Official Box Score
HOUSTON, Texas – Darren Haydar tallied a hat trick, Pekka Rinne made 19 saves and Libor Pivko added an empty-net goal, as the Admirals completed a four-game sweep of the Houston Aeros with a 4-2 victory at Toyota Center in Game 4 of the West Division Final. Milwaukee, the 2004 Calder Cup champion, advances to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons and awaits either Grand Rapids or Manitoba. The Admirals outscored Houston 23-10 in the series, and scored four shorthanded goals and four power play tallies in the two games in Houston.
Patrick O’Sullivan scored twice in the third period and Josh Harding
made 26 saves for Houston, which became the fourth team in AHL history to get swept in four games the series immediately following a sweep of its own. The Aeros took down Peoria in four games in the West Division semis. Houston fell to 2-7 at Toyota Center in the playoffs. Eleven of the last 13 teams to sweep a best-of-seven series have lost in the following round. Hershey swept Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year after getting by Nortolk in four games in the division semifinals.
Haydar registered the second hat trick against the Aeros in three games, after Houston hadn’t allowed one in its first 10 post-seasons.
Haydar got the Admirals on the board just 1:14 in, with Milwaukee’s fourth shorthanded goal in two games. Haydar poked the puck away from Erik Westrum just inside the Admirals blueline and skated on an uncontested breakaway. He went high glove side on Harding for his team-leading eighth goal of the post-season.
Houston had three power plays in the opening 10 minutes, while Milwaukee had the next three, but neither team could find the net again. The Aeros had four man advantages total in the first period.
On Houston’s last power play of the first, Aeros killer Simon Gamache got loose for a partial breakaway, but Harding made a pad save with Westrum draped all over Gamache.
Harding kept the Aeros within a goal 5:22 into the second, as Chris Durno backhanded a 2-on-1 attempt on the net, but Harding ranged out with his glove to make the save.
Houston lost Matt Foy, its leading goal scorer, on the same play. He was given a five-minute major for spearing and a game misconduct, on a play not originally called by Justin St. Pierre. But after review with the linesman, the penalty was given.
Things were quickly evened up 4-on-4 after a hooking penalty on Tootoo, but the Admirals kept up the pressure. Harding made his best save of the night on Scottie Upshall with 12:05 left in the second.
But as the Tootoo penalty expired, Aeros newcomer Benoit Pouliot went off for roughing, giving the Admirals 1:49 of 5-on-3 time.
The Admirals took just seven seconds to score, as Haydar took a right-to-left across the crease pass from Gamache and deposited it into the empty net for his second of the game and ninth of the playoffs.
O’Sullivan’s fourth of the playoffs and 51st overall of the season got the Aeros within 2-1 just 52 seconds into the third. Scott Ferguson began the play behind Harding, and hit Kirby Law along the right dasher. Law passed the puck to O’Sullivan, still inside his own blueline. The speedy rookie raced up ice and let loose of a 1-on-2 shot from just inside the Milwaukee blueline. Rinne made the save, but a hustling O’Sullivan won the race to the rebound and ripped it just inside the near post.
The comeback didn’t last long, as Haydar completed the hat trick at the 2:10 mark – just 1:18 after O’Sullivan’s goal. Haydar took a feed from Greg Classen, took two strides inside the right circle and fired a shot off Harding’s glove and into the net for his 10th of the playoffs.
Upshall nearly pushed the lead to three goals eight minutes into the third, but he rang a shot off the post with Milwaukee on the power play.
The Admirals got a 3-on-1 shorthanded chance with 7:30 left but couldn’t pull the trigger.
That led to O’Sullivan’s second goal, with 6:58 remaining, which pulled the Aeros within 3-2. Westrum, in the left circle, set up O’Sullivan’s patented power play slapper from the right circle. It marked O’Sullivan’s fifth of the playoffs and 52nd of the season.
Westrum got hauled down on an offensive rush with three minutes left, but there was no call.
Rookie defenseman Chris Ovington ripped a shot from the low right circle with 2:08 remaining, but Rinne stood tall.
Harding made a great save with 1:45 left after an Aeros turnover, robbing Gamache on a breakaway. Seconds later, Rinne swallowed up Clayton Stoner
’s drive from the left circle.
Houston pulled Harding with 61 seconds left, and O’Sullivan hit the outside of the net with the Aeros’ best chance, and Pivko finished things off with an empty-netter with 11 ticks remaining.
Houston finished 1-for-9 on the power play, while Milwaukee went 1-for-6.
| Not dressing for the Aeros were Miroslav Kopriva, Ryan Stokes, A.J. Thelen, Colin Peters, Peter Olvecky, Bill Kinkel, Roman Voloshenko and Brendan Bernakevitch. The team scoring first lost in regulation just once in 12 meetings this season. Rookie winger Ryan Hamilton, signed to an ATO out of Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League, made his pro debut alongside fellow rookie Danny Irmen and veteran Joey Tetarenko. O’Sullivan raised another $100 for the Watson Family Foundation’s “Rookies for Ronald” program. The donation is up to $600. Harding’s 26 saves pushed the “Saves: Saving Lives” donation to $2,420. |