Reinforcements are arriving for the Alaska Aces.
With the Peoria Rivermen failing to qualify for the American Hockey League's playoffs, rookie winger Chris Bruton and rookie defenseman David Shields are rejoining ECHL Alaska in time for Wednesday night's Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Stockton Thunder.
Aces coach Rob Murray said Bruton and Shields will meet the team in Stockton, Calif., on Tuesday.
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 after the Aces won Friday's opener 2-1 at Sullivan Arena and the Thunder responded with a 3-2 win in overtime Saturday.
Games 4 and 5 are Friday night and Saturday night in Stockton. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 are back in Anchorage next week.
Bruton and Shields both were with the Aces early in the regular season. Bruton earned 6-7--13 totals and a plus-4 rating with the Aces. He delivered a physical presence both as a fighter and hitter, and racked 60 penalty minutes. In 38 games for Peoria, he went 2-3--5 and minus-7, with 66 penalty minutes.
Bruton, who basically split the season between Anchorage and Peoria, and is a middleweight by hockey standards (5-foot-10, 205 pounds), finished second on both clubs in fighting majors -- he had eight for the Aces and nine for the Rivermen.
He will likely be immediately inserted into the Aces' lineup for Game 3, probably on the third line.
"He's a bit of a throwback,'' Murray said. "He's got an old-school mentality, and he seems to know when his team needs a lift, be it a fight or a big hit.
"He's a momentum-changer. He's the sandpaper we might be lacking.''
Shields played 12 games for the Aces, earning 1-5--6 totals and a plus-2 rating before returning to Peoria. In 48 games for the Rivermen, he went 0-4--4 and minus-4.
Murray said he hasn't yet decided if Shields will be in the lineup Wednesday or who he might replace. Still, Murray said he has received reports from Peoria that indicate Shields has made great strides.
"From the time until we saw him until now, his confidence level has got to be up,'' Murray said. "He was in the (Rivermen) lineup, to quote (Peoria general manager) Kevin McDonald, on merit.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.