HOUSTON, Texas - Nineteen-year-old Roman Voloshenko became the youngest player in the 12-year history of the Houston Aeros to net a hat trick and linemate Kirby Law posted two goals and three assists to become the fourth player in team history to notch five points, as the Aeros overcame an early deficit, then held on for a 6-5 victory over the San Antonio Rampage on Opening Night at Toyota Center. Erik Westrum added a career-best four assists as the Aeros’ top line combined for 12 points. Kurtis Foster contributed two helpers and 19-year-old Peter Olvecky also scored for the Aeros, who travel to San Antonio on Saturday at 7 p.m. to kick off a five-game road trip.
Steve Passmore made 42 saves and Layne Ulmer scored twice, while Brad Ference, Martin Podlesak and Steve Gainey each scored for San Antonio, which was outshot 41-26.
Voloshenko, a native of Brest, Belarus, won’t turn 20 until May 12. He was Minnesota’s second-round pick (No. 42 overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the last two seasons playing with the Soviet Wings in Russia.
Law became the fourth Aero in team history with five points. The last was Greg Hawgood, October 16, 1998, in a 7-3 win at Kansas City. His five points were a career-high.
The Aeros outshot San Antonio 10-1 over the first 11 minutes of the game, thanks to three power plays. Houston’s best shot came 6:30 in, when Passmore dove far to his left to smother a Westrum point-blank, apparent empty-net shot.
Harding rescued his team with 9:20 to go, as he kicked out a Frantisek Lukes attempt from the right circle after a turnover.
San Antonio got 45 seconds of a 5-on-3 with 6:05 remaining in the first, but couldn’t solve Harding. Just seven seconds after that advantage ended, Houston’s Derek Campbell went for hooking - the teams’ seventh minor of the frame.
The Rampage took advantage of that infraction, scoring with 3:29 left in the first. Ulmer took a feed from Podlesak in the low right circle. He walked in on Harding and wrested a quick shot over Harding’s blocker - short side.
Passmore made a sprawling save on a bouncing puck in traffic with five minutes gone in the second, as Bryan Lundbohm and Mark Rooneem each had whacks at the puck.
The veteran was great again two minutes later with Houston on the power play. Erik Reitz’ point blast was well wide, and the rebound bounced off the boards to Olvecky at the left doorstep. Passmore found his way over to dive on the puck.
The Aeros solved Passmore three seconds after the man advantage came to an end. Westrum, in the left circle, fed a cutting Foster from the point. Foster’s shot was blocked in front, but the 19-year-old Voloshenko was there to pick up the pieces and smack the puck in the net for his first goal in North America.
Less than a minute later, Houston received 1:41 of 5-on-3 time. First, San Antonio’s Martin Sonnenberg picked Westrum’s pocket and skated in alone on Harding, who made a blocker save.
Seconds later, Law, the Aeros’ captain, hit the post. Only five seconds after that, Westrum clanged one off the iron.
The Aeros scored twice on the man advantage in a 1:48 span to take control.
Houston went up 2-1 on Voloshenko’s second of the period, with 3:20 left and Houston on the power play. Law left a drop pass from Reitz at the left point. Reitz faked a shot and sent a saucer pass right on Voloshenko’s stick at the right edge of the crease. Voloshenko easily tapped the puck into an open net.
Law picked up his second point of a two-minute span with 1:32 left, again on the power play. Foster ripped a shot from the center point, and it got knocked down in front by traffic. Law, Houston’s leading goal-getter in 2004-05 with 25, pounced on the rebound and put it into the net.
Voloshenko finished off the hat trick at 2:46 of the third. Westrum bounced a pass off the end boards to Voloshenko. The Belarus native walked out with the puck and slid it short side by Passmore.
San Antonio drew within 4-2 with 11:50 remaining, when Ference launched a shot through traffic from the center point.
Olvecky tapped in a Lundbohm rebound for Houston’s fifth goal, again on the power play, with 4:48 remaining. Just 22 seconds later, Podlesak answered for the Rampage as San Antonio got back within two.
Law scored a 4-on-4 goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Westrum, with 2:42 left. Ulmer again got San Antonio within two with a rebound goal 50 seconds later, and Gainey drew the Rampage within a 6-5 score with 1:09 left with an extra attacker goal.
Houston finished 3-for-11 on the power play, while San Antonio went 2-for-7. The Aeros had six power plays in the second period alone and scored on three straight attempts in the final 25 minutes.
The Aeros scratched Seamus Kotyk, Chris Heid, Anders Myrvold, Colin Peters, Patrick O’Sullivan and Nicolas Corbeil.
Both of Houston’s last two hat tricks have come from first-year players. Bill Kinkel scored three in a 4-1 win over Cincinnati last March 30.
Houston improved to 5-5-2 in home openers and 5-4-3 in season openers.
San Antonio scored more than two goals against Houston for just the second time in the last 20 meetings.
Harding became the first goalie in Aeros history to start back-to-back season openers.
New Aeros head coach Rob Daum is only the second coach in team history to win a season- and/or home-opener.
Harding is 7-1-0 in his two-year career against the Rampage.
Westrum had two assists on 18 occasions. He had six three-point games before making it four tonight.