|Admirals 4, Aeros 3
| Official Box Score MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – Sheldon Brookbank scored Milwaukee’s fourth power play goal of the night with 4:23 left in regulation – his first goal in 28 career games against Houston – as the second-place Admirals held on for a frantic 4-3 victory over the first-place Aeros at Bradley Center. Libor Pivko tallied a goal and two assists, while Darren Haydar added a goal and a helper for Milwaukee (41-19-5-2), which draws within four points (93-89) of the Aeros, who have a game in hand. Rich Peverley also scored and rookie All-Star Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for the Admirals, who had lost three of four and go on the road for 10 of their final 13 games. Milwaukee entered the game 2-for-41 on the power play against Houston this season, but cashed in on 4-of-12 chances tonight as the Aeros allowed four power play goals for the second time in three games.
Peter Olvecky scored twice, Roman Voloshenko added a goal and Miroslav Kopriva made 24 saves for Houston (45-18-1-2), which trailed 2-0 and 3-2 but was in position to pick up at least one point until Brookbank’s goal. Matt Foy and Erik Reitz each chipped in two assists for the Aeros, whose magic number for clinching a Calder Cup Playoffs berth did drop to three points thanks to Rochester’s 4-3 shootout win over Iowa tonight.
Houston plays game the finale of a four-game road trip Saturday in San Antonio at 7 p.m. It continues a stretch of nine road games out of 10 for the Aeros, who play just one home game the rest of the month (this Sunday against San Antonio). Because Iowa does not play Saturday, the earliest the Aeros can clinch a Calder Cup Playoffs spot is Sunday.
The Aeros, who had won their last six one-goal games, fell to 21-6-1-2 in such contests, and 28-10-1-2 in games decided by two goals or less. Houston has seen 15 of its last 19 games be decided by one or two goals, going 10-4-0-1. Houston’s 21 one-goal wins are the most in the AHL. Milwaukee is 18-4-5-2 in one-goal games. Only Grand Rapids (19-3-1-4) has fewer regulation losses in one-goal games. On the road, Houston is one off the league-lead with nine one-goal wins, while Milwaukee’s has suffered just one regulation loss at home in that situation (11-1-2-0).
Milwaukee got two early power plays, but it was Houston that got the best chance of the first 10 minutes. While shorthanded, Curtis Murphy faked a shot from the right point and threaded a pass to a cutting Olvecky. The young Slovakian forward redirected the pass off the near post. Joel Ward followed up from the left circle, but Rinne made the save. Ward’s shot was Houston’s only one of the opening 11 minutes.
Pivko scored on Milwaukee’s first good quality chance, on the power play with 3:49 left in the first. Brookbank let go of a shot from the center point. Kopriva made the save, but the rebound squirted to an unmarked Pivko low in the right circle. The All-Star popped the puck into a wide-open net for his 11th goal of the season.
The goal marked Milwaukee’s first on the power play against Houston in the last 40 opportunities dating back to the first meeting of the season.
Milwaukee dominated the early part of the second period territorially with the help of three power plays. The Ads outshot Houston 10-1 in the first 12 minutes.
The Admirals connected on a 5-on-3 at the 4:34 mark of the second, just 14 seconds after the second penalty – a hooking call to Josh Olson. Pivko set up Haydar for his 100th career goal – 25th this season.
Houston’s Joey Tetarenko earned a decision over T.J. Reynolds in a heavyweight battle at 7:47 of the second.
But then the Aeros came back in stunning fashion, scoring twice in a 51-second span.
Rinne stoned Voloshenko’s point-blank attempt on the power play with seven minutes left. With Houston on the power play, Kirby Law fed Voloshenko from behind the net, but the rookie was denied his 19th power play goal.
But just after that power play expired, Olvecky got the Aeros within a goal, with 6:09 remaining in the middle period. Reitz sprung Foy up the left wing. Foy got around everyone, but Rinne pokechecked the flying attempt aside. Olvecky crashed the net, and put the puck in the net through some traffic, for his 10th goal of the season.
