Resurgent Aeros win two straight
Week in review: MIL 3, HOU 1; UTH 3, HOU 1; HOU 3, CIN 1; HOU 3, CHI 1
The week started off with a pair of 3-1 losses, but finished wonderfully with two victories by the same score.The rejuvenated Aeros have climbed within three points of sixth-place Cincinnati and Utah. Houston has a 7-13-2-2 record for 18 points.
Sunday, Stephane Veilleux snapped a tie late in the second period with a shorthanded goal and Mika Hannula and Jason Marshall also scored, leading the Aeros to their second straight win, a 3-1 decision over the Chicago Wolves at Toyota Center. Johan Holmqvist turned aside 23 shots for Houston, which has won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves and former Aero Greg Hawgood had the lone goal for Chicago, which fell to 2-5-0 in its last seven.
Friday, Chris Bala snapped an early third-period tie and Matt Foy added a power-play tally later in the period, as the Aeros snapped a franchise-record eight-game winless streak with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks at Toyota Center. Mika Hannula also scored and Holmqvist made 22 saves for Houston
Wednesday, David Gove snapped a tie with 5:08 left in regulation and Mike Smith turned aside 25 shots, as the Utah Grizzlies beat the Aeros 3-1 at the E Center. Dan Cavanaugh had made it a 1-1 game 9:12 into the third for Houston, which got 25 saves from Holmqvist.
Monday, former Aero Jay Henderson snapped a tie with 5:17 left in the second period and Brian Finley finished with 26 saves, leading the Milwaukee Admirals to a 3-1 victory over Houston at Toyota Center.
Andrew Hutchinson added a goal and an assist and Tony Hrkac scored on an unassisted breakaway for Milwaukee.
Bala scored shorthanded and Kyle Kettles, making his second straight start, made 29 saves for Houston.
The Aeros have a light week ahead after playing four games last week and eight contests in 10 days.
FRI, @ GR, 6:30 p.m.
The Aeros are 1-2-0 in their first three games against Grand Rapids, each at Van Andel Arena. After this meeting and another on February 14, the Griffins will play the final five games of the season series in Houston. The Aeros won the last meeting, 3-1, on November 19, behind a pair of goals by Kyle Wanvig and 33 saves by Johan Holmqvist. The red-hot Griffins enter the week atop the West Division with 34points, five ahead of second-place Chicago. Grand Rapids is unbeaten in eight straight (7-0-1). Griffins goalie Marc Lamothe is 9-3-1 with a 2.05 goals against average versus Houston in his career. Theres a goalie logjam in Grand Rapids now though, as Lamothe and promising youngster Joey MacDonald have been joined by veteran NHL All-Star Curtis Joseph. Joseph cleared waivers late last week and was assigned to the Griffins from the parent Detroit Red Wings.
SAT, HOU vs. SAN, 7:00 p.m. - Teddy Bear Toss and 3,000 decks of Aeros playing cards
The arch-rival Rampage come to town for the first time this season, after coming back late to beat the Aeros 5-4 in overtime in San Antonio on November 23. San Antonio has 25 points, good for fourth place. Houston is 8-3-1-1 since the Rampage came into the league in 2002-03, including a 5-1-0 mark at home.
Cavanaugh on career-best point streak - Houstons Dan Cavanaugh has points in four straight games, the longest streak of his three-year career. Cavanaugh had a goal in five assists in four games last week, and he had a hand in six of the Aeros eight goals. The alternate captain has moved into a tie for the team lead with 17 points with Rickard Wallin. Cavanaugh has 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points, just nine points shy of the career-best 26 points he had last season. Cavanaugh previously had a pair of three-game point streaks.
Power play coming together - After Matt Foy snapped a streak of 37 consecutive power play attempts without a goal Friday, the Aeros man-advantage unit appears to be coming together. Jason Marshall tallied a power-play goal Sunday, and Houston is two for its last 10 on the man-advantage. The Aeros are now 14-for-154 on the power play (9.1 percent), which has climbed past Utah for 27th in the AHL. Houston is getting plenty of chances to work on the power play. Its 154 chances are 20 more than any other team has (Chicago).
