Saturday, March 27, 2010
“Movin' right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends, you can't lose,
This could become a habit.
Opportunity knocked once, let's reach out and grab it,
Together we'll nab it.
We'll hitchhike, bus, or yellow cab it.”
That song, made famous by Kermit and Fozzie in “The Muppets Movie,” was not heard in the Toyota Center on March 26, unlike the previous several games.
“Movin’ Right Along” had become the unofficial exit music for the Aeros. Fans would see a team give everything they had but skate away empty-handed, in search of good times and good news, and although with good friends, they continued to lose. It did become a habit, and opportunity seemed to stop knocking, leaving them nothing to grab but the sweaters of their opponents.
The Aeros had long been out of the playoff picture, at least realistically, if not mathematically. Going into Friday’s contest with the Lake Erie Monsters, they had lost six consecutive contests (0-3-1-2), having not won since their 3-1 victory over San Antonio on March 5.
Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Aeros appeared to be heading for another tough loss. Then at 3:43 in the third period, a fire was finally lit under the team, although not in the way they would have liked. C Cody Almond was checked by Lake Erie C Philippe Dupuis in front of the home bench, sending Almond face-first into the point at which the board turns to extend around the team benches, thus creating a 90-degree angle. The protective padding on the corner became loose as Almond’s face made contact, invoking a grown from spectators and anger from his teammates.
A minute later, RW Danny Irmen went right after Dupuis, earning the pair a five-minute major penalty for fighting. Shortly thereafter, LW Colton Gillies was called for interference and upon entering the penalty box, preceded to let lose a verbal tirade of his own on Dupuis.
“It definitely fired me up,” Gillies said. “I lost my cool out there, but you hate to see a shot like that on one of your guys and you definitely want to defend your teammate.”
While Irmen and Gillies focused on defending their teammate, other Aeros, specifically RW Jon DiSalvatore, focused on hurting the Monsters where it counted most, the scoreboard. With only 19 seconds remaining on a Houston power play, DiSalvatore scored the game-tying goal at the 11:23 mark with assists from defenders Jamie Fraser and Ryan Gunderson. This was the second point of the night for DiSalvatore, who had previously assisted D Jamie Sifers’ first-period goal.
“I want to do anything I can do to help the team, offensively,” said DiSalvatore, who now shares the club lead in goals with RW J-M Daoust. “Everyone on this team wants to contribute in some way when they’re out there.”
After the third period ended in a 2-2 deadlock, there was cause for concern, as Houston had lost four straight post-regulation decisions since their last overtime win, 1-0 over Grand Rapids on Feb. 13. Heartbreak was avoided this time as LW Robbie Earl scored the game-winning goal at 3:33 to snap the losing streak.
“It definitely feels good to get a win,” Earl said. “This is a young, hardworking team. It’s been a battle all year long, and a win like this definitely makes us more confident.”
Head coach Kevin Constantine said that it was nice to see hard work finally pay off.
“We’ve been in this mode for 11 straight games,” Constantine said, referring to the games played since the Aeros’ 7-1 loss at Chicago on Feb. 20. “We’ve been in every game without any results. We’d like to finish the season with at least a winning record.”
With only nine games remaining in the season, all against West division opponents, the Aeros say they still have a lot to play for despite their place in the standings.
“At this level, there’s always something to play for,” DiSalvatore said. “These guys love to play this game and they want to play for their teammates. There is a competitive spirit in everybody on this team and they aren’t the type of guys to just quit.”
“There’s always someone watching you,” Gillies added. “A lot of us are playing for contracts and trying to find jobs for next year.”
Gillies said the element the team has been missing hasn’t been effort, but fun.
“We have to have fun with these last nine games,” he said. “Tonight’s win was definitely a step in the fun direction.”
For now, the Aeros will continue to move right along, in search of good times and good news. They’re next stop will be Peoria for two weekend games against the Rivermen this weekend, before returning home to finish the season series against the Chicago Wolves, who are already assured a playoff spot.
The final five games will alternate between road and home games, with one of each against Lone Star Faceoff rivals Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage, as well as one game against the Rockford Icehogs at the Toyota Center. The Rampage will host the Aeros in the season finale on April 11.