Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas - Twenty-year-old rookie Patrick O’Sullivan tallied a hat trick, Kirby Law added two goals and Erik Westrum and Josh Olson also scored, as the Houston Aeros rolled to a 7-2 victory over the Cleveland Barons at Toyota Center. Josh Harding made 20 saves for Houston (16-7-1-1), which moved to a Western Conference-best 34 points.
Houston finished with nine wins (9-3-0-1) in the month of November for the first time in team history. Last season’s team held the previous mark at 8-6-0-1.
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Josh Prudden scored both goals and Jamie Holden stopped 31 shots for Cleveland, which is 1-6-1-0 in its last eight.
O’Sullivan, who scored two goals November 11 versus Omaha, now has 19 points (10-9=19) to move into sixth place among AHL rookies. The Winston-Salem, N.C., native has accumulated 12 points (7-5=12) in his last nine games alone. The Aeros are 6-1-0-0 when O’Sullivan scores a goal, and 12-1-0-1 when he gets at least one point.
It took O’Sullivan, the Wild’s 2003 second-round draft pick, only 58 seconds into the game to get things going with a beauty. Petr Taticek headmanned a pass for O’Sullivan, who somehow caught a bouncing puck on his stick just outside the blueline. O’Sullivan skated into the left circle, wound up and fired a slapshot that beat Holden high glove side before the goalie could react.
The Barons tested Harding three straight times 6:30 into the first, but he made each save, including an acrobatic stop on Shane Joseph’s wide open rebound attempt.
O’Sullivan nearly created a second goal for Houston before the period’s midway point, with the Aeros on the power play. His cross-ice pass led Law into the Cleveland zone, but Holden stayed low on Law’s shot and covered up. A minute later, Holden snared O’Sullivan’s one-timer from the right point, with Law sending the 60-foot pass.
Westrum’s 11th goal and AHL-best 33rd point pushed the Aeros’ lead to two goals with 6:38 left in the first. Curtis Murphy’s shot from the center point was knocked down by a defenseman, but the puck dropped right at Westrum’s feet in the right circle. Westrum wound up and beat Holden glove side, just inside the post and under the crossbar.
Holden ranged far from his left-to-right to rob O’Sullivan of his second of the night, with Houston again on the power play late in the first. Westrum, at the right point, streamed another pass through the defense, but Holden was there.
O’Sullivan’s second of the game made it 3-0 at the 3:20 mark of the second. With a strong forecheck, Joey Tetarenko stole the puck in the right circle and fed O’Sullivan in the corner. O’Sullivan confidently walked in on net, deked Holden before pushing the puck inside the far post for his ninth goal.
O’Sullivan had two more good chances to complete the hat trick before the period’s midway point. Westrum set him up with a cross-ice pass to the left doorstep, but Holden kicked out the attempt. O’Sullivan grabbed the rebound and alertly threw the puck back at Holden’s pads, but the goalie covered up with 14:40 left.
Less than two minutes later, O’Sullivan wound up a slapper from the right point. Holden couldn’t handle the rocket with his glove, but he pounced on the rebound in time.
Houston’s hard-working checking line made it 4-0 with 3:16 remaining in the second. Erik Reitz sent a pass up the right wing boards to Joel Ward. Ward skated into the zone 2-on-1 with Olson and fed his cutting linemate a perfect pass. Olson chipped the puck over a sliding Holden for his fourth of the season.
The Aeros had to try and kill off a five-minute high-sticking penalty to Ryan Stokes early in the third, and the Barons got on the board at 3:19 when Prudden stuck a rebound in the back of the net. The goal snapped Houston’s penalty kill streak at 39.
Law made it 5-1 with an unassisted breakaway up the left wing with 8:25 left. He ripped a top shelf shot by Holden for his 11th of the season.
Prudden’s second of the night drew the Barons back within three goals 4:32 remaining, but Law’s power-play goal pushed the lead to 6-2 with 2:24 left. O’Sullivan finished off the hat trick with his 10th of the season, with 20 ticks remaining.
Houston finished 1-for-4 the power play, while Cleveland went 1-for-5. Notes: The Aeros scratched Bill Kinkel, Matt Foy and Andrei Nazarov. Houston improved to 15-2-1-3 in its last 21 regular-season home games, and 23-4-1-3 in the last 31. Harding has 33 wins in his season-plus with the Aeros, one behind Manny Fernandez and Troy Gamble for a tie for third place on the team’s all-time list. Murphy’s point was his 119th as an Aero, tying current Chicago Blackhawk Mark Cullen for 13th on the team’s all-time list. Murphy ranks fourth overall among Aeros blueliners in team history - just one behind Travis Roche (120) for third. The Aeros are 9-1-0-0 when outshooting their opponent. Houston hasn’t lost a home game in regulation when it has led at any point during the game (9-0-1-1). The Aeros are 8-2-0-0 when Westrum scores and 15-2-0-1 when he gets at least one point. Harding leads the AHL with 12 wins (12-5-0), and he’s 7-2-0 since returning from a lower body injury earlier this month. Sullivan, center Bryan Lundbohm (two assists) and defensemen Dustin Wood and Colin Peters were each a team-best plus-three. Rookie Roman Voloshenko added two assists, and Olson added a helper for a two-point night.