Houston Aeros Best Chicago Wolves But Fall to Peoria Rivermen and Milwaukee Admirals

At the 1:30 mark of the first period Friday night, Colton Gillies stepped out onto the Toyota Center ice for his very first action in a professional game. Playing at the left wing position on a line with center Marco Rosa and right wing Ross Carlson, Gillies provided a much need burst of energy to the team.

Unfortunately, the 19-year old Gillies (the newly-signed number one draft pick of the Minnesota Wild) could only provide so much energy, and he could not provide enough to lift the Aeros out of what is becoming a depressing pattern – lousy and crappy first and second period play.

The 7,946 fans got to witness the Aeros fall behind 4-0 to division rival Peoria Rivermen before Rosa was able to net the puck, making the score 4-1. But the Aeros could get no closer to Peoria, and Peoria managed to score again in the second period to make the score 5-1.

In fact, if not for the multiple Aeros-initiated brawls which marred the third period, the fans in attendance could be excused for wondering if the Aeros were even at the game. Alas, they were present. And alas, with the Aeros struggling to make the playoffs, the Aeros lost to one of the teams trying to catch them in the playoff standings.

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The Aeros did play two more games over the weekend, defeating the Chicago Wolves 4-3, in Chicago, on Saturday night, but falling 4-3 in a shoot-out, to the Milwaukee Admirals, in Milwaukee, on Sunday.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

The Aeros record now stands at 40-27-2-3 (86 points) with eight games remaining in the season. They are currently tied with the San Antonio Rampage for fourth place, and are one point behind the Admirals for third place. The Rockford IceHogs are hanging onto second place, only four points ahead of the Aeros, and the Rivermen sit in sixth place, just five points behind Houston and San Antonio.

The Aeros next six games are on the road, starting in Cleveland on Wednesday night for a game with the Lake Erie Monsters. They then move up the Great Lakes to Michigan, where they will take on the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday night, then return to Milwaukee on Saturday night. The Aeros then travel to Peoria for a Sunday afternoon match with the Rivermen. They’ll then play the Quad City Flames on Wednesday, April 9. Following that, the Aeros final three games will be with the Admirals, starting with a Friday, April 11 contest in Milwaukee before finishing out the regular season in Houston on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night’s fight-marred game could have been prevented, according to Coach Kevin Constantine, if referee Chris Ciamaga had bothered to actually pay attention to the game.

“We had players in that game that were injured in situations that there weren’t calls,” Constantine said after the game, citing cheap shots against Ryan Hamilton and Adrian Foster. “Eventually you have a tendency to say, ‘That’s enough, I’m going to take this into my own hands.’ If it ain’t the ref, it better be yourself.”

Hamilton, playing Sunday with a possible concussion, scored two of the Aeros’ three goals against the Admirals.

As for the Aeros’ dispirited play on Friday, Constantine saw that as the players taking for granted that they could come back from a deficit. “We’ve been behind two-nothing to Chicago [last Friday]. And two-nothing to Peoria the other night [last Tuesday],” Constantine said. “So our most recent home games, if you look at them, that’s three in a row we’ve been behind two-nothing. Those other two, we were able to make two-one and actually win, but it’s hard to win games when you get scored on first. It’s really hard to win when you get scored on twice. When 2-1 goes 3-0, it’s virtually impossible.”

The Friday fight-fest resulted in 49 penalty minutes for the Aeros, which was a season high. That number was eclipsed when the Aeros were hit with 66 penalty minutes during their Saturday victory over Chicago.

Goalie Barry Brust was ejected from Saturday’s game with six seconds remaining. Back-up Anton Khudobin had to replace him, and was able to block a shot that could have tied the game. Brust’s ejection for a cross-check to the face of a Chicago player resulted in him being suspended by the league for Sunday’s game with Milwaukee.

Colton Gillies saw significant action this weekend, his first weekend in professional hockey. He got his first point, an assist on a Serge Payer goal in the second period of Saturday’s game with Chicago. He got his second point when he assisted on a Ross Carlson goal in the second period of Sunday’s game.

“This is way better hockey than the WHL,” Gillies said after Friday’s game. “It wasn’t what I expected. A lot of fights. It was good to see though because our guys were sticking up for each other. It’s like a brotherhood in here. It’s nice. They welcomed me from day one. I’m part of the guys now.”

“He looked pretty good,” Constantine said. “I thought he was fine in the game. He even showed a little confidence with the puck.”

The shoot-out against Milwaukee went seven rounds. Defenseman Shawn Belle was able to net the puck twice, but twice wasn’t good enough as Milwaukee was able to score three times to lock up the victory.

In injury news, defenseman Maxim Noreau hopes to be joining his teammates later this week. He is no longer wearing a boot on his foot, and he hopes to be able to skate with the team come this weekend. Goalie Nolan Schaefer is also traveling with the team, and there is a chance that he could see action soon. – John Royal

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