|Wolf Pack 4, Aeros 3
| Official Box Score HARTFORD, Conn. - Thomas Pock’s second goal of the game snapped a tie with 3:56 left in regulation, as the Hartford Wolf Pack held off the Houston Aeros 4-3 at Hartford Civic Center. Martin Sonnenberg and Craig Weller also scored while former Aeros farmhand Robert Gherson made 19 stops in relief of an apparently injured Al Montoya (15 saves). Hartford extended its points streak to five games (4-0-0-1).
Kirby Law, Joel Ward and Bryan Lundbohm each scored a power play goal and Miroslav Kopriva made 30 saves for Houston (35-14-1-2), which has lost four of five on the road. The Aeros have dropped the first two games of a five-game road trip that continues Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Cleveland.
Hartford needed only 46 seconds to get on the board, as the Wolf Pack beat the Aeros down the ice. Kopriva stopped Lee Falardeau’s partial breakaway, but Sonnenberg - traded from San Antonio last month - hopped on the rebound and put it into the open cage for his 11th of the season - first with Hartford.
Houston’s Bill Kinkel went toe-to-toe with Hartford’s Martin Grenier midway through the first in a bout that ended with both players bloodied.
Law was set up on a 2-on-1 by Patrick O’Sullivan late in the first, but he fired a shot wide from the left circle.
Law did find the net 1:52 into the second, with Houston on the power play. Erik Reitz kept the puck in at the right point and found O’Sullivan in the right corner. O’Sullivan threw the puck in front, and Law one-timed the shot by Montoya for his team-leading 30th goal. It marked Houston’s first goal at Hartford Civic Center in 168:49.
Houston’s Joey Tetarenko earned a clear decision over Weller, Hartford’s captain, two minutes after the goal.
Seconds later, Aeros defenseman Curtis Murphy was called for hooking, leading to Pock’s power play goal which put Hartford back on top 2-1 at the 4:16 mark. Hugh Jessiman fed Pock from behind the net, and the high-scoring Austrian defenseman went low on Kopriva from the mid slot for his ninth of the season - sixth on the power play.
Houston’s Erik Westrum, the AHL’s leading scorer, got wrestled to the ground well behind the play by Fedor Fedorov, a minute later, leading to a major scrum and an Aeros power play.
Kopriva robbed Dwight Helminen’s shorthanded breakaway with his glove six minutes into the third after Murphy fell down at the blueline. It would have been Hartford’s league-leading 18th shorthanded goal of the season. Seconds later, Houston rookie Roman Voloshenko snuck in alone, but Montoya made the save with his body.
Montoya made another great save after the power play expired, as Lundbohm got alone in front. Lundbohm tried to go top shelf on a feed from Kinkel, but Montoya pushed the attempt into the corner with his glove.
Montoya exited the game a minute later, at 8:09 of the second, replaced by Gherson, who was property of the Aeros in 2004-05.
O’Sullivan had the first two good chances on Gherson, with Houston on the power play and seven minutes left in the second. O’Sullivan first ripped a shot just over the crossbar, and then Gherson swallowed up his shot from the right circle. The rookie snared Law’s point-blank attempt later on the man advantage.
Ward’s fourth of the season - second in three games - got Houston even again on that same power play, with 5:36 left in the middle period. Rem Murray carried the puck on the left wing side. As the veteran got ready to go behind the net, he feathered a pass through bodies in the low slot to Ward in the right circle. The rookie popped the puck top shelf, short side and by Gherson.
The Aeros outshot the Wolf Pack 21-11 in the second period.
Hartford retook the lead on a goal nearly identical to its first one, in similar circumstances 55 seconds into the third period. Falardeau got in alone on the right wing and Kopriva made the save. An unmarked Weller put the rebound into the empty net for his eighth of the season.
O’Sullivan and Lundbohm took back-to-back holding the stick minors beginning at the 2:09 mark, stunting the Aeros’ comeback plans.
After killing off both the shorthanded chances, Houston got a power play and scored for the third time with the man advantage. Murphy sprung Lundbohm up the left wing, and the centerman beat Gherson for his eighth to knot the score at 3-3 with 7:31 gone in the third.
Bidding for his second power play goal of the game, Law hit the near post while alone in front midway through the third.
A stunning turn of events led to Pock’s second goal of the game, the deciding tally, with 3:56 left. Seconds after Houston’s Murray hit the crossbar at the end of a power play, Pock let a seemingly harmless shot go from the blueline. Kopriva lost his balance, and the puck eluded him for Pock’s 10th of the season.
Hartford toughguy Joe Rullier got called for roughing with 1:01 remaining, giving Houston a 6-on-4 advantage. Westrum just missed the net on a nifty cross-crease feed from Law. Pock then got called for holding the stick with 28 seconds left, and after Kopriva briefly went back on the ice for the faceoff, the Aeros couldn’t get the equalizer while 6-on-3.
The Aeros have been outscored 8-4 in the third period of their last four games.
Houston finished 3-for-9 on the power play, while Hartford went 1-for-6. The Wolf Pack had allowed just three man advantage goals in the last seven games.
Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Josh Harding, Peter Olvecky, Scott Ferguson, Matt Foy and Andrei Nazarov. Olvecky missed the fourth of four games from an AHL suspension stemming from a charging penalty last month in Peoria. Westrum assisted Lundbohm’s goal, raising his league-leading point total to 76 (24-52=76). Houston trailed after one period for the first time in 12 games. Law has 398 AHL points (188-210=398) in 518 games. Murphy’s 143 points trail only Greg Hawgood’s 145 for the all-time lead among Aeros defensemen. Houston fell to 33-4-0-1 when scoring three goals or more, and dropped to 4-10-0-1 when allowing four or more. Hartford scored the game’s first goal for the 36th time, an AHL-high. The Aeros are 20-4-0-1 when scoring two or more power play goals. Due to the Nor’easter hitting the area tonight, the Aeros were not expected to be able to travel back to Houston until Monday.