(Rochester, NY)… Carson McMillan scored a pair of goals and Matt Hackett stopped 29 of 30 shots to help the Houston Aeros to a 3-1 win over the Rochester Americans Friday at The Blue Cross Arena. The game was the first of just two meetings this season between the interconference rivals, who are slated to meet again during the Amerks’ three-game Texas road trip in late March.
Prior to the game, the Amerks inducted former captain Dane Jackson and longtime sports anchor Rich Funke into the team’s Hall of Fame as the during an on-ice ceremony as the organization welcomed the 53rd and 54th members of the prestigious club.
The loss snaps Rochester’s season-long five-game home winning streak as the Amerks fall to 26-17-2-1- on the season. Nick Tarnasky potted the lone goal for the Amerks and David Leggio, who was manning the pipes for his 200th professional game, saw his personal seven-game winning streak end despite making 32 saves.
McMillan’s first goal tied the game at one before adding an empty-netter in the final minute of regulation for the Aeros, who scored three unanswered goals to overcome an early deficit. Justin Fontaine also scored for Houston, which won its fourth straight and extended its road winning streak to seven games.
The teams traded goals in the first period, beginning with Tarnasky’s 11th goal of the season just 3:42 into the opening frame that would put the Amerks up 1-0 on the power-play. With Houston’s Nick Petersen in the box serving two minutes for tripping, the Amerks needed just 11 seconds to capitalize on the man-advantage as Tarnasky redirected Mark Mancari’s centering pass from the left half-wall.
The goal gives Tarnasky three in his last four games, while the assist marks Mancari’s eighth point through the first six games in February, tying him with captain Kevin Porter for the team lead in scoring and moving him within one point of 200 as an Amerk.
The Aeros answered six minutes later as McMillan knocked in Stephane Veilleux’s rebound to even the game at one apiece. Veilleux’s initial bid from the right face-off circle was quickly met with a flash of Leggio’s glove, but the puck trickled behind the Amerks netminder, allowing McMillan to sweep it in to the empty net for the equalizer at 9:23.
Fontaine gave Houston a 2-1 advantage at 7:26 of the second period, driving a slap-shot over the shoulder of Leggio after a face-off win by David McIntyre led to the go-ahead goal. McIntyre won the draw cleanly back to the high slot, where Fontaine delivered an absolute blast to the upper left corner for his 12th goal of the season.
Rochester had an opportunity to tie the game with a late power-play, but the Aeros stymied any attempt for a comeback with a short-handed empty-netter from McMillan to give Houston the 3-1 win.
The oldest rivalry in the American Hockey League will be renewed on Sunday, Feb. 17 when the Amerks host the Hershey Bears in a battle of the league’s two oldest teams. The 3:05 p.m. contest marks the final get-together between the longtime foes this season and can be heard live on Sports 1280 WHTK.