David Backes, Mike Zigomanis and Trevor Byrne had a goal apiece and Scott Reid made 32 saves, as the Peoria Rivermen defeated the Houston Aeros 3-1 at Toyota Center. Peoria (43-24-3-4) moves to 93 points five behind second-place Houston, with six games left. The Rivermen had lost each of their first four games at Toyota Center this season by a combined 22-6 margin.
Greg Mauldin scored his first goal as an Aero and Seamus Kotyk made 18 stops for Houston (46-23-3-3), which remained three points behind idle first-place Milwaukee with five games remaining. The Aeros have a game in hand on the Admirals.
The Aeros are off until next Sunday, when they play host to the San Antonio Rampage at 5:05 p.m. Buy tickets
. Its an Aeros Family Day. Beginning at just $59, get four tickets, $20 in Toyota Bucks, four Aeros gifts and free parking! Bring out the whole Family! Log on to www.aeros.com/themenights
to order. Username is Family, password is Aeros. Or, call 713.974.PUCK to order. Special offer not available at the Toyota Center Box Office.
Backes tallied his third in six games since joining the Rivermen out of Minnesota State-Mankato, and he began things with a great individual play in his own end. With the teams 4-on-4, Backes knocked defenseman Scott Ferguson off the puck and fed Blake Evans along the left wing boards. Backes took off up ice, and after the Rivermens odd-man rush crossed the blueline, Evans hit Backes in stride ahead of the pack. He deked and went backhand on Kotyk.
Houston had a four-minute power play beginning at the 6:58 mark of the first, but the Aeros generated just two shots.
Mauldins first goal as an Aero knotted things up three minutes into the second. Kirby Law forced a turnover deep in the Peoria zone and fed a cutting Mauldin in the mid slot. Mauldin controlled the puck and ripped a slapshot top shelf for his 13th overall goal of the season.
Law has 104 points (40-63=103), the leader in the league by 11 points. His total is just five points off Jeff Christians 1998-99 team record with five games left.
The tie was short-lived, as Zigomanis 11th goal put Peoria up 2-1 just 51 seconds later. Mike Mottau stole the puck at the right point and got it to Zigomanis in the right circle, and Zigomanis unleashed a drive off the crossbar and into the net.
Aeros rookie winger Roman Voloshenko just tipped a Patrick OSullivan centering attempt wide late in the second with Houston on the power play.
Byrnes third goal of the season, a power play tally, extended Peorias lead to 3-1 at 1:15 of the third. Ryan Ramsay won the faceoff clean back to Byrne at the left point, and his slapshot through traffic skidded under Kotyk.
The Aeros appeared poised to get back into the game with a power play with 12:33 left in the third, but Matt Foy picked up a high sticking penalty just five seconds later. Curtis Murphy then got whistled for a holding minor, giving the Rivermen the man advantage.
Houston finished 0-for-9 on the power play, while Peoria went 1-for-5. The Aeros are 2-for-51 on the power play in the last nine games.
Not dressing for the Aeros were newly-signed Chris Ovington, A.J. Thelen, Adam Courchaine, Clayton Stoner, Brendan Bernakevitch and Andrei Nazarov.
Law has a seven-game point streak (4-7=11).
With goalies Gregg Naumenko (personal reasons) and Chris Beckford-Tseu (NHL St. Louis) unavailable, the Rivermen signed Jody Green, a native of Gulfport, Miss., who was an assistant equipment manager in ECHL Louisiana and is currently a student at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Green has previously served as backup goalie for Louisiana and Mississippi.
Linesman Sean Finn missed the third period with an arm injury. Fred Hudy got to Toyota Center to replace him several minutes into the stanza.
Houston lost for just the sixth time in regulation in 37 home games (27-6-2-2).