Houston Hotdish: Wheels Off

Welcome back, Dave McIntyre! Photo by Chris Jerina/AHLinPhotos.com

I'm writing this the morning after the Aeros lost 6-0 to the Oklahoma City Barons on New Years Day. So, it's safe to say, I'm feeling a little glum about the boys in the bomber jersey. Please forgive my negativity.

This, after a decisive 5-2 win over San Antonio on Friday night had me feeling like, in fine Blues Brothers fashion, the Aeros had finally put the band back together.

Dave McIntyre was back from a month-long injury, lots of call-ups were back from Minnesota, and the boys were just putting up points one after the other. Four in a row, including two from McIntyre himself, until goalie Jakob Markstrom got the hook midway through the second.

Hackett made 38 saves in the win and then pissed the Rampage off by mocking Markstrom's now well-known time-out dance moves (after which, Hackett apologized via Twitter).

And before that, on Dec. 26, the Aeros gave fans a bit of a Christmas miracle by finally winning an OT game. After 9 attempts and 9 failures to escape an OT or SO with a win, they finally beat San Antonio (yeah, they play San Antonio a lot). Jeff Taffe, shelfing a rebound during the PP. Ahhh... Magic.

Alas, we are back to Earth after that 6-0 drubbing on Sunday.

I remember this point last year, we got both Jed Ortmeyer and Patrick O'Sullivan and suddenly the Aeros were a juggernaut. I also remember the less patient Aeros fans starting to question Yeo's ability to get the most out of a team with a fairly decent amount of talent.

I'm now hearing the same about Torchetti. And just to put this in proper perspective, I also remember looking in Yeo's face after a month of losses in December last year and thinking, "Oh shit, this guy doesn't have anything else up his sleeve."

And then a week later, the Aeros are on a rocketship headed for the Calder Cup Finals.

So, that's why I don't panic when I feel the same thing from Torchetti. But that's also why I also don't think, unless the Wild and Aeros experience a miraculous spate of healthiness through the rest of the season, that last year's success is going to be repeated. There is no Ortmeyer and O'Sullivan to add to the team this year.

A great stat from my colleague, Andrew Ferraro, the Houston Chronicle beat writer for the Aeros (@N737AF, a fantastic follow for real Aeros insight):

The Aeros are not very good against teams not named Texas, San Antonio, Charlotte and Lake Erie. This factoid got cut from my Chronicle story on Sunday, but the Aeros are 14-1-3-1 against those four teams. Everyone else in the league is 11-6 against the Aeros.

Oh dear.

On the upside, Matt Kassian is coming back and I would guess Warren Peters will head back at some point, too. And adorable goalie Darcy Kuemper was named the AHL December Rookie of the Month. Luckily, his stats-beating happened on Jan 1, so his December numbers were still pretty spectacular.

And the Aeros are a very good road team and get to play 7 of their 11 games this month someplace other than Houston. This weekend, Torchetti said he didn't know if maybe they needed to put the guys up in a hotel in downtown Houston so it feels like a road game, playing at home.

To me, this is the part of the season that's hard to write about regularly, but fun to watch. This is go time. This is when points, which always mattered, actually begin to FEEL like they matter. This is where momentum through the end of the season become sustainable.

But which direction will the momentum go? I'll let you know next week, after they've played Rockford at home on Friday and San Antonio on the road Sunday.

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