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Wild changes filter down to Houston

by Palmer Hestley || AHL On The Beat Archive

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For the past two years the Minnesota Wild and the Houston Aeros have shared front office personnel and players but never style of play. Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine and his coaching staff taught the style of game they wanted while the Wild, under former head coach Jacques Lemaire, coached under his more defensive style. This season, under new head coach Todd Richards and new general manager Chuck Fletcher, the Wild have implemented a faster, more aggressive plan of attack and the organization wants to have more of a connection with its AHL affiliate in Houston.

Step one was personnel. The Aeros return only six players from last year’s team and went through a complete overhaul on the front line. The Aeros turn to a more seasoned group of forwards to put the puck in the net, most of which played the majority of last year in the AHL. Former Norfolk center Pete Zingoni tallied 14 points (7-7=14) for the Admirals last season. This season Zingoni already has three goals to his credit, the most of any Aeros player.

“We have a great group of guys with some good leadership experience and I don’t think it’s going to be one guy this year,” Zingoni said. “I would do whatever it takes to help out and lead the team in that sense. But for the most part, it’s going to be a core group of guys who have been around and who are going to have to work together and get the team going.”

That core group of guys consists of Zingoni and fellow forwards Jean-Michel Daoust, Jon DiSalvatore and Duncan Milroy. Each player has at least two years of experience in the AHL.

Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Jean-Michel Daoust currently leads the team with four points (1-3=4) on the young season. In his first home game in front of his new fans, Daoust tallied two assists against the Texas Stars (10/9) before netting his first goal of the season against those same Stars eight days later.

Right wing Jon DiSalvatore joins the Aeros after leading the Lowell Devils with 53 points (20-33=53) last season. DiSalvatore has registered three points (1-2=3) in seven games for Houston thus far plus the game-winner in a shootout against the Stars (10/10) in the Aeros second home game of the season.

Right wing Duncan Milroy came to Houston after spending his entire AHL career with the Hamilton Bulldogs. During his time in Hamilton, Milroy was apart of the 2007 Calder Cup championship team where he racked up 58 points (25-33=58) in 64 games played. Milroy is currently the only Aero with a multi-goal game after scoring two in the third period to seal a 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage (10/16).

Constantine is still in the molding stage with such an abundant group of new faces. The task seems daunting to most onlookers, but the man behind the bench has a formula that’s worked well for him in his 18 years as a head coach.

“All I know is that you develop a team-style of playing and you combine your skills, your details, and your heart. And that’s hockey,” said Constantine. “Along the way, we’re going to have a structured style of play that’s not going to change all year. It hasn’t changed for the last three years. It’s provided a great base for us to be a good team.”