If the Aeros would have played in game four like they played game five tonight, then it's quite possible the Aeros would be the Calder Cup champs right now. Instead, they're down 3-2 and coming back to Houston tonight on what has to be a rather depressing charter flight.
The Aeros dominated the action in every single period of the game, outshooting, outhustling, and outplaying the Senators in just about every aspect possible. Yet tonight, playing an outstanding game, the Aeros still lost by the score of 4-2. But along with losing the game, they possibly lost Jared Spurgeon for the rest of the series with a hit that saw him prone on the ice for several minutes while trainer Jody Green worked on him.
Corey Locke put the Senators up at the 9:19 mark of the first when the Senators took advantage of, you guessed it, a turnover. Jean-Michel Daoust tied the game at 11:08 when he scored on a wraparound, but at 12:17, Binghamton went back up awhen Erik Condra got free on a breakaway. But Daoust came through again, punching the puck past Robin Lehner at the 19:54 mark of the first period.
The Aeros would not score again, though they had numerous chances. But the Aeros fell victim to some questionable officiating as well as their own stupidity, and when they fell behind 3-2 on a Zach Smith power play goal with nine seconds left in the second period, it was obvious the Aeros were going to lose.
So now the Aeros return to Houston down 3-2 and having possily lost two key players, Cody Almond and Jared Spurgeon, to injuries for the rest of the series. But it's doubtful the Aeros are going to play any more stinkers like they did in game four. The question though is whether the Aeros are going to be able to take this to a game seven. And that's a question we'll get the answer to on Tuesday night.
Now on to fun the stuff, notes, quotes, and observations.
1. The AHL, as I discovered today, likes to throw fits when you criticize the competence of the officiating. So I'm not going to slam the officials. I actually thought they called a better game tonight than last night. But just because I was a bit more happy with the zebras doesn't mean that the Aeros were happy with the officiating.
Mike Yeo's generally a pretty levelheaded guy, and he doesn't generally make statements that can be seen as criticisms of other teams or of officiating. But someone removed his filter tonight.
"If you didn’t ask me about [the officiating], I was going to ask you if you wanted to ask me about it," he said. "But certainly we took some penalties we shouldn’t have taken. But at the same time, I think that some were either called that shouldn’t have been called, or I think that there were some penalties that should have been called that were not called.
"The one thing that you ask is don’t just manage the game. As soon as it’s 4-2 in power plays you know that they’re going to call one. At the same time, we’re dominating puck possession time, and I think that, minus last game, we’ve dominated puck possession time in the entire series, yet they have 21 power plays to our 17. And we’re not known as being an undisciplined team. That’s not because we’re being undisciplined, they’re doing the same stuff after the whistle that we’re doing, both teams are doing that stuff. But the play between the whistles, when you’re actually playing, when you have the puck that many times, your team should be on the power play more than it should be short-handed."
But wait, there's more. Here's what he had to say being asked about Jared Spurgeon's injury in the second period.
"That’s one we’ll have to watch again and see if that was worthy of a call. If we lose a defensemen there, that’s tough. Same thing with Prosser in the third period when a guy leaves his feet. If it’s a penalty it’s a penalty. Doesn’t matter the situation, call it."
2. Jared Spurgeon's injury looked rather ugly to me, worse than Cody Almond's last night. I didn't see the hit. But even after he was down along the board it appeared that one of the Senators kept going at him. He lay on his stomach for awhile, then was able to turn over on his back, which is how he stayed for awhile while Jody Green worked on him. He eventually stood and was essentially pulled off the ice by Green and one of his teammates as he didn't really skate and really appeared to be favoring his left leg.
And of course, it was at the time of this injury, when the injury was obvious because the trainer was out on the ice and looking him over, that the Binghamton fans chose to start shouting out their taunts at Matt Hackett. A real classy move. We noted this on twitter, and we were informed that "hey, we clapped when he went off the ice."
3. The officiating isn't the reason the Aeros lost this game. They lost for the old familiar reasons. Turnovers and good goal tending from the opposition. Who knows what can be done about the turnovers? That just seems to be the team's modus operandi. And for the most part, Yeo was happy with the team's play, being really upset only about Binghamton's final goal.
"I was [happy with our play] up until about seven minutes left in the game, and then their fourth goal is a result of us forcing a play and not paying attention to detail the right way," he said. "We gave them that one. Otherwise, I think you could see five-on-five, we play that way and they feel pretty confident ourselves.'
