The Aeros Shoot Down The Stars, Regain Momentum
Last Sunday, the Aeros held the 2-1 lead after two periods only to lose their fifth straight game of the season. Yesterday, the Aeros held the 2-1 lead after the second period and the question that many of the fans inside Toyota Center were asking -- perhaps second only to what happened to the air conditioning -- was whether the Aeros would be able to hold onto the lead this time.
And when the Texas Stars tied the game at 2-2 early in the third, the concern in the crowd was evident.
But things were a bit different this time out for the Aeros. Unlike last weekend where the Aeros were attempting to break a losing streak, this time, the Aeros were attempting to start a winning streak, attempting to build on a 3-1 win over these same Texas Stars that the Aeros had gotten on Saturday night, and this time, this Sunday, these Houston Aeros just had the look of a team that would not be denied a victory.
At the six-minute mark of the third period, Warren Peters drew the Texas goalie toward him. Peters then made a great cross-ice pass to Carson McMillan, and McMillan buried the puck in the net. The Aeros were up 3-2, and after that there was no doubt that they were going to get the victory.
"The goal tonight was all Warren Peters," McMillan said. "He made a heck of a fake on the defenseman and the goalie and gave me a wide-up net. I thanked Warren a hundred times after the goal. It was just a great pass."
The Aeros scored later in the third period when Nate Prosser ripped a shot from the blue line off a pass from Matt Kassian making the score 4-2, and for the first time at Toyota Center this season, the Aeros were able to skate off of the ice as victors.
"They scored [to tie the game], but what I liked was that we stuck with it," head coach Mike Yeo said after the game. "We had a big penalty kill after that. Anton [Khudobin -- the starting goalie] made a huge save, and we responded well."
Yesterday was definitely the first time this season, at least at home, when the Aeros played the type of hockey that Yeo wants them playing.
While still frustrating to watch at times, especially on the power play, a semblance of an offensive system was there, and it was obvious that the players are beginning to grasp what the coaching system want them to do.
"I'm not going to plan a parade right now," Yeo said. "And I wasn't ready to jump off a building last week when things didn't go well. To me, it's another step, and I think there's a lot of things that we can look at out of this weekend and say, and just point at it, and that it's clearly evident when we're doing the right things, when the battle level is there, when the execution level is there, and our focus is there, then we're a tough team to play against."
The weekend as a whole was perhaps the best three game stretch of the season for the Aeros.
While they lost 5-2 to San Antonio on Friday night, they played perhaps their best period of the season in the first period. Then there was Saturday's 3-1 over Texas followed by yesterday's win, and not only do the Aeros have their first home win of the season, they've got a two-game winning streak which, while not looking that impressive, stands out after the team had lost six straight games.
But Yeo says the team's not where he wants it, not yet, and he doesn't want them losing sight of what they can be.
"We've got to make sure we continue this week to focus on getting better. That being said, we had a really good weekend...," he said. "We played, as far as I'm concerned, we played three good games this weekend."
The Aeros started the season by winning their first two games, then losing six (including one in OT), and have now won two straight games. They return to Toyota Center on Friday night to face the Toronto Marlies, and when they step on the ice, they'll be attempting to start a real winning streak for the first time this season.
Last week, the Aeros looked like a disaster in the making. This week, with a record of 4-5-1-0, things look a bit more promising for the team. After all, there are still 70 games left to play. And here's hoping that the Toyota Center folks can do something about getting the A/C to work because while it might be a bit uncomfortable for the fans, it's tough to play hockey inside a sauna.
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