Official Box Score SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Twenty-year-old Patrick O’Sullivan notched his second hat trick, Rem Murray and Kirby Law scored a goal apiece and Josh Harding had 36 saves and a career-best two assists for his league-leading 20th victory, as the Houston Aeros defeated the San Antonio Rampage 5-3 at SBC Center for their eighth straight victory. Matt Foy added two assists for the Aeros (26-8-1-1), who have more wins in their first 36 games than any other season in franchise-history. Houston has won eight in a row for the first time since beginning the 2002-03 season with eight straight. The franchise record is 11, set November 27-December 20, 1996.
Houston returns home to begin a seven-game homestand Friday at 7:35 p.m. versus North Division leader Grand Rapids. It’s 50’s Night so dress accordingly! Also, the first 3,000 fans will receive an Aeros paddleball as the Aeros try to extend their home winning streak to eight games. Click here
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The Aeros improved to 15-1-1-0 in the last 17 meetings with the Rampage, and they are 7-1-1-0 in their last nine trips to SBC Center.
Layne Ulmer, Ray Schultz and Mike Bishai each scored and David LeNeveu made 27 stops for San Antonio, which is 0-5-1-0 in its last six after winning five of seven.
Each of Houston’s last five hat tricks have come by rookies - two each by O’Sullivan and Roman Voloshenko this season, and one by Bill Kinkel in 2004-05. O’Sullivan’s other hat trick came November 30 against Cleveland, and he took over the AHL’s league lead in rookie scoring with 35 points (19-16=35). The Aeros’ four hat tricks this season are one off the team record, set in the inaugural 1994-95 season and matched the next campaign. Houston has two players with more than one hat trick for the first time in franchise history.
After Houston killed off back-to-back penalties early, Murray’s seventh of the season put the Aeros on top at 10:46. Petr Taticek dug the puck out of the corner to Joel Ward behind the net. Ward walked out to the left doorstep and sent a no-look pass to an unmarked Murray at the right edge of the goal. Murray easily tapped the puck into the empty net.
Less than a minute later, former Rampage winger Joey Tetarenko nearly got his first goal of the season, as LeNeveu just squeezed the puck between his pads on Tetarenko’s right circle drive.
O’Sullivan’s first goal made it 2-0, with Houston on the power play exactly one minute later. On a feed from Curtis Murphy, O’Sullivan carried the puck into the zone on the left wing and sent a seemingly harmless shot on LeNeveu from the low circle. The puck snuck short side by LeNeveu, just 18 ticks after the power play began.
LeNeveu kept the Rampage in the game with 4:20 left, robbing Law with his left pad on a breakaway and Houston on the power play.
Ulmer got the Rampage within a goal with 2:46 left, just 10 seconds after that Aeros man advantage expired. Ulmer snuck behind the Houston defense, took a breakaway pass from Steve Gainey and beat Harding high glove side for his ninth goal.
O’Sullivan’s second power play goal of the period pushed the lead back to two goals, with 19 ticks left in the period. Foy whirled a pass from behind the net to a waiting O’Sullivan in the left circle, and the rookie one-timed a top-shelf blast by LeNeveu.
Schultz’ first goal of 2005-06 got San Antonio within a goal once again 1:43 into the second. Schultz let go of a quick shot from just outside the left circle, and it beat Harding short side.
O’Sullivan answered back to complete the hat trick at 5:40 of the second. Harding, who had two assists, cleared the puck to Foy at center ice. O’Sullivan caught up to Foy for a 2-on-1, and the rookie took a pass down the middle, broke by the defender and slid a backhander five-hole under LeNeveu, all while being dragged down from behind. The tally was his 19th of the season.
Just 53 seconds later, Law’s amazing individual play made it 5-2. He stole the puck at the blueline after an aggressive forecheck, skated around a pair of defenders into the right circle and unleashed a furious drive blocker side and just inside the far post for his league-leading 22nd goal of the season and 199th of his pro career.
Harding made one of his best saves of the year a minute later, robbing former Minnesota Wild forward Eric Chouinard. Chouinard found himself all alone in front and went backhand, but Harding snared the puck with his glove.
The Rampage did get within 5-3 at 9:36 of the second, with Bishai’s shorthanded goal. With a crush of bodies in front, the puck bounced by Harding, apparently off Aeros defenseman Clayton Stoner
Houston dodged a bullet with 6:39 left, when David Cornacchia rebounded a miss behind Harding and put the puck in the net, but referee Tom Sterns - on the opposite side of the ice - had blown the play dead.
Harding rescued the Aeros early in the third, stopping Bishai after he stepped through two defenders with Houston power play. Harding ranged to his left to stop Bishai’s backhander.
LeNeveu robbed O’Sullivan’s chance at a fourth goal with 10:50 left, getting just a piece of his glove on the rookie’s rebound attempt.
The Rampage pulled LeNeveu for most of the last two minutes but couldn’t score.
Houston finished 2-for-10 on the power play, while San Antonio went 0-for-4. The Aeros are 16-1-0-0 when scoring at least two man advantage goals. Notes: Not dressing for the Aeros were Miroslav Kopriva, Bill Kinkel, Scott Ferguson and Andrei Nazarov. Houston assigned forwards Mark Rooneem and Adam Courchaine to ECHL Pensacola prior to the game. Aeros winger Peter Olvecky returned after missing seven games due to injury. Houston has trailed in 12 of its 25 victories, including four deficits of two goals. The Aeros also rallied from two down for a 4-3 overtime win versus Omaha four games ago. The Aeros’ Erik Westrum, who leads the AHL with 49 points (14-35=49), saw his 11-game point streak snapped. Law (22-26=48) moved within a point of his teammate. Westrum’s 11-game run was the longest since Brian Wiseman’s franchise-record 15-game streak in 1998-99. Westrum was held without a point for just the eighth time in 36 games. Law, who assisted on O’Sullivan’s second goal, has 16 points (8-8=16) in an eight-game point streak, a season-high. Law is three goals shy of becoming the 12th in team history with 50 goals, and three points from becoming the 23rd with 100 points. Taticek’s six-game point streak (2-7=9) is a career-high. Houston is 25-1-0-0 when scoring three or more goals. Tetarenko played in his 300th AHL game. San Antonio’s Serge Dube made his debut, becoming the 41st member of the Rampage to play in a game in just 36 games. In comparison, the Aeros have used just 29 players. Murphy’s assist was his 128th point with the Aeros, tying him with Jeff Tory for both sixth place on the team’s all-time list and second among Houston has faced a goalie that has seen action in the NHL this season in eight of its last 10 games. That’ll likely be nine of 11 Friday as Jimmy Howard is expected to go for Grand Rapids. The Rampage is 2-18-0-0 in games decided by two or more goals.