nice shot of a rather scary looking Rask. "You better stop these pucks, Stick. Or I'll fling you. I swear on my lucky milk crate I'll do it."

Photo: Fred Trask

Next year's rookies

Lost in the shuffle of the goalie drama was a little blurb from Russo about the Wild being in contract negotiations with two of the prospects I mentioned here. I figure with a three-game-loss weekend, looking down the road to potentially happier days might be a nice diversion.

Carson McMillan's Calgary Hitmen swept the first round of their playoffs, though their opponent for the next round starting Friday has yet to be decided. Still looking like they'll go deep and we won't see him this season, but in Russo's feature on him today, he is projected to play in Houston next season.

Apparently he's a bit of a Clutterbuck clone, which is mighty appealing, isn't it? Gritty winger who likes to hit and will go to the net, contributes a bit of offense, fearless. The trick is to still do all that stuff in a smart, controlled way even at professional speeds. Here's hoping...

Today, they are also in the process of signing signed Cody Almond, whose Kelowna Rockets are squaring off in round 2 of their playoffs against the Tri-City Americans on Friday. I've gotten to be friends with one of their photographers, so I've asked for a bit of a scouting report and maybe a photo, which I'll put here if I can get one.

Justin Falk is from this same 2007 draft class as these two guys, so there will be quite the youth movement between those three.

The Jeff Henderson Experiment Is No More

The Wild have returned Anton Khudobin to the Aeros, and I suppose he will be available tomorrow night in Des Moines if Nolan Schaefer is unable to play and if Barry Brust hasn't received his medical clearance. Krys Kolanos, however, appears to be staying for a bit longer with the Wild. I don't see him returning until the Wild's season ends short of the playoffs, at which point he, Peter Olvecky, and John Scott will all return to help the Aeros out on their hoped for run through the playoffs. (I wonder if, with Kolanos gone, they're gonna try to find someone else for the Bo's Place thing?)

And Jeff Henderson, the goalie who has never played in college or the pros, was released from his amateur tryout contract.

Some Musings on Team Consistently Inconsistent

Here's my latest weekend in review post over at the mothership. And as one can expect from the games this past weekend, it's not pretty. I use the revolving/injured goalie situation as a possible way to explain the weekend, though frankly, the goalie play was not the reason the team lost all three games this weekend.

And as to something Andrew discussed about the lackluster play of Jesse Schultz and Corey Locke...I didn't see Locke after Friday's loss, but as I was talking to Anton Khudobin and Robbie Earl, I did hear Schultz fuming in the background. And he was really unhappy with the loss, and he was letting some of his teammates know about it.

So Schultz's play may not be what it was a couple of weeks ago, but the guy still seems to care. And frankly, I see his and Locke's play as being the epitome of what I earlier this year labeled as team Consistently Inconsistent. The offense isn't there on the nights when the defense and goal tending are top notch. The offense is firing on all cylinders when nothing else works. It's a maddening team to watch because, even when the Aeros are on a winning streak, they don't look good and you just wait for disaster to happen.

I've got no answers, of course. But I just thought that I would throw out my observations.

Fired for using the F-bomb ...

Mr. Tom Entwhistle? You sir are on notice.
Tom is the backup PA Announcer for the Aeros when Steve is too busy working Houston Dynamo games, going on vacation or is at home sick with bacterial throat infection. I did a quick search, and I could not find an instance where Tom was fired for anything for using the F-bomb 14 times in 15 minutes.

Tom, you need to do something to get famous like the backup announcer in Iowa did this week. Great read either way ...


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Down the Stretch - Post Rockford Edition

What a lousy result tonight. From the sound of it, the Aeros outplayed the IceHogs with the exception of the first seven minutes of the second period. That let down cost them the game, even though Chicago losing got the team two points closer to the playoffs.

The Aeros will officially lose their last "game in hand" when they play at Iowa Tuesday, so they better make it count if they want to make a strong case for that last home-ice-in-the-first-round bid. Milwaukee wrapped up the other by clinching the division tonight, and right now, my money is on the Aeros to get the other if they can take care of Iowa next week. If not, things could get really interesting, especially with Rockford playing two games against the North Division.

The latest chart has been updated (click on it for a clearer view), and the color-coded system makes it crystal clear which team is slumping the most right now.

Let me throw this one out there ... Do you think the recent lackluster play by Corey Locke and Jesse Schultz might be a result of them sulking for not getting a late season look by Minnesota? I am not saying I think that personally, but I was just running down the scenarios of why they look so bad all of the sudden. Or I am missing that boat all together and they are just getting stopped by some good old fashioned opposing goalies?


Aeros v. Rockford 3/27 - Photos Part 2

Antti Niemi makes a huge save with the right pad on a Jesse Schultz shot, late in the third period.
Both net minders made huge saves in the 13 round shootout. Here you see Anton Khudobin making a pad save on Tim Brent.

