John Royal The Aeros celebrate a goal in last night's game.
Not only would the playoffs prolong the Aeros' stay in Houston, they would give fans a few more chances to cheer on the team before they disappear to Des Moines. And it all seems so fitting that the Aeros could be on the verge of leaving as the most successful professional franchise to have played inside Toyota Center.
But for the Aeros to make the playoffs, they first have to win some games. They weren't successful with that approach on Wednesday night, losing 4-1 to the Oklahoma City Barons, a team the Aeros are fighting for playoff position.
Things were much better Thursday as the Aeros stormed out and defeated the San Antonio Rampage 4-3. The Aeros struggled in the final minutes of the game, nearly losing a 4-1 lead as the Rampage scored twice in the final minutes to move within a goal, then had several good chances to tie the game in the final seconds.
"It's a win," head coach John Torchetti said of last night's win. "It's a big win. But we've got to be way more detailed. We can't be satisfied being average. We've never been average all year."
The win leaves the Aeros one game closer to the end of the season, one game closer to the playoffs. The final home game of the season is tomorrow night, and the Aeros need to once again defeat San Antonio, a team out of the playoff hunt, to move closer to the playoffs. And the Aeros need the win, though they might not entirely realize, for the fans of hockey in Houston who will be losing their team at the end of the season.
There were numerous signs at Toyota Center the past two nights accusing Les Alexander of being a new version of Bud Adams, and urging the fans to Occupy Toyota Center, signs that, surprisingly, were featured on that big, huge new center ice scoreboard that rivals anything seen in Dallas. The players and coaches are, to some extent, aware of what's happening with the team, of the news that the team will be moving to Des Moines for next season. "I care about it," Torchetti said on Wednesday night. "Whatever the result is, I want it to be the one to stay, that's for sure. And I really can't get too involved with that because it's playoff time for us, and we want to make the playoffs for the fans of Houston."
Defenseman and team captain Drew Bagnall, playing last night for the first time in over a month due to an ankle injury, says, though, that the team can't worry about things it can't control. That the team has to focus on the next game because what matters now is the playoffs.
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"At this time of the year, it's playoffs, the next game," Bagnall said. "You know, what you have to do to prepare yourself for that next game. Obviously the team moving to Des Moines, if that happens...is something completely out of our control. At this time of the year, you control what you can."
What the Aeros can control, what the players can control, is what happens on the ice the next game. The team had an intensity last night that was missing from Wednesday's loss, but Torchetti still wasn't happy with the play, and he stated that he would be benching some guys who he felt just weren't applying the proper focus. There's four games left, and Torchetti wants his players focused on one thing: getting to the playoffs and going deep into the playoffs.
Aeros fans would like the team to go deep into playoffs just as much as, and maybe more than, the players and coaches. The deeper the Aeros go into the playoffs, the more games the fans get to come and experience with the team they've come to love. And if the Aeros sticking around a few more months because of deep playoff run just happens to inconvenience Les Alexander and his Houston Rockets, then all the better.
But first things first. First the team has to make the playoffs. And a win tomorrow night in the last home game of the regular season will go a long way to accomplishing that goal.