Houston's Matt Foy and Chicago's Boris Valabik get tangled up (Photo by Jason Villaneuva)
From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Saturday, February 17, 2007
713.361.7930 (Direct Line) Aeros 4, Wolves 1 Official Box Score HOUSTON, Texas –
Mattias Weinhandl scored twice in the first period and Dieter Kochan finished with 34 saves, as the Houston Aeros knocked off the first-place Chicago Wolves 4-1 in front of 12,021 – the second largest crowd ever at Toyota Center. Erik Reitz and Matt Foy also scored for Houston (21-25-3-5), which had played 10 straight one-goal games to establish a new team record. Reitz also keyed a superb defensive effort against the high-octane Wolves and helped keep AHL leading scorer Darren Haydar off the scoresheet for just the fourth time in 50 games this season.
The same two teams meet Sunday at Toyota Center at 5:05 p.m. It’s an Aeros Family Day. Get four tickets, four Aeros gifts, $20 in Toyota Bucks and free parking, all beginning at just $67. Visit Aeros.com
now or call 713.974.PUCK beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday to order. The Aeros’ crowd tonight brought their season average to 6,163 – ninth-best in the AHL and 13.9 percent ahead of their 2005-06 rate through 27 home games.
Kevin Doell scored a goal and Fred Brathwaite made 24 saves for Chicago (34-16-2-5), which lost in regulation for just the second time in its last 14 games (8-2-1-3).
Foy picked Braydon Coburn’s pocket at the blueline in the opening 30 seconds and raced in alone on Brathwaite. He went low on the goalie, who closed the pads to make the save. Brathwaite then turned away Danny Irmen’s rebound from low in the right circle.
Weinhandl’s first of the game put Houston on top 7:30 into the game, with the Aeros on the power play after Brathwaite tripped Foy in front of the net. Jason Morgan won the faceoff to Roman Voloshenko, who fed Curtis Murphy at the left point. Murphy dished off to Weinhandl high in the left circle, and the veteran ripped a low shot through a screen.
Weinhandl’s second of the game and 12th of the season made it 2-0 with 34 seconds left in the first. Morgan again won the faceoff to Weinhandl, who walked between the circles and fired a high shot over Brathwaite’s glove.
Chicago had outscored its opponents by a league-best 77-42 margin in the first period this season.
Houston got a full minute of a 5-on-3 early in the second after Chicago’s Colin Stuart got called for unsportsmanlike conduct with Alex Bourret already in the box for elbowing. Brathwaite turned aside the Aeros’ best chance, which was Ryan Hamilton’s deflection of Murphy’s shot from the left point.
Aeros defenseman Ryan Stokes had a shorthanded breakaway 6:30 into the second. Brathwaite made the save, but Stokes drew a penalty to make things 4-on-4.
That eventually led to 47 seconds more of 5-on-3 time for Houston after a Jimmy Sharrow tripping penalty.
Weinhandl was flat out robbed of a hat trick on that two-man advantage. Brathwaite laid flat on his side to stone him on a rebound, and then covered up Morgan’s attempt, leading to a faceoff.
But after the first penalty expired, Reitz scored his fifth of the season for a 3-0 Aeros lead. Brathwaite initially turned aside Reitz’ blast from the right circle in transition. Irmen chipped the rebound out of the left corner to Benoit Pouliot in the low slot. Pouliot’s shot was blocked, and Reitz hopped on the rebound and slid it into the net from a bad angle.
The Aeros’ shorthanded chances continued with 8:30 remaining in the second, when Joel Ward fired a shot off the far post.
Doell got Chicago within 3-1 with 5:01 left in the second. Doell drove to the net from the left wing and chipped a shot high over Kochan from close range for his 12th goal of the season.
Kochan rebounded nicely less than a minute later, coming back to the short side to stop rookie Brett Sterling, who leads the AHL with 43 goals.
Brathwaite kept the deficit two goals with 3:29 left in the first, stacking the pads to stop Murphy’s rebound attempt from the left circle.
The Aeros were shorthanded for the first two minutes of the third after a cross-checking call to Pouliot to end the first. Chicago didn’t score, but went back on the man advantage when a Reitz trip prevented a goal with 4:48 gone in the third.
Sterling went off for a cross-check with 5:29 left, at a time when Chicago had a lot of time in the Houston zone. Weinhandl again just missed the hat trick, sliding a puck just wide of an open net while getting upended in the right circle.
Aeros head coach Rob Daum called a timeout with 2:06 remaining to rest some his top checking line of Ward, Bryan Lundbohm and Josh Olson, and also Stokes and defensive partner Clayton Stoner. That’s when Chicago head coach John Anderson pulled Brathwaite, and on the next shift, Foy fired the puck into an empty net with 1:36 left for the final margin.
Chaos broke loose behind the Aeros net with 1:04 left. Foy, Pouliot and John Scott all got into it with different Wolves players. Referee Frederick L’Ecuyer stood in between Scott and Chicago toughman Boris Valabik. L’Ecuyer then stepped away to let the combatants – who had been jawing at each other for minutes – go at it, but Valabik turned and skated off the ice to the chagrin of the screaming throngs of fans.
Houston finished 2-for-8 on the power play, while Chicago went 0-for-7. The Wolves entered the game third in the league at 20.9 percent. Notes:
Not dressing for the Aeros were Peter Ratchuk, Peter Olvecky, Chris Ovington and Ben Thomson.
Murphy has 199 points (55-144=199) in 294 career games in Houston.
The Aeros improved to 3-10-2-1 in games where goalie Josh Harding doesn’t play. Harding remains on recall to NHL Minnesota. Dating back to Harding’s first lengthy call-up to Minnesota last March, the Aeros are 8-18-4-2 in the last 32 games in which Harding doesn’t appear.
The Aeros moved to 18-9-1-4 when scoring three or more goals.
Houston didn’t trail for just the second time in 16 games.
The Aeros are 4-1-1-0 in their last six home games.
Kochan, released from a PTO by Chicago in October, is 2-6-0 this season, winning for the first time since October 21 in Grand Rapids. In that game, he relieved a dehydrated Harding late in regulation, and the Aeros went on to a 4-3 shootout win. Kochan is 2-5-0 lifetime against Chicago.
Houston is 12-11-1-3 at home, above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The Aeros have scored first in six of their last seven games, after going eight in a row allowing the first goal.
The only crowd bigger than tonight’s was on January 16, 2004, when 13,342 welcomed Roger Clemens.
WWE superstar King Booker served as honorary Aero.
Houston joined Iowa, Milwaukee and Toronto as the lone AHL teams with three wins against Chicago this season. The Aeros have won each of the last three meetings after dropping the first three.
Aeros Charities raised $5,150 for their Spring into Hockey Auction, which included 32 items from NHL and AHL teams. A team autographed Minnesota Wild jersey went for $1,000.