In baseball, they have this term called winning ugly. It’s when a team wins those games that it should really lose. The pitching sucks. The defense commits error after error. And the batters are striking out and grounding into double plays all night. Yet, despite all of that, the team finds a way to win a boring 5-4 game.
Saturday night, before a crowd of 8696, the Houston Aeros did a reverse winning ugly. They lost ugly. The 3-2 loss would almost qualify as a suck-minus loss if not for the fact that, at some points, some of the guys actually hustled and did things right. Instead, for the most part, they played ugly hockey, thus, the Aeros lost ugly to the Peoria Rivermen.
“It started off in the first period,” Corey Locke said. “We weren’t ready to play. Which is our fault.”
Kevin Constantine was a bit more wordy on the topic: “I thought that after winning four games, we looked like a team that hoped going through the motions would be good enough. Without a real passion to do the work really necessary.”
The first period was an ugly period of bad passing, bad shot-making, and just all around lousy play. The Aeros appeared to be a step slow, just missing on their passes, and finding their shots blocked.
The Aeros play was “too cute,” said Constantine. “Instead of playing the game hard, we hoped that we could stick handle and pass our way through it when you have to skate and play hard.
Yet Peoria played just as ugly as the Aeros and were able to get off only three shots, thus allowing for a 0-0 score after one. In the second period, things fell apart. At 1:10 of the second, Nolan Schaefer would block the shot of Trent Whitfield, only to find Chris Porter planted on the other side of the crease waiting to stuff in the rebound. And at 4:18, Steve Reiger got another rebound and found a way to lift the puck over the pads of Nolan Schaefer to make the score 2-0.
The Aeros got back into the game when Benoit Pouliot tipped in a Clayton Stoner shot at 2:22 – I’m still not sure what happened on the shot as Stoner’s shot was really weak and bouncing around; Pouliot never got a stick on it, but it appeared from the replay it may have nicked his skate just enough to bounce past Peoria goalie Chris Holt. Peoria made the score 3-1 at 9:59 when Steve Wagner scored on the power play, and at 16:11 Corey Locke knocked in the rebound of a Matt Beaudoin shot to make the score 3-2.
It appeared the Aeros were going to make their standard third period push and put this game into overtime until Corey Locke was called for cross-checking at 17:37, which effectively put Peoria on the power play for the rest of the game.
“I took a stupid penalty to put us down at the end,” Locke said. “It’s tough.”
The AHL is now going on it’s All-Star break, and the Aeros will be off on until Thursday night when they take on the Quad City Flames at 7:05 at Toyota Center.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Constantine was pretty down on the team after the game. He said the team didn’t play with an edge. That they were playing too cute. That they didn’t want to compete. And that they were awful.
But he was complimentary of one player, Benoit Pouliot, who was exiled to Houston from the Minnesota Wild last week. “He was great. I thought by far he was our best player,” Constantine said. “I thought it was one of the best games he’s played for us.”
Photo of Benoit Pouliot courtesy of Fred Trask.
Now here’s the shocking news. I haven’t checked out her blog as I’m writing this, but Ms. Conduct herself was sitting next to me in the press box, and she was saying complimentary things about Pouliot. And if you’ve ever read Ms. Conduct’s blog, you will know that she’s not much of Benoit Pouliot fan.
I, myself, am also not much of a fan. But he appeared to be the only guy who showed up ready to play against Peoria. He was physical. He was taking shots and playing defense. He wasn’t trying to be too cute, which is usually his game. This was definitely his best game since he’s been back in Houston. The guy is talented, though it’s often appeared in the past that he’s been trying to rely too much on the talent and not enough of effort.
Maybe, just maybe, being sent to Houston this time has finally made him get that message that so many have been trying to send him. Maybe.
The Aeros, along with the rest of the AHL, are on the All-Star break. Most of the guys will now be taking a mandatory four day break. There will be no practice sessions. There will be no skating, or team meetings. Constantine and staff will next see the guys on Thursday morning as they have a morning skate in preparation for Thursday’s game with the Flames.
Two guys won’t be getting a break, however. Corey Locke and Barry Brust have a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Houston tomorrow where they will be flying to Boston on their way to Worcester, MA for the AHL All-Star Game on Monday night.
For Barry Brust, the All-Star Game is all about staying out of the way.
“Those things aren’t very fun for goalies. You’re just trying not to embarrass yourself,” he said. “You just take it easy and hopefully they don’t get seven by you.”
Corey Locke’s attitude is a little different, however: “I enjoy these things,” he said. “It’s my third one. I enjoy them. It’s an honor to be selected. I’m just going to try and represent the Houston Aeros and Minnesota Wild organizations as best as possible.”
Despite the loss, the Aeros head into the All-Star break with a record of 21-18-1-7 (50 points) and tied, points wise, for second place with the Rockford IceHogs who are 23-19-0-4 (50 points). The Iowa Chops are in fourth place at 22-18-2-3 (49 points), with Peoria in fifth place with 48 points and defending AHL Calder Cup champs Chicago Wolves in sixth place with 47 points.
And of the Aeros remaining 33 games, 30 are within the division.
“There are no excuses,” Kevin Constantine said. “We control our own destiny.”
I got to the game a little later than normal for me, and the press dining room had been emptied of food. So I hit the Toyota Center concessions. So excuse me while I go a bit of a rant.
The game was supposed to start at 7:35. The doors opened at 6:30. When I hit the concession stands at 6:50, I had to stand around with a bunch of other people waiting for them to make the food. I don’t understand that. I know that the concession workers were there when I walked in at 6:20. And I always see them there a good 90 minutes before the game. So you would think they would have food ready to go for everybody before the doors open.
Then again, maybe that’s just me.
The team looked to be out of synch the entire night. Passes going behind players. Shots going wide. Hits just a touch off. And judging by the boos in the crowd, I think that many of the fans in the stands were as unhappy with the team’s play as Kevin Constantine was.
To play us out tonight, I’ve selected one of my all-time favorite songs from The Police. And I think it expresses the rage and anger that many of the fans felt about the game.
So here’s The Police with “Synchronicity II.”