Official Box Score DES MOINES, Iowa - Josh Olson, Bill Kinkel and Kirby Law each scored in the game’s opening 3:58, Curtis Murphy became Houston’s all-time leading goal scorer among defensemen and Seamus Kotyk made a season-high 45 saves, as the Aeros held off the Iowa Stars 4-3 at Wells Fargo Arena. Law added an assist to get within one point of teammate Erik Westrum for the AHL scoring lead and top rookie scorer Patrick O’Sullivan chipped in two helpers as Houston (38-14-1-2) finished off its five-game road trip with three straight wins. The Aeros increased their West Division lead to four points over Milwaukee, which is in action against third-place Peoria this afternoon.
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Law, who had eight points (3-5=8) in three games this week, has a goal in four straight games to move to 78 points (33-45-78) on the season, one behind Westrum’s league-leading total of 79 (27-52=79). Law moved into a tie for eighth place on the team’s all-time points list with 127 (58-69=127) in less than two seasons. Law and Westrum have combined for 24 points (12-12=24) in just seven games against Iowa. Murphy, meanwhile, scored his 43rd goal as an Aero - one better than Jeff Tory for the most among Houston defensemen - and the tally was also his 200th career AHL point.
Janos Vas, Yared Hagos and Toby Petersen each scored a goal and Dan Ellis made just four saves before being lifted for the Stars (24-24-1-4), who are 0-3-0-2 in their last five and 1-5-0-2 in their last eight. Mike Smith finished with 21 saves in relief for Iowa, which is in a fourth-place tie with Omaha.
Houston’s hard-working third line took only 31 seconds to get the Aeros on the board, as Olson notched his 11th of the season, cashing in on misses from Joel Ward and Bryan Lundbohm. The goal clanked off the crossbar and into the net.
The Stars appeared to have stemmed the tide a bit, but then the Aeros scored twice in a 54-second span to take a 3-0 advantage. Kinkel’s second goal of the season, a rebound of a shot by Law, came at 3:04.
Less than a minute later, Law took a pass from Rem Murray and carried the puck up the right wing side. He unleashed a slapshot from the low circle, and the puck went right under Ellis’ pads and into the back of the net. That ended Ellis’ day after he made four saves on seven shots.
Smith was tested four minutes later, sliding post-to-post to stop Westrum.
Vas, who was on the ice for each of Houston’s three goals, got Iowa on the board at 10:17 of the first. The puck got lost in a crush of bodies in front of Kotyk, and Vas snuck out and backhanded a shot by Kotyk for his second goal of the season.
The Stars almost got within a goal late in the period when Mathias Tjarnqvist broke in shorthanded after a Houston turnover in the neutral zone, but Kotyk did the splits to make the save.
In their last nine victories, the Aeros have outscored their opponents 21-6 in the first period. In the last 20 games overall, Houston has a 34-15 goal margin in the opening 20 minutes, and overall on the season the Aeros are an AHL-best plus-30 (69-39). Houston has trailed after one period just once in its last 15 games.
Iowa outshot Houston 17-4 in the second period, scoring once. The Stars were aided with five consecutive power plays in the stanza, after getting five straight in the third period last night. That gave Iowa 10 of the last 11 power plays in the series.
Hagos’ sixth goal of the season, with 4:04 left in the middle frame, got the Stars within 3-2. It came during some rare 5-on-5 time. Former Aero David Oliver, along the right wing boards, threaded a pass to a cutting Hagos at the far post. Hagos directed the puck into the net before Kotyk could recover.
The Aeros got two early power plays in the third, and they used Murphy’s eight goal of the season - sixth on the man advantage - to restore the advantage to two goals. Murphy took a pass from Matt Foy at the right point and blasted it by Smith at the 5:04 mark.
Aeros forward Petr Taticek was planted heavily into the boards behind Kotyk a minute later as he was hit by Junior Lessard. Taticek was slow to get up, but he remained in the game.
O’Sullivan had a breakaway with six minutes left, but shot wide of the net.
Murphy’s goal was important, as Petersen scored on a rebound of a Dan Jancevski point blast with 13 seconds left, with Smith on the bench for the extra attacker.
Houston went 1-for-5 on the power play, while Iowa finished 0-for-6. 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 61 points (31-30=61). Cory Larose holds Aeros rookie records in goals (32), assists (32) and points (64), set in 2001-02. The Aeros are 21-3-1-2 when Law scores a goal. Houston is 16-5-1-2 in one-goal games and an impressive 23-8-1-2 in games decided by two goals or less. Houston has seen eight of its last nine games be decided by one or two goals, going 5-2-0-1. Houston is 9-1-1-0 when allowing 40 or more shots. Paul DiPietro, who played for the Houston Aeros in the 1995-96 season, scored both goals as Switzerland stunned Team Canada 2-0 in Olympic round robin action today. DiPietro, who was born in Ontario but played the last six seasons in Switzerland, helped Martin Gerber (49 saves) stave off the Canadians. The Swiss, which beat the Czech Republic 3-2 Thursday, hasn’t won an Olympic medal since 1948 and hasn’t won a medal in any major tournament since the 1953 World Championship.