For 187 minutes and 38 seconds, Houston Aeros goalie Barry Brust had been perfect. Perfect as in no goals allowed in a time period spanning over three games, including two straight shut-outs. It was a streak as impressive as Barack Obama’s 11 straight Democratic primary victories. Then at the 4:12 mark of the third period of last night’s game against the Providence Bruins, Barry Brust met Rhode Island.
Bruin left wing Aaron Slattengren bounded out of the penalty box, picked up the loose puck around the blue line and slipped the puck past Brust and into the net, tying the game at one goal each. And Brust then let a shot from right wing Martins Karsums get past him just three minutes later for a 2-1 Providence lead. Call it Ohio.
But with under a minute left in the game, with Barry Brust pulled from the game for the extra skater, the Aeros struck back and with 26 seconds remaining in the game, forward Adrian Foster got the pass from defenseman Paul Albers and tied the game.
“I went to the net,” Foster said. “And Albers saw me and made a great pass to me and I just deflected it into the net.”
With the game in overtime, the Aeros continued with the attack, winning the game when defenseman Maxim Noreau got the game-winning goal. “We were pretty fortunate to get that goal,” Noreau said in the locker room. Left wing Benoit “Pouliot made a good play, and he drew the defense to him and dropped [the puck] off to me. And I took a shot and then the puck came right back to my skates and I was able to kick it to my stick and I pretty much closed my eyes and shot it through the open net.”
The fact that the Aeros came from behind to win the game was impressive. But what was more impressive was that the Aeros came back to defeat Providence, one of the best teams in the AHL.
“It was huge for us. We haven’t really played good against top notch teams lately,” Noreau said. “This sends a message that we can win at home against anybody.”
“It feels good,” Foster said. “We haven’t won at home in awhile. I don’t know when the last time was.”
With the victory, the Aeros record moved to 32-22-2-3 and gave the team their fifth straight victory, all games started by Barry Brust. “I think I got outplayed a little bit and the boys bailed me out in the end,” Brust said.
Brust feels the key to his recent stretch of superb play is that he’s gotten into a rhythm. “You kind of get into a routine before the game,” he said. But, he was quick to add, “We need [number one goalie Nolan Schaefer] back here and we need him playing.”
Outplayed or not, Brust blocked 32 of 34 shots and kept his team in the game. So while it’s debatable that they bailed him out, it is not debatable that the Aeros were victorious again. And the again, and the victorious, were the only things that mattered last night.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Okay folks, here is where it gets a little complicated. I’ve mentioned briefly in the past that the AHL playoffs are such that the top four teams in each division make the playoffs. And that in the Western Conference, if the fifth place in the West Division has more points than the fourth place in the North Division, then that West Division team gets shuffled over to the North Division and becomes the number four seed.
At this moment, the Aeros are tied for fifth place in the West Division with the Milwaukee Admirals. Both teams have 32 wins, and both teams have 69 points. But only of these teams can go to the playoffs. According to the AHL playoff rules, the playoff spot goes to the team with the most victories (because of points for overtime and shoot-out losses it is possible for two teams to be tied in points while one team has more victories than the other).
Trust me, it’s get a lot more complicated, and hopefully we won’t have to get into all of the possible scenarios that can come into play. But because the Aeros have, as of this moment, played in fewer games than the Admirals, and since the Aeros have more points than the fourth place in the North Division (the Syracuse Crunch), the Aeros would be in the playoffs. There are still 21 games left though, so I’d expect the playoff ranking to be changing game by game.
The Aeros killed every Providence power play opportunity last night, which means that they have now killed 41 straight power plays. They are second in the AHL on the penalty kill this season.
The Aeros goalies have allowed only 137 goals this season, which is the lowest number in the AHL.
Brust’s 187:38 without allowing a goal is good, but it fell 5:59 short of the team record of 193:37 set by Freddy Chabot in the 1996-97 season.
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Last night’s victory was the first time this season that the team has won when trailing with five minutes remaining in the game. “We’re learning how to fight and finding ways to win games,” Foster said. “Even if they’re not pretty.”
“We’ve shown the ability to come from behind lately,” Brust said. “And that’s always a plus.”
The second game of the Aeros nine game home stand comes Friday when they face the Hartford Wolf Pack.
And just a friendly reminder, the Miss Aero contest is Thursday, March 20, when the Aeros take on the Chicago Wolves. And the Hanson Brothers of Slap Shot fame will be making an appearance at the Saturday, March 15, game versus the Rockford IceHogs. – John Royal