HOUSTON --- Jon DiSalvatore scored with 1:13 left in regulation to lead the Houston Aeros past the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-3 in Game 7 of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Finals on Tuesday at Toyota Center.
Houston earned the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the American Hockey League’s Western Conference champions for 2010-11 and advanced to the Calder Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history. The Aeros will square off against the Binghamton Senators starting with Games 1 and 2 at Toyota Center on Friday and Saturday night, both at 7:35 p.m.
Casey Wellman scored twice for the Aeros while Patrick O’Sullivan chipped in with a pair of helpers including the primary assist on the winning goal. Chad Rau delivered a goal and an assist.
Houston scored goals nine seconds apart starting at the 7:03 mark of the first period. Rau banged home a loose puck in front of Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre after O’Sullivan fed the puck from behind the net. Wellman quickly followed up with a shot the high slot that appeared to deflect off a Hamilton defender.
Dustin Boyd cut Houston’s lead in half at 9:13 and then Mathieu Carle tied it at 13:21 on the power play. Carle also had the primary helper on Boyd’s goal.
Wellman bagged his second goal of the game 2:42 into the middle stanza to put the Aeros back up by one, but the stubborn Bulldogs answered back with their second power play goal of the game at 9:57. Aaron Palushaj batted home a back door feed from Boyd for his seventh goal of the playoffs and third of the series to tie it at 3-3.
Aeros goaltender Matt Hackett turned aside 24 saves for the victory Houston. MacIntyre made 30 stops in the losing effort.