The Aeros came out strong last night, scoring twice in the first period and holding the Rockford IceHogs to one point in the first two periods. Defenseman Clayton Stoner claims the team came out strong for 40 minutes.
They skated hard. They forced the action and spent a majority of that time in the Rockford portion of the ice. Then came the third period. And as goalie Barry Brust explained: “We took a couple of penalties there at the end. We had a great second period.”
But a great second period wasn’t enough. Especially when the third period wasn’t great.
Yes, the Aeros made a game of it. The Aeros tried. But the Aeros lost, giving up two goals in the final period to lose 3-2. The game, before 3,372 fans at the Toyota Center, dropped the Aeros record for the season to 0-3-1-0.
Clayton Stoner gave the Aeros their first lead of the season when he scored an unassisted goal at 2:15 into the game. Rockford would tie the game at 11:45 in the first, then at 18:11 into the period, the Aeros scored their final goal of the night as Adrian Foster scored his second goal of the season with assists from Joel Ward and Brandon Rogers.
But the victory was just not meant to be as IceHogs center Colin Fraser would score the second of his two goals to tie the game, and center David Bolland would put the go ahead goal into the Aeros net at 13:51 in the third.
Clayton Stoner said from the locker room after the game that “sometimes we had breakdowns...[we’re] a new group together. And sometimes it takes awhile. It’s not what we want, but hopefully we can get through this as quick as we can.” As for the third period breakdown, he said “we sat back a little too much when we should have gone at it and taken it to them.”
With regards to his goal, his second point of the season, Stoner stated that he’s “just try[ing] to play good defense first. Shoot the puck at the net if it goes in.”
As for the breakdowns, the Aeros were once again useless on the power play, failing to convert on any of seven chances last night. In the third period, the Houston went on two power plays. On each attempt, the Aeros themselves would commit a penalty shortly into the power play, brining both teams back to even strength. And the end of the game for the Aeros probably came at 13:51 when the IceDogs scored the go-ahead goal on a power play. Just seconds earlier, the Aeros had been down 5-3 in skaters with Erik Reitz and Shawn Belle in the penalty box for the Aeros. Reitz had made it back on the ice to put the Aeros down 5 players to 4 players, and just as it looked they might be able to hold Rockford to no goal, the score came.
Coach Kevin Constantine, reflecting on the loss from his office said “I don’t think, probably yet, we’re as a group ready to win.” The losing in close games like this is just “a very, very normal, unfortunately normal process.”
“We’re not quite ready to win,” Constantine continued. “It’s hard to explain. It’s a process. A learning curve…We have a good group of guys…[but] collectively as a group we don’t quite know how to win…If you follow the way teams lose and become winners. It’s a process.”
He did see signs of optimism however: “You saw what we’re capable of doing in the first couple of periods…But we’re not mentally strong enough yet to sustain that…We’re on the edge of becoming a winner.”
The Aeros came out hot, forcing the action tonight. Constantine said, “I think our team went into tonight’s game with a good attitude, and I think that showed….As we became a little more fatigued as the game went on, some bad habits came back.”
Like going 0 for 7 on the power play.
“Every game’s been tight,” Constantine said about the season so far. “Our power play could have got us wins in any of those games.”
But that elusive first win of the season has yet to arrive. And the next chance for the Aeros will come on Friday night in San Antonio.
Miscellaneous Notes from the Game:
I noticed that J-Lo and Marc Anthony are performing at Toyota Center on Halloween. Somehow, that just seems appropriate.
While the announced crowd was 3372, the place was virtually empty at the dropping of the puck. The Rockford IceDogs play-by-play announcer was about twenty feet from me. I was able to listen to his call of the game all night, so quiet was the crowd. I could also hear the players shouting at themselves, the opponents, and the officials, way down on the ice.
It was the words of the Rockford guy that, I believe, best summed up the game after the Aeros screwed up power play number seven: “Once again the Aeros shoot themselves in the foot.”
After two periods, the Aeros had out shot the IceHogs 22-13. The IceHogs out shot the Aeros 15-6 in the third for a final tally of 28 shots on goal for each team.
I know I’ve complained in the past about tired music choices, but there’s just something about “Hell’s Bells” that just gets me in the mood for hockey.
Rockford is the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. This is the IceHogs’ first season in the AHL, having spent the past several seasons in the United Hockey League.
Ryan Stokes, who was an Aeros defenseman last season, is now a member of the IceHogs, but he did not play last night.
There was a decent fight in the game, coming at 17:59 in the second period. Aaron Voros was nearly decapitated on a play. As Voros went after the offender, defenseman Maxim Noreau stepped in and went at with Kris Versteeg of the IceHogs. And they went at it real good. My friend Craig would have been very happy.
An omen for how the game would go actually happened before the game when Aeros Director of Communications, Patrick Armstrong, and Aeros play-by-play man Jason Shaver engaged in a battle of table hockey on one of those old wooden boards. Armstrong held a 2-0 lead going into the third period, only to have Shaver tie the game as time expired, then when the game in overtime.
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Defenseman Erik Reitz is the team’s leading scorer. He is also tied for second in the AHL for points by defensemen.
More on Reitz: he has played the most games in Aeros AHL history, and is tied for the third most games played in Aeros AHL/IHL history.
The Aeros next home game comes on Sunday, October 28. That will be family day. There will be a post-game costume contest for the kids.
The Aeros are now 1-28 on the power play this season. – John Royal