Well, we did it! Our Aeros are going to the Calder Cup Playoffs! Yes, that’s right, after seeing me at a charity bowling event last week, the boys were finally able to find the motivation they needed to clench two consecutive wins last weekend against the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars. Not sure whether it was my amazing titty dress I wore, or the fact that I spent the majority of the night flirting my ass off, but either way, something clicked.
Jokes aside (maybe), my boys did a kickass job of nailing the Rampage’s ass to the wall on Saturday night, with a final score of 5-3. A sellout crowd of 9,006 looked on as Jeff Taffe, Kris Foucault, Joel Broda, Chad Rau, and Justin Fontaine led their team to victory at the Toyota Center. Chay Genoway did work with a total of two assists, and hot potato Matt Hackett had 19 saves. Sunday’s playoff-deciding nail-biter against the Stars ended in favor of the Aeros again, 2-1, with goals by Broda and Foucault, with 28 saves for Hackett.
Being 8th seed heading into the playoffs isn’t exactly the coup de grace that the boys wanted, but with the no. 1 seeded OKC Barons series looming on the horizon, you can bet that the Aeros have some #UnfinishedBusiness to take care of. The higher seeded Barons opted to host the last three games of the series at home, so the defending Western Conference champs will host games on Thursday, April 19th and Friday, April 20th at Toyota Center, at 7:05PM and 7:35PM respectively.
Predictions for this first round against the Barons? My sports mentor would tell me that I sound “fanboy”, but of course I have full faith that the Aeros will pull this one off with three out of the five wins. Key players that will need to lead the way are Jon DiSalvatore, Taffe, and Rau. As veterans, DiSalvatore and Taffe really need to step up as leaders, while Rau needs to continue his aggressive and positive drive. Despite the fact that Rau is just a third-year center, he has proven his worth over the course of this year, with 14 goals and 21 assists for the Aeros, and 2 goals for our NHL affiliate, the Minnesota Wild during the 2011-12 season thus far.
Wondering why we don’t just play all vets, especially during playoffs? According to the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association), you can only suit up four players that are considered to be “veterans”, meaning you have played more than 260 combined games in the AHL or NHL. As my friend Andrew so eloquently puts it, “it keeps teams like Chicago and Hartford from beating the crap out of everyone.”
Well, guess what, Drew, that’s exactly what the Aeros are gonna do anyway, come Thursday.
Get ready, Houston. This puck’s for you.
Photos courtesy of Houston Aeros.
It’s chilly up here in the press box. Funny, one would assume it would be warmer….This pizza is awful; I don’t know why I always order it. I think I am nervous. It’s my first time living out my dream, and the prospect is daunting: entertain the masses. In terms of AHL hockey, no less. Although widely popular throughout North America as a whole, Houston hasn’t quite gotten on the hockey train, most probably because of the lack of an NHL team here in Houston. I plan to change that.
With the playoffs just around the corner, AHL hockey is buzzing. The Aeros are hungry for those playoff seats, most notably players like RW Justin “Fonz” Fontaine and C Jeff Taffe. With the reassignment of Goalie Matt Hackett from the Minnesota Wild after nearly a month, it feels good to see the “old guard” back together again. The opponents for the evening? The Lake Eerie Monsters, who rank 10th in the Western Conference versus the Aeros 6th. The race is so tight that only a few points separate the top playoff contenders from one another. At the start of the game, for example, the Oklahoma City Barons, the current top seed in the Western Conference, and the Aeros were tied at 68 GP for the season; Barons with 41W to Houston’s 32.
As Kurt Russell hollers from the Jumbo-Tron, “This is your time! Now go out there and take it!” the Aeros hit the ice. On the starting lineup: G Hackett, D Fredheim, C Almond, RW DiSalvatore, C Taffe, and D Cuma. I plan on simply jotting down my observations and see where that takes me, and so I begin: the first four minutes of the game were practically the only ones without some sort of penalty or drama going on. Not that I would ever complain about that; who doesn’t love a good scuffle? Almond quickly picks up a 2 minute penalty for hooking and shortly thereafter, Fontaine gets another 2 for goal tender interference. I notice that C Carson McMillan is an aggressive skater, and write that down in my notes. I know this because I used to skate competitively (okay, it was roller skating…think hot pink skate covers and choreographed routines to “Wind Beneath my Wings”).
