File photo of Nolan Schaefer courtesy of Fred Trask.
The Houston Aeros were going into the shootout against the Toronto Marlies. As the Zamboni was chugging off of the ice, the Toyota Center cameras zeroed in on Aeros goalie Nolan Schaefer who was at his net and who was talking with forward Jesse Schultz. There was a look on Schaefer’s face. A look of ease and relaxation, almost a look of this game in the bag – Schaefer would dispute this characterization after the game.
But anyone who has followed the Aeros this season would not be faulted for not feeling as calm and at ease as Schaefer. Coming into the game, the Aeros were 2-7 in shootouts this season, and though Schaefer has steadied the goaltending problems in the shootout, the team just hadn’t been scoring the goals.
A fan wouldn’t be faulted for feeling worried about the coming shootout, but the fans would be wrong. Schaefer easily stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout, and though Jesse Schultz missed his shot, Corey Locke, Morten Madsen, and Matt Beaudoin easily made their shots giving the Aeros the 3-2 shootout win over the Toronto Marlies.
The Aeros scored the game’s first goal when Matt Beaudoin – playing his first game in Houston – standing in front of Toronto goalie Justin Pogge punched in the rebound of his own shot – off of pretty pass from Corey Locke who was on the boards behind the net – to make the score 1-0 at 7:01 of the first.
And despite being outshot 13-5, the Aeros held the first period lead. But after making a nice kick save, Nolan Schaefer couldn’t get back into position as Toronto’s Boyd Devereaux got the unassisted goal to tie the game at the 12:35 mark of the second. Toronto then took the 2-1 lead at 14:51 on a power play goal that came off the rebound of another nice Schaefer save.
The Marlies were up 2-1 after two periods, but looking at the scoreboard and seeing the shot differential, Toronto having 24 shots to Houston’s eight, the crowd of 7732 couldn’t help but be surprised that the score was as close as it was. And with the Marlies being 15-0-1 when leading the game after two periods, the fans couldn’t be faulted for thinking that the game was lost.
But Schaefer kept up with the stellar goaltending in the third, and at the 6:35 mark, Ryan Hamilton got free in the middle on the power play and lifted the puck over Pogge’s left shoulder to tie the game 2-2, leaving it to Schaefer and Beaudoin to take care of matters in the shootout.
The win moved the Aeros record to 19-17-1-7 (46 points), which moved the Aeros into a third way tie for third place in the AHL’s West Division with the Peoria Rivermen and Rockford IceHogs. The Aeros have Saturday off, then return to action at the Toyota Center on Sunday afternoon at 5:05 against the Lake Erie Monsters.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME INFO:
I spoke with Schaefer after the game, and he disputed my characterization of his appearance before the shootout. “That’s definitely not how you feel,” he said. “Anytime you go into a shootout it’s kind of a little bit of luck and good positioning, and sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t.”
If not for Schaefer’s play during regulation play, the Aeros would not have had to worry about the shootout. Schaefer stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced, and he was under constant pressure all night.
“It was kind of chippy, weird, bouncy puck kind of game,” he said. “The guys played good position on most of the pucks and cleared rebounds for me. I just tried to get in front of those bouncy pucks.”
The Aeros PR people choose the three stars of the game before the game ends, I think. That’s the only way I can think to explain some of their calls for the three stars. Like, for instance, this game. The third star was Toronto’s Mark Bell, the second star was Houston’s Ryan Hamilton, and the first star was a very justifiable choice of Nolan Schaefer. But left out of the three stars was right wing Matt Beaudoin.
Beaudoin scored the first goal for the Aeros, and his goal in the shootout clinched the victory for the Aeros. Beaudoin came up to the Aeros from the Las Vegas Wranglers while they were on the road trip from hell that started this New Year. In his eight games with the Aeros so far, Beaudoin has three goals and two assists (five points).
“We’re pretty excited about him,” coach Kevin Constantine said afterwards. Which is appropriate since Beaudoin is excited to be in Houston.
“It feels good. I’m here trying to earn a spot on this team,” he said after the game. “And the guys have been pretty good with me, and the coach has given me a pretty good chance to play. I’m trying to do the best I can with that.”
Constantine felt good about the game, especially since the Aeros were playing their first game back in Houston after a long road trip and four days off. And he noted once again that he’s pleased with the team’s ability to come back in the third period.
“There is a pattern with this team. We’re a good come from behind team,” he said. But he wants more. He wants the team to learn how to hold leads. “If we can figure out how to close out games that we have a lead in the second half that would be important.”
He also hopes that the team is finally turning the corner when it comes to shootouts. “In our last six shootouts we’re three-and-three after starting oh-and-four,” he said. “So we’ve been gaining ground on it and getting better. Those are important points….we’ve got to do our best to get our points in the shootouts.”
The shootouts are important points because the Aeros are in a tight playoff race, and if they could have pulled out a few more shootout wins, they would have gained more points and a better spot in the standings.
And before I go, just a few more points…
For instance, it was noted before the game that the National Anthem was being performed by the combined mens choir from a couple of area high schools. The only problem with this was that were an awful lot of feminine looking guys in those choirs. Yep, that’s right, the choirs had more women than men in them, so I don’t think it was accurate to call them a combined mens choice.
But maybe that’s just me.
And towards the end of the third period, and during the overtime, the fans at the game started chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!” And while the sentiment was probably welcome, and while it was evident the fans meant the Aeros when they were doing the chant because Toronto is, well, in Canada, it should be noted that most of the players in the game, for both teams, were Canadian. In fact, there are more Americans on the Marlies roster than the Aeros roster. So it can be argued that, by doing the USA chant, the fans were really cheering for the Marlies.
My point, and I do have one, is folks, next time you chant, know your rosters.