It's tough to say that today's game was the biggest game of the season for the Aeros because it seems that since January every game has been the biggest game of the season. But if the Aeros had lost today they could have fallen into a tie for fourth place. So it was big for the Aeros to get the 6-3 win over Manitoba today.
This will be quick and dirty today because of some time constraints, but....
1. For those of you interested, the six goals the Aeros scored in the third period were a franchise record for goals scored in the third. And it was the first time since November of last season that they scored five goals in a period.
2. You can slowly see the Aeros regaining their confidence on offense, especially their big scoring lines. Patrick O'Sullivan's game-tying goal at the start of the third just seemed to open up the flood gates, and when a team gets a gift like the second goal, where the Manitoba goalie just seemed to hand the puck to Jon DiSalvatore, you just get the feeling that things are going your way.
3. Yeo said after the game that that DiSalvatore goal, which put the Aeros up 2-1, was a result of the ways the Aeros were just grinding away and wearing down the Moose defense and the goalie.
"We talked about it yesterday and our game plan going into every game is to grind teams down, regardless of whether they've played three games in three nights. That first period was only okay, but second period -- the amount of times that we made their D turn and go back for pucks," he said. "You could see towards the end of that period that we were just taking the game over. And that's what we talked about in between periods, as far as sticking with it, and we did. The first goal is getting the puck in deep and a good forecheck. And on the second goal you've got a skilled player like Casey Wellman coming down, and instead of taking a high risk play he chips the puck in behind the defense and makes them go back again, and from there, the game was over."
4. We talked to Jon DiSalvatore after the game, and I followed up on something I got from Jed Ortmeyer on Friday night. And that's the fact that those these games are grinders, and the Aeros have been having to play playoff caliber hockey since January, the game is supposed to be fun, and the best way to cope with the pressure is to go out and have fun.
"Since the day that [Ortmeyer's] got here, he's said that 'winning's fun, winning's fun,'" DiSalvatore said. "He's said that every day in the locker room. The result of winning is always fun. And we went on a big tear when he got here. And it was all based on little details that we really stuck to. And when you see us out there playing our game at a high level, and we're hemming teams in their own zone. You have so much more energy when you're playing in the offensive zone as you do than when you're playing defense. Our game, and what we stress to our guys, is let's just get the puck up the ice, and let's just play offense. It's easier on the D, and we have more energy as forwards. And it's a lot more fun when we're just moving the puck up quick..."
5. There are now 11 games left in the season for the Aeros, who are now 38-25-1-5 (82 points). Yet while it's hard to believe, the Aeros are still just in second place. They played incredible hockey in January and February and they're 3-2-0-1 so far in March. But for their incredible play, they can't put any distance between the clubs below them.
6. Both DiSalvatore and Robbie Earl noted after the game that the West Division is always the toughest division in the AHL in terms of teams making the playoffs. It's just par for the course in playing in this division. And as DiSalvatore told us, while things are tight and everybody's sweating it out, this is still fun for the players because they're always out playing for something meaningful.
7. That's it for me. I won't be here for Tuesday's game against Milwaukee -- vacation time -- but I'm sure Heather and Andrew will give you lots of good stuff on the game. And I hear that there should actually be some good photos -- instead of my crap -- for that game.