Jon DiSalvatore scored two goals to lift Houston to a 3-2 win over Hamilton on Tuesday night and a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
The Aeros go for the sweep when the teams meet again on Wednesday.
DiSalvatore, who led Houston with 28 goals in the regular season but had just two tallies in the team’s first 13 playoff contests, made it 1-0 early with a goal 3:39 into the game.
Maxim Noreau doubled the lead at 15:40, but Hamilton responded with two quick goals before the end of the period to tie the score.
Nigel Dawes ended the Bulldogs’ 0-for-21 slide on the power play with a strike at 18:11, and Andreas Engqvist brought Hamilton even at 2-2 with just 21.3 seconds left before intermission.
DiSalvatore put Houston back in front 5:18 into the second period with a power-play goal, and Matt Hackett and the Aeros’ defense made the lead stand up the rest of the way.
Hackett, a native of nearby London, Ont., stopped all 15 shots he faced over the final two periods and finished the night with 25 saves as Houston won its third consecutive one-goal decision to open the series.
The Aeros sit one win away from their first conference championship since 2003.
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. N1-Hamilton Bulldogs
Game 1 – Fri., May 13 – HOUSTON 2, Hamilton 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 15 – HOUSTON 3, Hamilton 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 17 – Houston 3, HAMILTON 2
Game 4 – Wed., May 18 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 5 – Fri., May 20 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 6 – Sun., May 22 – Hamilton at Houston, 5:05
*Game 7 – Tue., May 24 – Hamilton at Houston, 8:05