Antti Niemi stops Morten Madsen
Khudobin shuts down Pascal Pelletier
Krys Kolanos tries some kind of weird drag move that doesn't work out well.
Benoit Pouliot snaps one in.
Since Pouliot was successful coach put him right back out there. He tried snapping a shot from further out but Niemi was able to get a pad on it.
Anton was able to squeeze this shot between the pad and arm.
Marco Rosa got in too deep and Niemi got his blocker on it.
Krys Kolanos snaps this one past Niemi.
The Aeros needed a goal to stay alive here and Corey Locke tried the same move he used 5 nights before against Peoria. He had Niemi down but he couldn't get the shot up enough to have the same result. Rockford wins 3-2.

I couldn't decide on which one of these Niemi shots I liked better so you get both. This was as he waited ot be announced as the #1 star of the game. You can see he's a fan of Assassin's Creed.

All Photos:Fred Trask

Khudobin and Kolanos Go Wild (WITH UPDATES)

This is a really quick post, but for those who haven't heard the news...

Anton Khudobin and Krys Kolanos were called up to the Wild today. To replace Khodobin, Jeff Henderson was signed to an Amateur Tryout Contract. I'll see what I can dig up -- hopefully Andrew or Heather or Fred know more info.


Sorry about that Fred, I didn't see your update below.


Niklas Backstrom is suffering from "lower body soreness" according to Russo, so Khudobin has been called up on an emergency basis. Harding is starting, and supposedly, Backstrom is suiting up and can play if needed.

And the Wild have several injuries on the foward front, so the Kolanos move makes some sense, especially if they're hoping for some offense. And Russo says that Kolanos is suiting up tonight and should play.

As to our newest emergency goalie Jeff Henderson...the best that I can find is, like Fred said in the comment, that he is a backup goalie for the University of Wisconsin who doesn't appear to have gotten any playing time. Then again, I caught the end of Constantine's interview with Joe O'Donnell right before the game started, and Constantine said that at this point of the season, the team didn't really have many options for players and were just looking for someone who could make the arena in time. But you would think that maybe they would have asked Tony Hrkac about grabbing one of his players for an amateur tryout :-)

Now Schaefer has missed the past several games due to a lower body injury, but Constantine had made it clear on Friday night that Schaefer could play if needed, but that he hadn't seen the need to make him push through an injury when Khudobin was available. He also said they were hoping that Barry Brust would be cleared to play come Monday.

Aeros vs. Rockford 3/29 -- Game Time Change

Here's a brief programming note for all of you Aeros fans who were planning to listen to today's game on the radio or through AHL Live. The game time has been changed from 5:05 to 5:30 to accommodate the Rockford IceHogs who have been a bit delayed in getting back from San Antonio.

This would normally be good news for the Aeros since they might actually be more rested. But this is the Aeros we're talking about.

This just in -- Anton Khudobin and Krys Kolanos were called up to the Wild and are unavailable for the Aeros tonight. Don't even get me started on the emergency netminder the Aeros were forced to sign.
-- Fred Trask

A Brief Chat With The Aeros Man Of The Year

Houston Aeros defenseman Brandon Rogers was named last Thursday as the Houston Aeros Man of the Year by the AHL. This makes Rogers one of the 29 finalists in competition for the AHL’s Man of the Year Award, known as the Yanick Durpee Memorial Award.

Rogers was nominated for the award by the Aeros PR staff. I asked them what it was that set Rogers apart from the rest of the guys on the team, and their response was that all of the guys on the team are great when it comes to going to the schools and hospitals and visiting with people, but Rogers was always that one guy who willingly did more than was expected.

Rogers himself was pleased to have received the honor, but a bit surprised. “It’s a nice honor,” he said after Friday’s game. “I didn’t even know that I was getting it, to be honest with you. One of the guys, coming to the rink today, congratulated me on it, and I said for what? I didn’t even know.”

Rogers doesn’t see the team’s humanitarian outreach as a duty. It’s something that he enjoys. Not only because of the people that he gets to meet, but because of the perspective on life that it provides.

“I get a lot of enjoyment out of it,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to meet some people, some kids, people of all ages, really, that are in some unfortunate situations. It really puts things in perspective. For us to take some time out of our day to put a smile on a face or to help out any way we can is the least that we can do in the position that we’re in.”

And he doesn’t really see himself as putting out extra effort to make himself available. “It’s really not too much to ask for anyone to do it,” he says.

Now I see myself as a bit of a neutral observer here as I’m not around these guys all of the time like the staff is, but to me, all of the Aeros seem to be a great bunch of guys who are always great with the fans and always appear to be willing to go out and make appearances. And to me, they all seem to want to do everything possible to be a part of the Houston community.

