HOUSTON, Texas – The Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League have announced the renewal of their affiliation agreement with the Central Hockey League’s Austin Ice Bats. The affiliation extends to the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild. Under the agreement, the Ice Bats will receive AHL-contracted players from the Wild organization, and will be able to place players in Houston’s pre-season training camp. Austin joins ECHL Texas as Aeros’ affiliates for the 2006-07 season.
As a result of the affiliation last season, the Ice Bats were assigned defenseman Aaron Schneekloth and goaltender Miroslav Kopriva from the Aeros. Kopriva, a sixth round draft pick of the Wild in 2003, earned a 12-3-0 record with a 2.33 gaa and franchise record .938 save percentage in 15 Ice Bats appearances. He was 6-4-1 with a 3.52 gaa in 12 appearances with the Aeros, and became the first Ice Bat to be called up to the NHL when he was summoned to the Wild near the end of the NHL season last April.
Schneekloth, a CHL All-Star and finalist for league Outstanding Defenseman honors, scored 16 goals and 27 assists in 59 games with the Ice Bats last season. He also appeared in six games with the Aeros.
“We are once again tremendously excited to be the official CHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild and Houston Aeros,” said Ice Bats President Jeff Buch. “Last season, we were honored to help them develop some of their prized young talent, and we want to continue to create an even stronger relationship. We are looking forward to providing quality hockey to our fans in an all-new venue.”
“I thought our affiliation did a great deal for us last year,” said Ice Bats Coach Bill McDonald. “Getting Miroslav Kopriva was a shot in the arm when we needed it. Our players have some light in the tunnel, so they know they have a chance to go up to the next level and get noticed. It’s been great working with (Assistant General Manager) Matt Shaw and (Head Coach) Rob Daum down in Houston. They’re a class organization, and we’ll continue to do our part to help them move players up the ladder.”
This marks the third consecutive season the Ice Bats will be the Wild’s official CHL affiliate, but Austin’s relationship with Houston dates back to 1997, when the Aeros were members of the International League.
“The Aeros and Ice Bats have a longstanding and successful relationship, and we are excited to have it continue,” Shaw said. “With the proximity of Austin to Houston, we’re able to call up players with ease, and give our fans a chance to see our stars of the future while they develop their careers in Austin.”