In many ways game three of the Mike Yeo era looked a lot like most games of the Kevin Constantine era. The Aeros played like crap in the first period, but because of goalie play were still actually in the game. They played evenly in the second period, put on a furious finish in the third, but fell short and lost.
But there was an intensity out there I didn’t see much last year. There looked to be a bit more speed. And there was this guy named Drew Bagnall that I think even Mitch Love would leave alone. Yet none of that mattered because much like last season, the Aeros lost. This time by a score of 3-2, and before a larger crowd, 7559.
“It’s disappointing, and hopefully a lesson learned,” Yeo told us after the game. “That’s what we talked about after the game, and after the first period. This is a good league, and as an individual you have to be prepared and ready to play the game right from the start, and we weren’t.”
The first goal came at the 3:01 mark of the first, and it could definitely be labeled as a soft goal as T.J. Hensick came up on Anton Khudobin’s right side and just kind of pushed the puck forward. It appeared on replay to hit the stick of one of the Aeros defenders, which caused it to deflect past Khudobin. But Khudobin said that didn’t happen. He thought he stopped the puck with his left leg pads, but he didn’t.
“I’ll tell you what, [Peoria] came out flying in the first period,” Yeo said. “The first goal, Anton’s going to be the first one to say that he should have that. But I’ll tell you what, they were pressing and that’s what – that’s something we’re trying to build here as far as having that shooting mentality.”
The second goal came at 13:49 when Hensick fired a slap shot from way up around the blue line that appeared to hit a back post and fly out. And by the time the first period was over, it was 2-0 Peoria.
“They came out firing,” Robbie Earl told us. “They had us on our heals. We regrouped in the second. Obviously a couple of penalties slowed the momentum, but we were able to sustain it in the second and third. That’s something we need to work on….from now on, we’ve got to start right away, and get to our game right away and not find ourselves trailing in the third period.”
The score was still 2-0 early in the third when Casey Wellman pushed the puck up the ice, passed it to Chad Rau, and Rau fed a pretty pass to Earl who slipped it past Peoria’s rookie goalie Jake Allen to make it 2-1. Graham Mink made it 3-1 at 13:50 of the third on one of those shots that even the NHL’s best would have trouble stopping, but the Aeros didn’t quit and at 16:32, Marco Scandella broke down the left side of the rink and put the puck on J-M Daoust’s stick and Daoust stuck the puck past Allen to make it 3-2.
That was as close as the Aeros would get it. The defense had trouble clearing the puck from the Aeros zone in the final minutes, and Yeo wasn’t able to pull Khudobin for the extra skater until there were about 30 seconds left in the game. By then it was too late.
So the Aeros aren’t going to go 80-0-0-0 on the season. And they still seem to have some of the same problems as last season. Yet the season’s still early. And there is some talent on the team.
The Aeros go again this afternoon when they host Oklahoma City at 4:00.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
I don't know about you, but Drew Bagnall impressed the hell out of me. I haven't seen him play before, mainly because he's been over in the Eastern Conference, but I liked what I saw. He supplied a bruising, physical presence from a defenseman that I haven't seen on the Aeros in years. He dished out hits. He came in to protect teammates. He fought. He didn't back down. And to me, at least, he always seemed to be in the right place on the ice.
He's one guy I'm going to look forward to watching this season.
It has been several weeks since Anton Khudobin last saw game action, and that was a preseason contest. So it's not an exaggeration to say that he was probably a little rusty. And while that first goal was a little soft and probably should have been stopped, the loss in this game definitely can't be blamed on him.
Peoria was constantly attacking the net, especially in that first period, and Khudobin made stop after stop. He made some exceptional stops in the second and third period. It's looking to me, as in the past several years when it was Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust and Anton Khudobin that the Aeros aren't going to have to worry about the goalies losing games for them.
"We’ve got two unbelievable goalies," Robbie Earl said of Khudobin and Matt Hackett. "That’s great because goalie is a big part of this league. And we’ve got two guys fighting. That’s what you want, two goalies, one being there day in and day out. That’s only going to help us, but now we have to, as a unit in front of them, each shift, play well in front of them and get them some wins."
Yeo hasn't officially named a starter for this afternoon's game with Oklahoma City. But he did say last week that it was his plan to alternate them at the start of the season, so take from that what you will.
For those of you interested in team chemistry, take a heart from a statement of Robbie Earl's: "It’s game three. We’ve still got a long way to go. But we’re jelling faster than most teams I’ve been a part of. It’s fun to see. It’s still early."
As for the non-game aspects, you'll be pleased, or distressed to know that they still can't get the wireless to work at Toyota Center on a consistent basis. Heather was too cheap to pay for the T-Mobile, but even though I bounce around in terms of employment, I forked out the cash so that I could keep you up-to-date on the Twitter. You're welcome.
And speaking of shocks, we were actually asked by Aeros PR as to who the three stars of the game should be. I know that's how it goes in most arenas, but that's the first time it happened for us.
For those of you who didn't attend the game, let it be known that the Aeros have Ice Girls this season, and I for one couldn't be happier. We were asked on Twitter for photographic evidence, so here you go.
They had a goal horn, or so it sounded, which was a first. They didn't do chuck-a-puck until after the game. Steve Vidal is still your roaming arena announcer. And for the most part, the music selections still sucked.
And for your music video tonight, I'm going with The Kinks and "Do It Again" because, as I wrote above, there was a lot about this game which reminded me of last year.