Yet in the end, as 5672 people who witnessed the game at Toyota Center will tell you, the Houston Aeros still lost to the Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 to fall to 10-10-0-0 on the season.
The Aeros were shorthanded to start the night as just before game time Clayton Stoner discovered that he couldn’t play because of an upper back injury. Nathan Smith had been called up to Minnesota earlier in the day, and the Aeros made the call to the Florida Everblades to get Brandon Buck. And Buck arrived at Toyota Center at 6:30, just in time to suit up and hit the pregame skate.
For the first fifty-five minutes of the game the Aeros played stupid hockey and didn’t execute. About the only thing the Aeros were good at was fighting -- I didn’t think Colton Gillies had that in him when he took out Nolan Yonkman in the first period. Matt Kassian also came out with kind of a draw against Yonkman in the first. But the fighting hurt the team, more than it helped. Especially Peter Zingoni who ended up serving 17 minutes of penalty time in the second and third period after a fight with Ryan Jones.
Anton Khudobin was pulled early in the first after giving up two goals (one on a power play) on only four shots, and Wade Dubielewicz did what he could to keep the team in the game. But he gave up a goal in the third which made the Aeros up hill battle that much harder.
“We worked hard,” Kevin Constantine said. “We’re a four-line probably, more than anybody in hockey. We just roll people because we like to keep fresh and play with lots of energy. That’s why we play 12 forwards. So in a game like this, guys playing every third shift -- on some teams, that might be fairly normal, but on this team, it isn’t. So that’s probably the first time guys ever had to log that much ice time with that little rest in between. They kept going. We kept working. That was good.”
That was good. But not good enough. Especially with the early stupid play and the poor execution that found the Aeros, like usual, having several excellent opportunities at the end to knot the game yet not being able to pull it off.
These two teams battle again on Sunday afternoon. Who knows, maybe they’ll have a full roster. Maybe they won’t. That’s just how the puck bounces.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
The Aeros didn’t know until close until game time whether Brandon Buck would be able to make it to Toyota Center in time. Constantine told us after the game that Nathan Smith didn’t get the call until 10:30 Friday morning to report to Minnesota. The Aeros were then left trying to find a player that was in position to pack a bag and get to an airport where he could then catch a flight that could get him to Houston in time for tonight’s game. And Buck didn’t get to the arena until 6:30.
No Buck would have left Houston with 17 players able to suit up. Until Clayton Stoner got injured which would have left the Aeros with 16 players. Luckily, Buck did arrive, and he played a decent game for a guy playing under those circumstances. And Zingoni’s penalty time didn’t help as it left the Aeros with only 16 skaters for most of the second period and the first part of the third period.
“There’s a couple of things you’ve got to think about,” Constantine said. “We were down one with Clayton not being able to go. And then we had a couple of fights, and then we had a guy [Zingoni] who got 17 minutes in penalties. So not only was it a game we started without a body, we had lots of penalties that kept guys in the penalty box instead of on our bench.”
So the fact the Aeros were actually able to make a game of it says a little something about the character of the team.
“Guys were tired,” Constantine said. Yet they found a way to perform.
“It’s been one of the things we’ve been focusing on all year,” Chad Rau said. “A hard working team. Especially when things aren’t going your way you have to make sure you are working hard and going as hard as you can.”
Constantine said afterwards that he thought that Clayton Stoner should be able to play on Sunday. But when asked if the team was going to try and bring someone else in just in case, his response was that we would have to talk to the bosses.
Once again the Aeros had to play defensemen up front. It’s not the best of circumstances, but Brandon Rogers seemed to make it work. I thought it was Jamie Fraser playing up front, too, but Andrew says it was Jaime Sifers. Whoever it was, the defenseman up front did their jobs.
According to the AHL stat sheet, the actual three stars of the game, as opposed to what Steve Vidal announced, were 3) Petr Kalus, 2) Ryan Jones, and 1) Mike Santorelli.
In case you didn't notice, Peoria demolished San Antonio night. As part of the demolition, former Aeros fan favorite Mitch Love got his first goal of the
And seeing the day that Brandon Buck, and the team endured, getting to Houston, I can think of nothing better than The Beatles with "A Hard Day's Night."