Any fan of the Houston Aeros would expect them to win a playoff game on the strength of their goaltending. But if I told you the Aeros won a game because of rookie Ryan Jones, who’s only been with the team for about three weeks, you would probably go: who?
The Aeros lost Game One of the series to the Rockford IceHogs 3-1 on Friday night. The Aeros kept the game close throughout, and after two periods, the score was 1-1. The IceHogs took the lead 1:56 into the second, but the Aeros tied the game at 8:26 when left wing Ryan Hamilton netted the puck. The IceHogs went up 2-1 8:22 into the third, and though the Aeros were constantly attacking the Rockford net, they just couldn’t tie the game. The third goal came on the empty net with two seconds left in the game after coach Kevin Constantine pulled goalie Nolan Schaefer to get an extra skater.
But the Aeros came back on Saturday night, and for nearly 87 minutes, this game was as close as a game could be. Zero to zero into a second overtime. That’s when left wing Ryan Jones, a new signee of the Minnesota Wild who joined up in time to play the last several games of the regular season, scored on a breakaway at the 6:57 mark of the period.
Barry Brust was in the nets for the Aeros on Saturday night, and he blocked every Rockford shot to get the shutout. The first one of the playoffs, of course, and Brust’s fifth shutout this season.
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The series is tied at one game each, and the teams return to Houston for games three through five. Game Three is Tuesday night at the Toyota Center, with puck drop set for 7:05. Game Four is Thursday, with a start time of 7:05, and Game Five is Friday, with a start time of 7:35. Games Six and Seven, if necessary, will be in Rockford. – John Royal