Aeros Majorly Embarrassed in Loss Last Night

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Torchetti 2.JPG
John Royal
Try as he might, head coach John Torchetti got absolutely nothing from his squad last night.
The Aeros' Calder Cup hopes rest on the shoulders of second-year goalie Matt Hackett. The Aeros lost game one of the opening round series to the Oklahoma City Barons 5-0 last night. That the score was only 5-0 is testament to just how good Hackett and his backup, Mike Brodeur, played.

That's a hard statement to believe, looking at the final score. But then there's this little stat: The Aeros were outshot on the game 48-14. Yes, that's right, 48-14. So the fact that only five shots went into goal should be all the proof needed to show just how well Hackett and Brodeur played.

Head coach John Torchetti says he pulled Hackett toward the end of the second period last night because he saw no further need for Hackett to keep taking a pounding. It appeared from the press box, however, that Hackett was injured at some point between the second and third goals of the game, and it appeared that he could barely skate by the time the fourth goal went into the net on shot number 37 of the night with 3:17 remaining in the second period.

"He's fine," Torchetti said. "I'm not going to leave him in for that. He battled his ass for us the whole night, and I'm not going to leave him in that situation. I'm not going to do that because it's just not right."

Torchetti, claiming that Hackett's not injured, says he will start tonight's game two with the Barons. And as before, any hopes that the Aeros have in these playoffs will be resting on his shoulders. But frankly, no matter how good the goalie, no matter how hot he might get, no matter what kind of roll he might get on, if the rest of the team doesn't show up and play, then there's just no way the team will. And the Houston Aeros last night just didn't appear to be a playoff-caliber hockey team.

The Barons dominated play the entire night, forcing the action on offense. It could be said that their defense controlled the play, but the Aeros, offensively, spent most of the time in their defensive zone, not able to clear pucks, unable to set up any type of offense and not generating anything close to momentum or rhythm at any point in the game.

"We didn't show up, bottom line," Torchetti said. "I didn't do a good job, and we'll take it from there. Could I do a better job tomorrow prepping the team and bring our battle level a whole lot higher? [Oklahoma City] came out hungry. They wanted to prove something to us, and they did."

Hackett 1.JPG
John Royal
Matt Hackett spent the night in a one-man battle to keep the Barons from his net.
And prove something they did. The Barons proved that they're the better team by far last night. They proved, on the basis of last night, why they're the number one seed in the Western Conference and a favorite to play in the Calder Cup Finals. They proved that the Aeros, except for Matt Hackett, who faced 37 shots in just over 36 minutes of action (more than a shot a minute), just don't appear to have the same level of talent. Or want.

"We got outworked," defenseman Drew Bagnall said. "We got out-competed, and we got embarrassed in our own building."

The defense allowed Hackett to be swarmed from every angle possible. They didn't clear pucks from the zone, they didn't offer him protection and the team was embarrassed, not even getting a decent shot on the net until midway through the second period.

"We just didn't compete," Bagnall continued. "We didn't play the way we have to play in order to give ourselves a chance to win in this playoff series, or in any playoff series."

The Aeros will give it another try tonight, at 7:35, at Toyota Center. Hackett should be able to play. The question is will the rest of the team bother to show up and play. They didn't last night, and no matter how good Hackett is, or no matter how valiantly his backup plays, if there's no offense, and there's no defense, and the power play's powerless, then there's just no way this Aeros squad will be able to stay close to the Barons.

This is a best-of-five series, and the remaining games will be played in Oklahoma City. So if the Aeros don't get the job done tonight, they probably won't be able to get the job in Oklahoma City. Not when the only player bothering to exert any effort on the ice is the goalie.

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