The Aeros are clearly in the driver’s seat now that they’ve got a 2-0 series lead over the Peoria Rivermen. In fact, in AHL Calder Cup playoff history, 89.8% of teams that claim the first two games in a best-of-seven series, go on to win that series.
However, the Rivermen played much stronger in Game Two, as opposed to their lackluster performance in the opening game of the series, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to build off that in Game Three tonight.
The Rivermen will get a bit of a boost with the addition of forward Akim Aliu into their lineup. Aliu, a journeyman of five pro teams despite being in just his second season since leaving the OHL, didn’t play in the first two games because of “disciplinary reasons”. It’s an internal team matter that the Rivermen have dealt with and so they welcome him back tonight, hoping he can jump start their offense. According to head coach Jared Bednar, Aliu can play a shut down role, but he’s also a contributor on the PP and he’s a physical presence on their forecheck.
For the third straight game we’ll have the same goaltending match-up as Matt Hackett opposes Jake Allen. Keep in mind that if the Rivermen win Game Three or Game Four (or both for that matter) then Game Five is on Wednesday, which means three games in three days. Thus, both teams may have to call upon a goaltender other than tonight’s starters. As I tweeted earlier today, 6’7″ netminder Ben Bishop has been cleared to play for the Rivermen, and he’ll back up Allen tonight.
Game Day audio is up here.
Some solid stuff as usual – I recommend listening to Colton Gillies’ comments on matching up against the T.J. Hensick line, Graham Mink and Pick-Your-Rotating-Winger line. Through two games in the series the Rivermen’s top offensive duo (Hensick & Mink) have been held without a point. KNOCK ON WOOD!
Now it may be impossible to keep them off the score sheet over the course of a long series, but the longer they are held in check, the more likely the Aeros advance to the West Division Finals.
There are no lineup changes for the Aeros tonight, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw J.M. Daoust make his postseason debut at some point soon for the Aeros, especially if the two teams play three-in-three.
I only really hit on one of my three keys to victory from Game Two, but I’ll throw a few more out there for tonight’s Game Three:
1. “Weather The Storm” – Cody Almond talked about this with me this morning…first 10 minutes or so on the road against a desperate team equals a crucial stretch in tonight’s outing.
2. Matt Hackett / PK units – Despite being one-for-eight in the series, the Rivermen power play is still lethal and Hackett is going to have to come up large tonight, especially when the Aeros are shorthanded.
3. Chad Rau’s line – the trio of Rau, Casey Wellman and Robbie Earl have been a huge difference-maker in a lot of games over the last few weeks. A big performance by them tonight and the Aeros will have a great shot to take Game Three.
Don’t forget about the watch party tonight and tomorrow night at The Maple Leaf Pub (514 Elgin St.)
– Aero Joe