So though Rogers might not think he’s doing anything out of the ordinary to set himself apart from his teammates, with the efforts the rest of the team put into their off-ice activities, he must really be doing a little extra something.

Down the Stretch - Rockford (3/29/09)

The rest of the field is only getting closer as the Aeros continue their weekend road sputter in Rockford today. With the exception of the Milwaukee game, the Aeros have not played three good periods in awhile. And it looks like the Milwaukee win has been cheapened by the way the Admirals look right now. They are in their worst slump since the start of the season.

Rockford is flying up from San Antonio today after losing there last night. The Aeros are playing four games in five days, but so are the IceHogs. I give the Aeros the edge is the scheduling deparment, but the IceHogs are going to take this game 4-2.


Aeros v Peoria 3/28/09 - Is this another lost weekend?

Luke Strand told Joe O'Donnell that the coaches impressed upon the team to get out of the gate strong last night against Peoria--don't have another weak first period like they had Friday against Rockford.

Well, they did that, alright. The first 33 seconds of the game contained a veritable food chain of fights, starting with Jesse Schultz against Cam Paddock, which the larger Paddock controlled. Then on the next face-off, Mitch Love and Curtis Fraser dueled in a decision I'd give to Love (rather brazen given his relatively fresh nose surgery). Then the big boys, Matt Kassian and Jeff Cowan went to town and Kass completely schooled Cowan with some monster hits and total control of the fight. Wow.

After all that dust settled and the bursting-at-the-seams penalty boxes were emptied, Pouliot was first to beat Manny Legace off a feed up the ice from Albers to Kolanos, who fed it to Pouliot in the slot.

Then with 1:14 left in the first, Hrkac nabbed the puck from Peoria's Drazenovic, passed it up to Irmen who got Legace to go down before passing across the low slot to Earl who had open net in front of him. That was a beauty and Hrkac's first point with the Aeros.

But it wouldn't last. I'll be honest right here and say that I left to go to dinner about 5 minutes into the second period, but even in that short time, it was clear that a different Aeros had emerged from the locker room. Full of turnovers and chaos, they were just bad. They only got 10 shots in the last two periods, compared to 21 for Peoria.

Mojzis (interference) and Pouliot (tripping) both went to the box about a minute apart and both each got an early release from the bin in the form of Peoria power play goals by Regier and Stastny.

Stastny got another near the end of the second and then Talbot potted a fourth goal midway through the third. Thanks to consecutive roughing and slashing penalties by Mojzis (again) and Rogers, the Aeros spent 4 straight minutes on the PK in the third.

Khudobin was pulled with about three minutes left to try and even it up. But it just resulted in an empty netter by Porter.

San Antonio did the Aeros a big favor by beating Rockford last night, but the Aeros are now tied with Peoria for the second spot in the division. Fortunately, they have two games in hand on Peoria, but face Rockford tonight in a game that, if the Aeros lose, could put Rockford within striking distance of the number 2 spot.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Aeros v. Rockford 3/27 - Photos Part 1

It was Lyme Disease Awareness night and it was good to see the guys support Nolan Schaefer and his wife Lisa in their fight against the disease and to educate the public (as well as doctors) about Lyme Disease. Please take a trip over to Unmask Lyme and educate yourself. You'd be wise to read the horrific story of Lisa's struggle with the disease, the horrors she went through in getting it properly diagnosed, and her struggle to cope with this terrible disease. Keep Nolan and Lisa in your prayers.

Unfortunately Nolan had a slight injury tonight and didn't get the start. Here you can see he has his entire stick wrapped in the green tape the team used to show their support. Several players kept some tape on themselves or gear throughout the game.

Here is a shot of Brandon Rogers - The Aeros finalist for the AHL Man of the Year. It would have been nice if someone from the Aeros had informed Brandon of this honor. Congratulations and good luck in your bid to win the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award Brandon

Benoit Pouliot has really turned it on since his return from the NHL. He's been very physical, hit the score sheet regularly and his play has been notably better. Great job Benoit, your hard work is definately being noticed.

Anton Khudobin had a great night. He was outstanding in the shoot out and one of the biggest reasons the Aeros were able to get a point out of this one. Here he is locked in on a shot from Rockford's Tim Hambly
This one made a funny sound when it hit his stick and I thought perhaps the stick had broken.

Antti Niemi had a big night for Rockford after an easy first period.

Here is the Albers goal reaction from Pouliot, Kolanos, Niemi and Hambly.

This is the Robbie Earl goal that put the Aeros up 2-1 in the 3rd period.

