Midway through the second period tonight, I’m not sure that many of the 3134 people inside of Toyota Center were giving the Aeros much of a chance of pulling off the win against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Aeros were, of course, playing their standard style of second period hockey. In other words, they were being dominated.
Then at 4:50 of the second Petr Kalus went to the box for elbowing. Penalty killed. Then at 7:53 J.P. Testwuide went to the box for tripping, and he was followed 32 seconds later by Clayton Stoner who got nailed for a high-stick. And that’s when Hamilton went all Biblical on goalie Wade Dubielewicz. But Dubielewicz, with some help from the team’s excellent penalty kill, killed the five-on-three. Then at 12:21 Duncan Milroy got nailed for roughing and Hamilton was back on the power play.
Yet the score at the end of the second period was the same as the score at the end of the first. Houston and Hamilton were tied at 1-1.
The third period was a bit different as Dubielewicz let in a goal at 10:54 when he appeared to be shielded. Robbie Earl tied the score at 11:41 when he banked in a shot off of Hamilton goalie Cedrick Desjardins. But Dubielewicz failed to cover a rebound at 14:21 and the Bulldogs were right back in front at 3-2.
But two minutes later, Colton Gillies went into the corner after the puck where he fed Chad Rau. Rau missed the shot, but Jon DiSalvatore got the puck at just the right spot in the slot and slipped it past Desjardins to knot the score at 3-3.
“We had a good solid chip in to the corner,” Gillies said. “And I was first on the puck. The defense came down and tried to hit me. I just tried to protect the puck and turned off them. Rau was actually going to the net and I gave it to him in front. He had a good scoring opportunity, but the goalie made a great save. We had a rebound right in the slot where DiSalvatore got to put it up high and the goalie was down and out.”
The team’s made it through overtime and into the shootout, and as they did during the game, the Aeros fell behind as Hamilton scored on their first two chances. But Dubielewicz shut them down the rest of the way as first Jean-Michel Daoust, then Chad Rau, and finally Colton Gillies scored to get the 4-3 victory.
“We had to come from behind the whole game,” head coach Kevin Constantine said. “And then we had to come from behind in the shootout, and the shootout paralleled the whole game kind of. That was kind of interesting to me.”
But listening to the guys talk about their desultory second period, and listening to Constantine go on about the continued disappointment of the team’s play in the second period throughout the year, I think he and the players would rather just skip the interesting part for a good, solid three period performance that results in a win.
And they next get a chance for that kind of victory on Thursday night when they take on Grand Rapids in Grand Rapids.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
The win was the team's third straight, and it improved their record to 6-4-0-0 (12 points) on the season. That puts the Aeros in a tie, points wise, with the Texas Stars for second place in the division.
While the team is not happy with their play so far, or with their record, there is one thing to be considered. Except for the Lake Erie Monsters, every team that the Aeros have played so far are at the top of their respective division -- and Lake Erie is only one game below five hundred. Hamilton, the team Houston defeated tonight, has yet to lose a game in regulation this season, and are now 4-0-0-2 on the road.
They've split a two-game with Manitoba. They've lost two of three to Texas, and they've won all three games against San Antonio. And those are the three teams that are supposed to be among the best in the Western Conference. So it's possible, just possible, that some of the team's problems can be linked to their early schedule so far. For instance, the Aeros are yet to face Chicago, and the Wolves, despite the money spent, are having a season so bad that they've already fired their coach.
And while Constantine would like to see the team get rid of this second period funk, he noted that it might be part of the personality of this club. Last year's club, he reminded us, was known for coming from behind only to give up leads in the third period, and it took awhile for the club to learn how to handle that issue.
So perhaps it's not quite the time for panic mode.
Man, Hamilton is a quick team. It appeared throughout the night that every single player on that team was as fast as Carl Lewis.
The key to the game, to Constantine and several of the players, was the team's play on penalty kill after penalty kill in the second period.
Dubielewicz "played awesome [on those penalty kills]," Colton Gillies said. "We had a great penalty kill tonight. We couldn’t have asked anything more from our goalie and our penalty kill. They did what they came here to do. We came in here in between the second and third and we just had to settle down. There were a lot of guys who got a lost rest in the second because of all of the penalty killing, and those guys had to step it up and do their thing."
And Constantine thought it was the momentum that the team gained off of killing the penalties that propelled them to victory.
"I thought the biggest moment of the game was when we killed -- not just the three on five, certainly the three on five, but the momentum that we saved for ourselves with those penalty kills..." Constantine said. "Obviously it wasn’t very disciplined on our part, but the guys that went out and killed it were fantastic. I thought the biggest momentum change in the game as far as the way the game could have gone was right there."
Brandon Rogers played center for the third game in a row tonight. The primary reason for this is that the team is short of healthy centers. When he first moved Rogers from defense to center, the only available natural centers were rookies Chad Rau and Cody Almond. Then Nathan Smith came back from Minnesota, only to have Almond break his wrist and be out for at least a month.
"I’ve always found that D -- at least in your own end -- can play center really good," Constantine said. "Maybe they’re not brilliant through the neutral zone making plays. But when you have a guy like [Rogers] at center, it really, it’s a settling shift. You know he can come back in his own end and get the job done."
And this is something that I think the team will continue doing, primarily because the Aeros have nine defensemen on the team, and Constantine doesn't like having to sit three of his best players every night.
One of the comments to a previous post stated that Dubieleiwcz was injured during the game. If this was so, I didn't see any sign of it. He played the entire game, and the shootout, and he appeared to be in good shape in the locker room after the game. However, I wouldn't put it past me to have missed something.
And Dubielewicz had one of those games last night. I agree with Andrew below that it appeared to me in the press box that he should have easily stopped two of the three shots that went in for goals. Then again, he was spectacular in the second period when he was under pressure due to the constant penalties. And when he got burned on the first two shots of the shootout, I thought the team was history, only to see him stop the next three while the Aeros made their shots.
Now I've been listening to The Beatles' White Album a lot lately. It's not my favorite, but it's been matching my mood. And the first thing that popped into my head during the second period, and throughout the rest of the game was The Beatles song off of that album, "Helter Skelter." So, to play us out tonight, here's The Beatles with "Helter Skelter."