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Admirals Lose at Houston

Joel Ward scored two goals Saturday to help the Houston Aeros defeat the Milwaukee Admirals Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston, 3-2.

Despite the loss, Milwaukee can still clinch second place in the West Divison and, thus, the home ice advantage in the first round of the AHL playoffs. That's because Rockford lost to Chicago Saturday, 7-1. A Milwaukee win Sunday and a loss in regulation time by the IceHogs against Iowa would give the Admirals second place because, although the points would be even at 96, Milwaukee would have more regular season wins. The Admirals would alo have any potential tie-breaker with San Antonio because of the number of wins.

Ward scored on a one-timer from the right faceoff dot at 11:51 of the second period to give the Aeros a 3-0 lead. The goal proved to be the game winner.

Milwaukee finally got on the scoreboard in the third period with a pair of power play goals. Andreas Thuresson fired a wrist shot over Aeros goalie Barry Brust to bring Milwaukee within two at 7:47 of the third period. The goal finished a nice passing sequence for the Admirals that started when Matt Ellison carried the puck across the Houston blue line in the middle of the ice. As he drew both Aeros' defenseman toward him, he passed the puck to John Laliberte in the left circle. Laliberte quickly sent a pass to Thuresson in the right circle for the goal. It was Thuresson's 11th of the season, second on the power play. Laliberte and Ellison recorded the assists.

The Admirals got within one with 5:49 to play when Cal O'Reilly joined five other players behind the Aeros net to try to jar the puck free. O'Reilly gained possession then reached his stick above the goal line to the right of Brust and flipped the puck into the net for his 16th goal of the season, fourth on the power play. The goal was unassisted.

Milwaukee had five power play chances in the third period and scored on two.

Houston's Colton Gillies scored his first professional goal on a deflection at 6:09 of the first period. Houston's Ward scored just 91 seconds later to give the Aeros a 2-0 lead after one period.

Pekka Rinne started the game in goal for the Admirals and stopped 15 of 18 shots in two periods. Dov Grumet-Morris played the third period and stopped all three shots he saw. Rinne is still one win shy of setting the single-season record for Milwaukee. He is currently tied with Brian Finley (2004-05 season) with 36 wins.

The Aeros win, coupled with San Antonio's 3-2 loss to Quad City, forces another three way tie for third in the West Division. Milwaukee, Houston and San Antonio all have 94 points. Rockford is in second place with 96.

The Admirals and Aeros play again Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Houston.

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