Before I go further, I want to apologize to all of you for being so late with posting this. I’ve had a rather awful day -- I hate temp jobs, especially when they end weeks before they’re supposed to end -- and I got home to discover some new problems with my COBRA, so I’ve been dealing with those issues.
Now that out of the way…
The Houston Aeros won a game tonight that they normally shouldn’t have won. They got the 5-4 OT win while getting help from some unlikely sources -- Ryan Lannon and J.P. Testwuide -- and some expected sources who appear to be beginning to heat up a bit. They had what appeared to be some bad goalie play, until you stop and think about what Barry Brust was dealing with all night. They scored a goal on the power play, but gave up three goals on the penalty kill.
Yeah, this isn’t the type of game that this season’s Houston Aeros normally win. But win they did. And in doing so, they won not only the most exciting game of this season, but also the final home game of this calendar year.
It was a game in which the Syracuse Crunch got the first goal -- a power play goal midway through the first period that Barry Brust didn’t appear to have a chance at stopping. The Aeros tied the game at 15:27 when Ryan Lannon got his first goal since the 2007-08 season when he was with the Wilkes-Barre/Scanton Penguins (paper demands fulfilled by Dunder-Mifflin). Lannon’s high shot from the circle just cleared the top pipe and bounced back out onto the ice almost immediately. But it was a goal nevertheless.
Syracuse took the 2-1 lead in the first, but Andy Hilbert, who had been close to scoring the entire night, got a beauty of a pass from Chad Rau and slipped the puck into the net to tie the score at 2-2 (it’s a shame they didn’t show the replay of this goal inside Toyota Center because it really appeared to be pretty damn nice. The Aeros then took the lead at 15:15 when Jon DiSalvatore got the power play goal when he knocked in the rebound of a Hilbert shot.
Syracuse tied the game on a power play goal just 44 seconds into the third when Bates Battaglia went five hole. And two minutes later, the Crunch took the 4-3 lead when Tomas Kana fired the puck past Brust -- once again, on a power play. But the Aeros didn’t quit and Jean-Michel Daoust, after having several shots bounce off various portions of the pipe, finally knocked one into the net at 4:05.
And there it stayed until 52 seconds into the OT when J.P. Testwuide, who had earned his first professional point earlier in the night when he assisted on Daoust’s goal, got a pass from DiSalvatore and launched the puck for the goal. A goal which was also his first goal as a professional.
“It was kind of late in my shift,” Testwuide said. “I just came in off the half-wall. We had a guy drive the middle lane, I think it was Daoust, he was driving down, and I knew if I just got the puck there, I’d probably get a whack at it and he might get a whack at it. And luckily it snuck right under his arm.”
It wasn’t the kind of win that Kevin Constantine wants to see from his team every night, but it’s still a win, and neither he nor his guys are going to turn away two points.
“And I’ll give them credit,” Constantine said of his team. “We kept battling. It’s hard to win when you don’t score first. That was only our third win all year when we don’t score first. So it’s hard to win, anytime in hockey, any team you’re playing, when you don’t score first. And we managed to hang in there long enough to find a way to win the game, so that was good.”
With the win, the Aeros are now 17-14-2-1 (37 points) on the season. They’re just two points away from being part of the huge logjam for second place -- Peoria, Milwaukee, and Rockford -- are all tied with 39 points. And with two straight losses, the Stars are now only seven points up on Houston.
The Aeros will finish the calendar year out on the road. They play in Chicago on Wednesday, Rockford on Thursday, and Milwaukee on Friday -- Happy New Year! They’re back home on Sunday for their first game ever against the Abbotsford Heat.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
It would be easy to say that Barry Brust didn’t have the best of games between the pipes. After all, he surrendered four goals. But three of those goals were on the penalty kill, and at many times, he appeared to get let down by his defense. And think, if not for Brusty’s play, the score might have been much, much worse.
“If you looked at that game though, we still probably gave up nine odd-man attacks, six two-on-ones, add another five-six three-on-twos, those came in bunches,” Kevin Constantine said afterwards. “So if you looked at about a five minute segment of that game, it wasn’t good at all. But if you looked at the other fifty-five minutes, we were better than we were the other night.”