I realize I begin to take notice of how many goals are stopped. There is definitely something about this game that is really drawing my attention, yet I cannot seem to put my finger on it. In one fell swoop, I spy Matt Hackett getting away with both a slash and an elbow. Yep, he’s back, alright. Hackett’s ability to convey his personality and aggression, even on the ice and in the net, is uncanny. And this, for me, was the most entertaining factor of this game.
Although the Aeros ended up losing in a shootout 4-3, I wouldn’t count them down and out just yet. John Torchetti, Aeros head coach, agrees that the proverbial ball is in their court: “We’ve been giving up points for the last five games…we’ve had the puck.” He explains, “once we can eliminate [giving up points], we certainly [can] make the playoffs.” “We have to work hard and get to the post, that’s the crux of it; we are beating ourselves and once we stop doing that, I think we’ll start winning some more games.”
The subject then turned to Hackett. Goalies always seem to catch a lot of flak for shootout losses, but Torchetti won’t even hear of it: “He always comes through for us in the end…The 3rd [goal] you can’t judge the goalie on, it’s just a bang-bang play.” When asked about Matt’s emotional demeanor on the ice, (Hackett threw a punch after action at the end of OT1) Coach Torchetti explained, “[Hackett] wants to win, he wants to compete, and there’s nothing wrong with your goalie trying to compete.” Regarding the shootout, he further drives his point, “You’re not going to win a shootout with no goals.”
It looks like Hackett’s return has come just in time, and if players like Clackson, Fontaine, Palmieri and Taffe keep skating smart and fighting hard, we could still come up successful and make the Calder Cup Playoffs. But, that’s a big if, considering as of now we are ranked 5th in the Western Conference after Abbotford’s win last night against Chicago. Saturday’s home game against Hamilton will go a long way in determining how stressful the Aeros’ final six games will be. With only one game scheduled in the next week, a victory this weekend will give the team some much-needed wiggle room. One thing’s for sure: as long as my Aeros aren’t giving up, I’m not going to either.
ps: Matt….sorry about the title. I’m too punny for my own good.
My Houston Aeros took on the Grand Rapids Griffins Sunday evening at Toyota Center in front of a crowd of over 10,000, including me and my closest gal pals. David Burke, (Twitter: @DBurkeAeros) President of the Houston Aeros organization, so graciously sacrificed his suite for the evening to 17 hot brunettes in their 20-somethings. As if that weren’t a frightening enough prospect, the ladies were provided with beer and wine, (oh, and vodka for Maya) delicious snacks, and 60 pink Jell-O shots. Oh boy.
Sunday, March 11th, or “Pink Day”, was a celebration for Breast Cancer Awareness. We all wore pink in celebration, and there were pink latex gloves on the back of every seat in the arena to promote women’s breast health and education. After getting situated, Estefannie G. De la Garza (Dinastia Magazine) snapped a few group shots of the girls, and the game began. We were all so excited when the boys hit the ice!
A lot of my girls weren’t familiar with hockey, but when it comes to compimentary booze and food plus #eyecandy, it was easy to lure them to the game. Quite a few of the ladies had been to Aeros games previously, but had not been back in years! This was such an unusual and exhilarating way to expose them for the first time, or re-introduce them, to this game that I love so much.
To connect with social media outlets that evening, the Aeros official twitter account, @Houston_Aeros, had given us our very own hashtag to use during the game: #AerosGirlsNightOut. With all of the Facebook & Twitter exposure from last night’s match-up, David and I hope to motivate even more fans to come out to the games. Just from the reaction that I saw personally, this event was an absolute stunna (and no, not just talking about the hot ass bitches I brought with me)!
After a few drinks and one period later, “Aero” Joe O’Donnell, Director of Broadcasting, came up to the suite to teach the girls “Hockey 101″. Joe taught us about “icing“, “offsides“, and “plus/minus“, just to name a few topics. Despite the fact that Joe’s ‘Andrew Firestone’ looks are a bit distracting, he is quite the informative pro in his field! We all were able to ask questions, and he even brought a whiteboard to describe what he was teaching us. You can follow Joe on Twitter @aero_joe.
