Tag Archives: Houston Aeros


BY: Bruce Berlet

Talk about a worthwhile confab.

The Houston Aeros were floundering in January when coach Mike Yeo, elevated to coach of the parent Minnesota Wild on June 17, called a team meeting.

“It was a decision that we decided to make and kind of a story that we wanted to tell,” South Windsor native and Aeros captain/right wing Jon DiSalvatore said during the sixth annual Pete Asadourian Pro Hockey Camp that ended with a public scrimmage Friday night at Champions Skating Center. “We were kind of struggling, had a little team meeting and were probably the hottest team in the league in the second half.

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bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

The Binghamton Senators hadn’t even qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs the past five seasons, but Tuesday night they had extra incentive to win their first AHL championship.

With assistant coach and former Bridgeport Sound Tigers and New York Islanders head coach Steve Stirling back in central New York recovering from emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery Sunday night, the Senators rallied with third-period, power-play goals from Bobby Butler and captain Ryan Keller to beat the host Houston Aeros 3-2 and clinch the title before a record crowd of 10,125 at the Toyota Arena.

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bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

Good news and bad news today on the “used to be on the local hockey market scene.”

First, the Phoenix Coyotes, who are NOT moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba, signed former Hartford Wolf Pack and New York Rangers goalie Jason LaBarbera to a two-year contract extension.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but the unrestricted free agent earned $1 million this season to be the backup to Ilya Bryzgalov, who made $4.2 million. So it’s safe to assume former Rangers assistant general manager/Wolf Pack GM Don Maloney gave LaBarbera at least some kind of raise after he was 7-6-3 with a 3.26 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and two shutouts in 17 games in his second season with the Coyotes.

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bruce mug shot 1The Binghamton Senators moved within one victory of their first Calder Cup title Saturday night, but they’ll have to win it on the road.

Former Hartford Wolf Pack center Corey Locke got the Senators started and Zach Smith scored a power-play goal late in the second period and added an insurance tally with 4:04 left in a 4-2 victory over the Houston Aeros at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

The win was the second in a row for the Senators, who have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven finals and can capture the title Tuesday night at the Toyota Center in Houston. If the Aeros prevail, a decisive Game 7 will be Thursday night in Texas, but the odds aren’t in their favor of adding a second title to the one that they won in 2003. Of the 19 previous best-of-seven finals that have been tied 2-2, only the 1987 Rochester Americans won after losing Game 5.

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bruce mug shot 1South Windsor native and Houston Aeros captain Jon DiSalvatore has had the season of his life while leading the Western Conference champions within two victories of their second Calder Cup title.

DiSalvatore had a career-high 28 goals in the regular season and scored with 1:13 left in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to give the Aeros a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs and former Hartford Wolf Pack and New York Rangers wing Nigel Dawes.

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BY: Bruce Berlet

Connecticut hockey fans had more to cheer about Wednesday than just Hartford Whalers icon Kevin Dineen being named coach of the Florida Panthers.

South Windsor native and Houston Aeros captain Jon DiSalvatore scored only 68 seconds into the game and had the primary assist on Nate Prosser’s winner in a 2-1 victory over the host Binghamton Senators in Game 3 of the Calder Cup playoffs Wednesday night.

The Aeros took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Games 4 and 5 on Friday and Saturday nights at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, on Tuesday and next Thursday nights in Houston.

DiSalvatore knocked in his own rebound for his sixth playoff goal, then Prosser picked up a loose puck and beat Senators rookie goalie Robin Lehner at 12:51 of the second period. Patrick O’Sullivan got his second assist of the game on the winner.

Senators captain Ryan Keller scored his ninth goal of the playoffs at 2:52 of the third period, but Aeros rookie goalie Matt Hackett (28 saves) shut down Binghamton the rest of the way to improve to 14-7 in the postseason. The Senators, who had 21 goals in a four-game sweep of Charlotte in the Eastern Conference finals, have only four games in the first three games against the Western Conference champion Aeros, who are seeking their first title since 2003.

