Friday night was Lyme Disease awareness night at the Toyota Center, and the Aeros staff and the Lady Dynamics were all decked out in bright, lime green shirts. The Aeros did their pregame skate with their sticks taped with lime green tape. But I think the worst case of lime green coloring came from the faces of some of the 6340 in attendance as the Aeros came out, and in the first period, put on one of the worst exhibitions of hockey seen in a long time.
Still, after that one period, the Aeros were just down 1-0 thanks to the play of goalie Anton Khudobin who got the start -- even though the Lyme Disease issue is close to the heart of Nolan Schaefer -- because of a lower body injury to Schaefer. And while the Aeros were only able to get off four shots in the first period, Khudobin was bombarded by the Rockford IceHog skaters with 14 shots, stopping 13 to keep the game competitive.
“Thank God we had only given up one at that point,” head coach Kevin Constantine said afterwards. “Thank God we had got some good goaltending that kept us in there til we got going.”
The Aeros didn’t really get going until about midway through the second, and they didn’t get going where it counted, the scoreboard, until the third period when Paul Albers fired the puck from way up high past Rockford goalie Antti Niemi to make it 1-1 at the 1:01 mark of the third period. Then Robbie Earl got open in the slot with the puck on a Rockford turnover and put the Aeros up 2-1 at the 3:35 mark.
But with the assistance of some dubious officiating, Rockford was able to tie the game on a power play goal at 17:46. And tied at 2-2 the game remained for the rest of regulation and the overtime, necessitating the shootout. But unlike last Sunday’s shootout with Peoria which saw numerous goals scored, this shootout went 13 rounds with Rockford finally getting the 3-2 shootout advantage as Corey Locke fanned on his final attempt.
Khudobin battled admirably most of the night, and he was equally as good as his Rockford counterpart in the shootout, but ultimately, he just couldn’t block every shot. “You’re doing everything for your team. It doesn’t matter how many shots,” he said, sitting dejectedly at his locker after the game. “You just have to stop them.”
So on a night where Khudobin’s goaltending allowed the Aeros to stay in a game in which they should have been blown out, it was ultimately Khudobin proving to be a mere human that doomed them to the shootout defeat.
Still, Robbie Earl was able to find some positive in the outcome. “We got a point. We’re on a pretty good run here. They’re all big points,” he said. “I think we’ve got a good feeling in the room still.”
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
The Aeros might have gotten the shootout loss, but they’re still in second place, though Peoria, with a win, did move one point closer. As things are now, the Aeros are in second with a record of 36-25-1-9 (82 points). Peoria is in third at 38-31-2-2 (80 points). Rockford is in fourth at 36-30-0-6 (78 points). Chicago is in fifth at 35-32-3-2 (75 points). Iowa is still hanging in with a record of 31-29-4-8 (74 points), and Quad City is in seventh at 30-30-6-6 (72 points).
The Aeros have the chance to solidify their hold on second place this weekend. They play Peoria, in Peoria, on Saturday night, then they have a rematch with Rockford on Sunday afternoon.
The Aeros played an awful first period. I don’t think anybody who watched that period can dispute that. The Aeros sure didn’t try and dispute it.
Robbie Earl stressed that the team played very good in the second and third periods, leaving it implicit that they sucked in the first. And Kevin Constantine didn’t even try to go the implicit route, stating “We got absolutely demolished in the first period. So we’re lucky it was one-nothing after one. Really lucky.”
As to what happened at the start of the game, Constantine did have some ideas. “We played so well in Milwaukee,” he said. “If you start winning, and you’ve won four in a row, and you play the number one team in the division, and you play really well, and let everybody pat you on the back, you just start thinking that you can do it without even being prepared or working hard.”
What we couldn’t get Constantine to explicitly talk about was the officiating. “There’s not much I can say about that,” he said. “I can’t say anything.”
Robbie Earl however, had some specific thoughts: “I thought we did a pretty good job,” he said. “But a couple of calls were pretty suspect, but you’ve got to get through those.’
On the injury front, Nolan Schaefer missed the game with a lower body injury. Constantine says that this was purely a precautionary move. With Barry Brust still unable to play, Constantine didn’t feel the need to risk exposing Schaefer to further injury, though the expectation is that Schaefer will play this weekend.
I talked to Brust after the game, and he says that he’s feeling much better and that he hopes to be cleared to play come Monday. I saw him walking around, and his limp, which had been rather obvious and painful to watch appeared to be much, much better, with the limp being much less pronounced.
And Mitch Love says that his nose is much improved. And for any of you who are curious and read his blog, he says that his girlfriend’s father is in really good shape and that he is doing much, much better.
Corey Locke’s point streak was stopped at 10 games after he failed to get a goal or an assist tonight. And Morten Madsen played in his 100th professional game. And here’s the real stat of the night: the Aeros are now 13-8-0-6 when trailing after the first period. So no matter how badly the Aeros might play at the start of a game, they’re never really out of it.
And I think that I might have pinpointed the real reason for the Aeros loss. The Aeros first goal was originally credited to Benoit Pouliot, who appeared to tip Albers shot past the goalie. But then later in the game, the credit for the goal was given to Paul Albers. However, a look at the stats shows that the Aeros are 4-2-0-0 when Pouliot gets a goal, and 11-2-0-0 when he has a point. By taking the goal away from Pouliot, the Aeros doomed themselves to defeat.
Well that, or the fact that they played like absolute crap in the first period.
I just wanted to make a personal comment in that I thought the Lady Dynamics looked spectacular in their lime green t-shirts which they arranged into halter tops. I’m sure that Mr. Fred has some photos that he won’t be sharing with us, but the ladies did look really nice. I think they were about the only ones who could pull of that lime green look.
And to play us out tonight comes a song that really has no connection to the game itself. But I heard it on the way home from the arena, and it just seemed to fit my post-game melancholy mood. So here’s Peter Gabriel with “Solsbury Hill.”