Our next surprise was a visit from Chilly and two of the prettiest Aero Dynamics I have ever seen! As soon as the mascot entered the suite, my little sis, Jacqueline, yelled out, “It’s CHILLY!” and everyone scrambled to get a photo op. Little known fact that “sissy” and I have been a Chilly fan since we were in middle school!
As if this weren’t enough excitement for one evening, Jim Gadd, the Aeros Director of Merchandise, came up to the suite with a surprise for all of us: ladies Aeros tees and hats! We were thrilled! The ladies put on the t-shirts and hats right away, and then, of course, followed that up with a 20-minute Aeros gear photo-shoot.
Although DiSalvatore and Palmer put up two impressive goals, the Aeros fell to the Griffins 2-5. Not that any of this mattered to the girls, who screamed and cheered for our team as they left the ice regardless. I have to say, I am proud of this team. After only 18 years in this city, City Councilman District E Mike Sullivan named March 11th “Houston Aeros Day” in Houston! I am telling you, these guys have some raw talent that is unreal; after all, the American Hockey League (AHL) is the training grounds for the National Hockey League (NHL).
If you are just getting into hockey, you should absolutely become a regular at these games, if not a season ticket holder. The crowd is always pumped, and I would say with certainty that these fans are some of the most die-hard in the league. I have been an Aeros fan since the 7th grade (that’s Summit days, people), and my allegiance to the team has continued over the years. Not only is the team talented, but all of the Aeros front office staff are fantastic, too. Go to a game, and tweet me your thoughts. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
For those of you who don’t follow Houston hockey, you’re in for a surprise: your Houston Aeros might just be the busiest and hardest working team in the AHL. Am I biased? Perhaps. But by the time you’ve read this article, you might be, too.
Currently, the Aeros, or #roadwarriors, as they refer to themselves on social media, just embarked on an over month-long 11-game road trip taking them from the Great Lakes to British Columbia, back to Texas, and then back across the northern border again. As if that wasn’t enough, they have been going through endless transitions with NHL affiliate, the Minnesota Wild. In the span of just 2 weeks, the Wild has called up and reassigned over 15 different times. Two of the Aeros top performers, defenseman Nate Prosser and forward Matt Kassian, are now on the Wild’s active roster.
Despite the constant turnover and a notably demanding schedule, our Aeros continue to perform. Currently, their record stands at 23 wins and 13 losses, ranking them number 2 in the Western Division, and number 4 in the Western Conference. And although I’d like to credit my signature, “Shake your tits for the Aeros!” game chant, I can’t take all the credit. It’s the team’s mentality and perseverance that keeps them going.
I spoke with Jody Green, Head Athletic Trainer for the Aeros, in the hopes that I would get some insight behind the curtain. “You have to know that stuff’s going to happen throughout the year, and you’ve just got to roll with the punches” Green says, explaining to me the fluid and constant movement between the Wild and the Aeros.
Green reflects, “If you lose one of your top scorers, it places the burden on other players. But when you’re not at the top of the food chain, you’re subject to that type of stuff.” “In the end, you’re there to develop players for the National Hockey League.”
After pressing Green with a few more questions, he finally admits, “It does hurt” to lose a top scorer. “It’s a huge rollercoaster.” But it’s not all bad. RW Jed Ortmeyer is back with Houston as of yesterday. Green describes, “With Ortmeyer clearing waivers yesterday and him being reassigned to us, that’s a huge boost. We’re getting a key part of our team back.”
On March 10th, your Aeros will finally be back at home to play Grand Rapids, who they’re also set to face tonight and tomorrow. I better see all of my readers there with (cow)bells on. If you haven’t been to one of these games, you are missing out! And no, not because of my signature chant or the eye candy on ice, but because of the sheer display of talent you’re sure to witness at every game. Tweet me and let me know you’ve got your tickets, and I will give you a big ol’ shoutout.
Tickets available at aeros.com.