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Aeros have won seven of eight
Week in review: HOU 1, NOR 0; HOU 5, NOR 3; CIN 4, HOU 2; HOU 2, CIN 1
Houston has wins in seven of its last eight games after a 3-1-0 week. The Aeros had their six-game winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss in Cincinnati on Friday, but they rebounded for a 2-1 victory over the Ducks Saturday.
The Aeros enter this week tied for sixth place in the West Division, but just a point out of fourth and three points out of third, which is currently held by reeling Chicago (1-6-0 in its last seven).
West Division standings, as of 12/22
Grand Rapids 40
San Antonio 29
The week began with a bang, as Kyle Wanvig scored the games lone goal in the second period and Johan Holmqvist made 24 saves for his second straight shutout and 75th victory in a 1-0 home decision over Norfolk. The Admirals yielded 41 shots, 40 of which were swallowed up by tough-luck loser Craig Anderson.
The next night, Holmqvists shutout streak was snapped, but the Aeros beat Norfolk 5-3. Wanvig earned his second straight game-winner by snapping a third-period tie with 7:45 left, and Chris Balas second tally of the game into an empty net finished things off.
Friday, the six-game winning streak ended after a slow start against Cincinnati, which built a four-goal lead and held on for a 4-2 victory. Pierre Parenteau and Chris Kunitz scored 57 seconds apart in the first period for the Ducks, while Keith Aucoin and Kunitz each finished with a goal and an assist. Jason Marshall and Matt Foy scored late in the game for Houston.
Saturday, the Aeros rebounded by giving netminder Kyle Kettles his first AHL win. Kettles made 24 saves as Houston upended Cincinnati 2-1. Jeff Hoggan and Bala each scored for the Aeros, but Kettles - 21-12-7 last season for ECHL Louisiana - was the story. The win was the Aeros 399th in franchise history.
TUE, HOU at UTA, 8:05 p.m., Internet only
The Aeros are 1-2-0 against the Grizzlies this season and have lost four of the last five matchups. Former Aero Rob Valicevic leads Utah, which has seen much of its team playing in Dallas for the past six weeks.
FRI, HOU vs. SAN, 7:00 p.m., Aeros Gift Exchange/Cap Giveaway
The Aeros invite their fans to bring in unwanted, cheesy Christmas gifts in exchange for one of 3,000 Aeros twill caps. On the ice, the Aeros will look for their second straight win over in-state rival San Antonio, which is led by goalie Travis Scotts 13-7-3 record.
SAT, HOU at SAN, 7:00 p.m., Internet only
The Aeros and Rampage finish off a post-Christmas home-and-home. Houston is 9-3-1-1 all-time versus San Antonio, including a 3-2-1-1 mark at SBC Center. In their last trip, the Aeros saw the Rampage score a late goal to tie it, then lost in overtime.
SUN, HOU vs. CHI, 5:00 p.m., Trading Card Giveaway (2,500), Powerpuff Girls, free kids (ages 2-12) ticket with adult purchase. $20 and $28 seats only, with www.aeros.com coupon
The Wolves make their fourth of five trips to Toyota Center this season. Houston is 1-1-1 versus Chicago, which is led by Steve Maltais 21 points. The Wolves are 2-7-0 since the trade of Simon Gamache.
Aeros, McLellan approaching milestones - The Aeros franchise enters this week just one win shy of 400. Houston sports a 399-271-73-10 record, counting its International Hockey League days. They have 211 wins at home and 188 on the road. Thats not the only milestone that is threatening to get hit this week. Houston head coach Todd McLellan is two victories shy of 100 with the team. McClellan is 98-63-19-10 and is trying to join current Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett as the only coaches in team history with 100 or more wins. McLellan and Tippett each led their teams to championships.
Comings and goings - Houston received winger Kyle Wanvig and defenseman Erik Reitz back from Minnesota on Sunday. Wanvig had been recalled Thursday, while Reitz went up Friday. Wanvig had four penalty minutes in two games, while Reitz was a healthy scratch Saturday. The Aeros released left wing Jeff Hutchins on Sunday. The team welcomed center Darby Hendrickson to the rink yesterday. Hendrickson, assigned to the team after clearing waivers Friday, is in his 11th pro season. He has 188 points (94g, 94a) in 595 games. He has played each of the last four seasons with the Wild.
Hoggan stepping it up - Aeros right winger Jeff Hoggan played mostly a checking line role in his rookie campaign of 2002-03, but he has already set his career-high in points this season with 13, including career-bests in goals (seven) and assists (six). Hoggan has been particularly hot lately, especially since he has been paired with a pair of Swedes - Rickard Wallin and Mika Hannula. Hoggan has six points (3g, 3a) in the last seven games. Hoggan's last goal, his seventh of the season, was his first on the power play, Saturday in a 2-1 win over Cincinnati. Getting Hoggan on the scoresheet is very important to the Aeros, who have just one loss in regulation when he has a point. Houston is 8-1-0-2 when Hoggan has a point, including a 4-1-0-2 mark when he has a goal and a perfect 6-0-0-0 record when he notches an assist. Hoggan has a pair of two-point games this season.
Aeros have first goal in five of six games - Houston has scored first in five of its last six games, winning each game in which it has scored first and losing the other game. Overall this season, the Aeros are 10-1-0-1 when scoring the game's first goal.
Holmqvist wrapup - Aeros goalie Johan Holmqvist went 6-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .963 save percentage during the six-game winning streak. Wednesday, his shutout streak was snapped at a career-best 189 minutes, seven seconds, just missing Frederic Chabots 1996 team record of 193 minutes, 37 seconds. Holmqvists six-game winning streak was also a career-best. Holmqvist and his Aeros teammates didn't allow a third-period goal during their six-game win streak. Holmqvist turned aside 65 third-period shots during the span.
Player of the week Chris Bala -
Bala scored three goals in four games last week, helping the Aeros to a 3-1-0 record...Scored twice, the games first and last goals, in 5-3 home win over Norfolk on Wednesday, his first two-goal game as an Aero...Notched second game-winner of the season in 2-1 win at Cincinnati on Saturday...Bala has seven points (5g, 2a) in the last 10 contests after posting only a goal and an assist in his first 17 games this season...Team has won the last three games in which hes scored a goal.
Bala this week...
12/16 vs. NOR 0-0-0, E
12/17 vs. NOR 2-0-2, -1
12/19 at CIN 0-0-0, E
12/20 at CIN 1-0-1, E, GWG
Totals - 4gp, 3g, 0a, 3 pts, -1
Aeros Practice schedule:
Monday - 10-11, Sugarland
Tuesday - at UTA 8:05 p.m.
Wednesday - Off
Thursday - Off
Friday - 10-11, Pre-game skate, vs. SAN 7:00 p.m.
Saturday - at SAN 7:00 p.m.
Sunday - vs. CHI 5:00 p.m.