Aces goaltenders know what's at stake

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 2, 2012 

The math is not difficult.

The Alaska Aces currently have three goaltenders -- two-season stalwart Gerald Coleman, James Reid and Mark Guggenberger -- but, like most pro hockey clubs, they will require only two when Coleman returns from offseason hip surgery in late November or early December.

Either Reid or Guggenberger will stay.

The other guy will go.

"We both realize it's one or the other,'' Guggenberger said. "When one door closes in this business, another opens. That's the business.''

Coleman, who backstopped the Aces to the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2011 and was their No. 1 goalie again last season, is considered a cornerstone player. Barring a setback in his rehabilitation or shocking drop-off in his performance, he's The Man.

And that means, unless Reid or Guggenberger perform off-the-charts awesomely, training camp, upcoming exhibition games and early regular-season games serve as auditions of sorts for them. Even the guy who turns into the odd-man out when Coleman returns will have the opportunity in Coleman's absence to impress other teams -- some team, somewhere, is usually not thrilled with its early-season goaltending, and is looking for an upgrade.

Aces coach Rob Murray said he expects Reid and Guggerberger will each play one of the club's exhibition games against the visiting Las Vegas Wranglers on Monday and Tuesday.

Reid, 21, returns to the Aces after joining them as a rookie in late February last season on loan from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, where Coleman flourished while on promotion. Reid had barely played for Lake Erie or for Allen of the Central Hockey League, so the move to the Aces proved a bonus.

Reid went 6-2-1 for Alaska, with a 2.09 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. His work down the stretch run helped the Aces win their second straight Brabham Cup as regular-season champs.

"I loved it here,'' Reid said. "Rob gave me the chances to play games, and I took advantage of it. It really did change my whole year.

"I wanted to come back. Knowing Colesy wouldn't be (able) to start the season, it could give me a chance to establish myself.''

Guggenberger, 23, was named the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender and Rookie of the Year last season after going 22-11-3 for the Texas Brahmas. He posted a league-leading 2.27 goals-against average, tied for the league lead with three shutouts and delivered a .912 save percentage.

Guggenberger said he wanted to move to the ECHL because it is one step higher on the pro hockey ladder than the CHL.

"I've heard great things about the (Aces) organization, and my goal is to keep climbing up,'' Guggenberger said. "I'll do whatever it takes.''

Coleman isn't yet on the ice -- he's doing plenty of off-ice rehab.

For now, and at least in the early season, Reid and Guggenberger will shoulder the on-ice duties.

"I think it's perfect,'' Reid said after practice Tuesday. "We're pushing each other out here, we're battling each other, competing. It's a good situation. It's only making us better.''

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

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