The Alaska Aces on Thursday announced two signings designed to shore up a defensive crew thinned by retirements and a goaltending situation in flux because of Gerald Coleman’s offseason hip surgery.
With stalwart defensemen Bryan Miller and Chad Anderson each calling it a career, Aces bench boss Rob Murray turned to a former player of his from his American Hockey League days to help bolster the blue line for the ECHL club.
Murray signed Sean Curry, 30, who has played nearly 700 pro hockey games, the majority of them in the AHL. Curry played for Murray when the coach worked for the AHL’s Providence Bruins, the farm team of the Boston Bruins.
And with Coleman signed but unavailable to start the season while he continues to rehab from surgery, Murray signed Mark Guggenberger, the Central Hockey League’s reigning Most Outstanding Goaltender and Rookie of the Year. Returning second-year goalie James Reid and Guggenberger, 23, will likely shoulder duties until the return of Coleman, the Aces’ No. 1 masked man each of the last two seasons and the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Year in 2011.
Coleman earlier this offseason said he is targeting Thanksgiving for his return to game action.
With Thursday’s announcement, the Aces have revealed 15 signings for the 2012-13 ECHL season — three goalies, four defensemen and eight forwards. Ten of those players are either returners or have a history with the club — veteran winger Matt Robinson is returning for a second tour with the franchise — and five are newcomers.
The 6-foot-5, 229-pound Curry is entering his 11th pro season. Murray’s scouting report and Curry’s numbers indicate the blueliner has been a stay-at-home defenseman in the high minor leagues. Murray thinks Curry can generate more offense in the ECHL.
Murray pegged Curry as a consummate team player.
“He’s a real good guy, and I always had affection for him because he would do anything for you — he played some forward for us in Providence,’’ he said. “He worked hard and one of the things I like is he’d stick up for teammates.
“He’s a dependable defenseman who can play against the other team’s top lines.’’
Curry last season played in the Swedish first division and two seasons ago played in the German Elite League. Murray believes Curry’s time on those European circuits, where games are played on Olympic-sized ice (15 feet wider than NHL-sized ice) will aid him at Sullivan Arena, the ECHL’s only Olympic ice.
Last season with Rogle in Sweden, Curry earned 5-8—13 totals and 109 penalty minutes in 48 games.
Curry is the third veteran Murray has signed — the others are Robinson and returning defenseman Steve Ward. Each ECHL team is allowed four veteran skaters (goaltenders do not count). A veteran is any skater who enters the season with 260 or more regular-season games played as a pro, although some lower leagues in Europe and elsewhere do not count against the 260.
Last season with the Texas Brahmas, the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Guggenberger led the CHL in goals-against average (2.27), tied for first in shutouts (three) and ranked ninth in save percentage (.912).
“I think he’s a really good get for us,’’ Murray said. “He looks at this as a chance to move up the ladder.’’
Shuffling the deck
The Aces have moved the start time two hours earlier for their five Sunday home games at Sullivan in the upcoming season.
This season, Sunday home games will begin at 3:05 p.m. Those games have traditionally started at 5:05 p.m.
The Aces said they hope the change makes it easier for families to stick around for the traditional Skate with the Aces sessions after Sunday games.
Opening face-off for all other Aces home games remains 7:15 p.m.
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