"I always look at President Obama -- or any president -- I look at how they age," Houston Aeros coach Kevin Constantine said Friday night. "I started the playoffs at 50 and I'm 73 years old already."
And of those 23 years he claims to have rapidly aged, Constantine probably aged 22 of them on Friday night as the Aeros, facing Calder Cup elimination, blew a 3-1 lead with 21 seconds remaining in the game then stormed back to get the 4-3 victory over the Manitoba Moose 4:29 into the second overtime.
That the Aeros were even in a position to win the game in
the first place was the result of the play of fourth-string goalie Matt Climie,
a player from the Dallas Stars organization who was loaned to the Aeros for the
playoffs because of injuries to goalies Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust. Climie hadn't seen much action with the
Aeros, relieving Anton Khudobin on two occasions, but not even dressing
recently as a still-injured Schaefer returned to action. But with Khudobin suffering a lower-body
injury in the third period of the Aeros' overtime victory on Wednesday,
Constantine and his coaching staff decided to go with the healthy Climie
instead of Schaefer.
And for 59:39, that decision was perfect as Climie stopped
27 of 28 shots and had the Aeros positioned to for the win. But at ,
But that long summer has yet to start for
"I felt good the whole game, but I caught a couple of
unlucky breaks at the end there," Climie said. "They had a couple of lucky goals to tie it up. I just wanted to keep the boys in it and give
them a chance in overtime. The third
goal was a kind of weak one to give up, with just two seconds left. And I wanted to do my part in overtime to
shut the door."
Shut the door he did, leaving it to the grizzled old man,
Tony Hrkac to play the ultimate hero as Hrkac got the puck past the
"Benoit [Pouliot] made a nice play behind the net to get it
in," Hrkac said. "Robbie [Earl] got it
in the corner, and their forwards were kind of on me, but then they spread out
because they were thinking about Robbie going to the point, and there was a
little lane there, so Robbie saw it and I saw it, and he gave me the puck, the
goalie went down and boom, over the shoulder."
The goal was Hrkac's second for the night, and it put the
Aeros into a position to pull off one of the more stunning upsets in AHL hockey
history. It was just last Monday night
that the Aeros were down three games to zero in this best-of-seven conference
final, and the hope was the Aeros would be able to find some way to win one
game and prevent the sweep. But now the
Aeros are on their way back to
"We just never give up," said Jesse Schultz, the injured
forward who returned from an ankle injury on Friday night to play his first
game in a month. "We've played this way
the whole year. It just seems that we
can never do things the easy way. For
whatever reason, we like a big challenge like that. We still have a long way to go. They're the top team in the league and they
have home ice...but we like how we play, and we think we play good playoff style,
so we'll go in there and see what happens."
Hrkac summed it up best.
"You've got to enjoy the win," he said. "But you can't rest on it."
Not that the Aeros are getting much rest. They flew to