With seven games remaining in the season, the Houston Aeros find themselves perfectly situated for a spot in the AHL playoffs. They defeated the Lake Erie Monsters 2-0 on Wednesday night, and with the victory, they moved into a statistical three-way tie for third place.
The 2-0 victory was the tenth shutout of the season for the Aeros and places them into a tie with the Philadelphia Phantoms for most shutouts this season. It was the fourth shutout of the year for goalie Barry Brust, with the other six being split between Nolan Schaefer (five) and Anton Khudobin (one). And for anyone who is curious, the record for shutouts in an AHL season is 17 – the Hartford Wolfpack and Portland Pirates, both in the 2003-2004 season.
The goals were scored by Ryan Hamilton (his 18th) on the power play at 6:04 of the first period, and Joel Ward (his 17th) at 16:13 of the second. Jon Awe and Serge Payer assisted on Hamilton’s goal, while Joel Ward’s goal was unassisted.
The good news is that as long as the Aeros finish in fifth place, they will make the playoffs. If they finish in fifth, they will be moved for playoff purposes into the North Division where they will become the four seed, and they would meet the number one seed Toronto Marlies in the first round of the playoffs.
But as things stand now, the Aeros, with a record of 41-26-2-4 (88 points), are tied with the San Antonio Rampage (39-24-3-7, 88 points) and the Milwaukee Admirals (41-27-4-2, 88 points). Just ahead of the Aeros, sitting in second place, are the Rockford IceHogs (40-24-4-6, 90 points), and just behind the pack are the Peoria Rivermen (36-28-4-5, 81 points). It’s still possible for the Aeros to move to second place in the standings, and it’s still possible for the Aeros to fall past Peoria and miss the playoffs entirely.
The good news is that the Aeros play Milwaukee four times out of the remaining seven games.
With the assistance of Patrick Armstrong with the Aeros, and by using my handy AHL press guide, I think I can explain how some of the possible scenarios regarding the playoffs will play out.
Right now, the Aeros are in a three-way tie for the last three playoff spots. The first tiebreaker revolves around games won in the season. In this instance, while Houston, San Antonio and Milwaukee all have 88 points, the Aeros, who have actually won more games, would get the third seed, Milwaukee would be the fourth seed, and San Antonio would move over to the North Division. If all three teams finish with the same amount of victories, then the next tie breaker is points percentage (points earned divided by points available), then comes goal differential, etc.
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If it comes down to a two-way tie, then the first tiebreaker is number of victories, then the team with the most points in the season series between the two teams, etc.
Yes, it’s complicated. But the surest way for the Aeros to handle all of this is to keep winning. Right now, the Aeros are the third seed, and they would open the playoffs against Rockford. And since these two teams are more than 300 miles apart, it would be a two-three-two series with the first two games in Rockford before moving to Houston for three.
The Aeros play the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight, the Milwaukee Admirals tomorrow, and the Peoria Rivermen on Sunday. Come Sunday night, the playoff scenario should be a little more clear.
I hope, because I don’t know about you, but damn, I’m confused. – John Royal