The Aeros are in a fight for the playoffs. This is that time of season where the cliché “every game counts” is actually true. There’s just one problem: Although they acknowledge the desperation and importance of the situation, the Aeros continue to come out, night after night, playing as if it doesn’t matter.
Unfortunately, every minute of every game does matter. And the crowd of 3,596 in attendance for the Aeros 3-2 loss to the Quad City Flames couldn’t be criticized if they thought the Aeros were just phoning in for the first 35 minutes or so.
The score was 3-0 in favor of the Flames with just a little under four minutes remaining in the second period before the Aeros displayed any fight on the offensive end of the game, with right wing Danny Irmen netting the puck at 16:54 of the second period, only 50 seconds after the Flames had gone up 3-0.
The game had disintegrated into a literal fight fest at about the ten minute mark of the second. The first round of blows started with Quad City right wing Carsen Germyn spearing an Aero. Aeros defenseman John Scott and Flames left wing Cam Cumming then started throwing punches and over 30 minutes of penalties were assessed. Then a mere seconds after play resumed, defenseman Clayton Stoner and Quad City left wing Brandon Prust exchanged fists for another 20-some odd minutes of penalties.
Desperate, and playing with a sense of urgency that they lacked in the first period, the Aeros attacked the net time after time after time in the third period. Left wing Ryan Hamilton brought the score to 3-2 when he slapped the rebound of a Clayton Stoner shot into an empty spot in the net at 6:20. And Stoner fired a shot late in the game that nearly found the net, but didn’t.
“The last few games here I don’t think we’ve come out as hot as we could,” Stoner said after the game. “We give up a lead early. And then battle back….sometimes it’s a little too late.”
This battling back is a problem for the Aeros. They’re only 3-17-2-0 when trailing after two periods this season, and they’re only 8-21-1-1 when the other team scores the first goal.
“We’ve been talking about this situation for awhile now,” Stoner said. “The coach has addressed it. I don’t think we came out awful [tonight], but I don’t think we came out with the urgency we needed in the first. [Quad City is] hungry. We’re hungry. But that team came out a little sharper.”
Coach Kevin Constantine’s not pleased, either: “We’ve got to find a way to start a little better, get a first goal, make the other team play a little more open. Both nights our guys came back, found way to make the games competitive, but it’s not a formula you want to try to follow to win.”
It’s a formula they’ve tried the past two games. And it’s a formula that’s failed. And with one of the league’s best teams, the Chicago Wolves, coming in for the next two games, it’s a formula that’s got to change if this team is going to have any chance to make the playoffs.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Once again, for some unknown reason, the Lady Dynamics were not at the game. I know I’m beginning to sound a bit sexist here, but I really like watching these lovely ladies at the game -- especially when it’s a bad game like last night’s. So, I believe I can speak for all of the men who attend the games: Forget about having the mascot every night, give us the beautiful women instead
The Aeros are now 35-25-2-3 (75 points) on the season, and still cling tenuously to that fifth playoff spot. But the Peoria Rivermen are only one point behind the Aeros, and thanks to winning the past two games, the Flames have moved to within two points of the Aeros.
I’m beginning to think the music played before the game is an omen as to how the game’s going to go. There was the awful Danny Boy music on Monday, and last night, they decided to play Europe’s “The Final Countdown” right before dropping the puck. It was a final countdown, all right, a final countdown to an awful game.
But I do have to give the sound guys some props because I think it was genius to pop on Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” as the second period fights were winding down.
Goalie Barry Brust was pulled after the second period last night. At that point, he had surrendered three goals on only nine shots. Constantine stated after the game that he would probably be starting back-up Anton Khudobin tonight. “[Brust] probably needs just a little breather,” Constantine said. “We’ve played a lot games, and he’s played really well.”
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Aeros general manager Tom Lynn has been in town for the past several games. And he and Constantine appear to be trying to address talent issues. The Aeros have inked forward Milan Gajic, but Constantine said it would be a few games before he plays.
And speaking of a few games before playing, defenseman Erik Reitz is suffering from a high ankle sprain. He hasn’t skated in several weeks, and he may still be a week or two from returning. Nolan Schaefer is practicing, but is just not in a condition to return to the team.
The Aeros are now 1-6 in their last seven games against West Division opponents. It doesn’t get better in that their next seven games are against division opponents. Their next two games are against division front-runner Chicago Wolves, then they travel to San Antonio for a game on Sunday.
And guys, just a reminder. Tonight’s game against Chicago at 7:05 is the fifth annual Miss Aeros bikini contest and the contestants will be out on the ice in their bikinis between the periods. – John Royal