It was midway through the second period, and 6557 fans inside of Toyota Center were watching the San Antonio Rampage take the 2-1 lead on the Houston Aeros. Then Rampage goalie Al Montoya got whistled at 9:46 for a tripping penalty, followed less than a minute later by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
That’s when the hockey game turned into a soccer game as just seconds later Craig Weller was pushed from behind by one of the Rampage. Weller appeared to brush Montoya, and Montoya, doing his best soccer player impersonation, dove face down to the ice, not moving for nearly a minute or so. But unlike in soccer, Montoya wasn’t carried out on a stretcher so as he could come running out minutes later. Montoya had to stand and retake his position in the ice.
That turned out to be a good thing as a rattled Montoya gave up a goal at 11:19 of the second while the Aeros were on the 5-on-3 power play. Max Noreau fired a shot from up around the blue line. Montoya appeared to stop the shot, but Jon DiSalvatore picked up the rebound, fired the puck to Peter Zingoni on the other side of the net, and Zingoni buried the puck to tie the score.
The Aeros coasted from there.
Newcomer Ryan Gunderson scored his first AHL goal at 53 seconds of the third to put the Aeros up 3-2. And after that, it was garbage time as the Aeros dominated the play.
“We started to discover as the game went that if we keep moving our feet, if we keep moving hard, they’re going to draw penalties,” DiSalvatore said afterwards. “And they’re going to put us at an advantage for the game, and that’s something we tried to continue to do throughout the game.”
Duncan Milroy scored a second power play goal at 9:17 of the third as he stuffed in the rebound of a DiSalvatore shot to make it 4-2, then Milroy ended the scoring at 18:56 when, with Montoya pulled and the net empty, Milroy was tripped at center ice but was able to aim the puck toward the San Antonio net where it settled to make the final score 5-2.
“The game definitely had momentum swings,” head coach Kevin Constantine said. “We were okay in the first and got a goal. Then they scored two quick, and that was a huge momentum swing for them. Then we got a little of it back on the power play at the end of the second. That was a key goal. It looked like one of those games where the first goal in the third might be pretty important, and Gunderson’s shot was really important.”
As for Gunderson, he was more happy about the win than he was on actually scoring the goal, saying that “I don’t really focus on it too much.”
So while Gunderson might have put the game-winning point up on the board, it was Al Montoya who probably played the biggest role in tonight’s victory. The win makes the Aeros 3-2-0-0 (6 points) on the season. They return to play on Saturday night when they take on the Texas Stars for the third time in this young season. This also means the probable return in goal of Matt Climie who was stellar in a losing effort for the Stars last week as the Aeros got the 2-1 shootout win.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
The unheralded star of the night was Aeros goalie Anton Khudobin. Khudobin got beat for what appeared to be an easy goal in the second to tie the game, then gave up another tough goal just 11 seconds later to put San Antonio up 2-1. In the past, this kind of thing appeared to rattle Khudobin, but tonight, he was solid and San Antonio didn’t appear to come close to getting the puck past him.
And while this was the team’s third win this season, it was also Khudobin’s. And this fact doesn’t appear to have escaped the attention of Kevin Constantine.
“We started out the year and gave the benefit of the doubt to [Wade] Dubieliewicz just as an older goalie,” Constantine said. “They both got two games each of the first weekends. Once you kind of get through that, there’s got to be a performance factor in your decision making, and Anton had just won the first two games. We just decided that we’ve been real fair up to now, and gave everybody a chance, and now we have to factor in that Anton won and he deserved the right to play this game.”
And while saying that the goalie decision will still be a game-to-game thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Khudobin got the start against Texas. Constantine is the type who likes to play his hot goalie, and Khudobin at the moment, is that hot goalie. But as Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust can probably attest, once Khudobin starts to cool off, don’t be surprised to see Dubieliewicz back in the net.
The line of Cody Almond/Carson McMillan/Peter Zingoni just continues to really impress me. The line didn’t get any points tonight, but once again, they contributed some of the hardest hits and always appeared to be causing some kind of action at the San Antonio goal.
I spoke with Zingoni before the season, and he spoke of the energy and passion that he brings to the game, and watching him on the ice with the two kids, it appears that he’s delivering on that promise. He also appears to be delivering on his promise to deliver in the goal scoring department as tonight’s goal was his third goal in five games. Zingoni missed most of last season with an injury, and he appears to very much want to put that behind him. Zingoni was also one of the players that GM Jim Mill was most excited about bringing to the team, and at this point, it looks like Mill knew what he was doing.
Danny Irmen’s goal at 14:10 of the first period was a beauty. Petr Kalus fired a shot toward the goal from on high which Montoya was able to block. But Irmen was in great position and appeared to fly over Montoya’s back to get to the puck and stick it in the net before Montoya could recover.
Irmen’s one of the really good guys in the locker room, and it’s always nice to see him have a good game.
Was it just me, or was the nonstop Michael Jackson music during the game just kind of creepy? None of it they played really seemed to fit a hockey setting. You would expect to hear "Beat It" or "Bad" or something like that to try to fire up the crowd, but no. That didn't happen. Maybe it's just me and my feeling that Jackson isn't really a guy who should be saluted. Anyway, it just seemed kind of strange.
I did like, however, Joe O'Donnell quizzing the players on Michael Jackson. And I really liked the dance the Lady Dynamics did to the Michael Jackson medley during the second intermission. And maybe it's just me, but please, could the team please make more use of the Dynamics.
Maybe Al Montoya was swept up in the Michael Jackson fervor which had nothing but Michael Jackson music being played during the game. So perhaps he just wanted to turn the game into a Thriller of some kind, or maybe he was just trying to Beat It himself. Whatever it was, Montoya just had an awful couple of minutes there in the second period.
The penalties were bad enough, but then there was the dive that would make a soccer play proud. On press row, it reminded us of Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian character that he used to do on Saturday Night Live back in the 80s. For you youngsters, Lovitz would play an awful actor who was really hamming it up for the audience, then at the end of the skit, he would shout out “ACTING!”
That was going to be my video for tonight, Lovitz doing his Master Thespian, but unfortunately, NBC and Saturday Night Live, who can seem to make every god awful Kristen Wiig skit available on the net have chosen not to offer up any of those Lovitz skits. So you’re going to have to be content with Lovitz doing a version of the character -- without the “ACTING!” tag -- on this Subway commercial.