Wellman sends Aeros to Game 7 win

2011 Calder Cup Playoffs

Rookie forward Casey Wellman buried an unassisted goal with 1:21 left in regulation on Monday to break a 2-2 tie and send Houston to a dramatic 4-2 road win over Milwaukee in Game 7 of the West Division Finals at the Bradley Center.

The Aeros captured a second-round Game 7 in Milwaukee for the second time in three years and move on to battle Hamilton in the Western Conference Finals, beginning Friday night in Houston.

The winning goal actually stemmed from immense pressure by the Admirals in Houston’s defensive zone. After Aeros goaltender Matt Hackett made a series of high-pressure stops, the puck kicked out to the neutral zone to Wellman, who collected it on the left wing.

Wellman skated into the Admirals zone on a two-on-one and roofed a wrist shot from the face-off circle past Milwaukee netminder Jeremy Smith for the game-winner. Warren Peters added an empty-net tally just 17 seconds later to seal the deal.

The goal snapped a seven-game drought for the 23-year-old Wellman, who last scored in Game 3 of Houston’s opening-round sweep of Peoria.

The Aeros also received tallies from Colton Gillies and Carson McMillan in the victory, which allowed Houston to match the Maine Mariners as the only AHL teams ever to go a perfect 5-0 in their first five Game 7’s.

Hackett finished with 30 saves on 32 shots between the pipes and improved to 8-3 during this playoff run.

Milwaukee, which received forwards Matt Halischuk and Blake Geoffrion back from parent-club Nashville following the Predators’ elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday, made quick use of the reinforcements.

Rookie forward Gabriel Bourque gave the Admirals a 1-0 lead 8:02 into the contest, and Halischuk and Geoffrion each garnered an assist. After Houston grabbed a 2-1 advantage, Halischuk tapped in a power play goal midway through the third period off a feed from Bourque, with Geoffrion picking up his second helper of the night.

It was all for naught, though, as the Admirals’ season came to an end in a Game 7 for a third consecutive spring, following a first-round loss to Chicago in 2010 and the second-round defeat to Houston in 2009.

West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W2-Houston Aeros || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 29 – MILWAUKEE 3, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – Houston 2, MILWAUKEE 0
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – Milwaukee 5, HOUSTON 3
Game 4 – Thu., May 5 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – MILWAUKEE 5, Houston 4 (OT)
Game 7 – Tue., May 10 – Houston 4, MILWAUKEE 2