Benoit Pouliot helped stake Houston to a 3-0 lead, and early MVP candidate Josh Harding made it stand up
From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Thursday, November 9, 2006
713.361.7930 (Direct Line) Aeros 3, Stars 2 Official Box Score DES MOINES, Iowa –
Josh Harding made 18 of his 38 saves in the third period and was brilliant during a late 5-on-3, and rookie sensation Benoit Pouliot scored two goals, as the Houston Aeros held on for a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Iowa Stars at Wells Fargo for their third straight road victory. Wyatt Smith also scored, and rookie Danny Irmen chipped in two assists for Houston (5-7-0-1), which won despite being outshot 19-2 in the third period and 40-16 overall. The Aeros, winners of five of seven overall, are in Iowa again Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Harding stopped 18-of-19 shots in the third period alone, including several in a brilliant display of goaltending with Iowa on having more than two full minutes of a 5-on-3 late in regulation. The Stars were on the power play for nearly four of the final eight minutes. Harding has allowed just 11 goals in his last six games. He has played in each of the Aeros’ 13 games this season, including 12 starts. Harding has played all but 21 of the Aeros’ minutes in goal and leads the AHL in minutes and saves. He lowered his gaa to 2.42, and raised his save pct. to .922.
Pouliot, meanwhile, has five goals in his last five games, six in his last seven and seven in his last nine. Houston improved to 4-3-0-1 in one-goal games. The Aeros have played a league-high eight one-goal games, including six in a row on the road and three straight overall.
Joel Lundqvist and Loui Eriksson each scored a goal and Tobias Stephan made 13 stops for Iowa (9-4-0-0), which fell to 3-1-0-0 against Houston this season. The Stars have lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
Iowa dominated most of the first period, outshooting Houston 14-5, but as usual Harding was solid.
Meanwhile, Pouliot got Houston on the board at 9:25 of the opening period with his first of the game and sixth of the season. Curtis Murphy set Pouliot up from the left circle, and Pouliot put the puck by Stephan on just Houston’s second shot of the game.
Irmen, who assisted on Pouliot’s goal, played a big part in Smith’s tally, with 48.4 ticks left on the first-period clock. Irmen got loose in the right circle, but Stephan made a diving save. Irmen controlled his own rebound, went around the net and pushed the puck to a wide-open Smith on the doorstep. Smith popped the puck over the sprawled netminder for his fourth goal of the season.
Houston’s Joel Ward stole the puck in the opening seconds of the second period and broke in 2-on-1 with Bryan Lundbohm, but Stephan turned away Ward’s blast from the right circle.
Pouliot got loose on a breakaway less than a minute later and was hooked down by Mark Fistric. No penalty shot was given, but the Aeros were awarded a power play.
Houston didn’t score on that power play, but Pouliot made it 3-0 on the next man advantage, at 6:32 of the second. Pouliot rebounded a long Clayton Stoner rebound past Stephan for his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Matt Foy also picked up an assist on the play, making him the 24th player in team history to reach the 100-point plateau.
Harding kept the shutout intact with 6:20 left in the second, robbing former Aero Junior Lessard on a partial breakaway.
But Iowa got on the board with 3:50 remaining in the middle period. The Stars received 1:40 of a 5-on-3 with 5:18 left in the second after back-to-back penalties to Murphy and Ward. Houston killed off more than a minute of the two-man advantage, before Lundqvist redirected Mark Ardelan’s right point blast by Harding for his sixth of the season – third on the power play.
Pouliot couldn’t quite get a handle on a rebound five minutes into the third looking for the hat trick, and seconds later he backhanded a rebound through an open crease, but it slid just wide of the far post.
Eriksson got the Stars within 3-2 with 7:54 remaining. Eriksson found himself wide open at the left doorstep and popped a Mario Scalzo rebound from the point over a prone Harding for his fifth goal of the season. Eriksson has eight goals in 14 career games against Houston
Just 17 seconds later, Stoner was whistled for holding, giving the Stars a chance to tie on the power play. Harding came up huge, stoning Lessard, but then the Aeros got in big trouble. With a delayed penalty upcoming to Lundbohm, Erik Reitz cross-checked a Stars forward to the ice, giving the Stars two full minutes of a 5-on-3 with 6:14 left.
Harding went post-to-post to frustrate Vojtech Polak, who had an apparent open net to shoot at. Harding also made a shoulder save, pushing the puck over the crossbar, with 35 seconds left on the two-man advantage. Then, as he fell down, Harding snared a slapshot with his glove, keeping the Stars from the sure game-tying goal.
With just one Aero left in the box, Harding pokechecked the puck away from Lundqvist in front of the net.
Stephan headed to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:25 left. With just more than a minute left, Harding was just able to deflect a point-blank shot over the crossbar with his shoulder.
Smith won a key faceoff in the neutral zone in the waning seconds to preserve the victory.
Houston finished 1-for-6 on the power play, while Iowa went 1-for-8. The Aeros have killed off 43-of-46 shorthanded chances in the last six games. Notes:
Not dressing for the Aeros were Steve Shields, Dieter Kochan, Peter Ratchuk, Alex Leavitt, Roman Voloshenko and Joey Tetarenko.
Seventeen of Houston’s 35 goals have come from rookies.
Aeros 6-foot-8 rookie John Scott skated at forward.
Tonight marked Irmen’s team-leading third multiple point game of the season, and his first with two assists. Only Pouliot (two) also has more than one two-point game.
Foy is seven penalty minutes away from becoming just the seventh in team history to reach 100 points and 300 PIM’s. He is one point behind Shawn Carter for 23rd place on the team’s all-time scoring list.
Foy has tallied 15 points (5-10=15) in 13 career games against Iowa.
Houston’s three straight road wins are the most since a season-best five-game streak from February 15-26 of last season.
Center Jason Morgan, who began the season as an Aeros’ alternate captain and was recalled by NHL Minnesota last month, underwent surgery on his right thigh on Wednesday morning. The surgery was performed to relieve pressure and bleeding in the area. Morgan left the Wild's 3-1 loss on Tuesday night in San Jose after being hit against the boards by a Kyle McLaren hip check. He is out of the lineup indefinitely. The injury is expected to require a lengthy recovery period.