Sorry, NHL, to steal your tag line…but there’s no other way to put it. Tonight, at Toyota Center, AHL history will be made one way or another. More on that in a minute…
OK, so I turned out to be incorrect, when prior to Game 6, I told you that my gut feeling was that the Aeros were going to win. You could argue that they deserved to win and they certainly came close to getting it done, but none of that matters right now. You can go back and say the Bulldogs got a few bounces or that the refs hosed the Aeros and blah, blah, blah. But again, none of that matters now. There are no acceptable excuses this time of year – tonight is Game 7 – and one team will move on to play Binghamton in the Calder Cup Finals.
Sure, the Bulldogs have proven they are a battle-tested, mentally tough group that plays desperate hockey when facing elimination – they are now 4-0 this spring when a loss would end their year. That’s certainly impressive. Also impressive is the fact that they are just the 3rd team in 122 tries to advance to a seventh game after falling behind in a series, 3-0. The two other times that’s happened in the AHL (1960 and 1989), the team that mounted the comeback went on to win the series.
But for the Aeros, none of that matters. Honestly. They have one game to win AT HOME and they move on. Should the Aeros win tonight, no one will ever ask how they got there. Furthermore, this team has already played and won a Game 7 this postseason (like the Bulldogs) and that certainly should help them “calm their nerves” entering tonight’s action, according to winger Jon DiSalvatore. I also truly believe that Sunday’s Game 6 double O.T. defeat is no more deflating than the overtime Game 6 loss in Milwaukee last round. And we all know how the Aeros regrouped and handled that piece of adversity just a few weeks ago.
And finally, I know this for a fact: the Bulldogs haven’t won anything yet. They just played three great games, three season-saving games, yet when they show up to the rink tonight, it means nothing. They still have to go out and try to beat a team whose season is now also on the line.
I never imagined I’d be preparing for a Game 7 in this series after the Aeros took a 3-0 series lead. But I also don’t think the Bulldogs can beat the Aeros four straight times. Now that may mean absolutely nothing at the end of the day, and I’ve certainly been wrong before, but I believe in this Aeros’ team and what they’ve been through, and I don’t think they are ready to go home quite yet.
Tonight’s contest should be an exhilarating affair and it will most likely be nerve racking. It’s a Game 7 for crying out loud and you don’t get many opportunities like this in this business or any professional sport for that matter. In fact, this is the first Game 7 the Aeros have had on home ice since they joined the AHL. And, this could be the first time the Aeros clinch a series at home for the first time since 2003. Game 7’s are historic and they are fun for the fans, the players, the coaches, the staff, etc. This is why you play / love the game of hockey!
So let’s all collectively enjoy it, Aeros Nation! I want every fan that reads this blog to show up tonight and be passionate, be supportive and believe in this group. Spread the word – tell your friends and colleagues, let’s pack Toyota Center full of rabid and dedicated hockey fans.
Here’s to hoping the Aeros play a “70/30 game” (as the team calls it), meaning they spend a lot of time in the offensive zone and here’s to a rock solid outing from the specialty teams and goaltender Matt Hackett. If those things occur, well then, the Aeros will have a great opportunity to advance.
Game Day Audio is up…
– Aero Joe