But the fans thought the Senators had tied it with 24.5 seconds left on a goal by former Wolf Pack center Corey Locke, the AHL’s MVP and leading scorer (86 points) this season, during a late flurry after pulling Lehner. But referee Terry Koharski waved his arms to signal no goal, leading to many in a sellout crowd of 4,710 to rain plastic bottles and cups on the ice.

“(The puck) was on its edge, but it didn’t go over (the goal line),” Hackett said. “With the (Senators) goalie pulled, it was pretty intense. People were blocking shots with their faces, with any part of their body, and they did a great job.”

Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst didn’t dispute the no-goal call but was upset his team wasn’t as intense as the Aeros.

“These are the Calder Cup finals, and you would expect your group would show up and give you an honest 60 (minutes),” Kleinendorst said. “I think we can do better. We have to give credit to Houston, but at the same time, I know this group, I know my guys, and we’re not quite where we need to be. We’re close, but close isn’t going to cut it. We’re going to have to fight for every little inch.”

And that’s about by how much the Senators failed to tie it late, but there is no video replay in the AHL because not all arenas in the 30-team league are equipped for it.

“That’s hockey,” Senators forward Mike Hoffman said. “Sometimes that happens. The chances were there, we just had to capitalize, and we didn’t. That’s why we lost the game.”

Instead, the Aeros regained the home-ice advantage and hope to return home with the Calder Cup. The Senators, now only 4-5 at home in the playoffs, hope to get back to Houston in a bid for their first title.

DiSalvatore was thinking otherwise.

“We’re striving for two more wins,” he said. “We can’t go flying high on this win and forget what we need to do. We have to look at tape from this game and look at things we can do to get better.”

DiSalvatore has been better than ever this season, having scored a career-high 28 goals during the regular season and now helping put the Aeros within two victories of another AHL championship. It has been 11 years since the Wolf Pack won the only title in Hartford hockey history, though Dineen had sure tried hard to get one earlier. After all, there are loads of reasons that his number (11) and that of Connecticut Whale coach Ken Gernander (12) are in the XL Center rafters.


bruce mug shot 1BY: Bruce Berlet

The Connecticut Whale has made the offseason a lot more pleasant and relaxing for Jared Nightingale.

The Whale exercised their 2011-12 option on the AHL contract of the unrestricted defenseman six weeks before the parent New York Rangers had to make an offer by the July 1 deadline.

So instead of wondering his status for next season, Nightingale is free to work out and practice with close friend Zak McClellan while working odd jobs for the business of Zak’s dad in Frankenmuth, Mich.

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By Bruce Berlet

Former Hartford Wolf Pack wing Nigel Dawes was part of a Winnipeg native daily double for the Hamilton Bulldogs that was a large part of AHL history on Monday night.

Dawes notched his team-leading ninth goal of the playoffs at 6:24 of the third period to tie it, then Dustin Boyd scored only six seconds into the third overtime, ending the longest Game 7 in  the AHL’s 75-year history as the Bulldogs beat the visiting Manitoba Moose 2-1 in the decisive game of the North Division finals. Continue reading


AHL LogoSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today the 2010-11 AHL First and Second All-Star Teams, as voted by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the league’s 30 member cities.

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FROM THE CREASE with Bruce Berlet

bruce mug shot 1By Bruce Berlet

With the gala “Howe Family Night” rapidly approaching Saturday night, Connecticut hockey fans again owe a major dose of gratitude to the Big Bad Boston Bruins for “The First Family of Hockey” returning to Connecticut.

The uppity Bruins helped drive the upstart World Hockey Association’s New England Whalers to Hartford in 1973, a year after winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years. The Bruins haven’t won hockey’s Holy Grail since then, so consider it The Curse of the Whale.

Then in 1977, legendary Gordie Howe and his hockey-playing sons, Mark and Marty, were looking to continue to play together after four seasons with the WHA’s Houston Aeros. They wanted to stay with the Aeros because of their close ties with the Houston community and the quality of the team, which had won a fourth consecutive Western Division title before being eliminated in the AVCO Cup semifinals by the Winnipeg Jets, led by the famed line of Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg.

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