Last Wednesday, the Houston Aeros lost a tough 1-0 game to the Lake Erie Monsters at Toyota Center. It was disappointing not only because of the loss, but because it dropped the team below the .500 mark on the young season.
Worse, the team appeared to be lost, drifting about in search of an identity.
Veteran Peter Zingoni took the loss hard, claiming that he and his fellow vets weren't getting the job done. "I think as a whole, as a team, I think we're trying to get a little too cute," he said. "We're turning the puck over too much on line rushes as well. Myself included."
Zingoni put the blame on the team trying to be too cute. Trying to make the extra pass instead of taking the open shot.
"This is kind of the time when hockey sense is going to have to take over," he said. "Our coaches do enough for us preparation-wise, and we practice these drills in practice everyday. It comes to a point where we're really going to have to respond."
The slumping Aeros spent the weekend in San Antonio, and it appears that the players responded to Zingoni. While the team might not be out if its collective funk, it did get two wins against the best team in the division, defeating the San Antonio Rampage 3-2 in overtime on Saturday night, and taking out the Rampage 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.
And as Zingoni wished, it was the veteran players who took the lead. Danny Irmen scored two of the three goals on Saturday night as the Aeros came back from a 2-0 deficit to score two goals in the final six minutes of regulation action to send it to OT. Irmen got the first goal when he tipped in a shot. And then Robbie Earl tied the game with assists from Zingoni and fellow veteran Duncan Milroy. Then Irmen was credited with the overtime goal that actually resulted from a San Antonio player tipping the puck into his own goal. The game-winning goal in Sunday's game came by way of the recently returned veteran Andy Hilbert.
Thus, what appeared to be quickly turning into a lost season just last week is now one in which the Aeros, now 5-4-0-0 on the season, can boast of having momentum.
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And momentum is going to be what the team needs tonight as they host the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7:05 at Toyota Center. The Bulldogs have yet to lose a game in regulation this season, and enter tonight's action with a 6-0-1-1 record.
The Aeros, meanwhile, are going to have to handle the Bulldogs while missing one of their key players. Number-one goalie Anton Khudobin is currently up with the Minnesota Wild. It also appears that rookie Cody Almond may be missing a lot of time as he deals with a broken wrist, and Zingoni, who suffered through an injury-plagued season last year, is also injured.
Wade Dubielewicz will get the start in goal for the Aeros, and it will be kind of strange. For the most part, he's been outplayed by Khudobin this season. And Dubielewicz was signed to the team to be that guy who got called up to Minnesota to play goal in case of injuries, not Khudobin.
After tonight's game, the Aeros go out on the road for the next three games, playing Thursday and Friday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan against the Griffins. They'll then fly back to Texas where they'll head off to Austin for yet another game against the Texas Stars -- along with San Antonio, the Stars are the class of the division. The team will then return home to play next Thursday night when they will take on the Manitoba Moose.