Greetings from Hoffman Estates, the spectacular practice facility of the Chicago Wolves. Seriously, this place is awesome.
The Aeros practiced today – just got off the ice in fact, and now it’s on to Grand Rapids for a pair of crucial games (beginning tomorrow night) on this franchise-record, 11-game road trip.
Tuesday morning’s 2-1 loss to the Wolves was heart-breaking to say the least. You’re tied 1-1 late in regulation…on the road…against a red-hot team…and heading to a power play. To have a few mental lapses result in a shorthanded goal against and to not even earn a point is pretty deflating.
Getting Jed Ortmeyer back (he’s meeting the team in Grand Rapids) will certainly help and there is another reinforcement on the way from outside the organization (can’t say more than that until it becomes official).
With that said, the Aeros really need to stay afloat during this crucial road trip, as some teams have gained significant ground on them over the last few weeks, mainly San Antonio and Chicago. A .500 trip or better would certainly be a big boost heading into mid-March (the playoff push). In addition, as the health of the big club in Minnesota improves, more bodies should make their way to the Aeros. And that can only help…
The team really hasn’t played that poorly over the last handful of games (outside of the 5-2 loss in Oklahoma City). The reality of the situation is however, there’s not a lot of margin for error right now. The team’s offense has dried up a bit (mainly due to injuries and call-ups) and a lot of guys are playing outside of their normal “roles”. Thus, the Aeros are faced with a mentality that’s pretty simple: limit their mistakes, win the special teams battle and get superb goaltending. It’s got to be a “grind it out, win 2-1” mindset for the time being. And remember, it’s a process over the long grind of the regular season – right now, it’s about developing and learning and prepping for March/ April.
Here are a few numbers / trends to look out for:
- 13-5: The number of home games to road games once the Aeros finally hit the ice at Toyota Center again on March 10.
- 7: Number of points separating the Aeros (4th seed) from the Peoria Rivermen, who currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
- 33: The number of goals the Aeros have netted in their last 15 games (avg. 2.2).
- 11.75: The number of penalty minutes averaged per game by the Aeros, the fewest in the AHL. Discipline has been preached all sesaon long by John Torchetti and his staff, and the team has done well in that department.
- 13: The number of times the Aeros have led or been tied after 20 minutes of play on the road this season. This type of solid play early in road games must continue.
- 6: Goaltender Matt Hackett’s starts over the club’s last 7 outings.
- 7,108: Average attendance for the Aeros’ home games this season – 4th in the league.
That’s all for now – we’re off to Grand Rapids for a few days, then Milwaukee, then Abbotsford… –