4. DiSalvatore is confident in the team's ability to win this series. Especially if they keep playing the way they played tonight.
"Absolutely. Absolutely," he said when asked if they could win the Cup. "We’re extremely confident right now. More so now that we put forth a good effort again. After we felt like we kind of let go a little bit in game four. What we did tonight was just another affirmation that if we put forth a good effort, we dominate. We felt like the balance was more to our favor as far as chances were going tonight. So we feel like if we do that, we’re going to have a 70-30 game as far as game six is concerned. We have the utmost confidence that we can bring this thing home."
5. The stars of this game were the fourth line of J.M Daoust, Pascal Morency, and Carson McMillan. Daoust first saw playoff action toward the end of the Hamilton series, and Morency saw his first action of the playoffs. But together with McMillan they set the tone of the play, controlled the action, and made pests of themselves.
"Those guys are a tough line to play against," Yeo said. "They’re looking for every opportunity to finish every check. They’re going to force you to go back – they’re d-men to go back – that’s the type of game that we play. That’s the type of game that we want to play. Over and over and over again. They pay attention to detail, and when it’s time to defend, they defend the right way. But when they get the puck, it’s a matter of how quick can we get to the defensive zone and how many times can we make their D go back and force them to play in their own zone.
"When they get to the offensive zone, I like the way that they manage the puck. I like the way that they get the cycle game going. Again, they don’t have a mentality where I’m going to turn every touch into the goal. Because of that, they end up getting a lot of scoring chances. They manage the puck well. They force their team to defend, and that’s when you end up getting the good chances."
6. The Cody Almond injury forced some line shuffling. Casey Wellman was moved back to the first line with Chad Rau joining Robbie Earl and Jarod Palmer on the second line. The third line stayed intact, and then there were Daoust, McMillan, and Morency.
Yeo was adamant after the game that the shuffling was totally due to Almond's injury, and would not have come about because of the game four result.
"It was a direct result of Cody’s injury," he said. "Last game – we knew last game what it was, we didn’t show up, plain and simple. So we were comfortable with the lines we had, and we were going to give those guys a chance to respond. Cody couldn’t go, and when you’re looking for answers you go back to previous experiences and those guys had played together before and they’d done a nice job together, so we put those guys out."
7. The fourth line was outstanding tonight. There's no question about that. And while the overall effort was there, some of the Aeros still appeared to have a bit of an off-night. Yeo was asked his thoughts on Jed Ortmeyer and Patrick O'Sullivan and whether he could get more out of them than what he's been getting.
"You know what? Those guys have gotten us here. I’m not going to sit here and point fingers at anybody because those guys have gotten us to this opportunity. All our focus is on is winning the next game because if we do that, we’re playing in a game seven.
"And those guys again, not only their on-ice contributions, but when you’re dealing with young kids like we have year, their leadership, the way they help them prepare, the way they help them deal with the ups and downs, our leadership group and our core group has been phenomenal up to this point."
8. And unlike in Hamilton, where the Aeros had the series lead, this time, they're time they're the team fighting to stay alive. But DiSalvatore said that doesn't matter.
"At the end of the day, it’s still, you’re playing for your lives," he said. "We’ve put in two situations where we’ve played for our lives before, so we know how to handle that situation. What it comes down to is all of the preparation we put forth the entire year, that all comes to the forefront right now. We close our eyes, we see, we visualize what our game is, and we go out there and do it. That’s all we’ve got to worry about. We’ve got to manage our emotions, and we’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve been doing all year."
9. I saw on Twitter today the Aeros have already sold over 7,000 tickets for game six. That's great news because there's nothing like a packed and loud arena for hockey. But one thing, let's keep things in check. I wasn't at game two, but I heard that a beer was tossed on the ice at one point. Let's not do that, especially not after the Binghamton fans littered their ice with trash after game three. And folks, this shouldn't need to be said, but if there's an injured opposing player on the ice, don't taunt. Be respectful.
10. And I've got a message from Jon DiSalvatore for those of you who will be turning up at Toyota Center: "Bring it! Bring it as loud and as crazy as you can bring it. We’re excited to get home and play for them. They’ve been great all year, and we expect them to be a huge boost for us coming home."
That's it from Binghamton. I've got a 7:50 a.m. flight out of Philadelphia, which means that I need to leave Binghamton in about two hours if I want to get there in time to deal with the rental return and the security line hassles. So everybody get some sleep while I deal with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I'll see everybody on Tuesday night at Toyota Center for game six.