The Houston Aeros lost game four of the Calder Cup Finals tonight to the Binghamton Senators by the score of 3-0. But that score doesn't even begin to indicate how much the Senators dominated this game. They outshot the Aeros 37-21, and most of the Aeros shots weren't even that great. The Senators kept possession of the puck and kept in the Aeros zone for about the first four minutes of the game.
The first goal of the game was one that looked like Matt Hackett should have been able to stop, coming off a really slow to develop wraparound. But it's hard to pin this loss on Hackett as he did everything he could to keep the Aeros in the game, especially seeing as Binghamton came out on the attack and peppered him with 18 shots in the first period.
The Senators won this game because they wanted this game. They played this game like it was game seven. The Aeros seemed to play like it was game five of the regular season. But who knows, maybe if they would have played with the same effort during the game as they did in getting into that stupid scrum/fight at the end of the game they might have been able to at least make the game close. But alas, it just wasn't meant to be.
1. We're all familiar with the story by now since it's a story we've seen throughout the last month of the regular season and during the playoffs. The Aeros get the ultimate goal within their reach, then all they care about is that goal which results in them forgetting everything that made it possible for them to get where they are. What's more aggravating than anything else is that the Aeros recognize this, too. Mike Yeo knows about it. The players know about it.
Jed Ortmeyer said on Monday that he thought the guys had learned a lesson from the Hamilton series about what happens when they get away from their game. But it appears that, if they did learn the lesson, they forgot all about it tonight.
2. "We weren’t ready to match their desperation level," Mike Yeo said. "It’s tough – it’s like your sinking in quick sand when that happens. You dig a little bit deeper and you sink a little bit more."
The Senators wanted this game. They knew they had to win. The Aeros played like it was game four against Hamilton.
3. They paraded Kurt Klienendorst, Robin Lehner, Cody Bass, and Corey Locke out to the press room tonight and didn't bother to bring any Aeros along. And frankly, I'm not in the mood for transcribing everything they said.
Klienendorst said that he hadn't been frustrated by his team's play, and neither was his team. He felt, and the team felt, that they were all capable of much better play than what they'd had so far in the series, and that tonight was what they expected. They're all expecting a much better Aeros team out on the ice tomorrow, and they're all expecting a much better effort from the Aeros.
4. My recorder malfunctioned when it got to Lehner, so this note I have might not be his exact quote, but he speaks truth: "If you don't play desperate, you're not going to win the game."
Like I said, that might not be exact, but it's close. And you could tell the difference tonight. The Senators were desperate to get the win tonight -- they didn't want to go down 3-1 -- and the Aeros, well, they weren't desperate.
5. Mike Yeo admitted to slamming a few things around after the game. And while he didn't name names, he was not very happy with the play/effort level of some of his players. Personally, I think the only guy that gave out a good effort tonight was Hackett.
"There’s some things we talked about [during intermissions]," Yeo said. "There were some moments where we saw our game kind of getting there, and I don’t think that we had full contributions from everybody tonight. And that’s going to be tough when you’re playing against a team – we had a lot of guys who had below average games, and if you have one guy that has a below average game right now, the odds of you winning the game have just gone down by quite a bit, and we had a number of guys.
"The one thing that you always find is that it’s tough to recover, it’s tough to have – to not be ready, or not have a great first period and then all of a sudden flip the switch. It doesn’t happen. I think that we’re not too far in the process to learn. We’re not too far in the process to learn from our opposition, and what we’re facing, and even ourselves and what we have to bring going into a game."
6. Yeo's not too worried about playing the back-to-back. The Aeros should be used to this anyway since the AHL had them playing three-in-threes seemingly every weekend. But Yeo said that no guy should be tired when it comes to the Calder Cup.
"If you want to sit here right now and look at it that way, yeah you can, but this time of the year, I don’t know," he said. "The adrenaline’s got to kick in. I’m already excited for the game tomorrow. Our players should be excited for the game tomorrow. You know, it stinks. It stinks to lose. I don’t think there’s anybody who hates to lose more than I do. And I had my moment where I went and I slammed a couple of things. Even as I sit here right now, what an opportunity. We’ve got a best of three for the Calder Cup. Two good teams going at it. I don’t know how you could get tired right now. You’ve got to get excited, you’ve got to get fired up. When you have that approach, I think that energizes you. There’ll be plenty of time to be tired."
