While a majority of Houston Aeros tried to find their way early in Sunday night's game with the Rockford IceHogs at Xcel Energy Center, the man who's had perhaps the most success here kept his team in the game.
Being outworked and outshot, Aeros goaltender Matt Hackett kept the IceHogs off the board long enough for his team to find its stride, as the Aeros scored a goal in each period en route to a 3-2 win over Rockford in front of 11,175 fans in the State of Hockey.
"We were nervous, trying to do too much with the puck," said Aeros coach John Torchetti of his team's early struggles. "If we didn't have Hack in there… all three periods really, he made some big saves in the third, too."
Hackett made a brilliant glove save at the 7:30 mark of the opening period, drawing oohs and ahhs after robbing Rockford forward Jeremy Morin following an errant Aeros pass in their own zone.
Just two minutes later, Brandon Saad gobbled up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in alone on short-handed. But Hackett was up to the task -- barely -- splitting as far as he could, stopping Saad with the blade of his skate, keeping the game scoreless.
The stops injected life into the Aeros, and just three minutes later, following back-to-back power plays, winger Justin Fontaine -- a University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog -- found the back of the net with his fifth goal of the season, firing a snapshot from the right circle that cleared Rockford goalie Carter Hutton's blocker at 12:35.
The goal came on just the Aeros' second shot of the game.
"That's what we needed, we needed to score first," said Aeros forward Charlie Coyle. "We didn't get the start we wanted but we found a way to win and that's the important thing."
The Aeros added to their lead early in the second on a tally by Johan Larsson. The goal was set up on nifty play behind the net by Coyle, who fed Jason Zucker at the right post for a chance on the doorstep. Hutton stopped Zucker, but the puck trickled to Larsson at the left post, who hammered in the rebound for his fourth of the season.
"Just winning puck battles," Coyle said. "Larss was in the right spot at the right time. That's the kind of player he is, he's so good at that. He finished there like he always does."
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