Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas –
Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves for his third shutout this season, and Andrei Taratukhin’s shootout goal gave Omaha a 1-0 victory over the Aeros at Toyota Center. Omaha has shut the Aeros out in all three contests this season, just the second time in team history a team has blanked Houston three straight times. Josh Harding
had 26 stops for Houston (10-13-0-2), which plays seven of its last 10 December games at home. Harding earned his first shutout of the season in a losing effort and fell to 2-1 in shootouts this season.
The Aeros will square off with the Knights for the third time in four games Saturday at Toyota Center. You can buy tickets by calling 1.866.GO.AEROS, or online 24/7
. The first 3,000 fans receive an Aeros cowbell.
The Knights put their league-leading defense on display, but the Aeros were up to the challenge all night. Opposing teams had averaged just 25.3 shots on goal per game against the Omaha defense.
Omaha had numerous scoring chances, but possibly its best opportunity came at the 10:30 mark in the first when the puck seemingly disappeared in a scrum in front of Harding. After multiple shots off the post, he smothered the puck to keep the game scoreless.
With nine minutes left in the first, Josh Olson was called for hooking and a minor misconduct which gave the Knights four minutes with a man advantage, but Omaha could not convert against Houston, the third best penalty-killing team in the AHL. The Aeros have now killed off 50-of-52 penalties in their last nine home games.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second period, Taratukhin began a 2-on-1 towards Harding. But Chris Ovington sandwiched himself between the two Knight forwards and intercepted a pass that thwarted one of Omaha’s better scoring opportunities in the second.
Aeros leading scorer Benoit Pouliot was held but broke through two lines of defense to put a backhand attempt on net less than a minute into third, but McElhinney gloved the shot.
Thirty seconds after getting a power play opportunity five minutes into the third period, Ben Thomson was called for hooking to end the 5-on-4 advantage.
Danny Irmen had the Aeros last major scoring chance when he split away from the Knights’ defense and placed a nice backhand attempt on goal, but McElhinney trapped the puck against his body to maintain the shutout.
Roman Voloshenko was the first to try the Knights’ goalie in the shootout and found the back of the net with a slapper over the goalie’s right shoulder.
Carsen Germyn was quick to answer for the Omaha as he netted the puck after deking Harding pad side.
With the goals even at one apiece, McElhinney stuffed Alex Leavitt, Ben Thomson and Irmen. Then Taratukhin stepped up and beat Harding, forcing the Aeros to answer. The anchor for Houston was Pouliot, but McElhinney stoned the rookie’s shot to seal the win for the Knights, who have won three straight.
Houston falls to 5-0-0-1 against Omaha at home. Seven of the last 11 meetings between the two teams have gone to overtime or shootout.
Houston was 0-for-6 on the power play, while Omaha was 0-for-5. The Aeros had five power play opportunities in the third period alone.Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Dieter Kochan and Erik Reitz. The Aeros released center Marco Rosa from his pro tryout after practice this morning. C Jason Morgan was down from Minnesota to skate with the team in the morning and also pre-game. He hasn’t technically been assigned by the Wild yet. Morgan had hip surgery last month to relieve pressure following a hit by Kyle McLaren. This marked just Houston’s second 1-0 shootout game in team history. Harding also was on the losing end of the other, November 1, 2004 in Hartford. Ironically enough, that was one of the Wolf Pack’s three straight shutouts versus the Aeros, thanks to goalie Jason LaBarbera. This is the third time in team history the same team has shut out the Aeros three times in one season. Grand Rapids did it in 2002-03, and Milwaukee followed in 2004-05.