And In The End, The Aeros Lose To The Best Team In The AHL

Categories: Hockey, Sports

O'Sullivan Sorrow.JPG
John Royal
Patrick O'Sullivan feels the weight of the world
In the end, it wasn't about the officiating. Or about whether Binghamton had tested the hockey gods by releasing the victory parade route plans hours before game six had even started. In the end, it probably wasn't even about the Aeros testing fate by having Eric Winston drop the puck and associating themselves with the cursed fortune of the Houston Texans.

In the end, it was all about the two best teams in the American Hockey League playing a game of hockey. And when it was all over, the best of the two teams was the Binghamton Senators who defeated the Aeros 3-2 in game six of the Calder Cup Finals before a crowd of 10,125 Aeros fans banging thundersticks and clanging cowbells at every opportunity to win the Cup and become the champions of the league.

In the end, it all came down to execution, and the Senators executed their offense just a touch better than the Aeros. And the Senators goalkeeping, behind 19-year rookie Robin Lehner, was exceptional, stopping multiple shots that most older, experienced goalies would have never gotten to.

"As much as I love to win, I think I hate to lose even more," head coach Mike Yeo said. "I wish it was a different outcome for a lot of reasons, but more than anything else, for the guys in that locker room. They poured their hearts and souls into this. I wish that they got what I believe that they deserve. But having said that, congratulations to Binghamton. They're definitely worthy champions. They're a tremendous team, and that was a great series. They're very deserving."

The Senators were more deserving last night as the two teams engaged in the best-played game of the series. The officiating was far improved from what it had been, and there was a flow to the game that had not been evident in any of the first five games of the series.

The Senators grabbed the 1-0 lead at 2:28 in the second period, but the Aeros tied it up at the 5:28 mark when team captain Jon DiSalvatore deflected a shot from Max Noreau past Lehner for a power play goal. The Aeros then grabbed the lead at the 11:20 mark when Jean-Michel Daoust, the star of Saturday's game five, tipped in a rebound of a shot on the power play to make it 2-1.

disalvatore sorrow.JPG
John Royal
Jon DiSalvatore looks out over the crowd, the game lost

The Aeros maintained the lead until the 3:26 mark of the third period when Bobby Butler beat Matt Hackett to tie the score. And the Senators took the lead on a power play goal by team captain Ryan Keller at the 9:09 mark of the period. The Aeros fired away, keeping Lehner under pressure, but he wouldn't crack until finally, it was all over. The time was all gone. The season was over.

"This is not the time to sit here and say we should have done this, we should have done that," Yeo said. "This is a great season -- to think of where they come from this year, and what they've done. You can point to mistakes that players made in the game tonight, or in the series, or whatever. But without every one of those guys, we're not here, I'm not answering these questions, because those guys -- it's amazing what they did this year. I'm really impressed. This is as fun as I've ever had in the game. Not just as a coach, not just as a player, my time in the game. Working with these guys, and seeing what they've given. I wish for them more. That's all."

Looking at this team in mid-December, one would have never imagined the Aeros getting to game six in the Calder Cup Finals, fighting to the final seconds to send the game into overtime. Looking at this team in mid-December, one would have never been able to imagine this team even making the playoffs. But the team grew close, evolved, bought into what Mike Yeo was selling to them.

"It takes a special group of guys to get this spot," DiSalvatore said. "We overcame a lot this year. I can't say enough about this coaching staff, and these guys. And -- a quick time line. The travel we had to endure at times. Just really hard situations where we could have just given up, it would have been easy to give up, and we never did."

In the end, the Aeros became one of the best teams in the AHL. But in the end, becoming one of the best teams just wasn't good enough. Because becoming one of the best teams just isn't enough when you lose to the best team.

And last night, and for the past week, the best team in the league has been the Binghamton Senators. The Aeros played their best hockey in weeks last night. And the Senators took what the Aeros were dishing out and came out on top.

The Aeros will be a different team next year. Living life in the minors always means roster turnover, lots of roster turnover. But for those guys who'll be back, there's going to be this season, and the pain of losing. They may have lost to the best team in the AHL, but that's not going to make the pain any easier with which to live.

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9 comments
Anonymous
Anonymous

What a well put summary of this team and the amazing season, and thanks for the converage John.

B2B
B2B

Thanks for your hockey reports this season John. 

will
will

Jeez, hard to be there and watch us lose that game. But glad we got to play it.  What a great season and post-season. 

Thank you, Press, for your coverage. John, thanks for your fair-minded coverage of the team. I've read sportswriters who try to prove how unbiased they are by taking potshots at the home team whenever they get the chance, and you've always been very fair to both sides while still realizing that most of your readers do, in fact, like the Aeros.  Your journalistic integrity is to be commended.

As for the Aeros...what can you say other than they fought for everything they got this year.  We were in a dogfight in our division all year, we fought our way through two game 7's, and we played in some of the best minor-league hockey games I've ever seen in this championship series.  Congrats to the BSens, and I couldn't be any prouder of this Aeros squad if we HAD won last night. 

Admittedly, I'd be quite a bit happier, but not any prouder ;-)

AerosReader
AerosReader

I wish things had been different, but do appreciate your continued excellent coverage and perspective, John.  While last night was a heartbreaker for the Aeros and their fans, I can say I'm happy for Corey Locke and Barry Brust, even though we didn't get to see Barry play.  I enjoyed them both when they played for the Aeros.  The sad thing is we'll never see this exact same group of guys together again.  What a terrific turnaround from the first of the season.  Patrick O'Sullivan and Jed Ortmeyer seemed to really inspire the guys when they came on the scene.  And the coaches, Yeo, Sydor and Wiseman...just what the doctor ordered.  I'll be happy for those who advance next season, and happy to see any and all of this group who return. 

Liz Buie
Liz Buie

Thanks for all the coverage on the Aeros.  This team has been so amazing this year. 

artandhockey
artandhockey

Totally agree! Officiating was very fair! Just hope they keep it on that level in the future.BSens was the better team and with the better goalie. Credit must go where it is earned and they have earned it. Aeros battled valiantly and will be remembered for being a team that rose from the last slot early in the season to the - almost - top at the end!

On a funny note, since the temperatures up NE, even Canada, are also in the unusually  hot 80's and 90's right now, how would that have affected games up there?   I am remembering all those taunts about our slushy ice here! LOL?And let's not forget to wish Mr. Stirling a speedy reecovery from his quadruple bypass surgery!That win will-no doubt- have perked him up a lot!

AiH
AiH

Thanks for the Aeros coverage this season John.

CenterIce
CenterIce

Great write up as usual, John.  Looking forward to your Aeros coverage next season.

Last night was a heart-breaker, but luckily this will be a short summer - only 15 weeks until the start of 2011-2012. 

Paul in Binghamton
Paul in Binghamton

Much better than the last article. Thanks for acknowledging this great Sens team.

Now, how about some props for the beauty of NY State's Southern Tier, instead of your 'closer to Scranton' description?

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