Aeros Freeze The Heat, Move Into First Place

Meyers Stretcher.JPG
John Royal
Abbotsford's Josh Meyers was taken off the ice on a stretcher Friday night
The Aeros are on an incredible hot streak. They won 10 of 13 games in January and they've won 12 of their last 17 games. That's the good news. The bad news is that the AHL has pushed the pause button on the season and the Aeros won't being playing any hockey until Friday because of the AHL All-Star break.

The Aeros won their final game before the break, defeating the visiting Abbotsford Heat 4-3 in a shootout on Friday night. With the win, one the Aeros tried time and time again to lose, they closed out the month in a tie for first place, having moved up from the seventh-place position they sat in on December 26.

Second year center Chad Rau, who secured the shoot-out win with a shot that nicked off the glove of Abbotsford goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, called the team's recent play evidence of them just going out and having fun on the ice.

"We're just having fun out there," he said. "Guys are sticking to the game plan, and what the coaches are telling us to do, and just executing our plan. Things are working out pretty well right now. That, and we're having fun winning, and it's kind of contagious."

The Aeros took the early lead, again, when Jean-Michel Daoust scored at 16:56 of the first period. The Aeros looked as if they were about to go up 2-0 in the first when, with 3.5 seconds on the clock, two Abbotsford players collided at mid-ice and the officials brought the game to a screaming halt so that one of the players, Josh Meyers, could be carted off of the ice on the stretcher. The teams were sent off the ice and the remainder of the period was played about 25 minutes later, following the intermission.

Abbotsford tied the game early in the second period, but just seconds after that, Carson McMillan put the Aeros up 2-1. The Heat tied the game up minutes later, but Patrick O'Sullivan, continuing with his hot streak since joining the club a couple of weeks ago, scored on the power play at 14:35 of the second to put the Aeros up 3-2. Abbotsford tied the game early in the third period, but were held scoreless through overtime. Jon DiSalvatore, who got an assist on O'Sullivan's goal, hit a shot in the shootout, but it was Rau who sealed the victory.

"I wasn't sure of what I was going to do," Rau said of his goal. "I kind of wanted to shoot. I kind of just came then tried slowing down a little bit to back the goalie off. Looking back, I wish I would have came in faster and slowed down more to back him off some more because he got a piece of it. But luckily it squirted through his glove side and went in."

Khudobin Save.JPG
John Royal
Anton Khudobin makes a save on Friday night
The game was difficult for the Aeros. Their play was a bit sloppier than it's been recently, and Abbotsford, lacking some of the skill-type players that the Aeros have recently acquired, went out of their way to play a physical game in an attempt to knock the Aeros off their game. So there was a lot of action and hitting after the whistle and a big attempt to slow down the action to keep the Aeros from controlling the play on the ice.

Aeros coach Mike Yeo thought that Abbotsford partly succeeded with their game plan. But while they might have taken the Aeros out of their game, they couldn't keep the Aeros from winning the game.

So with the win the Aeros, except for defenseman Max Noreau, who is playing in tonight's All Star game, are off for the next few games, taking some time to rest, to recover and to gather strength. And while it could be seen as a bad thing that one of the league's hottest teams is having to take a break, Mike Yeo is not worried.

"It was a little over a month ago, and we were not in a very good position at that time, standings-wise, and we talked about taking the break to clear your head, and rest your body and make sure that you're ready for a push when you get out of this," Yeo said. "And the message [for this break is] pretty much the same, except now we are in a good spot. But that doesn't mean we can let our foot off of the gas. We've got a lot of work to do when we get back here."

The Aeros definitely can't take their foot off of the gas because, even though they're tied for first place with Milwaukee and San Antonio -- all three with 60 points -- fourth-place Peoria and Oklahoma City are each one point back. Sixth-place Texas is just two points back, and seventh-place Chicago is five points back. So if that foot comes off the gas at any point, the Aeros might easily find themselves back at the bottom of the standings.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The Aeros return to play on Friday night when they host the Texas Stars. The team has an optional workout on Tuesday....Jean-Michel Daoust's first period goal on Friday night was the 300th point of his professional career....Abbotsford's Josh Meyers, who was taken off of the ice on a stretcher Friday night, was able to rejoin his teammates on Saturday, though he was not able to play.


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