There was discussion on some of the calls made, and not made, by Nygel Pelletier in this one. Here you can see a "no call" of what I think is a pretty clear holding offense by Robbie Earl.
Literally 2 seconds later Earl was hit with a goaltender interference for this. (Forgive the focus on this one it's a crap photo but it still clearly shows there was no penalty) He was skating through the top of the crease and Niemi clearly steps up into him, obstructs him with the stick and sticks his leg out. If there was ANY penalty to call here it was on Niemi. My guess is this was a make up call for not calling the obvious hold.
Earl pleads his case, to no avail.
This was the "no call" on Schultz. It looked to me like there was a penalty to be called here but I've not watched it on TV yet to see for sure, it could have been a good no call though. In any case, Schultz showed great effort to stay with the puck and make the play here.

And here is a Tony Hrkac for the Circus Hrkac crowd.
I'll have more photos later, especially some fantastic shoot out saves.

All Photos:Fred Trask

Just A Thought

You know, I've read about teams that paint their ice pink when they have their Breast Cancer Awareness games. So this got me to thinking last night, during the Aeros Lyme Disease night, that maybe they should have painted the ice lime green. The coaches were wearing lime green shirts and ties, Krys Kolanos had a lime green stripe on his socks. The Lady Dynamics rocked the lime green, and in pregame warmups, the guys wrapped their sticks with lime green tape.

So why not go all of the way? Lime green ice.

How about it? Who's with me? Lime green ice. Right? The pink ice is becoming rather common now, but lime green, I don't think that's ever been done. Just think of the media coverage the team will get.

Down the Stretch -- Cheer for San Antonio

Ordinarily, Aeros fans don't cheer for the Rampage, but they should tonight.
San Antonio is hot, but are flying home to host Rockford tonight. Those are going to be some really tired legs, so the Aeros better find a way to get a point in Peoria this evening.

Other teams to cheer for today? Quad City over Chicago and Milwaukee over Iowa.

I have updated the "down the stretch" chart with colors to better show wins, losses and OTLs.
Also, per the request of one of our loyal employees, I added a line that shows the magic points number for the top three teams as far as clinching a playoff berth is concerned. Remember to click on the chart to see a better view of it.

At this point, if the Aeros win five of their last nine games, they are in, even if the two teams below them win out. Enjoy!

Aeros v. Rockford 3/27 - Pass the Tums

I'm gonna be lazy today, because the boys pretty much covered everything, and just go after this sucker bullet-style:
  • It's official: we've reached the Tums and Advil portion of the season. The entire game last night, starting with Pouliot's shorthanded breakaway attempt on which he tried to shoot 5-hole and was denied by the left pad of Niemi, I had a headache and a stomach ache.
  • The Hockey Gods seem to hate lime green. Got it. Won't do that again. But I hope they raised some good money for Nolan's cause.
  • Dimples gets the Ms.Conduct Star of the Game. He totally should not be hanging his head about this game. He was terrific. First AHL shootout of the season and he keeps it going 13 rounds and makes some huge saves, after matching veteran Niemi save-for-save throughout regulation and OT. Chin up, kid. Keep working on that rebound control. Way to step up big when this team needed you.
  • Seems like every time I say something snarky about a player during a game, they do something to shut me the eff up. That Earl goal came just minutes after Andrew told us Ryan Hamilton had gotten his 14th goal up in Toronto and I said, "And Earl's most recent goal was which number?" Ohhh, snap! He showed me. This trend, unfortunately, just encourages me to be bitchier than I already am (yeah, it's possible). But if that's what I have to do to get this team going, I'm willing.
  • I agree with the boys that the Aeros lost this game. The ref didn't lose it for them, but he sure didn't help. That was definitely the worst called game I've seen at any level this season, perhaps ever. Calling the goalie interference on Earl was just heinous. Niemi saw Earl coming across the top of his crease, stuck his stick out like a giant hook around Earl's waist, and let Earl's momentum take him down. Shenanigans!!! Dude. If you don't SEE the infraction happen, don't assume it did. (I'm totally stealing Niemi's move.)
  • Next Thursday, I'm bringing french fry money.

Aeros vs. Rockford 3/27: The Lime Green Stench of Defeat

Friday night was Lyme Disease awareness night at the Toyota Center, and the Aeros staff and the Lady Dynamics were all decked out in bright, lime green shirts. The Aeros did their pregame skate with their sticks taped with lime green tape. But I think the worst case of lime green coloring came from the faces of some of the 6340 in attendance as the Aeros came out, and in the first period, put on one of the worst exhibitions of hockey seen in a long time.

Still, after that one period, the Aeros were just down 1-0 thanks to the play of goalie Anton Khudobin who got the start -- even though the Lyme Disease issue is close to the heart of Nolan Schaefer -- because of a lower body injury to Schaefer. And while the Aeros were only able to get off four shots in the first period, Khudobin was bombarded by the Rockford IceHog skaters with 14 shots, stopping 13 to keep the game competitive.

