The Houston Aeros advanced to the Calder Cup Finals on Tuesday when Jon DiSalvatore
scored with 1:13 left in regulation for a 4-3 victory against the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
DiSalvatore's goal gave the Aeros the victory after Hamilton overcame a 3-0 series lead and deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 in Game 7. Neither side had scored after Hamilton's Aaron Palushaj
tied the game at 3-3 with a power-play goal at 9:57 of the second period.
Hamilton, the top farm club of the Montreal Canadiens
, had been trying to become just the third team in the AHL's 75-year history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
DiSalvatore stuffed in a rebound off a scramble to the right of Hamilton goaltender Drew MacIntyre
for the win. The Bulldogs pressured rookie goaltender Matt Hackett
in the final minute but wound up losing in Game 7 of the conference final for the second straight year.
Houston grabbed the lead when Chad Rau
scored at 7:03 of the first period, and rookie Casey Wellman
made it 2-0 just nine seconds later.
But the game was tied just over six minutes later. Dustin Boyd
scored at 9:13, and defenseman Mathieu Carle
beat Hackett at 13:21 during a power play.
Wellman scored again 2:42 into the second period, only to have Palushaj beat Hackett midway through the period for Hamilton's second power-play goal.
Houston, the top affiliate of the Minnesota Wild
, was 46-28-1-5 for 98 points during the regular season, finishing second in the West Division and sixth in the overall AHL standings. Led by rookie coach Mike Yeo
, who won a Stanley Cup as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins
in 2009, the Aeros swept the Peoria Rivermen in the division semifinals, beat the Milwaukee Admirals in seven games in the division finals and held off the Bulldogs in the conference finals to reach the Calder Cup Finals for the first time since winning the championship in 2003.
The Calder Cup Finals will begin Friday night when the Binghamton Senators, the Eastern Conference champions, visit Houston. Ottawa's top farm team swept Charlotte in the Eastern Finals.