I’ve heard a lot of “go back to work” and”get to our game” over the last 24 hours-plus from the Aeros after they were embarrassed on Wednesday night in an 8-1 loss in Game 4 to the Bulldogs.
So, the team is saying all the right things and that’s to be expected After all, it was just one loss. I’m convinced (somewhat) that it doesn’t matter if they lost 2-1 in overtime or 8-1. The bottom line is that they didn’t play well in Game 4 and they still lead this series by two games. The Aeros, collectively, have also given a lot of credit to the Bulldogs for playing inspired and quite honestly, playing a great game the other night. So if they are handling it OK mentally, then they just need to go out and prove it tonight.
Pending the Aeros can shake off Wednesday’s drubbing and pending that the Bulldogs don’t get some super-human jolt from their seven-goal victory, I’d expect tonight’s Game 5 to be more like the first three games of the series.
Here are a few things I’d like to see from the Aeros tonight:
1. Solid play from Matt Hackett – he’s got to bounce back and be strong, especially in the opening 20 minutes
2. A power play goal from Cody Almond – I’m thinking a deflection in front to get his first of the playoffs
3. 35 or more shots on goal – throw pucks at the net and crash it hard making it tough for Bulldogs’ goaltender Drew MacIntyre
4. At least one first period goal and preferably a lead at the first intermission
Let’s be clear about one thing – the Aeros are still in control of this series. However, a loss tonight and the Bulldogs will definitely be packing their mojo with them as the two teams head back to Houston tomorrow. Thus, I expect the Aeros to play a tough and emotional game tonight as if they are the team facing elimination. This team has proven throughout the playoffs that they will respond when challenged / facing adversity and I think that bodes well for their confidence in this game, even if they fall behind at some point.
As usual, Game Day Audio is up with some thoughts from both sides…
Finally, I’ll leave you with this. Yesterday morning, I greeted Aeros’ defenseman Drew Bagnall with the usual “Hey Bags, how are you?” (or something like that) as we passed each other in the dressing room prior to the optional practice. And, par the course for “Bags”, his response was classic: “I’m terrific Joe, we’re one win away from the Calder Cup Finals. I’ve never been this far before.”
Well, that pretty much sums it up. One win away from the Finals…
Enjoy tonight’s tilt!
– Aero Joe