For the Alaska Aces, Wednesday night furnished a measure of road redemption.
For Alexandre Imbeault, a measure of rink relief.
The Aces, smoked twice by the homestanding Stockton Thunder earlier this month, rebounded with a 6-2 win at Stockton Arena to remain atop the ECHL's Western Conference standings.
Imbeault contributed to the cause, snapping a nine-game goal drought that marked his longest stretch without a goal in his five ECHL seasons, and also adding an assist.
The Aces (14-5-0), winners of three straight hockey games and nine of their last 10, also received two goals from Nate Thompson -- he first struck a mere 15 seconds into the match -- and one goal each from Tommy Mele, Garry Nunn and Bobby Hughes. Goaltender Gerald Coleman, in his second game since returning from offseason hip surgery, stopped 24 shots.
That rubbed some salve on the wound left by the club's last visit to Stockton. The Thunder (11-5-1) humbled the Aces 7-4 and 5-1 in the opening week of November.
Granted, the lineup Stockton coach Matt Thomas dressed Tuesday night was not as lethal as the one he penciled in for that previous series. Thunder forwards Toni Rajala and Phillippe Cornet are up in the American Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Barons, which is noteworthy because they are Stockton's top two scorers and each riddled the Aces for five points in that earlier series. Also up with the Barons is defenseman Jordan Henry, who had two assists in that previous series.
Even so, the Aces jumped to a 2-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes on goals from Thompson and Imbeault. Imbeault, dropped from the first line to the third during his slump, redirected a shot by defenseman Chris Haltigin.
Mele's strike nearly five minutes into the second period pushed the advantage to 3-0, though Stockton's Ryan Constant answered just 77 seconds later to trim Alaska's lead to 3-1.
Yet things are going so well for the Aces lately that even when something went awry, it turned out all good. Nunn was sprung on a breakaway with the teams skating 4 on 4 early in the third period, but lost control of the puck. Still, the puck slid between the legs of Stockton goalie Tyler Bunz for a 4-1 cushion.
Hughes, playing in his 10th game of the season, scored midway through the third period for his first goal as an Ace. Thompson added another goal late to balloon the lead to 6-1 before Stockton's Phil Mangan answered with less than two minutes to go.
Shuffling the deck
Nunn extended his point streak to five games and owns 3-5--8 totals in that span.
Joey Crabb's two assists marked his team-high seventh multiple-point game of the season. Thompson's two goals and one helper generated his fifth multiple-point game. And defenseman Kane Lafranchise (two assists) also notched his fifth multiple-point game of the season.
Thompson's goal was the fastest by an Ace this season, topping Brandon Dubinsky's strike 18 seconds into a 5-2 home-ice win over San Francisco on Oct. 27.
After being limited to 2-0--2 totals in the first 16 games, Aces center Zach Harrison (two assists) has produced 2-2--4 totals in the last three games.
Alaska center Scott Gomez returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Coleman improved to 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. In all games -- regular season and playoffs -- during his three seasons with the Aces, Coleman is 66-24-7 (.716 winning percentage).
The Aces improved to 7-4-0 on the road.
Alaska did not furnish Stockton a single power play -- that's the first time all season the Aces or their opponent did not receive a power play.
Stockton's Constant, who also had an assist, stretched his point streak to six games. The Thunder dropped to 7-2-0 at home.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 2 1 3 -- 6
Stockton 0 1 1 -- 2
First Period -- 1, Aces, Thompson 5 (Crabb, Lafranchise), :15; 2, Aces, Imbeault 3 (Haltigin, Harrison), 9:14. Penalties -- Hunt, Stockton, double minor (interference, roughing), 5:29; Gomez, Aces, double minor (roughing), 5:29.
Second Period -- 3, Aces, Mele 6 (Crabb, Thompson), 4:46; 4, Stockton, Constant 3 (Riendeau), 6:03. Penalties -- Pelss, Stockton (hooking), :56; Zahn, Stockton (roughing), 7:59.
Third Period -- 5, Aces, Nunn 6 (Harrison), 2:22; 6, Aces, Hughes 1 (Imbeault, Lafranchise), 10:57; 7, Aces, Thompson 6 (Smith, Sinkewich), 17:36; 8, Stockton, Mangan 4 (Constant, Pelss), 18:12. Penalties -- Maylan, Stockton (unsportsmanlike conduct-diving), :22; Mele, Aces (tripping), :22; Fratkin, Stockton (boarding), 5:34.
Shots on goal -- Aces 10-14-9--33. Stockton 7-8-11--26.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 3. Stockton 0 of 0.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 2-0-0 (26 shots-24 saves). Stockton, Bunz, 8-4-1 (33-27).
A -- 3,316 (9,737). T -- 2:11.
Referee -- J.M. McNulty. Linesmen -- Zach Thornton, Steven Walsh.