by: Josh Fisher
Houston Aeros (6-5-1-2, 15 points) at Rockford Ice Hogs (5-7-0-1, 11 points)
The Houston Aeros and the Rockford Ice Hogs meet for the first of four meetings this season. Houston and Rockford will play twice over the next three days. The Aeros and Ice Hogs will meet again at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. Xcel Energy Center is the home to the Aeros NHL affiliate, the Minnesota Wild. Houston enters the game coming off a 7-5 win at San Antonio on Tuesday. The win ended a four-game winless skid for the club. Houston is 4-3-1-2 in the last ten games and 4-2-0-0 on the road this season. Rockford is coming off a 5-4 loss at home on Wednesday night to Peoria. The Ice Hogs are 4-4-0-0 at home this season and 5-5-0-0 in the last ten games played.
The Aeros and Ice Hogs continue their rivalry that includes 32 all-time meetings between the two clubs. Houston trails the all-time series with a 14-16-2 (T/SOL) mark against their neighbors to the North. Last year, the Aeros dropped the season series with a 1-3-0-0 record against the Ice Hogs. Rockford outscored Houston 13-7 in the four meetings.
Next Five Games:
Aeros Last Game Recap – Houston 7 at San Antonio 5 11/13/12
The Houston Aeros defeated the San Antonio Rampage 7-5 on Tuesday in front of 10,739 fans at AT&T Center. Aeros rookie Jason Zucker, scored twice and set up two others, helping Houston outlast San Antonio on School Field Trip Day. Center David McIntyre added two goals, as the Aeros ended a four-game winless skid. Winger Justin Fontaine and Nick Palmieri each had a pair of assists in the win. Aeros forwards Johan Larsson and Brett Bulmer, as well as defenseman Tyler Cuma, also scored, as the team improved to 4-2-0-0 on the road this season. Houston goalie Matt Hackett stopped 21 of 26 for the victory, as San Antonio goalie Dov Grumet-Morris made 23 saves in the defeat.
The Houston Aeros –
Right wing Jason Zucker, right wing Justin Fontaine and center Mikael Granlund lead Houston in scoring with 12 points each. With four points on Tuesday, Zucker tied Granlund for the team lead in points. Zucker is tied for the team lead with seven goals and he leads the team with 37 shots on goal. Granlund has missed the last six games due to injury, but remains among the team leaders with eight assists and 12 points in eight games played. Fontaine has collected four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 13 games played. Defenseman Brian Connelly is fourth on the Aeros roster with 11 points off two goals and a team-high nine assists. He is also first with a +8 rating. Left wing Charlie Coyle is tied for the team lead in goals with seven in 14 games. He is fifth on the team in points with ten. Coyle and Zucker are tied with seven goals each, placing among the top rookies in the AHL.
Houston goalie Matt Hackett is 3-4-2 with a 3.38 goals against average and a .885 save percentage. Fellow netminder Darcy Kuemper is 3-2-0 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.
The Aeros rank third in the AHL on the power play converting 15 out of 66 chances (22.7 %). As far the penalty kill goes, Houston sits 18th out of 30 teams, stopping 44 of 54 attempts (81.5%). The Aeros rank 29 out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just 13.14 minutes a game. Houston is averaging 3.71 goals per game, while allowing 3.43 goals per game.
Connelly Returns to Rockford
Aeros defenseman Brian Connelly will return to Rockford with Houston. Connelly played for the Ice Hogs from 2009 until he was traded to Abbotsford in a mid-season deal last year. Connelly was scoreless in one game for the Heat against his old team at Rockford in 2011-12. He is the Ice Hogs all-time leader in numerous categories by a defenseman; including games played (211), points (126), assists (105) and goals (21). Connelly had an assist in one game against Houston as a member of the Ice Hogs in 2011-12.
The Rockford Ice Hogs –
2011-12 All-Star Brandon Pirri leads Rockford in scoring, potting six goals and totaling 12 points in 13 games. Forward Martin St. Pierre is one point behind PIrri with 11 points. St. Pierre leads the Hogs with eight assists, including a team-high five power-play assists. Marcus Kruger is third on the team with three goals and seven assists for ten points in 13 games played. Left wing Jeremy Morin is second on the team in goals with five and he is tied for fourth on the team with eight points in 13 games played. Jimmy Hayes rounds out the top five scorers, he has four goals and four assists for eight points in 13 games played. Shawn Lalonde leads all defensemen in points, he has two goals and two assists for four points in nine games played. Left wing Brandon Bolig is first on the team and among the league leaders with 48 penalty minutes in 13 games played.
Carter Hutton and Alec Richards split time in net for Rockford. Hutton receives the majority of the starts, going 4-6-1 in 11 appearances. Hutton boasts a 3.02 goals against average and a .893 save percentage. Richards is 1-1-0 with a 4.05 goals against average and a .833 save percentage.
The Ice Hogs rank 22nd in the AHL on the power play converting nine out of 65 chances (13.8%). As far the penalty kill goes, Rockford sits second out of 30 teams, stopping 64 of 75 attempts at 85.3%. The Ice Hogs rank second out of 30 teams in penalty minutes, averaging just 25.62 minutes a game. Rockford is averaging 3.00 goals per game, while allowing 3.38 goals per game.
Aeros Notes and Milestones –
· Defenseman Drew Bagnall is approaching 350 AHL games, heading into Friday, the Aeros Captain was at 349.
· Center Carson McMillan will play in his 199th game as an Aero on Friday.
· Goalie Matt Hackett has made 99 appearances over three years for Houston, going 46-37-12 with a 2.48 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
· Jason Zucker recorded the Aeros second four-point night of the season on Tuesday. In all, the Aeros have 29 total multi-point games this season, including two three-point nights.
· So far to date, the Aeros have lost 44 man games due to injury.
· Houston is 5-3-0-0 when outshooting its opponent and 1-2-1-2 when outshot.
· The Aeros have 21 third-period goals, 17 goals in the first period of play and 13 in the second.
· Houston is one of five remaining teams in the AHL without a shorthanded goal this year. Rockford is tied for second in the AHL with three.
· The Aeros are 5-1-1-0 when scoring first and 1-4-0-2 when allowing the game’s first goal.
· The Aeros power-play is converting only 9.7% at home and 34.3% on the road.