Aces captain signs, says he's 'ready to go'

BURT HEALTHY: Veteran recovered from surgeries, done pondering retirement.

September 14, 2010 

Alaska's Scott Burt fires a rare shot on goal during first-period action against Idaho Dece. 12, 2008 at Sullivan Arena.

ERIK HILL / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

Scott Burt has won two Kelly Cups and been in playoff Finals five times, so he has stamped his pedigree all over minor-league hockey.

He just didn't want the last marks he left in the game to be the freshest scars on his body,

Burt, the Alaska Aces captain who said he briefly contemplated retirement after an injury- and surgery-riddled campaign in 2009-10, has re-signed with the ECHL club to play his 13th season as a pro.

The club also announced the signing of rookie goaltender Travis Yonkman, who played at the University of Alberta last season after a strong major-junior career in the Western Hockey League.

Burt, 33, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in January and then surgery to repair his broken left foot in March -- both injuries occurred when the winger blocked shots. He endured an additional surgery in June to remove a plate from his foot.

"After that second (foot) surgery, I was like, 'Man, really?' " Burt said. "Now, I'm just excited to get going. I feel strong. I feel healthy, and I'm ready to go again.

"With the young guys we have coming in from college and juniors, I'm really excited.''

Aces coach Brent Thompson said he's psyched to have back a captain who knows how to lead, knows how to win and can serve as an experienced guide for a team that is trending younger.

"We've got leadership back with him, and a guy who is a true gamer,'' Thompson said. "When the game is on the line, he either comes up with a big goal or a big blocked shot, and he's always a big part of our penalty kill.''

Burt's initial foot surgery prevented him from playing in the playoffs, where the Aces were eliminated in the first round for the first time in their seven ECHL seasons.

"That hurt more than anything,'' Burt said.

That marked just the second time in his 12 pro seasons Burt did not skate in the playoffs. He has played 122 playoff games as a pro, in addition to his 696 regular-season games.

Despite a 2009-10 season twice interrupted by injuries -- Burt has undergone seven surgeries in his career -- he scored 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points in 50 games.

In the upcoming season, Burt said he plans to wear protective coverings over the top and sides of his skates in an effort to prevent another foot injury. Afterall, Burt said, he can't change the way he plays. Much of his game is predicated on sacrifice and he isn't about to become a soft player who dances away from the puck by, say, raising a foot to avoid absorbing a shot.

"I'm not going flamingo,'' Burt said.

All he wants, he said, is another championship ring. Two seasons ago, Burt captained the Aces to Game 7 of the Kelly Cup Finals, where they fell to South Carolina. Burt won Cups with Idaho in 2007 and 2004, but rarely wears his rings.

"The reason I don't wear them is they say 'Idaho Steelheads,' '' Burt said. "I want it to say 'Alaska Aces.' ''

While Burt can give the Aces grit, leadership and some secondary scoring punch up front, Thompson hopes Yonkman will help stabilize the club's goaltending. Alaska's netminding proved inconsistent last season, and particularly nosed-dived in a four-game playoff loss to Stockton.

Yonkman is the second rookie tender the Aces have signed. They previously signed former St. Lawrence goalie Alex Petizian.

At the University of Alberta last season, Yonkman, 22, went 12-2-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average, .902 save percentage and one shutout. In his last two WHL seasons for the Swift Current Broncos, he went a combined 57-34-7 with a 2.78 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and five shutouts.

"It's nice to have a proven guy who can carry the load,'' Thompson said.

Shuffling the deck

Thompson said he has traded the rights to two former Aces -- center Alexandre Imbeault and defenseman Nick Tuzzolino -- in exchange for future considerations.

Imbeault led the club in scoring through much of last season before he bolted the team for the Czech Republic -- his rights were traded to Florida. Tuzzolino played the last two seasons for the Aces -- his rights were shipped to Wheeling. Thompson said neither skater was in his plans for the upcoming season.

The Aces owned the ECHL rights to Imbeault and Tuzzolino because they made qualifying offers to the players in the offseason.

Alaska has announced the signings for 13 players -- eight forwards, three defensemen and two goalies.

The Aces on Saturday will hold their first Sidewalk Sale from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at their offices on the southeast corner of 15th and Gambell. On sale will be discounted merchandise, memorabilia and used hockey equipment. For more info, go to www.alaskaaces.com


Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

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