The Alaska Aces maintained their four-point lead atop the ECHL standings on Wednesday night by virtue of their continued mastery of the Colorado Eagles.
The Aces bookended goals in the first minute and last minute of the second period on the way to a 4-1 win over the Eagles at the predictably sold-out Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.
Alaska's third straight win overall doubled as its third straight win over Colorado in less than a week -- the clubs are in the midst of five consecutive meetings -- and its sixth win in six matches with the Eagles this season. The Aces' first five wins against the Eagles came at Sullivan Arena.
Not counting the extra goal awarded in a shootout victory over Colorado, the Aces have outscored the Eagles, who are the league's second-highest scoring team, 22-7 in their six meetings.
Victory raised the Aces' point total to 89 points in 64 games -- they have eight regular-season games remaining, all on the road. Gwinnett owns 85 points in 65 games, Las Vegas checks in at 83 points in 63 games and Ontario owns 82 points in 63 games.
Aces rookie goaltender James Reid, filling in ably with Gerald Coleman and Adam Courchaine up in the American Hockey League, racked 16 saves to notch his third straight victory.
Alaska never trailed before the Eagle's 343rd consecutive sellout crowd of 5,289, using Dan Kissel's power-play strike midway through the first period to open the scoring. That marked Kissel's 33rd goal, tying him with Wes Goldie for the team lead and for second on the circuit. Kissel has scored a goal in each of the last three games.
Goldie, who is tied with Rod Taylor for most career goals in ECHL history at 368, was held without a goal -- he furnished an assist and one shot on goal.
The Aces, playing for the first time in Loveland, bumped their lead to 2-0 just 55 seconds into the second period when Zach Harrison scored off Ryan Cruther's feed from behind the net. The point was Cruther's first as an Ace -- he has played three games for the club since being acquired in a trade with Reading last week that sent center Ethan Cox to the Royals.
The Eagles, who lost their fourth straight game, were without league-leading scorer Chad Costello, and will be for the rest of the season. Costello appeared to injure his knee Saturday in Colorado's 4-1 loss in Anchorage.
Although Colorado's Kevin Ulanski cut Alaska's lead to 2-1 with a strike 14 minutes into the second period, Aces defenseman Chad Anderson delivered a dagger in the waning seconds of the period. Anderson's goal 5.4 seconds before intermission restored Alaska's two-goal lead at 3-1.
Aces captain Brian Swanson cemented victory with his goal with 2:16 to go.
Alaska kept Colorado's potent power play, which entered as the league's best on home ice (24.1-percent efficiency), by permitting the Eagles just one power play.
Goalie Andrew Penner made 21 saves for the Eagles, who entertain the Aces again Friday and Saturday nights.
The Aces played their third straight game without veteran defenseman Steve Ward, who has been out since taking a hard hit in Stockton earlier this month.
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Aces 1 2 1 -- 4
Colorado 0 1 0 -- 1
First Period -- 1, Aces, Kissel 33 (Anderson, Nunn), 10:33 (pp). Penalties -- Miller, Aces (tripping), 7:17; Smeltzer, Colorado (slashing), 10:33.
Second Period -- 2, Aces, Harrison 7 (Cruthers, Yaworski), :55; 3, Colorado, Ulanski 24 (Schneekloth, Sides), 13:58; 4, Aces, Anderson 4, 19:54. Penalties -- Haddon, Colorado (interference), 4:02; Al. Penner, Colorado (slashing), 10:04.
Third Period -- 5, Aces, Swanson 8 (Mazzolini, Goldie), 17:44. Penalties -- An. Penner, Colorado, served by Burnett (delay of game-puck over glass), 7:24; Peto, Colorado (game misconduct) Slattengren, Colorado (roughing), 19:05.
Shots on goal -- Aces 11-7-7--25. Colorado 4-6-7--16.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 5. Colorado 0 of 1.
Goalies -- Aces, Reid, 4-1-1 (17 shots-16 saves). Colorado, An. Penner, 5-7-2 (25-21).
A -- 5,289 (5,289). T -- 2:09.
Referee -- T.J. Luxmore. Linesmen -- Butch Mousseaux, Jon Shaw.