Photo by Fred Trask Mitch Love head-butts the puck into the goal. You usually only see that in soccer.
But with a tired group of guys playing their third game in three nights, the Aeros were prepared to take their goals from anyone and at anytime. Even if it was a goal that came from a puck bouncing off of Mitch Love's head and into the goal as happened on Sunday night.
"I don't know if it was even mine," Love said. The shot at 12:00 of the first period started off of the stick of Jason Ryznar, was blocked by the goalie, and appeared to hit the helmet of Love before rebounding back into the goal to put the Aeros up 1-0 on the visiting Chicago Wolves.
"I guess they gave it to me," Love said.
However the puck got into the goal, it got in. And the Aeros never relinquished the lead. Jesse Schultz made the score 2-0 less than a minute later. And though the Wolves pulled to within 3-2 at the :56 mark of the third period, the Aeros pretty much inflicted their will the entire game, winning 4-2 at Toyota Center before 6155 fans.
The glory line for the Aeros, the one commanding all of the attention of the other teams is the line with Krys Kolanos and Corey Locke, primarily because those guys are speedy offensive machines who can seemingly score almost at will. But according to head coach Kevin Constantine, what makes the play of Kolanos and Locke possible is the play of the line of Mitch Love, Jason Ryznar, and Matt Kassian.
"They provide...the toughness for our team which lets the rest of our guys play in a safe environment," Constantine said after Sunday's game. "Their stature and their importance to the team just kind of keeps growing all the time."
"A lot of the boys in here look for us to bring a little bit of energy every night. I thought the first period we did that a little bit," Love said. "Anytime we get a goal it's a bonus for us and hopefully brings a little life to the team."
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"They've been a steady line for us," Constantine said. "There's a high level of trust in the coaches in that line that they're going to play on our page, they're going to play very physical, they're going to be very trustworthy defensively. They rarely get themselves in trouble. Their line's a real steadying influence for our team."
The Aeros are going to need the steadying influence of that line as, with only 24 games left in the season, just about every game literally counts if the team is going to make the playoffs. Just 12 points separates the team in second place of the AHL's West Division and last place. After last night's win, the Aeros, with a record of 26-21-1-8 (61 points) are currently in third place. And of their 24 remaining games, 22 of those games are against their division opponents.
The Aeros also have some injury problems. Marco Rosa, who was playing at 95-percent on a bad ankle, was hit in that ankle by the puck last week and is out of action again. Constantine says this injury is just a bruise and not a sprain, so he is hopeful that he will be back in action soon. Danny Irmen and Morten Madsen are suffering from high ankle sprains, and Constantine is not expecting their return soon.
The Aeros return to action on Thursday night when they take on the Iowa Chops at 7:05 at Toyota Center. They'll also matchup against the Iowa Chops on Saturday night at 7:35.