“Thank God we had only given up one at that point,” head coach Kevin Constantine said afterwards. “Thank God we had got some good goaltending that kept us in there til we got going.”

The Aeros didn’t really get going until about midway through the second, and they didn’t get going where it counted, the scoreboard, until the third period when Paul Albers fired the puck from way up high past Rockford goalie Antti Niemi to make it 1-1 at the 1:01 mark of the third period. Then Robbie Earl got open in the slot with the puck on a Rockford turnover and put the Aeros up 2-1 at the 3:35 mark.

But with the assistance of some dubious officiating, Rockford was able to tie the game on a power play goal at 17:46. And tied at 2-2 the game remained for the rest of regulation and the overtime, necessitating the shootout. But unlike last Sunday’s shootout with Peoria which saw numerous goals scored, this shootout went 13 rounds with Rockford finally getting the 3-2 shootout advantage as Corey Locke fanned on his final attempt.

Khudobin battled admirably most of the night, and he was equally as good as his Rockford counterpart in the shootout, but ultimately, he just couldn’t block every shot. “You’re doing everything for your team. It doesn’t matter how many shots,” he said, sitting dejectedly at his locker after the game. “You just have to stop them.”

So on a night where Khudobin’s goaltending allowed the Aeros to stay in a game in which they should have been blown out, it was ultimately Khudobin proving to be a mere human that doomed them to the shootout defeat.

Still, Robbie Earl was able to find some positive in the outcome. “We got a point. We’re on a pretty good run here. They’re all big points,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good feeling in the room still.”


The Aeros might have gotten the shootout loss, but they’re still in second place, though Peoria, with a win, did move one point closer. As things are now, the Aeros are in second with a record of 36-25-1-9 (82 points). Peoria is in third at 38-31-2-2 (80 points). Rockford is in fourth at 36-30-0-6 (78 points). Chicago is in fifth at 35-32-3-2 (75 points). Iowa is still hanging in with a record of 31-29-4-8 (74 points), and Quad City is in seventh at 30-30-6-6 (72 points).

The Aeros have the chance to solidify their hold on second place this weekend. They play Peoria, in Peoria, on Saturday night, then they have a rematch with Rockford on Sunday afternoon.

The Aeros played an awful first period. I don’t think anybody who watched that period can dispute that. The Aeros sure didn’t try and dispute it.

Robbie Earl stressed that the team played very good in the second and third periods, leaving it implicit that they sucked in the first. And Kevin Constantine didn’t even try to go the implicit route, stating “We got absolutely demolished in the first period. So we’re lucky it was one-nothing after one. Really lucky.”

As to what happened at the start of the game, Constantine did have some ideas. “We played so well in Milwaukee,” he said. “If you start winning, and you’ve won four in a row, and you play the number one team in the division, and you play really well, and let everybody pat you on the back, you just start thinking that you can do it without even being prepared or working hard.”

What we couldn’t get Constantine to explicitly talk about was the officiating. “There’s not much I can say about that,” he said. “I can’t say anything.”

Robbie Earl however, had some specific thoughts: “I thought we did a pretty good job,” he said. “But a couple of calls were pretty suspect, but you’ve got to get through those.’

On the injury front, Nolan Schaefer missed the game with a lower body injury. Constantine says that this was purely a precautionary move. With Barry Brust still unable to play, Constantine didn’t feel the need to risk exposing Schaefer to further injury, though the expectation is that Schaefer will play this weekend.

I talked to Brust after the game, and he says that he’s feeling much better and that he hopes to be cleared to play come Monday. I saw him walking around, and his limp, which had been rather obvious and painful to watch appeared to be much, much better, with the limp being much less pronounced.

And Mitch Love says that his nose is much improved. And for any of you who are curious and read his blog, he says that his girlfriend’s father is in really good shape and that he is doing much, much better.

Corey Locke’s point streak was stopped at 10 games after he failed to get a goal or an assist tonight. And Morten Madsen played in his 100th professional game. And here’s the real stat of the night: the Aeros are now 13-8-0-6 when trailing after the first period. So no matter how badly the Aeros might play at the start of a game, they’re never really out of it.

And I think that I might have pinpointed the real reason for the Aeros loss. The Aeros first goal was originally credited to Benoit Pouliot, who appeared to tip Albers shot past the goalie. But then later in the game, the credit for the goal was given to Paul Albers. However, a look at the stats shows that the Aeros are 4-2-0-0 when Pouliot gets a goal, and 11-2-0-0 when he has a point. By taking the goal away from Pouliot, the Aeros doomed themselves to defeat.

Well that, or the fact that they played like absolute crap in the first period.

I just wanted to make a personal comment in that I thought the Lady Dynamics looked spectacular in their lime green t-shirts which they arranged into halter tops. I’m sure that Mr. Fred has some photos that he won’t be sharing with us, but the ladies did look really nice. I think they were about the only ones who could pull of that lime green look.

