The last time the team played on a Friday night, the Aeros were firing on all cylinders, going so far as to get five power play goals off of the Rockford IceHogs. But this past Friday, in the first game of a weekend series against the Iowa Stars at the Toyota Center, the Aeros’ power play was as useless as an unloaded weapon. Even when the Aeros could find a way to pull the trigger on the power play, the chamber was always empty.
Anton Khudobin, starting his second career AHL game, kept the Iowa Stars in check for the most part, blocking 18 shots and keeping the crowd of 6,366 from losing all hope for a victory. Unfortunately for Khudobin, the Aeros and the fans, one shot did slip through and the Stars were able to get the 1-0 victory on Friday night.
The situation wasn’t better Sunday afternoon. Khudobin let one of Iowa’s five first period shots slip past him into the net and the Aeros were never able to regain their footing on a bad ice as they lost 3-0 before 4,865 fans at Toyota Center – the bad ice was made worse by the inability of Toyota Center officials to find a way to close a huge loading bay dock door at ground level that prevented the ice from chilling properly.
But that’s just a mere excuse for a team that’s scored only one goal in its last nine periods – that goal coming in Wednesday’s loss to Chicago – and finding itself suddenly in the midst of not only a three-game losing streak, but also a streak of losing four of its past six games.
The Aeros have been held without a goal for the last 142:41 of game action, and in that time, they’ve seen their position in the AHL West Division standings drop, again, this time to sixth place as they were passed in the standings by Milwaukee.
As to Friday’s loss, Coach Kevin Constantine thought that fatigue was a huge factor: “I think the schedule absolutely kicked our butt,” he said following that 1-0 loss.
Center Adrian Foster, who’s been putting in lots of time at the wing positions, agrees with Constantine, but doesn’t think that fatigue is the only factor: “I just don’t think we’re playing with confidence right now,” he said after Sunday’s loss. “We’ve got to get turned around here in a hurry.”
Center Steve Kelly doesn’t quite buy the exhausted angle, however. “Every year come February time people are tired,” he said yesterday. “But that’s around the league.”
As to the weekend sweep, while not thrilled, Kelly wanted to remind everyone that “it’s not the end of the world. We’re still in the same spot we were before. We’re going to be fighting to the end for a playoff spot.”
But unless the team returns to scoring on the power, the Aeros might not be in the race, because, as Constantine said yesterday, “It’s tough to win when you score zero.”
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
The Aeros are now 27-22-2-3 on the season. The two wins by the Stars allowed Iowa to move back to the .500 mark on the season, and, once again, every team in the AHL West Division is at .500 or better for the season.
The Aeros will finish out the month with four road games. They play the Syracuse Crush next Friday, the Hamilton Bulldogs next Saturday, and the Rockford Americans on Sunday, then finish out the month in Cleveland for a match with the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday, February 27.
Earlier in the season, the Aeros could not play on the road, but now it appears the situation is reversed. “We were a homer team at the beginning of the year and couldn’t get it done on the road. And now it seems like we seem to get done on the road,” Steve Kelly said Sunday. “We’re not getting it done here.”
The Houston Vice Squad had a hell of a weekend if the Aeros’ games were any clue. There were six hooking penalties over the two game series, and there were six incidents of players tripping across the ice.
Goalie Barry Brust did not play this weekend, though he was available if needed. He’s still suffering from a groin injury, but is expected to be fully recovered by this upcoming weekend’s games. Goalie Nolan Schaefer was not available to play and spent the weekend serving as color commentator on the Aeros radio broadcast. Schaefer, who suffered a groin injury against Peoria, was noticeably limping Friday night. He said that he is feeling better, but that he had not yet received the MRI results.
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Fans may have noticed some strange line combinations this weekend. Benoit Pouliot was moved to center on the last road trip because of Steve Kelly’s two-game absence for the birth of his child. As a result, center Serge Payer has been moved to left wing.
Iowa goalie Steve Silverthorn started Friday for only his fifth game this season and his first appearance since mid-January. He proceeded to get his first shutout of the season and the team’s fifth. Iowa’s Tobias Stephan, the team’s regular goalie, got the start Sunday and got his fifth shutout of the season.
I wanted to thank those in charge for allowing the Aero Dynamics dance squad to return to the short skirts on Sunday afternoon. Also, sound guys, you know you’re going to play “Man In A Box” when a guy’s sent to the penalty box. Just go ahead and get the radio edit of the song. While I admit I enjoy wondering if “buried in my shit” is going to play unaltered, I know you must be sick of doing a manual fade of the song when that lyric comes around. I’m sure if you check with the guys at The Buzz you’ll probably find a family friendly version of the song.
One of my fellow Press bloggers made Friday’s game, but I don’t think Sophie found any cupcakes to criticize. (Knowing Toyota Center prices, I’m betting if she did that those cupcakes would probably be selling at the same price as some of those Toyotas dotting the concourse.) I’d love to hear what she’s got to say about the nachos though. – John Royal