Official Box Score DES MOINES, Iowa – Josh Harding
made 19 of his season-high 48 saves in a perfect third period and helped kill off all 10 Iowa power plays, and former Star Shawn Belle broke a tie with a man advantage goal early in the second period, as the Houston Aeros earned their fourth straight road win, 3-1 over Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena. Erik Reitz and Josh Olson also scored for Houston (6-7-0-1), which has won three in a row overall and six of eight. The Aeros, who moved into a fourth-place tie with Peoria, climbed within five points of the third-place Stars and are just six points out of first, finish off their four-game road trip Wednesday in Milwaukee at 7 p.m.
Rookie Marty Sertich scored and Dan Ellis stopped 26 shots for Iowa (9-5-0-0), which has lost three in a row for the first time this season. The Stars won the first three meetings of the season with the Aeros, who swept a two-game set this week in Des Moines.
Harding has allowed just 12 goals in his last seven games, going 5-2-0. He has played in each of the Aeros’ 14 games this season, including 13 starts. Harding has played all but 21 of the Aeros’ minutes in goal and leads the AHL in minutes and saves. He lowered his gaa to 2.32, and raised his save pct. to .928. He has won his last three starts, allowing five goals on 127 shots for a stellar .962 save pct.
Harding, who stopped 18-of-19 shots in the third period last night, did the same in the first tonight, and helped the Aeros kill off six penalties alone in the opening 20 minutes, including four 5-on-3’s.
After killing off an early penalty to Olson, the Aeros had a great chance 2-on-1, seven minutes in. Wyatt Smith snapped a shot wide of the near post, and Danny Irmen just missed the rebound attempt, crashing in from the left circle.
Sertich, the reigning Hobey Baker winner, put Iowa on the board first, 8:41 into the game. Mario Scalzo sprung Sertich for a breakaway up the right wing side, and Sertich went in and went low on Harding for his fourth goal of the season. Iowa fell to 6-3-0-0 this season when scoring first.
Houston, which went down two men for nearly 2 ½ minutes late in the third period Thursday night, had a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 51 seconds past the midway point of the period. However, the Stars couldn’t connect.
In fact, rookie Benoit Pouliot stole the puck coming out of the box, and his hustling play led to Reitz’ shorthanded goal, with 6:39 left. Pouliot bowled over a Star at the blueline, raced to the puck at center ice and threaded a pass to a cutting Reitz up the right side. Reitz ripped a partial breakaway shot by Ellis for his first goal of the season.
But with the Aeros still shorthanded for 40 more seconds, Curtis Murphy got whistled for a penalty, leading to another 5-on-3. The Aeros killed off all but seven seconds of the second penalty, before Ryan Stokes went off for roughing.
With 1:11 left on the second penalty, a bench minor penalty led to another length 5-on-3, Houston’s sixth penalty of the opening 16 minutes against none for Iowa.
The Stars received their first penalty of the game with 1:10 left in the first, and Houston got 1:36 of 5-on-3 spanning both periods after a cross-check call on Mark Fistric.
Houston turned the game around in the second period, outshooting the Stars 15-11 and taking a one-goal lead with the stanza’s only goal.
Ellis made a diving save on Smith’s rebound attempt from the left circle in the opening seconds of the middle period.
With 14 seconds left on the Aeros’ next power play, Belle’s first of the season put Houston on top 2-1 with 3:26 gone in the second. Belle took a pass from Murphy and floated a long shot through traffic that eluded a screened Ellis.
Sertich hit the far post with a deflection 11 minutes into the second.
Harding stoned Yared Hagos late in the second, when the Stars forward bullied his way to the net from the corner.
Harding made three great saves in the waning seconds of the middle period, with Iowa on the power play.
The Aeros goalie was again under pressure in the third, as the Stars outshot Houston 19-6, but Iowa never could get the equalizer.
Aeros rookie Ben Thomson wristed a shot off the post on the power play early in the third.
The Stars had their best chance with four minutes left. After making an initial save at the right post, Harding ranged back to the left post to make perhaps his best save of the night. But Stokes picked up a penalty on the play, leading to the Stars’ 10th power play of the night. However, Harding and the Aeros were again perfect.
Iowa pulled Ellis with 2:10 remaining, and Junior Lessard nearly tied it up with 1:38 left. The former Aero ripped a shot from point-blank range. Harding made the juggling save.
Ellis went back in the net on that faceoff, but was later pulled, and Olson finished things off with the empty-netter with 11 ticks remaining.
Houston went 1-for-5 on the power play, while Iowa finished 0-for-10. The Aeros have killed off 53-of-56 shorthanded chances in the last seven games. Notes:Not dressing for the Aeros were Steve Shields, Dieter Kochan, Peter Ratchuk, Alex Leavitt, Roman Voloshenko and Joey Tetarenko. In a rarity this season, the Aeros played with the same lineup in two straight games. Belle has five points (1-4=5) in 13 games in this, his second season. That matches his point total (2-3=5) in 61 games for Iowa and Houston last season. Matt Foy (assist on Belle goal) has a four-game point streak, the longest for an Aero this season. His 101 career points tie Shawn Carter for 23rd place on the team’s all-time list. Foy has tallied 16 points (5-11=16) in 14 career games against Iowa. Houston’s four straight road wins are the most since a season-best five-game streak from February 15-26 of last season. Former Aeros defenseman Colin Peters played for Iowa tonight after being a healthy scratch last night. Houston was set to play its seven straight one-goal road game prior to Olson’s goal. Murphy had two assists.