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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Houston's hot goalie: Aeros 4, Wolves 1

The Houston Aeros defeated the Chicago Wolves Saturday night, 4-1, in front of the second largest home crowd ever to see an Aeros game, 12,021.

The Aeros, who have been in the unusual position of struggling this season, are currently tied at 50 points with one of the dogs of the league, the San Antonio Rampage. And, the size of the crowd, filling the lower bowl and spilling into the usually closed upper bowl, is certainly a sign of the interest Texans have for the Northern sport of hockey.

A hot goalie was the key for Houston. Although he allowed 35 shots on goal for the game, goalie Dieter Kochan was strong in the net, stopping 34 shots for his second win of the season in eight games played. Kochan has been covering, along with Miroslav Kopriva, the missing Josh Harding—on callup to the Minnesota Wild. When Harding is gone, the Aeros are 3-12-1. Harding himself is 17-16-4 this season in Houston.

The game also marked the end of Darren Haydar’s 25 game road point streak. The lone goal by the Wolves was scored by Kevin Doell, unassisted. It was only the 14th regulation loss by the Wolves this season.

Houston scoring started in the first period when Houston scored on Fred Brathwaite penalty. The ensuing face-off was won by Jason Morgan. Roman Voloshenko picked up the puck and fed it to Curtis Murphy at the point who dished it to Mattias Weinhandl. Weinhandl let loose with a fast low shot that went through several players to score on the screened Brathwaite.

At the end of the period Morgan won another face-off in the defensive zone. Weinhandl picked it up, skated between the circles and let a high shot go that Brathwaite couldn’t stop. In the second period Weinhandl nearly scored a hat trick when his shot on Brathwaite was stopped, then Brathwaite froze the puck as Weinhandl was heading in for the rebound. Houston went up 3-0 later in the second period when Aeros blueliner Erik Reitz picked up a lose puck on the power play and shot it past the sprawled Brathwaite.

Kevin Doell made the game 3-1 minutes later on an unassisted goal over Kochan’s shoulder.

There were only 11 shots on goal total in the third period. Chicago was unable to convert any of its seven man advantages. Late in the period Weinhandl had yet another opportunity for a hat trick, missing an open net after being nudged in the circle. Late in the period Wolves coach John Anderson pulled Brathwaite to create a man advantage. However, Aeros wingers Danny Irmen and Benoit Pouliot popped the puck to Matt Foy who fired it into the Chicago empty net with 1.36 left to play. Pandemonium broke lose behind the Aeros net less than 30 seconds later as Braydon Colburn, Boris Valabik and Doell mixed it up with John Scott, Pouliot and Foy. Valabik skated away from a confrontation with Scott while Pouliot and Colburn took fighting penalties.

Brathwaite stopped 24 shots on goal for the loss, his eighth of the season. Kochan stopped 34 shots on goal for the win.

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