The Houston Aeros played a better hockey game than the Oklahoma City Barons tonight. For two-thirds of the game, the Aeros put on a clinic in puck possession, defense, and keeping the opposition backing up and playing out of position. Unfortunately for the Aeros, they failed to show up for the first period of action tonight, and that failure was enough for the Aeros to get the loss.
The Barons (5-2-0-1, 11 points) scored three times on nine shots in the first period with every point coming off of a turnover, especially the embarrassing second goal which came off a turnover in the Aeros (5-1-0-3, 13 points) offensive zone when they were on the power play. Matt Hackett, who started the night in goal, didn't stand much of a chance on any of the goals, and he was pulled after that first period.
"It just didn't bounce the right way for [Hackett]," head coach John Torchetti said afterwards. "Hack's been our backbone, and we owed it to him. Sometimes you have to win a game for your goalies, too, because they hold us in. Sometimes you don't deserve what you get there. He'll be back."
Dennis Endras came in to start the second, and except a goal he gave up while the Barons were on a 5x3 power play, he kept them off the board, and he kept them off the board while making some spectacular saves. But it wasn't all Endras. An entirely different Aeros team skated onto the ice for that second period, scoring three goals and crawling back into a game they should have been blown out of.
"It's the first period that we have to throw back on film," Torchetti said. "It's disappointing. Our go-to-guys just didn't play as hard in certain areas. Just keeping it simple. We had the puck on all of the first three goals. We've got to communicate a whole lot more. I've got to find a way to definitely get us going in the first period. I don't know what it is. So we'll see. The boys fought back."
The first period is something the Aeros have had a problem with the entire season so far. And watching the team skate the later periods, it's kind of puzzling as to why they're such slow starters. But as we were discussing in the press box, the Aeros, for the last five seasons, have had a problem with playing a complete period. And it bit them tonight as they had to come back from so far down, that they were gassed toward the end of the third period.
And they seem to have developed a mental block in the shootout. It appeared from the press box that they were envisioning a blocked shot before they even took the shot, and they just seemed hesitant to shoot, giving the Barons goalie plenty of time to react.
But in the end, the Aeros were able to pick up a point in a game where it appeared they were going to be blown out after just one period. And while a team always wants to pick up the win and the two points, getting at least a point after the way they played the first period tonight has to be considered some kind of victory. Even if it is like kissing your sister.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
I'm still learning the new guys, but Justin Fontaine and David McIntyre are really impressing me. I like watching Endras in the net -- he made a couple of saves tonight that would have left Ms. Conduct giggling with glee.
I'm still trying to figure out why the refs, in the third period, after blowing the whistle and saying no goal for the Barons, had to confer with the goal judge to see if the puck crossed the blue line, especially if their original ruling was that it wasn't a goal because the puck crossed the line after the whistle blew. What was the goal judge going to say? That yeah, it crossed after you blew the whistle?
Then again, this is the AHL, right?