Aeros edge Stars to clinch playoff spot

( — The Houston Aeros defeated the Texas Stars, 4-3, on Friday night to clinch a berth in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs in front of 5,416 fans at Cedar Park Center.

Houston forward Carson McMillan put in a rebound with 10:53 left in regulation, breaking a 3-3 tie and giving the Aeros a road win. Center Chad Rau led the way, scoring twice and setting up the game-winning tally for three points on the night.

Aeros goalie Josh Harding (1-0-0), in his first appearance on a conditioning assignment from Minnesota, stopped 33 of 36 Texas shots for the victory, and Dan DaSilva also scored in the win.

Texas goalie Cristopher Nilstorp (19-12-3) finished with 26 saves on 30 shots in defeat.

Houston opened the scoring 2:33 into the game when DaSilva netted the game’s first goal for the 1-0 lead. Zack Phillips and Brian Connelly each picked up an assist on DaSilva’s seventh goal of the season. Phillips’ wrist shot was blocked down by Nilstorp, but the rebound was picked up and pocketed by DaSilva.

The Stars evened the score 1-1, tying the game with 9:43 remaining in the opening frame. Center Justin Dowling fired a shot from the right-wing wall, as the puck slipped through traffic and into the back of the net. Dowling’s 16th goal of the year was set up by defenseman Maxime Fortunus at 10:17.

Houston regained its one-goal lead at 5:52 of the second period. Rau picked up a loose puck off a faceoff and slipped a shot between the legs of Nilstorp for the 2-1 lead. The unassisted power-play goal was Rau’s 15th of the season.

The Stars countered exactly one minute later, tying the game at 2-2. Joe Morrow tipped a rebound past Harding for his fifth goal of the season. Forwards Brett Sonne and Colton Sceviour each had an assist on the team’s second goal of the night.

Houston inched back in front with a shorthanded goal by Rau, his second goal of the night. His 16th of the season came off a pass from David McIntyre, who sprung Rau for a breakaway. Rau beat Nilstorp with a shot that passed through the five-hole for the 3-2 lead at 9:04 of the second period.

Texas forward Francis Wathier tied the game, 3-3, beating Harding with a low shot at 3:35 of the third period. Fortunus and Travis Morin each had an assist on Wathier’s fourth goal of the season.

Houston pulled in front for good at 9:07 of the final frame. Rau rifled a shot to the Texas net and McMillan picked up the rebound for the go-ahead goal. His ninth goal of the season wrapped up the scoring at 4-3.