But if not for Brust, those five minutes might have destroyed the team. As it is, while he’s happy with the win, Constantine’s still not happy with his team.
“I had exhausted my intensity in the last two days,” he said. “I really was disappointed in both of our last games. We talked long and serious as a team about our last two performances prior to this. I mean, we got a win against Grand Rapids, but lucky. And didn’t play well the other night. So I think our guys were really determined to be a better team tonight.”
One line that Constantine’s happy with, though, is the line anchored by Andy Hilbert. I’ve been watching this line the past several games, and it’s often seemed to me that they’ve been just inches away from breaking out for a big game from the unit. So tonight we had Rau setting up a Hilbert goal. We had Hilbert setting up Jon DiSalvatore and Jean-Michel Daoust. And Daoust got the game-tying goal.
But leave it to Constantine to set me right by noting that this is something that’s been happening for the past ten games, at least offensively, though he hasn’t exactly been thrilled with their defensive intensity.
“I think, over the last 10 games, his line, and he, have been very good offensively,” he said. “They’ve had a little bit of a struggle, as a line, in their own end, but offensively, they’ve been very, very good. And Andy [Hilbert] was very determined tonight. He’s a really good guy, and he’s a good leader, and he really cares. I think he wanted to do something, to make a contribution, to kind of get our team playing a little better. Obviously we needed his points tonight. So he was a big part of this win.”
I talked to Hilbert after the game, and he agreed with Constantine’s conclusions.
“As a line, I think we played well,” he said. “The last couple of games we’ve had a couple of rough games for our line in particular. Tonight, I thought we played well, but I thought the whole team played well tonight.”
Constantine noted Hilbert’s leadership qualities. And how much he wanted to contribute tonight. Hilbert says that just how he plays.
“That’s how I think I like to lead, by example. I’m not a huge rah-rah guy. I think, if you go out and work hard, and other guys see that you’re out there contributing, working hard, doing the little things, it just filters on down through the entire team.”
How about that game by J.P. Testwuide? The rookie got some nice playing time during the playoffs last season, but he has yet to score any professional points. Until tonight.
“It was just a good pass by [DiSalvatore],” he said of his goal “He gave it to me, kind of, at the beginning. And then he got open, and I gave it back to him. A great play. Luckily it snuck in there.”
Constantine noted that neither Testwuide or Lannon -- who had his first goal in two seasons -- are on the team to score, but he’ll gladly take their contributions on that end.
“We had two [defensemen] score their first goals,” Constantine said. “Nice to get contributions from those guys. We don’t expect them to have to worry about that, but when they can contribute like that, it’s great.”
Here are some miscellaneous stats. Tonight was the first time 12/26/08, in a 5-3 loss in San Antonio, that the Aeros have allowed three power play goals in one game. It was also, according to Constantine, only the third game this season that the Aeros have won after giving up the first goal.
With his goal, DiSalvatore joined Daoust as the team’s only 10-goal scorers this season. Didn’t Kolanos have 10 goals after five games last year? Hilbert now has 12 points for his last 10 games (3-9=12). Daoust has nine points for his last 10 games (6-3=9). Chad Rau has eight points for his last 10 (3-5=8). Max Noreau has nine points for his last 19 (5-4=10). Jon DiSalvatore has eight points (7-1=8) for his last 10.
Now excuse me while I go off on a rant….
I would like to once again thank Jamie Spencer with the Wild for getting us the weekday game replays. But maybe he needs to have a talk with them and ask them to actually replay the Aeros goals. For some strange reason, the first two Aeros goals weren’t replayed tonight. I would have really liked to have seen Hilbert’s goal again as it looked like a great play by Hilbert and Rau in real time.
But then again, I don’t want to detract from the Kiss Cam, I guess.
And The Beatles video is really easy tonight. This game was kind of like one we saw last season. Lots of scoring, some lousy defense, and lots of dramatics. So I say tonight’s game calls for “Get Back.”
Happy New Year everbody. Thanks for reading. And please, may 2010 be a better year than 2009 has been.