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By: Mike Peck
Rockford goalie Wade Flaherty earned his second shutout of the season on Thursday, blanking Houston 4-0. (photo by Jim Orlando)

Houston, Tex.-  A crucial two game series began for the Rockford IceHogs on Thursday night in Houston against the Aeros at the Toyota Center.  The IceHogs received a big night in net from Wade Flaherty and more than enough offense to knock off the Aeros 4-0.

Flaherty turned away all 23 Houston shots in which he faced to pick up his second shutout of the season. 

The IceHogs took a 1-0 lead with a Jack Skille marker.  Skille poked a rebound from a Jim Fahey shot past Houston goalie Barry Brust at 4:50 of the opening frame.  The goal was set up by a face-off win by Petri Kontiola who also got an assist. 

The lead was extended to 2-0 with a 4-on-3 power-play marker.  Rookie winger Derek Nesbitt hammered in a Justin Fletcher pass for his 13th goal of the season at 6:57.  Troy Brouwer also marked an assist on the goal that chased Brust from the game in favor on Anton Khudobin.

The power-play goal was the first given up by the Aeros in exactly one month, a span of 10-games and 46 shorthanded situations.

Rockford tacked on two more in the second period to push their lead to 4-0.  Defenseman Jim Fahey hit Martin St. Pierre with a long pass and St. Pierre beat Khudobin on a breakaway for his 19th goal of the season at 11:26.

Troy Brouwer would then add a power-play goal before the intermission.  Brouwer picked up a St. Pierre centering feed and flipped in his own rebound for his league leading 21st power-play goal of the season and team-leading 30th marker overall. 

That’s all that Flaherty and the IceHogs would need as they held Houston off of the board the rest of the way.  The shutout was Flaherty’s 32nd of his career and 21 in the AHL.  Flaherty is now tied with Beveridge and Connie Dion for 17th on the all-time AHL shutout list.

Next Home Game:  Friday, March 21 vs. Quad City.  Game time is 7:30 p.m.  The IceHogs and Flames mix it up at the MetroCentre for the final time this season.  The IceHogs and Comcast welcome SpongeBob SquarePants to the game.

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