My apologies for taking so long to wrap up this weekend’s games. I cover more than just the Aeros -- thus my absence the past several weeks -- and there’s been breaking news with the Houston Cougars I’ve been having to deal with. Plus, I’m once again unemployed from my primary profession, and I’ve been trying to hunt up some work. So, that aside…
It’s been about a month since I’ve seen the Aeros play in person. The last game I remember seeing was the game where the news leaked out that Tony Hrkac was returning. So yes, it’s been awhile. But besides the Aeros dropping to the bottom of the standings, nothing much has changed. The effort’s still there. The guys still seem to give a damn. But despite the return of Andy Hilbert over the weekend, they still can’t find a way to get the puck in the damn net; the stupid penalties are still prevalent at unnecessary times -- Brandon, really, did you have to pull a Matt Foy on Sunday? And the goalies, no matter the criticism they’re getting from unnamed people, are doing their best to keep the team in games, but the goalies this year just aren’t able to do a repeat of the Nolan Schaefer/Barry Brust season of 2007-2008.
There were two winnable games over the weekend, but nothing the Aeros did seem to work. Well, I do think Kevin Constantine throwing out a starting line on Sunday of Matt Kassian, Robbie Earl, and Carson McMillan brought a different energy to the team. But the team lost 3-1 on Saturday and 2-1 in overtime on Sunday to the Milwaukee Admirals to drop even further back in last place.
Anton Khudobin got the start on Saturday, and he put up a good effort on Saturday, only to find himself, once again, sabotaged by his defense and lack of offense. And Wade Dubielewicz found himself victimized in overtime by a shot that hit the pipe and bounced in.
“It’s tough,” Dubielewicz said after the loss. “We’re a young group, we’re working hard. It’s really discouraging right now. We’ve got to find away -- whether it’s a big game out of a goalie or a big game out of player -- we’ve got to find a way to get out of this little funk we’re in and try to get some wins together. You never know what’s going to happen to other teams. But right now we’re backed into a pretty tough corner. Something special’s got to happen for us. Somebody’s got to do something special for us to get out of it.”
Dubielewicz said it was his hope, before the game, that he would be the one to provide that special game. He wanted to give his teammates the win, but he just couldn’t do it. And if ever a game was the epitome of the Aeros season, perhaps Sunday was that example. The Aeros outshot Milwaukee. They even had some great shot attempts, but there was some good Milwaukee goaltending to stop some of the shots, then there were two third period shots that clanked off the pipes, but instead of bouncing in, as the Milwaukee shot did on OT, they bounced out.
“There’s no quitting here,” Dubielewicz said. “And I’m proud of that. But at the same time, this is professional hockey, and we have to make plays, and we have to make saves, and we have to score goals. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to be around hockey for a long time. It’s really disappointing on that level because there’s a lot of character in this room. I think with a break or two we could be a different story.”
A break or two. That’s the been the team’s story the entire season. A break or two. And that break or two is something that they have yet to get. With just 11 games remaining in the season, the 29-30-7-4 Aeros should probably just forget about getting that break, unless, that is, you count as a break the opportunity to go home and erase this once-promising season from their minds.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
Andy Hilbert returned to action this weekend for the first time in months. The Aeros season was probably doomed to failure by Hilbert’s concussion, and the injuries to Peter Zingoni, because they were probably the guys with the best set of offensive skills on a team that desperately needed offensive skills. And while they missed large parts of the season, and guys like Nathan Smith spent time in Minnesota, the Aeros were just never able to put together a sustained offensive effort. But Kevin Constantine doesn’t want to use that as a crunch for what happened this season.
“You try to look at the fact that everybody goes through injuries,” he said Saturday night. “You try not to rely on the injury totals, or call-ups, to dictate -- if you look at guys called up through over the last three years, we haven’t really been a team that’s been completely dependent on certain injuries and call-ups. Other guys have managed to win.”
And Constantine has a point. Then you look at other things. For instance, Krys Kolanos was generally the guy called up to the Wild last season. And Kolanos’s trips up didn’t help the team. Then again, Kolanos wasn’t the team’s only offensive weapon last season. Corey Locke was putting up big numbers. So was Jesse Schultz. Marco Rosa put up good numbers. Things might have been different last season if Kolanos were to have been up with the Wild and Locke and Schultz were injured and unable to play for most of the season, but that didn’t happen.
And the team before that didn’t have much in the way of offensive talent, either. But Schaefer and Brust were both putting together incredible seasons that were beyond special, and which are not the type of numbers generally put up by a tandem because. And the primary guy who spent most of that season in Minnesota was Erik Reitz.
I appreciate what Constantine’s trying to get at. He’s not trying to use an excuse to explain away the season. But Zingoni and Hilbert were supposed to be key members of the offense, and with their extended absences, nobody on the front line has stepped up to take their place on a consistent basis. Max Noreau has tried from the blue line. And no one can discount the effort and hustle of Jean-Michel Daoust.
Well, you get my point by now, I hope.
Okay, I know I’ve been away for awhile, but what happened to all of the Lady Dynamics? I saw five at each of the games, the same five. What happened to the rest? Did they bail on the team, or something?
My Beatles selection tonight is dedicated to the goalies, Anton Khudobin, Wade Dubielewicz, and Barry Brust. Too often this season, it seems that they’ve had the weight of the world on their shoulders as they’ve tried to single-handedly carry the Aeros to victory. Thus, I bring you the final melody of side two of Abbey Road (the greatest album ever recorded), which just happens to feature the only drum solo ever performed by Ringo Starr as the drummer of The Beatles. So here’s “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.”