Milwaukee Admirals (5-3), 7 p.m.
Game 2, West Division Final (MIL leads 1-0) Printable Game Notes
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Seven things you need to know Houston is in the post-season for the 11th time in its 12 seasons after recording its third 50-win season in team history. The Aeros finished 50-24-3-3 - the fifth-best record in the AHL - while Milwaukee was 49-21-6-4. The Admirals edged the Aeros by two points for first place in the West, and ultimately, home ice advantage in this best-of-seven West Division Final series. Houston and Milwaukee were first and second in the West Division, in one way or the other, every day since 12/9. The Aeros are 9-5 all-time in seven-game playoff series. The West Division Final matchup between Houston and Milwaukee - two of the last three Calder Cup champions - pits two teams with decisively different division semifinal experiences. The Aeros swept Peoria in four games, while Milwaukee went the distance to eliminate Iowa in Game 7. Recent history is not on the Aeros’ side. An AHL team sweeping a best-of-seven series has lost its next series the last six occasions, and 10 of 11 times since 1999-2000. The lone team to win the next series after a sweep was Bridgeport in 2001-02. Meanwhile, since 2001-02, a team winning Game 7 has gone on to win the next series six of the nine times. Houston beat Milwaukee in three games in a conference quarterfinal en route to the 2003 Calder Cup, but the Admirals earned a four-game (best-of-five) victory in the 19998 conference quarters. Thursday marked just Houston’s third loss in 15 Game 1’s in a best-of-seven series. The Aeros are 1-1 when losing Game 1. They have never before lost the first two games of a best-of-seven series. Last season, the Game 1 winner went on to win 14 of 20 playoff series. This season just five of eight Game 1 winners went on to clinch the series. The Aeros’ checking line of LW Josh Olson, C Bryan Lundbohm and RW Joel Ward combined for each of the team’s first three goals in Game 1. Olson (1-2=3), Lundbohm (0-3=3) and Ward (2-1=3) each had three points, after neither player notched a three-point game during the entire regular season. Ward had no two-goal games in the regular season, and he scored eight goals total. But in the post-season, Ward has a pair of two-goal games. Lundbohm, meanwhile, is the Aeros’ leading playoff scorer with eight points (3-5=8). Entering Game 1, Aeros G Josh Harding had won seven straight AHL starts - one better than his career-high - but he fell to 13-2-0 in his last 15 decisions. The Wild’s second-round pick in 2003 is 19-3-0 in his last 22 AHL decisions. The good news for the Aeros is that Harding dropped back-to-back starts just once this season, falling 10/22 vs. Manchester and 10/25 vs. Chicago, a game in which he got hurt. Houston was 18-10-0-0 on the road after back-to-back wins in Milwaukee 2/25-2/26, but went just 1-8-1-1 in its next 11 road games. However, the Aeros have since gone 3-1-0-0 on the road, with the lone loss coming in Game 1 on Thursday. Three Aeros know their way around Bradley Center. D Curtis Murphy was a member of Milwaukee’s Calder Cup championship team in 2003-04. C Bryan Lundbohm spent most of four seasons with the Admirals, from 2001-05. He was injured when Milwaukee won the Calder Cup in 2003-04. G Seamus Kotyk went 10-6-1 with a 2.95 gaa in 23 games with Milwaukee in 2004-05.
Aeros at Admirals (Aeros are 33-36-7-2 all-time, Aeros are 15-20-3-0 at Milwaukee) The teams split eight regular season meetings, although the Aeros (4-3-0-1) technically out-pointed the Admirals (4-4-0-0) by virtue of one of Milwaukee’s wins coming in a shootout. Houston won three of the last four meetings, including a two-game series sweep in Milwaukee 2/25-2/26. Since winning 5-1 at Milwaukee 10/17/03, the Aeros are 7-16-2-2 in the last 25 regular season meetings overall. Houston is 3-8-2-0 in its last 13 trips to Bradley Center since the aforementioned win 10/17/03. LW Patrick O’Sullivan (7-2=9), RW Kirby Law (3-6=9) and C Erik Westrum (0-6=6) combined for 24 points (10-14=24) in just eight regular season games against Milwaukee this season. The teams each scored first in four regular season meetings. Houston went 3-0-0-1 when scoring first, and Milwaukee was 3-1-0-0. Three of Houston’s four GWG in the series were scored by former Admirals - two by C Bryan Lundbohm, and one by D Curtis Murphy.
