While the season may be over for the Minnesota Wild, their American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros, is still alive. The Aeros, led by goaltender Matt Hackett, managed to win their final regular season game to make the Calder Cup playoffs and secure the number eight seed in the Western Conference. The puck will drop in their first game against the number one seeded Oklahoma City Barons Thursday night at 7:05 CST at the Toyota Center in Houston.
It has been a tough season for the Aeros, who are coming off of a Western Conference Championship season last year. Even after losing their head coach, Mike Yeo, to the Minnesota Wild, they seemed to be a very talented team. However, there is no question that call ups to players like Hackett, defenseman Nate Prosser, and forward Cody Almond due to a rash of injuries with the Wild had something to do with the team’s late-season struggles. However, with Minnesota’s 2011-2012 campaign now in the books, that core group should be intact for the most part.
Houston will face a very tough task in their first round opponent tomorrow. The Aeros and the Barons met eight times during the regular season, with Oklahoma City winning seven and coming away with points in all eight.
Last year, the Aeros had a magnificent playoff run, only to see it ended by the Binghamton Senators in game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals. Hopefully, this season’s team will have some confidence and will find its flow. If they can do that, and if Hackett can stay hot, this team could potentially turn some heads and make some noise.
Of the four teams to participate in last year’s conference finals-the Aeros, the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Binghamton Senators, and the Charlotte Checkers-Houston is the only team to make the 2012 playoffs.
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