HOUSTON ---Matt Hackett made 38 saves and Jed Ortmeyer scored the deciding goal as the Houston Aeros edged the Hamilton Bulldogs 2-1 on Friday night in Game 1 of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals.
The Aeros took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Sunday at Toyota Center at 4:05 p.m.
Chad Rau gave Houston a 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the slot at 14:52 of the first period. Casey Wellman earned the primary helper by digging the puck out of the right corner and dishing it to Rau, who fired it past Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre for his fourth postseason goal. Maxim Noreau also assisted on the power play tally.
The Aeros took a 2-0 advantage just 2:52 into the second period on Ortmeyer’s breakaway goal. Jared Spurgeon earned the primary assist by splitting the Hamilton defense and needling the puck to Ortmeyer from the Houston defensive zone.
The Bulldogs pressed and finally broke through with 51 seconds remaining in regulation. With each team skating 4-on-4, Hamilton pulled goaltender Drew MacIntyre for an extra attacker. Frederic St. Denis took the initial shot from the center point, which trickled behind Hackett. Mathieu Carle was on the doorstep and swept the rebound home.
Hackett made 38 saves in the win and turned aside 20 of 21 shots he faced in the third period including a last second stop on Andreas Engqvist to preserve the win.
BOMB DROPPINGS Houston was outshot for just the second time in the postseason, including a 21-4 margin in the third period. That ended a string of seven straight games outshooting an opponent… The Aeros scored first for just the third time in the postseason. Houston is 2-1 when scoring first and 6-2 when allowing the first goal.
AEROS STARTERS F – DiSalvatore, O’Sullivan, Rau D – Scandella, Noreau G - Hackett