2005-06 meetings (Aeros went 4-3-0-1 overall, Aeros went 2-2-0-0 at Milwaukee)
October 28 Houston 1 at Milwaukee 6
November 25 Milwaukee 0 at Houston 3
November 27 Milwaukee 3 at Houston 0
February 4 Milwaukee 6 at Houston 5 (SO)
February 7 Milwaukee 2 at Houston 3
February 25 Houston 3 at Milwaukee 0
February 26 Houston 5 at Milwaukee 2
March 17 Houston 3 at Milwaukee 4
Scouting the Aeros
The Aeros (50-24-3-3) finished second in the West Division with 106 points and swept Peoria in four games in the West Division Semifinals...RW Kirby Law paced the AHL in scoring with a team-record 110 points (43-67=110), 12 points up on Aeros C Erik Westrum (34-64=98) for the top spot in the AHL...LW Patrick O’Sullivan finished first among rookies and fifth overall with 93 points (47-46=93)...LW Roman Voloshenko (33-27=60) was third in goals among rookies and tied for ninth in points...D Curtis Murphy finished second among AHL defensemen with a new career-best 67 points (14-53=67)...G Josh Harding went 29-8-0 with a 2.68 gaa with the Aeros this season, ranking fourth in the league in wins and tied for first in save pct. (.922) despite missing nearly three months due to call-ups and injuries...G Seamus Kotyk went 15-15-2 with a 3.03 gaa.
Scouting the Admirals
Milwaukee (49-21-6-4), AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators, won the West Division with 108 points - two more than the Aeros...RW Darren Haydar ranked fifth in the AHL in scoring with 92 points (35-57=92)...LW Libor Pivko was second on the Admirals roster with 70 points (12-58=70)...D Kevin Klein paces the blueline with 42 points (10-32=42)... The Admirals got RW Jordin Tootoo (41gp, 13-14=27) back from Nashville in time for Game 7 of the division semifinals against Iowa, and he’s been joined by LW Scottie Upshall (23gp, 17-16=33), D Shea Weber (46gp, 12-15=27) and All-Star G Pekka Rinne (30-18-2, 2.82 gaa)...G Brian Finley went 18-7-2 with a 2.70 gaa during the regular season, but got hurt prior to Game 6 against Iowa...G Jake Moreland, making just his second career AHL start, backstopped the ads to a Game 7 victory.
Quick Hits Houston was 37-3-1-0 when leading after two periods in the regular season, and 40-0-1-0 when leading with five minutes remaining. But the Aeros lost Game 1. The Aeros scored early and often in their first five playoff games. Houston has scored first in four of the five games, but it has also scored in 16 of the 17 possible periods, including the two overtime sessions. The lone stanza so far in which the Aeros haven’t scored was the second period of Game 2 of the division semifinals. Houston is the lone AHL team to use the same lineup in each of its playoff games. Aeros RW Kirby Law’s hadn’t scored a goal in 22 games over his last three post-seasons, but he scored four goals - including two GWG - in four games in the West Division Semifinals. The Aeros are 4-4-2-1 in their last 11 one-goal games. Houston is an eye-popping 25-9-3-3 in such contests, and an impressive 34-15-3-3 in games decided by two goals or less. Houston has seen 29 of its last 37 games be decided by one or two goals, going 16-9-2-2. In their last 23 victories, the Aeros have outscored their opponents 38-17 in the first period. In the last 49 games overall, Houston has a 59-39 goal margin in the opening 20 minutes, and on the season the Aeros were an AHL-best plus-31 (89-58). The Aeros are 31-7-1-1 when leading after one period this season. Houston is 16-7-2-0 when allowing 29 or fewer shots this season, but also an impressive 11-2-1-0 when yielding 40 or more. The Aeros are 52-8-0-2 when scoring three goals or more, but they are 2-17-3-1 when scoring two or fewer. Three is also the magic number defensively, as Houston is 43-6-3-1 when allowing three of fewer goals and 11-19-0-2 when yielding four or more. Aeros veteran D Curtis Murphy didn’t have a two-goal game in the first 75 contests of 2005-06, but he has a pair of two-goal, one-assist efforts in the last two weeks of the regular season. Murphy, who finished second in the league in scoring among defenseman with a career-best 67 points (14-53=67), had been held without a goal in 17 straight games before he scored twice 4/9 against San Antonio. Since early March, Murphy has raised helped raise $2,800 for “Murphy’s Mission”, benefiting “I Have a Dream”. In post-season home games, an anonymous local donor is giving $1,000 per Murphy goal and $200 per assist to the cause. A Murphy hat trick at home will net $10,000, and a Calder Cup title will give $10,000 in honor of the entire Aeros team to “I Have a Dream”. The Watson Family Foundation has announced three charity-driven programs for the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs: “Saves: Saving Lives”, “All-Stars for All-Stars” and “Rookies for Ronald”. “Saves: Saving Lives” will benefit Boys & Girls Country. The Watsons will make a donation of $10 for every save made by an Aeros goalie in the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs. The donation is up to $1,620 after five games. “All-Stars for All-Stars” will aid After School All Stars. The Watsons will give $50 per goal and $50 per assist garnered by each of the Aeros three First Team All-Stars – Kirby Law, Erik Westrum and Curtis Murphy. The assist donation is provided the player assists on a fellow All-Stars goal. The program has raised $500 thus far. Ronald McDonald House Houston is the beneficiary for “Rookies for Ronald”. Ronald McDonald House will receive $50 per goal scored by a rookie, or an assist on another rookie’s goal, in the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs. That program has raised $350. Entering the post-season, 12 Aeros have played a total of 190 Calder Cup Playoffs games, led by D Curtis Murphy (59) and RW Kirby Law (40). Just five have season action in the post-season with the Aeros, including Murphy (37) and D Erik Reitz (13), each members of the Aeros’ 2003 Calder Cup championship team. Murphy also owns a 2004 Calder Cup with Milwaukee, and a 2001 IHL Turner Cup with Orlando. D Scott Ferguson has played in 11 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, the lone Aero to see action in the NHL post-season. Ferguson was a Calder Cup Finalist in 1997, when his Hamilton team lost to Hershey. Aeros D Curtis Murphy has won 14 of the last 15 post-seasons series in North America in which he has participated. The lone loss was with the Aeros in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, a five-game loss to Chicago. Houston has trailed at some point in 23 of its 54 victories, with eight of the wins coming when trailing by two goals. The Aeros had 16 come-from-behind victories in 2004-05. They are an impressive 18-16-1-0 when allowing the game’s first goal.
Power play update Houston finished the regular season tied for second in the league, with Peoria and Milwaukee, on the power play at 20.0 percent. Houston went 5-for-28 (17.9 percent) in the four-game series with Peoria. The Aeros are 27-8-0-1 when scoring at least two PPG. Milwaukee was 13th in the AHL on the penalty kill at 83.0 percent. The Admirals ranked just 11th of 16 teams on the penalty kill in the division semifinals, killing off 36-of-44 shorthanded chances (81.8 percent). Houston is 10-for-70 (14.3 percent) with the man advantage against Milwaukee, scoring two PPG in four of the nine meetings.
Penalty kill update Houston tied for eighth in the AHL on the penalty kill in the regular season at 83.4 percent. The Aeros ranked second in the league in the division semifinals, killing off 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) shorthanded chances. Houston is 26-6-1-3 when not allowing a power play goal and 42-14-3-2 when allowing one power play goal or fewer. Milwaukee tied for second in the AHL, with Houston and Peoria, on the power play at 20.0 percent. The Admirals ranked fourth in the league in division semifinal play at 18.9 percent (7-for-37). Milwaukee is 7-for-57 (12.3 percent) with the man advantage against Houston, counting the post-season. However, after going 2-for-9 in the first meeting, the Admirals didn’t score on 32 chances over the next six games before tallying four PPG on 12 chances in the last meeting, 3/17 at Milwaukee.