And to play us out tonight comes a song that really has no connection to the game itself. But I heard it on the way home from the arena, and it just seemed to fit my post-game melancholy mood. So here’s Peter Gabriel with “Solsbury Hill.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

View from the Press Box - Aeros vs. RFD (3/27)

I like this part of the job. "View from the press box" is where I get to express my opinion about what I saw while watching the Aeros.

I know I am going to get called a major homer for saying this, but since I rarely call out the officials, I am going to allow myself to do just that. Nygel Pelletier had a bad night, and at some point, he is going to hear about it from someone other than the Aeros, who are obviously biased.

The two calls that stand out to me are the phantom goalie interference call against Robbie Earl and the missed tripping call against the IceHogs while the Aeros were trying to kill off the last power play of regulation. Pelletier missed that one, the IceHogs scored and the two team's them put on a display of bad breakaways and missed chances for the next 10:16. You are reading that right ... 10 minutes and 16 seconds is exactly how long the shootout last Friday night.

To be fair, the Aeros did not show up to play until the second period, and they faded after they took a 2-1 lead on a sweet goal by Earl. Hockey works out like that sometimes ... you work harder, and for the most part you are rewarded for two points. That was the case tonight. Pelletier had a bad game, but he did not cost the Aeros that extra point in the standings.

Rockford was the better team, and Kevin Constatine said that only luck and good goaltending by Anton Khudobin were the reasons his team earned a point. He did not comment on Pelletier, even when asked.

Three stars picked tonight by the Aeros were right on.

Niemi was great in the shootout, the No. 1 star must have stolen the team's manual because he read Rosa's forehand to backhand move perfectly and he knew exactly what Locke was going to do in the 13 round.

Jack Skille got the No. 2 star for tying the game with the power play goal and Robbie Earl deserved the third star.

Had Kudobin made one more save, maybe Locke wins the game for the Aeros in the 13th. Had that been the case, he definitely gets the No. 1 star of the game.


In Game Update - 3/27/09 vs. Rockford

End 2
Rockford 1, Houston 0

Wow, the IceHogs look great and are taking it to the Aeros tonight. Remarkably, they only have one goal for the moment. Not much to report on tonight at this point save for the fact that the IceHogs have almost put two in their own goal. That might be the only way these Aeros get on the board tonight. .

Aeros outshoot the Hogs 11-9 in the second, but Khudobin has faced more quality shots.
Bad news over in Peoria, as the Rivermen are leading the Admirals 4-2 after two.

More after the game.


Middle 2
Rockford 1, Houston 0

Aeros did not do much with their power play that extended into the second period. They did survive another RFD power play, as Khudobin flopped his way to four big saves. Hrkac and Ryznar missed two really good scoring chances in the period. The Aeros do look much better in the second stanza.

End 1
Rockford 1, Houston 0

Staff photographer = "They can't play any worse, and they're only down 1-0."
Yep, Benoit Pouliot missed a shorthanded breakaway by lazily firing a shot right into the pads of Antti Niemi with 2:45 left.

And that's a good thing. Somehow, the Aeros are much better when they trail after one (13-5-0-5) than when they are tied after one (8-13-1-0). And here's the really good part. In their last 10 games in which they were trailing after the first period, the Aeros are 8-1-0-1. Yes, no, the normal laws of hockey do not apply to this year's Aeros team.

8:00 left in the first
IceHogs 1, Aeros 0

Basically a 12-minute power play for the IceHogs.

This is a sad sight for Aeros fans.
Team was outshot 10-1 and oustscored 1-0 before they realized there was a hockey game.

Rob Klinkhammer scored the first goal of the game 9:48 in on delayed penalty. Looked like the puck deflectd off Corey Locke, who was unintentionally in the way.

It looked like the pucked changed direction on Khudobin, who has been very good so far

Pre-game update - Schaefer out tonight

Press row is packed, and among those in the crowd are a Wild scout and one half the broadcasting team from the Dallas Stars Radio crew.

First the bad news ... even though they are honoring him and his fight against Lyme disease, goaltender Nolan Schaefer is out with a lower body injury. Real bad time to get injured, but Khudobin was going to have to play once this weekend. So far this year, Anton is 1-2-0 with a 2.65 goals against average and a .918 saves percentage.

Not too shabby. Good luck kiddo.

Now for the good news?
There is lots o' green in the building today, so maybe that is lucky.

Starting for the Aeros at home ... the usual = Rosa will center Locke and Beaudoin (he and his -13 rating). On defense are Rogers and Stoner. In goal, as previously mentioned is Anton Khudobin.

Any way you slice it - Preview HOU/RFD, 03/27/09

... For a literal explanation of this photo, you will have to read all the way to the bottom ... or just skip to there ...

