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Harding stones Marlies with 56 saves

Josh Harding made his case for a trip to the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic loud and clear.

The second-year pro made a franchise-record 56 saves — the most by an AHL goaltender this season — to lead the Houston Aeros to a 4-2 win over the Toronto Marlies at the Toyota Center on Tuesday night.

Harding, who leads the league with 21 victories, is vying to be one of the three goaltenders named to the Canadian AHL All-Star team when rosters are announced this week.

As usual, Erik Westrum and Kirby Law led the Aeros offense, recording three points apiece. Westrum leads the AHL with 53 points; Law is one back with 52.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner added a goal and an assist for Houston, which is 16-3-1-1 on home ice in 2005-06. The Aeros have won nine of their last 10 games overall.

Harding made 11 saves in the first period as the Aeros built a 2-1 lead, then stopped all 26 shots he faced in the middle frame as Houston upped their advantage to 3-1. Harding made 19 more saves in the third.

Brad Leeb, who led the Marlies with 10 shots on goal, and Marc Moro scored for Toronto.

Dan Ellis made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season, leading Iowa to a 3-0 win over Cleveland at the Wells Fargo Arena.

The win moved the Stars into a tie for third place in the West Division.

Junior Lessard, the reigning CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week, scored twice for Iowa. Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist, and Toby Petersen added two assists.

Nolan Schaefer made 29 saves in defeat for the Barons.