The Peoria game plan was simple tonight. Hit the Aeros. Hit the Aeros again. Keep hitting the Aeros until they gave in because they're a soft team. And Peoria did hit the Aeros tonight. And they kept hitting the Aeros. And the Aeros might not be the world's most physical team. They may rely on skill over brute force. But if the Aeros have shown anything over these last several months, it's that they'll take the pounding and win the game because while you're pounding them, they're playing smart, sticking to the system, and playing the game.
They're doing things the right way. And that led to the Aeros getting the tough 3-2 OT win tonight.
It's also the game the Aeros were expecting.
"It was exactly what we expected it to be, a real tight checking, close game," head coach Mike Yeo said. "Hard fought by both teams. I thought Peoria gave us what we could handle tonight. They played a great game. They were physical, and they were aggressive. They had some good chances, and I thought [Hackett] had to play great for us in order to give us that chance to win the game."
We watch the Aeros a lot, so we know that this team is more than just Patrick O'Sullivan and Robbie Earl and Jon DiSalvatore. We know that Warren Peters and Jed Ortmeyer and Jared Palmer and Carson McMillan will grind away and grind away. And when you're not looking, when you're focused on the glamour guys, pow, they attack.
It's easy to forget about the depth that this team has. The third line consists of Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters, and Colton Gillies. Think about that.
"It’s roles," Yeo says. "It’s doing different jobs. Sully does his job on the power play to equalize there and sets up Chad Rau and Rauser buries it. But you need guys – I thought the penalty killers did a great job despite the fact they got the one goal tonight. I thought our penalty killing was great in key times for us.
"And then you’ve got guys like Carson McMillan and Jarod Palmer who are playing on the fourth line, but they were kind of bouncing around tonight. Palms goes out and scores right after they score and really gets the momentum back in our favor. And those hurt for that team. I know it hurts when you’re on the other side. And then both of those guys contribute and do a good job of creating a turnover in the neutral zone and find a way to get her in the net."
We like to talk about the jump the team made with the arrival of Patrick O'Sullivan and Jed Ortmeyer. And there's a lot to that. O'Sullivan's arrival especially, with his ability to score almost at will, opened things for Jon Disalvatore and took some pressure off of some of the other guys to be the go-to guy. But it was also at about that this time that Robbie Earl went to Mike Yeo and asked what he could to do to make the team better. And Casey Wellman got healthy.
And then there is the Ortmeyer factor. A factor which is also shared by Warren Peters and DiSalvatore. They're veteran guys who have been around, and they know what it takes for a team to win. We've been told by several guys just how much it means to see the effort that Ortmeyer goes through to just to be able to play every night. And then the guys see DiSalvatore and Peters willingly planting themselves in front of the goalie game after game, shift after shift, doing the dirty work that makes it that much easier for their teammates to get better chances at scoring.
And there's this. We always hear about the guys who are supposed to the NHL stars and can't make it and get sent back to the minors and who go into sulky malcontent mode. Patrick O'Sullivan did not do this. He's gone out there and played hard and worked every shift.
As such, the Aeros now find themselves up 2-0 in the series. They're not in the clear yet, though. I doubt Peoria's going to give up. And there are now three games in three nights for the Aeros to play next week in Peoria. But while we all complain about the number of three-in-threes the Aeros played this season, you can't help but wonder if that's going to be to the Aeros advantage next week.
But we're just going to have to wait until next week to find out, I guess.
Now on a humorous note...One of our more frequent commenters, I'm talking to you B2Bomber, jokingly jumped on the "negative waves" that Andrew was sending about the team, and he was using a movie reference. I caught it, Andrew didn't.
For those of you who didn't catch B2B's reference, he quoted a character named Oddball bitching about the "negative waves" that Moriarty was spreading. This comes from a vastly underrated Clint Eastwood movie of the late-1960s called "Kelly's Heroes," and the character of Oddball is played by Donald Sutherland. I did a Youtube search, and came up with this clip. So, enough with the negative waves about the Aeros already. Have a little faith, baby. Have a little faith.