Two in a row and counting - Sundays victory gave the Aeros back-to-back wins for the first time since sweeping two games in Utah last March 28 and 29. Houston's last set of back-to-back home wins came March 7-9 of last season against Chicago and San Antonio. The Aeros have now picked up points in back-to-back games twice three season. A three-game stretch from October 28-November 2 (2-0-1) and a two-game span from November 23-26 (0-0-1-1) were the other two occasions. By picking up a point Friday in Grand Rapids, Houston will match its season-best three-game unbeaten streak.
Swedish connection - Aeros head coach Todd McLellan has experimented with Sweden natives Mika Hannula and Rickard Wallin on the same line this season. The duo has been paired together permanently since Wednesday in Utah, and the combination is working out. Wallin fed Hannula for a first-period goal both Friday against Cincinnati and Sunday versus Chicago. The goals were nearly identical, with Wallin leaving a pass for Hannula from behind the cage, and Hannula sneaking it near post past the netminder. Hannula also helped out on a Wallin goal earlier this season. Wallin is tied for the team lead with 17 points (8g, 9a), while Hannula is tied for fifth with nine points (5g, 4a). Hannula has been red-hot as of late, with four goals and an assist in his last nine games.
Community update - Its a big week in the community for the Aeros as they gear up for the holidays. Tuesday, Mark Cullen and broadcaster Ken Double will be appearing at The Park Shops from 11:30-1. Also Tuesday, Chilly and Aeros players will be serving food to the less fortunate at Open Door Mission. The Mission does not receive government funding and relies entirely on donations from the community to run its programs. Wednesday, Chilly will be helping out many volunteers collect food at Toyota Center for Houston Food Bank.Since opening its doors in March 1982, the Food Bank has distributed more than 290 pounds of food, etc., to area residents in need. Sunday, Chilly and the Strike Force will be at Pump It Up Parties for their grand opening. Pump It Up Parties provides rentals of inflatables, moonwalks and other fun accessories.
One continues to be the magic number - The Aeros are a perfect 7-0-0-0 when allowing one goal this season, and 0-13-2-2 when yielding two or more. By allowing just one goal Friday and Sunday, the Aeros have moved past St. Johns out of 28th and into 27th in the AHL in goals against at 3.17 per game.
Houston looks for success away from Toyota Center- On the road, the Aeros are winless in six straight (0-4-1-1), tying a franchise record. Houston also went through a six-game road winless streak (0-4-1-1) from February 19-March 11 of last season. The Aeros last won away from their new Toyota Center home on November 19 in Grand Rapids.
Holmqvist warms up in December - Houston goalie Johan Holmqvist is 14-8-6 all-time in December.
Mark your calendars - Internet only broadcasts are coming up on December 17, December 20, December 23, December 27 and December 30.
Player of the week nominee Dan Cavanaugh
Cavanaugh this week...
12/1 vs. MIL 0-1-1 +1
12/3 at UTA 1-0-1 0
12/5 vs. CIN 0-2-2 +1
12/7 vs. CHI 0-2-2 +1
Totals - 4gp, 1g, 5a, 6 pts, +3
Third-year pro had six points (1g, 5a) in four games last week as the Aeros went 2-2-0...Cavanaugh had a hand in six of the teams eight goals last week...Assisted on Chris Balas goal in Mondays 3-1 loss to Milwaukee...Scored teams lone goal in 3-1 loss in Utah on Wednesday...Had back-to-back two assist games to close out the week...Helped out on a pair of third-period goals on Friday in 3-1 win over Cincinnati, then posted two more assists Sunday in 3-1 win over Chicago...Tied for team lead with 17 points (6g, 11a).
Aeros Practice schedule:
Monday - Off
Tuesday - 10-12, Sugarland
Wednesday - 10-12, Sugarland
Thursday - 9:15-10, Sugarland, depart for GR
Friday - at GR, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday - vs. SAN 7:00 p.m.
Sunday - TBA