Apparently, having NHL skaters in the lineup during that league's lockout is advantageous for an ECHL hockey team.
Nor, evidently, does it hurt to have a particularly stingy 6-foot-5 masked man between the pipes.
NHLer Joey Crabb scored two goals and NHL veteran Scott Gomez added one in his return from injury Friday night, when Gerald Coleman stopped 37 shots and the league-leading Alaska Aces kept streaking with a 3-1 road win over the Stockton Thunder.
The Aces (27-8-0) have won nine straight games, the longest current streak in the 23-team league. They have not trailed in 539 minutes, 16 seconds, just short of the equivalent of nine consecutive regulation games.
They also extended a couple of their more notable achievements -- Alaska improved to 20-0-0 when it scores first and improved to 19-0-0 when it leads after two periods.
Coleman's 37 saves were the most by an Aces goaltender this season -- he stopped 19 of 20 shots in the third period alone -- and earned him his seventh straight victory. He is merely 12-2-0 since he returned around Thanksgiving from offseason hip surgery.
Crabb's unassisted goal late in the first period at Stockton Arena held up until early in the third period, when Gomez, who missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury, scored off assists from Brandon Dubinsky, another NHLer, and Alexandre Imbeault for a 2-0 cushion.
Four NHLers from Anchorage are playing for the Aces this season -- Crabb, Dubinsky, Nate Thompson and Gomez, who played for them during the lockout of 2004-05, when he was the ECHL Most Valuable Player.
The Thunder (18-11-7) finally answered with about eight minutes to go, when Ryan Martindale struck on the power play to cut the Aces lead to 2-1.
Still, the visitors held on and the Thunder pulled goalie Cody Reichard (18 saves) for an extra attacker in the last minute.
But Crabb scored his 17th goal of the season into an empty net to give the Aces the win in the opener of a three-game, California roadie that continues with games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Ontario.
That set in Ontario starts a string of five consecutive games between the clubs, who play a three-game series at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage next season.
Shuffling the deck
Imbeault's assist extended his point streak to seven games -- he owns 4-4--8 totals in that span.
Bobby Hughes' assist on Crabb's empty-net goal stretched his point streak to five games -- he's 3-4--7 in that span.
Alaska improved to 12-5-0 on the road.
The Aces played with a lineup of 11 forwards and five defensemen instead of the optimum complement of 10 forwards and six blueliners.
Aces rookie defenseman William Wrenn, selected earlier this week to play in the league's All-Star Game later this month, was plus-3.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 1 0 2 -- 3
Stockton 0 0 1 -- 1
First Period -- 1, Aces, Crabb 16, 17:44. Penalties -- Haltigin, Aces (tripping), 1:31; Hunt, Stockton, major (fighting), 4:25; Molle, Aces, major (fighting), 4:25; Boutin, Stockton (holding), 8:12; Hunt. Stockton, major (fighting), 12:55; Clackson, Stockton, major (fighting), 12:55.
Second Period -- None. Penalties -- Reindeau, Stockton (slashing), 7:35; Dubinsky, Aces, double-minor (goaltender interference, unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:26; Hunter, Stockton (holding), 14:02.
Third Period -- 2, Aces, Gomez (Dubinsky, Imbeault), 4:37; 3, Stockton, Martindale 1 (Rajala, Cornet), 11:57 (pp); 4, Aces, Crabb 17 (Hughes), 19:50 (en). Penalties -- Brodie, Stockton (roughing), 10:34; Clackson, Aces (roughing), 10:34; Syvret, Aces (hooking), 10:53.
Shots on goal -- Aces 6-6-9--21. Stockton 11-7-20--38.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 3. Stockton 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 12-2-0 (38 shots-37 saves). Stockton, Reichard, 8-3-4 (20-18).
A -- 4,207 (9,737). T -- 2:15.
Referee -- Don Jablonski. Linesmen -- Zach Thornton, Brett Martin.