Tonight the Lake Erie Monsters travel down to my neck of the woods to take on the Houston Aeros, and barring anything major happening, I'll be there to take in all the action. I'll have my trusty Prospect Notebook (I finally get to add an "Avs Prospects" page to it!) with me. There are a few guys I'll really be keeping an eye on, but if any of you have anybody you want me to make sure to watch, I'll gladly compile a few notes and include them in my wrap-up.
When I get home from the game, I'll update this post to include all of my notes and results of the game.
EDIT: Okay, I'm at work and finally getting a chance to type all this stuff up. I have no idea how to do it, and I really don't want to do it in a game recap form because the game itself is fairly immaterial in my mind.
Just for the hell of it, the Monsters beat the Aeros 6-2, despite being dominated for most of the game, as they scored 5 times in the third, all of them coming with under 10 minutes to play. Now, on to the prospects...
The guy who stood out the most to me, without a doubt, was Kyle Cumiskey. Every single time he would strip his man of the puck, which was pretty often, he was either outlet passing up the ice or starting the rush himself. This happened all night long, and it's obvious that his skating ability is way above that of your average AHL dude. Also, the coaching staff seems to trust the hell out of him because he was on the ice for every big situation, and he didn't disappoint. He was beaten only once all night, and Nigel Williams (I loved seeing them on the ice together. It only happened once, but it was still really exciting) covered for him, so he got away with it. He uses his speed to his advantage every chance he gets as he was constantly pushing the puck up the ice and flying down the ice to get back on defense. His speed especially stood out when he was partnered with Wes O'Neill, whose got nothing resembling speed whatsoever, for most of the night.
Another guy I went in wanting to keep an eye on was T.J. Galiardi. All of the success he had in college is having a difficult time translating to the pro game for him, because he struggled throughout most of the evening. His best work of the night came on the PK, and offensively he only stood out once when he deked a defender, created some space using his body, and got a quality wrist shot that landed in Barry Brust's glove. Good chance, no twine. That was about his only highlight of the night as he played his 6'2'' frame more like he was 5'10''. I was definitely disappointed in his play, but when the Monsters come back in two weeks I hope to see a little more fire from him.
Moving along was a recent call-up who none of us really seemed too familiar with in Phillippe Dupuis. From his first shift on, he was the best forward on the ice for either team. He consistently threw his body around, created scoring chances for himself and others, and it was reflected at the end of the game when he finished with a shorthanded goal that started the LEM comeback and an assist on a first period goal by Mark McCutcheon. I don't remember anything about his time with the Avs, but I definitely was impressed with how well he played tonight. He was an animal from start to finish.
The guy I was most excited to see tonight was Nigel Williams. Of all our prospects not named Shattenkirk, Nigel Williams is the one who excites me the most. He's listed as 6'4'' and plays a little bigger than that. He gave a little too much room in front of the net for my liking, but when the puck got anywhere near him, he transformed into a vicious manbeast and was clearing everything away. Very impressive showing. His work in the corners and against the backboards was stellar as anytime he went back there, the man he was marking either turned it over or was taken out of the play completely. That being said, his work with the puck was, in a word, atrocious. I had read reports that he has some offensive acumen and tonight I honestly had trouble seeing it until the end. He didn't move the puck very fluidly, and in one sequence he got so flustered by the forecheck that he ended up turning the puck over and taking it away from the same guy three time in a row before he finally lost it for good and Weiman had to bail him out. That was his worst effort of the night, though, and I FINALLY got to see him wind up and take the slap shot I had read about. My notes say "Nigel finally shoots it. Wow. Missed by about 3 inches. Had it been on goal, might have gone through goalie." No joke, that thing was a missile.
The biggest surprises tonight were how Ray Macias and Michael Vernace play like they are exactly the same. Seriously, I had some trouble telling which guy was which. Macias obviously had the monster night as he finished with a +5 (!) and an assist, whereas Vernace didn't grace the scoreboard at all. Both guys moved the puck well in their own zone but were running around a lot on the PK and looking really unsettled. Uneven play for both guys, with Macias obviously having the better night of the two.
Now, onto the guy most people are probably reading this for. Tyler Weiman got the start tonight, and I have to say, parts of the night were impressive for the kid. He had a save early in the game that shut down an electric crowd for several minutes as he let a fat rebound come off his right leg right to an unmarked Aeros winger who had an open net to shoot at. The result? A scrambling Weiman got the paddle of his stick up and swatted it away. An awesome display. As usual with AHL goalies, you get some great and some really terrible. in Weiman's case, the terrible came when a lazy wrister from the blueline landed harmlessly in his glove, only to see him drop it, creating a damn good scoring chance that Nigel Williams negated by hustling his man into the corner and the puck eventually being covered back up. He basically gift wrapped a beautiful scoring chance and laid it at his feet and luckily for him, his teammates were able to cover his ass. Positionally, Weiman was solid overall, though occasionally turning routine saves into great saves because he was sliding so much. Now, I want to say that this is a very common thing in Houston and I don't know if it was Weiman himself, or just the ice here. Funny things happen at hockey games here (the boards are a bit of a "choose-your-own-adventure", and the ice gets sloppy pretty quickly), so I don't want to put too much blame on Weiman for this. His glove was a little slow on multiple occasions and if shots hadn't missed the net, they would have been goals. His blocker was pretty damn solid all night as he shut down that side of the net all game. The first goal he allowed wouldn't have been stopped by anybody. It was a slapshot from the point by Tomas Mojzis and hit off what appeared to be two (but maybe three) Lake Erie players and and found its way in. Weiman had no chance on the play. The second goal was another point slapper from Mojzis, but this time it was just a rocket that headed for the corner and grabbed a ton of iron on the way in. Great shots beat even the greatest of goalies. One minor quibble was that Weiman seemed to play small when the play was right in front of him. I'm not sure if that makes too much sense, but he definitely seemed to give a lot of ground and shrink into a little turtle shell when the action was right in his face. I don't have any idea how to be a goalie, so take what I say about them for what you will, it just seemed like he could have been a bit more assertive when things got hectic in his face.
Burki has been briefly covered in the comments already. I'll just say that he had a hell of a lot of jump in the second half of the game and helped drive the nail in the coffin of the suddenly hapless Aeros. For the record, I would like to say that nearly all of the goals scored by LEM would go into the "soft" category, with the closest one to being an exception being the first goal by McCutcheon (who scored two). It wasn't your average shot, just well placed as Barry Brust's glove was downright Raycroftian tonight.
That's about it for the player notes. Since I wrote them down, I figured I would share my random notes as well.
The Houston Aeros dancers, called the "Lady Dynamics" were terrible tonight. Usually their effort is much better, but you can tell they missed their captain tonight as they were all out of sync and off their game.
The "Guns 'N Hoses" promotional event going on was to honor the police and firefighters of the city. They had a battle royale for supremacy at center ice during the 1st Intermission by having several departments duke it out with ON ICE TUG-O-WAR! Wonderful idea! For those of you wondering, one of the firefighter groups one, but in my mind cheated because they had what I dubbed the "Ass Crack O Doom" on their side. This guy was a beast and was the anchor for the winning team. Everytime he bent over, you could have mistaken him for your stereotypical plumber. Very frightening.
Alex Penner of the Monsters got served a serious beatdown by the Aeros Matt Kassian. Seriously, Penner needs to spend some time figuring out this whole "hockey fighting" thing. That was sad, sad, sad.
The 3 stars of the game were:
And that's all I've got.