Just when you think the fat lady is done warming her vocal chords and is about to start belting it out, the Aeros send her back to her dressing room.
With a little help elsewhere in the conference (namely, a win in regulation by the Milwaukee Admirals) and the Aeros' own 2-1 win over the Texastonight.
It really did come down to the last minute of the last game of the AHL regular season to decide whether it would be Charlotte or Houston who would be continuing on later this week. Pretty crazy.
So, the Aeros are in the 8th seed, and they will play terrifying juggernaut OKC Barons in a 5 game, best of 3 series, which starts Thursday and Friday in Houston.
Oak City has lots of swanky fire-power and one of the best goalies in the league in Yann Danis. While much of the season, the Aeros have been a bit suspect defensively, their problem in this series is simply going to be getting pucks in the net.
In the Aeros' favor, Matt Hackett is playing well and, with Nate Prosser back, the d-corps is stronger and smarter than it has been. Scandella is out for another couple of weeks and Steve Kampfer has yet to play a game since being sent down either.
Also, the Aeros tied the AHL record for shootout losses this season, so it goes without saying that YAY NO MORE SHOOTOUTS EVER!
The bottom line for the Aeros is that they're going to have to get nearly flawless goaltending, play smart defense, block a ton of shots, and execute with desperation and focus on offense. Basically, bring your A-game and you have a chance. Don't, and the Barons will eat you for dinner.
From a prospect perspective, it will be interesting to see how the rookies handle the pressure. Kris Foucault has two goals in the last two games and his defensive game is coming along. He's a nice kid, too, so I'm excited to see him really bloom next year, and being hot in the playoffs this year wouldn't hurt that at all.
So, I don't hold high hopes of seeing round 2, but stranger things have happened. And it's always fun to squeeze a little extra hockey out of a season that looked like it was going to the dogs just a week or two ago.
The team, coach, and staff were clearly excited and maybe a little surprised that all the piece fell in place to get the team into the post-season. As Torchetti said, "We're just happy to be here. We're the underdogs!"
The optimistic side of me thinks that underdog, no-pressure framing will be good for this team, and that this is sort of a clean slate to regroup and stop chasing failed expectations. All you have to do is get in, and they did. I'll keep you posted on what comes next.