As I wrote Friday, the Aeros playoff situation has become a little clearer following this weekend’s games. And the situation is clearer because the Aeros are in the playoffs.
The Aeros won two of three games this weekend. They defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-1 on Friday night, lost 2-1 to division rival Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday, then clinched a spot in the playoffs by beating up on the Peoria Rivermen 5-0 on Sunday. The Sunday victory knocked the Rivermen out of the playoffs, and in doing so, solidified the identity of the eight Western Conference teams to make the playoffs.
What is not known, as of this moment, is just what playoff seed the Aeros will hold, or who they will be playing. What is definite is that the North Division champ is the Toronto Marlies, and the West Division champ is the Chicago Wolves. It is also clear that the Manitoba Moose and the Syracuse Crunch will be the number two and three seeds in the North Division.
Along with Chicago, the Rockford IceHogs, the San Antonio Rampage, the Milwaukee Admirals and the Aeros are the West Division reps. The IceHogs currently sit in second place with a two-point lead on the Aeros. The Aeros are alone in third place, and they are two-points up on Milwaukee and San Antonio. The Aeros are perfectly positioned to leap into second place and home-ice advantage for round one of the playoffs. Of course, the Aeros are also perfectly situated to fall to fifth place where they would be traveling to Toronto to play the North Division champ Marlies.
For those who are curious, because the West Division has more teams than the North Division, the AHL decided that if the fifth place team in the West had more points than the fourth place team in the North, then the fifth place team would become the fourth seed in the North for the purposes of the playoffs.
The Aeros have five games left in the regular season. They play the Quad City flames in Moline, Illinois on Wednesday, then head to Milwaukee for a game against the Admirals on Friday. The final two games of the regular season will be in Houston next Saturday and Sunday, with the Aeros playing the Admirals in both games.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
The Aeros shutout of the Rivermen was the 11th of the season – which leads the AHL. The AHL record for shutouts in a season is 17. Nolan Schaefer, playing in his first game in over two months, got the shutout, stopping 22 Peoria shots. Schaefer has six of the shutouts, Barry Brust has four, and Anton Khudobin has one.
The 11 shutouts is a team record, and Schaefer’s six shutouts are one short of Frederic Chabot’s record of seven, set in the 1996-1997 season.
********************** The Aeros penalty kill is still ranked second-best in the AHL. They have not allowed a power play goal in six games. But their power play, which is ranked at 28, came alive yesterday as three of the Aeros goals came with the man advantage.
******************** This is the 12th time in the team’s 14 seasons that the Aeros have qualified for the playoffs. And the Aeros have improved on last season’s record by 28 points.
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********************* Right wing Milan Gajic got the hat-trick last night (3 goals in the same game). This is the first hat trick for the Aeros this season. Defenseman Jon Awe got the other 2 goals for the first 2-point game of his professional career. Rookie wing Colton Gillies got 2 assists.
Left wing Ryan Hamilton has scored 12 goals since the March 4 game against the Providence Bruins.
The Aeros are 36-3 on the season when holding their opponent to less than three goals, and they are 31-1-0-1 when leading the game after two periods. They are 22-13-1-2 on the road this season, and their overall record is 43-27-2-4 (92 points).
******************* Along with Nolan Schaefer, injured defenseman Maxim Noreau returned to play this past weekend. Which was a good thing as defensemen Clayton Stoner and Paul Albers were injured and were unable to play on Sunday. – John Royal