And besides, he said in another shot at his players, a back-to-back shouldn't be a problem because "I think that we saved a little energy tonight."
7. I've got to give it to the Binghamton fans, the "You can't Hack It" chant was funny. However, they did the Wave, so what credibility they gained from the chant was lost with that.
8. Yeo didn't think the crowd had much of an affect on the Aeros. He did, however, think the crowd helped out the Senators, especially after that first goal. The building was loud, and Corey Locke spoke afterwards about how great the Binghamton fans were. And the crowd tonight was way more into this game than the crowds I saw in Peoria and Milwaukee.
9. The game ended with a big scuffle after the buzzer in which the Aeros just seemed to lose their cool and got into with the Senators down by where the Senators exit the ice to get to their locker room. Justin Falk, Warren Peters, and Nate Prosser were each hit with two minute roughing penalties and 10 minute game misconducts for persisting a fight. Eric Gryba, Mike Hoffman, and Cody Bass were nailed with the same penalties.
And the reason for this, beyond just the Aeros losing their cool, was the once again god-awful absolute crappy officiating of Terry Koharski and Ghislain Hebert. These guys never had control of the game and missed many obvious penalties committed by both teams while making up, from nowhere, a four minute double minor high-stick on Justin Falk in the second period. But hey, at least Koharski didn't screw up any goal calls tonight.
Seriously, if any of you suits with the AHL are reading this, could you answer me this: are the officials you've been assigning to these games really the best you have because, if they are, I fear for the future and the integrity of the AHL and NHL officiating. I know that the AHL is a developmental league, but that doesn't mean developmentally-challenged officals should be continuously assigned to the league's most important games.
I hope I don't sound like a homer because I've seen these guys, especially Koharski, miss way too many calls this playoffs, and just not calls against the Aeros. Hamilton and Milwaukee have just as much right to be angry with this guy as the Aeros, and I don't think Binghamton should be too happy with him, either.
10. Cody Almond left the game about midway in the third period after being hit on what probably would have been a penalty in the regular season. It looked like his leg was injured because he sure skated slow and seemed to be favoring one of his legs -- sorry, I don't remember which one.
Yeo didn't know his status after the game as he was still being checked out by the medical staff, but we're hearing rumors that he left the arena on crutches, so that doesn't sound good. Hopefully we can find out something more at the arena in the morning.
11. I'm trying not to go into full on negative mode here, like Heather, so it should be noted that Heather's prediction of the Senators winning in five is wrong. Second, we've been watching the Aeros do this throughout the playoffs. They'll throw out a stinker of a game then recover. The question is how long that recovery will take. They switched it on-and-off several times against Milwaukee. They were demolished by Hamilton in game four, then spent the next two games trying recovering before getting it all together in game seven.
But unlike with Hamilton, the Aeros don't have a 3-0 lead with which to play. And I think the Senators are better than the Bulldogs and the Admirals. Hopefully Jed Ortemeyer will knock some heads together and get the guys back on track -- I say Ortmeyer because the guys have made it pretty clear that he's their spiritual leader in the locker room.
12. On a positive, non-hockey note. I made a pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown today -- it's about an hour-and-a-half drive from Binghamton. It was my first time, and I really got a kick touring the Hall and the town. My favorite part was something that I knew, but had forgotten. A friend of mine, Ria Cortesio, was the last female umpire in professional baseball, making it up to AA-ball about four years ago before hitting the glass ceiling. I was walking through the Diamond Dreams: Women In Baseball exhibits when I came up on one of her umpire masks.
While I knew her mask was there, she had told me several years ago, I had forgotten, and you have no idea what a kick it is to be walking through a shrine of great players from the sport I love the most and seeing that my friend has been acknowledged. If only the guys running MLB would have been more open minded because she should have made the majors -- I know for a fact that she's a better umpire than Angel Hernandez can ever dream of being.
That's it for tonight. The Aeros and Senators return to action on Saturday night, same bat time, same bat channel -- sorry about that for those of you stuck with AHL Live. And if the Aeros are going to win the Cup, then they're going to need a much, much better effort on the ice. They're going to need to play like it's game seven.