Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas –
Miroslav Kopriva made 36 saves and stopped all four shootout attempts, and Mattias Weinhandl scored a power play goal and the deciding shootout tally, as the Houston Aeros defeated the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights for the first time this season, 2-1 at Toyota Center. The Aeros (20-22-3-5) are 2-0-2-0 in their last four games to move within a point of fifth-place Peoria and five behind fourth-place Iowa.
Houston, which has played seven straight one-goal games and four straight overtime contests, hosts Omaha again on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. for another Maple Leaf Happy Hour Game
. The Aeros won for just the second time this season when scoring two goals or fewer (2-16-2-1). Houston improved to 1-2-0-3 against Omaha this season, and 6-0-0-2 all-time at home versus the Knights.
Ten of the 16 all-time meetings between the Aeros and Knights have been decided in overtime or a shootout, including the last four.
Curtis McElhinney made 24 stops for Omaha (29-15-3-1), which is seven points back of first-place Chicago but with four games in hand.
Kopriva was tested early, stoning Derek Couture’s one-timer from low in the left circle in the opening minute. Kopriva also got hit in the mask a minute later with Carsen Germyn’s blast.
McElhinney held Ryan Stokes’ shot from deep in the left circle with Jason Morgan in front of the net, with 3:16 gone in the game.
McElhinney got a pad on Ryan Hamilton’s breakaway attempt with nine minutes left in the first. Hamilton later ripped a shot wide on a 2-on-1.
Weinhandl put the Aeros on top 1-0, on the power play, with 4:14 left in the first. Peter Ratchuk’s blast from the right circle got blocked by a defenseman, and Weinhandl picked up the puck between the circles. He skated to the right and fired a quick shot by McElhinney for his 10th goal of the season.
After allowing the game’s first goal in eight straight outings, the Aeros have scored first in each of their last three games.
Kopriva stood his ground 7:05 into the second period, as Cam Cunning fired 2-on-1 from the right circle after an Aeros turnover in front of the Omaha bench.
At the period’s midway point, Bryan Lundbohm let loose on a 2-on-2 on a 4-on-4 with Erik Reitz cutting to the net, but McElhinney got a piece of the shot with his glove.
McElhinney was outstanding with 8:33 left in the second, with Houston wrapping up a power play. Reitz ripped a shot from the right point, and McElhinney closed the five-hole as Roman Voloshenko tried to tip the puck through.
Voloshenko later hopped out of the box and fed Josh Olson, but McElhinney made a fine pad save.
Shawn Belle put his team down a man for four minutes late in the second. First, he picked up a hooking penalty, and then an unsportsmanlike minor for arguing the call to referee Steve Kozari.
The Aeros have led 1-0 after two periods in each of their last three games. Each of the prior two games went to overtime or a shootout.
Houston killed off both of Belle’s penalties with relative ease.
McElhinney kept the Houston lead at one with a fine kick save on Weinhandl’s bullet from low in the right circle 5:45 into the third.
Kopriva swallowed up Kris Chucko’s blast from the right circle two minutes later.
But Omaha scored on the ensuing faceoff to tie the game. Chucko won the draw to Adam Pardy, who shot from the right point. Kopriva made the save, but Peters, in the low slot, pushed the puck by the fallen netminder for his 10th goal of the season.
The Aeros appeared to get a power play to try for the go-ahead goal with 3:52 left, when Brandon Prust upended Kopriva, who lost his helmet on the play. But Kopriva charged after Prust in the corner and earned a roughing call.
Germyn ripped a shot off the far post on the ensuing 4-on-4 with 2:30 remaining, just seconds after McElhinney kicked out a point drive by Curtis Murphy.
Prust set up Germyn in the right circle with a minute left, but Kopriva got a pad on the shot. On the other end, Foy pushed a centering pass jut wide of the net.
Houston received a power play with 30 seconds left after a diving call to Prust, and Aeros head coach Rob Daum called a timeout. But Murphy was called for cross-checking just 12 seconds later.
That meant the teams played the first 1:31 of overtime 3-on-3. Houston’s Peter Ratchuk had the best chance, but McElhinney reached out with his left pad to turn aside the backhander.
Reitz beat McElhinney five-hole with 3:40 left in overtime, but the puck didn’t get to the line. Aeros rookie Danny Irmen crashed the net but pushed the puck wide of an open net.
Houston got a power play with 3:14 remaining after a interference minor to Prust – his third in a five-minute span – but McElhinney’s glove stopped Reitz’ blast from the top of the left circle from going in. McElhinney also got a shoulder on Benoit Pouliot’s one-timer from the low right circle.
Daum elected to have Omaha shoot first. Germyn led off and tried to go low, but Kopriva made a stick save. Voloshenko countered and went with a quick wrister, but McElhinney got a piece of it with his glove.
Rookie Dustin Boyd went for Omaha in round two, and Kopriva stood his ground with a fake and pushed the puck over the net with his glove. Weinhandl, known for his fake, instead shot straight under McElhinney to give Houston the lead.
Andrei Taratukhin deked Kopriva to the ground, but the goalie stayed with the shot and made a pad save. Belle went high with a wrister to improve to 4-for-4 in shootouts.
Chucko was Omaha’s last hope, and Kopriva made the save.
Houston is 6-5 in shootouts, while Omaha lost for the first time (5-1). The Knights have played just nine extra time games – four against Houston. Kopriva is a perfect eight-of-eight in his last two shootouts, and each of his five starts this season have needed extra time.
Houston finished 1-for-7 on the power play, while Omaha went 0-for-6. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Peter Olvecky, Chris Ovington, Joel Ward and Joey Tetarenko. Ward was recalled by NHL Minnesota prior to the game. This is the second time this season the Aeros have scored first in three straight games. They also did it October 27-November 1. Houston has points in four straight games for the second time this season – the other being a five-game winning streak from November 4-17. The Aeros are 3-0-1-0 in their last four home games to move to 11-10-1-3 – above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Houston last played seven straight one-goal games from October 24-October 6, 2004. The Aeros have played four straight OT/SO games for the first time since December 27, 2003-January 2, 2004. The Aeros improved to 2-7-2-1 in games where goalie Josh Harding doesn’t play. Houston didn’t trail for just the second time in its last seven victories. The Aeros are 6-1-0-1 when Weinhandl scores a goal. Houston is 8-8-3-5 in one-goal games, but just 2-5-3-1 in its last 11 such games. The Aeros have only two non shootout one-goal wins, the last coming 3-2 at Iowa on November 9.