Voloshenko did garner the 19th power play goal – one off Jeff Christian’s 1998-99 team record – with 5:18 left, just 51 seconds after Olvecky got the Aeros on the board. Erik Westrum took a Murphy feed and hit a shot wide of the net. The puck came off the boards right to Voloshenko in the deep slot, and the rookie found the net for his 31st goal.
Brookbank and Ryan Stokes went at it at center ice late in the second, with the teams 4-on-4.
Kopriva made a great save with 1:30 left in the second, as Haydar broke out of the box and grabbed a loose puck at center ice. With Murphy the lone man back, Haydar snapped a shot that Kopriva ranged to his left to stop.
Houston’s Bryan Lundbohm broke in a stick-length ahead of the pack shorthanded and got hooked from behind by Pivko with 21 seconds remaining in the second, negating the Milwaukee power play.
Kopriva stoned Aeros nemesis Simon Gamache with the teams 4-on-4 early in the third.
Seconds later, after a penalty to newcomer Shawn Belle, Peverley scored Milwaukee’s third power play goal of the night to reclaim the lead. He took a feed from Haydar at the left point and ripped a high shot by Kopriva for his eighth goal of the season at the 54-second mark.
A boarding call to Houston rookie Clayton Stoner led to 61 seconds of a 5-on-3 at the 1:40 mark. Despite having two of their penalty-killing blueliners in the penalty box, the Aeros saved the two-man advantage.
A tripping call to Milwaukee’s T.J. Reynolds set up Olvecky’s second of the game and 11th of the season, after his hustle play along the boards led to Reynolds’ penalty. Again, Foy and Reitz assisted on the rebound goal, giving the 20-year-old his second two-goal game as an Aero.
Milwaukee went on its 11th power play of the night with 5:28 left after a hooking call to Josh Olson, the ninth hooking minor of the game.
That call led to Brookbank’s fifth goal of the season, as he completed the so-called “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” (goal, assist and fighting major) with Milwaukee’s fourth power play goal of the night. Gamache carried the puck behind the net and fed Brookbank in the deep slot. Brookbank one-timed the puck by Kopriva for the game-winner, with 4:23 remaining.
Stoner unleashed a furious one-timer from the left point with 1:14 left, but Rinne made a big save through traffic.
With Kopriva off for the extra attacker, Houston’s Patrick O’Sullivan ripped a rebound attempt just wide with 30 seconds left, and Foy was called for slashing trying to get to the rebound.
The Aeros have been outscored 14-3 in the third period over their last seven games. They are 3-4-0-0 in that stretch.
Houston finished 2-for-9 on the power play, while Milwaukee went 4-for-12. The Aeros fell to 26-5-0-1 when scoring at least two power play goals, and they’ve done that in 22 of their last 41 games. Houston has now allowed 13 power play goals in its last six games.
Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Colin Peters, Bill Kinkel, newcomer Greg Mauldin and Andrei Nazarov. Kinkel sat out the six game of a seven-game AHL suspension. He’s eligible to return Sunday at home against San Antonio. Murphy’s assist earned another $100 for “Murphy’s Mission”, benefiting I Have a Dream. He’s helped the charity earn $900 in eight games. Murphy’s 58 points (10-48=58) this season are a new career-high, bettering the 57 he had in his rookie campaign of 1998-99 in Orlando. His 58 points are just two off Syracuse’s Andy Delmore’s league-best for defensemen. Westrum (31-61=92) cut Law’s (36-57=93) lead in the AHL scoring race to just one point. Law had a five-game point streak snapped. O’Sullivan, the AHL’s leading rookie scorer (42-36=78), had a six-game point streak snapped. Reitz notched his second two-point game of the season. He also had two assists October 21 against Grand Rapids. Foy has four points (1-3=4) in the last two games after going five games without a point. The Aeros fell to 43-5-0-1 when scoring three goals or more. They are 2-13-1-1 when scoring two or fewer. Houston is 2-7-1-1 on the road in March in the last two seasons.