But any way you slice (pun intended) this up, this is a HUGE game for both teams. The Aeros are already five points ahead with 10 games to play, so the pressure is really on the Pigs.

If the Aeros are to win tonight, they will need to have a lead after the first or second period.
When trailing after one or two periods, Rockford's record is 0-38-0-5. By contrast, the Aeros are 20-22-0-9. To put that into perspective, the Aeros have 49 points when they trail at either of the two intermissions. When Rockford is down, they have five points.


If the IceHogs want to win tonight, they better figure out how to get a three-goal lead. In the team's last meeting, the Aeros trailed 2-0 and 3-1 before storming back for a 5-4 win. That was maybe the most incredible home game of the year. Special teams aren't doing the Hogs any favors either. Their PP on the road is just a tick over 10 percent and their away-from-home-PK is just 77.8.

The bottom line, if the Aeros come out ready to play tonight, there is no reason they should lose unless Antti Niemi stands on his head. That is who I think Rockford is going to send out there tonight, as he was supposed to start the last time they were here. He was sick, didn't play, and the Aeros hammered Corey Crawford.

[Sandwich story]

When I go to Subway, I order footlongs, with no chips or drink. In my opinion this is a better value. When I order a footlong, often times I am working or driving when I eat, so I kindly ask the sandwich technician to slice it into three. Normally, 99 percent of the time, they get it ("Oh, so he wants to eat it and not worry about getting olives all over his shirt, etc!") and they slice it into three equal little "sammiches".

Today, though, this clearly did not cross the mind of my expert sandwich technician.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

AHL/Aeros Man of the Year

The AHL announced this afternoon the Man of the Year team winners for each AHL team.
...selected by their respective clubs for their outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations during the 2008-09 season.

From this list of finalists, representatives from American Specialty and the AHL will choose the winner of the 2008-09 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award. The AHL’s annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupre, who died in 1997 at the age of 24, following a 16-month battle with leukemia.
The Aeros Man of the Year is defenseman Brandon Rogers.

Good on ya, Brandon.

Aeros v Milwaukee - 3/25

Maybe the Aeros should change their slogan this year from "15 Seasons. One Reason." to "Who ARE these guys?"

After three-quarters of a season of inconsistent, up and down, roller coaster play, dare we say... they're on a roll? No, we dare not.

Last night's game against the division leading Milwaukee Admirals, who quite frankly didn't have a ton to play for with their 17 point lead over the rest of the division and a depleted roster, was still one of the best of the season. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever heard Constantine speak as effusively about his squad as he did last night. You can see those quotes in Andrew's Chron article here.

The Aeros said donnez-nous quelques buts to the Admirals early in the first period with markers from Pouliot and Noreau. On receiving a stretch pass from Schultz from deep in the Aeros zone, Pouliot flew down the left wing, beating the Ads defense and fending off a slash to get a shot off over the glove of goalie Drew McIntyre, who gambled and went low on the shot.

The Aeros regrouped in the Ads' zone after the face-off and 31 seconds later, Noreau ripped a shot from the point past McIntyre, who was looking for the puck through a ton of traffic at his doorstep. Calisse!

So, here, you're thinking, "Okay, what do the Aeros do with an early lead?" Yeah, they choke it away. But no, they press on and play well.

Pouliot potted the third unanswered goal, his second on the night, tipping in a Mojzis shot from the point.

But midway through the third, the Ads' finally got enough traffic to get Schaefer moving and down prematurely, and Kelsey Wilson popped one over him into the net. Perhaps there was some concern about a come-back by the Ads, but with only 8 shots on goal in the first two periods, it seemed unlikely.

And indeed, Kolanos sealed the deal with a sneaky little power play goal from the bottom of the circle off a pass from Locke, who extended his scoring points streak to 10 games. The K-Train celebrated by throwing himself 3 feet in the air into the glass and came down kinda hard. Seriously, I love the big cellies but don't get yourself hurt there, Ovechkin.

Stars were 1-Pouliot (2 goals!), 2 - Mojzis (2 assists), 3 - Wilson (one goal). Sorry homers, but in a 4-1 game, and someone with a goal and an assist like Noreau had, all three stars should have gone to the Aeros.

Now the Aeros have a 3 point "cushion"(that's not particularly soft) between them and Peoria. They face another 3-in-3 this weekend, starting at home on Friday against Rockford, and then up-up-and-away to Peoria and Rockford Saturday and Sunday.

