John Royal Jed Ortmeyer relaxes on the bench.
But while Peoria might have grabbed the quick 1-0 lead just 1:16 into the game, the Aeros answered back quickly, tied the game, then never looked back. They were up 2-1 after the first period on goals by Warren Peters and Robbie Earl. Then went up 3-1 late in the second period when Jed Ortmeyer made one of those oh-wow-did-I-see-what-I-just-think-I-saw goals that featured him somehow getting off a shot as he was falling to the ice after being tripped by a Peoria defender.
Patrick O'Sullivan iced the game for the Aeros when he scored the team's fourth goal just 22 seconds into the third period, and from there on out, the Aeros coasted to victory.
"I hate to get all clichéd on you guys here, but it's one game," Aeros head coach Mike Yeo said afterwards. "I think they got off to a great start obviously, they scored that goal, and then we were able to bounce back and score a couple of goals after that.'
The Aeros didn't let falling behind early get to their psyche, which could have been a possibility for a team with a rookie goalie and a bunch of players in their first playoff series. But the Peoria goal seemed to wake up the Aeros, and they dominated the game from that point onward, keeping the puck pinned in the Peoria zone for lots of the game.
"We went through a stretch there early in the season where we gave up the first goal and were able to come back and win quite a few games," Ortmeyer said. "We know we have the ability to put some goals on the board if we stick with the process."
The Aeros showed off their depth tonight, with goals coming from Earl and O'Sullivan, two of the team's top goal threats, but important goals also coming from Ortmeyer and Peters, two guys who have the main function every night of going out and wearing down the opponent's top line with hits and tenacity.
John Royal Nate Prosser with a shot in the first period.
The next role for the Aeros is to not have a letdown. The goal of Peoria, as Yeo and Ortmeyer reminded after the game, is to come in and get a split. The series would then be shifting back to Peoria for three games in three nights early next week, with Peoria possibly having the momentum.
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"We talked about that," Ortmeyer said. "When you're a road team, their goal is to come in here and get a split. And that's a win for them, especially having three in a row at home. But for us, we can enjoy this game, but we have to come to work tomorrow and be focused. We have to have a better start, and play with the same intensity and same discipline that we played tonight and make sure that that game on [Friday] is a turning point for this series, for sure, going in there for three. We've got to be focused and ready."
The stats show that the Aeros now have history on their side. They're 12-4 in playoff series where they win the first game, so the signs are in the team's favor. It should be noted, however, that the Aeros are not so lucky in game twos after game-one wins, going only 6-10 in those games.
And while the Aeros want to see a repeat of that part about series success after winning game one, they don't want to see a repeat of that part about losing game two. Especially not when they're heading to the opponent's building for three straight games in three nights.
But unlike that team playing down the street at Minute Maid Park, the Aeros are actually playing for something at the moment, and they're out to make every game count. And that next game is tomorrow night at 7:35.