Aces ready for Wings

TEAMS HAVE SIMILARITIES: Parallels should make for a quality Kelly Cup series.

May 13, 2011 

The Alaska Aces have won eight straight playoff games. The Kalamazoo Wings reeled off a seven-game, playoff winning streak earlier.

The Aces went on a 13-1-0 regular-season run in March and a 9-1-0 regular-season streak in February. The K-Wings racked a 11-0-2 run in February and March.

In Gerald Coleman, the Aces ride a workhorse goaltender who tied for the ECHL lead league with 30 wins. He tied with K-Wings tender Ryan Nie.

Both teams produce ample scoring -- the K-Wings finished second on the circuit in the regular season with 3.54 goals per game and the Aces checked in fifth with 3.35 per.

Both teams have older guys who still possess serious game. Aces right winger Wes Goldie, 34, led the league in goals and was voted league MVP, and his center Brian Swanson, 35, furnished 70 points in 69 games. Meanwhile, Kalamazoo's Kory Karlander, 39, finished runner-up to Goldie in MVP voting, and all swingman Sam Ftorek, 36, has done in the playoffs is deliver 17 points in 14 games.

So it seems the Aces and K-Wings will each face a reasonable facsimile of themselves tonight when the puck drops on the best-of-7 Kelly Cup Finals with Game 1 at Sullivan Arena.

"Offensively, they're very gifted,'' Aces coach Brent Thompson said of the K-Wings. "All three lines can score, they're good in transition and they have good goaltending. We're basically playing a team that's a lot like us.''

Wings coach Nick Bootland, once a teammate of Thompson's in the American Hockey League, noticed just as much.

"They have great scoring depth, solid defense and a great goaltender,'' he said of the Aces, the league's regular-season champions. "They're the team to beat.''

Both teams also sport third-year pros who have blossomed into scoring beasts.

Scott Howes, the left wing on the top line with Goldie and Swanson, enjoyed his coming-out party this season, and he leads the team in playoff goals and points with 7-8--15 totals in just eight games. Kalamazoo third-year pros Trent Daavettila and Andrew Fournier have likewise flourished. Daavettila, a second-team All-ECHL pick, scored 32-48--80 totals in just 60 regular-season games, and Fournier finished third in the league with 38 goals.

Both teams flourish, no matter the playoff venue. The Aces are 4-0 at Sullivan and 4-0 on the road. The K-Wings are 6-1 at Wings Stadium and 5-2 on the road.

And both teams are more concerned with playing their game -- after all, it was good enough to get them to the Finals -- than worrying too much about their opponent.

"I believe we've earned the right to be here, and we don't take anything for granted,'' Karlander said. "We know it's going to be a battle.''

Shuffling the deck

Tonight's game will be a sellout, just as the six previous Finals games at Sullivan (four in 2009, two in 2006) were sellouts.

Sunday night's Game 2 is also expected to be a sellout.


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

ECHL Kelly cup finals

KALAMAZOO WINGS

at ALASKA ACES

Best-of-7

GAME 1: Tonight, Sullivan Arena, 7:14

TV: Live, GCI Channel 1

RADIO: Live, AM-750 KFQD

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