Official Box Score WORCESTER, Mass. –
Tomas Plihal netted the game-winner with 2:27 left in regulation and Dmitri Patzold made 22 saves, as the Worcester Sharks knocked off the Houston Aeros 3-2 at DCU Center. Brad Staubitz and Mike Iggulden added a goal apiece for Worcester (21-16-1-6), which moved within a point of third-place Providence in the Atlantic Division.
Joel Ward tallied Houston’s fourth shorthanded goal in as many games, Matt Foy also scored and Dieter Kochan made 17 stops in his second start of the season. The Aeros (18-21-1-5) play the middle game of their three-game road trip Friday in Manchester.
Kochan overskated the puck behind his own net with Worcester on the power play early in the game, but the netminder scrambled back to stop a would-be goal from Sean Collins.
Patzold got lucky before the midway point, as Benoit Pouliot’s wide-open 2-on-1 attempt from the right doorstep beat him clean but clanged off the near post.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead on Staubitz’ first goal of the season with 8:04 remaining in the first period. Josh Prudden, in the left circle, hit a cutting Lukas Kaspar. Kaspar slid a left-to-right pass for Staubitz at the right edge of the goal, just seconds after Staubitz was dumped to the ice by an Aeros defenseman. Staubitz got up in time to get one shot off, and after Kochan made the save, he pushed the rebound by the netminder.
The Aeros have allowed the game’s first goal in 12 of their last 14 games, including seven straight overall and seven straight on the road. The Sharks, meanwhile, scored first for just the 14th time – fewest in the AHL.
Ward evened things up with his fifth of the season – Houston’s fourth shorthanded goal in as many games and fifth in six contests – with 3:18 left in the first. Bryan Lundbohm stole the puck and skated in 2-on-1 with Ward. Faking the shot, Lundbohm hit a cutting Ward in the right circle, and the second-year winger fired the puck into the open net. The goal was just the fourth shorthanded tally allowed by Worcester this season.
Kaspar got in alone for Worcester early in the second, but he fired a shot wide of the net.
Kochan kept the game tied with a great pokecheck with seven minutes left in the middle period.
Aeros sniper Roman Voloshenko found himself between the circles two minutes later with his team on the power play, but he ripped the puck just wide of the net.
Iggulden put Worcester back on top 2-1 with 1:57 gone in the second. Kochan stopped Iggulden’s first shot, after a great cross ice pass from defenseman Garrett Stafford. But Iggulden found the rebound and pushed it by Kochan for his 15th goal of the season.
Two minutes later, Aeros leading scorer Foy had a breakaway, but Patzold made the save.
But Foy exacted some revenge with 12:12 remaining, tying the game at 2-2. Foy came out of the corner and flipped a centering pass across the crease. The puck went by Patzold and into the net off a defenseman’s skate for Foy’s team-best and career-high 17th goal of the season. Fifteen of his previous 16 goals came at Toyota Center, with the other coming at San Antonio’s AT&T Center.
Ward helped prevent a goal with less than three minutes left in regulation. Worcester’s leading scorer, Mathieu Darche, picked up a loose rebound in the left circle with an open net to shoot at, but Ward picked Darche’s pocket from behind.
But seconds later, Plihal’s fifth of the season decided the game with 2:27 remaining. Collins skated into the right corner, faked a shot and slid the puck to a cutting Plihal, who fired high over Kochan, who had gone down.
Houston finished 0-for-3 power play, while Worcester went 0-for-5. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Ryan Hamilton, Josh Olson and Joey Tetarenko. Aeros goalie Josh Harding was recalled by NHL Minnesota earlier in the day. Miroslav Kopriva was recalled from ECHL Texas to back up Kochan. The Aeros haven’t scored the first goal in a game since January 7 against San Antonio. On the road, Houston hasn’t taken a 1-0 lead since December 14, the only game in a span of 11 road games the Aeros have broken on top early. Houston, which lost 3-2 in OT at home to Milwaukee last night, traveled 1,811 miles today to play – the longest amount ever traveled by the Aeros on a gameday. All but eight of Worcester’s games have been decided by one or two goals. Former Aeros defensemen Scott Ferguson and Patrick Traverse faced their old team. Houston dropped to 1-15-1-1 when scoring two or fewer goals. The Aeros are 17-6-0-4 when scoring three or more. The Aeros fell to 6-7-1-5 in one-goal games. Houston has scored just three even strength goals in its last five games.