The team is one game into a series of 8 games in 11 days. Then they get a few days off before San Antonio will attempt to play spoiler for the final 3 regular season games. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Down the stretch update - Huge win in Milwaukee

Benoit Pouiliot was great. Max Noreau was great. Nolan Schaefer was great. Tony Hrkac was good and now gives the Aeros three, good and (as Kevin Constantine told me tonight) solid, responsible lines. The whole team was great in holding the Admirals to their lowest shots total of the year. Before tonight, Milwaukee had not lost back to back games in regulation since before Christmas. (Do you remember when it snowed in Houston? It was the week after that.) And those games were against a then very hot Grand Rapids Griffins team.

Here is the updated "down the stretch" chart (again, click on it to see a clearer/larger image). The Aeros got some help from the two bottom teams on this list ... wow, look out for that Quad City swan song!


The Aeros Go To The Dogs Causing Me To Howl

I got an e-mail from a fellow Aeros fan the other day, howling about the team's newest promotion. And seeing as how the promotion involves dogs, then howling is the appropriate word to describe the outrage.

For those not in the know, the details are simple. On Friday, April 2nd, the Aeros are holding Chilly's Pet Pals night. The Humane Society will set up on the concourses and try to find good homes for dogs. But the howling outrage comes from the fact that the Aeros are also inviting fans to bring their own dogs to the game, and they're going to open a special section of the stands for people who bring their dogs.

Now those of us who have pet allergies aren't given a vote in this thing. And neither are fans who, you know, actually want to come and watch a hockey game. I know this is minor league hockey, and that minor league sports is all about wacky promotions, but I just don't like this idea. And based on some of the e-mails I've received, like from my howling friend, there are a bunch of Aeros fans out there who don't like this idea, either.

I know the Aeros need some promo ideas to sell tickets, though. And I thought that I could help by offering a few ideas of my own, stolen, of course, from other teams.

For instance, on April 7, the Phoenix Coyotes are hosting the St. Louis Blues. And anyone who purchases a 1.75-liter bottle of Smirnoff Vodka gets a free ticket to the game. Now note, the alcohol is not being sold at the game, so hopefully this means that there won't be a bunch of drunks showing up for the game, or leaving the game. But I live by Spec's. I bet if the Aeros were to offer this deal that Toyota Center would be packed every night -- at least based on some of the purchases that I've witnessed.

But my favorite idea, and one that I really want the Aeros to adopt is the Over-18 Night that the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL will soon be offering. Among the many things the Wranglers will be doing that night, besides the $20 dollar open bar and the later starting time is the Stripper 101 contest that they'll be having on the concourses. If I understand it correctly, there will be no actual stripping, just women be taught how to work the pole.

I'd really like to see the Aeros go with this idea. But I'd like to change it up just a bit. With Houston being a huge strip club capital, and being how the team always gets a huge crowd for the Miss Aeros Bikini Contest, I really think that, instead of having a bunch of kids sing "God Bless America" for the 15,000th time, or doing that stupid chin-up thing, or the samurai hockey, is for them to have a stripper contest on the ice. Now I'm not advocating nudity. The women would just strip down to say a bikini while working the pole. But I think this would give the many women who work in the strip clubs in this city a chance to work in the daylight, and it might really get a big crowd if some of their customers come over to watch them. And instead of charging a ticket price, maybe the Aeros could just charge a cover fee.

Oh well. It's just an idea. But really, it's better than going to the dogs, isn't it?

Aeros vs Peoria 3/22 - Final Photos

Here are the final pics from the 3/22 game versus Peoria.
We'll start with another Manny Legace for Ms. Conduct.

Here is the shot that Andrew was referring to when he said: "Marco Rosa missed another wide open goal. But to his credit, he said one of the factors that prevented him from lifting that puck into an open cage was the snowy ice in where he had the puck." You can see he was creating some of his own snow here as he came to a stop.
He had to move back through that snow here and Legace bit on the hard move. Marco's move had him moving the wrong way. You can see that Marco had to kick the puck back up to his stick while moving back to the middle of the ice.
Here Marco has Legace down and out with an open net as he tries to lift the puck on the back hand.
Unfortunately he got no lift on the puck and Legace was able to make the save. The Aeros have to convert these if they plan on advancing.

This is the first Peoria shoot out attempt. Nolan Schaefer made an awesome pad save here . He just got the puck with the top of the toe on his right pad. This could have been the save Ms Conduct was mentioning when she wrote about Chris Holt's comment "One of Schaefer's saves (where he got a toe out JUST in time to deflect the puck away) had him going, "HOW'D HE DO THAT?!""
This was Locke's first shoot out goal. This goal may have set Legacy up for the sick shoot out goal I mentioned here.

I know Chis Holt was amazed at this shoot out save which had Schaefer coming back to his left after reacting to a hard fake then getting the puck with his stick at the last second. The net was wide open and Schaefer made a huge athletic play to get the puck.

Nolan won the game for the Aeros with this glove save on Carl Corazzini. The puck is hard to see but it's in the glove.
Here's another group hug for the group hug fans.

All Photos:Fred Trask