Well, gang, that was a fun one. Partly because the first period was SUCH a gong show. Both teams were putting on a hilarious comedy of errors, but something told me they'd get it together, and they definitely did.
The longer the game went, the more cohesive the play by both teams. And the lack of penalties made the flow enjoyable, as Ian Croft did his best Jeff Smith impression, God love him. And speaking of penalties, that had to be one of the least contentious games I've seen between these two teams. No fights, just a little rough stuff as San Antonio got (understandably) frustrated that nothing was going in the net.
Which leads me to the star of the night, Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 33 shots for his first pro shutout (he came DARN close in his last ECHL game). The kid just never gives up, has great visual attachment to the puck, tracks it through traffic, through bounces around the crease, and always finds a way to get in front of it.
That said, the team did an excellent job keeping shooters to the outside, clearing rebounds, and cutting off passes to the back door (though he had to make a couple of doozy slides to get them when they did connect). I wish the AHL kept blocked shot records, because I guarantee the rest of the team blocked as many as Kuemper stopped. It takes nothing away from Kuemps to say that the shutout was a team effort. Shutouts always are.
After the game, Coach Torchetti was verging on speechless in his delight at the wealth of goaltending in the organization.
"We know what (Kuemper's) got. He's a special kid. We're very, very, very lucky to have the goaltending that we have in this organization, and the work ethic of (Kuemper and Hackett). Very competitive."
He too, though, gave credit to the team for their role in the win:
"Our guys at the end, though, Peters, blocking shots, we were laying down. That's a lot of hockey for us right there. A lot of people don't think so, but I do. I know I'm tired. They worked. I'm proud. Our goalie did a great job. Special teams came up. We got a win from the special teams, so we're seeing an improvement there. It's just a big win for our hockey team. We don't care who's out of the line-up. We're just gonna keep coming."
As Andrew mentioned in his post, it was a sure thing San Antonio was going to come at this game with both barrels, and Torch said the team was well aware.
"We understand there's a storm coming, it's just how you handle it. There's another term that we call it (ed. note: Damn these recorders. Love to know what they call it, in the hope that it's something more creative than "shit storm"), but we have to embrace it and understand it's coming."
He went on to talk about how some of the guys who are used to playing 10 minutes are now having to learn to play 16 minutes, 3 games in a row. So those guys are having to learn some lessons in consistency. You won't get to the next level by just showing up.
"We talked about it. And then we found that groove. I thought we did a way better job in the second period pushing the pace, straight up, and getting opportunities.... It's just nice to win," Torchetti said.
"I thought we were going to the shootout," he laughed.
When asked aboutthe closed door, players only team meeting after yesterdays game, Torchetti said:
"There's a right of playing here. There's no free nights. And that's the bottom line. We thought last night that, overall, we had some guys who thought they were going to show up and get some points. We're playing Oklahoma City. To me they're one of the top teams in the league, night in and night out... That's why we brought in (defenseman Mike) Montgomery. I thought he did a great job for us. He was very good."
We also talked to Kuemper after the game but I feel a stick figure coming on, so I'm gonna go draw that and do another post with his interview.
That said, however, the Aeros are now tied for first place in the AHL, the Wild ARE in first place in the NHL. I think probably the only person whose mind isn't blown by that is Mike Yeo.
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