The Houston Aeros were cruising. They were up 2-1 on the Lake Erie Monsters in the third period, and the crowd of 7,462 was loud and screaming. The Aeros were attacking the net, and Lake Erie was playing like it was the team that was playing its fourth game in five nights. And at 9:28 of the third, Lake Erie’s Tom Fritsche went to the penalty box for holding, and it looked like the Aeros were about to ice the game.
That’s when Maxim Noreau fired a shot toward the Lake Erie goal. A shot that clanged off the post about 20 seconds into the power play. And just like that, one could sense a change of momentum. A change that was confirmed about one minute later when Lake Erie’s Philippe Dupuis got off on the breakaway and got the short-handed goal to tie the game.
“We kind of set back,” Tomas Mojzis said. “Then they got a couple of bounces that went in quick, and we didn’t bounce back.”
“That was the game right there,” Noreau said. “Three to one and we put them away.”
But the puck didn’t go in for Noreau. It didn’t go to three to one. It went to two-two. And 1:59 later, Lake Erie was up 4-2 on their way to the 6-2 win, helped in part by the team setting back, and helped in more part by Barry Brust allowing five soft goals.
“Our biggest problem right now,” Noreau said, “is we’re a team that can come back from a deficit…we’re not afraid. But we have trouble holding leads. We can’t put teams away.”
Coach Kevin Constantine agreed with everything Noreau said, but he summed it up best: “We played a game tonight that we could’ve, should’ve won.”
Could’ve. Should’ve. But didn’t.
MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
This was the last Aeros home game until Friday, January 16, 2009. They are now in a stretch that will find them playing eight games in seven states in 12 days, starting tomorrow night (New Year's Eve) in Worcester, MA against the Sharks. The Aeros will then spend New Year's Eve on a bus as they leave the Worcester arena and head straight to Binghamton, NY for a New Year's Day game. Then they bus directly to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a Saturday night game, then go to Providence, RI for a game against the Bruins on Sunday.
After that, the Aeros get a two day break, then take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Bridgeport, CT on Wednesday, then head to Hershey, PA for a Friday game with the Bears, then fly to Quad City via Chicago for a Saturday game with the Flame before busing back to Chicago for a Sunday afternoon game with the Chicago Wolves.
Eight games. Seven states. Twelve days. Over 5,000 miles.
And the Aeros will be handling those eight games in a state of injury and disarray. The Wild have been falling apart, so there's no telling who will be called up next. Plus Clayton Stoner, Morten Madsen, John Lammers, and Marco Rosa are injured -- Rosa is travelling with the team and should be able to play this week, but Stoner, Madsen, and Lammers are staying in Houston.
Stoner has a wrist problem, Madsen has a lower body injury -- I know what the injury is but I promised to keep that off-the-record -- and Lammers is suffering from an upper body injury. Rosa was injured in Sunday's victory over Peoria.
Speaking of the Minnesota Wild and injuries and call-ups, let me tell you of the sad story of John Scott.
Due to a family emergency, Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson did not travel with the team to Calgary for Monday night's game. The Wild put in a call for John Scott to join the team -- and since the Wild had only five defensemen, Scott would have been playing.
Due to weather, snow, and general delays, Scott missed his connection in Minneapolis that would have gotten him to Calgary. And because of the weather, they could not get him on a flight to Calgary that would get him there in time for the game. So he was sent on to Houston to rejoin the Aeros. Overall, he spent 13 hours in the Minneapolis airport on Monday.
"It would have been my first NHL game," a disappointed Scott said.
"We were just so, so sad for John," Constantine said. "It was just silly and sad that he didn’t get his chance."
And I just want to say that I think Scott is a great guy, and talking to him, I was just as disappointed as he was. I hope that he gets another chance.
And speaking of chances, this is something I may get into in another blog post, but Constantine said that this road trip would be a great opportunity for the players as, with the way the Wild are playing, there's no telling how many of them might soon be getting a chance to prove their worth in the big time.
When Maxim Noreau's shot bounced off of the pipes on that third period power play, the Chron's Andrew Ferraro looked at me and said to write this down: "Noreau's shot hitting the post at 20 seconds into the power play will be the game's turning point." And as I was finishing with the jotting down of the statement, the Monsters scored to tie the game.
Ferraro is becoming eerily accurate with his predictions. I'm thinking of asking him to pick the lotto numbers for me the next time the lotto gets up to a nice big number.
And speaking of Ferraro, he checked with the AHL PR types regarding the Aeros comeback in Peoria on Sunday. The PR flacks could find no evidence to contradict the assertion, so Ferraro is now claiming that the Aeros scoring three goals in the final 2:36 to send the game into overtime is an AHL record.