Aeros Torpedo Admirals in OT, Tie Series at 2-2

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John Royal
Carson McMillan reacts to his game-winning shot.
There's nothing more exciting in professional sports than playoff hockey. And there's nothing more exciting than playoff hockey that goes into overtime. Such was the case at Toyota Center last night when the Houston Aeros and Milwaukee Admirals found themselves tied at 2-2 after 60 minutes of play.

The game shouldn't have gone into overtime. The Aeros dominated the action early, going up 2-0 at the 9:53 mark of the first period while out-shooting the visiting Admirals 14-4 in that first. Yet Milwaukee was able to score a goal in the first and tied it at the 13:12 mark of the second period.

Neither team was able to score in the third period, though the Aeros had countless chances that just missed the mark, thus leading to overtime. And as happened in the game two overtime against Peoria, the hero of the night turned out to be the leader of the fourth line, Carson McMillan, who once again found himself the unlikely star when he knocked in the puck for the game-winning goal at the 3:35 mark of the overtime as the Aeros won 3-2.

"We had a great shift, me, [Jarod] Palmer and [Brett] Bulmer," McMillan said. "We didn't think we were going to get too many opportunities in overtime. But they came to play that shift. We cycled the puck, and Palms took it to the net. The puck squeaked through. I had an open net. It was just a great overall line effort."

Unlike Tuesday night, where the Aeros seemed to be out of sync the last two periods of the game and let Milwaukee take control, the Aeros this time played their game, taking the puck to the Milwaukee net time and time again, being thwarted this time by some fantastic play from goalie Jeremy Smith.

"He was very good. He was very good tonight," Aeros head coach Mike Yeo said of Smith. "I give him a lot of credit for that. But there were a lot of things in our game that I really liked. I loved how many times we gave him opportunities to be good."

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John Royal
Robbie Earl just misses on a shot in the second period.
As promised after Tuesday's disappointing game, the Aeros did some shifting of personnel. Though some of the more faithful of the Aeros fans are probably still disappointed, perhaps rightfully, that Matt Kassian did not play, Yeo did shake up his top two lines, throwing Chad Rau into the top line with Patrick O'Sullivan and Jon DiSalvatore while moving Cody Almond down to the second line with Robbie Earl and Casey Wellman, as Yeo tried to make some fixes to a team that was badly misfiring on Tuesday night.

"I thought that they did very well," Yeo said. "The offensive zone time from O'Sullivan, Rau and DiSalvatore, they could have had four goals tonight. I thought that they complemented each other well. And I really like the physical presence that Cody Almond brings to Robbie Earl and Casey Wellman's line. It gives them a guy that's going to be hard on the forecheck, physical down low and strong on pucks and get to the net. It's a nice -- a different element on that line."

Despite the shifting personnel of the top two lines, the Aeros offense was once again provided by the team's so-called non-scoring lines of Colton Gillies/Warren Peters/Jed Ortmeyer and Jarod Palmer/Carson McMillan/Brett Bulmer. Colton Gillies put the Aeros up 1-0 1:58 into the game with his team-leading fifth playoff goal. Patrick O'Sullivan put the Aeros up 2-0 at 9:53 into the first when he scored on the power play.

Milwaukee was able to capitalize on a few mistakes and tied the game at 2-2 in the second period despite being out-shot 25-9 after two. The teams stayed tied after three periods, then McMillan and his linemates finished off the game.

"We're a close group," McMillan said. "Anytime we shift lines, it's just -- maybe it might click some more chemistry. I think the guys just went out tonight and wanted to work hard for each other. When you do that, good things happen."

The series is now tied at 2-2 with one game, game five tonight, to go in Houston. The series will return to Milwaukee on Sunday for game six and, if needed, game seven on Tuesday. But if the Aeros keep playing hockey like they did tonight, then Milwaukee could be in trouble because though the offense still isn't always clicking, the confidence factor of the team sure seemed to be growing out on the ice.

Plus, here's a little something Milwaukee needs to keep in mind. Mainly, the Admirals don't want to let the Aeros get a game into overtime because the Aeros don't lose once they're in overtime. They haven't lost a playoff game in overtime since the 2003 season, and have won ten straight playoff overtime games.

There really is nothing more exciting in sports than overtime, playoff hockey. And that just happens to be the time that the Aeros most excel. They did it again last night. And if needed, Carson McMillan will be there to pop in the winning goal.

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