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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Goalie guides Aeros’ success

The underdog Houston Aeros hold a 2-1 lead over the Peoria Rivermen in the first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs.

Because of third-stringer Anton Khudobin’s stellar goaltending, the Aeros stole the last two contests from Peoria. Since losing the first game, 6-4, the Aeros have tightened up defensively to win Games 2 and 3, 2-0 and 2-1, respectively.

Khudobin received the nod in the net since Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust went down with injuries. He has effectively held the fort against a talented Peoria squad that has many former National Hockey League players.

Peoria is stacked with talent up front with forwards Yann Stastny, Trent Whitfield and Chris Porter. Peoria is also strong defensively with Steve Wagner, Junas Junland and Alex Pietrangelo, the St. Louis Blues’ No. 1 draft pick in 2008.

Starting in net for Peoria is former NHL all-star Manny Legace.

On paper, the Aeros are at an immediate disadvantage, yet lead the best-of-seven series.

If the Aeros want to continue winning, they will have to ride Khudobin’s hot goaltending. In the playoffs, the goalie is the most important player and can make a good team great.

If Khudobin’s play falters, the Aeros’ offense will have to pick up the slack. The Aeros would be wise to avoid playing a high-scoring style against Peoria. They should play to the defensive strengths ingrained by head coach Kevin Constantine.

With a win tonight, the Aeros can take a commanding 3-1 series lead and continue to hold home ice advantage for Wednesday’s game. If they pull off the upset, the Aeros will be a step closer to bringing the Calder Cup back to Houston.

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