Aeros Looking Like They're Getting On Track
The old joke goes that a guy went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out. Saturday night, the people in attendance for the Aeros game at Toyota Center got to watch that come true as fight after fight after fight broke out, in between what was some of the Aeros best play of the season.
But fights aside, Saturday was the second game in a row that the Aeros played some exceptional hockey, helped in part by the play of Hair Balls subject Danny Irmen, who scored two goals on Thursday night and set up a fantastic short-handed goal on Saturday night to further cement his standing as the team's best special-teams player.
Irmen refused to take the credit for his goals in Thursday's 4-1 victory over Manitoba, crediting his teammates for the points.
"I could have scored that [first] goal blind," Irmen told Hair Balls, of a goal that resulted when Stoner faked out a defenseman and the goalie and fed Irmen the puck for the goal. "I sat my stick on the ice and he put it on there and it went in. It was a great play by [Stoner]."
The Aeros got the 5-2 win over their rivals the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday night in a game full of fights and hits and superb special-teams play. Best of Houston winner Matt Kassian engaged in three fights -- easily winning them all to go along with the fight he won on Thursday night.
Petr Kalus and Clayton Stoner spent time serving fighting penalties and several other Aeros, including Max Noreau and Justin Falk, also got a bit physical with the guys from San Antonio.
While the Aeros did some physical damage to the Rampage, the real damage came from the Aeros rediscovering the ability to score on the power play, something which they had not done since mid-October.
But the spectacular play came when the Aeros were on the penalty kill and Irmen got the puck and dashed for the San Antonio goal. Rookie Chad Rau followed Irmen up the ice. Irmen drew the Rampage goalie toward him and as he did, Irmen fed Rau the puck and Rau buried the puck in the net for the goal.
And as Irmen did on Thursday, Rau did on Saturday, giving all of the credit for his goal to Irmen. "It was a gift from Danny," he said. "I just tapped it in. He made a heck of a play. He made a nice backhand pass, and draw the guy to him and it was an empty net. It was a super nice play."
But more importantly, it's beginning to appear that the Aeros are finally getting their act together for the season. Anton Khudobin is settling in as the team's number-one goalie while the word seems to be that Barry Brust has been testing his injured foot. And while not every play is being converted for a goal, the Aeros do look as if all of the new players are finally gaining chemistry and learning to trust the moves of each other on the ice.
Head coach Kevin Constantine said as much after Thursday night's win. "We've put ourselves in position to score goals [over the past week] but if you looked at the two Grand Rapids games [played around Halloween] just a ton of scoring chances, just that none of them got in the back of the net."
So as the Aeros approach the quarter-mark of the season, the team finds itself sitting in a tie for second place in the AHL's West Division with a record of 8-7-0-0 (16 points). They sit behind on the Texas Stars who currently are running away with the division, but they're ahead of the Rampage.
Their next two games will be Friday and Saturday in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters and they return home on Sunday afternoon to take on the Chicago Wolves.
And who knows, if you're lucky and go on Sunday, maybe you'll get the chance to see a hockey game and a boxing match.