It would not be fair to the Houston Aeros to say that this third game with the Milwaukee Admirals was do-or-die. But while a loss wouldn’t kill the team’s playoff chances, a win would go a far way towards advancing their goal of winning the Calder Cup. So leave it to Krys Kolanos to softly flip the puck past Milwaukee goalie Drew MacIntyre at 5:41 of the first to put the Aeros up 1-0.
Because if there’s one lesson that has been learned from watching the Aeros in the playoffs this season, it’s this: after tonight, the team is 5-1 when scoring the first goal. And the team’s now 4-0 when leading after the first period. So if the Aeros grab the early lead, the Aeros are going to win the game.
Still, with all of that, the Aeros were fighting to win the game until at 5:14 of the third, Max Noreau fired a shot on the power play that grazed Matt Beaudoin’s pads and snuck past MacIntyre to put the Aeros up 2-1 with a little under 15 minutes of action to go.
“My job is stay in front,” Beaudoin said. “That’s been my role since I’ve been here. I’ve been fortunate enough a couple of times to have it hit my pads and it goes in. I’m just trying to get the goalie’s eyes out of the way. And the puck just went off my pads and it went right in.”
But even with the 2-1 lead, the Aeros couldn’t relax.
“You stop breathing,” Beaudoin said. “It’s like we’re up 2-1 and now you can’t make any mistakes. At 1-1 you kind of like trying to take a chance here and there. But at 2-1 you’re on your heels a little bit, even though you don’t want to be.”
But then Corey Locke got free on a breakaway, bringing John Lammers with him. And using Lammers to draw the attention of MacIntyre, Locke buried the puck at 18:09 of the third to put the game out of the reach. And just like that, the Aeros were up two games to one in this best of seven series.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
With Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust pretty much out for the rest of the playoffs, the Aeros are going to have to rely on Anton Khudobin. And Anton’s play has been scary at times, what with the rebounds and his penchant for soft goals. But it needs to be stated that in the playoffs, Khudobin has faced two of the hottest teams in the AHL, the Peoria Rivermen and the Milwaukee Admirals. And in those 10 games, he’s played a total of 586 out of 612 minutes. And he’s faced 265 shots while stopping 242 of the shots.
“I feel good, you know,” Khudobin said after the 3-1 win. “We won. But the series is not over yet. So we just won the second game. But we still have to win two more. I feel good. Everybody played good.”
And the guys did play good in front of Khudobin. They didn’t make stupid mistakes. They didn’t get killed by stupid penalties. They put Milwaukee on the defense. And this recipe is the key for the Aeros. Khudobin’s not yet a Nolan Schaefer who can play a perfect game night after night without superb defensive help. But Khudobin will deliver a solid performance, and he appears to be gaining confidence with the more games the team wins. So maybe all of the worries about Khudobin that the fans had coming into the playoffs were a bit exaggerated.
The word coming from Milwaukee after the game was that they lost the game due to the officiating. And yes, the officiating was a little questionable in the third period, but…I hate when teams blame losses on the officiating. A good team should always be able to overcome the obstacles placed in their paths.
The Aeros didn’t just let all of their three-game weekends be the cause of a bad season. They found a way to fight through the idiotic scheduling and it arguably made them a better team – take Game Three against Peoria which saw Peoria actually reach Houston before the Aeros because of weather and travel problems. Teams not used to the travel might have had trouble with that game, but the Aeros just came out and played hockey.
So let the Admirals bitch about the officiating. But if they can’t handle the adversity of a five-on-three penalty kill, then maybe they don’t deserve to be a playoff winning team.
Kevin Constantine wasn’t totally pleased with his team after the game. His goal before the game was for the guys to worry less about how Milwaukee played the game and to concentrate more on their own game.
“I thought in the third we did some things that were good,” Constantine said. “We didn’t try to do things that weren’t available. Sometimes you get so excited and want to be a factor in the game that you try to do too much. In the second I thought we got too much into one-on-one play and tried to do more than was available. In the third, we just made the plays that were there, but kept it simple when we needed to. That was part of what we were trying to get to. So the answer would probably no in the second but yes in the third.”
And in honor of Flight of the Conchords performing in Houston later tonight, and in honor of the Aeros getting business done in Game Three, here’s Bret and Jemaine performing “Business Time.”