|Aeros 4, Stars 1
| Official Box Score DES MOINES, Iowa - AHL leading scorer Erik Westrum scored two goals, his nearest competition Kirby Law tallied a goal and two assists to set a new career-high with 76 points, and leading rookie scorer Patrick O’Sullivan netted a goal and an assist, as the Houston Aeros shook off a one-goal deficit for a 4-1 victory over the Iowa Stars at Wells Fargo Arena. Josh Harding outdueled former teammate Mike Smith with 34 saves and helped kill off five third-period shorthanded chances for Houston (37-14-1-2), which is 2-2-0-0 on a five-game road trip that ends Saturday at 1:05 p.m. in Iowa. The Aeros maintained a two-point West Division lead over Milwaukee, which defeated Manitoba 7-4 at home tonight. Saturday’s audio broadcast is Internet only, while the Iowa feed can be heard on XM Satellite Radio 204.
Smith, an Aero in 2004-05, made 20 stops and former Aero David Oliver scored a goal for the Stars (24-23-1-4), who are 0-2-0-2 in their last four and 1-4-0-2 in their last seven. Iowa remained in a fourth-place tie with idle Omaha.
Law moved into 10th place on the team’s all-time points list with 125 (57-68=125), two behind Oliver and Jeff Tory for a tie for eighth. Law is tied with Kyle Wanvig for sixth place on the team’s goal list. His 32 goals this season are tied for the sixth most by an Aero in any single season, with 26 games remaining.
Westrum’s 79 points (27-52=79) are the seventh most by an Aero in a single season, one behind Mark Freer and Brett Harkins, who are in a tie for fifth. Law’s 75 points are the 10th most in team history. Westrum leads the AHL with 79 points (27-52=79), three ahead of Law (32-44=76). The duo has combined for 22 points (11-11=22) in just six games against Iowa.
Each team had one very good chance in the first period. Prior to the midway point, Harding made two saves off a Ryan Stokes turnover, and minutes later, Smith’s sprawling save stopped Westrum’s drive from the left circle.
Action picked up considerably in a fast-paced second period, and the teams traded goals 45 seconds apart early in the frame.
Iowa broke on top 1:21 into the second, and it was Oliver - the former Aero - doing the damage for his seventh goal in as many games and his 12th of the season. Oliver, tied up in front with Aeros defenseman Dustin Wood, redirected Toby Petersen’s shot from the left point under Harding.
However, the Aeros answered right back. O’Sullivan bided his time in the right circle in transition, and the AHL’s leading rookie scorer fed Law across the ice. Law rifled a one-timer short side by Smith before the netminder could recover for his 32nd goal of the season - one off his career-best. The goal gave Law a new career-high in points with 74.
Westrum’s first goal of the game gave Houston its first lead at 8:38 of the second period, as Smith missed his rocket on a feed from Law.
A minute later, Westrum barely missed, just putting a shot over the crossbar.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Stokes squared off with Iowa’s Krys Barch in a lengthy battle. Each player landed no fewer than 10 punches in the bout, which lasted more than a minute.
Westrum’s second of the period and 27th of the season extended the advantage to 3-1 with 4:28 remaining in the second. Westrum stole the puck in the low slot, and his quick shot bounced off Smith’s glove and into the back of the net. Westrum has five two-goal games in the last 17 contests.
Harding robbed former Aero Marius Holtet’s 2-on-1 shorthanded attempt early in the third, and Holtet was called for goaltender interference, leading to 59 seconds of a 5-on-3. Aeros head coach Rob Daum called timeout to draw up a strategy and rest his top power play unit, and the maneuver worked.
After the first advantage expired, O’Sullivan scored his 31st goal - one off the Aeros’ rookie record. Matt Foy, in the left circle, slid a cross-crease pass to O’Sullivan low in the right circle. Using his patented move, O’Sullivan settled the puck and wristed a shot top shelf over Smith’s glove side, at 3:44 of the third. O’Sullivan has seven goals in his last seven games, and 12 in his last 13 since going five games without a goal.
Iowa got five straight power plays later in the third, but the Aeros’ penalty killers were perfect. The third and fourth penalties led to 30 seconds of 5-on-3 time for Iowa.
Houston finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Iowa went 0-for-7.
Houston has held its opponent without a third-period goal in 23 games this season, and it hasn’t lost in regulation (21-0-1-1). The Aeros have won their last 19 games when not allowing a goal in the final 20 minutes.
Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Miroslav Kopriva, Colin Peters, Roman Voloshenko, Joey Tetarenko and Andrei Nazarov. O’Sullivan leads all AHL rookies with 59 points (31-28=59). Cory Larose holds Aeros rookie records in goals (32), assists (32) and points (64), set in 2001-02. Houston has trailed at some point in 15 of its 37 victories, including each of the last two. Aeros defenseman Scott Ferguson picked up his 1000th penalty minute in 506 AHL games early in the second period. Westrum (24) and Law (21) rank first and second, respectively, on the Aeros in multiple-point games. Westrum’s six multiple-goal games trail only O’Sullivan’s seven for the team lead. Aeros defenseman Erik Reitz had a four-game point streak (1-3=4) snapped. It had tied his season- and career-high. The Aeros are 19-2-0-0 when Westrum scores a goal, 20-3-1-2 when Law scores and 19-2-0-1 when O’Sullivan finds the net. Former Aero and 1995 Stanley Cup champion Tom Chorske was at Wells Fargo Arena, doing color commentary for Iowa’s local television broadcast. He’ll do the same for Saturday’s game on XM Satellite Radio. Houston allowed two goals or less for just the third time in the last 10 games. Tonight marked the teams’ sixth meeting of the season, but it marked the only time Harding and Smith have faced each other for the entire game. Harding left Houston’s 6-1 win on January 12 after one game due to an injury that saw him sit out 13 games before returning Wednesday in Cleveland. Aeros rookie defenseman Clayton Stoner, who assisted on Westrum’s first goal, was a team-best plus-three.